The Ultimate Cooler Packing Hacks for an Outer Banks Beach Day

By Hannah Lee Leidy | Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The quintessential beach day should be complete with splashing in the surf, a good read and sand between your toes, maybe even a little nap in the sun – everything that unwinds and relaxes you and keeps the day carefree. That said, nothing can spoil the mood like an attempt to address growling stomachs, only to find soggy sandwiches, lukewarm drinks and questionably warm egg salad. A well-packed cooler is an underrated work of art, yet failed attempts result in hangry kids, hot beer and in worst case scenarios, food poisoning – eek! Luckily for you I’ve compiled a list of the best beach cooler packing hacks that the internet and my own personal experience can offer! From order of packing to innovative ways to keep the cooler extra cold and items that no proper beach cooler should be without, this week’s blog gives you the savvy you need to create a cooler ready for your hottest and longest Outer Banks beach days.  

Stay Cool

First things first: The items in your cooler only stay cold if the cooler interior keeps in the cold. Obviously. Store your unused cooler in a cool place so that when you need it, you won’t be placing cold items in an already-hot container. Your cooler should be properly functioning (read: make sure the lid seals and locks into place). Feel free to doctor it up a little bit by adding extra insulation using Reflectix, that aluminized bubble wrap stuff which people often use to insulate their homes, to line the interior of your cooler. Or if you’re looking for a quick-fix, clean off an old yoga mat and fit it to rest on top of the cooler’s cargo.

To best keep items cold, add some ice to your cooler. Since loose ice melts and gets water everywhere, a better alternative is using frozen ice packs. Since large blocks of ice melt slower than small ones, the bigger the better. Not enough ice packs on hand? Fill a couple of balloons with water and put them in the freezer. They make effective and sizable ice packs in a cooler. You can also freeze your drinks before packing them. Not only will they work like ice packs, but they’ll thaw during the day and leave you with a refreshingly cold drink.

Cooler Essentials

The best part of packing a cooler for the beach is deciding what goodies you want in it. For a full day at the beach, plan a substantial lunch, plenty of snacks and a variety of cold drinks to hydrate you and regulate body temperatures on hotter days. Sandwiches are great go-to lunches – easy to make, easy to pack and require no utensils. That said, nothing dampens a lunch like a pulling a sandwich out of the cooler and finding soggy bread plastered to turkey and cheese. Keep sandwiches dry by storing them in airtight Tupperware containers. Fill another container with easy-to-pack accompaniments, like a pasta salad or potato salad.

Keeping hydrated should be a top priority, so select some water-rich snacks for your beach day. Fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables do just the trick, and you can pick them up at an Outer Banks produce stand on the roadside as you head to your beach day. Watermelon, blueberries, bell peppers and cucumbers are full of water and antioxidants that replenish whatever you sweat out. The fruit makes great snacks on their own, or you can try it with a little nut butter. Slice and dip fresh veggies in hummus or dressing for a cool and crispy treat.

And no cooler is complete without some sweet treats on hand. Pack an airtight container with homemade cookies or sliced loaf cake for a durable dessert.

As far as drinks go, favor sugar-free and caffeine-free options. Water bottles, flavored sparkling waters and iced tea are all winning options. But don’t hesitate to grab a couple of soft drinks, some lemonade and your favorite beers to help keep you cool while hanging out in the sun.

Packing Precision

Perhaps the most important step to a successful beach cooler is the way it’s packed. In the end it all comes down to common sense. Drippy stuff at the bottom, precious cargo on top. Line the cooler’s bottom with ice packs and frozen drinks. Next place cooling racks (like you’d use for baking) on top of those. They provide excellent separation of your dry goods, like sandwiches, cookies, snacks and more, from the liquids. Finally, put the most delicate items, such as easily bruised fruits and vegetables on top. Try to fill the cooler to the top if you can, eliminating any pockets where the air might be warmer.

What treats and drinks are go-to’s for your beach cooler? Got great cooler tricks up your sleeve? Share them below in the comments section or on our Facebook page.


About the Author Hannah Lee Leidy
Hannah Lee is a fiction and creative nonfiction writer living on the Outer Banks. She graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. Traveling is her passion, but nowhere ever feels as much like home as the Outer Banks. When not planning her next trip or adventure, Hannah Lee loves aimless drives down the Beach Road, spending copious amounts of time in coffee shops and reading every short story collection she gets her hands on.