What Type of Insulation is Used in Camping Coolers?


By William Chutney

Published: December 20, 2019

Cold is the nonexistence of heat, just like darkness is the nonexistence of light. Most people assume that a cooler is made to keep the ‘coldness’ inside, however, it is actually more about keeping the heat away. The three factors that determine how well a cooler works are insulation, ice, and air. It can be hard to know what type of cooler is best for what you are going to use it for, or maybe you are thinking about making one and you’re not sure what insulation to use. Today, we will be taking a look at what type of insulation is used in camping coolers and how to ensure your cooler works at its best.  

Foam is a Favorite

Foam is the most commonly used insulation for coolers because it’s the most effective. This will be placed between both the inner and the outer walls of the cooler. Foam is a great insulator. This is because it’s filled with bubbles of gas. Gas is a poor conductor of heat compared to solids or liquids, which reduces the transfer of heat through convection. The bubble walls are made up of polymer molecules that aren’t tightly bonded, which restricts the rate of heat transfer to each molecule.

Closed- and Open-Cell Foam

Not all foam is the same. Closed-cell foam is rigid and dense, and the bubbles of gas inside the foam are filled with a variety of chemicals with good insulating properties, like pentane. The cells are tightly pack so that air and moisture are unable to pass through. Open-cell foam is lighter and more flexible. The gas bubbles are packed with water vapor. Many of the gas bubbles don’t touch one another, which means it is easier for heat to diffuse through it, so it is a less effective insulator.

More Foam is Best

The thickness of the foam in the cooler will determine how good it is as an insulator. The thicker the foam, the more effective the cooler will be, because it will be a better insulator. If you decide to buy a cooler, check that the bottom and the lid of the cooler has the same amount of insulation as the rest of it. Cheaper coolers tend to have no insulation in the lid or will have less insulation in the lid and bottom.

Ice and Air

A ratio of ice to cooler contents should be around 2:1 (without considering other factors). You should consider using blocks of ice when packing a cooler, because it takes longer to melt. Air is a poor heat conductor compared to liquids and solids. This means that when you open the lid and the contents come into contact with the warm outside air, the cold molecules will be stimulated, which will make the contents warmer. This means that you should ensure your cooler is sealed and airtight.

How well your cooler is insulated is the main factor you need to consider when purchasing or making one. However, making sure it stays full and unopened and that you use the proper shape and the amount of ice will all contribute to how good the cooler works for you.

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