Where is the Best Place to Put a Cooler When Camping?

A rookie mistake while camping is not knowing where to put a cooler.

And, whether it’s at night or during the day, a cooler left in the wrong place can attract unwanted attention, as well as lead to quicker spoiling of any food left inside.

So, let’s discuss all the places where you can keep a cooler while camping, as well as some tips to keep it “cooler” for longer…

Article Contents:

Where is the Best Place to Put a Cooler When Camping?

Where Should You Keep a Camping Cooler During the Day?

Having quick and easy access to your cooler is essential for any campsite. Most campers fill their coolers with ice cold drinks, and fresh food that may spoil if left out for too long.

From an access perspective, a cooler should be placed in a central location. I usually set up my coolers fairly close to my cooking area, which is typically the end on a picnic table.

  • Ensure coolers are kept out of direct sunlight. This helps them from unnecessarily getting warm throughout the day.
  • Sliding a cooler under a picnic table or underneath a hanging tarp can keep it cooler for longer.
  • Keep coolers away from heat sources such as campfires, vehicle exhaust pipes, camp stoves, or generators.
  • Do not keep a cooler in a tent. It can attract insects and larger animals.
  • Secure cooler lids to prevent unintentional opening.
  • Never leave a cooler unattended for long periods. Raccoons, or coyotes may come investigate a potential free meal…

Is a Car a Good Place to Keep a Cooler While Camping?

For car camping, a vehicle is an excellent place to keep a cooler. A vehicle acts as an additional physical barrier to inclement weather, animals and insects. It’s also secure, so you can leave additional valuables inside and lock it up.

The downside of keeping a cooler in a vehicle is how quickly the interior can heat up, especially in the summer months. A warm car would mean a warm cooler. Ice would melt faster, and perishable contents wouldn’t last as long.

So, it’s a good idea to store a cooler in a car only if:

  • You plan on leaving your campsite unattended for an extended period of time during the day.
  • Overnight to prevent animals from raiding your food
  • You’re camping in bear country and bear-proof lockers are not available.
  • At a campground where food /drink theft is possible (sad but true). This can be the case for outdoor festivals where alcohol might start influencing people.

Can You Leave a Cooler Outside Overnight While Camping?

I’ve made the mistake of leaving my cooler outside and on the ground overnight while camping in a campground thinking it would be safe. During the middle of the night, I could clearly hear racoons and other critters attempting to get inside of it.

  • If you’re camping in a fairly wilderness area, it is not recommended to keep a cooler outside and on the ground overnight. A cooler will inevitably attract unwanted animals and insects.

However, in less wilderness areas, such as festival grounds, it should be fine to leave a cooler outside overnight. Wild animals would be less likely to occupy these popular areas. However, smaller rodents such as mice could be present.

In any case, it’s recommended that cooler lids be secured to prevent unwanted opening at night.


Do You Need to Keep a Cooler in a Bear-proof Locker?

In some remote parks or campgrounds that are known to be frequented by bears, campsites typically include a bear-proof locker for storage of food and scented items.

These lockers are made from metal and use a latch system that is impervious to bears. Scented items such as deodorant, drink powders, packaged foods, and coolers should be kept safe in the locker throughout your trip.

So, if there is a bear-proof locker on your campsite, use it! Store your cooler in it overnight or when you leave your campsite to keep it safe!

Pro-tip: Set up your campsite far from the locker as it may be frequented by animals throughout the day and night. Also, these lockers aren’t garbage bins – take your trash with you when you leave the campsite.


Can You Hang a Cooler in a Tree?

While camping in the backcountry, you could be very far from a vehicle, secure building, or bear locker to keep your cooler safe from animals. So, what’s the solution?

Well, in most parks that allow backcountry camping access, the requirement is for campers to hang their food.

Food bags and food barrels can easily be tied to a rope, lifted and hung from a tree. The same can be done for a cooler.

Check out my article on how to hang your food when camping for the proper technique.

6 Tips to Keep a Camping Cooler Cold for Longer

Keeping a cooler cold is a challenge while camping in the summer. Here are some times for keeping your food and drinks colder for longer in a cooler while camping:

  • Place the cooler in a shaded area and not in direct sunlight throughout the day.
  • Use separate coolers for food and drinks.
  • Instead of using regular ice, consider using dry ice in your cooler. Dry ice lasts longer and keeps things a lot colder.
  • Try not to open a cooler too often. This prevents unnecessary warming of the internal contents and melting of the ice.
  • Fully close the cooler lid. A partially closed lid allows warm air to seep inside.
  • Consider upgrading old or damaged coolers. Newer coolers have better insulation values.

More Cooler Related Info…


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