Cooler Boxes to Keep Your Food Fresh
on a Picnic

Use cooler boxes to keep your picnic food and drink cold on a hot summers day.

Cold food should always be kept at 5 degrees celcius or below to keep it safe for human consumption. There is no better way to make sure this happens than to use insulated coolers, or esky's as they are also known.

If you are feeding a crowd and have to take a fair bit of food on your picnic a  backpack is often just not big enough. You can use a cooler to carry extra food and drink.

Cold air escapes from  cooler boxes every time the lid is opened so it is a good idea to take two coolers on a picnic.

Use one exclusively for drinks. It will be opened more often and heat up more quickly.

 Use your other cooler for food so it has more chance of maintaining a low temperature.

There are two types of cooler box on the market. One type is a solid hard bodied insulated box, the other a strong, soft bag  lined with waterproof insulating material. Both types have advantages and disadvantages.

Hard Bodied Cooler Boxes

Hard type cooler boxes (sometimes called "eskys") are more solid than soft-sided coolers and are covered in strong plastic. On a picnic you can use the top as a small table or even as a seat for a small person.

Some are very big and heavy. When you are deciding which one to buy remember you will have to lift it full so if you need to carry lots of food and drink divide your picnic supplies between two cooler boxes.  It is easier to cart two smaller coolers than one big one. Some larger cooler eskys come with wheels which make them  much easier to take to your picnic spot.

They are easy to keep clean and most have a bung in the bottom to drain water from melting ice.

Lids usually  just lift on and off but if they are hinged make sure the hinges are strong. I like to choose lids that are high enough to carry drink bottles standing  upright.

Make sure the handle is firmly attached to the box and is strong enough to carry the weight. It should be balanced so the the box does not tip as it is being carried. If you are tall the handle should extend enough to prevent you from stooping.

If the cooler box is on wheels like this one make sure the wheels are big enough and strong enough to pull along smoothly.

There are a variety of  sizes to suit larger or smaller groups. The larger  ones are great for a large party but if there are only two or four of you one a bit smaller might be easier to carry.

Soft Sided Coolers

Soft picnic coolers are lighter to carry than hard bodied boxes and squash down for easier storage. They will pack into spaces where a harder box may be difficult to fit.

Check that the stitching is really strong and the material leak proof. Look for carry straps that are firmly attached to the bag and are adjustable so that you can carry the bag on either your shoulder or in your hand with a short handle if you prefer.

Keeping Your Food Cold

  • Start with chilled food. Store your food in the refrigerator as soon as you have prepared it until you are ready to pack your picnic.
  • Pack your food last after you have collected everything else together to take with you.
  • Warm air rises so place a block of ice or coolpack in the bottom of your cooler boxes.
  • You can buy ice from most garages or supermarkets but it is easy to make your own. Just place a container of water in your freezer the night before your picnic and "Bobs Your Uncle". Water expands when it is frozen so be sure not to fill your container too full.
  • If you are taking a bottle of water to the picnic (always a good idea) it is a good plan to freeze it first and use it in your cooler. It saves space, cools your food and provides water to drink. The best of all worlds. It is safer to use a plastic bottle though. It will not break like glass and is lighter to carry. A used drink bottle or clean plastic milk container is fine.
  • Loose ice will slowly melt however efficient your cooler and this can get messy. This is OK for packing drinks that come in bottles or cans. You can pack the ice tightly around them to keep them super cold. But you don't want to eat soggy food.
  • Pack food in sealed boxes so this will not happen. If I am using loose ice I usually leave it in the bag it comes in and place the whole thing into the bottom of the esky. This keeps everything much cleaner and easier to handle.
  • Cold blocks are a tidier and more efficient way to keep food cool than ice. They stay cold longer and you can use them time and again.  Keep your cold block in the freezer all the time and it will always be frozen ready to pack with your picnic food.

There are various types and sizes of cold blocks available.

  • Hard cool blocks come in many different sizes. Use a size that suits your cooler.
  • Shaped cool blocks fit snugly around cans or bottles holding them in place as well as keeping them icy cold.
  • Flexible cool sheets can be wraped tightly around items. These can also be used in an emergency for first aid at a picnic, reducing  the swelling of sprains and other injuries.

The insulation in a cool box can be used to keep food warm as well as cold. If you are carrying hot food or soup to a winter picnic carry it in your esky. Keep hot food at  60 degrees centigrade or hotter for to ensure that it is safe to eat.


If you have any food left over from a picnic that has not been kept at the correct temperature thoughout the day throw it away when you get home.

All the cooler boxes on this page are available from Just click the image to find more about them or visit The Picnic Shop to find a wider range. 

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Return from Cooler Boxes to Picnic Backpacks and Baskets

Return from Cooler Boxes to Great Picnic Ideas

Other Useful Pages

wicker picnic basket

Wicker Picnic Baskets

Girls carrying backpacks

Picnic Backpacks

Picnci List

Picnic Tips

Food Safety