The temperature of dry ice is -110 degrees Fahrenheit; it is nothing more than frozen carbon dioxide. Dry ice on a camping trip can last a long time, keeping food frozen or cold, retarding food spoilage. Grocery stores typically stock dry ice in various sizes. Packing the cooler first and picking up the dry ice on the way to the campsite is the best way to make sure the ice will last for days.
Dry ice wrapped in several layers of newspaper stays frozen longer, since newspaper insulates it from the warmer outside temperatures. Although it can be inconvenient, placing the dry ice at the top of the cooler keeps the temperature inside colder, since cold air falls rather than rises. When camping at higher elevations, campers need to bring more dry ice along than when camping closer to sea level. Since the air pressure is lower in higher locations, dry ice evaporates or sublimates faster than at lower elevations.
When camping using dry ice, bringing two separate coolers along helps have enough thawed food to eat while preserving the frozen food in the cooler with the dry ice. Dry ice is many times colder than ice made from water, so the dry ice actually lowers the temperature of the frozen food you have along. Placing fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese, eggs or beverages in a cooler with dry ice will freeze them. Wrapping the outside of the cooler with towels or blankets also preserves the dry ice.
Since dry ice is so cold, it stops the growth of bacteria. Dry ice takes much less room in a cooler than ice made from water and does not leave behind any residual material that could contaminate the food. If mosquitoes are a problem, hanging a block of dry ice and a mosquito trap approximately six to eight feet above the ground attracts the mosquitoes. These insects locate animals and humans by sensing carbon dioxide, and as the dry ice sublimates, the mosquitoes fly toward the dry ice and the trap instead of people or pets.
When traveling in a vehicle with dry ice, make sure you have a window open or the air conditioning set to fresh air. As dry ice warms, it goes back to its state as a gas, creating carbon dioxide, a normally harmless substance in low quantities, but can cause breathing problems in confined areas. Never handle dry ice without protective hot pads or insulated gloves. Since it is so cold, it can quickly burn the skin. Never eat dry ice or use chipped dry ice in beverages.
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images