• Happy Scream Day! 😱

Do you bring an ice chest or cooler?

On portage trips I used to take a cheap soft sided cooler in a Duluth pack, but I found just wrapping frozen meat in zip locks, then wrapped in newspaper and stuffing it into a bag, then burying it in the Duluth pack works just as well for a couple/three days.

When I camp with my wall tent, no portages, I take an old tall cooler that fits a Duluth Pack day pack. Stuff it with frozen meat, good for a week of solo camp.
 
I recently heard an ancient Canadian myth that some superman once carried 50 cans of beer on a two kilometer portage, which made me wonder how he kept that beer cold. Who wants to drink warm beer!

I also know that many folks here like to bring and cook fresh meats, vegetables and fruits on trips, which makes me wonder what kind of ice chest or cooler is used. And how heavy or clumsy is it to carry in a canoe or on portages. On the other hand, maybe an ice chest is useful as a table or stool. Or for fishing or hunting from a canoe, which I don't do.

In fact, I've never taken any sort of ice chest or cooler in a canoe. I just drink my 100° F (38° C) water when paddling in the Southern heat, even on day trips.

Oh, when I've traveled seriatim to aqueous base camps all around North America in my full size canoe van (the Magic Bus), I do have an ice chest in my van wherein various foods and drinks are stored.

How and why and what kinds of coolers to you use on canoe trips?
A cooler is fairly common on river trips in Utah. I did a trip on the Colorado River in July, 2022 and it was over 100 degrees every day. The day we got off the river, it was 110 in Moab. It was awful nice having a cold drink every evening. Even in the spring and fall, when it isn't so hot, a cooler lets us bring fresh food. A welcome addition. I have eye drops that are supposed to be kept refrigerated. I have three sizes of coolers so I can pick the one that best fits the canoe and situation.
 
On portage heavy trips I'll take a six pack cooler with a few frozen items. On trips with limited portaging I sometimes take a small cooler, but like Robin, I prefer to keep it in a Duluth pack. This way I can carry other stuff in the pack with the cooler and it's easier to carry. Maybe more important, I don't have to look at it. I'm not a "purist" when it comes to traditional gear, but I like when it looks that way.

I'm not apposed to taking a big cooler on a no portage trip and will probably do so in the future. I'll even bring ice for cold drinks.
 
My erudite American friends have obviously never had the pleasure of drinking Labatt 50, a suds that is only consumed by old fellas who leave it sitting beside the furnace, even in the summer. Beer is often consumed at room temperatures by those in the know.

However, on the party trips with neophytes where no ports are involved, and the object of the trip is to howl at the moon, we simply distribute all of the gear from one couple into the other canoes, and fill the canoe entirely with ice and beer. The occupants sometimes complain about having cold feet, but that's the price you have to pay for an unlimited supply of cold suds.
reminds me of the time we got caught in an unusual very early snowsquall- every canoe had 3-4" of the white stuff, trying to paddle with a 2" snowdrift in your lap while only wearing quick dry nylon pants IS NOT pleasant....
 
I honestly can't remember taking a cooler in the boat- one in the truck? sure! That coleman expedition cooler gets filled with as much ice as will fit around one or two trip ending beverages of choice for each person.
For tripping the first night's meat is wrapped in paper, foil, then a plastic baggie which becomes our garbage bag for the trip, for second and subsequent nights the meat gets wet newspaper, foil, more wet newspaper, a second layer of foil and finally another baggie, the whole mess goes in the deep freeze and I flip the freezer switch to "flash-freeze" (goes down to -20F) for the night before- I've had frozen chicken breasts on night 4 this way...
 
All this talk about beer and ice on trips reminds me of the time I was cited by USFS law enforcement for having cans in the wilderness. One of my longtime favorite spots is the Sylvania Wilderness Area in the UP’s Ottawa NF. Until the late 1980’s it was a Recreation Area which allowed small motors, hunting, cans/bottle, etc. When it was designated a Wilderness the typical rules applied: no cans/bottles, no motors, no firearms. And the small picnic tables and outhouses were removed, as well as all portage signs. Since summer trips then included a group of family kids we continued to bring canned soda as well as beer for the adults, generally a lot of beer.

We were discreet about enjoying our canned beverages, keeping all of our imbibing at the campsite. All of our empties were flattened and taken out for recycling. One day we experienced a completely unexpected campsite compliance check by USFS, one of whom was armed law enforcement. When they asked us to open our coolers they exclaimed “look at all that beer and soda”. I was then cited for possession of illegal cans in the wilderness and given a $25.00 citation. We were told to immediately paddle out all the canned goods to our car. When my brother asked what we were supposed to drink considering all of the kids, we were told to drive into town and purchase soda in plastic bottles and plastic bottled beer (aka stadium beer). I asked what’s the difference between plastic and metal containers, I was told ”plastic floats”.

I took my first trip in Sylvania in 1975 and have been back almost every year since. On only one occasion did find I beer cans left in the wilderness. Mostly I pick up twist ties and a few cigarette butts at campsites and have never found any discarded plastic bottles.

Life there is simpler now that I bring just bourbon or whisky in flasks to enjoy the sunsets.
 
When we do the Allagash we eat very well. We bring 2, one is the freezer and the other is the refrigerator, (with very little beer).
The frozen food is layered in sawdust and freezer blocks The freezer is only opened at night to remove the meal for the next night, thaw it in the refrigerator, and keep it cold.
When we bring beer we cool it in a net bag on a line in the river tied off to a small dry bag as a float.
 
Last edited:
That seems reasonable enough to not even deter such behavior in the least. Heck, I'd pay the fine & carry on!
I agree. I was relieved that the fine was just $25.00. But it was 1994 so in today’s $$$. Now I see posted signs at the 2 entry points noting a fine of $125.00.
 

Attachments

  • image.jpg
    image.jpg
    96 KB · Views: 11
Back
Top