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The Cooler Thread.......

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The Cooler Thread.......

Postby WapitiTalk1 » 02 18, 2021 •  [Post 1]

Allrighty campers, let's talk about hunting coolers. Arguably, one of the most important tasks at hand once you've packed out an elk is to get/keep it cool, as quickly as possible, and.... to transport it back to the homestead once you break camp. What have you found that works well for you to keep and transport your processed (cut n' wrapped) or boned out elk chunks from (insert elk camp site/state here) back to (insert where you hang your hat here)? Do you feel you need the big money grip brand(s) of coolers to get the job done? How do you use your coolers throughout the hunt? My hunting buddy and I have a pretty specific way we use our iced up coolers from start to the end of our 2-3 week September hunt. Curious to hear what other folks do.

Please, provide a "play by play" of how you employ your coolers from the beginning to the end of your hunt.

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Re: The Cooler Thread.......

Postby Tigger » 02 18, 2021 •  [Post 2]

So far we have always had access to the trailhead camp. So we keep a generator and a freezer at camp. Throw the quarters in there, fire up the generator and no worries. Process it at home. Easy peasy.

As far as the injection molded coolers like Yeti, RTIC, etc., I have found that they are worth every penny if you are not going to keep going into them. We have had our coolers last 8 days in 40-60 degree temps with no melting whatsoever of ice. But as soon as you start opening that lid, things start melting. The good coolers are better all around, but the gap narrows if you are using them for a food cooler and going into them multiple times per day. Probably not worth the extra money in that case. One additional thing....Igloo coolers fall apart on me. I will never own another one.

One tip for every cooler....get a sacrificial bag of ice and prechill the cooler interior. That helps A LOT for any cooler.
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Re: The Cooler Thread.......

Postby Swede » 02 18, 2021 •  [Post 3]

I use a 164 quart Igloo cooler. It works for me. I am in and out of my cooler 10 times a day. I agree with Tigger. I have thought about the Yeti or one like it, but they don't seem worth the extra cost. I keep the cooler in the shade and have set it in a creek at times. I get about 6 days on a load of ice much of the time. After that it is time to get some more. I like Tigger's generator and freezer idea. I have a generator, and just got rid of a usable freezer, but it was too big to handle alone, or to put in my truck/utility trailer.
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Re: The Cooler Thread.......

Postby 7mmfan » 02 18, 2021 •  [Post 4]

I haven't quite dialed in my process here yet. I was all on board the high end rotomolded cooler train for a few years, but I've since adjusted my perspective. I think the cooler you use is a direct reflection of the time of year and distance from home you hunt. I do believe that those coolers are worth their weight in gold when you absolutely need to keep things cold in hot conditions, but most of the time I think you can get away with cheaper coolers. Durability is something to consider. If you toss out 5 - $100 igloos in 10 years, you've paid for a high end cooler. So far I've had good luck with cheaper coolers, only replacing a few handles and latches.

Also, I am rarely more than a few hours from home in any time of year where temperature is truly a problem. When I am far from home, it's later in the season. Only once in 5 years of hunting Idaho did I have weather that I didn't feel comfortable leaving my meat hanging the whole time I was there. That time, this was my process.

Hang meat at night so it kept it's crust and stayed cool/dry.
Leave coolers open at night as it was getting down below the freezing point.
Each morning I would transfer the meat back into the coolers, and cover them with a rug to keep them shielded from the sun. This worked great for 5 days until we headed for home. A 10 hour drive, no big deal.

My normal preparation and process for that trip goes something like this.

Pre cool coolers. Fill 2 65qt RTIC coolers with frozen milk jugs or polar bear tubes (capped pvc tubes with frozen water inside) starting 24 hours before leaving. Right before departure I switch them all out for fresh ones. The coolers are now precooled.

DO NOT OPEN THEM Do not open these coolers until you are ready to start putting meat in them.

Fill as completely as possible When it comes time to fill them, try to do it with the meat as cold as possible and fill the cooler as completely as possible. The thermal mass of 100# of elk meat is pretty incredible. If it is cold, you almost don't have to put any ice in them for 24 hours unless it's quite warm out.

I try to process my game in camp if I can. The place we've been staying the last couple years has power, so I bring my vacuum sealer with me. For 3 years now I've been able to fully cut and seal my animals before leaving camp. This is ideal for transportation home because if it is hot, I can load it with as much ice as I want without any issues regarding the meat. They're all snug as bugs in their tight little plastic homes. It also allows me to fully utilize the space of those coolers, letting the thermal mass really do it's job.

Since I've started doing it this way, I've realized that I do not need any fancy coolers. A cheap 110 qt Igloo will hold an entire processed spike elk and 2 bags of ice. If I had to travel a long distance in hot weather, I could easily drain and add more ice. It really is a pretty ideal situation. This obviously doesn't work if you are packaging your meat in paper. Making sure you have adequately precooled coolers is the best plan there.

If I wasn't processing my meat before leaving camp though, and was transporting quarters home, the obvious limiting factor is length of cooler. I'd rather transport a whole bone in quarter home than bone it. That's my personal opinion though and not shared by many others. In the research I've done, you need a 150 qt cooler to achieve the length necessary to put a mature bulls bone in hindquarter inside. I'd follow my pre-cooling process and treat it the same.
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Re: The Cooler Thread.......

Postby Elkhntr08 » 02 18, 2021 •  [Post 5]

Got a Yeti 105 and a 65 that go on every hunt. Are they worth the money, I think so and it’s my money. The 65 is full of ice and the 105 has 4-5 frozen jugs in it. That’s my pre cool system.
The 65 went out of the bed of my truck and ended up no worse for wear. They saved me a fine in Wyoming. Got checked and GW was fine with bear proof coolers. Camp down the road got a fine for using igloos.
Fill’em up, lock’em in and don’t worry. I like that.
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