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What are the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party? I wonder this from time to time when I’m browsing Pinterest and seeing all the little DIY coolers people have made. Do they actually work? Do we even need them? Doesn’t everyone own a Coleman or an Igloo? Why can’t we use those anymore? As you can see, I have a lot of questions about cooling devices. Anyway, since global warming is making summers hotter and hotter, I thought it would be fun to test out a couple before the end of summer barbecues started. I tested out streamers verses tablecloth decorations awhile back and enjoyed bashing streamers, so I figured I could do the same with this.
Before I get started, let me give you a quick rundown of the method. I got four different cooling devices and a whole bunch of ice on a very hot day (91 when I poured the ice). The sky was sunny, humidity not bad. I poured the ice at 4:00 P.M., figuring most people have their barbecues in the early evening. Then I just left them to see how fast the ice would melt. I did put one drink in each of the drink coolers and a plate on the bonus food coolers, but I am aware that the ice will melt differently when completely full. This is still a good baseline. Anyway, here we go!
Reviews of Cooling Devices
1. The Yeti Cooler
Full disclosure: I don’t own a Yeti. My mom won my experimental cooler at a raffle a few months ago so I borrowed it from her. If you haven’t heard of Yeti, they’re basically the new standard of coolers. My husband got one of their glasses last year and that was the first time I’d heard of it, but even a year ago everyone acted like I was an idiot for not knowing. Anyway…
How Many Bags of Ice: 1.5 (could have put more, but I probably wouldn’t have if I was filling it up with drinks)
Time to Set Up: However long it takes to dump ice. If you’re entertaining at a park instead of a house, this will be a bonus time saver because everything will already be packed when you load up.
How Long To Melt: As of writing, it’s still holding strong, so at least one day.
Pros: This is pretty obvious, right? The ice still hasn’t melted. Plus it’s portable.
Cons: It’s not “cute.” If you’re looking for a nice outdoor setup, this isn’t going to wow anyone with how adorable it is. It is plain white though, so it’s also not going to be that weird blue cooler color in your pink and purple party scheme. Also, it’s going to cost you way more than any other cooling device.
You can’t really go wrong using this if you want an outdoor party because it will keep your drinks cool, but I don’t know that I’d pay for it if I was just throwing barbecues in my backyard. I would cough up the money if I camped a lot or did a lot of long hour entertaining, like days on the lake. It’s kind of strange comparing it to the others since it’s an actual cooler, but really, a list of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party would be remiss if it didn’t have Yeti. Besides, if you don’t feel like you need your drink holders to be Pinterest worthy, might as well be high tech, right?
2. Inflatable Cooler
This is basically just a float you can put ice in. It’s said to float in a pool, but I don’t have one so I can’t confirm that. I mean, it would definitely float, but I don’t know how much you could weigh it down before it started to sink.
How Many Bags of Ice: 2
Time to Set Up: It took me forever because I blew it up without a pump and I kept getting interrupted. But I think probably 5-10 minutes is a good estimate, including getting it unfolded and filled.
How Long To Melt: It was halfway gone by hour 2.
Pros: The look. It would look fun set up on a table in your backyard, wouldn’t it? You can put both drinks and plates in it. Also, they’re pretty cheap.
Cons: I was honestly surprised with how fast the ice melted in this one. I realize that most people will not put it on cement (I don’t have backyard furniture yet), but if you’re using a table that’s always outside, it’ll still be pretty hot. If you have something to put in between your surface and the cooler, it’ll probably do better. It’s also the longest set up.
Short parties or parties where the decor is important. Think pool party or maybe a summer birthday party – especially one at night. In one of the Amazon reviews, they added a picture of this with some glowsticks in it to light up a night party. That would be pretty cool, and presumably the lower temperature would help keep the ice frozen.
3. Kiddie Pool
The kiddie pool cooler is honestly my reason for writing this. I keep saving the idea on Pinterest then wondering if the ice would melt immediately. If so it definitely wouldn’t be one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, that’s for sure. Sorry I don’t have a link for it, but really, would you want to deal with a box that size? Go pick one up at Walmart or whatever. Mine came from Babies R Us for $5.
How Many Bags of Ice: 3, room for more
Time to Set Up: A couple of minutes, just dumping ice.
How Long To Melt: About 3 hours
Pros: It fits a lot of stuff. Plus people will probably tell you it’s creative. And it’s the cheapest on this list.
Cons: Um… you guys… it’s a kiddie pool. Good luck trying to keep your toddlers out of it. My son did not care that it was ice. It’s his pool, and he wants in. The pool’s so big you can’t really put it on a table, so people are going to be reaching to the ground to pick up their drinks, which is also kind of a bummer.
Barbecues and kid parties, assuming you can get the pool set up without your kids trying to get in. The best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party do not involve freezing your children as well. 🙂
4. Bonus Food Cooler
So, I have this ice mat that you can put food on to keep cool. It’s definitely not going to be one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, but if you have a plate or bowl you want to leave outside this will work.
How Many Bags of Ice: 0
Time to Set Up: One minute, but you have to remember to freeze it at least 6 hours before.
How Long To Melt: I’m not sure when it was melted since you can’t touch the ice, but at about 3 hours the plate started to warm up.
Pros: So easy. I love just rolling it out.
Cons: It’s so small! Can someone create a giant one of these to go over a whole table? That’d be great. Although I don’t know how you’d freeze that.
Barbecues and potlucks. How great would this be if you’re bringing a cool dish to someone else’s party but you aren’t sure they’ll have a way for you to keep it at the right temperature?
Decision: What are the Best Ways to Keep Drinks Cool at an Outdoor Party?
My decision here is there’s not a best way. It seems like a cop-out, but really, it depends on what kind of party you’re having. Is it a fancy event? I think the Yeti coolers will look classic, but baby pools will look, well, cheesy. Is your party only lasting an hour or two? Then any of them are fine. If it’s in the middle of the day and super hot, I would say the inflatable cooler is not one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, but if it’s an average temperature or an evening party it will work. Also, how much are you serving? Do you really need a kiddie pool full of drinks? Do you need to lug everything to a picnic area? Think about these things, and the you be able to choose the appropriate cooling device for you.