RTIC coolers talk about their extreme ice retention but sometimes you can find your ice melting in as little as 24 hours. Or sometimes even a cheap $40 Coleman cooler can outperform your RTIC cooler.
Why is ice melting so quickly in your RTIC cooler? Well there are a few common reasons as well as ways to fix them so ice does last days like it is meant to.
The most common reason ice melts so quickly in an RTIC cooler is because you didn't pre-chill it. Other causes are putting in room temperature food/drink which melts the ice or your cooler may have a manufacturing defect.
The internet is littered with forum and Facebook posts of people saying their RTIC (or other expensive cooler) won't hold ice more than 1-2 days.
So why is it that sometimes RTIC coolers don't hold ice very long at all and how can you solve this with your RTIC cooler?
Is This A Manufacturer Default?
It's possible that your RTIC cooler has a manufacturing default that means ice is melting faster than it should, but these issues are uncommon.
RTIC coolers are actually one of the best coolers at keeping ice so if your ice is consistently melting super quickly there could possibly be issues.
The most likely manufacturing issue to cause this problem is air gaps in the walls of your cooler.
See the exterior shell of an RTIC cooler is roto-molded to create the shape. But basically the cooler starts out completely empty.
They then pressure inject polyurethane foam insulation into the shell of the cooler through different holes in the cooler shell.
However, issues can arise when air bubbles form and stop the foam from expanding, or when not enough foam is used to completely fill the cooler. This can leave large gaps in the insulation which allows heat into your cooler melting the ice quickly.
How To Check For A RTIC Insulation Product Fault
This product fault isn't easy to test for but with a strong torch and a dark room you can see if there are any gaps.
Place a strong torch inside your RTIC and then shut the lid off the cooler. If there are patchy parts where light shines through more than other areas this is a sign it may not be completely insulated and you should request a replacement.
The video below shows someone using this technique with their Igloo Sportsman cooler and how their cooler was missing insulation.
Honestly, companies should have some process themselves of checking this before each cooler is shipped out but it seems most companies don't bother.
If you don't find any gaps in insulation in your RTIC cooler (or even if you do) it's still worth checking the other common mistakes below that causes ice to melt quickly in your cooler.
You can also check out my article on how to keep your cooler cold for longer.
Most Common Issue: Not Pre-Cooling The Cooler
When it comes to ice melting quickly in your RTIC cooler this is the most common reason.
While you can just throw ice in a cheap cooler without any preparation, thick rotomolded coolers like RTIC need to be pre-chilled before use.
When kept at room temperature or in a warm room the thick insulation will actually absorb a lot of heat energy. If you put ice into a warm RTIC cooler the warm insulation will melt your ice super quickly.
This is more often than not the reason people complain about their cheap cooler keeping ice longer than their RTIC cooler.
This exact issue happened with my dad earlier this year. He went down the coast picking blueberries and took a cheap cooler and an expensive cooler. He left them empty in his hot car all the way down the coast and the entire day he was picking.
In the afternoon he filled them up with blueberries and some ice. By the time he got home to expensive cooler had no ice left while the cheap cooler still had ice.
He thought the expensive cooler was just crap, but really he just failed to prepare the cooler properly and so it was his fault the cooler didn't perform well.
To fix this issue you first need to pre-chill your cooler. I've done a full article on how to pre-chill a cooler but the steps are pretty simple.
Simply fill up your cooler with a sacrificial bag of ice or some frozen water bottles and leave it in a cool room overnight. The ice will cool down the insulation.
Then discard the ice or water bottles and fill up your cooler with fresh ice.
Starting with a cooler that hasn't be pre-chilled is the #1 reason for ice melting too quickly in your RTIC cooler.
If you've pre-chilled your cooler and you're still finding ice is melting super quickly you may have a manufacturing default.
Room Temperate Food and Drinks Melt Ice Fast
Another common reason ice is melting quickly in your cooler is that you are putting in room temperature food or drinks.
Coolers are a great way to chill drinks quickly and room temperature drinks can get cold enough to drink in as little as 10-15 minutes.
However, room temperature food and drinks carry a lot of heat energy and adding them into your cooler will cause the ice to melt more quickly.
The ice will absorb the heat from your food or drinks, cooling them down, but it'll melt the ice in the process.
To keep ice longer you should pre-chill or pre-freeze food and drinks before placing them in your cooler. This will help your ice last much longer as you won't be adding as much heat into your cooler.
Cooler Touching The Hot Ground or Surfaces
RTIC coolers are great at insulating, but the more you can keep them away from sources of heat the better.
Placing your RTIC cooler directly onto hot ground – whether that be a deck, the sand at the beach, hot concrete or hot tray of your truck – will cause the ice in the cooler to melt faster.
You want to keep your RTIC away from direct contact with the hot surfaces as much as possible and it'll keep ice longer.
Place it on the cooler ground in the shade or even partially bury it so the ground itself helps to insulate your cooler.
The Cooler Is In Direct Sunlight
RTIC coolers don't insulate against a type of heat called “heat radiation” or infrared. This can get through the cooler and warm it up melting the ice inside.
Reflective materials like aluminum are great at insulating against heat radiation but RTIC coolers don't have anything like this in them.
If you leave your RTIC cooler in the sun it will receive heat from the run's rays which will warm up your cooler and warm up and melt the ice inside. Keeping your RTIC in the shade will allow ice to last longer.
So keep your RTIC out of direct sunlight where possible and your ice won't melt as quickly.
Not Putting In Enough Ice
RTIC and other brands recommend a 2-to-1 ice-to-food ratio in your cooler.
When I looked at how much ice you should put in your cooler I suggest that a 1-to-1 ice-to-food ratio is more practical and will allow ice to last 2-4 days in your RTIC cooler
However, if you're putting in a lot of food and drinks and only a little bit of ice then this ice is going to melt super quickly. The more ice you have the longer your ice will last.
Also, under filling the cooler and having a lot of internal air space causes ice to melt more quickly so you want your cooler to be as full as possible with ice and frozen or cold items.
Smaller Blocks Of Ice or “Warm Ice”
Some ice is better than other ice.
Block ice lasts longer than cubed ice and then colder ice starts out at the longer it'll last before melting.
Water will turn into ice at 32ºF (0ºC) but did you know ice can actually get colder than this?
Your freezer at home is usually set to around 0ºF (-18ºC) and if you leave your ice in there long enough it'll go down to this temperature.
Ice you get from a service station is often referred to as “warm ice” as it's not as cold as ice from your freezer. This means it melts faster and doesn't last as long.
So make sure you're either using block ice or using ice that is as cold as possible in your RTIC cooler.
You're Opening The Lid Too Much
Every time you open the lid to your cooler you let in warm air and a lot of heat energy that can melt your ice.
To keep ice as long as possible and to stop it from melting quickly in your RTIC cooler you want to keep your lid closed as much as possible and only open it if you absolutely need it.
There are also some ways to add insulation to your cooler so it holds ice even longer or protects your ice from warm air when you open your cooler.
Still Having Issues Even After Trouble Shooting?
If you're still having issues with ice melting too quickly in your RTIC and you've tried all the suggestions above but nothing is working then it's probably time to get in contact with RTIC customer service and see if they can get you a replacement.
Try to be extremely clear to them that you've done everything correctly when pre-chilling and using your cooler and despite this it still won't hold ice.
One of the problems of RTIC coolers is that their warranty only lasts 1 year so you'll need to get in before the year is up. Also what I have read about their customer service hasn't been great. But hopefully you'll have a good experience and get a replacement for your cooler.