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 How to pack an esky...

This page is under construction...
I always intended that this should be a pictorial exercise but as I am currently on a dry Aboriginal Community in East Arnhem Land its a bit difficult to get hold of beer and ice let alone an esky that still has a lid.... I will add the pictures later
My mate Paul Mac was going to offer advice along these lines on his website as we have discussed the why's and where fore's at great length. We both agreed that people need education on this important subject lest they subject themselves to the horror of a beer at less than optimal temperature. Alas Paul, who was "waiting for the wet season to start" so that he could spend a rainy day inside making a really good job of it...is still waiting 2 years on...(we're having a draught...(oops)... drought at the moment..)
Coming feature: Taking your esky off road.  Important considerations courtesy of Ev Tandy, Senior Tour Guide and Operations Manager for Wilderness Challenge

This page has been written on the assumption that the reader has absolutely no knowledge of the intricacies involved in the proper and safe use of an esky. While every care has been taken to ensure that the procedures outlined are safe and proven no responsibility will be taken for any injury or liver damage incurred a result of following this guide. 

Principles and background

Once you have a basic understanding of the principles behind the behaviour of cold air you will be able to enjoy a future free of the disagreeable experience of a tepid beer. Now it is scientific fact that hot air rises, we all know that, and the converse is true, that cooler air drops. An easy practical experiment will demonstrate this adequately: 
Take your thongs off (no, I'm not talking about skimpy underwear, and although you may remove your underwear as well if you wish, it will have no bearing on the results of the experiment... I'm talking footwear here, otherwise known as "jandals or flip flops" depending on what country you're in) and put on a pair of shorts. Now, stand in front of the refrigerator (an upright freezer is even better for our purpose), open the door, and very quickly stand in the middle of the open door with your toes 4-6 inches from the bumper plate under the door opening. You will notice a steady stream of cold air flowing over your feet. This is the cold air that has been trapped in the fridge flowing downwards.  Perform this experiment as many times as is required to satisfy yourself that the statement "cool air drops" is true and thus proven. (best to let the fridge recover for a few minutes between each opening as explained in the next sentence). 
Once the door is closed again the cold air quickly builds up once more, aided by the arcane technology of the workings of the fridge (often accompanied by a humming or whirring or clanking sound from the bowels of the fridge and rarely in the case of older machines it may actually start moving around the kitchen floor in a random but vaguely threatening, alarming  manner). You may have noticed that most fridges have a plate located near the top of the inside of the fridge which often ices up, capturing and adhering to any item that is placed too close (usually lettuce and plastic wrap). The reason it is in the top of the space is so that air around it is cooled quickly and drops to the bottom of the fridge to keep you're vegies and salad stuff cold. The cold air builds up until it reaches this plate and eventually the whirring sound stops, indicating it has reached an optimum temperature. If we ponder these facts further it is logical to assume that items at a lower level in the fridge will be less prone to temperature fluctuations (caused by the constant door opening in the experiment above) as the cold air is replenished in the lower levels sooner than the top. So it is also logical to assume that when storing beer in the fridge they should be placed as low in the fridge as possible such as seen here:

evandfridge.jpg (35513 bytes)
(click to enlarge)... Note Ev's happy smile after the experimental first sip...

The Esky

"Esky" is actually a brand name of the original ice box/cooler (fridge) manufactured by Malley in 1884. The first "Esky" portable cooler was launched in time for the summer of 1952 and was dubbed the 'Esky Auto Ice Box' and was widely promoted to car owners in motoring journals claiming that the product was: "Just as essential in the boot as the jack ! ". 
Gaining wide popularity, these items earned a place close to the heart of most Australians. Eight years later in 1960 more than 500,000 units had been sold and began to feature innovations such as carrying handles, hinged lids, built in bottle openers and a drain plug to drain the water from ice melted.  Click here to read the full history. Also known as coolers, ice chests and, as in the case of New Zealand, "Chilly Bin" ('pronounced chooly bun'). In Australia you simply cannot go wrong if you  refer to every form of these items as an esky. They come in different shapes and sizes and an example of this is the "Tartan cooler" (circa 1950's), a heavy cylindrical unit with varied Tartan colours and patterns. It had very thick walls probably using cork as insulation (standard at the time) and came with a handy little tray which fitted inside the top, presumably to put the ice in.

Esky facts:

  In the 50+ year period since 1952, well over five million Esky coolers have been sold in Australia.
  A personal flotation device is one of the more unusual uses for an Esky cooler. There have been a number of cases where an Esky cooler has saved the life of anglers, the most recent being in Western Australia. A man was fishing from a small boat when a wave caused the boat to capsize. The man grabbed his Esky cooler, which he had been using to keep his bait cool, and floated to shore. Thanks to his Esky cooler, he lived to fish another day!  

The Hovey family from Horsham in Victoria boasts three generations of loyal Esky cooler users.  

Editors note: I recommend never ever setting off in a dinghy or indeed a boat of any kind without the safety back up of a large capacity esky.

These days esky's are a far cry from the heavy earlier models and use more efficient insulation which is far lighter. Metal materials are a thing of the past, unlike my trusty "steel belted" number. 

Pack the esky...

For this exercise you will need:


 1 x esky. I recommend a capacity of at least 30 litres. It should be a designated beer esky. Have a separate esky for food and kiddies drinks as you know they'll be at it all the time opening it and never closing it properly. Remember what happened to the fridge? It had to work harder to keep things cold.


 1 x  5 litre (standard) bag of crushed ice.


1 x cold carton of your favourite brew. For portability, weight, space and safety considerations I personally recommend and prefer cans, a 30 pack or "block" is ideal. You can fit more, carry more, drink more and if you drop one it wont break (hopefully)..

Other considerations:

There are a few variables to think about such as how long you would want your beverages to stay cold. In the example we are going to be using it is reasonable to assume that with care and under the right conditions you would still be able to extract an icy beer after 24-36 hours (presuming you last that long...). A general rule of thumb would be that the more ice = longer desired cold temperature.  Other factors to be taken into consideration are:


Will the esky be parked in the shade or in the open?


Near a heat source such as a BBQ or away?


Will there be ice pilferers? Usually women dinking spirits with mixers who have a sixth sense about which esky has the most ice, yours, but not for long unless you put a stop to it in a decisive manner.


Is there a risk of someone turning up with a six pack of hot beers that have been rolling around the back of the utility for a few days (that are better off being kept in the background in case someone needs a fire extinguisher) and trying to disturb your careful preparations by rummaging around and inserting them  haphazardly into your esky without care or consideration of the ramifications for the esky's eco-system.


The ambient temperature. Especially important in the tropics...

If in doubt factor in more ice but in our example a 50/50 ratio is ideal providing the esky is:

  1. A dedicated beverage esky.

  2. Parked away from the sun and other heat sources

  3. guarded against spirit drinkers (who never bring their own ice) and small children (who just want to muck around with the ice as they don't understand the seriousness of it all, AT ALL!).

  4. Packed with cold beverages at the very start. (You can pack your esky with warm beer if you have no other choice but doing so will halve the optimum temperature expectancy and requires an unacceptably long waiting period before reaching optimum temperature). 


Obtain you're supplies from the local vendor, take your esky with you as there is danger of a precipitous drop in temperature when your block sits in the boot and precious ice will be melting. The publican will understand the need to perform the following task IMMEDIATELY upon purchase as his/her livelihood depends on the sale of COLD BEER.


Carefully loosen the flaps on one side of the carton so they freely open but DO NOT remove any cans yet. 


Open the lid of the esky and taking great care, hold the flaps previously loosened closed while turning the block onto its side so that it is between your forearms with your fingers splayed around the flaps preventing the beers falling out of what is now the bottom.


Approach the esky directly from the front and lower the box carefully down into the esky, box and all. Note that your hands enter the esky adjacent to the narrow ends of the esky.


Grasp the box firmly and pull it directly upwards. The weight of the cans will cause them to stay pretty much where they are while the flaps you loosened previously open and allow the box to be removed easily. You will note that all the cans are fairly neatly lined up and will naturally roll to either side to fill the empty spaces. Do not expect to get this exactly right first time, it takes practice. If your esky is not wide enough to accommodate a block a standard 24 can carton can be used in the same manner. But if you already have the block and the esky size is less (didn't I tell you to use at least a 30 litre?) you'll just have to do it manually, but quickly now as the publican is probably getting upset that your leaving the beer out in the warm air for so long.


Level off the last of the recalcitrant cans noting that placement of the cans is with the tops and bottoms against the front and back of the esky respectively. (The interior of the esky is not cold yet so you do not want to place the entire length of cans along the warm walls of an empty esky unless you have pre-chilled your cooler). In the case of an esky which is too narrow to accommodate two rows of cans you will need to place them sideways, and though this is not ideal, sometimes it cant be helped. Just be sure to level all cans off as best as possible as we know that they must be as close to the bottom as possible in order to remain cold for the longest possible time.


Finish off by emptying all the crushed ice onto the top of the cans. (If the ice has locked together in the bag due to poor storage, or because of you spending so long on the first few steps, it can be loosened by dropping the closed bag onto a hard flat surface several times. Do not drop it on a hard  jagged surface as you may rip the bag and end up with pile of ice on the ground. 

There, not so hard was it?                                                                           
Now that you have a well packed esky you are ready to go. Don't forget to use an appropriate device to protect your hands from the extreme cold and maintain the temperature of opened cans. The ideal is a device known as a "stubby holder". Usually made of neoprene rubber or diving suit material they have reasonable insulating properties and will fit both cans and stubbies and so are quite versatile.

Any input or suggestions  in the way of advice, photos, additions or corrections welcome.
please email: ...........Well I'm sorry that I had to remove this email address as I was getting WAY too many spam emails and I have blocked the address. Maybe you'll just have to look me up in the phone book.