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Where to buy a 10-12 quart (max!) travel cooler for carry-on flight?

I'm going to be carrying cheeses, charcuteries, fruits, etc. on a long-distance flight and need to find a good quality compact cooler to do the job... preferably somewhere in the Mission, Noe, Castro if possible. I'll take a trip out wherever I have to though!

Leaving Saturday A.M. so any fast help is appreciated!

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  1. I would use one of the soft-sided insulated bags. Note that you won't be able to take any ice or freezer packs that have gel in them through security (or at least, I couldn't a couple of days ago). None of those items really need to be kept super cold, anyway. Certainly not the fruit, and the only cheeses you can't keep at room temp for at least 24 hours would be soft, fresh cheeses that, again, you might have trouble getting through security anyway. Most charcuterie is good for at least that long as well, since it's either been cured or has a high fat/low moisture/high salt content.

    Finally, make sure that if you're not planning on consuming everything en route that it's okay to take them wherever you're going -- meat, especially, is often confiscated.

    1. I bought a nice soft-sided insulated bag at Trader Joe's recently. Not sure if the dimensions are within legal limits, but it holds a lot.

      1. My red and white 8.5 liter Coleman cooler is an old friend for just your needs. Any Walmart or equivalent will have it. I have a blue and white 4.7 liter also. Both have been carried on, a lot.

        1. Thanks everyone!

          I would prefer a hard cooler only becuse I plan on requesting some ice to fill it with from the attendants on flight, just to keep things cool and so that the cheese doesn't get too smelly. Cheese and meats and fruits if not kept cool and sealed tight, will start to smell pretty strongly way up in the air. I figure a 10 quart cooler can't weight much anyway and is surely pretty easy to tug around. I was hoping to pick up some soft cheeses as well from the 24th St. shop; some camemberts and bries, etc. so keeping them on ice would be great! Plus we'll pick up a bottle of Bollinger from the duty-free and would like to chill it in the cooler as well. I've Googled around and think I'll swing by REI tonight. Thanks for the advice though!

          12 Replies
          1. re: OliverB

            You can't bring the Bollinger on board. I am not reticent about stinky cheeses or anything else in my carry-on.

            1. re: OliverB

              There's no real Camembert or Brie in the US due to the ban on raw-milk cheeses aged less than 60 days.

              You can get great local charcuterie in cryovac bags at Boccalone in the Ferry Building.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Thanks Robert... I forgot about that, being a newly immigrated Canadian and all!

                It's hard to miss much in terms of culinary treats while living in the bay area, but here's one thing I took for granted back home. I certainly was lucky to live blocks from one of the best cheese shops I've seen outside of Europe!

                Would you say the trip to Boccalone is worthwhile over just picking up charcuteries from the 24th Street Cheese Co; is the quality selection much better? Are there any GREAT cheese vendors at the Ferry Building?

                Thanks!

                1. re: OliverB

                  Yes, Boccanova's great and you won't find their stuff anywhere else.

                  Cowgirl Creamery is down the hall, one of the best cheese stores in the US. They might have the best selection in the area of the top artisanal American cheeses, most of which come from the other side of the country: Vermont, Wisconsin, etc. Look for cheese from Andante Dairy, they're the best locally. Due to the ban on young raw-milk cheese, the best American cheeses for the most part are not stinky. I wouldn't worry about a cooler, I'd just buy some zip-lock bags.

                  And the best bread in the area is next door: Acme.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I should specify that I'm looking specifcally for the freshest salametto, jamón, prosciutto, toscano, soppressata, etc.

                  1. re: OliverB

                    Have you given any thought to how much those are going to stink? Really, in an enclosed metal tube without fresh air it won't take much time to annoy your fellow passengers with those smells.

                    1. re: gourmanda

                      Yes I have taken that into consideration. I'm picking up a cooler because I plan to keep everything on ice. We're also sitting by ourselves, in a two-seater row. I don't think it should be smelly if kept cool and tightly sealed. I will be sure to bring tupperware cases along as well.

                      1. re: OliverB

                        I'm skeptical about the plane having enough ice that you can fill your cooler. A cooler seems like a silly waste of space to me, the stuff's not going to spoil. Ditto Tupperware. Just use zip-lock bags.

                        Are you planning to take it home or eat it on the plane?

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I'm packing a lot, for two people, at least 3 meals since it'll be an overnight flight!

                          At least 6 or 7 cheese wedges, plenty of cured meats, salads, pre-sliced Tartine loaf, oils and vinegars, grapes, nuts, pears, etc. I'll need to carry it all somewhere; might as well pick up a 10-quart cooler that'll conveniently fit under the seat. I have no other carry-on...

                          I don't plan to take it home, but we'll surely make good use of leftovers in the Continental Flight Lounge during our 3 hour layover in Newark. I don't think we'll need enough ice to fill the entire cooler. Just enough to fill 5 or 6 ziplock bags to line the bottoms and sides and keep things fresh and chilled. I'm sure the flight attendants would be happy to accommodate.

                          1. re: OliverB

                            You probably should be looking for something like this:

                            http://www.igloo-store.com/detail/IGL...

                            Freeze your grapes in a ziploc, they can act as ice too, might not upset security.

                            Remember, that this will be one of your 2 carry-ons, and that is a big consideration, what else will you need to carry? Also, there are no hard and fast rules about what security will let you take, if they decide to search the cooler. Be prepared to lose some or all of it.

                            You can take a bottle of wine on the plane, if you buy it at a post security store, but you can't drink it on the plane. I can only imagine the panic if someone popped a champagne cork in flight. :(

                            As for the smell, it won't be any worse than all the McDonald's and other prepared food picked up at the airport that everyone else brings on board.

                            1. re: OliverB

                              The mass of the food will be enough to keep it cool. The cheese and cold cuts will taste muvh better if they're not chilled.

                              Oil and vinegar, there are all sorts of restrictions on bringing liquids on planes in the US: http://www.tsa.gov/311/

                          2. re: OliverB

                            I'm glad you're thinking about it, though I'm not sure you will be getting as much ice as you say. And even if it's kept cool, once you take it out the smell will permeate the place. You may be in a two-seat row, but you're not going to be on a two-seat plane. Just be prepared for scowls if not worse.

                  2. See if you can find some of this delicious raw goat milk cheese.
                    http://www.sfgate.com/default/article...

                    1. I recently bought a soft-sided, collapsible insulated bag at a Wal-Mart in Taylor Texas to bring back a frozen smoked brisket. I surrounded the brisket with ice, kept it in my hotel room for 1.5 days, brought it to the airport, put it through the security checkpoint in Austin with the ice still in it. It passed through security, kept it in the overhead compartment and dumped the remaining ice out once I got home. It worked well. The bag cost about $13.