One "cool" (figuratively and literally) product we ended up using on our bike camping trip was purely a matter of coincidence. The nice thing about riding and camping on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal is that you are never far from places to buy food and beverages. Because of this we did not think very hard about using a cooler of any sort - we figured we would buy stuff as we needed it. If you are camping with a car, hauling a huge plastic cooler around is no problem - on a bike it is clearly a different story since your legs are responsible for transporting everything around.
One day early in the trip when buying beer the proprietor offered to toss in a free Bud Light cooler bag. It was obviously a promotional item because it was pretty cheap but we took it, stuffed a few six packs in it (not of Bud Light mind you), covered it with ice, and rode away. We were quite pleased with the result. Not only were were able to enjoy cold beers with no pressure to drink quickly for fear of them becoming warm, when we woke up the next day the cooler still had a good portion of ice it it. Although it was cheap, it worked quite well.
We ended up using it every day to haul beer to the camp site and to store other items that needed refrigeration like sour cream and cheese. We did end up tearing it because it was not built to last, and on the last day we used it as garbage bag.
The cooler ended up being something we really appreciated and I searched around a bit and there are indeed a bunch of "soft" coolers out there that could be used for bike camping. They are light and can be folded up when you don't want to use them which is key because hauling a bulky cooler on a bike is not optimal.
Another hack used in the past that we did not use for this trip was using kitty litter buckets for coolers. There is a very detailed description of how to turn kitty litter buckets into panniers on the site, Crazy Guy on a Bike.
The buckets make decent coolers too. In the past I went on a trip and we emptied them out at night, tossed food and beer in them, put ice on top and the contents would stay cold overnight. If you want to buy the buckets without hacking them yourselves, you can purchase versions from either Cobbworks or Citybikes.
Another wise idea is to carry beer Koozies on your trip. Nothing like keeping your beer cold and in the hot and humid weather we were camping in, the Koozies were a nice way to keep our beer cooler for longer. More news on beer in a future post . . . stay thirsty my friends.