Ice Packs for Coolers – How to Choose the Best one

Best ice packs for coolers

Summer is a great time for outdoor activities such as picnics, BBQ parties, or camping by the beach. It’s great to drink a cool bottle of water during outings in hot weather. All of that gives a natural summer feel. However, it will be challenging to keep drinks cold if you do not know that ice packs for coolers are what you need. Investing in ice packs for coolers brings long-term value and excellent benefits. For good cooling efficiency and without spending too much, you should know the basics and how to choose the best ice packs for coolers. This article will give you all.

What are ice packs?

An ice pack is a portable bag of cooling liquids or gels manufactured to cool food and drinking water. Based on the characteristics and usage time, people divide ice packs for coolers into two main types: reusable and instant cooling. Due to the different properties, the internal components of these two types of cooling ice bags are also completely different. Understanding each type will help you choose the suitable ice pack for you.

Reusable ice packs

Tthis type of ice pack acts similar to an ice block and freezes when needed for cooling purposes. When you need to use it, you must put it in the freezer until frozen. The refrigerant inside this ice pack is non-toxic, with the main ingredient being water. It can be at a temperature as low as 0 degrees Celsius. Depending on the needs of cooling food, users can choose the appropriate number of reusable ice packs. In addition, you should also consider the ambient temperature when using this type of cooler bag.

Instant cooling type

This ice pack can only be used once. It consists of two bags: one for water and the other for solutions such as ammonium nitrate, urea, and calcium ammonium nitrate. When the two bags are crushed and dissolved, the inside of the ice pack forms an endothermic process that causes it to cool quickly. Usually, this type of bag is only used in cases of needing first aid, injury, temperature rise due to illness, etc. The cooling time of this ice pack is short, so it is difficult to cool foods and drink water.

As such, ice packs for coolers are usually reusable ice packs. Therefore, you should pay attention to buying the suitable types if you do not have the purpose of preparing wounds and healing.

Why should you use ice packs instead of regular ice in coolers?

Safe for health

Ice packs’ primary purpose for coolers is to cool drinking water and food. People often use this ice pack to support coolers to increase capacity and prolong cooling time. You just need to put these ice packs in coolers to enjoy their effects.

Besides, ice packs for coolers do not contaminate food with harmful substances, so you can rest assured about their safety.


If you have a large cooler, it is inconvenient to use regular ice because there are not enough ice bags to put in. However, with some ice packs always in the freezer, you can be ready to use at any time. Many types of ice packs are reusable, so it’s very cost-effective.

Ice packs for coolers can also be used in medicine to maintain vaccines, blood, biological samples, and cells. The cooling process of these ice packs forms C02 gas, which helps to keep out bacteria and mold.

In addition, ice packs for coolers are also used to marinate ice cream and preserve vegetables and seafood during export.

Further reading: Best Portable Fridges and Coolers for Camping

No messy water

The benefit of using regular ice in your cooler is that the ice cubes are smaller and can be placed in tighter positions. This will help cover more of the area in between the food and drink but you must struggle to clean up with messy water.

When your ice packs finally melt, they won’t spread all over and flood everything as is the case with regular ice. The ice packs are reusable, and the substance stays inside as it melts, so you don’t have to worry about your entire food being submerged in water.

In addition, some cooler bags are not completely leakproof, using regular ice can lead to water melting and leaking through your bag, into your car or even onto your clothes. With ice packs, you just need to store them in the freezer after your travels, they will be ready to use again next time.

An ice pack is a portable bag of cooling liquids or gels manufactured to cool food and drinking water
An ice pack is a portable bag of cooling liquids or gels  to cool food and drinking water


See “Yeti Ice vs Regular Ice”

How do you choose the best ice packs for coolers?

You need to keep three essential things in mind when buying ice packs for coolers. Compare your needs and the following factors to select the correct one.

Cooling time

Each type of ice pack for coolers has a different freezing time and cold-keeping time. This is the essential factor that you need to consider and choose. Please refer to the characteristics and parameters of each type.

In addition, you can rely on another source of information, which is customer reviews using previous kinds of products. You should also pay attention to your intentions regarding how often and for how long you use ice packs for coolers.


Please consider how much space inside your cooler can accommodate the ice pack size. If you choose an ice pack that is too big for your cooler, it will take up a lot of space resulting in the amount of preserved food being significantly reduced.

However, large ice packs will help cool more food and keep the cooler cold longer than small ice packs.


The compact design and size will make it easier for you to use ice packs. This creates the versatility of the ice packs. If you want to keep foods of different shapes, ice packs with soft surfaces will make it much easier to arrange them in coolers. However, softboxes are more susceptible to damage than ice packs with hard, plastic covers.

Further reading: How to Choose the Best Small Cooler with Wheels

How do you make the ice packs the coldest?

If you want your ice packs to stay super cold to last longer and preserve food better, be sure to follow the instructions on the package to freeze completely before using the ice packs.

Alternatively, you can help keep them cold by chilling the cooler with ice before filling and lining the cooler with aluminum foil.

Pre-chilling or even freezing items you plan to pack, such as bottled beverages, will keep the inside of the cooler colder and your ice packs frozen longer.

You may also like: How Long Does Ice Last in a Cooler?

How many ice packs do you need for a cooler?

In general, to ensure that your items will stay cold, you should apply an ice-to-food or beverage ratio of 2:1.

Further reading:  Storing Eggs in the Refrigerator - How to Keep them Fresh and Safe?

In addition, how many ice packs you should use will entirely depend on how much time you plan to spend on your trip.

If you’re going on a short trip, an ice pack or two will help. But two ice packs will lose their cool in about 5-7 hours, depending on how warm the weather is, the capacity of your cooler, and how many items you are trying to keep cold.

For longer trips, it is recommended that you fill the cooler half full or 2/3 full with ice or an ice pack. But in a small cooler, this is often not possible because there is not enough room for food and drinks. You should pack as many ice packs as you can fit in your cooler. The more you pack, the longer things will stay cold.

Ice packs come in a variety of sizes and forms, from small enough to fit in a lunch box to large enough to serve a group with drinks and snacks.

How long do ice packs keep a cooler cold?

Typically, a 5-pound ice pack can keep a quality cooler stay cold for up to two or three days. The gel ice packs can keep the cooler cold up to 5 or 6 days if placed in a well-insulated cooler and pack properly. Usually, the ice pack will stay cold and will keep the cooler or contents inside cold for more than 24 hours.

Heavy and large ice packs will keep cold longer than small and light ice packs. Because they are thicker, hard-sided blocks, they stay cold significantly longer than soft-sided blocks. Some ice packs freeze quickly for short-term use such as picnics and lunch boxes. While other ice bags take longer to freeze. So, you need to read the label before buying to make sure you’re choosing the right ice packs to meet your needs.

You should not use the cooler immediately after getting it out of warehouse, it’s better to pre-cool it with ice before packing. This is a great way to keep your cooler cold, and this will help the contents last longer.

Should ice packs go on top or bottom of a cooler?

Ice packs are best placed at the bottom of your cooler as they will last longer and keep things cold longer. Let’s take a look at the locations to put your ice pack and the pros and cons of each.

On the bottom

Placing an ice pack on the bottom of the cooler will ensure that it lasts longer and melts more slowly. This is ideal for longer trips where you need to keep your food from spoiling for a long time. Food and drinks on the ice will insulate and protect it from the outside air every time you open the cooler. Placing them at the bottom will prolong the life of the ice pack.

Also, placing the ice packs on the bottom of the cooler is very convenient because you will not have to move them every time you need to take out foods or drinks.

The disadvantage of this method is that the items at the top won’t be as cold as the items on the bottom.  However, with the right arrangement, you can make this work. For example: place perishable items such as dairy products directly on or under the ice pack. Then place other drinks. Things like bread and fruit on the very top.

On top

Putting ice packs on top is a good solution. As a rule, cold air will flow from the top of the ice bag to the bottom allowing cold air to seep into all your items, keeping everything cold. But because they’re on top, these ice packs are exposed to more warm air when the cooler is open, and so they’ll melt faster than if you left them at the bottom.

This method is good for short trips but not ideal for longer rides when you need to maximize your ice holding capacity.

Between products

Another way to arrange ice packs is between products.  The cooler doesn’t have the thick insulation as a regular fridge and your ice packs won’t keep everything in your cooler equally cold. Placing ice packs between your products will ensure that each item is equally cooled as they are in direct contact with the ice packs.

Top 5 best ice packs for coolers

Most durable:  YETI ICE

YETI ICE is a highly durable ice pack with high impact resistance for coolers. YETI ICE is suitable for the rigors if you love adventure trips and exploration.

With its unique design, YETI ICE has a shorter freezing time than other ice packs, and you only need to freeze it within 4 hours. Then, it can be used for up to 24 hours continuously. Of course, the YETI ICE is an always reusable ice pack. You have three options which are 1-pound, 2-pound, and 4-pound sizes.

Best value: Cooler Shock

Cooler Shock ice packs is one of the highest-rated ice packs for coolers on Amazon. If you need extended cooling time and large quantities of food and drinks, the Cooler Shock ice packs are a great choice. Especially with camping sessions in the forest or overnight.

For this type of ice pack, you can reuse it continuously but still ensure the cooling effect. Besides, its price is very affordable.

You just need to fill the bag with water, which will combine with the powder inside to form a specialized cooling gel. Just put the bag in the freezer for about 24 hours. You can use it for up to 48 hours until the cold is completely gone. Using Cooler Shock ice packs is entirely free of substances hazardous to health.

Best variety: Arctic Ice

Arctic Ice is suitable for those who need to keep large amounts of food cold. You have quite a few choices of colors and sizes if you decide to buy this ice pack. Besides, it is convenient because Arctic Ice allows you to adjust the size to suit your cooling needs.

To freeze it, it only takes you 6 to 8 hours. Arctic Ice can keep drinks cold for up to 24 hours at ideal temperatures. Arctic Ice is available in 9 colors. Plus, it’s also dishwasher safe if you have a leak problem.

Best for small coolers: Cool Coolers by Fit + Fresh

If you need small, compact ice packs, this is the product for you. They are perfect for lunch boxes and are stackable for easy storage. However, they stay cool shorter than others and thaw fairly quickly.

Simply use a pack or two of Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers for your small cooler or lunch box or stack a few packs in a larger cooler to keep temperatures low and keep your food fresh.  This small, space-saving packs are easy to clean and are capable of keeping cool for up 12 hours.

Best gel: Polar Tech

These are reusable ice packs. It is a leak-proof plastic with prolonged cold temperatures in. Medium-sized packs use a long-lasting cold-temperature gel in a heavy-duty, leak-proof plastic bag. Polar Tech ice packs won’t wet your cooler at the end of the day.



Where To Put Ice Packs In a Cooler Bag,, retrieved on Dec. 22, 2022

Jenny Brown
Hi, I’m Jenny. On my blog, you will find helpful advice about using and organizing the kitchen appliances. You will also receive the recommendations on choosing a compact refrigerator or freezer that best fits your demands. Besides, frozen meals from the freezer bring many incredible benefits because they ensure freshness, deliciousness, and full nutrients. Many helpful tips from experts on frozen meals will also be found.