How Long Does Ice Last in a Cooler?

How Long Does Ice Last in A Cooler

Coolers are designed as sealed boxes, they can hold all kinds of drinks and foods such as fruits, vegetables, fresh food, etc., preventing the penetration of insects, keep foods fresh and ensure food safety. Normally, coolers are surrounded by 3 layers including 2 layers of low thermal conductivity plastic and 1 layer of foam in the middle. With high heat resistance and low thermal conductivity, a cooler keep ice last much longer than a regular foam box. So, how long does ice last in a cooler?

Why do you need a cooler for camping or picnics?

To meet the needs of using the coolers outdoor, manufacturers also design some accessories such as wheels or handles so that people can easily transport them.

Just imagine what will happen if we do not have a cooler when going to outdoor events or camping trips.

Ice will quickly melt into water. This happens when they are in the external environment, especially on warm sunny days or hot summer days with outdoor temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius or more. Within an hour, ice cubes can defrost completely and become a puddle of water on the surface.

Then there are the fresh dishes. Usually prepared the day before, must be chilled at home before leaving. Then they also need to continue to chill on the way to the campsite, picnic location.

Food that needs to be refrigerated from early morning until noon to be processed and used. Large pieces of meat that we prepare for BBQ dishes, must be kept cold. If the food is not refrigerated a second time after chilling at home. The process of spoiling, rancidity in fresh foods will take place faster.

Finally, even green vegetables salads. Also always needs to be kept fresh with water. Helps them not to lose water and wilt too quickly due to ambient temperature.

Further reading: Best Portable Fridges and Coolers for Camping

How long does ice last in a cooler?

In general, ice can last from 12 hours to 1 week in a cooler, depending on the material of the cooler, the outside environment, the type of food inside and the way the food is arranged. Premium hard-sided cooler can keep ice last up to 7 days or more. Some soft and Styrofoam coolers will keep ice for less than 1 day. Typically, ice can stay in most hard coolers for 2 to 6 days.

As we can see, there are many factors that significantly affect how long ice lasts in the cooler. Type of cooler is the main factor that determines the shelf life of the ice. Let’s look at four types of coolers and compare how long each will keep the ice from melting.

Typically, ice can stay in most hard coolers for 2 to 6 days
Typically, ice can stay in most hard coolers for 2 to 6 days

Styrofoam coolers

Styrofoam coolers are the cheapest option available for keeping ice and food cold. If not left out in the hot sun, regular ice will solidify in cooler for about 12 hours or overnight. Although it will keep the ice from melting for a long time, you need to take care and keep your cooler safe with this type of material.

  • Ice: 12-24 hours
  • Dry ice: 18-30 hours

Styrofoam coolers are ideal for road trips, picnics and tailgating, one-night camping trips or transporting food to the cottage.

Not all foam coolers are created equal. Some are premium coolers and others are cheaper and disposable. They are non-recyclable and are better for indoor use and are known to leak cold water at the slightest puncture. You should use them for dry ice and block ice storage.

If you only need to keep items frozen for a day or less, Styrofoam is a very practical option and fits the budget.

Soft-sided coolers

Soft coolers are made from a variety of materials, including Canvas, Cotton, Neoprene, Nylon, Polyester and Vinyl. They are made in the form of a zippered bag to seal the container. High-quality soft cooler can keep ice for less than 24 hours. They are more expensive than foam options but are much more durable. ·

  • Ice: 12-24 hours
  • Dry Ice: used for same day events

Because ice melts quickly in soft coolers, they are ideal for packing a lunch, kayaking, picnics and tailgating, transporting food to the nearby cottage. Ideally, a soft sided cooler is best for day use.

Hard-sided coolers

A good hard cooler can keep ice frozen for 2 to 6 days. Durability is one of the main benefits of having a hard-sided cooler.

  • Water Ice: 4 days
  • Dry ice: 5 days

The difference in ice life is due to the change in the quality of the cooler. A $15 cooler will not be as insulated as an $100 cooler.

Premium hard coolers

High-end hard coolers are becoming more and more popular. Of course, these products are much more expensive than their counterparts, but the difference in quality is undeniable.

  • Ice: 5 to 7 days
  • Dry ice: 7 days or even longer

If you are someone who uses the coolers often and for a long time, then investing in a high-end hard cooler could be ideal.

Further reading:  What is the Coldest Setting on a Black and Decker Mini Fridge?

Under the right conditions and kept in the shade, a premium hard cooler can keep ice frozen up to a week.

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

Factors that affect how long ice lasts

Type of cooler

This is the most important factor. Choose a high-quality cooler that has a long life and your ice will last longer than any other cooler.

Storage location

If the outside temperature is 104°F (40°C) and the cooler is left in direct sunlight, the ice will melt much faster than a location with 64°F (18°C). Make sure to keep your ice cooler in the shade as doing so will also help keep the ice longer. Placing the box in direct sunlight is not recommended, and despite the insulation, the box will heat up faster.

Ice type

Choose water or dry ice. Dry ice will last longer but is not readily available. And dry ice will be more expensive because you can’t make it yourself at home.

Ice volume

The purpose is to eliminate space inside the cooler. Anything that is not part of the contents should be filled with ice. If you have only one small bag, it won’t last long compared to adding several large bags.

How long ice will last depends on many factors
How long ice will last depends on many factors

Temperature of ingredients

For the longest ice life, it is recommended that you cool or even freeze the ingredients before placing them in the cooler. If you pre-chill food items or freeze the water bottles, the ice doesn’t have to work as hard to keep it fresh and will last longer.

Internal volume

Similar to ice volume, avoid using a cooler that is too large and has a lot of free space. Try to fill the space of the cooler with food and drinks or ice packs.


The flow of cold air around ice is an important factor. Every time you open the top, you’re allowing a stream of warm air to hit the ice. This will melt the ice faster.

It can be useful if you organize internal items into multiple layers. Separate the layers with plastic sheets or cooler box insulation to prevent air from spilling over the ice.

Place ice in each level. For example, if you plan how many soft drinks are needed for each phase of the day and put these layers of plastic between the cans so that the top layer is used first without air getting into the second and third layers.

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How to make ice last longer

Regardless of what cooler you are using, there are methods to prolong the time the ice stays in the cooler.


The less warm the air inside, the colder it is. Fill the cooler with ice and use the plastic or insulation layers. Think about placing ice packs around the sides of the box.

Find as many ways of isolating your content as possible. One of the easiest ways to line the inside with aluminum foil which acts as an insulator. You can also replace the foil with bubble wrap to keep the hot air away from the ice.

Pack items densely

Pack your coolers as compactly as possible, again reducing exposure to warmer air when opening the box. Fill the items you want to refrigerate or ice into every square inch of the container.

Pre-chill your cooler, drinks and food items

Before using, you can add ice a few hours to reduce the internal temperature. Another great trick is to freeze water bottles and put them inside. Not only do they act as an extra layer of ice, but when they start to melt, they are a pleasant cool drink.

Finally, you should pre-chill any food items you plan to put inside the cooler.

Choose right type of ice

It’s better to use larger ice block instead of cubes. With larger blocks, less surface area is exposed to heat and the ice lasts much longer than small ice cubes which melt faster.

Also, you should also use dry ice with regular ice. Dry ice is much colder than regular ice. Simply place dry ice at the bottom of the cooler with regular ice on top. Dry ice will keep ice cold much longer.

Don’t drain the water when the ice melts

Cold water will help keep your ice cold. When your cooler is in use, do not empty the cold water. The water helps insulate the rest of the ice. However, do not let food and meat come into direct contact with water.

Further reading: Coleman Coolers – What You Need to Know Before Buying

Use more than one cooler

Take the solutions above, you can help the cooler keep ice for longer. In addition, you can also use more one cooler.

If you have 2 coolers, you will use up the first one, saving a sealed cooler for the next day. By leaving the second cooler in place, the ice will stay in that cooler longer and keep the temperature lower.

You should use more than one cooler for long trips
You should use more than one cooler for long trips




Ice will stay in a useful state for at least 18-24 hours or about a day. If you invest in a high-end cooler and take the same precautions, regular ice can stay in shape for up to 5 or 7 days.

No matter what cooler you buy, there’s a way to make ice last longer.


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.