Every family that enjoys the great outdoors needs reliable refrigeration for food and drinks. In this article we will discuss the best ice packs for coolers, and how to decide which is best for you.
Whether your activity is camping, fishing, hiking, or canoeing, you need a trusted cold pack to make sure your water and food stay chilled so it doesn’t spoil, and leave you and your family thirsty and hungry.
Without cold water and palatable food, the most picture-perfect family outing can quickly be turned into a frustrating day of bickering and stomach growls.
We’ve reviewed the 5 best ice packs for coolers to help you decide which product fits your needs, and will keep your family satisfied on long outdoor excursions.
And you’ll find some great information about the manufacture, and the differences, of ice packs in our buyers guide entitled, How To Choose the Best Ice Pack.
Quick Answer: The 5 Best Ice Packs for Coolers
- Cooler Shock Zero°F Cooler Freeze Packs
- YETI ICE Re-Freezable Reusable Cooler Ice Pack
- Healthy Packers Cool Pack
- Engel Coolers 32F Degree Hard Shell Cooler Pack
- Rubbermaid Blue Ice Freezer Pack
Best Ice Packs for Coolers
Best Ice Packs for Coolers Reviews
#1 Editors Choice: Cooler Shock Zero°F Cooler Freeze Packs
- Dimensions: Large ice pack 10″x 14″
- Safety Features: Non-hazardous
- Gel or Water: Water with Cooler Shock formulated dry mix
- Made In: USA
- Lasts For: Up to 48 hours
- Temperature: 18F or -8C
- Product Options: To get the best value, we recommend buying a 3 pack of the large screw-cap or zipper-sealed. This is the equivalent of 20 pounds of ice – but reusable.
- Purchase Guarantee: Guaranteed to be the coldest and longest-lasting product in its category on the market. Warrantied for 90 days.
Due to proprietary reasons, the company doesn’t disclose what the dry mix is made of, but this product is based on some serious science. When you add water to the Cooler Shock mix and place it in the freezer, once it gets to 18° Fahrenheit, it changes from a solid to a gel. It’s denser than ice, making the energy concentration higher than ice and other ice pack products.
The cold bag is made of 5 different layers, including nylon and aluminum, and is especially designed for rapid energy transfer. You need to freeze this product for a significant amount of time – between 24 and 48 hours – but once that’s over with, you get up to two days of freezing power from this ice bag.
In our opinion, this is the best ice pack for coolers because of the price point, incredible duration it stays cold for, and the no-spill packaging.
- Dimensions: YETI ICE 1 lb – 8″ x 2 5/8″ x 1 5/8″
YETI ICE 2 lb – 8″ x 5 3/8″ x 1 5/8″
YETI ICE 4 lb – 10 3/4″ x 8″ x 1 5/8″
- Safety Features: Non-toxic, food safe
- Gel or Water: Gel
- Made In: Not specified
- Lasts For: 4 – 8 hours
- Temperature: -2C or 28F
- Product Options: 1 lb, 2 lb or 4 lb reusable ice packs
- Purchase Guarantee: Not specified
This ice pack freezes quick and works fast, but it doesn’t last as long as some of the other ice pack bags we’ve reviewed. It stays freezing cold for 4 hours, but it can start to lose its chill after that. This ice pack is handy for emergency uses, as opposed to long trips that require prolonged cold.
These fit perfectly into Yeti Tundra, Roadie, and Hopper coolers, but can be used in any cooler or compartment that needs to be kept cold.
- Dimensions: 7″ x 4.8″ x 0.7″
- Safety Features: Made with 100% BPA free, non-toxic materials
- Gel or Water: FDA-approved gel
- Made In: China
- Lasts For: 6 – 12 hours
- Temperature: Not specified
- Product Options: Set of 4 or 8 reusable cold packs
- Purchase Guarantee: 100% money back guarantee if dissatisfied with product
This product is a great kids ice pack thanks to the 100% BPA free non-toxic material it is made of and the FDA approved gel. It lasts the school day, so if your kid doesn’t finish their lunch, it’s still edible to have as a snack when they get home.
- Dimensions: Small/medium pack (2lb): 9.375” length x 7.125″ width x 1.375″ height
Large pack (5lb): 12.5” length x 8.375″ width x 1.625″ height
- Safety Features: Non-toxic, non-hazardous
- Gel or Water: Gel
- Made In: Not specified
- Lasts For: Up to 96 hours
- Temperature: 20F or 32F (two options)
- Product Options: Small/medium pack or large pack; two temperature options: 20F or 32F
- Purchase Guarantee: 12-month warranty
It’s a great environmentally-friendly alternative to gas emitting dry ice. The pack gets exceptionally cold (20F or 32F), lasts longer than any gel freezer pack on the market (up to 96 hours), and is reusable up to 5 years. It’s safe to say you’ll get your money’s wort out of this product.
- Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 11.9 inches
- Safety Features: Non-toxic, BPA free
- Gel or Water: Gel
- Made In: USA
- Lasts For: Approximately 8 – 12 hours
- Temperature: Not specified
- Product Options: For best value, purchase the 12-pack
- Purchase Guarantee: Defective products are replaced
You won’t have to worry about losing them thanks to the minimal cost, or not fitting your cooler, due to their compact size.
However, if you are seeking a highly durable ice pack, you should consider other products. The packaging of this cool pack is thin plastic and can break or rip somewhat easily. Be warned – the blue gel can stain!
If ripping is a concern, pop your Rubbermaid Blue Ice Freezer Pack into a Ziploc bag before placing it in your cooler.
Because of the relative “disposable” nature of these bags they make a good ice pack for lunch box, when you aren’t expecting them to return home anyway.
How to Choose the Best Ice Pack
- Why Regular Ice Doesn’t Cut It in A Cooler?
- What about adding salt to ice in my cooler?
- Dry Ice Vs. Reusable Ice Packs
- Important Ice Pack Terminology
- Safety Terms
- Ice Pack Purchase Considerations
Why Regular Ice Doesn’t Cut It in A Cooler?
If you’ve ever tried to keep your cooler chilled with good old fashioned regular ice, you already know why it doesn’t even come close to the function and ease of use of reusable ice packs.
Water reaches freezing point at 0° C (32° F). Once you take ice out of a freezer keeping it at this temperature, it begins to melt. Without special additives, packaging, insulation, or energy-transferring covers, it can rapidly turn your cooler into a bath tub with floating lukewarm snacks.
It’s gross, it ruins everything you have in the cooler, and it’s annoying. Most of all, it’s unnecessary! There are too many options on the market to allow this sort of thing to happen and ruin a perfectly good camping or fishing trip.
What about adding salt to ice in my cooler?
Adding rock salt to your cooler ice does effectively lower the freezing/melting point of it. It keeps ice colder longer, so it doesn’t melt as quickly. However, it doesn’t last as long as many of the ice packs on the market, and it will still leave you with a watery mess in the end.
Dry Ice Vs. Reusable Ice Packs
Dry ice is actually carbon dioxide – it’s what you breathe out when you exhale, and it’s what makes soda fizzy. Dry ice is incredibly cold. It averages about negative 109.3 degrees Fahrenheit or negative 78.5 degrees Celsius.
The biggest difference between dry ice and regular ice, besides the temperature, is that it does not liquefy as it warms. Dry ice becomes a gas that fades away. This may seem great, but there are serious downsides to it.
Because it is so severely cold, you need to handle it very carefully. You cannot touch it with bare hands. Dry ice must be handled with protective cloth – like an oven mitt or towel – or leather gloves. Prolonged touching or contact to skin will cause an injury similar to a burn.
Really, dry ice is best for freezing items that aren’t going to be used for a long period of time. This is why most mail-ordered meats come packaged in dry ice.
Also, dry ice can’t be used in a regular cooler. It can only be used in coolers that are specifically designed for it. Dry ice isn’t very versatile, and requires a lot of planning. It’s not a good option to pop in your cooler on an outdoor weekend getaway.
Important Ice Pack Terminology
All products have their own vernacular. You’ll likely see the following terms while you’re shopping for the best cooler ice packs:
“Reusable” products are intended to be used more than once. This might indicate a two-use product, or a product that will last you for five years. It’s all relative, so read up on your product and check out reviews.
“Subzero temperature” is a fancy way of saying any temperature below 0 Kelvin.
“Break-resistant” ice packs claim to be durable and totally unbreakable. Companies that claim this normally have a warranty to cover their claim.
“Hard shell” ice packs have a hard outer exterior that is not moldable. This is important to note when sizing up the right ice pack to fit in your cooler.
“Non-toxic” products claim to be non-poisonous, safe, and non-irritating when used as the manufacturer intended.
However, it’s important to be aware that there is no standard right now for judging whether a consumer product (or its ingredients) are non-toxic and have been verified as such.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, some companies put the non-toxic label on products that don’t meet the definition of toxic – but this doesn’t necessarily mean the product should be considered non-toxic.
Always use ice packs carefully, and look into the product contents and company if you doubt the label.
“Non-hazardous” products claim they do not contain any chemicals, liquids, solids or gases that can harm people, other living organisms, or the environment.
Just because a product doesn’t meet the requirements of a hazardous or dangerous good, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is fully non-hazardous.
“Environmentally friendly” products claim to be sustainable and either reduce, cause minimal damage or no impact at all on the environment and ecosystem.
Like the previous safety terms, this label is often used as a marketing ploy and doesn’t mean much unless it is stamped by an authority or regulator.
“BPA-Free” products do not contain bisphenol A (BPA), which is a compound that has been linked to adverse health effects like infertility, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems.
Ice Pack Purchase Considerations
This should go without saying, but make sure you select an ice pack that can actually fit in your cooler!
Consider both the width and height of an ice pack. It might fit in one way, but not the other. And always keep in mind, you will have other things in your cooler than the ice pack! You should have plenty of room for drinks and snacks.
- Duration It Stays Cold For
Do you go on afternoon hiking and fishing adventures, or do you like to go camping for a whole weekend? This is the second most important factor to consider after the size of a cooler ice pack.
There’s nothing worse than getting excited for a new product and then realizing it doesn’t meet your needs. Think about your requirements carefully before purchasing a cooler pack.
If you are going to physically carry your cooler on a long trek, weight is definitely something to consider. Ice packs can range in weight, depending on the size and freezing agent.
If you have young children who tend to get into your cooler, it might be smart to get soft ice packs just in case they decide to throw one at their sibling. It you know your cooler gets thrown around, you’ll want to get a hard shell to reduce the likelihood of it breaking or leaking.
Many ice packs have a hard shell, so don’t count on an ice pack being flexible to fit into your cooler. Soft ice packs will be labelled as such.
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Have a great time in the outdoors!