Reusable ice packs contain special chemicals that keep things cold, whether for shipping refrigerated items or stocking your cooler for a day at the beach. Says Matthew Raiford, a chef and author of Bress ‘n’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth Generation Farmer, "My favorite type of ice pack keeps everything else from getting all wet and soggy. It’s just the worst to open a soggy bag with soggy bread." Ice packs also come in handy in serious situations, such as during a power outage to prevent food from spoiling, say representatives from the CDC.
But ice packs are made in a number of different sizes, shapes, and styles. To help you pick the best one, we researched and tested dozens of ice packs, judging effectiveness, longevity, and value.
Our top choice is the Cooler Shock Reusable Ice Packs. If you can believe it, these super packs do the job of 18 pounds of ice to provide long-lasting cold temperatures with minimal sweating. And if you’re still searching for cool options, we’ve got a few more trusty ice packs lined up in our sleeves. Brrr!
Cooler Shock 3X Large Freeze Packs
Can replace 18 pounds of ice
Minimal amount of sweating
Some assembly required
Freezing all three takes up space
If you don’t have access to a fridge—whether the power is out or you’re hosting a birthday party at the beach—you’ll need an ice pack that can see you through multiple hours. The Cooler Shock 3X Large Freeze packs will do just the trick in either situation. And they’re affordable, to boot.
These reusable ice packs can replace about 18 pounds of ice and are incredibly easy to use. When you purchase them, they arrive flat and are filled with a powder that transforms into a gel when mixed with water. All you have to do is fill the bag with water via the screw cap and place it in your freezer for about 24 hours. We think the three-layer bags absorb and transfer energy and distribute an incredible amount of cooling power! Here's how it works: The gel material in the packs gradually change from a solid to a liquid, making them colder and more effective than ice.
And at 10 x 14 inches, these ice packs are perfectly sized for high-capacity coolers. The downside to this? Our tester said all three took up a fair amount of space in her home freezer, so it’s not practical for long term storage. Thankfully, the ice packs did get colder than any other ice pack our tester used, keeping fruit frozen and seltzers and beer cold for 22 hours in a cooler outside.
Price at time of publish: $30 for 5 packs
Type: Ice pack | Dimensions: 10 x 14 x 1.5 inches | Weight: 7.05 ounces
Polar Tech Ice Brix Viscous Cold Pack
Reusable and moisture-resistant
Long-lasting cold temperatures in leak-proof plastic
Not flexible after freezing
Sometimes it seems like keeping your food cold is as expensive as the food itself. If you’re looking for something a little more budget-friendly, you’ll be pleased with the Polar Tech Ice Brix Viscous Cold Pack. Despite being exceptionally cheap (especially compared to other similar options), these cold packs are powered by a gel substance housed in a heavy duty plastic pouch.
The result is reusable cold packs that are moisture-resistant and long-lasting. Some reviewers note they had success keeping beverages cold for up to 24 hours with a single pack. The medium-sized packages are also leak-proof, so there’s no way your cooler will be soaking wet by the end of the day.
Price at time of publish: $18 for 12 packs
Type: Cold pack | Dimensions: 6 x 5.75 x 1 inches | Weight: Not listed
Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Slim Ice Packs
Perfect for lunch bags and boxes
Stackable for easy storage
Thaws out quickly
Are you packing a lunch box or a tiny cooler with drinks and sandwiches to go? Then, you’ll love the compact size of the Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Slim Ice Packs. As the name suggests, they’re exceptionally slim, so they won’t take up precious real estate in a compact cooler, and they still get the job done, keeping temperatures low and your food fresh. And if you have a bigger cooler? Simply stack a few to keep the chill going.
These ice packs may be small and space-saving, but they can stay cool for up to 12 hours. Plus, they’re easy to clean, and when not in use, they won’t take up too much space in your freezer. That means you can permanently house a few inside your icebox to make sure you always have a cold pack ready. But there’s more: We also think these slender, lightweight packs are just the right size for keeping on hand for your little ones’ unexpected boo-boos.
Price at time of publish: $12 for 4 packs
Type: Ice pack | Dimensions: 5.25 x 3 x 5.5 inches | Weight: 1 pound
YETI ICE 2 lb. Refreezable Reusable Cooler Ice Pack
Quick to freeze
Available in three different sizes
If you know anything about the popular brand YETI, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the company also happens to manufacture the most durable ice pack around. You’d be hard-pressed to crack the YETI ICE Cooler Ice Pack—even if you’re an avid hiker visiting rugged campsites. The ice pack is break-resistant, so it can withstand the most extreme adventures. We were especially impressed that no water or condensation had accumulated in the bottom of the cooler when we tried it out.
Another claim to fame? The ice pack has a unique shape that allows it to freeze in less time than other packs (about four hours). It also stays cold for more than 24 hours. All the while, it won’t sweat, so your food will stay in tiptop condition. What’s more, the ice pack is completely re-freezable and reusable, plus comes in one, two, and four-pound options.
Price at time of publish: $20
Type: Plastic ice | Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 1.6 inches | Weight: 2 pounds
Best for Flexibility
FlexiFreeze Reusable Ice Sheets 4 Pack
Can be cut to fit the size you need
Not as durable as other options
If you are looking for an ice pack that is flexible, use the FlexiFreeze Ice Sheet. These sheets are flexible in more ways than one—you can cut the sheet to the size you need, plus because they bend and wrap, you can use them to better insulate items like cans and bottles. If you’re careful, you can even cut them down to size.
The sheets are completely chemical-free, too! In fact, they’re water-based. This is good news for eco-minded buyers, but it’s also key for another important reason: The sheets are flexible, so you can actually twist them to suit your needs! In the event one should break (hey, it happens!), there will be minimal mess and no worries about any kind of toxic exposure.
Price at time of publish: $22 for 4 pack
Type: Ice sheet | Dimensions: 19.5 x 7.5 inches | Weight: 7 pounds
Nordic Ice No-Sweat Reusable Long-Lasting Gel Pack
Multi-layer construction helps eliminate sweating
Up to 7 hours of use
Exterior may get dirty
These reusable gel ice packs cost less than a takeout lunch, but come in a pack of three to justify the expense. Still, they’re super effective, thanks to a multi-layer construction that keeps food cold, but helps eliminate any sweating. Your cooler will stay dryer and cleaner, and more importantly, your food will be less soggy—especially if you’re packing paper-wrapped sandwiches.
They’re also appropriately-sized. They work well in large coolers, but won’t overwhelm smaller ones. You can use these ice packs in your lunchbox or your beach cooler to keep snacks cool for up to seven hours. What’s more, you’ll feel good knowing they’re also biodegradable.
Price at time of publish: $9 for 3 packs
Type: Gel packs | Dimensions: 6.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches | Weight: 1 pound
Arctic Ice Alaskan Series Cooler Pack
Comes in a dozen different colors
Great for keeping drinks cold all day
If you have a variety of coolers that you need to keep cold, you’ll love the versatility you’ll get from stocking multiple sizes of the Arctic Ice Chillin’ Brew Series. The cooler packs come in a dozen five different sizes—small to extra-extra-large—so you can customize your ice cold needs to the size of your cooler.
Depending on which size you choose, the packs take anywhere from six to eight hours to freeze, but they’ll keep drinks cold for a day or more. That’s because these reusable packs freeze fast at 28 degrees to keep surrounding items colder than water's freezing point. And, because they’re flat, they’ll provide maximum surface area to keep food and drink items as cold as possible.
And you won’t have to worry about spills: Each one features a leak-proof welded cap! The packs are also dishwasher-safe—a breeze to clean in the event of a mess.
Price at time of publish: $21
Type: Ice pack | Dimensions: 6.75 x 1.25 x 7.75 inches | Weight: 1.5 pounds
Best for Bottles and Cans
LotFancy Contoured Freezer Packs
Long-lasting gel interior
Specific for bottles and cans
When you’re storing a lot of cans and bottles, ice is appealing because it can get into all the nooks and crannies, creating more contact with your beverages. But ice can be messy. These contoured gel-filled packs provide a great alternative.
Each one has three grooves on each side that are the perfect size for accommodating bottles and cans. And because each pack comes with four, you can create multiple rows of your favorite beverages to keep them cold for hours on end.
Don’t worry about the hard shells breaking under all that weight. The packs are made from high-density polyethylene, a material that’s thicker than others and won’t deform or break after being frozen.
Price at time of publish: $21 for 4 packs
Type: Gel pack | Dimensions: 3.8 x 2 x 8.3 inches | Weight: 4.66 pounds
Best for Lunch Boxes
SoYoung Ice Pack
Stylish, removable cover
Outer casing is hand-wash only
If you’re toting a lunch box to work, you may want something that looks a little nicer than your average ice pack. The SoYoung Ice Pack is the perfect solution. The non-toxic gel pack comes tucked in a stylish outer sleeve. You can even choose from five different styles. The case does more than make the whole thing look good, too. It serves as an absorbent layer, so nothing in your lunch box will get soggy from condensation.
The ice pack is compact enough for a small lunch tote, too. The 4-x-7-inch rectangle is nice and slim and fairly flexible, so you can tuck it between whatever you need to. The one downside? If the outer casing gets any food on it, you’ll have to hand wash it—it can’t go in the washing machine. Still, we think the benefits outweigh the small trouble.
Price at time of publish: $12
Type: Gel pack | Dimensions: 4 x 7 inches | Weight: Not listed
Healthy Packers Original Cool Pack
Can get sweaty
A bulky ice pack can really interfere with what you can store and how you can store it. So if this is a perpetual problem for you, try the Healthy Packers Original Cool Pack. Each ice pack in the set of four is super slim—less than ¾ of an inch—so you can tuck it on the bottom, side, or top of a cooler or lunch box without taking up precious real estate.
Because the set comes with four, you can easily arrange them together to give enough chill to a large cooler. Or, you can use one 7-inch ice pack on its own for a smaller bag, like a lunch box or a tote with breast milk in it.
What’s more, despite being fully non-toxic, these packs freeze fast, stay cold for hours on end, and are highly durable. There is one downside to note: The ice packs do shed some moisture, so you might want to wrap them in a lunch box.
Price at time of publish: $19 for 4 packs
Type: Gel pack | Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.7 x 7 inches | Weight: 1.8 pounds
Best for Large Coolers
Kona Large Freezer Pack
Quick to freeze
13 x 10-inch size
Won’t stay cold as long as others
When you have a gigantic cooler for a large party, you might not want to line up tons (and tons!) of gel packs in order to get the coverage you need. Kona offers a great solution. The ice pack is an impressive 13 x 10, but it has a uniquely slim design that allows it to sit basically flush with the floor or walls of your cooler. The result: A colder cooler for a longer period of time. (Note: Because they are so slim, each individual gel pack doesn’t stay cold for more than a few hours.)
There’s hardly any prep time involved, either. The Kona is one of the fastest-freezing ice packs, so you can count on it to help you out even during a last minute excursion to the beach or a tailgate. The ice pack freezes in just 25 minutes flat.
Price at time of publish: $20
Type: Gel pack | Dimensions: 13 x 10 x 0.5 inches | Weight: Not listed
Our top pick is the Cooler Shock Large Freeze Packs. These reusable packs are simply filled with water and can replace 18 pounds of ice. We also love the Polar Tech Ice Brix Viscous Cold Packs because they’re exceptionally budget-friendly, but effective. They’re both moisture-resistant and long-lasting, too!
What to Look for in an Ice Pack Cooler
Today, most ice packs are gel-based, so they stay cold longer and release less moisture. But, if you’re concerned about chemicals, you might still opt for a water-filled pack. Also, you should consider exterior construction when selecting an ice pack. Hard plastics may crack over time when frozen and unfrozen, especially if you try to manipulate them. Softer exteriors are easy to manipulate and less likely to break when frozen, but may tear—especially when thawed.
Ice pack size is also something to research. Do you want big ice packs to cool a large cooler of food or smaller versions you can use for lunch boxes and other containers? For lunch boxes, we love the compact size of the Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Slim Ice Packs. They’re exceptionally slim, so they won’t take up precious real estate in a compact cooler. Which brings us to another smart point: think about how much space you have and how much of it you’re willing to use to hold your ice packs. Hard-sided packs are good for keeping the temperature down, but may not fit if you have awkwardly shaped items in your cooler or need lots of direct contact with items, such as canned drinks or bottles. On the other hand, soft-sided packs won't be as durable as those with hard plastic casing and could be punctured or even burst.
How long an ice pack takes to freeze, as well as how long it stays frozen, are important factors to think about when shopping. Consider how frequently you plan to use yours and on what type of occasions you'll be using it.
Care and Maintenance
Almost all ice packs are easy to clean. Simply rinse them after use. And if they’re really sticky or dirty? Don’t use conventional cleaners—warm, soapy water will do the trick. Just be sure to let your ice packs dry thoroughly before refreezing to limit ice crystals and condensation.
Are ice packs better than ice for coolers?
Both ice cubes and ice packs can keep food and drinks cold in a cooler, but ice packs are generally considered better for one important reason: they limit any mess. When ice melts, it leaves water in its wake. When ice packs melt, they usually don't leave any puddles behind. What’s more, gel ice packs last longer than ice.
How long do ice packs last in a cooler?
It depends. Some ice packs freeze quickly for short-term uses, such as picnics and in lunchboxes, while others take longer to freeze solid, but will keep the contents of your cooler chilled for more than 24 hours. Be sure to read the label before buying to make sure you are choosing the appropriate ice packs to meet your needs. Another tip for keeping your cooler cold is to pre-chill with ice before packing, which will help the contents stay longer than if you packed a warm cooler pulled straight from a hot attic, car trunk, or garage.
Which is better, an ice pack or a gel pack?
Gel freezes at a lower temperature than water, so gel packs are generally regarded as longer-lasting. That said, check individual specifications—external factors, including size, shape, and even the cooler you’re using can affect how long an ice or gel pack stays cold.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Brigitt Earley, a freelance writer with nearly 15 years of experience writing about consumer products, including coolers and ice packs. To curate this list, Earley scoured the most popular retailers to find the best, most highly-rated options. Then, she vetted each, reading all of the specs and hundreds of reviews. To make her top picks, she considered previous testing done by The Spruce. She then analyzed the effectiveness, longevity, and value of each product to create the final list.
Additional research and reporting was done by Mattie Schuler, an adventure journalist who specializes in the outdoor industry.