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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.
We researched and tested dozens of ice packs, judging them on effectiveness, longevity, and value. Our top choice, Cooler Shock Reusable Ice Packs, do the job of 18 pounds of ice to provide long-lasting cold with minimal sweating.
Here are the best ice packs for coolers.
Best Overall: 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
Who else recommends it? Bob Vila also picked the Cooler Shock Cooler Freeze Packs.
What do buyers say? 92% of 19,600+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
The ultimate summer entertaining requires cold drinks on constant standby–all throughout the day. If you are packing up a large cooler for a day in the woods or a night of car camping, our top pick is a set of the extra-large Cooler Shock Freeze Packs. These reusable packs are affordable and ridiculously effective at keeping cold items cold.
These packs can replace about 18 pounds of sweaty, dirty ice and they are incredibly easy to use. They are shipped flat with a powder inside that transforms into a gel when mixed with water. Simply fill the bag via the screw cap with water, place it in your freezer for about 24 hours and the non-hazardous packs will be frozen and ready to go. The packs are 10 x 14 inches so they are perfectly sized for high-capacity coolers, but our tester was surprised at how much space the three packs took up in her home freezer while prepping for the next day's outdoor activities. However, she found that the ice packs did get extremely cold (more so than any other pack she'd used before), and they kept her frozen fruit, seltzers, and beer cold for 22 hours while the cooler sat outside.
If you've got a large cooler and are planning on a long day of summer activities, this set of ice packs is your best choice.
Runner Up, Best Overall: Nordic Ice No-Sweat Reusable Long-Lasting Gel Pack
Multi-layer construction helps eliminate sweating
Exterior can get dirty
The Nordic Ice Gel Pack is a reusable gel ice pack that uses a multi-layer construction to eliminate annoying sweating in your cooler. With a no-sweat ice pack, your cooler will stay dryer and cleaner, and your food less soggy. While the barbecue grill keeps the burgers hot (Texas BBQ dinner party, anyone?), this pack will keep your beer and water cold. Use these in your lunchbox or your beach cooler to keep snacks cool for up to seven hours. The pack is 1 x 5.5 x 6.5 inches and weighs one pound. The packs are biodegradable.
Best for Small Coolers: Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Slim Ice Packs
Small and slim design
Perfect for lunch bags and boxes
Stackable for easy storage
Only stay cool for four to five hours
Thaw out pretty quickly
Use one or two Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Slim Ice Packs for small coolers or lunch boxes, or stack a few into a larger cooler to keep temperatures low and your food fresh during your summer party out on the lawn. The small, space-saving packs are easy to clean and can potentially stay cool for up to 12 hours. One ice pack is 4.75 x 4.75 x .25 inches.
Most Durable: YETI ICE 2 lb. Refreezable Reusable Cooler Ice Pack
Quick to freeze
Strong and durable design
Available in three different sizes
On the pricier side
The YETI ICE Cooler Ice Pack is extremely durable, even break-resistant so it can withstand your most extreme adventures. Plus, because of its unique shape, the pack freezes in less time than other packs (about four hours) and stays cold for more than 24 hours. It doesn’t sweat, and is completely re-freezable and re-usable. The ice packs come in one, two and four-pound options. The one-pound pack is 8 x 3 inches; the two-pound pack is 8 x5 inches; the four-pound pack is 11 x 8 inches.
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 completely chemical-free and instead are water-based ice sheets that you can cut to fit the size you need. Use the three pack in a variety of ways: keep one pack whole for your freezer and cut up the others to fit in lunch boxes, smaller coolers or insulated picnic baskets. Plus, even when frozen, the ice sheets are still flexible enough to mold and move how you need them to. One sheet is 1 x 19.25 x 15.5 inches.
Best Gel: Polar Tech Ice Brix Viscous Cold Pack
Re-usable and moisture-resistant
Long-lasting cold temperatures in leak-proof plastic
For a gel pack that is re-usable and moisture-resistant, opt for the Polar Tech Ice Brix Cold Pack.
The medium-sized packs use a gel substance for long-lasting cold temperatures in a leak-proof, heavy duty plastic pouch that won’t get your cooler soaking wet by the end of the day. The packs are 6 x 6 x 1 inches.
Best Variety: Arctic Ice Alaskan Series Cooler Pack
Comes in a dozen different colors
Great for keeping drinks cold all day
On the pricier side
If you have a variety of coolers that you need to keep cold, use the Arctic Ice Chillin’ Brew Series. The cooler packs come in a dozen different colors and four different sizes, so you can customize your ice cold needs to the size of your cooler. The packs take about six to eight hours to freeze and are ideal for keeping drinks cold for entire days. Each reusable pack freezes at 28 degrees to keep surrounding items colder than water's freezing point. Colors include black, blue, orange, grey, white, yellow, brown, purple and red. The packs are also dishwasher-safe, just in case something in your cooler leaks all over them.
What to Look for in an Ice Pack Cooler
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.
Size is also something you should consider. 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? Also, think about how much freezer space you have and how much of it you’re willing to give up to hold your ice packs.
While an ice pack’s primary job is to keep the items in your cooler cool, the amount of flexibility may determine how you use the 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 like drinks. Soft sided packs won't be as durable as those with hard plastic casing and could be punctured or burst as they melt.
How do you make ice packs super cold?
To make sure that your ice packs are super cold, be sure to follow package directions to freeze them completely before using. You can help keep them cold by chilling your cooler with ice before filling it, and lining the cooler with aluminum foil. Chilling or even freezing items that you plan to pack, such as bottled beverages, will help the inside of the cooler to stay cool and your ice packs to stay frozen longer.
How many ice packs do you need for a cooler?
That depends on the size of your cooler and how much food and how many beverages you are trying to keep chilled. Ice packs come in varying sizes and formats, from small enough to fit into a lunchbox to large enough for a cooler full of drinks and snacks to feed a crowd. In general, you will want to aim for a 2:1 ice to food or beverage ratio to ensure that your items will stay cold.
How long do ice packs keep a cooler cold?
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 it 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.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Mattie Schuler, an adventure journalist who specializes in the outdoor industry. Her work has appeared in several publications, including Gear Patrol, Men's Journal, and Men's Fitness. To make this list, she considered each pick's freeze time, size, and flexibility.