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Sunscreen, your beach towels, and your kids' floaties? Check. A good cold beer and a classic piece of outdoor furniture? Got it. Bug spray? Of course! Ice packs? How'd you forget?! Just like any other summertime essential, reusable ice packs keep your cooler chilled for longer than ice without the mess of melted ice at the end of the day. But before you start shopping, you have a few decisions to make. You want to make sure your ice pack is big enough to fit your cooler while still leaving room for your food and drink. In addition to size, you'll also want to think about whether you want a flexible ice pack that can hug your items as it melts or a hard-sided, more durable option.
Once that's decided, consider how you'll use the ice packs. Some packs take a day or two to freeze solid, but can keep a cooler chilled for more than a day. Others freeze quickly, but also melt quickly, so they're best used for short-term uses, like lunch boxes or picnics.
Here, the best ice packs for coolers of all sizes.
Best Overall: Nordic Ice No-Sweat Reusable Long-Lasting Gel Pack
Weight: 1 pound | Dimensions: 8.15 x 6.93 x 3.23-inches | Type: Gel pack | Reusable: Yes
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 Extra Large: Cooler Shock 3X Large Freeze Packs
Weight: 0.2 kg | Dimensions: 10 x 14 x 1.5-inches | Type: Ice pack | Reusable: Yes
Can replace 20 pounds of ice
Minimal amount of sweating
Some assembly required
Shrink when they thaw out
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, use the extra large Cooler Shock Freeze Packs that stay cool for up to 48 hours. The re-usable packs can replace about 20 pounds of sweaty, dirty ice. Simply fill the bag via the screw cap with water, place in your freezer for about 24 hours and the non-hazardous packs will be frozen. The packs are 10 x 14 inches.
"The three-layer bags are designed to absorb and transfer energy and due to the bag’s large surface area, it can distribute an incredible amount of cooling power. At 18 degrees, the gel material in these packs gradually changes from a solid to a liquid, making them colder and more effective than ice."—Sage McHugh, Product Tester
Best for Small Coolers: Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Slim Ice Packs
Weight: 1 pound | Dimensions: 5.25 x 3 x 5.5-inches | Type: Ice pack | Reusable: Yes
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.
"We love how small and lightweight these ice packs are. They’re also compact enough that you can slip a few into a lunch bag with plenty of room to spare."—Sage McHugh, Product Tester
Most Durable: YETI ICE 2 lb. Refreezable Reusable Cooler Ice Pack
Weight: 1.65 pounds | Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.4 x 1.7-inches | Type: Plastic ice | Reusable: Yes
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.
"In addition to its ability to stay cold for more than seven hours, we were very impressed by the fact that no water or condensation had accumulated in the bottom of the cooler. Unlike other ice packs we’ve used in the past, the YETI ICE doesn’t sweat at all."—Sage McHugh, Product Tester
Best for Flexibility: FlexiFreeze Reusable Ice Sheet
Weight: 4.89 pounds | Dimensions: 11.89 x 7.91 x 3.58-inches | Type: Ice sheet | Reusable: No
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
Weight: Not listed | Dimensions: 12.4 x 8 x 4-inches | Type: Cold pack | Reusable: Yes
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
Weight: 1.5 pounds | Dimensions: 6.75 x 1.25 x 7.75-inches | Type: Ice pack | Reusable: Yes
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.
Our top pick is the Nordic Ice Reusable Gel Pack (view at Amazon), which has a no-sweat design that's ideal for packing lunches. If you're looking for an option for a larger cooler, we recommend the GenTap Cooler Shock Dry Packs. Sold in a pack of three, these affordable packs can replace up to 18 pounds of ice.
What to Look for in an Ice Pack Coolers
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.
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.