Ice packs from Amazon
Credit: Amazon

The Best Ice Packs for Every Cooler

Keep your drinks ice-cold on the go with Cooler Shock’s reusable ice packs, our top pick.
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Beverage connoisseurs know that different ice shapes reap various rewards. Gone is the standard ice tray with uneven rectangular cubes. Home freezers are filled with any shape imaginable, from spherical ice to large, perfect cubes. Even ice makers for trendy pebble ice and shaved ice are getting into the game. That said, packing a cooler full of tasty food and beverages for summertime snacking is something of an art form. While regional preferences vary between pimento cheese at the beach, mountains of fresh summer fruits at a picnic, the biggest challenge may be keeping everything cool in the hot summer sun.

While freezing water may feel like a no-brainer, you have many more options than just snagging a bag of ice from the local market. The newest models range from flat hard-pack containers, ergonomically designed to freeze faster and melt slower, to various gel fillers with PCM (phase change materials) that lower the freezing. This means your ice pack will melt way more slowly. Whether you trek to the beach, park, campsite, or beyond, the size and texture of your ice pack matter a lot more than you think. We considered factors like material, size, and freezing point in curating this list before naming the Cooler Shock as our Best Overall. Read on for more of the best ice packs.

Our Top Picks 

Cooler Shock Reusable Ice Packs
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Overall: Cooler Shock Reusable Ice Packs

View at Amazon ($29)

Pros: It freezes quickly at a higher temperature than most and lasts for about 20 hours. 

Cons: It's bulkier than some of the hard shell plastic models. 

Our hands-down winner, these DIY reusable Cooler Shock packs are perfect for a day trip where cold drinks are the only way to beat the heat. One triple-insulated 12-ounce bag lasts for up to 20 hours in a cooler with a tight-fitting lid and can replace around 18 pounds of ice. The three-pack of bags contains a non-hazardous coolant powder. Just unscrew the cap, add water and watch as the powder turns into gel. Place each bag in the freezer for 12 to 24 hours before any trip. Just make sure your freezer is at least 18 degrees Fahrenheit. These mid-sized ice packs are reusable and high-performing with a malleable exterior that molds to food and cans, keeping them colder, longer. 

  • Material: Plastic with polyethylene insulation
  • Weight: 12 ounces
  • Freezing Point: 18º Fahrenheit
YETI ICE Reusable Ice Pack
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best for Travel: YETI ICE Reusable Ice Pack

View at Amazon ($15-30)

Also available at YETI and REI.

Pros: It's ergonomically designed to freeze faster and sweat less, and it's break resistant.

Cons: It costs more than other picks, yet we consider it worth it.

The hard plastic exterior holds one of the most scientifically developed ice packs out there. A cooler packed with this non-sweat, re-freezable and re-usable option gets colder and stays colder all day long. While these ice packs can be ordered in 1-, 2-, and 4-pound options, the ability to mix and match makes them endlessly useful. While they are known for being incredibly durable, despite being made of a stiff plastic, the unique rectangular donut shape makes freezing a cinch and takes less time than the rest of the packs. These packs may be higher in cost, but the investment is worth it. 

  • Material: High-density polyethylene, food-grade phase-change liquid
  • Weight: 1, 2, and 4 lbs.
  • Freezing Point: 28º Fahrenheit
Nordic Ice Flexible Gel Packs
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Best Flexible: Nordic Ice Gel Packs

View at Amazon ($11)

Pros: These pouches resist moisture and can easily be reused.

Cons: They're not as durable as other packs and can be damaged after too many uses.

Sometimes you want to invest in ice packs; sometimes you want to use solid, potentially disposable packs that could get lost or damaged without it being a big deal. Nordic Ice has a great reputation for implementing solid cooling technology in multiple industries, including shipping medicines. And if an ice pack is reliable enough to ship a temperature-sensitive medicine, your six-pack and chicken thighs will be just fine. Insulated with multi-layered polymer plastics and a patented gel, these ice packs are made to be reused as often as you'd like but also great for short term use. They freeze in about two hours and last up to 12 hours. Buy them as a set of three.

  • Material: Polymer plastic
  • Weight: 1 lb.
  • Freezing Point: 28º Fahrenheit
Polar Tech Ice Gel Brix Packs
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Best Gel: Polar Tech Ice Brix

View at Amazon ($16)

Pros: These maintain a cool temperature for up to 24 hours, and you get a large quantity for a low cost.

Cons: The material of the packs can rip and seems to collect dirt more easily than others.

Sold in sets of 12, Polar Tech Ice Brix are great for extended day trips. These leak-proof packs are made with a specially formulated, long-lasting viscous gel refrigerant that is FDA approved and non-toxic. The proprietary gel freezes at a lower temperature, making the cooling capacity of the ice packs extra long. Double or even triple up on these for extra cooling power in coolers and beyond. These packs keep food and drinks cold for up to 24 hours.

  • Material: Gel and polymer
  • Weight: 1 lb.
  • Freezing Point: 18º Fahrenheit
Tourit Small Reusable Ice Packs
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Small: Tourit Reusable Ice Packs

View at Amazon ($31)

Pros: Their slender, compact shape is a nice alternative to packs, and they freeze solid in about eight hours.

Cons: These have less cooling capacity than other ice packs.  

If you're looking for a slim and sleek cooling system, you've found it in Tourit Ice Packs. Sold in bunches of four, individual ice packs weigh about 0.5 pounds, making them an easy solution for lunch on the go or small coolers. They freeze solid in eight to 10 hours and can be mixed and matched to maximize cooler capacity. Made of BPA-free, food-safe plastic, they are a durable, no-fuss option for day trips, including outdoor adventures.

  • Material: BPA-free plastic
  • Weight: 0.45 lbs.
  • Freezing Point: 18º Fahrenheit
Arctic Ice Tundra Series Camping Packs
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best for Camping: Arctic Ice Tundra Series

View at Amazon starting at ($10)

Pros: The design is portable and maintains very low temperatures.

Cons: It takes 24 to 36 hours to freeze, and your freezer needs to be set to 5 degrees Fahrenheit to actually induce freezing. 

Arctic Ice Tundra lives up to its name, retaining cooling and even freezing capacity for days thanks to phase change materials (PCM), which freeze at a very low point and absorb heat from the environment. Its corrugated shape for maximum surface area, which means extra cooling with less unnecessary weight. It also has a leak-proof spinwheel cap and a non-toxic plastic container. These are designed and made in the U.S. for campers who need serious cooling capacity while on site and are even great for multi-day and extended camping trips. The Tundra series freezes at 5 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows for a greater range of hot and cold temperatures and will keep supplies colder far longer than most.

  • Material: Plastic
  • Weight: 0.75 to 5 lbs. (refers to amount of ice it replaces)
  • Freezing Point: 5º Fahrenheit
Fit + Fresh Cool Coolers Reusable Ice Packs
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best for Everyday: Fit + Fresh Cool Coolers

View at Amazon ($19)

Pros: These are an easy option for keeping small coolers and lunches refrigerated.

Cons: They stay cold for less time than other options.

The very affordable Fit + Fresh Coolers boast versatility and style with an ice pack made for school lunches and the great outdoors alike. Designed by a women-owned company and made to fit in and around food in coolers, these BPA-free ice packs are sold in sets of up to 12. These slim ice packs are small but mighty, retaining their cooling capacity for up to 24 hours. The inside utilizes a non-toxic fill and freezes solid within a few hours.

  • Material: BPA-free plastic
  • Weight: .04 lbs.
  • Freezing Point: 32º Fahrenheit

Conclusion

When it comes to outdoor adventures and entertaining, a solid cooler is just the beginning. Top-notch ice packs, like the Cooler Shock, let you keep food and beverages cold for hours or entire days so that you don't have to worry about refrigeration. If you don't need to keep food at a low temperature for as long, you can also use simple, packable ice packs like Fit + Fresh's Cool Coolers regularly to ensure that food is ready to eat whenever you've got time to enjoy. 

Factors to Consider

Size

Assess your needs when it comes to using ice packs. Do you travel often? Are your trips long enough that freezer time matters more than space? Keep in mind that the larger the pack, the longer the freeze time. The same goes for keeping items cool. The bigger the pack, the longer that pack will effectively cool.

Material

The outer and inner materials that make up the best ice packs can differ greatly. Hard plastics tend to crack over time when frozen. Softer polymers are less likely to break when frozen but may tear when thawed.

Care and Cleaning

Most of these options are easy to clean. Rinse after use and then wash when home to keep them pristine and ready for future day trips. When in doubt, dip in warm soapy water and let dry fully before freezing again. 

Q+A

Can you bring ice packs on a plane?

"Frozen liquid items are allowed through the checkpoint as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening," says Arianne Goodman, a veteran mountaineer, bike packer, and Iron Man triathlete. "In your checked bag, there are no restrictions for ice packs. If frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet the 3-1-1 liquids requirements for carry-on luggage. But, medically necessary gel ice packs in reasonable quantities are allowed regardless of their physical state of matter. You need to simply tell the TSA they are for medication or medical reasons."

What is inside ice packs?

It varies depending on what the pack is for and if it is reusable or instant/disposable. Gels are helpful for keeping items cool long-term, but basic ice packs will do the job in a pinch. 

How many ice packs do you need in a cooler? 

It depends on what you are trying to keep cold, the type of cooler, the temp of what you are putting in the cooler, the temperature outside, and how long you need it to stay cold before your next ice.

Our Expertise 

Alissa Fitzgerald is a chef, recipe developer, and food writer with over 15 years of experience in the food industry. For this piece, she interviewed Arianne Goodman, a veteran mountaineer, bike packer, and Iron Man triathlete, to find out what the pros look for in ice packs. She then used their insights, market research, and her own expertise to curate this list.