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Published Sep. 20, 2021

Ice is an essential for picnics, tailgates, and other outdoor fun. But it can melt quickly on a hot day, which is why the best ice pack is a must-have when packing a cooler. Ice packs, also known as ice bricks, are portable purpose-built packs that must be frozen prior to use. Adding frozen ice packs to your cooler or lunch tote keeps perishable foods safe and drinks cool. 

Ice packs come in hard or soft shell casings. They’re designed to stay cooler longer than the ice cubes you pick up at a convenience store or make at home. Ice packs are filled with water or gel, creating a portable block of ice once they’re frozen. These packs can be reused time and time again, all they require is some time to harden in the freezer. We’ve assembled a lineup of the best ice packs available. Keep reading to find out how we made our picks:

How We Picked the Best Ice Packs

Methodology

Some may think that an ice pack is an ice pack, but how they are built and what they are made of really affect their performance. As a product reviewer with years of experience reviewing, I considered a range of factors to find the best ice packs in each category:

  • Freeze: The most vital component to a worthy ice pack is its ability to keep items cold. Our search focused on ice packs that keep food and drinks cool for the most reasonable amount of time. We made it a point to include both thick and thin ice packs in our list. Even though thicker ones stay colder for longer, we felt it was important to choose thinner options that provide other benefits, even if they don’t stay cold as long.
  • Food safe: Items that are being placed in coolers are usually food and beverages, so we make sure to choose ice packs that are nontoxic and food safe.
  • Durability: Our ice pack selections stand up to the wear test. As ice packs are generally thrown into a cooler, potentially with heavy items, and they’re not exactly handled with care, durability was a key factor. Any ice packs that would have to be constantly replaced or fixed were not included in these selections.
  • Value: We’re interested in cost-effective items made from quality materials. Though we didn’t have a set budget, it seems that cost didn’t vary much among products, so we really looked at the qualities and materials that made it worth the spend.

The Best Ice Packs: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: YETI ICE Refreezable Reusable Cooler Ice Pack

Fast Freezing

This plastic hard-shelled ice pack exemplifies the qualities of the YETI brand with a design that’s durable and made to freeze quickly. YETI

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Why It Made The Cut: YETI’s durable and thoughtful design is built with longevity in mind. The toughness of the design holds up against heavy cooler contents, like beverages, and won’t break or puncture during use. The unique shape features a hole in the middle of the ice pack, causing it to freeze faster, due to increased surface area. Additionally, the hole offers a convenient handle for the ice pack, making it easy to pick up—even for kids.

Specs: 

  • Two sizes available 7.9 by 5.4 by 1.7 inches or 10.6 by 8 by 1.7 inches
  • A tough, impact-resistant design
  • A unique shape that helps it freeze faster than other designs

Pros:

  • Freezes faster than most thick ice pack blocks
  • Has little to no condensation
  • Comes in multiple size options

Cons:

  • A bit more expensive than other ice packs

Made from nontoxic and food-safe materials, YETI’s ice pack provides assurance to users that it’s safe for storing with your food and beverages. The hard plastic casing makes it easy to clean if it gets dirty and the ice pack only weighs 2 or 4 pounds, depending on which option you choose.. Unlike other ice packs that may sweat with condensation, YETI’s no-sweat design keeps your food dry. It has a freezing temperature of 28°F and a gel-filled plastic design that’s factory-sealed to resist leaking.

Best Value: IGLOO Maxcold Ice Block

Affordable and Reliable

These classic ice packs are designed with a gel that keeps food colder longer. Igloo

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Why It Made The Cut: This ice pack from a longtime market leader is reliable, budget-friendly, and comes in multiple sizes to suit a variety of needs. 

Specs: 

  • Multiple sizes from small (4.33 by 0.79 by 5.12 inches) to extra large (11.88 by 1.68 by 10.5 inches)
  • Built-in ridge for easy handling
  • Nontoxic Ultratherm gel interior

Pros:

  • Affordable for most users
  • Hard shell for added durability
  • Variety of sizes
  • Fit within the grooves of IGLOO coolers (when sized appropriately)

Cons:

  • Over time, the hard shell can warp

IGLOO’s ice packs are a value pick, as they are inexpensive but freeze well and hold up over time. Trust is built into this brand, which has been making coolers since 1947. Each hard shelled ice pack contains a freezable gel which makes them usable on a daily basis; simply throw them back into the freezer and overnight they become hard blocks of ice. 

The design of these ice packs and the Ultratherm gel ensures food and drinks stay cold all day. Over time, the plastic casing may warp as it expands when the gel freezes, but this does not change the ice pack’s capability of keeping your cooler contents at a safe temperature. 

Best Slim Ice Pack: Kona Ice Packs for Coolers

Space Saver

Keep plenty of room in your cooler for food and beverages with these slim and quick-freezing ice packs.
Kona

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Why It Made The Cut: The Kona ice packs are the thinnest ones that we found, so they don’t take up as much space in a cooler. They’re long enough for big coolers without being bulky.

Specs: 

  • Two ice packs, each measuring 10 by 13 by 0.5 inches
  • Lightweight, making them perfect for extra large coolers
  • Freezes in only 25 minutes

Pros:

  • Durable hard shell
  • Thinner and more lightweight than similar styles
  • Larger surface area means users don’t need as many ice packs

Cons:

  • Melts faster than bulkier ice packs
  • Large size suits coolers only and not smaller lunch bags.

Kona’s hard-shelled ice packs are an excellent choice to keep coolers cold for a few hours. Made from BPA-free plastic, these lightweight packs help reduce the load of a full cooler, making it easier to carry.

With this pick, Kona changed the dimension of a typical ice pack, making it longer, wider, and thinner. The advantages of its size include faster freezing times, better use of cooler space without much added weight, and a design that allows it to slip into small spaces in your freezer or cooler.

While there are significant advantages to this ice pack design, one drawback is the amount of time they last. These ice packs are well-suited to shorter day trips. As they are thin and freeze quickly, it also means that the water-based solution inside the ice packs melts faster than bulkier ice packs. 

Best Freeze: Cooler Shock Ice Packs

Colder for Longer

Innovative design lets users fill the ice pack with water to activate inner cooling gel. Cooler Shock

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Why It Made The Cut: Cooler Shock’s ice packs last between 24-48 hours, making them one of the longest-lasting “freezes” on the market.

Specs:

  • Includes two ice packs, each measuring 10 by 13 by 1.25 inches 
  • Made of ultra-tough polycarbonate that’s food safe, reusable, and made in the USA
  • Each freezer pack typically lasts between 24-48 hours

Pros:

  • Long-lasting
  • Stays at 18 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Durable and tough hard plastic shell

Cons:

  • Each ice pack weighs about 5 pounds
  • Take 24 hours to freeze solid

Made from a hard plastic shell of food-safe high-density polyethylene (HDPE), Cooler Shock ice packs hold up well against impacts, and they are built to last. The material does make them inflexible, which means users will have to plan packing their coolers with the size of these ice packs in mind. The plastic shell uses a ribbed design, allowing for more surface area, which can help cool your items faster.

These Cooler Shock ice packs arrive empty, making them lightweight for shipping; they weigh about five pounds once they are filled. To use, simply unscrew the cap and fill with water to activate the cooling gel formula inside. You only need to fill them once, and then they are reusable for many years. 

These ice packs are large and thick, allowing them to stay frozen longer. As these ice packs stay frozen for up to two days, they take some extra time to freeze. They need to be placed in the freezer for approximately 24 hours, so they might not be the choice for someone who needs an ice pack immediately. Cooler Shock markets these as “colder than ice” as they tend to stay at 18°F degrees, whereas ice freezes at 32°F.

Best Design: OICEPACK Slim Ice Pack

Interlocking Ice Packs

Fit neatly into lunch bags and small coolers. OICEPACK

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Why It Made The Cut: OICEPACK’s design features interlocking ice packs that completely wrap around items, divide, and customize a cooler’s interior, making them the most innovative choice.

Specs: 

  • A set of 10 ice packs, each measuring 5.43 by 5.43 by 0.6 inches
  • An interlocking design allows users to build frozen walls/containers for their items
  • A slim profile that freezes faster than thicker ice packs

Pros:

  • A customizable design that locks together
  • A hard, durable shell
  • Space-saving design
  • Can be used individually for smaller lunch bags, or together for a larger cooler

Cons:

  • Thinner design doesn’t stay frozen as long as a bulkier ice pack

OICEPACK’s interlocking ice packs introduce a unique way to customize a cooler and ensure everything stays cool. This pack of 10 BPA-free, nontoxic ice packs are made from a hard plastic casing with blue ice gel interior made from 95 percent water and 5 percent gel. Use them to divide your cooler or wrap around particular items to keep them cool while simultaneously protecting them, such as a bottle of wine.

The size of each ice pack in the set is small enough for a bento box, but combined, they can keep a cooler cold. They’re not bulky, so they’re usable in many spaces. However, since these are thinner, they won’t stay frozen as long as other ice packs on the market. And keep in mind that these ice packs need to be frozen eight hours before use to help them stay frozen for longer. OICEPACK’s ice packs keep cold for up to three hours in a regular bag and up to ten hours in an insulated bag.

If taken care of properly, these ice packs can last more than ten years.

Best Ice Pack for Beverages: KoldPacks 4 Reusable Can Ice Packs

Keep Drinks Cold

Wraps around cans and bottles to keep them colder. KoldPacks

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Why It Made The Cut: Only need an ice pack for a cooler full of drinks? Unlike brick-style ice packs, this option from KoldPacks hugs the contours of cans, keeping them colder and more refreshing. 

Specs: 

  • Measures 9 by 7 by 1.75 inches
  • Designed to fit standard aluminum cans
  • BPA-free, nontoxic hard plastic case

Pros:

  • Completely surrounds the sides of a can for cooler beverages
  • Easy to clean plastic material
  • Stackable, which can keep more drinks colder
  • Cheaper price point when buying this four-pack instead of individually

Cons:

  • Best used for drinks rather than as a multipurpose ice pack

Do you use your cooler just for beverages?  These KoldPacks ice packs can keep drinks cold all day long. The design features reverse scalloped siding, which fits around the sides of a can to keep it cool. As these ridges are on both sides of the ice pack, one ice pack is sufficient to keep up to six drinks cold. Though created for use with aluminum cans, they can fit other beverages as well, such as juice bottles or glass bottles. 

This ice pack design enables drinks to be stacked upright or on their sides, which adds flexibility to how a cooler gets packed. Though these are intended for keeping drinks cold, they can also be used as a general purpose ice pack, however, their dimensions may take up more room than other ice packs.

Made from BPA-free and nontoxic hard plastic, these ice packs are safe for use and wipe clean easily if there are any spills inside the cooler. The ice pack’s interior gel and water solution freezes overnight, so they should be put in the freezer well in advance of use. Once frozen, they stay cool for as much as 12 hours if used in an insulated bag. 

Things to Consider Before Buying an Ice Pack

When it comes to purchasing ice packs, there are a few considerations to keep in mind to ensure you select the best one for you.

Purpose

Why do you need an ice pack? Your needs differ depending on whether the ice pack is for a small lunch tote versus a camping cooler. Once you identify how you’ll use an ice pack, you can select the best one for your particular needs. If you want a more versatile ice pack, steer clear from designs made for a particular use, such as one intended just for beverages.

Hard vs. Soft Shell

Reusable soft shell ice packs are generally made from thin, flexible plastic, which freezes faster and tends to be more versatile, with an ability to freeze in different shapes. However, soft shell ice packs can be punctured more easily and seldom last as long. Hard-shelled ice packs have less versatility as they are made from thick plastic without much give. But hard shells are intended for use in coolers and can handle almost anything you throw at them. 

Freezing Duration

When it comes to how long you need to keep your food cold, the thickness of an ice pack generally serves as a useful indication. Thicker ice packs tend to have more longevity, with some lasting up to a couple of days. Thinner ones are more convenient for packing in a cooler, freeze much faster, but keep things cool for only a few hours.

Size

If you have a large cooler, you need enough ice packs to keep everything cool. This can be accomplished by having a couple of larger ice packs or many small ones. The best ice packs are the ones you’ll get the most use out of, so fit is important. Always measure your cooler or insulated bag before ordering ice packs, so you know what will fit.

FAQs

Q:

How does an ice pack work?  

An ice pack works by freezing water, refrigerant gel, or another liquid in a container, which can then be used to keep food and drinks cold in an insulated bag or cooler. Ice packs work best if they have additives that improve the freezing properties of water and allow for a slower melt time. These additives can also prevent bacterial growth or prevent the water inside the ice pack from solidifying.

Q:

How do you use an ice pack?

An ice pack is generally used to keep items cold, but it can also be used for first aid purposes. The ice packs we chose are for use with food and drinks, which keeps them cold and safe to consume.

Q: Why should I use an ice pack instead of ice cubes?

An ice pack is better than ice cubes because it generally freezes colder than regular ice. The benefit of packing a cooler that has colder “ice,” means it takes more time to warm up. When ice cubes melt, they become a wet mess, making your food wet and soggy. If you add a couple of ice packs to a cooler with ice cubes, you can extend the cold temperatures in the cooler for up to another 12 to 24 hours.

Final Thoughts

What you’re packing in your cooler and how long you need the contents to stay cold are both major factors to consider when shopping for the best ice packs. This guide will help you find the best ice pack for you: the right size, material, the ability to last long enough to avoid lukewarm beverages or spoiled food once you reach your destination. If your needs vary, YETI ICE is a versatile option that’s sure to get a lot of use.

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