Whether you’re camping, picnicking, or simply packing your lunch for a day at work, having a reusable ice pack keeps your food at a room safe temperature until you’re ready to eat it or pop it in the fridge. If you’re currently shopping for the best ice packs for coolers, there are three things you should consider: durability, longevity, and freeze time.
Between getting tossed around in the cooler or thrown around on the ground, they receive a lot more wear and tear than you’d think. Before you make a purchase, be sure to read the reviews so you can get a sense of how tough they are.
And, of course, there’s no point in having an ice pack if it can’t keep your food cold for very long. Most outings will take at a minimum of a few hours, so your ice pack needs to be able to last at least that long. Since most brands don’t provide timeframes on this quality, this is another area where reading the reviews can be helpful.
In a perfect world, your ice packs would always be in the freezer, ready and waiting for you. But in the real world they often get left in the cooler overnight or tossed on the counter. Having an ice pack that can re-freeze quickly is a big asset.
Now that you have a better idea of what to look for, here are the best ice packs for coolers, according to these criteria.
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1. The Overall Best
Dimensions: 10.75 by 8 by 1.625 inches
What’s great about it: With the ability to get colder faster and stay colder longer, this YETI ice pack is one of the most convenient cooler packs on the market. It’s built with super high-quality material that’s practically unbreakable. The shape is designed to fit inside YETI coolers but you can use it with other brands too — and it’s available in 1-, 2-, or 4-pound options. It’s a bit pricier than other options but if you do a lot of camping or other cooler-based activities, it’s definitely worth the investment.
One reviewer wrote: “The absolute best ice pack I’ve ever had!! I work an average of 10-12hrs a night with a 1hr commute each way. Had one night I worked almost 18hrs. It lasted the whole time, kept everything in my Yeti Roadie cold with only a small amount of melt down from the ice pack.”
2. The Runner-Up
Dimensions: 5.7 by 5.7 by 1.1 inches
What’s great about it: This Pelican ice pack is an excellent mid-range option that’s almost as robust as the YETI but at a slightly cheaper price point. Like the first pick, it’s custom-fit for the brand’s own coolers, but it also works great with other brands. The high-quality ice pack is a bit smaller so it can fit in tighter cooler spaces, and it keeps frozen for an extra long time. It’s super durable, it gets cold quickly, and it doesn’t break or crack easily, according to reviewers.
One reviewer wrote: “Best ice packs on the market. I throw them in my Pelican cooler, and in no time, any water that remained in the bottom of my cooler [has] frozen solid. These packs stay cold a long time. Lives up to the Pelican name.”
3. The Best Slim Option
Dimensions: 13 by 10 by .5 inches
What’s great about it: This lightweight ice pack, which comes in a convenient two-pack, is designed to be extra thin so you can slide it into small spaces in between food items. The durable pack is bigger on the long side, which allows it to reach more food while still being slim and unimposing. The shape makes it a great choice for smaller coolers where you don’t want your ice block hogging up too much space. It freezes in less than 25 minutes, according to fans, and stays cold for several hours.
One reviewer wrote: “Love these ice packs. Fit perfectly in my small cooler. I also use it for serving cold platters (such as shrimp cocktail) outdoors in the summer. I keep multiples on hand in my freezer as they freeze up in 25 minutes and can reuse as needed. Highly recommend.”
4. The Best Budget Option
Dimensions: 5.25 by 4.25 by .81 inches
What’s great about it: If you want something cheap and easy, these small budget ice packs are just the ticket. They’re fairly durable, given the price, and lightweight, too. They don’t get stay cold for quite as long as some of the other options, but at just $2 a pop, they make an excellent choice for folks on a budget.
One reviewer wrote: “5-stars! It freezes and keeps things cold in a school lunch box, at least for a few hours. It’s still a little bit cold when it comes home 7 hours later, too.”
5. The Best Soft Packs
Dimensions: 8.75 by 3.88 by .5 inches
What’s great about it: Made with small water-filled compartments, these FlexiFreeze ice sheets remain flexible when they’re frozen. This means the malleable sheets, which come in a three-pack, bend around your food, allowing you greater flexibility when packing up the cooler. Even better: They can be cut to size if needed. Like the first few options, they get cold quickly and do a good job of staying that way. As a bonus, they work for therapeutic uses, too like relieving headaches or injuries.
One reviewer wrote: “They’re essentially individual ice cubes, so they freeze pretty quickly, but they stay frozen/cold for a long time in a cooler, or even just in an insulated bag. Three of them layered between food in a big cooler kept things cold (refrigerator temp, not frozen) on a 14 hour trip. They bend to fit the space, and can be cut apart (carefully) as needed. Recommend!”