Best Ice Pack for Coolers for Camping and Hiking

By | Last Updated December 3, 2020

The best ice pack for coolers is the one that’ll keep your food and drinks cold and fresh for as long as you need it.

Almost all cooler ice packs can be placed in the freezer and used again and again, which makes them a convenient alternative to regular ice. They can also be used alongside the ice in your cooler, to help extend overall ice retention and keep your food chilled for longer.

Whether you’re looking for an ice pack for your lunch cooler bag, or one to keep several days of supplies cold in a large hard-sided cooler – read our reviews to find the best cooler ice pack for you.

Best Ice Pack for Coolers

Choosing the right ice pack for your cooler can make or break your trip. To help you make the best choice, we have reviewed nine of the leading ice packs for coolers, so you can enjoy ice-cold refreshments on the go.

Pelican Cooler Ice Pack

Pelican Cooler Ice Pack

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First on our list, we have the Pelican Cooler Ice Pack. Pelican is a leading manufacturer of top-spec cool bags and boxes, and their ice pack is also made to a high standard.

This ice pack is designed to be robust and offer long-lasting cooling. This model measures 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches and weighs just 2 pounds, so it won’t take up too much space in your cooler or make it uncomfortably heavy. It is also available in 1 pound or 5 pound options, so you can get a variety of sizes to meet your needs.

The Pelican Cooler Ice Pack can help to keep your ice frozen for extra hours or even days, depending on how well your cooler is insulated. It has a large surface area for maximum effectiveness, and its slim design makes it easy to pack amongst your food and drinks.

As this ice pack gets incredibly cold, it has a handle at one end for comfortable carrying. This is appreciated as it protects your hands, but it does take up a bit of space unnecessarily. It’ll freeze solid within 5-6 hours, so you don’t have to wait around too long for it to be ready to go.

Just like Pelican coolers, the outer shell is made from super-durable, UV-protective material that won’t crack or fade, even with heavy use. As you would expect, this model is designed to fit Pelican coolers, but it will work just as well with other brands, too.

Yeti Refreezable Reusable Cooler Ice Pack

Yeti Ice Refreezable Reusable Cooler Pack

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Next up we have the Yeti Refreezable Reusable Cooler Ice Pack. Another great choice from a respected cooler brand, this model is designed to keep your cooler as cold as possible during your adventures.

The Yeti Reusable Cooler Ice Pack is available in a choice of 3 sizes: 1-pound, 2-pound, or 4-pound, so there’s one to fit almost any cooler. The smallest option is oblong in shape and very compact, while the other two sizes have a slim, rectangular shape with a hole in the middle for easy handling.

This efficient cooler pack is designed to be used alone or with ice, but it works better when used alongside regular ice as it extends overall retention time. The shape is specially created for rapid freezing, so you just need to place it in your freezer for a few hours and it will be ready to use.

The slimline shape also fits well into your cooler, without taking up precious space for supplies – the largest, 4-pound model measures 10.75 x 8 x 1.63 inches, so you can pack it in most hard coolers with plenty of room to spare. If you’re unsure which size to go for, Yeti has a handy calculator on their website so you can work out which one you need.

As to be expected from Yeti, their reusable ice pack is made from highly durable materials that match the hard-wearing design of their coolers. The outer casing is impact-resistant, so you won’t need to worry about them breaking or cracking if they get thrown around in your cooler.

Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Reusable Ice Packs

Fit and Fresh Cool Reusable Ice Packs

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If you have a compact cooler lunch bag or want to pack some smaller ice packs in between your supplies, the Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Reusable Ice Packs could be just what you need.

Coming in a set of four, these slimline reusable ice packs are ideal for keeping your lunch or supplies cold without taking up lots of space. They measure just 4.75 x 4.75 x 0.25 inches, so they will easily fit amongst your sandwiches and drinks and keep everything fresh until lunchtime.

We also like that these slim ice packs are stackable, so you can choose to use them in a bigger cooler for extra effect. Each pack has grooves molded into the sides so they stack together tightly and save space. The outer casing is highly durable against knocks and bumps, and won’t crack with daily use.

Because they’re so thin, these Fit & Fresh Ice Packs freeze really fast. You can pop them in the freezer late at night and they’ll be good to go early in the morning. They’re also non-toxic and BPA free, so you don’t need to worry about keeping them next to your food or using them in kids’ lunchboxes.

The only drawback to these compact ice packs is the length of time they can stay cold. As they’re so thin, they thaw out faster than thicker models in around 2-3 hours. This makes them less suitable for all-day cooling, but they’re still ideal as back up in a large cooler or for keeping food cold until lunchtime.

Rubbermaid Blue Ice Mini Pak

Rubbermaid Blue Ice Mini

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If you’re looking for some ice packs for occasional use in lunch bags, this multi-pack by Rubbermaid is worth checking out.

Coming in a set of four, these mini ice packs are filled with a freezable blue gel that stays frozen longer than normal ice. Their compact dimensions make them a good option for lunch bags, boxes, or as additional backup packs for a big cooler.

It’s important to note that the product images for these ice packs can be quite deceiving – they are very small at just 4.8 x 5.2 x 2.8 inches each. This makes them useful for packing in on each side of your sandwich or salad, but as they are so small, they also don’t stay frozen for very long. You should expect these to keep your food ice-cold for about 2 hours in a well-insulated bag, so they’re not suitable for long journeys or day trips to the beach.

These ice packs are non-toxic and can be used on a daily basis, but they’re not as durable as other models we have reviewed. Some users have complained that they have split and leaked with frequent use; therefore, if you’re planning to use them for work every day, you may find that they don’t last as long as hoped.

Cooler Shock Zero°F Cooler Freeze Packs

Cooler Shock Freeze Packs

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Next on our list of the best ice packs for coolers is the Cooler Shock Zero°F Cooler Freeze Packs. These packs are a little different to those we have seen so far, as they require you to fill them with water before use.

Coming in a pack of three 10 x 14-inch bags, the Cooler Shock Zero°F Cooler Freeze Packs contain a special mixture of non-toxic, dry powder chemicals that turn into a freezable gel when mixed with water.

All you need to do is pour 56 ounces of water into the pack, squeeze out any excess air, close the cap and give them a shake before placing it into the freezer. You only have to add water once, and they can be refrozen over and over again. They will freeze in a few hours and provide long-lasting cooling at 18℉ for around 48 hours. Each pack can replace the equivalent of 6 pounds of ice, so they’re great for keeping your supplies cold, and dry, on long trips.

Unlike many ice packs, these are quite thin and a little flexible, so they’re easy to fit around your food and drinks in a loaded cooler. The bags are made from several layers of polyethylene, aluminum, and a thin layer of nylon – that keeps the gel securely contained within.

The only drawback to these ice packs is the potential for user error. If you accidentally overfill or spill the contents while adding water, the pack won’t work as intended. Therefore, you should be careful to follow the instructions to the letter for best results.

Arctic Ice Long Lasting Ice Pack for Coolers

Long Lasting Ice Pack For Coolers

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Another good choice is the Arctic Ice Long Lasting Ice Pack for Coolers. This extra-large ice pack measures 10.93 x 1.85 x 8.66 inches and weighs 5 pounds – making it perfect for big, hard-sided coolers.

The Arctic Ice Long Lasting Ice Pack has been specially designed with a slim shape and large surface area, for easy packing and efficient cooling. They are perfect for keeping your drinks and food ice-cold all day long, and can be used as a replacement for ice, or as an additional tool to enhance ice-retention time by 50%.

These ice packs are reusable and can be frozen again and again up to 100,000 times – so they are sure to last you many years. They have a durable outer shell that’s UV-resistant and capable of withstanding heavy use, so they’re ideal for camping, fishing, tailgating or road trips. They have a built-in handle for easy carrying, and the leak-proof cap keeps the contents securely sealed – so there’s no chance it will spill out over your supplies.

The Arctic Ice Long Lasting Ice Pack freezes solid at 28℉, so after a few hours in your freezer, they’re ready to go. They’re made from non-toxic materials that are completely safe for use next to food, and you can even put them in the dishwasher if they get dirty.

IGLOO Extra Large Ice Block

Igloo MaxCold Extra Large Freezer Block

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Another worthy choice is the IGLOO Extra Large Ice Block. At 12″ x 1.75″ x 10.5 inches, this simple model is good for keeping your refreshments cold all day in large cool boxes or picnic backpacks.

The IGLOO Ice Block weighs 5 pounds and contains specialized “ultra-therm” gel to ensure it holds its temperature for several hours. You can choose to use it on its own, or as a backup to increase the retention time of the ice in your cooler. We like that it’s reusable, so you can put it back in the freezer once thawed, ready for use next time.

The inner gel is non-toxic, so you can use it close to your food without any concerns. The exterior plastic is tough enough to withstand knocks and bumps without cracking, too – making it a good option for days out on the boat or tailgating.

One drawback to this model is that it’s quite thick, so if you’re using more than one, they can take up a fair amount of space in your cooler. It also doesn’t have a molded-in handle like other large ice packs we’ve seen, so it may be a little uncomfortable to hold when frozen.

AmazonBasics Reusable Hard Sided Rectangular Ice Pack

Amazon Basics Reusable Hard Sided Ice Pack

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If you’re looking for a reliable budget option, then the AmazonBasics Reusable Hard Sided Rectangular Ice Packs could be just what you need.

Coming in a pack of four, these rectangular ice packs are available in a choice of three sizes: small (4.33 x 6.49 x 1.18 inches), medium (6.69 x 8.26 x 1.18 inches) or large (7.87 x 10.43 x 1.18 inches) – so there’s something to suit any size of cooler.

Featuring a durable, hard-sided design, these reusable ice packs have slim dimensions, making them easy to pack in amongst all your food and drinks without taking up too much extra space. They are also lightweight, so they won’t weigh your cooler down.
The small version is great for lunch boxes or lunch bags, while the large models are perfect for bigger, hard-shell coolers. Once frozen, they’ll keep your supplies ice-cold for several hours, so your food and drinks stay crisp and fresh until you’re ready to eat.

These cooler ice packs must be placed in your freezer for at least 8 hours before use, to ensure they are completely frozen – so you’ll have to plan ahead for best results. They’re tough enough to be used while camping, boating, or out on road trips, and the plastic outer casing is BPA-free, so they’re safe for use right next to your food.

FlexiFreeze Ice Sheets

FlexiFreeze Ice Sheets

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Fed up with trying to arrange solid, heavy ice packs around the fragile food in your cooler? Then we recommend taking a look at these FlexiFreeze Ice Sheets.

Unlike any of the other models featured in our ice pack for cooler reviews, the FlexiFreeze Ice Sheets are designed to be cut and bent however suits you best. Available as a pack of three sheets, each made up of 88 individual ice cubes, this model is perfect for keeping delicate or awkwardly-shaped food items fresh and cool on the go.

The sheets measure 19.5 x 15.5 inches, and the 88 ice cubes are spread out across 10 rows. You can choose to use the sheet as one piece and wrap it around your food, or you can cut strips or individual cubes out to arrange them how you like. Because they’re so thin and flexible, you can arrange them in almost an endless number of ways to meet your needs.

Instead of chemical gel, the FlexiFreeze Ice Sheets use 100% pure water, so there’s no need to worry if you cut them incorrectly or they were to leak over your food. They are also designed to be completely reusable. Just put them back in the freezer ready for next time. You must ensure that you have enough space in your freezer to lay them flat, though – otherwise, they won’t freeze correctly.

Aside from having to keep them flat when freezing, the only real drawback to this versatile model is the price. Eighty-eight ice cubes aren’t much for a large cooler, so if you want to completely substitute standard ice or hard ice packs, you’ll need to buy several sheets which is pretty expensive when compared to other options.

Buyer’s Guide to Buying the Best Ice Pack for Coolers

If you’re still trying to decide which cooler ice pack is best, take a read through our buying guide below. Here, we tell you everything you need to consider before purchasing.

Price

Ice packs for coolers are inexpensive. Even models made by leading manufacturers shouldn’t cost much more than $20 to $30, depending on the size. Very cheap models are usually fine for occasional use, but they can end up leaking over time and be a false economy if you’re planning to use them regularly.

Size

The best ice pack for you is the one that will fit into your cooler and keep everything cold, without taking up too much storage space.

Pay special attention to the dimensions before ordering. Ice packs that are too thick may make it difficult to pack them along the sides of your cooler without squashing your supplies, or cause difficulty closing the lid if placed on top. On the other hand, ice packs that are too small simply won’t be effective for keeping your food freshly chilled.

Weight

Hard-sided coolers loaded with food and drinks can be pretty heavy. So, if you’re planning to carry your cooler for some distance, it’s worth considering how much extra weight you’ll be adding with further ice packs.

Some ice packs for coolers use lightweight freezing agents that provide a high level of cooling without being too heavy. All models should declare their weight in the product description, so be sure to bear this in mind when making your choice.

Freezing Time

Whether you’re looking for an ice pack for daily use in your lunch bag, or one to put in your large cooler for weekend trips, it’s important to check the freezing time before buying.

Some larger models may need to be put in your freezer a couple of days prior to use, to ensure they are completely frozen and will have the desired cooling duration. Other, more lightweight models can be ready to use in around 8 hours, so you can freeze them overnight for use the next day.

The Duration it Stays Cold

The length of time your ice pack will stay cold is perhaps the most important feature of all. The best model for you depends on how you intend to use it.

If you’re looking for something to keep your lunch cold in your cool bag, slimline ice packs that stay frozen for a few hours will be sufficient. However, if you’re planning to go on a weekend camping trip with a large hard-sided cooler, you’ll need a larger, thicker ice pack that’s capable of keeping your supplies ice cold for a day or two.

Casing/Shell

As most ice packs contain a type of freezable gel, it’s important that they have a durable casing to prevent the contents from leaking out and becoming unusable – not to mention ruining your food.

The best ice packs are made from heavy-duty plastic that’s resistant to cracking or breaking, but some cheaper models are less resilient. If you’re planning on taking your ice packs out boating, tailgating, or anywhere else that they’re likely to have some punishment, it makes sense to go for models that have a rugged design.

Safety

Nowadays, most ice packs use non-toxic gels, but it’s still worth checking for your peace of mind. We also recommend looking for models that use BPA-free plastics to reduce the risk of chemicals leaching into your food.

Ice Packs Vs Ice

Have you ever wondered whether ice packs are a comparable, or even a better, alternative to ice? In this section, we take a look at the facts.

Ice has Superior Cooling Performance

Ice is more effective than ice packs at keeping your supplies cold.

Ice must go through a variety of physical changes (all requiring energy) while changing from a solid to a liquid state. This means it will absorb a lot of heat from its surroundings during this process.

On the other hand, the synthetic materials used in ice packs do not have to go through as many physical phase changes as ice to reach a liquid state. This means that they have a lesser cooling effect overall (less heat is absorbed from their surroundings) while thawing.

You could compensate for this by freezing the synthetic material to a much lower temperature than water can reach in its ice form, but this simply isn’t possible using a standard household freezer.

If you want to avoid ice to keep your supplies cold and dry, you will get the best cooling effect from ice packs by stuffing your cooler with as many ice packs as you can and ensuring your food and drinks are already cold beforehand.

But Ice Packs Are More Convenient

Ice may be better than ice packs when it comes to cooling performance, but there’s no denying that ice packs are a more convenient option.

Ice packs won’t melt all over your supplies and leave your food sodden, so they are a much better choice for keeping your cooler dry.

They are also reusable, so once they have thawed, you can simply put them back in the freezer for a few hours and use them again. And if you want to make space in your freezer, it’s easy to store your ice packs elsewhere – the same cannot be said for regular ice!

Another benefit of ice packs is hygiene. Most store-bought ice should be safe, but it’s possible to clean the exterior of an ice pack before use, so you can be sure that it won’t contaminate your food.

Ice Packs Are Also Cheaper Over Time

Ice packs are a cheaper alternative to ice over time.

Initially, purchasing an ice pack will work out more costly than the same amount of ice, but because they’re reusable, you’ll make that expenditure back over the next few uses.

If you use your cooler regularly, switching to ice packs will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Ice Pack Terms

While shopping for ice packs, you may come across some salesy-sounding terms that the companies use to try to get you to purchase their product. Here we explain what the most common ones mean.

Reusable – the term “reusable” refers to an item that is designed to be used more than once. This could be a specified number of times, or until the item fails.

Subzero temperature – This is simply a term for a temperature that is below zero degrees celsius.

Non-toxic – Non-toxic products use materials that they claim to be non-poisonous, non-irritating and safe for use. You should use an element of sensible caution here, though, as there’s no agreed consumer standard for establishing whether or not a product is non-toxic. Never consume the contents of an ice pack, regardless of the labeling.

Non-hazardous – Products that claim to be non-hazardous say that they do not contain any liquids, solids, gases or chemicals that may harm living things or the wider environment. However, just because a product fails to meet the requirements to be labelled a hazardous good, it doesn’t mean that the product is completely non-hazardous.

Hardshell – Hardshell ice packs are non-flexible and have a tough outer layer usually made of strong plastic.

Break-resistant – Break-resistant ice packs claim to be durable enough to handle rough conditions and falls without breaking. The best models will reinforce these claims with a suitable warranty or guarantee.

Environmentally friendly – Environmentally friendly products claim to have minimal to no impact to the environment during manufacturing or come from sustainable sources. “Eco-friendly” terms are often used as a marketing tactic to appeal to consumers who want to make better choices, so unless it has been approved by a regulator, it’s always worth researching these claims yourself.

BPA-Free – Bisphenol A (BPA) is a compound that has been used to make certain types of plastic since the 1960s. In recent years, some studies have shown that it may have links to damaging health effects. BPA-free items do not contain this compound.

Final Thoughts

Any of the models we have seen in our best ice pack for cooler reviews make great choices, but the right option for you depends on your needs.

If you have a large hard-sided cooler and need an ice pack for day trips, we recommend either the IGLOO Extra Large Ice Block, or the Arctic Ice Long Lasting Ice Pack for Coolers. All of these models have a large surface area for a maximum cooling effect, but they are slimline enough to easily pack amongst your food and drinks without taking up too much space.

For longer trips or boating, the Yeti Refreezable Reusable Cooler Ice Pack or the Pelican Cooler Ice Pack are great options. Not only do these ice packs offer long duration cooling, but they are made by leading manufacturers that are known for creating highly-durable cooler products.

If you need a compact ice pack for your lunch bag, either the Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Reusable Ice Packs or the AmazonBasics Reusable Hard Sided Rectangular Ice Pack are worth a look. The Fit & Fresh Ice Packs are very slimline and perfect for sliding into small lunch bags without taking up too much room, while the small AmazonBasics Ice Packs are also lightweight and reliable.

Finally, if you want a versatile ice pack that’s easy to fit in any cooler, the FlexiFreeze Ice Sheets are your best bet. These cleverly-designed sheets are completely non-toxic, reusable, and can be cut and folded to meet your requirements – making them great for wrapping around unusually-shaped items.