The Best Ice Packs for Coolers in 2022

Keep that cooler cold and your food and drinks chilled with one of these top ice packs.

By Tony Carrick | Updated Jan 25, 2022 10:58 AM

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The Best Ice Pack for Cooler Option

Photo: amazon.com

While ice is the traditional way to chill your food and drinks in your cooler, ice has some downsides. Unless you have a portable ice maker, you typically must buy bags of ice or an expensive rotomolded cooler.

The best cooler ice packs can provide as much, if not more, cooling power than ice by staying cool for as long as two days in the cooler. And they’re reusable, saving money and the hassle of having to purchase ice.

Read on to learn more about the factors to consider when shopping for an ice pack and to find a list of the best ice packs on the market for keeping your cooler cool.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Arctic Ice Long Lasting Ice Pack for Coolers
  2. RUNNER UP: YETI ICE Refreezable Reusable Cooler Ice Pack
  3. BEST BUDGET: Nordic Ice Reusable Gel Pack (Set of 3)
  4. BEST LARGE: Cooler Shock 3X Lg. Zero⁰F Cooler Freeze Packs
  5. BEST FOR SMALL COOLERS: Set of 5 Cooler Shock lunch bag size ice packs
  6. BEST GEL: Cooler Shock 18-Degree F. Hard Packs
  7. BEST FOR CANS & BOTTLES: TOURIT Ice Packs for Coolers
  8. BEST MULTIPACK: Healthy Packers Ice Pack for Lunch Box (Set of 4)
  9. MOST VERSATILE: OICEPACK Ice Pack for Lunch Box
  10. MOST FLEXIBLE: FlexiFreeze Reusable Ice Sheet
The Best Ice Pack for Cooler Option

Photo: amazon.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Ice Packs for Coolers

While all cooler packs use a frozen gel or liquid to keep coolers cool, they have notable differences in size, freezing point, and longevity making them a must-have summer hack for barbecues, patios, and cookouts.

Type

Ice packs come as either hard-sided packs or soft packs. Soft packs allow users to conform the ice pack around the items, which is ideal for soft lunch bags and coolers, while hard-sided packs provide a more rigid block that can fit neatly into a rigid square cooler.

Freezer packs are manufactured in various shapes to meet different needs. Some ice packs can be stacked or connected to create larger ice packs or different shapes, allowing them to be used in a range of applications, from lunch box coolers to large coolers.

Size

Consider the size of the ice pack: Bigger doesn’t always mean better. While a larger ice pack may provide more cooling power, it will take up more precious real estate in the freezer and reduce the available space in the cooler for food and drinks.

Also consider the type of container. Larger ice packs work well in large units, while smaller ice packs are suitable for small coolers. Ice packs range in size from about 5 inches wide by 5 inches long up to 10 inches wide by 13 inches long. Ice packs can weigh less than a pound or up to 5 pounds.

Freezing Point

Freezing point determines just how long the ice pack will stay cold, and, in turn, the temperature in the cooler. Most ice packs contain a gel that consists of one of three nontoxic substances: hydroxyethylcellulose, sodium polyacrylate, or silica gel. These gels are contained in a bag or hard shell made of vinyl or plastic. The gels have a much lower freezing point than water. A gel with a freezing point of 10 degrees Fahrenheit stays cold longer than water, which has a freezing point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

When choosing a gel freezer pack, consider some of their characteristics. Gel-based ice packs often trap air bubbles because gel is more viscous than water. Trapped air bubbles can cause hard shell freezer packs to balloon out, ruining their flat shape. Higher-quality cooler packs feature tough plastic shells that resist ballooning.

Longevity

When determining the length of time that an ice pack will stay cold, size is the best indicator. An ice pack that weighs 4 pounds will stay cold longer than one that weighs 2 pounds. A 5-pound ice pack used inside a quality cooler can stay cold for up to two days. Since they’re thicker, hard-sided blocks also stay cold significantly longer than soft ice packs.

Our Top Picks

The following ice packs are made by some of the most innovative companies in the business. They offer superior longevity, are made from durable materials, and meet a variety of different cooling applications. Read on to find some of the best ice packs for coolers.

Best Overall

The Best Ice Pack for Cooler Option: Arctic Ice Long Lasting Ice Pack for Coolers
Photo: amazon.com

A flat ice pack, once frozen, usually turns into a bulbous mass, making it difficult to fit into a cooler. However, this innovatively designed ice pack from Arctic Ice features a molded pattern that prevents the ice pack from losing its shape, keeping it pancake flat. This design also expands the overall surface area of the pack, allowing it to cool more of whatever is around it. With its low 28-degree freezing point, this ice pack will keep food and drinks chilled for a long time.

The molded shape of these Arctic Ice packs allows the packs to interlock with each other, enabling you to stack multiple ice packs to maximize cooling power for keeping food fresh and drinks ice cold. With its flat shape and six different-size options, this ice pack fits easily into most coolers. It also features a convenient handle that allows for easy removal.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Hard pack
  • Freezing Point: 28 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Weight: 0.75-10 pounds

Pros

  • Durable plastic construction
  • Range of sizes offered
  • Stackable
  • Handle included

Cons

  • Can take up space in small coolers
  • Larger sizes are expensive

Runner Up

The Best Ice Pack for Cooler Option: YETI ICE Refreezable Reusable Cooler Ice Pack
Photo: amazon.com

This reusable cooler ice pack from YETI is an excellent option for keeping both large and small coolers chilled. It features a durable break-resistant outer shell with a hole in the center to prevent the pack from puffing out when frozen and reduces freezing time. With a freezing point of 28 degrees Fahrenheit, this YETI ICE pack will keep your cooler chilled at a lower temperature than ice.

The shell is also impact-resistant, which ensures this ice pack will endure many picnics, fishing trips, and backyard parties. The YETI ICE comes in multiple size options, including 1-, 2-, and 4-pound packs. Its rectangular shape allows it to fit in the cooler or freezer easily while the hole in the middle makes it easy to pull out.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Hard pack
  • Freezing Point: 28 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Weight: 1.65 pounds

Pros

  • Break-resistant shell
  • Impact resistant
  • Compact size
  • Multiple size options included

Cons

  • Only stays cold for 4 hours

Best Budget

BestIcePackNordicIceReusableGelPack(Set of 3)
Photo: amazon.com

If you are in need of a multipack of ice packs for multiple coolers or one large cooler, this Nordic Ice 3-pack could be the perfect choice. Each 16oz ice pack freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and their 7-inch by 3-inch design is small enough to fit in your cooler or freezer without taking up too much space.

The multilayer exterior also protects these reusable cooler ice packs from tearing or leaks while the temperature-sensitive material prevents condensation buildup. What’s more, each pack only weighs 1 pound so it won’t weigh down your bag or cooler.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Soft pack
  • Freezing Point: 32 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Weight: 1 pound

Pros

  • Comes with 3 reusable ice packs
  • Compact design
  • Lightweight
  • No-tear exterior

Cons

  • May be too large for small coolers or lunch bags

Best Large

The Best Ice Pack for Cooler Option: Cooler Shock 3X Lg. Zero°F Cooler Freeze Packs
Photo: amazon.com

If you’re trying to cool a 100-quart beast, you need the big guns. Other ice packs don’t get much bigger than these large freezer packs from Cooler Shock. They measure a whopping 10 inches by 14 inches.

This pack comes in a set of three, making it the equivalent of 18 pounds of ice. Cooler Shock’s innovative design allows each pack to maintain its 18-degree freezing point temperature until it has completely thawed, ensuring your food remains cool for a long time. When used with a quality 32-quart cooler, three packs will keep food and drinks cold for up to 48 hours.

These Cooler Shock packs, which use a water-and-gel mixture, feature an 8-ml thick foil and nylon cover that prevents rips or cuts. The long, thin, flexible design allows for easy storage in a freezer.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Soft pack
  • Freezing Point: 18 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Weight: 0.2 kilograms

Pros

  • Comes with 3 reusable ice packs
  • Tear-resistant package
  • Stays cool for 48 hours (32-quart cooler only)
  • Long, thin design

Cons

  • Not meant for small coolers
  • Expensive

Best for Small Coolers

The Best Ice Pack for Cooler Option: Cooler Shock lunch bag size ice packs
Photo: amazon.com

These compact packs from freezer pack specialists Cooler Shock are just the right size for smaller coolers and lunch bags. Each pack measures just 6.5 inches by 7.5 inches, making it a great option for lunch bags or a small cooler. They come in a set of five to keep the whole brood’s packed lunches cool.

Just because they’re small doesn’t mean they aren’t powerful. These diminutive freezer bags have a freezing point of 18 degrees Fahrenheit—a temperature they maintain throughout the thawing process—and will stay cold up to 10 hours. That’s plenty of cooling power to keep drinks cold and sandwiches fresh for picnics, school lunches, and camping trips. Each Cooler Shock bag is reinforced with aluminum, nylon, and polyethylene layers for durability and rapid cold transfer.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Soft pack
  • Freezing Point: 18 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Weight: 0.5 kilograms

Pros

  • Comes with 5 packs
  • Compact construction
  • Stays cold for 10 hours
  • Reinforced with aluminum, nylon, and polyethylene

Cons

  • Direct skin contact not recommended

Best Gel

The Best Ice Pack for Cooler Option: Cooler Shock 18-Degree F. Hard Packs
Photo: amazon.com

With its substantial weight, large surface area, and low freezing point, this set of cool packs from Cooler Shock provides plenty of chilling power. Each pack weighs 5 pounds, allowing it to keep its cool longer than a lighter pack. With dimensions of 10 inches by 13 inches and a thickness of 1.25 inches, this pack has plenty of surface area to emit cold while maintaining a slender profile for an easy fit in both coolers and freezers.

The ribbed surface helps the pack hold its shape while also increasing the surface area for maximum cooling. With a freezing point of a frigid 18 degrees Fahrenheit, these packs stay cold for many hours. One pack in a 16-quart cooler can keep food cold for an entire day.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Hard pack
  • Freezing Point: 18 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Weight: 5 pounds

Pros

  • Comes with 2 reusable ice packs
  • Ribbed texture
  • Comes in 2 colorways

Cons

  • Large construction; may take up room in the cooler
  • Expensive

Best for Cans and Bottles

The Best Ice Pack for Cooler Option: TOURIT Ice Packs for Coolers
Photo: amazon.com

Large flat cool packs that sit on the bottom or sides of a cooler make it challenging to chill a cooler full of drinks. The Tourit ice pack’s long, narrow shape makes it an excellent option for keeping drinks cold.

At 8.75 inches long by 1.5 inches wide, you can mix these cool packs in with the cans and bottles, allowing them to cool drinks more evenly. And since the packs come in sets of four, eight, and 12, you can use as many as you need to keep your cooler cool. Their design also makes them well-suited for lunch bags and smaller cooler bags. Tourit ice packs are available in yellow and green as well as the standard cooler-pack blue.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Hard pack
  • Freezing Point: 32 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Weight: 2 pounds

Pros

  • Convenient narrow design
  • Comes with 4 reusable ice packs
  • Comes in multiple colorways
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Requires very low freezing point

Best Multipack

BestIcePackforCoolersHealthyPackersIcePackforLunchBox
Photo: amazon.com

If trying to keep a larger cooler or multiple lunch boxes chilled, you need a few ice packs. This set of four ice packs from Healthy Packers offers plenty of cooling packs for a price that won’t send chills down your spine. Each ice pack measures 7 inches by 5 inches—about the size of a paperback book—making it an excellent option for smaller coolers and lunch bags.

Available in packs of four and eight, consumers can purchase the number of ice packs for their cooling needs. For smaller bags, use one, and for larger coolers, simply add more packs to increase the cooling power. Depending on the cooler type, these ice packs will stay cold for about six hours.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Hard pack
  • Freezing Point: 18 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Weight: 1.7 pounds

Pros

  • BPA-free
  • Compact size
  • Comes in multiple sizes
  • Stays cold for 6 hours

Cons

  • Not suitable for large coolers

Most Versatile

The Best Ice Pack for Cooler Option: OICEPACK Ice Pack for Lunch Box
Photo: amazon.com

Part ice pack, part jigsaw puzzle, this versatile product from OICEPACK provides a variety of options for keeping food cool. In a 10 pack of 5-inch by 5-inch freezer squares, the ridges on each side of the squares allow them to fit together like a puzzle. This design means users can create a freezer box out of these cool packs or link them together to make a larger pack.

Link all 10 packs together to create a small cooler for keeping a canned drink chilled or stack them for increased cooling ability. This innovative design makes the OICEPACK one of the most versatile cooler packs on the market.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Hard pack
  • Freezing Point: 28.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds

Pros

  • Each unit links together
  • BPA-free
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Hand-wash only
  • Comes in 1 size

Most Flexible

BestIcePackFlexiFreezeReusableIceSheet
Photo: amazon.com

This 4-pack makes packing the cooler easy and convenient. Each of these ice sheets is filled with water meaning they are 100% chemical-free and flexible. With their thin, compact design, they are easy to slip into the cooler or freezer, even when they are completely full. For durability, these packs are also made with industrial-strength food-grade plastics.

Weighing 4 pounds, each unit packs ample amounts of ice and becomes frozen at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Unlike other ice packs, these packs have a grid design that can be cut to the size or shape required.

Product Specs

  • Type: Soft pack
  • Freezing Point: 0 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Weight: 4 pounds

Pros

  • Made with industrial-strength food grade plastics
  • 100% chemical-free
  • Bends and folds easily
  • Compact, thin design

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Expensive

Our Verdict

Selected for its durable, hard pack construction, ample size options, and stackable design, the Arctic Ice pick is our first choice for the best ice pack for coolers. With a built-in handle, this pick is made for those in need of an ice pack for a large wheeled cooler for the barbecue as it can stay cool for a long time in cold or warm heat.

Alternatively, the YETI ICE pick has a small, versatile construction that can fit in your lunch box or backpack cooler. With a break-resistant shell and impact resistance, this ice pack can be bumped around in your cooler without breaking and can be purchased in multiple size options.

How We Chose the Best Ice Packs for Coolers

The right ice pack can help to keep food cool in your lunch bag or drinks cold in your cooler. Selections for the best ice packs depended upon size, weight, freezing point, construction type, and materials used.

Large and small ice packs for coolers are represented on this list with either hard or soft constructions for your intended use. Each pick is also made with specific dimensions, most coming in thin, rectangular shapes to fit flush on the bottom, sides, or top of a cooler. These hard and soft ice packs are also lightweight at 0.2 kilograms to 4 pounds to avoid weighing down your backpack cooler or lunch box.

Freezing point is also a concern with ice packs, but each of these picks freezes quickly at 0 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Though these picks are filled with gel, water, or both, each is tear and impact-proof to avoid leaks and toxins from entering your cooler. Finally, select picks are also made BPA-free for peace of mind.

FAQs 

If you still have burning questions about ice packs for coolers, read on to find out how ice packs compare to ice, how long they last, and how to dispose of the worn-out packs.

Q: Do cooler ice packs work as well as regular ice?

No evidence suggests that ice packs stay cold longer than ice; however, many ice packs feature lower freezing points, which means they can maintain a colder temperature than ice during the thawing period. Keep in mind that ice, which is either crushed or in numerous cubes, can better surround items, keeping food and drinks more evenly chilled than rigid ice packs that cannot be dispersed throughout the cooler as easily.

Q: How long do ice packs last?

Chilling time depends on the size of the ice pack and the quality of the cooler. Generally, larger and heavier ice packs last longer than smaller ones. Some of the best large ice packs can last up to two full days in a quality cooler.

Q: How do you discard ice packs?

When consumers consider the environmental hazards of discarding ice packs, they’re usually concerned about the bright blue gel inside the packs. While the gel looks as if it could be hazardous to your health, most gel in ice packs is nontoxic and biodegradable. The real problem is the plastic coating that contains the gel, which is not biodegradable. To be responsible, cut open the gel pack, empty the gel into the garbage, and then dispose of the plastic part by taking it to a plastic bag recycling center.