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Whether you need to keep food cold after a power outage or want to celebrate a fun day of fishing with an ice-cold beer at your campsite, having a cooler that actually keeps its contents cold is a must-have for emergencies and outdoor adventures. From oversized coolers that are as indestructible as a mini tank to soft-sided options that are lightweight and easy to carry, there’s no shortage of great options for coolers. Combining a great cooler with an ice pack is one of the best ways to get the most out of your cooler’s ability to live up to its name.
Cooler packs are preferable to loose ice cubes for several reasons. One, loose ice means that at some point in the day, you will likely reach into your cooler and find a small lake of warm water. This isn’t so bad if you’re cooler is only holding bottles and cans, but you don’t want your sandwich swimming before lunchtime. Cooler packs are also ideal because they can be reused countless times, which means no wasting water. Most importantly, cooler packs do a better job than ice of staying cold longer.
Ice packs are typically filled with water, silica gel and propylene glycol, which help to keep water colder longer after the ice pack has been removed from the freezer. Propylene glycol is used in antifreeze to help keep liquid cold and the silica gel in ice packs helps to hold all the liquid contents together and also helps to maintain the cold temperature for an extended period. Many ice packs are made without the use of toxins and we’ve also included several options on our list that feature BPA-free plastic for added safety.
From tailgating parties to snacks after a baseball game, these cooler packs do a great job of keeping food and drinks colder longer.
1. Cooler Shock Ice Packs
For a freezer pack that will out-cool ice, we like the Cooler Shock Ice Packs. The pack ships dry with their proprietary dry ice cooling formula inside. Customers simply add water and place the packs in the freezer to activate the cooling process. The packs get down to 18 degrees Fahrenheit and stay cold for 24 to 48 hours, making them a great option for overnight camping trips. Available in three sizes to fit lunch bags or large coolers, the Cooler Shock ice packs are made with non-hazardous food-grade material in the US. A great replacement for ice or dry ice, the cooler packs have an impressive cooling lifespan and can be reused countless times.
2. Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers Reusable Ice Packs
FOR SMALL COOLERS
For small coolers that still need an ice pack to help keep their contents cool for hours on end, we like the four-pack of reusable ice packs from Fit & Fresh. The slim ice packs are only half an inch thick and are great for lunch bags, diaper bags or to fit into coolers that are already jam-packed with food and drinks. The hard plastic outside is easy to wipe down and clean when spills occur and the ice packs stay cold for hours. We also like that the ice packs are made from non-toxic, BPA-free plastic that makes them a great option to use in kid’s lunch and cooler bags.
3. YETI ICE Refreezable Reusable Cooler Ice Pack
For an ice pack that can take a rough and tumble ride in your cooler, we recommend the reusable pack from Yeti. The company that makes virtually indestructible drinkware and coolers have an ice pack that can handle just about anything customers throw at it. The break-resistant cooler pack is filled with specially formulated liquid that stays cooler longer than ice and quickly cools down the contents around it. The ice pack gets down to minus 2 degrees Celsius and can stay there for hours, but we should note that the oversized pack weighs a whopping 4 pounds, so keep that in mind when deciding who has to carry the cooler to the campsite.
4. Nordic Ice No-Sweat Reusable Long-Lasting Gel Pack
Gel packs are great to use in coolers because of their ability to conform to different shapes, which makes them an excellent option for packing around drinks and food and fitting into awkward spaces where solid ice packs can’t go. Unfortunately, gel packs often come with a high level of condensation that makes them the first spot in a cooler to get really, really icky. Keep the long-lasting coolness and flexibility and get rid of the condensation with the no-sweat ice packs from Nordic Ice. The reusable three-pack of ice packs are made with non-toxic, biodegradable materials and have an extra thick lining that keeps them from sweating and collecting condensation as they begin to defrost. Safe for use with food and medical products, the Nordic Ice packs can stay frozen all day.
5. Amazon Basics Reusable Flexible Soft Sided Ice Pack
For an ice pack that can fit into large coolers, small lunch bags and be used for aches and pains, we like the affordable set of four soft-sided ice packs from Amazon Basics. Measuring 6.7 by 4.3 inches, the soft-sided ice packs are made with BPA-free vinyl casing for a finish that is both durable and flexible. Need to fill in the food gaps in your large cooler? These brightly colored ice packs will help keep contents cold for hours. Have a swollen knee you need to ice your injury, and fast? Wrap one of these ice packs in a towel and enjoy some sweet, cooling relief. The ice packs, which can be hand washed with soap and water, stay cold for up to eight hours.
6. Igloo Maxcold Natural Ice Sheet
If you’ve got a large cooler and need an ice pack that wraps, turns and lays flat, we liked the Igloo Maxcold Natural Ice Sheet. The large sheet has 88 cubes that help keep food and drinks cold for hours. Made with durable, reinforced plastic and sealed for safety, the ice sheet is filled with a special gel that cools items faster than ice and stays cold even longer. Thanks to the sheets’ ability to wrap around objects, it’s a great option for breakables. Need to quickly cool a glass bottle? Roll it in the Igloo ice sheet. We also like the aches and pains hack of placing the frozen sheet in a pillowcase and using it for a sore back.
7. Cooler Shock Ice Packs for Coolers
BEST FOR LARGE COOLERS
When you need to cool the contents of your entire cooler quickly and efficiently, we like the large and slim Cooler Shock Ice Packs for Coolers. The thin polycarbonate cooler sheets measure 10” by 13” by 1.25” and can fill the bottom, top, or side of a cooler. Designed to stay at a cool 18 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 48 hours, the ice packs are food safe and made in the US. The ice packs come with the Cool Shock formula already inside. Customers simply add water and place it in the freezer to start the freezing process. Once filled with water and frozen, the ice packs weigh about 5 pounds and replace up to 7 pounds of ice.
8. Healthy Packers Long Lasting Ice Pack
BEST FOR BOTTLES AND CANS
When you need to keep your drinks cool and want to ensure they aren’t rolling around inside your cooler, the Healthy Packers Long Lasting Ice Pack is a great option. The contoured design of the ice packs helps keep bottles and cans in place, making them great for everything from tailgating parties to breast milk cooler bags. The set of two contoured cooling packs are both made with non-toxic, BPA-free plastic that is safe to use around food items and helps keeps items cold all day.