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Coolers won't keep your food chilled by themselves. They need the cooling power of ice to help preserve perishables and keep drinks nice and cold. However, if you just throw in ice cubes, they'll just melt and make a watery mess. Thankfully, we have ice packs you can easily keep in your freezer.
Most reusable ice packs are now gel-based since that provides better cooling power than frozen water. When paired with a suitable cooler, ice packs can keep the contents cold for days. Being able to freeze them for thousands of uses can also save you money in the long run.
There are dozens of ice packs to choose from, but we have found the best ice packs for your coolers and lunch boxes.
Best Overall: Arctic Ice Chillin' Brew Series
Freezing Point: 28 degrees | Time to Freeze: 8 hours | Sizes: 0.75, 1.5, 2.5, 5, 10 pounds
The Arctic Ice Chillin' Brew ice pack is specifically designed to keep beverages cold and effectively cool anything kept in a cooler. The rugged ice pack contains a biodegradable, plant-based gel phase-change material (PCM) that freezes at a chilly 28.4 degrees.
The cooler packs are available in five different sizes so that you can customize your needs according to the size of your cooler. The ice blocks take about six to eight hours to freeze and are perfect for keeping the cooler's contents cold for a full day. Arctic Ice's ice packs, which are reusable up to 100,000 times, can also be used with ice to keep it frozen for up to 50 percent longer.
After you're done having fun, these can be run through the dishwasher on the top rack.
Best Compact: Cooler Shock Reusable Ice Pack
Freezing Point: 18 degrees | Time to Freeze: 12–48 hours | Sizes: 1.5, 3.5, 7 cups
Cooler Shock ice packs are flexible for packability and super-efficient. These bags are available in several sizes, but the lunch box, or 1.5-cup, size is perfect for small coolers. The ice coolers feature three layers of nylon foil for insulation. They freeze around 18 degrees and can last up to 48 hours.
These ice packs are shipped flat with a cooling gel mixture inside that turns into a solid block when frozen. You will need to add water, shake, seal and freeze before the first use. However, once mixed, they are reusable without you ever needing to open or empty the contents. Cooler Shock ice packs are an economical and efficient cooling solution to keep your insulated lunch bag or any small cooler cool for hours.
Best Soft: FlexiFreeze Reusable Ice Sheet
Freezing Point: 32 degrees | Dimensions: 19 x 8 inches
Sometimes rigged ice packs won't work. Thankfully, there are flexible ice packs available that will conform around frozen goods to keep them icy cold. Flexifreeze ice sheets stay flexible when frozen and provide impressive cooling power without the mess of ice cubes.
The ice sheets are water-based and can be refrozen over and over again. Because they are essentially reusable ice cubes, they do not have the same long-lasting cooling capabilities as gel-based ice packs—they have the same freezing point as water. However, you can cut the ice sheets to fit the size you need, making them a versatile and affordable ice pack option. FlexiFreeze Ice Sheets are ideal for lunch bags or grocery cooler bags. They also work well to keep beverages and perishables cool for an afternoon BBQ or picnic.
Best Slim: Fit & Fresh XL Cool Coolers Freezer Slim Ice Pack
Freezing Point: 32 degrees | Dimensions: 7 x 4.5 inches
Slim-style ice packs help keep food and drinks cool without taking up much cooler space. Fit and Fresh's XL ice packs have a versatile design that allows you to pack them on the bottom and sides of your lunch bag or cooler.
The ice packs are constructed from BPA-free plastic. Each cooler pack is only 0.5-inch thick, making it an excellent option for smaller coolers. Use one for smaller bags and stack the packs for larger coolers to increase cooling power. Depending on the cooler and outside temperature, these ice packs can remain frozen for several hours. The ice packs are compact but powerful and come at an economical price.
Best Gel: Igloo MaxCold Ice Freezer Block
Freezing Point: 32 degrees | Time to Freeze: 24–36 hours | Dimensions: 12 x 1.75 x 10.5 inches
Igloo is a premium cooler manufacturer known for producing quality coolers, especially large-capacity ones. Its MaxCold freezer block features Ultratherm, a high-performance gel ice substitute, and is excellent for large coolers.
The extra-large ice packs are 1.75 inches thick and weigh five pounds. Due to their added surface area and thickness, these ice packs are ideal for larger coolers. There are three sizes available in the MaxCold series, ranging from small to extra-large, but they are on the bulky side. However, these powerful ice packs are capable of keeping things chilled for up to 24 hours. The gel-filled ice pack is the best bang for your buck in size to cost value.
Related: The Best Coolers
Best for Large Coolers: Cooler Shock PC Hard Ice Packs
Freezing Point: 18 degrees | Time to Freeze: 48 hours | Dimensions: 13 x 10 x 1.25 inches
Larger coolers do not necessarily require bulky ice packs to do the job. Ice packs with larger surface areas are ideal for big coolers, but that does not mean it needs to be thick. Cooler Shock ice packs feature a large surface area and a low freezing point that provides plenty of chilling power.
Each pack weighs 5 pounds when frozen, and replaces about 6 pounds of ice. Its slender profile allows it to fit in both coolers and freezers easily. The freezer pack features a ribbed surface that allows the gel cooling agent to stay evenly dispersed while increasing surface area. Cooler Shock ice packs have a freezing point of 18 degrees and will keep the contents of a large cooler cold for an entire day.
Best Long-Lasting: YETI Ice Pack
Freezing Point: 28 degrees | Time to Freeze: 8 hours | Sizes: 1, 2, 4 pounds
Like their coolers, Yeti ice packs are designed to last for days. This durable ice pack is an excellent option for keeping both large and small coolers chilled and works even better when paired with a Yeti cooler.
The ice pack features a durable break-resistant outer shell with a center hole that maintains its shape when frozen and reduces freezing time. Yeti's ice pack is impact-resistant, ensuring it can withstand all your camping or traveling adventures. Its rectangular shape with a center hole allow it to fit in the cooler or freezer efficiently and easy to pull out. It comes in three sizes, with the 4-pound option measuring 10.75 x 8 inches. The ice pack is pricey but delivers superior performance.
Related: The Best Reusable Water Bottles
Coldest: Arctic Ice Tundra Series
Freezing Point: 5 degrees | Time to Freeze: 18–36 hours | Sizes: 0.75, 1.5, 2.5, 5, 10 pounds
Arctic Ice's Tundra Series is similar to its Chillin' Brew but with more cooling power. These blocks feature a shockingly low freezing point of 5 degrees and are ideal for camping trips, summer cookouts, or any activity that requires perishables to be super cold for hours (and even days). It can easily maintain frozen goods, like ice cream, for hours.
The blocks stack easily due to their molded shape, allowing you to use several ice packs at once to maximize cooling power. With its flat shape and four different size options, this ice pack fits easily in most coolers.
Whether it's a quick overnight camping trip or a full day in the hot sun, the Arctic Ice Chillin' Brew Series (view at Amazon) will keep everything in your cooler nice and cold. The Cooler Shock lunch bag size ice pack (view at Amazon) is perfect for keeping both your lunch and your snacks cool all day.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Debbie Wolfe is a freelance writer and online shopping expert who spends hours researching and comparing household items, so you don't have to. She is the proud owner of several ice packs and can help you choose the right one to fit your cooler the best.
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