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Some drinks in a cooler box filled with ice

How Long Does Ice Last in a Cooler? | Tips and Tricks on How To Make Ice Last Longer


When you're getting ready to pack your cooler, one of the top things on your mind is probably how long your ice will last. Whether you're headed out for a camping trip or spending a day at a sunny beach, the last thing you want is for your ice to melt quickly, leaving your food and drinks warm and your cooler swimming in a pool of water. But how much time do you have before this starts to happen? Read on to find out.


How Long Does Ice Last in a Cooler?

 Ice Blocks on a table that are melting

Credit: Envato Elements/ nodar77


How long ice lasts in a cooler depends on a number of variables like the size of the cooler you buy, how much ice you use, and, most importantly, the type and amount of ice you place inside.

If you're looking for longer-lasting cooling, block ice is your go-to. It can keep your food cold in an insulated cooler for about 5-7 days, even in temperatures exceeding 90 degrees. In comparison, regular ice cubes will only keep your food cold for 1-2 days.


How To Make the Ice in Your Cooler Last Longer?


How Long Does Ice Last in a Cooler?


Below are some incredibly simple methods to help your cooler stay cold for longer:


1)  Pick the Right Cooler

 Red and Blue cooler boxes piled on top of each other
Credit: Envato Elements/ AZ-BLT


Before choosing a cooler, think about the type of activities you'll be doing. Soft nylon and polystyrene coolers work fine for short day trips since they offer a minimal degree of insulation. But if you're camping overnight or going on a longer trip, it's worth spending a bit more on a hard-sided cooler. These can keep your food cold for a longer time. A styrofoam cooler and a sturdy plastic cooler are good options. Avoid metal coolers made of aluminum or stainless steel since tend to absorb heat more quickly.


2)  Limit the Airflow

 A cooler bag full of drinks with the American flag on the lid

Credit: Envato Elements/ MyLove4Art


To reduce airflow inside your cooler, try to pack everything as snugly as possible. Use plastic bowls or anything you have to fill up any empty spaces. This helps in two ways. First, you'll have more ice in your cooler. Second, less warm air will surround your ice, making it last longer in the cooler.


3)  Use Salt

 Some salt grains around a big clump of salt

Credit: Envato Elements/ sommai


Ice salting is a method that has been practiced for hundreds of years, especially before fridges were invented, to keep meat cold. Salt can be handy in cooling your cooler in a couple of ways:


Use a Salt and Water Solution

Fill your cooler with regular ice and put in some frozen saltwater bottles. These saltwater bottles will melt faster than regular ice, keeping the temperature cooler for longer. This happens because salt lowers the freezing temperature of water as the ice melts.


Add Salt to Ice

When you add salt to ice, it melts more quickly, but melting ice is the coldest state that water can be in. So, instead of freezing salt water bottles, you can just add some salt to the water to make ice cubes.


4)  Pre-Chill Your Products

 Some ice on the grill in the freezer

Credit: Envato Elements/ Silvertid


When you put warm products inside a cooler and add ice, the ice must first cool the products to a low temperature before it can start keeping cooler cool. During this process, part of the ice will be lost. So, it's better to chill the items in the fridge or freezer first before putting them in the cooler. This way, your products will stay colder for longer, and you won't waste ice trying to cool them down.


5)  Wrap a Wet Towel Around Your Cooler

 A person holding the corner of a fluffy pink and white towel

Credit: Envato Elements/ Lightitup_now


Wrap your cooler in a light-colored, damp towel and keep it in the shade. The water will start to evaporate as the towel is exposed to the wind, and as it does, the towel will get colder. This will prolong the life of your ice and lower the cooler's temperature.


6)  Keep Your Cooler Out of the Sunlight

 A blue cooler with a ball sitting on the sand at the beach

Credit: Envato Elements/ LightFieldStudios


Ice coolers are designed to keep your food and drinks cold, but if you leave them in the sun, the ice will melt faster. To make your ice last longer, keep your ice cooler in the shade.


7)  Think About the Types of Ice That You Are Using

 A Nice Packs gel pack with silver packaging

Credit: Nice Packs


Usually, dry ice is better than regular cubed ice or block ice. But it can be really risky to handle if you don't know what you're doing. For a safer option, consider using Nice Pack dry ice packs. Although, these are not really made of dry ice, they do contain a special material that expands when it gets wet and frozen. With the proper insulation, these packs can last 4-7 times longer in a cooler than regular ice.


8)  Organize Your Cooler

 A person taking a bottle out the cooler in the outdoors

Credit: Envato Elements/ Pressmaster


Try not to open your ice chest more than you really need to. When you do this, you release cool air and let hot air in. To reduce the amount of time the lid is open, place the items you need the most at the top.


9)  Ice to Product Ratio

 A red and white cooler with drinks and ice inside

Credit: Envato Elements/ joelbelanger


Maintain a 2:1 ratio of ice to the items in your cooler. When your cooler is packed with ice, it traps the cold air inside, which helps the ice stay solid for a longer time.


10)  Do Not Drain The Melted Ice

 A cooler that has some items at the bottom sitting in melted ice with some ice

Credit: Hunting and Fishing Depot


Even if you follow all the tips mentioned earlier, the ice in your cooler may still manage to melt. If possible, do not drain the melted ice. It acts like insulation and helps your cooler stay cold for a longer time.


FAQ Section


Q1: How do I properly clean and maintain my cooler for better ice retention?


To maintain your cooler's efficiency, clean it thoroughly after each use with mild soap and water. Ensure it's completely dry before storing it to prevent mold and odors. Additionally, check and replace any damaged seals or gaskets to keep your cooler airtight.


Q2: Are there any specific foods or items that you should avoid putting directly in contact with the ice in my cooler?


Yes, it's advisable to keep items like raw meat and seafood in leak-proof containers or sealed bags to prevent cross-contamination with melted ice. You can also use separate containers or dividers within your cooler to keep different types of items apart.


Q3: Can you refreeze melted ice to reuse it for future trips?


While it's generally safe to refreeze ice that has partially melted, keep in mind that refrozen ice may not be as effective at maintaining a low temperature as fresh ice. It's best to use fresh ice for longer trips or when you need to ensure the coldest possible conditions.


Q4: How do I prevent my cooler from becoming too heavy when packing it with ice and items?


To avoid overloading your cooler, plan your packing carefully. Use smaller ice packs or cubes if weight is a concern, and distribute the weight evenly to maintain balance. Consider a wheeled cooler for easier transportation.




Compared to ice cubes and ice blocks, dry ice packs generally survive longer. But if you want to keep your cooler cold, it's also essential to pack appropriately and tightly for a longer ice service life. To ensure your cooler stays cold for an extended period, follow the guidelines mentioned above.

And for the ultimate cooling solution, don't forget to stock up on Nice Packs. Our dry ice packs lasts 2-3 times longer than ice. Shop with us today!


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