When planning a camping trip or a day at the beach, keeping your food and drinks cold is essential. One of the most common ways to do this is by using a cooler or ice chest. However, the big question that always comes up is how long does ice last in a cooler? The answer depends on several factors, including the type of cooler, type of ice, and how well the cooler is pre-chilled.
Ice stored in a cooler will last anywhere between 12 hours to 7 days, with premium hard coolers holding ice the longest at 7 days. Hard coolers will keep ice for 2 to 6 days, while ice will last in soft coolers for 12 hours to 3 days. Styrofoam coolers will keep ice for 12 to 24 hours on average.
How Long Will Ice Last In A Cooler?
Premium Hard Coolers: 5 to 7 Days
When it comes to keeping food and drink cold on a camping trip or outdoor event, premium hard coolers like the Grizzly can keep ice cubes, ice blocks, or bags of ice frozen for about 7 to 10 days, while other like the Pelican Elite can keep ice for 7 to 8 days.
These types of coolers are designed to keep the warm air out and the cold air in, with features like extra insulation, heavy-duty latches, and freezer-grade gaskets that create a tight seal.
To make ice last longer in a premium hard cooler, pre-chill your cooler with ice or frozen gel packs before adding your food and drink.
Hard Sided Cooler: 2 to 6 Days
If you’re looking for a more affordable option than a premium hard cooler, a hard-sided cooler like the Coleman cooler can keep ice frozen for about 2 to 6 days, depending on the type of ice and how often you open the lid.
These coolers are made with thick walls and a sturdy construction that can withstand rough handling and extreme temperatures. To prevent ice from melting quickly, wrap your food and drink in aluminum foil or use ice blocks instead of ice cubes.
Soft Cooler: 12 Hours to 3 Days
For short trips or day outings, a soft cooler like the ice chests can keep ice frozen for about 12 hours to 3 days, depending on the type of ice and how often you open the lid.
These coolers are lightweight, portable, and easy to carry, but they don’t have the same level of insulation as hard-sided coolers.
Styrofoam Coolers: 12 to 24 Hours
If you’re on a tight budget or don’t need to keep food and drink cold for more than a day, a Styrofoam cooler can keep ice frozen for about 12 to 24 hours.
These coolers are lightweight, disposable, and easy to find at grocery stores or gas stations, but styrofoam coolers don’t have the same durability or insulating power as hard-sided coolers.
To make ice last longer in a Styrofoam cooler, keep it out of direct sunlight and store it in a cool, dry place.
Types of Ice
When it comes to packing a cooler for a camping trip or outdoor adventure, the type of ice you choose can make a big difference in how long your food and drinks stay cold. Here are the most common types of ice:
Ice Cubes and Bagged Ice
Ice cubes are the most common type of ice used in coolers. They are easy to find and can be purchased in bags at most grocery stores and gas stations. However, they tend to melt quickly and can turn into a slushy mess in a cooler.
Ice blocks are larger and denser than ice cubes, which means they melt more slowly and can keep your cooler colder for longer.
They are also less likely to turn into a slushy mess. Yeti Tundra and Coleman coolers are designed to hold ice blocks, making them a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts.
If you can’t find ice blocks, you can make your own by freezing water in a large container.
Dry ice is much colder than regular ice so it can last longer and can keep your food and drinks colder. However, it can be dangerous if not handled properly.
Dry ice should never be placed directly on food or drink, as it can cause freezer burn or even carbonation. Instead, it should be wrapped in newspaper or a towel and placed at the bottom of the cooler, with regular ice on top.
Dry ice should be used with caution and only in well-ventilated areas.
How To Make Ice Last Longer: 8 Easy Tips
Pre-Chill Your Cooler
One of the best ways to make ice last longer in a cooler is to pre-chill the cooler before you add the ice. Pre-chilling your cooler increase your ice retention by as much as 12 hours.
To do this, simply fill your cooler with ice a day before you need it and let it sit overnight. The ice will melt, but the cooler will become cold, and you can dump out the water before adding fresh ice.
Use Aluminum Foil
Another way to keep your ice from melting too quickly is to line the inside of your cooler with aluminum foil. This can help reflect heat and light that will quickly melt your ice.
The most important way to keep your cooler cold is by keeping the heat out!
So, by using aluminum foil, you can keep your cooler colder for longer.
Use Ice Blocks Instead Of Ice Cubes
Using ice blocks instead of ice cubes can also help your ice last longer. Ice blocks are actually colder than regular ice, so they’ll help keep the cooler colder for longer than cubes.
You can freeze water in a plastic container to create a block of ice to use in your cooler.
Don’t freeze water directly in your cooler, as the expansion can crack or damage your cooler.
Incorporate Dry Ice With Regular Ice
If you’re planning a longer camping trip or need your ice to last for several days, consider incorporating dry ice with regular ice.
Dry ice is colder than regular ice and can help keep your cooler colder for longer.
Be sure to handle dry ice carefully and follow all safety precautions.
Don’t Empty Your Cooler Water
Another way to make ice last longer in your cooler is to not empty the water that accumulates as the ice melts. That water actually helps keep your cooler cold for longer than draining it does.
Store Your Cooler In The Shade
Where you store your cooler can also make a difference in how long your ice lasts. If possible store your cooler in the shade or out of direct sunlight.
This will help keep your cooler and its contents cooler for longer because it’s not working as hard against the extra heat from the sun.
Only Open Your Cooler When Necessary
The more you open your cooler, the more warm air will enter, and the quicker your ice will melt. So, only open your cooler when necessary and keep it closed as much as possible to help your ice last longer.
Lay A Wet Towel Over Your Cooler
Laying a wet towel over your cooler can also help keep your ice from melting too quickly.
The water from the towel will evaporate, and the evaporation process will cool off your cooler’s exposed surfaces, helping slow down the rate at which ice melts inside your cooler.
Factors Affecting Ice Longevity
Temperature of Cooler
The type of cooler you use can greatly affect how long ice will last.
For example, Yeti Tundra coolers are able to keep ice for up to 7 days, while Coleman coolers can keep ice for up to 24 hours or a few days.
Not all coolers are created equal, so consider the rating on your cooler and what your needs are when selecting one.
Temperature of Food and Drink
The temperature of the food and drink you put in the cooler can also impact how long ice will last.
If you put warm items in the cooler, it will cause the ice to melt faster.
It is recommended to pre-chill food and drinks before putting them in the cooler to help maintain the temperature and prolong the life of the ice.
Check out our full guide on how to keep food cold while camping for other hacks.
Warm air can quickly melt ice in a cooler. It is important to keep the cooler closed as much as possible to prevent warm air from getting inside.
Additionally, using ice blocks instead of ice cubes can help reduce the amount of air space in the cooler, which can help keep the temperature low and ice from melting.
Type Of Ice Used (Regular Vs. Dry Ice)
The type of ice used can also affect how long it will last in a cooler. Dry ice is colder than regular ice and can keep food and drinks frozen for longer periods of time.
Regular ice cubes or bags of ice are more commonly used and can last up to 24 hours, depending on the type of cooler and how it is used, but ice blocks are better if you can get or make them.
Check out our other helpful outdoor guides while you’re here:
Our complete guide to cowboy camping