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How Long Does Ice Last In A Cooler?

A cooler is the ideal accessory for keeping refreshing drinks on hand on a hot summer day or for preserving your food during a camping trip.

How long does ice last in a cooler? Ice can remain cold for a few hours to almost a week, depending on how you pack and store your cooler.

Here’s what you need to know about how long ice typically lasts in a cooler.

How Long Does Ice Last in a Cooler?

guy with cooler

There are different factors that affect how long it takes for ice to melt in a cooler:

  • The cooler itself and the quality of its insulation.
  • The temperature in the area where you store the cooler. Keeping your cooler in the sun is going to make the ice melt faster.
  • The ice itself. Small ice cubes won’t last more than a day, but larger blocks of ice can last up to five days.
  • The way you pack the cooler. Packing a cooler with more ice and less empty space can make the ice last longer.
  • How often you open the cooler. Opening the lid and taking the time to look through the items you packed will let hot air in the cooler.

Depending on your cooler, how you pack it, where you store it, and what kind of ice you use, ice can last anywhere between an afternoon and five days.

How To Make Ice That Will Last Longer

The worst thing you could do when packing your cooler is using small ice cubes or crushed ice. Small ice cubes create a larger surface area in contact with air.

The heat coming from outside of the cooler will have more contact with the ice and cause it to melt faster.

Instead of using ice cubes, you can make a large block of ice by filling a clean milk or juice carton with some water.

Freeze it overnight, and cut the carton to get to the ice block.

You can limit contact with air by placing the ice block in the center of the cooler and packing your items around it.

Water freezes at 32°F. Your freezer temperature should be at least 0°F to store frozen food safely, which is ideal for getting ice that is colder and will last longer.

Try lowering the temperature setting of your freezer by a few degrees to make colder ice.

Another important consideration is the quantity of ice you keep in the cooler. The more ice you have, the colder the inside of the cooler will be.

Take advantage of the space you have in your cooler to pack more ice and lower the temperature even more.

picnic cooler at beach

Choosing and Preparing your Cooler

How long does ice last in a cooler? The answer to this question can vary a lot depending on the cooler you use.


It’s important to consider insulation when choosing a cooler. Foam is a common option because it’s an efficient way of keeping hot air out of the cooler.

Look for a cooler with a thick layer of closed-cell foam. It’s heavier than other materials, but it’s the best type of insulation for a cooler.

Inspect the seal of the cooler carefully. The lid needs to be airtight to keep ice as cold as possible.

Some manufacturers offer coolers molded from a single piece of plastic to avoid seams and provide better insulation.

If you have an old cooler, consider replacing it with a newer model that will have better insulation and a tighter seal.


The size of your cooler is another important consideration. A cooler that is too large will have more empty space and more room where warm air can settle.

Look for a cooler that is large enough for the items you want to bring while leaving enough space to pack plenty of ice.

Ideally, you should use a third of the space for food and drinks and two-thirds for ice.

Packing more ice will make it last longer, but you won’t have much room left for your food and drinks.

Packing Your Cooler

Pre-chill the food and drinks you want to bring. It’s easier to maintain a lower temperature inside of the cooler if the items are already cold.

Place items you won’t need right away at the bottom of the cooler, and place items you’re likely to need soon towards the top.

Place your ice at the top since cool air travels down.

yeti cooler on river bank

Additional Tips

There are additional steps you can take to make ice last longer in your cooler:

  • Consider packing two small coolers. You can use one for food and one for drinks, or one for your lunch and one that you won’t open until dinner. Look for ways to limit how frequently you will open the coolers.
  • You can use reusable ice packs as an alternative to ice cubes or ice blocks. You can find ice packs with a low freezing point that remain cold longer. Use a mix of reusable ice packs and real ice to pack your cooler.
  • Don’t drain your cooler. As the ice melts, you will end up with some cold water at the bottom of your cooler. This cold water helps keep the temperature down and limits the amount of empty space where warm air can come in contact with the remaining ice.
  • Store your cooler away from the sun. Avoid keeping it in a warm vehicle or inside a tent that will heat up under the sun.
  • Consider an electric cooler or even a portable refrigerator if you need to keep food colder.

Final Thoughts

How long does ice last in a cooler? The answer is anywhere from a day to five days.

You can make ice last longer by choosing a cooler with good insulation, using large ice blocks, packing plenty of ice, and keeping your cooler away from the sun.

If you need to preserve food longer, consider bringing some reusable ice packs, investing in an electric cooler, or finding a nearby convenience store where you can purchase bagged ice to refill your cooler when the ice starts to melt.

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