A cooler, ice cooler or cooler box is a handy item to have when camping, heading to the beach or when enjoying a backyard BBQ. This “cooling suitcase” features an insulated interior, which helps preserve the inner temperature regardless of the weather outside.
How Long Does Ice Last in a Cooler?
Most consumers packing or buying a new cooler box often wonder how ice lasts in the cooler. The answer depends on several variables including the size of the cooler you buy, and most importantly the type and amount of ice you pack in it.
With regards to type of ice, block ice tends to last considerably longer than cubes, but the latter does chill things faster. In terms of numbers, block ice when used for food storage lasts for roughly 5-7 days in a well-insulated ice cooler even in 90°+ weather.
Cubed ice works great for shorter cooling times, given that it lasts for approximately 1-2 days. Whether you use ice blocks or cubes, make sure you remove them from their containers such as milk jugs and trays before putting them in the cooler, because the plastic tends to insulate the ice resulting in less cold for the items stored in the ice cooler.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Cooler
It goes without saying that well-built ice coolers will provide more insulation from the heat outside to keep your stored items chilled for longer, and make your ice go a long way.
It is however important to note that even though the best cooler manufacturers can’t give you a definite answer to how long ice lasts in a cooler, you will get a rough idea once you start taking your cooler on outdoor adventures.
First things first. The ideal portable ice cooler varies across individuals, but here are a few important considerations to keep in mind to help you make an informed decision based on your respective needs and preferences.
Type of ice cooler
Ice coolers can be ordered across a spectrum of different types, most commonly polyethylene and fiberglass coolers. The former just as the name would suggest are constructed from polyethylene plastic, and feature a layer of insulation between the exterior coatings.
Given that the bigger parts of polyethylene ice coolers are made from one large piece of plastic, they feature fewer joints and gaps, resulting in extremely low heat absorption; therefore, some of the best models can maintain ice quality for up to an impressive 10 days (depending on use).
Both the interior and exteriors of fiberglass ice coolers are constructed from fiberglass, with insulation between the layers to keep your items cool. They do not retain any smells or odors and offer excellent cooling capabilities, but on the downside fiberglass ice coolers can be easily damaged if not cared for and some of them are heavier than their polyethylene counterparts.
Even cheap ice coolers are fitted with handles, with the difference being that some are large and protrude from the unit, and others are integrated and streamlined. While both types of handles offer easier transportation and storage, it is highly important to not overload the cooler more than the manufacturer’s recommended capacity.
When it comes to size, there are two important metrics to consider – storage size –aka capacity – and the physical size of the cooler. The capacity of an ice box is generally represented in quarts, where the higher the number, the more things you can store in it.
You should also consider the physical size of the cooler – measured in inches to ensure that you can easily carry it around and fit into its designated space such as the trunk of your vehicle. Even though some coolers can be quite large and hold more items, it is wise to buy one that is easy to store and transport yet provide the desired amount of space.
Since a cooler is not something you should be replacing often, it is a good idea to buy one that is backed by a warranty that protects it against manufacturer defects.
Tips for Longer Ice Life
Apart from buying the best ice box for your needs, here are a few things you can do to make your ice last longer.
Use block ice
As mentioned earlier, block ice tends to last longer than cubes or crushed ice, because the latter are full of air and soft hence tends to melt faster. if you do not want to freeze blocks of ice yourself, you can always buy ice packs or block ice at your nearest gas station or convenience store.
Add salt to the ice
When you set the ice cubes or blocks for freezing, adding salt to the water helps lower the freezing temperature of the water, and increase the melting point of the ice.
Cool your food first
Cooling your food first offers two-fold benefits – the ice will last longer since it’s not working overtime to keep the food cool and the food will be cool and stay cool the moment it is placed in the ice cooler.
Keep your cooler away from the sun
Just because beaches allow you to soak up the rays of the sun, you’re aren’t going to lay in the scorching heat all day – are you? Ice cooler boxes are engineered to help keep your food and drinks cool, but keeping them under direct sunlight will cause the ice inside to melt faster.
Apart from storing your ice box away from form the sunlight, it is a good idea to refrain from opening it frequently, because it will affect the interior temperature and cause the ice to melt at a faster pace.
Top up your ice box
When you pack your ice box with items to the brim, there is less air present to absorb the coolness from the ice; hence, your ice stays in solid form for a longer period.
How long ice lasts in a cooler depends on several factors such as the type of ice you use and the quality of the ice box. Ice blocks tend to last longer compared to cubes and crushed ice, but it is also important that you pack right and tight for a better ice service life.