Last Updated on August 16, 2021

Whether you want to organize a get-together that needs cold beer or a hardcore camper who needs chill drinks, there is one constant – you need an excellent cooler. The thing is, coolers do not keep drinks cool by themselves; instead, you need ice, plenty of it. Unfortunately, ice does not stay frozen infinitely.

When the ice defrosts, it won’t be long before all your drinks become warm. Since your camping trip or get-together relies on the drinks staying cool, the challenge then becomes – how long does ice last in a cooler?

That you landed on this article means you need answers. So, continue reading to discover the factors involved and how you can make ice last longer in a cooler.

The factors that affect how long ice last in a cooler

1. The quality of construction

What type of cooler or ice box will you store the ice in? The material built goes a long way to determine whether the ice will melt slower or faster. For example, if your drinks are stored in a Styrofoam box, expect the ice to melt within 15 to 25 hours. Alternatively, one of the best water cooler for home, the Yeti Tundra cooler will preserve the ice, keeping it frozen for up to four days.

Why the differences?

This is because well-engineered coolers consider that the strongest characteristic of an efficient cooler is not only the construction quality. Instead, it is the space between the box and the lid of the cooling box. Therefore, ensure this space has zero leakages, and it becomes practically impossible for outside heat to find a way in.

2. Type of Ice

Contrary to popular opinion, all ice does not melt the same way. If you refer to elementary physics practicals, you may know this already. The transfer of heat is heavily dependent on the available surface area. This simply means, the smaller the exposed surface area, the longer the ice will remain frozen.

It also means that a packaged ice on drinks will defrost faster than a bigger ice chunk. So, although taking stuff out of your cooler might be harder than normal, you should consider placing bigger ice in the cooler if you want your drinks chilly for longer hours.

3. Storage

As the cook for the get-together, it is pretty convenient to want the cooler beside you. This means a high possibility for the ice to melt faster. Irrespective of the insulative material, there is still a chink in that shiny armor. It is almost impossible to win a fight against nature. Ice that should last for three days or more might all defrost within a day.

A cooler can become warm when it is placed beside a fire or stored under sunlight. Keep the cooler away from all sources of heat. Store it under a shade or on a cool grass patch.

4. The Airflow

It would be absurd to ask, “how long does ice last in a cooler?” if one continually opens the said cooling box or never bother to shut it. A cooler works best if it keeps outside air out and traps cold air in. Note, always close the lid; the insulative build will handle the rest.

If you constantly open the cooler to take a drink, it won’t keep the ice frozen for long. This means the contents in a seldom opened cooler will be chilly for longer hours than one that is continually being opened. To ensure the ice lasts longer, treat your cooler like a fridge. Take the item you need from it fast and shut it.

5. Chill first

Many campers think arranging a cooler entails throwing stuff into the box with ice. In reality, this cooling box does not work this way. If you toss hot or warm foodstuff into it, all the ice will defrost before getting to the campsite or getting the party started. How long do you think ice in this condition will last?

So, before loading the cooler with foodstuff, freeze or chill all the items first. Then, pre-chill the cooler with ice for some hours before tossing your items into it before the party or before embarking on the trip. This will help your cooler keep things cool without too much work.

Alternatively, for indoor parties, go for Brio water cooling Dispenser, one of the best water cooler dispenser for home. It is a convenient bottom loader that gives full control of when to cool water and to what temperature.

How you can make ice last longer

1. Salted ice

According to elementary science, water has a freezing point of 0 degrees Celsius. However, this is not the case. While 0 degrees Celsius holds true for distilled water, water in most cases contains minute minerals that will lower or raise the freezing point and the melting point.

Considering making the ice yourself? Make salted ice. This may seem counteractive at first – but the salt will lower the melting and freezing point of water. This means salted ice will melt quickly before the normal water ice.

However, salted ice will get very cold – colder than what normal ice can attain. When you have salted ice within an insulative box, this translates to a frigid environment that preserves itself. In as much as you treat the cooler like a fridge, salted ice will keep your items super-cool for days nonstop.

2. Packing strategy

Many people think adding extra ice to stuff in a cooler will work out better. In reality, this is never the case. The number one enemy of high internal cooling temperature is airflow. The more space in your cooler for hot air, the faster the ice will defrost and melt. Instead, after pre-freezing or pre-chilling all the items, pack them tightly.

Ensure the cooler is packed to the brim. This will help to lock in the cold air making your items cooler for longer hours. Do your best to limit the space between the ice and your items as well. Fill the cooler with frozen square water bottles if need be. Pack the cooler to the brim, make it airtight.

You can also take advantage of physics, using one of its principles to your advantage. Cover all your stuff with ice after stacking the cooler. According to elementary physics, cold air will sink. The ice in the uppermost layer will keep all items below it cool. This top layer of ice will melt fast but is a worthy sacrifice to keep your items chilly.

3. Additional insulation

This may seem unessential, considering coolers are designed with insulative materials. But supplementing the insulation is important if you are dead serious about making the ice last longer. In any case, this simply means making it extremely harder for external heat to get into the cooler.

How can you achieve this?

Lay one or more layers of bubble wrap on the cooler floor, cover it with your towel. If you do not have a bubble wrap, lay the towel only, it will work just fine. This combo will serve as an additional insulative layer before you arrange your items in the box.

If the towel and bubble wrap option does not work for you, or you want to feel funky, line up the box with frozen water bottles or ice packs instead. They will make it extremely difficult for external air to get into the cooler.

4. Ice choice

Crushed ice or bagged ice is super-easy to get. They are readily available in all grocery stores. But that availability might just be why your items do not stay chilly in the cooler for long – these ice cubes come with plenty of air in them. As such, the ice has a high air-to-ice ratio which is not ideal. This is the reason why hot air gets into them, easily melting the cubes faster.

Go for a big chunk of ice, something like square ice. With less exposed surface areas, no matter the quantity of hot air it comes in contact with, it will not melt faster than usual. Alternatively, use frozen water bottles. It is even better if they are in square shape as it becomes easier to arrange the cooler airtight.

5. Plug the drain

As the ice cubes melt inside the cooler, it will become tempting to open the drain and allow excess water out. Don’t! Water will keep the internals cooler, and opening the cooling box means letting in hot air. There can’t be a vacuum in the cooler, something will replace all the water you let out, and if that is hot air, your ice won’t last long.

Keep the cooler drain shut. If you are worried your items will get wet and soggy, pack them with waterproof wrappers before arranging them into the cooling box.

how long does ice last in a cooler


The question “how long does ice last in a cooler?” depends on many factors. In general, you will get a day or two worth of frozen ice from lower-end products and more than four days from high-end coolers. Of course, this is assuming you take good care of the coolers.

Consider the packing style, usage, and cooler location to make your ice last for longer hours. Also, you can supplement the cooler insulation or switch to a different ice type having zero air pocket. While it is difficult to prevent nature from defrosting your ice in the long run, you can make it outlast your period of use.

The methods described above might seem like hard work, but if you are passionate about cold beer or food items, these efforts are worth it.