How To Make The Ice in Your Icebox Last Longer

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Jay Elliott

Chief Camping Officer

In this article, we are going to look at a variety of ways you can increase the life of the ice in your icebox.

Some of these you might be doing already, so disregard those, but hopefully, there is something in here you haven’t thought of before that you might be able to try!

Buy A Good Quality Icebox

It sounds very simple but buy the best icebox you can afford. If you buy the cheapest icebox you can find, then this will translate to poorer performance.

The more expensive iceboxes are better designed, using better quality materials, and often with more materials (thicker walls).

So buying a decent quality icebox, at a decent price, will likely give you an uplift in ice retention. 

And keep in mind that an icebox will provide better performance than a cooler, which will provide your initial boost in performance.

Pre-Cool Your Icebox

The day before you intend to load the icebox, fill it with a batch of ice. This way, the insides of the icebox will have a chance to cool.

Then the next day, put a fresh batch of ice in, and that ice will last longer at the box itself has already been chilled (on the inside) thus, it will not warm the ice up at all. 

Pre-Cool Your Food/Drinks

Wherever possible, have your food and drink already chilled before you put it in the icebox.

If you are adding precooled food, into a pre-cooled icebox, the ice will just be able to maintain the temperature, and won’t be impacted by the warm or room temperature condiments and food you plan to put into it. 

Minimise Lid Opening

Both when packing and when accessing throughout its use, we all know that the more you can leave the lid down, the cooler everything will stay, and the longer the ice will last. 

Follow the Golden Ice Ratio (don’t put too much stuff in!)

Some people can get tempted to try and fit too much food and drink into their icebox, thus, not leaving enough room for ice to keep everything cool.

As a minimum, the golden ice ratio suggests that you should have ⅓ of the box space reserved for ice, and fill the other ⅔ up with food and drink.

If you go over this ratio, you will exponentially speed up the melting rate. 

Keep Your Icebox In The Coolest Shadiest Place Possible

Where ever possible, have your icebox in the coolest place possible.

If you have shade, shade is ideal, and it minimizes the heat transfer and overall box temperature, but if you don’t have access to direct shade, find the cooler place you can, perhaps with airflow, to minimize the impact of the sunlight. 

The ‘Wet Towel’ Trick

The Wet Towel Trick can be performed in two different ways. 

Method one is to place a wet towel over your icebox. This heats the icebox protected from the warm air directly and helps it stay cool. 

Method two is to place a wet towel inside of the icebox over the top of your goods.

This way, when you open the icebox to grab a drink, or food, you just fold back the towel to grab the thing you want/need, and you do not expose the whole lot to gushing warm air. 

Use Big Blocks Of Ice

Use the biggest blocks of ice you can find that fit inside your icebox without taking up too much space.

The bigger the block of ice, the longer it will take to melt, and the longer it will last. Smaller ice chips can play a role on the top level to cover drinks etc., but especially at the lower level of your box, the bigger pieces of ice you can use, the better you will be. 

It Is Not Always Good To Drain The Water

It’s not uncommon to see people draining any water that accumulates in the bottom of an icebox, out of fear that the water will make the other ice melt quicker.

But this is not actually the case. If this water is cold, then it is better to leave the water in than drain it out.

When you drain the water out, you leave air gaps, and the air can warm up quicker than the cold water, so that actually melts the ice quicker. So leave the water in (if it is cold water…).

Get Airflow Under Your Cooler

If the bottom of your cooler is hard against the ground, then the heat transfer from the ground will be going straight into your icebox and slowly heating it up.

Some of the more expensive models have ‘feet’ on them to raise the bottom of the cooler off of the ground.

If yours has feet, then you don’t need to think about this, but if you just have a flat bottom, then try and find something to prop the bottom off of the ground. 

Fill It With As Much Ice As Possible

Though it makes a nice photo to have a few centimeters of clear space at the top of your icebox, with some ice chips lightly covering the cold beverage of your choice – in reality, you want to fill up any possible gaps with ice.

Any air gaps are going to be warmer than the ice itself, and start converting that ice into water, so minimize as much as possible any unnecessary air gaps and jam pack as much ice into your unit as is absolutely possible. 


I hope that was a quick but useful read and that you found some ideas you hadn’t previously thought of.

If you have another ‘cool’ idea, I didn’t list, I would love to hear it in the comments below.