Best Lunch Ice Packs

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

38 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
253 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best lunch ice packs

Last Updated December 2019

Think of the hard work you put into preparing a meal for work, school, or travel. There’s a great deal of planning and organizing, and packing a lunch box can have its own challenges. For one, if you expect several hours to pass before mealtime, it can be disheartening to eat room temperature food.

With a collection of lunch ice packs, you can enjoy the refreshing experience of a chilled meal and beverage on the go. The compact, efficient design keeps food cold without taking up too much space. In fact, you can include as few or as many packs at a time in your lunch, so it’s easy to control how cold your food gets.

Lunch ice packs are also appreciated by those who need to chill medication and breast milk. They’re light enough to line a bag without weighing it down. There are even special types of lunch ice packs that are TSA-approved. So whether you’re packing for yourself or your child, lunch ice packs are the way forward. We looked at some of the best ones around so you can be as cool, calm, and collected as your lunch box.

If you’re traveling and have medication that needs to stay cold, consider using lunch ice packs to insulate them. Check with TSA requirements to see that they meet their standards, which periodically change.

Key considerations

Quantity

It’s common to use more than one lunch ice pack at a time, which is why they’re often packaged in sets of three to 10. Due to their design and size, having smaller individual packs makes it easier to pack your lunch box in a way that maximizes the amount of time your food stays cold. Some manufacturers recommend that you buy more than one set, as the ice packs have stacking and connectability options.

Size

Lunch ice packs come in different shapes and sizes, but most are small enough to fit in a 12” x 12” lunch box. Smaller packs are up to six inches long, whereas larger packs could be cold sheets that span the entire length of the lunch box. Slimline lunch ice packs that save space tend to be popular with consumers.

Soft or hard packs

Lunch ice packs typically come in two styles: soft and hard. Soft packs are flexible and soft — ideal if you’re keeping them in different types of bags and lunch boxes. They tend to be relatively lightweight, too, so they’re a decent choice if you find yourself traveling with food often.

Hard packs are made with plastic, so they may be a little heavier. However, there are many slim packs made of plastic that keep your lunch box light. These are popular for children’s lunch boxes; there are quite a few with fun characters and designs.

EXPERT TIP

If you’re in a pinch and don’t have a first aid ice pack, use a lunch ice pack. Just wrap the pack in a t-shirt or paper towel and apply to the affected area.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Materials

The outer case or container of a lunch ice pack is uniquely designed for frequent use. They’re generally made of food-grade materials, particularly hard plastics and thick vinyl that won’t contaminate your food. As tough as they are, they do require proper care for long-term use. You’ll want to wash your lunch ice packs by hand, as they’re not dishwasher safe.

The internal materials of lunch ice packs are what provide the coldness and insulation. Many are made from liquid or gel that is freezer-safe; some are also nontoxic for use around children. There are also lunch ice packs that you fill with tap water and freeze. These packs have reinforced walls to accommodate the hardening of the ice.

Safety

  • Nontoxic: Lunch ice packs are labeled nontoxic. This may refer to their BPA-free status, or it may refer to the fact that the materials in the pack reduce the likelihood of contamination.

  • BPA-free: BPA, also known as bisphenol A, is a chemical used in the production of certain plastics, such as everyday bottles and containers. As there is the possibility of BPA transferring from plastic to food, there has been a call by consumers for BPA-free products, particularly those used in food storage. Some lunch ice packs are BPA-free for this reason.

  • Puncture-resistant: Since they bounce around a fair amount, lunch ice packs are sometimes equipped with puncture-free features. A pack might have double- or triple-reinforced walls to cut down on leakage. It also might have small air pockets inside that make space for the expansion of internal materials once they freeze, so they don’t burst or explode from pressure.

Themed

One of the most popular uses for lunch ice packs is to keep a child’s lunch box cold. As such, there are plenty of themed lunch ice packs to choose from: animals, shapes, designs, fun colors, animated characters. In fact, some lunch ice packs for kids have unusual shapes that create nooks and crannies within the box. You might need additional packs to fill these gaps.

Lunch ice pack prices

Lunch ice packs range between $4 and $25 and usually come in sets. At the low end of the range, between $4 and $10, you can expect basic compact lunch ice packs with no standout features. Ice packs in this category are generally similar in shape, design, and size.

For $10 to $15, you can get packs that incorporate different types of freeze technology to maximize cold time. These come in a variety of sizes and include some unique perks, including puncture-resistant materials and TSA approval for travel.

Lunch ice packs in the $15 to $20 range place a strong focus on extending the amount of time food stays cold. These products may tap into multiple methods of cooling and freezing to achieve the best results.

DID YOU KNOW?

Breastfeeding moms can use lunch ice packs to keep bags of pumped milk and/or bottled milk cold.

DID YOU KNOW?

Certain cakes and pastries need to be kept a little colder than room temperature. Transport them successfully by laying lunch ice packs around them, so they arrive chilled and unmelted.

Tips

  • Buy more ice packs than you need. You never know when you will need extra lunch ice packs. Since they’re usually compact, it’s easy to store them in the freezer in case one punctures or gets left at school or the office.

  • If you can smell them, there’s probably a leak. If you begin to notice a smell emanating from the packs or your lunch box, chances are there’s a leak in the packs. Discard and replace them immediately. You may wish to also replace your lunch box as a precaution.

  • Don’t leave lunch ice packs out in the sun. The packs keep food cold on the beach and during hiking excursions, but don’t leave them out in the sun while you’re eating. Not only will they lose their coldness, but they could become permanently damaged.

  • Do not use them for teething. Even though some lunch ice packs are BPA-free and safe enough to keep your food cold, they’re not intended for the mouths of teething babies. They contain chemicals, and if punctured, the internal components are extremely hazardous to health.

  • Contact poison control or emergency services. Even though lunch ice packs could be nontoxic, if your child accidentally ingests the internal materials, contact poison control or a health care provider immediately.

Other products we considered

If you’re looking for a softer version of lunch ice packs, the Healthy Packers Ice Pack is a family-friendly pick for you to consider. These thin, lightweight bags are flexible enough to fit in a purse or diaper bag and provide cool, comforting relief for injuries. They’re made with nontoxic gel and BPA-free vinyl, so they’re safe for all ages. Best of all, these mid-priced packs come in sets of four and have a satisfaction guarantee from the manufacturer.

We were impressed with the OICEPACK Slim Freezer Packs DIY Box. The puzzle-piece design means you can build your very own mini cooling cube to chill your food. A pack of ten five-inch pieces provides enough space to store a sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a juice box. In fact, the company has a chart for popular items, like beer bottles and pre-made salad containers, to recommend how many pieces are needed to adequately house them. If you don’t need to build cubes, these slim lunch ice packs are perfect for any lunch box to line contents and subdivide sections.

Lunch ice packs could make brown bags wet and cause them to tear. Opt for a reusable lunch box instead; it’s a more environmentally friendly choice, too.

FAQ

Q. Should I use an insulated lunch box with my lunch ice packs?

A. It’s not required, but it could help keep your food cold longer since it provides an additional layer of protection. Insulated lunch boxes are also reusable, so if you’re looking for ways to go green, it’s a simple, affordable option.

Q. How many lunch ice packs do I need for my lunch box?

A. It depends on how large your lunch box is and what type you have. Smaller insulated lunch boxes condense contents and push food closer to cold areas, so coldness becomes concentrated. Larger lunch boxes, even insulated ones, may require more lunch ice packs or better packing to bring coldness to food.

Q. Are there any perks to getting themed lunch ice packs?

A. Yes. It could be a friendly reminder for children to bring them home after school each day. If they recognize the characters or animals, children could have a sense of responsibility to return them to the freezer when they get home.

The team that worked on this review
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Sian
    Sian
    Writer

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