Do Light Colored Coolers Hold Ice Longer Than Darker Coolers?

Coolers come in many shapes, size and of course different colors. If you look at all the Yeti cooler colors you'll see that there is 10 different colors of their hard sided coolers and 5 different colors of their soft sided coolers.

Like me, you may be wondering whether or not the color of a cooler affects how long it can hold ice for.

Do lighter colored coolers hold ice longer than darker colored coolers?

Does Cooler Color Affect Ice Retention?

The answer is yes, it can actually make a noticeable difference with lighter colored coolers holding ice about half a day longer than their darker colored counterparts.

I first noticed this when I was doing my in-depth research for my articles of the best coolers for ice retention.

I noticed in a few different tests that white coolers were outperforming grey coolers that were exactly the same brand and size. This didn't just happen once either, it happened multiple times across multiple different ice tests.

Below you can see a video where this is proven through real ice tests that white coolers do keep ice about half a day longer than darker coolers.

He also mentions in the above video that Kong Coolers the company experienced similar results in their ice retention tests. So it seems multiple people have come to the same conclusion.

Why Does Cooler Color Affect Ice Retention?

The reason cooler colors affect ice retention is because of the absorption of light and thus the absorption of heat.

A cooler looks a certain color because it will absorb all colors except that color.

White looks like because it reflects all colors. Blue looks blue because it reflects all colors except blue.

Black looks black because it absorbs all colors. Grey absorbs some of all colors and then reflects some of all colors.

Basically speaking the darker a color the more wavelengths of light it is absorbing, this means it is also absorbing more heat.

The opposite is true also. The lighter a color the less light it is absorbing and the more it is reflecting. This also means it is reflecting more heat away from the cooler helping it to hold ice longer.

The below video shows the difference in temperature between a white lid cooler and a dark lid cooler.

You can see that in the same conditions a light lids were only 96-100 degrees F in direct sunlight while the darker lids were a much hotter 123-150 degrees F. That is a huge difference in surface temperature.

Does The Size of a Cooler Affect It's Ice Retention?

Size definitely plays a major role in how long a cooler can hold ice for.

However, the rule “bigger is better” is not always true.

When completely filled with ice then yes a larger cooler will hold ice longer. But when you are only putting in a little bit of ice then smaller coolers with less internal air space will actually perform better.

When Full Of Ice Larger Coolers Hold Ice Longer

If you're completely filling up a cooler with ice then the bigger the cooler the longer it will hold ice.

This makes sense as there is more cold ice in larger coolers and thus more total heat is required to melt all of the ice.

The best example is the below Kong cooler ice challenge where you can see this perfectly playing out:

Ice Retention Results:

The 25-Quart kept ice for 6 Days 8 Hours

The 50-Quart kept ice for 6 Days 8 Hours

The 70-Quart kept ice for 9 Days 0 Hours

The 110-Quart kept ice for 10+ Days

See the lastest prices for Kong coolers at Amazon

Kong Cooler 50 Quart

When Partially Filled With Ice, More Internal Air Space Means Less Ice Retention

However, if you're only using a small amount of ice then a larger cooler is actually going to perform worse.

Below you can see a video showing an inverse correlation between size and ice retention.

When only 20 lbs of ice was put in each cooler the largest 80-Quart cooler kept ice for the shortest period of time (2 days) while the smallest 20-Quart cooler kept ice the longest at 4+ days.

Ice Retention Results:

  • 2.0 Days: Siberian 80-Quart
  • 2.5 Days: Pelican 55-Quart Tailgate
  • 3.0 Days: Siberian 40-Quart
  • 3.0 Days: Blackrock 52-Quart
  • 3.0 Days: K2 Summit 50-Quart
  • 3.0 Days: Grizzly 40-Quart Tan
  • 3.0 Days: Orca 58-Quart
  • 3.5 Days: Orion 45-Quart
  • 3.5 Days: Pelican ProGear 45-Quart
  • 3.5 Days: Igloo Sportsman 40-Quart
  • 3.5 Days: Eddy Gear 52-Quart
  • 3.5 Days: Engel 50-Quart
  • 3.5 Days: Grizzly 40-Quart
  • 3.5 Days: Canyon 35-Quart
  • 4 Days: Yeti Tundra 45 (37-Quart)
  • 4.0 Days: Engel 25-Quart
  • 4.0+ Days: Grizzly 20-Quart

See the latest price of the Grizzly 20-Quart cooler at Amazon

Do Big Blocks of Ice Last Longer Than Small Blocks?

It's often advised that if you want to keep ice longer in your cooler then using large blocks of ice will work better than keeping smaller blocks of ice. But is this actually true?

The answer is yes, big blocks of ice will last longer than cubed ice, even if you're using the same total volume of ice.

Below you can see a video where this idea is tested.

Why Does Blocks of Ice Last Longer Than Cubed Ice?

Yeti Hopper after 48 hours

The reason big blocks of ice last longer than smaller cubes of ice is because there is less surface area of the ice to be exposed to the warmer outside air.

With small cubes of ice there is a great deal of surface area that gets exposed to the warmer air or warmer water (as the ice melts).

However with large blocks of ice there is less surface area and the ice right in the middle of the big block is completely protected from the outside air/water by the rest of the ice block surrounding it.

Does Dry Ice Last Longer Than Regular Ice?

Dry ice does NOT last longer than regular ice in a cooler. In fact, dry ice will sublimate (turn from a solid into a gas) at a faster rate than regular ice will melt into water.

This means if you use the same quantity of water ice as dry ice your dry ice will disappear before your water ice completely melts.

Dry ice does however make things A LOT colder than regular ice so if you are trying to keep things frozen then dry ice is a good option.

Click here to learn the ins and outs of using dry ice in a cooler.

Does Draining Your Cooler Make Ice Melt Faster or Slower?

I always believed that it was a bad idea to drain water from your cooler. My theory was that the cold water prevents the warm air from reaching through your cooler and warming up the ice inside.

However, tests as well as science has proven me wrong.

Below you can see an ice test where one cooler is drained while another cooler leaves the water in and the one where the water is drained keeps ice longer:

The reason this happens is because (according to this site) water is actually approximately 20 times better at conducting heat than air.

Water is also better at convecting heat or moving heat around.

This means the water is able to spread heat around your cooler much better than air can and this leads to your ice melting quicker.

However, the benefit of keeping water in the cooler is that the overall cooler will remain colder even though the ice will melt quicker.

So if you have a lot of things to keep cool it may be worth keeping the water in. However, if you want maximum ice retention then it's best to drain the water as you go and even top up with fresh ice to keep the cooler as cold as possible and to minimise that air space, thus adding to your ice retention even further.

What's The Best Cooler For Ice Retention

I wrote a full article on the best coolers for ice retention as well as the best soft coolers for ice retention which you should check out if you really want to get the best performing cooler on the market.

But just quickly the best coolers for ice retention are:

Otterbox Venture: Best Hard Cooler

The Otterbox Venture consistently outperforms other coolers, even larger coolers, in ice retention tests. Beating the likes of Yeti, RTIC, Pelican and ORCA coolers all of which are some of the biggest brands with amazing ice retention. Click here to read my full Otterbox Venture review

These coolers are made in the USA by the same company that makes the sturdy and reliable phone cases everyone loves.

They offer a limited lifetime warranty on their coolers and have a cool dual-color design as well as an innovative attachment system for attaching accessories to your cooler.

It's not the cheapest cooler on the market, but it is the best performing. Check out the prices and sizes at Amazon using the link below:

See the latest price of Otterbox coolers at Amazon

Engel HD30

The Engel HD30 is without question the best soft sided cooler for keeping ice the longest.

It's performance rivals and even outlasts similar sized hard sided coolers, which is absolutely shocking. Click here to see how much longer it hold ices than the Yeti soft cooler.

It features thick closed-cell insulation as well as a patent-pending vacuum technology that allows you to suck the air out of the insulation giving you better performance.

People are reporting 4.5+ days of ice retention, which is huge for a soft sided cooler.

Not only that but it's made from super durable material, has an external pocket and built in bottle opener and a comfortable shoulder strap. This is (in my opinion) the best soft sided cooler on the market and well worth having a look at.

It's also sold for an affordable price and has a big discount compared to other brands like Yeti. Check it out at Amazon by clicking the link below:

See the latest price of the Engel HD30 at Amazon