How To Keep Ice Without a Cooler: 6 Methods

Sometimes you need to keep ice frozen for as long as possible but you don’t have a cooler. What can you do to keep ice without a cooler?

There are actually quite a few options for keeping ice without a cooler and they all use different methods to achieve the same outcome: keep the heat from the outside getting into your ice and melting it.

With these methods you should be able to keep ice for multiple hours, sometimes even most of the day.

So how do you keep ice without a cooler? Here are multiple things you can do.

1. Wrap a Plastic Container in Alfoil

Plastic is a natural insulator of heat and most of us have plastic containers lying around that we can use to put ice in.

To keep the ice longer wrap your plastic container in alfoil. You can put alfoil on the interior but for best results use multiple layers on the exterior of your container.

This adds to the insulating ability of your plastic container in a few ways:

Extra layer – Even though metal is a good conductor of heat adding any layer between your ice and the heat stops some heat transfer.

Stops radiant heat – Alfoil is reflective and helps to reflect away radiant heat which then helps to keep your ice cooler longer. We talked more about this in my article on how Yeti cups work.

Air pockets – A layer of alfoil will create an air pocket between the plastic container and the alfoil. Air is a great insulator which helps to stop the heat transfer. Multiple layers of alfoil creates multiple layers of air adding to the insulating ability of your container.

Any plastic containers could work for this. Anything from a small Tupperware container to a 5-gallon bucket to an old ice-cream container.

Stacking multiple containers together also creates a larger insulating effect because you have more insulating plastic and more air pockets. This is one of my suggestions for how to turn a bucket into a cooler but it also works for smaller containers too.

2. Zip Lock Bags With Tissues

If you want to keep a small amount of ice without a cooler then put your ice in a zip lock bag.

Cover that zip lock bag with tissues and then put it inside another zip lock bag.

For further insulation repeat again so you have 3 zip lock bags in total and 2 layers of tissues.

This method can be great for traveling when you want to keep your sandwiches or other food cool but you don’t have access to ice packs or a cooler. Or maybe you’re traveling on an airplane and you’re not allowed to take an ice pack.

This method works for two main reasons:

The plastic is insulating – Plastic is a good insulator of heat so the plastic of the zip-lock bags helps to keep heat out. Unfortunately they are very thin so a single bag won’t really do the trick.

The tissues create air pockets – As we mentioned above with the alfoil air is an insulator and by putting a layer of tissues between zip lock bags you are creating air pockets which will help to keep the heat away from your ice.

3. Wrap It In a Towel

Wrapping your ice in a towel will help to keep ice longer.

The main reason this works is that as your ice begins to melt your towel will obviously become wet. The water in the towel will then begin evaporating which will cool down the towel as well as the ice in the towel.

This works because water requires energy to evaporate into the air. It gets that energy from the heat in the existing water or the heat in your ice. As it draws heat out it makes the water and ice colder, helping you keep ice for longer.

To make this even more effective put the towel near some sort of fan or airflow source. The airflow will speed up the evaporative process and make the towel colder and keep the ice for longer.

4. Make Larger Ice Cubes

Larger ice cubes stay frozen for longer than smaller ice cubes. So if you need to keep ice and you don’t have a cooler then using larger ice cubes will help you to keep ice for longer.

This works because there is less surface area where the ice comes in contact with the heat of the surrounding air.

The ice in the middle of the block is also insulated by the ice on the outside of the block and funnily enough water and ice are actually good insulators. So the thicker the layer of ice the longer it will take the heat to get all the way to the middle and melt it.

There are a few ways to make larger ice cubes.

Old ice-cream containers – Using an empty ice cream container and filling it with water and putting it in your freezer is a good way to make larger ice bricks.

Old milk jugs – Fill up an empty milk jug and put it in the freezer and you will get a large block of ice. The plastic milt just will also keep the water contained as the ice melts.

Balloons – If you’re stuck for something then filling up balloons with water and putting them in the freezer can give you big round blocks of ice.

5. Freeze a Cast Iron Pot

As you may know cast iron pots can take a while to heat up, but then they retain their heat for quite some time. You’ll see this whenever you go to one of those restaurants and they bring out a sizzling dish on a hot cast iron plate.

This also works in reverse. By putting a cast iron pot in the freezer and drawing the heat out of it then it will stay cold for quite some time and it will take time for the surrounding air to warm it up.

For best results freeze your cast iron pot, use large ice cubes and then wrap your cast iron pot in a towel and keep it out of direct sunlight and away from the heat and it should keep ice for quite some time.

6. Use a Vacuum Sealed Cup/Bottle

Cups like the Yeti Tumbler are made from 2 layers of aluminum with a vacuum in between them. The vacuum has no air so no heat (other than radiation heat) can pass through it.

These are great at keeping ice for 1-2 days, so if you have one lying around you can use it to keep ice if you don’t have a cooler.

See the latest price of Yeti Tumblers at Amazon

A Cooler Will Always Work Better

A lot of these methods above use everyday items to mimic how coolers work. But coolers are specifically designed to keep ice cold for as long as possible so our makeshift coolers will never work quite as well.

See the latest price of Yeti coolers at Amazon

These devices will help you keep ice for hours but regular coolers can keep ice for 1-2 days and something like a Yeti cooler can keep ice for 1-2 weeks depending on how well it is used.

I did a write up on how do Yeti coolers work to keep ice so long if you’re curious in how these coolers are so effective.

You can also click here to learn how to keep ice longer in a cooler. Many of these tips can also apply to our makeshift coolers. Things like keeping your cooler out of direct sunlight or not opening it unless you really need to are a couple of tips that apply to our makeshift coolers.

Lastly if you want to see some of the best coolers out there click here to see coolers like Yeti.