Quick Tip : Water bottles as ice packs

If you are like me, you (and your significant other) have somehow accumulated water bottles or bladders from volunteer events, corporate schwag, or as a give-a-ways.

Even if I give away the bottles, they still seem to accumulate, much like key chains in the junk drawer.

I use sports drink bottles for hiking and backpacking. The only use I have for these water bottles (or than winter trips) up until last year was transporting pre-scrambled eggs on hut trips or while camping.

Then one day last early Spring, Dad sent me a link to something along the lines of “50 Life Hacks for camping“.   Most of the tips I did not use. Even when car camping, the Mrs and I like to go somewhere remote and usually off-season. The suggestions for camping were for a different type of camping than what we prefer to do.

One tip immediately stood out, however: Fill water bottles, freeze, use in place of ice.

One of those little tips that seem obvious, but wish I had thought of a LONG time ago!

Makes use of the bottles that seem to accumulate.



The advantages are many:

  • I am not running around on a Friday night, getting ice. The ice is already in my freezer. Ready to go. Less time preparing for a trip, more time being out!
  • Block ice last longer than crushed ice.
  • Even if the ice melts a bit, the cold water still keeps things cold.
  • I don’t have to worry about food getting wet.
  • The cooler empties more efficiently.
  • I have some water to use if need be, too.

And it is not just for camping. For both a pre-backpacking bivy the night before (sometimes near the trailhead) and some post-trip goodies, the cooler is full of yummy food and cold drinks.

Just be sure not to fill the bottle all the way, or the expanding ice will crack the bottle. Three-quarters full, or slightly more, seems to work well.

So make use of the free water bottles and bladders. And rarely repurchase ice for trips.

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8 years ago

Great tips Mags! A couple of other ‘life hacks’ I’ve utilized with good success… If you’re using a water bottle of this nature during a day hike or some other adventure: fill half way, then lay in the freezer on its side so the water freezes “vertically”, then come morning fill the other side with water, and you’ll have cool ice water all day long. Also – for cooler nights camping, if you’re looking for a little extra warmth, fill up a Nalgene bottle with boiling water, toss it in the sleeping bag, and it’ll help keep things toasty through… Read more »