Types of Cold Packs. How Long Do Cold Packs Last for Shipping?

Types of Cold Packs. How Long Do Cold Packs Last for Shipping?

For food items that require cold shipping like meat, sea food, vegetables, fruits, cold packs, also known as ice packs, are an indispensable part of the shipping process. But what are exactly cold packs? How many types of cold packs are there? And how long do they last for shipping? Let’s find out the answers in our today article.

What Are Cold Packs for Shipping?

Cold packs are pouches or bags filled with coolant that are used to keep food or temperature-sensitive products at a safe temperature during shipping. They are commonly used to ship food items, for example meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs, fruits, vegetables. In addition, they are used also for shipping medication, cosmetics and chemicals.

Using cold packs are crucial for food shipping, because they can:

  • Maintain safe temperatures: cold packs help maintain a consistent temperature range. Preventing food from spoiling due to bacterial growth. This ensures your delicious deliveries arrive in the same pristine condition they left in.
  • Extend shelf life: by slowing down the natural process of spoilage, cold packs extend the shelf life of perishable food items. This allows for a longer window of time for consumption, reducing food waste and ensuring maximum enjoyment.

So how many are there types of cold packs? What are the differences between types of cold packs? Discover in the next section.

Types of Cold Packs

There are two main types of cold packs for shipping. They are disposable cold packs and reusable cold packs. Let’s look closer to two types of cold packs in this section.

Disposable cold packs

Disposable cold packs are typically constructed from plastic, disposable cold packs feature a sealed pouch containing a water-based solution and activating agents. In some instances, these activating agents may include ammonium nitrate or calcium chloride.

Disposable cold packs offer a shorter cooling window, typically lasting 4-8 hours. This limited duration makes them more suitable for shorter food shipment journeys.

When it comes to advantages and disadvantages of disposable cold packs, here are things that your need to know:

  • Advantages:
    • Convenience: Disposable cold packs eliminate the need for pre-freezing, offering a convenient and immediate solution for unplanned or last-minute shipping needs.
    • Lower Initial Cost: Compared to reusable packs, disposable cold packs are generally cheaper to purchase upfront.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Limited Cooling Duration: The shorter cooling time of disposable cold packs renders them unsuitable for extended food shipments.
    • Environmental Impact: Each use of a disposable cold pack generates waste, raising environmental concerns and potentially impacting a company's sustainability goals.
    • Limited Reusability: While some disposable cold packs offer limited reusable.

    Reusable Packs

    Reusable cold packs are typically made with a durable outer shell (nylon, canvas) and an inner compartment filled with a coolant gel. The gel often contains water, thickening agents, and sometimes non-toxic freezing agents.

    High-quality reusable cold packs can maintain cool temperatures for extended periods, typically exceeding 24 hours and often even longer depending on size and quality.

    Reusable cold packs have its own advantages and disadvantages.

    • Advantages:
      • Environmentally Friendly: Reusable nature significantly reduces waste compared to disposable counterparts.
      • Cost-Effective (Over Time): While the initial purchase price is higher, they become more cost-effective over time, particularly for frequent shippers.
      • Superior Cooling Duration: Ideal for extended shipping journeys, ensuring food products remain within the safe temperature zone.
    • Disadvantages:
      • Pre-Freezing Requirement: Reusable cold packs necessitate pre-freezing, introducing a planning element to the shipping process.
      • Maintenance Needs: Over time, effectiveness may diminish, and leaks may develop, requiring regular inspection and potential replacement.
      • Higher Initial Investment: Acquisition cost is typically higher upfront compared to disposable options.

    Overall, due to composition, disposable cold packs and reusable cold packs have their owns advantages. Understanding these characteristics helping your business choose the right type for your food.

    How Long Do Cold Packs Last for Shipping?

    As mentioned above, there are two different types of cold packs. Due to the different materials the ability of keeping cold between these two types of cold packs are different:

    • Reusable Cold Packs: These typically last 24-36 hours or even longer, depending on quality and size. High-quality reusable packs with thicker gel or better insulation can stay cold for extended periods.
    • Disposable Cold Packs: These generally last for a shorter duration, typically 4-8 hours. Their shorter cooling time makes them more suitable for shorter shipment journeys.

    However, the ability of keeping cold depends also on the additional factors, including:

    • Quality of the cold pack: Higher quality packs, regardless of reusability, will generally last longer.
    • Insulation of the shipping box: A well-insulated box with packing materials like bubble wrap helps retain the cold coming from the pack.
    • External temperature: Hotter environments will drain the cold packs faster.

    For these reasons, you can keep the cold for a longer with tips as below:

    • Choose the right size and quantity: Use enough cold packs to surround your products and maintain the desired temperature.
    • Pre-chill the shipping box: If possible, chill the shipping box beforehand to create a colder environment for the cold packs to work in.
    • Double boxing: Consider using a double box with insulation material in the space between the boxes for extra protection.
    • Ship quickly: The faster your items arrive, the less time the cold packs need to last.

    Choosing the Right Cold Packs for Your Food Business

    To keep your food quality and minimize spoilage, choosing the right cold packs is crucial, but due to the differences between disposable and reusable cold packs, choosing the right one can be a challenges. In the next part, we will reveal a guide to choose the right cold packs for your business. 

    Step 1: Understanding your needs

    • Shipping Duration: How long will your food products typically be in transit?
      • Shorter Journeys (Up to 1 Day): Disposable cold packs can suffice.
      • Longer Journeys (1-2 Days): Consider high-quality, reusable cold packs with extended cooling durations.
      • Extended Journeys (Over 2 Days): Explore alternative methods like dry ice or refrigerated shipping containers.
    • Frequency of Use: How often will you be shipping food products?
      • Occasional Shipping: Disposable cold packs offer convenience.
      • Frequent Shipping: Reusable cold packs become more cost-effective in the long run.
    • Volume of Products: The amount of food you ship will determine the quantity and size of cold packs needed.

    Step 2: Choose the right cold packs by considering these factors below.

    • Match cooling duration to shipping time: Always ensure your cold pack can maintain the desired temperature for the entire journey.
    • Prioritize quality: Invest in high-quality cold packs with thicker gel or better insulation for extended cooling performance.
    • Consider reusability: If you ship frequently, reusable cold packs become a cost-effective and eco-friendly choice.
    • Think about convenience: For occasional shipping, the ease of disposable cold packs might outweigh pre-freezing requirements.


    Choosing the right cold packs for your food business is an investment in both quality and cost-efficiency. By understanding your specific shipping needs and analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of reusable and disposable options, you can make an informed decision that keeps your food products fresh, minimizes spoilage, and reduces waste.

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