Which ice packs are suitable for business travel?

Ice pack iStock_000022316756SmallThe availability of suitable food or preferred food options can be quite a challenge when travelling, particularly when an operator can only offer a limited choice and/or often at a substantial additional cost to the fare price.

One way around all this is to take your own food with you.  However, care needs to be taken, as there is nothing worse than incurring a stomach bug from food that has spoilt in a warm environment en route.  National Health Service reports that up to 60% of travellers are affected with travellers’ diarrhoea from spoilt or contaminated food both en route and at their destination.

So if you are intending to take food with you on your travels, then you need to ensure that the food is kept as cool and as fresh as possible to prevent the growth of micro-organisms.   The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends food is either kept in a refrigerator or on ice (preferably below 5oC) to avoid food poisoning and ill health.
Our travel health specialists have tested and reviewed several ice blocks and packs to ascertain their suitability for keeping food fresh when travelling.  We’ve answered the most common questions about performance and functionality in our reviews, from how long do they stay frozen, to are they lightweight, safe, and will they pass through security?
If you want to choose an ice pack to keep your food fresh en route, then check out our ice-pack review and find out more about their performance and functionality.


thermos mini packs

Thermos Weekend Mini Ice Blocks

Thermos is a well respected brand for a range of food and beverage containers designed for days out and picnics.¬† Their product range includes ice blocks of various sizes.¬† We tested their suitability for business travel…Click here to read our test review of this icepack.¬†

Test Dates June – July 2014
Score 82%
Price £4.95 (pack of 4) direct from Thermos
£2.60 (pack of 2) from Amazon
Type Mini Ice Blocks



smash gel 2 Smash Global Gel Ice Packs
Relatively new in design, Smash Gel Ice packs are described as compact and a convenient way to keep lunch cooler for longer.  They are also reusable and perfectly sized to fit inside an insulated lunch bag or lunchbox.  But are they suitable when travelling overseas on business?  Click here to read our test review of these gel ice packs.
Test Dates June – July 2014
Score 72%
Price £3.00 John Lewis
Type Read more about Gel Ice Smash Global Ice Packs



Bello mini freezer packs Bello Mini Ice Blocks
Bello mini ice blocks come in a set of two or three with a¬†range of colours to choose from.¬† They are described as hardwearing and durable, made from a robust hard plastic, and are slim in design.¬† We tested their suitability for business travel… Click here to read our test review of these ice blocks.
Test Dates June – July 2014
Score 65%
Price Ranges from £2.99 from Amazon
Type Mini Ice Blocks



polar gear ice packs Polar Gear Mini Ice Packs
Polar Gear produces a range of ice packs.  We chose the mini ice packs which were under 100 ml capacity to test.  Described as light weight, strong and flexible, they apparently can be used again and again.  More importantly, they are reported to extend cooling time to keep food cool and fresh.  Are they suitable for business travel?   Click here to read our full test review of these mini ice packs
Test Dates June – July 2014
Score 62%
Price £2.49 RRP from Amazon (correct at time of testing)
Type Mini Ice Blocks


Main Features explained

There are certain key features which one needs to consider when choosing a suitable ice block/pack for travelling.

First of all they should be safe, reliable and durable.  Otherwise, why would you use them again or even recommend to a colleague to use the product?
Secondly, how long will they keep your food chilled is a crucial consideration when transporting food?  Most business journeys last at least an hour from boarding, and then there is waiting time prior to boarding, the time of which will depend on the mode of transport and length of journey.  Overall the chosen ice blocks/packs should keep food freshen for at least three hours to last the minimum entire journey, and at least six hours for a long haul flight or long trips by road or rail.
Ice blocks/packs should also be lightweight and fit easy into hand luggage, particularly if flying.  If you’re carrying a handbag or back pack with a cooler bag containing food then the less weight added the better.  They also need to be easy to pack as well as convenient in size and use.

If flying, then the business traveller will need to consider if they will pass through airport security.   The requirement for all fluids in hand language is to be 100 mls or less. There should also be a clear marking of volume on the container.  Few ice blocks/packs do this and without such they may be confiscated at the point of airport security.  Some ice blocks/packs are obviously less than 100 ml, no bigger than a sauce sachet and may have greater success when going through security. Some airport security will accept a frozen state is not a liquid, but not all airports operate this policy.  Others may prefer a transparent container to a non-transparent container so they can easily see the fluid within.

How we rated ice packs

We tested four mini ice packs/blocks (two of each variety) with a capacity of around 100mls for their suitability to keep food fresh when travelling on business.  Each product was rated on design, likely security clearance, performance, ease of use, weight/capacity, safety, likely reliability and durability.  We also looked at the accuracy of description/advertising and instructions of use.

Up to 60% of travellers could experience acute or even chronic effects of spoilt or contaminated food on a single trip. To reduce the risk of a stomach upset when taking one’s own food, the food will need to be kept cool, preferably at less than 5oC.  We tested each ice pack/block for performance when travelling with regards to how long they took to freeze and how long they stayed frozen for.  A domestic freezer was used to test the length of time it took to freeze each ice block/pack and an insulated lunch bag with a pre-chilled chicken roll, apple and yoghurt was added to the lunch bag along with the ice block/pack.  The same conditions were used throughout testing.  For those ice blocks/packs which came as a set of two, three or four, then a minimum set of two packs/blocks were used in the lunch bag during testing.

For those intending to travel with food, ice blocks/packs need to be convenient to use, easy to pack and above all they need to be lightweight.  We tested each block/pack’s weight, examined their flexibility and ease at which they could be packed into small food containers and insulated lunch bags.

There is nothing worse than something leaking on food waiting to be consumed.  So we also looked at each ice blocks/packs design, safety features such as heat sealed leak proof caps and non toxic fluid contents, along with their likely reliability to keep food chilled and also their durability with regards to materials and structure.

Equally important is that each ice block/pack will be able to pass through airport security without fear of them being confiscated during hand luggage checks.  Each product’s fluid capacity, weight, marking of volume written on the block and transparency of container was examined.

Finally, we wanted to know if the description on pre purchase information (e.g. website and sales brochure) and packaging was accurate with the product living up to any claims made, and whether other information such as how to use, how to clean, suitability for the dishwasher, or any other details eg temperature range, that might be useful to know were supplied to support the consumer during use.

More than just the odd review

From ice packs to sleeping aids, we will be continually testing a range of travel products to find out which are suitable for travelling business executives who want to achieve both a healthy work-life balance and wellbeing.

We will constantly survey and test various brands of travel accessories that business travellers might use for their work based travel.  So if you are about to embark on a business trip, and need something to keep your food fresh, yourself mobile or even something to help you relax en route or in the hotel room, then we may be able to provide some useful information before you make your purchase, including price and availability of where to purchase.

Expert Impartial reviews

When you read one of our reviews, you get an impartial balanced assessment, based on our independent expert’s professional evaluations.  All our consultants are specialists in their field providing both professional insight and firsthand experience of the product reviewed.  All products are purchased for the purpose of testing impartially and we do not accept any complimentary products for review.  Although we score each product according to preset criteria based on what a business traveller may want to find out from pre-purchase information, we aim to provide accurate, balanced and objective reviews without endorsing one particular product.

Why use Extravitality for travel product reviews?

We test products in the same manner in which you would use them en route to your business destination.  Our expert travel health professionals look at the design and functionality, along with the overall impact the products reviewed could have on your health and vitality when travelling for work.


All our reviews are based on our own product testing.  We also undertake independent consumer testing and/or take into account consumer comments wherever possible, with the aim of weighing up any publically available information of the product on sites where the product can be purchased.  This ensures that business travellers researching a particular type of product receives balanced and fair information to help their purchase.