Cool Bags and Cool Boxes – Which one is right for you?

Cool Bags and Cool Boxes - Which one is right for you?

Cool bags and boxes come in so many different variations which one is right for you?

Passive (non-electric) cool boxes and cool bags keep food and drink cool with the use of ice packs. Electric cool boxes run off mains electric or 12v power like your car’s cigarette lighter and will keep your food and drink cooler for longer.

Things to consider when choosing a cool bag or box:

  • What you will be using it for most of the time? Is it for picnics or is it a week away camping?
  • Will you have electricity available if you decide to buy an electric one?
  • How much food and drink does it need to hold?
  • How will you carry it? Consider that a big cool box full of food will be heavy. Some of the bigger cool boxes come with wheels so that is a good option if you need a really big cool box.

Cool Bags

Cool Bags are lightweight, squashable and keep food cool by way of using an ice block inside it. The outer material varies depending on the brand but it will be heavy duty. Inside you usually find a foil layer and inbetween the layers some kind of flexible foam. Cool bags are great for picnics, festivals and lunches.

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Nikki from FamilyTravelWithEllie recommends a simple lightweight cool bag rucksack like this one:

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I have a fabulous cool bag rucksack that I take everywhere in the summer. I half freeze a bottle of squash and this keeps everything cool then at the end of the day we have a cold drink too (and then the bag is lighter too). It has different compartments for sandwich boxes and a flask.

Photo by Nikki

Jo from ARoseTintedWorld thoroughly recommends her coolbag made by California Innovations. Similar styles and a range of other styles by the brand are available on Amazon.

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We have had this brilliant coolbag rucksack for years. It’s by California Innovations. Not only is there a large coolbag section big enough for a family sized picnic, there is a wine bottle cooler part and a space where you can store cutlery, napkins, crockery and even some wine glasses! 

Photo by Jo


For something a bit different you could go for this Asdado insulated cool bag that also transforms into a BBQ stand for a disposable BBQ! Thank you to Samantha for letting us use her picture of it here. Head on over to her NorthEastFamilyFun blog to find out how it works!

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Passive Cool Box

Passive Cool Boxes are generally a little heavier than a cool bag and have rigid plastic walls with better insulation inside. The rigidity also serves to protect food from being squashed from the outside. Keeping food chilled is by way of using an ice block inside the box. The more ice blocks you use, the cooler your food will stay. However, this uses up space and adds weight. A top tip is to freeze things you don’t need that day to keep them colder for longer and it will also lower the temperature inside the cool box. Passive cool boxes are good for family picnics, camping and transporting food when going on holiday.

Coleman 28QT Xtreme Tricolour Cooler

Claire from TheLadybirdsAdventures thoroughly recommends the Coleman 28QT Xtreme Tricolour Cooler available in outdoors shops such as Go Outdoors and online for the RRP of £59.99. The 26 litre version boasts it can keep the contents cool for up to 3 days. It has an ergonomically designed handle and a robust lid with 2 cup holders in it. The whole box is sturdy enough to be used as a seat too. There is also a larger 47 litre size which has on it 2 wheels and a telescopic handle.

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We’ve just got a Coleman xtreme 3 cooler which has improved our camping experience no end. It really did keep our food cold for our whole weekend away without electric.

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Electric Cool Box

Electric Cool Boxes work like a mini fridge and are heavier than a passive cool box due to the motor and leads, so generally they are not great for picnics. However, they are brilliant while camping as long as you have power because you don’t have the hassel of changing ice blocks. They are also great for transporting food when going on holiday. A top tip is to cool your electric cool box at home before you pack it up with food.

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Aldi Blue/Grey Thermoelectric Coolbox RRP £39.99

Each year an electric cool box goes on offer as part of the Aldi’s Special Buys and they always seems to get snapped up quickly. This year’s design is blue and grey, it has a triple A rating for efficiency and a quieter fan. It promises a cooling power to a maximum of 20°C below ambient temperature. The cool box is powered by a 12V plug for a cigarette lighter or a 220-240 Volt plug for power socket. Both of these are included and stow away in the lid. The lid is detachable and has the function to be locked in place at halfway open. Inside there is room for 6 x 2 litre bottles to stand up. The cool box will also keep things warm to a maximum temperature of +55°c.

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Halfords 24 Litre 12V Electric Coolbox RRP £65

The Halfords 24 Litre Electric Coolbox is powered by your in-car 12V accessory socket and the wire stows away nicely in the lid when not in use. It is sturdy and durable with a rubberised handle for comfort. Inside the lid are two small circular cut outs which are designed to allow 2 x 2litre bottles to stand up inside the box. It cools up to 18°c below the ambient temperature. You can also use this cool box to keep things hot as it will keep food warm up to a maximum temperature of +65°c. The mains adaptor is available to buy separately.

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Campingaz Powerbox Plus 36L 12V/230v RRP £130

Caro from The Twinkle Diaries recommends her Campingaz Powerbox. It has an impressive capacity of 36 litres which is big enough to hold 10 x 2 litre bottles. It operates from 12v supply, and 230v UK plug socket and is able to keep the contents at 19°C below the ambient temperature. When not in use the cables can be stored away inside the inbuilt cable compartment. Feet elevate the cool box from the ground to create a gap to allow air to flow around all sides of the box. This in theory keeps the box cooler as heat is transferred from the ground. The lining of the box is antimicrobial which resists odour, mold and mildew. Other reasons you may like this cool box is the fan is quieter than most and the box has a triple A rating for efficiency.

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Ian & Emma Phillips live in Bolton with their three children, two boys aged 8 and 6 and their little girl who is now 4. Emma also writes over at Fuelled by Latte.

2 thoughts on “Cool Bags and Cool Boxes – Which one is right for you?”

  1. Why have you not commented on 12v cool bags please? This is what I’m in retested in as they’ll fold flat after use therefore better on space


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