How to Make PVC Ice Packs for Coolers

When camping, tailgating or going on a picnic, keeping food and drinks chilled is top priority. Instead of using ice, which melts and creates a slushy mess, make your own ice packs using PVC pipe. This is a more efficient method for transport and cleanup, and you can personalize the ice packs with your own signature style, such as your favorite team colors.

Image Credit: Matthew Ashman
Image Credit: Matthew Ashman

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure

  • 2-inch PVC pipe, 10 feet

  • 2-inch PVC end caps, 8

  • Chop saw or 2-inch PVC cutter

  • Clear PVC cement

  • Paper towel or rag

  • Spray paint (optional)

  • Clear sealant (optional)

  • Salt (optional)

Step 1: Cut the PVC Pipe

Measure the inside of your cooler to determine how long you want the ice pack to be. Subtract 3 inches off that measurement to make room for the end caps.

Use the chop saw or PVC cutter to cut your PVC pipe into the desired lengths. In this project, we cut two 18-inch pieces for a large cooler and two 10-inch pieces for a smaller backpack cooler.

Image Credit: Matthew Ashman


If using a chop saw to cut the pipe, be sure to clean off any debris inside or out.

Step 2: Close One End of the Pipes

Seal off one end of the PVC pieces with end caps. Apply a liberal amount of PVC cement on both the inside of the cap and the outside of the pipe. Push the end cap firmly onto the pipe, and use a damp paper towel or rag to clean up any extra cement that may have seeped out. Allow the cement to dry completely, about one hour.

Image Credit: Matthew Ashman


Be careful not to get any PVC cement on your skin, and refer to the warnings on the canister.

Step 3: Fill Pipes With Water and Seal Other End

Once the PVC cement is dry, fill the inside of the pipes with water -- fill them only about three-quarters of the way up, since the water will expand when frozen. Seal off the other end of the pipe the same way you did in the last step. Place the pipe upright while it's drying, so the water doesn't mix with the cement.

Image Credit: Matthew Ashman


You can opt to add 1 - 2 tablespoons of regular table salt per cup of water to the ice packs. This will lower the freezing point of the water, thereby slowing the melting process and keeping your cooler colder for longer. Use less if using coarser salt (e.g. Kosher or rock salt).

Step 4: Paint the Pipes (Optional)

Spray paint the pipes any color you'd like. Be sure to do this in a well-ventilated area (ideally, outdoors). Allow the paint to dry completely.

Image Credit: Matthew Ashman


You can also use a clear sealant after the paint has dried to help keep the paint looking pristine over time.

Step 5: Freeze the Pipes

Place the pipes in your freezer and let them stay there overnight. Presto! You now have your very own ice packs to use on camping trips, tailgating parties or picnics on the beach.

Image Credit: Matthew Ashman
Image Credit: Matthew Ashman