ICE... ICE... baby (A guide to choosing the right cold pack)

Travelling with a cooler has been a part of my breast feeding journey for over 32 months (and counting) between the two kids! Whether just to the office for the day or transporting my entire 140oz (4 litre!) stash across globe, I've tried it all. So let me boil down the basics of how to keep that liquid gold cold.

 

Spoiler alert - I've found the most amazing product to do this no matter where you're headed!!

 

 
OPTION 1 - Good old fashioned ice cubes and ziplock bags:
This is my go to method of chilling milk when I don't have access to a proper fridge. Most hotels and restaurants will fill up ice for free or you can always grab more from grocery stores. If you can freeze water bottles for a cooler, this is a great way to make "bigger ice cubes" which will also last longer.

Pros:

pretty accessible, easy to replace, this is the minimum for chilled milk

Cons:

not very reliable for frozen milk, melts fastest

When I would use it:

at hotels when fridge option isn't adequate, when out and about for a few hours (like pumping while mountain biking) or for shorter commutes. (See my Instagram highlights for how to do this!)

 
 

 
OPTION 2 - Gel packs:
There is a huge variety if gel packs available out there and from what I've seen, some last longer than others. That said, I don't find them much more reliable than regular ice other than maybe being shaped to fit snuggly around them.
And they're reusable.

Pros:

stays the same shape making them easy to freeze, reusable

Cons:

melts faster than regular ice, requires freezer space to refreeze (can't just find more like with ice)

When I would use it:

to and from the office where you know you have a freezer to refreeze them

 
 

 
OPTION 3 - Dry ice
Depending on where I am in the world, I usually just Google where to get dry ice. In the US you can scoop it up at the local fuel station or party supply store and in Manila the hotel even arranged to deliver it to me.
The amount of dry ice you will need is dependent on the amount of milk as well as the total duration to stay frozen. Here's a handy chart to help calculate how much you will need. Don't forget to factor in door to door total time needed, not just the length of the flight. Dry ice will start to evaporate as soon as it hits air. (That's right, it evaporates and doesn't actually melt)
Also, if you use a squeaker cooler (styrofoam) be sure to pack it in cardboard as well so it doesn't get crushed.
Honestly, though, if you've never handled dry ice before, this is a good how to to start with.
Extra note: Airlines only allow 2.5kg of dry ice (~2L for 24hrs) per package so if you have more you may need to pack separate coolers.

Pros:

coldest of all options, best for long haul with frozen milk

Cons:

need to handle it safely (Gloves, no bare skin contact!), expensive, one time use

When I would use it:

transporting the stash across the planet or when you know you won't have refrigeration for a few days camping

 
 

 
...but far and away my favorite...
OPTION WINNING - Techniice:
If you haven't heard of it yet, it's designed by an Aussie company to function similar to gel packs in that you have to stick it in the freezer to activate, but ...

 

  • it will actually freeze colder than regular ice (yes, if your deep freezer is -4C, so is your Techniice)
  • it will stay frozen longer (you can layer it up and they keep each other cozy and frozy*)
  • it comes in big sheets for larger coolers, but can easily be cut smaller for smaller coolers
  • and, if needed, it can be used as a heat pack for blocked ducts! (Can you say BONUS?!?)

It's a great replacement for dry ice and has worked brilliantly as a cooling agent for both cold liquid and frozen breastmilk for me for almost 3 years of pumping and travelling. In fact my lone 4 oz bottle a few weeks ago was even starting to slush and freeze after 25+ hrs en route with nothing but Techniice!

Pros:

easy to use, comes in flat sheets so easy to carry more, can cut to size to fit any cooler, can be used for heat or cold, freezes colder than ice, safer than dry ice, reusable

Cons:

sticker price can seem high, first few uses will have a bit of a film to wipe off

When I would use it:

pretty much always... unless I was needing dry ice for a major event like moving across the world again or sending my husband backwoods camping with the baby

 
And loving it so much - I've made it available in my own store cheaper than Amazon!

 
There are a lot of ways to keep milk cold when on the go. After over 3 years of trial (and minimal error) I would hands down recommend techniice to everyone with the caveat to learn how to use dry ice for a major long haul. Even then, you can pack techniice in with the dry ice and it will keep things frozen long after the dry ice is gone.

 

Let me know how it works for you too!

*apparently "frozy" is not a valid scrabble word. I looked it up.