Make A Gel Ice Pack On the Cheap

Survival Buzz: Make A Gel Ice Pack On the Cheap

Perhaps it is from all of the shoving, lifting, and carrying of moving boxes but for one reason or another, both Shelly and I had aches and pains in our backs that went beyond what my essential oils could relieve on their own.  It was time to hit the ice, literally, using a gel ice pack.

Have you priced gel ice packs lately?  They run $10 to $15 each and as you know, one is not enough.  You need to have a backup pack to use while a melted ice pack is rejuvenating itself in the freezer.  When I turned to the internet  for help, oh my gosh, I found hundreds of recipes for DIY gel ice packs.



Being a DIY-selfer, I got out the ingredients, such as they were, and made up a couple of packs using common household items, namely isopropyl alcohol, water, and zipper-style plastic bags.

DIY Gel Ice Pack

  • 1 gallon zip-style plastic bags (I like these)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups Isopropyl/rubbing alcohol

Fill the plastic bag with rubbing alcohol and water. If desired, add a couple of drops of blue (or other) food coloring.  The purpose of the food coloring is to distinguish your ice pack from frozen drinking water.  (You do use the empty space in your freezer for water, right?)

Set the bag in a bowl (I used a large Pyrex measuring cup like this one) and place it in the freezer for an hour or two.

Remove the partially frozen bag and squeeze out as much air as you can.  Return to the freezer and keep it there overnight or until it becomes slushy/firm.

Note:  I tried to remove the air in the beginning and made a mess.  It is much more tidy to wait until the ice pack has started to set up.

Make A Gel Ice Pack On the Cheap | Backdoor Survival

Remove from the freezer and double bag so it does not leak.  I used my FoodSaver but another zipper bag will also work.

Make A Gel Ice Pack On the Cheap | Backdoor Survival

Your gel ice pack is now ready to use over and over again.  Do remember that as with commercial gel ice packs, wrap your DIY version in a towel before using.

Make A Gel Ice Pack On the Cheap | Backdoor Survival

Ahhh!  Relief at Last!

According to the Spine-Health website, an alternative filler is to simply to use dish soap, which has a gel-like consistency and will also freeze/retain the cold.  I did not try it so if you do, be sure to let me know how it works out.

I calculated the total cost of the DIY gel ice pack to be $2.00.  Keeping the price low requires that you do not overpay for the rubbing alcohol.  It is crazy expensive at Amazon so look elsewhere.  Walgreens, Costco, or even the local supermarket should have dirt cheap options.  You should have a goodly supply in your first aid kit anyway.

This made a fairly large, beefy, ice pack.  You could cut the ingredients in half for a lighter pack or use a one quart bag to make a smaller pack.  A smaller ice pack will work better on elbows, ankles and knees.  As long as the proportions are right (water to alcohol 2:1), you will be fine.  By the way, I used 70% Isopropyl alcohol in my gel ice packs.

That pretty much is all there is to it.  I just wish I had thought of this sooner so I had a couple of packs on hand before we were desperate.  Okay, desperate is not quite what I mean but we were definitely uncomfortable.

And what about those essential oils?  We found that applying essential oils before applying the ice pack treatment really enhanced their therapeutic value.  In our case, we used the Amend+ blend from Spark Naturals (20 drops mixed into 1/2 ounce of a Simple Salve you make yourself, coconut oil, or Base Salve).  Other oils that may be beneficial include lavender, rosemary, and peppermint which, by the way, are the oils used in DIY Miracle Salve.  Imagine that!

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