What are the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party?
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Best Ways to Keep Drinks Cool at an Outdoor Party

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What are the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party? I wonder this from time to time when I’m browsing Pinterest and seeing all the little DIY coolers people have made. Do they actually work? Do we even need them? Doesn’t everyone own a Coleman or an Igloo? Why can’t we use those anymore? As you can see, I have a lot of questions about cooling devices. Anyway, since global warming is making summers hotter and hotter,  I thought it would be fun to test out a couple before the end of summer barbecues started. I tested out streamers verses tablecloth decorations awhile back and enjoyed bashing streamers, so I figured I could do the same with this.

Before I get started, let me give you a quick rundown of the method. I got four different cooling devices and a whole bunch of ice on a very hot day (91 when I poured the ice). The sky was sunny, humidity not bad. I poured the ice at 4:00 P.M., figuring most people have their barbecues in the early evening. Then I just left them to see how fast the ice would melt. I did put one drink in each of the drink coolers and a plate on the bonus food coolers, but I am aware that the ice will melt differently when completely full. This is still a good baseline. Anyway, here we go!

Reviews of Cooling Devices

1. The Yeti Cooler

Full disclosure: I don’t own a Yeti. My mom won my experimental cooler at a raffle a few months ago so I borrowed it from her. If you haven’t heard of Yeti, they’re basically the new standard of coolers. My husband got one of their glasses last year and that was the first time I’d heard of it, but even a year ago everyone acted like I was an idiot for not knowing. Anyway…


How Many Bags of Ice: 1.5 (could have put more, but I probably wouldn’t have if I was filling it up with drinks)

Time to Set Up: However long it takes to dump ice. If you’re entertaining at a park instead of a house, this will be a bonus time saver because everything will already be packed when you load up.

How Long To Melt: As of writing, it’s still holding strong, so at least one day.

First hour, still frozen
Hour four, still frozen
The next day – still ice, with a really low layer of water at the bottom

Pros: This is pretty obvious, right? The ice still hasn’t melted. Plus it’s portable.

Cons: It’s not “cute.” If you’re looking for a nice outdoor setup, this isn’t going to wow anyone with how adorable it is. It is plain white though, so it’s also not going to be that weird blue cooler color in your pink and purple party scheme. Also, it’s going to cost you way more than any other cooling device.

Best For:

You can’t really go wrong using this if you want an outdoor party because it will keep your drinks cool, but I don’t know that I’d pay for it if I was just throwing barbecues in my backyard. I would cough up the money if I camped a lot or did a lot of long hour entertaining, like days on the lake. It’s kind of strange comparing it to the others since it’s an actual cooler, but really, a list of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party would be remiss if it didn’t have Yeti. Besides, if you don’t feel like you need your drink holders to be Pinterest worthy, might as well be high tech, right?

2. Inflatable Cooler

This is basically just a float you can put ice in. It’s said to float in a pool, but I don’t have one so I can’t confirm that. I mean, it would definitely float, but I don’t know how much you could weigh it down before it started to sink.


How Many Bags of Ice: 2

Time to Set Up: It took me forever because I blew it up without a pump and I kept getting interrupted. But I think probably 5-10 minutes is a good estimate, including getting it unfolded and filled.

How Long To Melt: It was halfway gone by hour 2.

Survived hour 1.
Hour two we’ve got serious melting.
It’s just a pool of water by hour three.

Pros: The look. It would look fun set up on a table in your backyard, wouldn’t it? You can put both drinks and plates in it. Also, they’re pretty cheap.

Cons: I was honestly surprised with how fast the ice melted in this one. I realize that most people will not put it on cement (I don’t have backyard furniture yet), but if you’re using a table that’s always outside, it’ll still be pretty hot. If you have something to put in between your surface and the cooler, it’ll probably do better. It’s also the longest set up.

Best For:

Short parties or parties where the decor is important. Think pool party or maybe a summer birthday party – especially one at night. In one of the Amazon reviews, they added a picture of this with some glowsticks in it to light up a night party. That would be pretty cool, and presumably the lower temperature would help keep the ice frozen.

3. Kiddie Pool

The kiddie pool cooler is honestly my reason for writing this. I keep saving the idea on Pinterest then wondering if the ice would melt immediately. If so it definitely wouldn’t be one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, that’s for sure. Sorry I don’t have a link for it, but really, would you want to deal with a box that size? Go pick one up at Walmart or whatever. Mine came from Babies R Us for $5.


How Many Bags of Ice: 3, room for more

Time to Set Up: A couple of minutes, just dumping ice.

How Long To Melt: About 3 hours

The ice started melting immediately in this one, but there’s still plenty at hour one.
We’ve got a lot of slush at hour two.
There’s some ice hanging on at hour three, but it was gone by four.

Pros: It fits a lot of stuff. Plus people will probably tell you it’s creative. And it’s the cheapest on this list.

Cons: Um… you guys… it’s a kiddie pool. Good luck trying to keep your toddlers out of it. My son did not care that it was ice. It’s his pool, and he wants in. The pool’s so big you can’t really put it on a table, so people are going to be reaching to the ground to pick up their drinks, which is also kind of a bummer.

Best For:

Barbecues and kid parties, assuming you can get the pool set up without your kids trying to get in. The best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party do not involve freezing your children as well. 🙂

4. Bonus Food Cooler

So, I have this ice mat that you can put food on to keep cool. It’s definitely not going to be one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, but if you have a plate or bowl you want to leave outside this will work.


How Many Bags of Ice: 0

Time to Set Up: One minute, but you have to remember to freeze it at least 6 hours before.

How Long To Melt: I’m not sure when it was melted since you can’t touch the ice, but at about 3 hours the plate started to warm up.

Nice and frosty at hour one.
We’ve got edge bubbles at hour two.
Hour three – bubbles everywhere!

Pros: So easy.  I love just rolling it out.

Cons: It’s so small! Can someone create a giant one of these to go over a whole table? That’d be great. Although I don’t know how you’d freeze that.

Best For:

Barbecues and potlucks. How great would this be if you’re bringing a cool dish to someone else’s party but you aren’t sure they’ll have a way for you to keep it at the right temperature?

Decision: What are the Best Ways to Keep Drinks Cool at an Outdoor Party?

My decision here is there’s not a best way. It seems like a cop-out, but really, it depends on what kind of party you’re having. Is it a fancy event? I think the Yeti coolers will look classic, but baby pools will look, well, cheesy. Is your party only lasting an hour or two? Then any of them are fine. If it’s in the middle of the day and super hot, I would say the inflatable cooler is not one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, but if it’s an average temperature or an evening party it will work. Also, how much are you serving? Do you really need a kiddie pool full of drinks? Do you need to lug everything to a picnic area? Think about these things, and the you be able to choose the appropriate cooling device for you.

The best ways to keep drinks cool at outdoor parties aren't always the cutest, but practical is important! #party

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  1. robin rue says:

    We have a whole variety of coolers at our house. We use what we have available when we have people over 🙂

  2. I love an inflatable cooler! It is great for parties, and the kid pool idea is awesome as well! I think that would be the most fun to keep drinks in and it would hold a ton. Just have to keep kids and dogs from trying to get into it lol

    1. Beth Davidson says:

      Ha, I didn’t dump them right away and my dogs have been having a great weekend drinking the remains.

  3. Journa Ramirez says:

    We love to throw outdoor parties and honestly, we don’t know how to keep our drinks cool until the end of the party. Thanks for these tips!

  4. This is a great review of a subject I rarely see. The Yeti cooler looks like my choice for a successful party. I don’t have a kiddie pool but it is fun to try too.

  5. I love the kiddie pool idea. But then again, you definitely don’t want kids with hypothermia so best to be sure of a way to keep them out. Maybe put it very far away from anything else “fun” so they don’t notice. I’d probably get the Yeti. I’ve never heard of it, but I love portable.

  6. I totally agree with you on this one, it depends on what party you’re having! I love the suggestions though. The inflatable one seems to be convenient because it’s easy to store and it’s not bulky.

  7. Haha I love how you tested them all!! Investing in a good esky / cooler (we call them eksys in Australia) is actually so worthwhile if you are outdoors in summer. it’s amazing how some stil have ice perfectly intact the next day!

    1. Beth Davidson says:

      Esky, I’ll remember that if I get to visit Australia!

  8. I am very impressed with the Yeti! I have never heard of this cooler. I can’t believe the ice is still there the next day! I’ve never seen anything like this!

    1. Beth Davidson says:

      I have to tell you, I did this on a Thursday, and the last bit of ice didn’t melt until Sunday. I was pretty impressed.

  9. Almost everyone in San Antonio has the Yeti cups and raves about them. They must be pretty good to withstand the triple digit heat down here! The inflatable coolers are great for when you are tubing on the river- they’re perfect to hold your drinks! Like you said- it depends on the event.

    1. Beth Davidson says:

      Ug, triple digits! I’m surprised anything can stand up to that! Good idea for the river, I remember tubing in Reno and watching tubes go by holding actual coolers instead of people. Lol.

  10. It would be awesome to have a reliable container for the drinks but it totally depends on the event, like you mentioned. These are all awesome and useful!

  11. Living in Florida, we opt for a cooler every time we do anything outdoorsy that requires us to keep drinks cool. We have tried several different ways, including the cute ways, but a cooler is the only way to go in Florida!

    1. Beth Davidson says:

      I’m surprised you can keep anything cool in Florida even with a cooler. 🙂

  12. You know, I really wish I had a problem where my drinks need to be kept cool, but in northern Europe, doesn’t happy very often! Great ideas though, especially like the kids’ paddling pool!

    1. Beth Davidson says:

      I guess I will need to do a post on how to keep your guests warm for your area! Lol.

  13. Terri Steffes says:

    We love our Yeti and actually, I like the way it looks. We tailgate and so the effectiveness is of prime importance to us!

  14. What great cooler ideas for parties. We have a lot of them outdoors and I bet I could really get a lot of use out of the Yeti Cooler. I’m going to check it out to see if it’s something I could benefit from owning.

    1. Beth Davidson says:

      They’re pretty awesome. There was still a little ice in it on Sunday and I poured it on Thursday. I plan on stealing my mom’s continually until she makes me get my own. Lol.

  15. Great ideas for parties! We don’t really have Summer parties as you can never guarantee the weather but we’re having our garden done at the moment so I’m planning a party for when it’s finished! I will bare these ideas in mind!

  16. That is a great idea! We are going to have an outdoor bash soon, so will keep this in mind.

  17. aish das-padihari says:

    What a great and useful post. I’m going to pin this post since we always have people over during weekends.

  18. I have seen the kiddie pool at a lot of parties lately. The bad thing has been the kiddies can get into the drinks so easily.

  19. As a party planner this is an absolutely genius tool to have! Especially during the hot summer days, the best thing you can do to please a party crowd is keep them cool

  20. hey.fantastic post.. it is very important topic and to keep the drink cool outside is the sometime become problem and sometime it spoil party also

  21. Ashleigh Walls says:

    I have heard so many great things about the Yeti cooler . I think that’s what I would definitely grab for some outdoor fun.

  22. I like that you gave honest ratings of all the coolers. I do like the sound of the ‘yeti cooler’ especially if it lasts long but then again the other coolers sound good too x

  23. Reesa says:

    What a great review of ways to keep drinks cold. I never thought to use a kiddie pool.

  24. These are great ideas. Cold drinks are a must when you have a lot of guests in your home and it’s not always easy to come up with a solution. I could see us trying all of these for a home party!

  25. This is actually a really informative post. It is hard to keep drinks cool down here at outdoor parties because of the South Carolina heat.

  26. Rebecca says:

    This is such a cute idea! I never thought of that but perfect for large outdoor parties. Bookmarking for sure!

  27. I like the idea of the inflatable cooler. I need one of those and a nice pool and a floater chair right about now. 🙂

  28. My friends rave about the Yeti cooler and how well it keeps things cool. I think it’s a great investment if you spend a lot of time outdoors or on a boat. I also love the idea of using a kiddie pool. It’s a great go to for larger events.

  29. Brittany says:

    I always worry about my kids overheating outside so these tips would really help us!

  30. Krystle Cook says:

    The Yeti cooler sounds so great! I love my cups and I had no idea that they made a bigger cooler.

  31. These cooling devices are perfect for keeping our drinks cold when we go to the pool. I’m so glad we still have some summer days and nights left.

  32. The IceMule Pro Cooler is my favorite cooler. Bought it last summer but only used it once. Must use it more this summer!

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