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Insulin is a temperature-sensitive medicine that needs to be protected from the heat at all times. As a general rule, you in-use open insulin pens or vials should not be exposed to temperatures over 25°C/77°F. Your stocks of unopened insulin should be kept at fridge temperature.
I’m a Type 1 diabetic and I’ve been traveling all over the world with my insulin kit for more than 10 years now. I’ve tried many different insulin coolers over the years and I know how hard it is to find the best one. Actually, there’s no such thing as the “best insulin travel cooler”. Each one of us has different needs, and the most important thing is to find the insulin cooler that best suits your own needs. That’s why I’ve put together the buyer’s guide to insulin coolers at the end of the article. It will guide you through all the features to look at in order to make the smartest purchase decision according to what your personal needs are.
4AllFamily is the best and most practical insulin cooler I’ve used. It’s a new product that’s been launched recently. What’s so great about it? It offers 3 different cooling methods in one product. By switching the lids, you can transform your insulin cooler from a simple Bio gel pack container into a real USB-charged mini-fridge.
Laboratory tests have shown it can keep your insulin at fridge temperature (2-8°C/35-46°F) for 50 hours and at maximum 26°C/78°F for 72 hours when the outside temperature is 35°C/95°F. This is the highest performance on the market today.
Moreover, it has a high capacity: it can hold up to 7 insulin pens, 8 Novolog Vials, or 42 Humulin vials.
It’s light, portable, and very easy to use. I’ve just received the product myself and I am testing it for a full review that I’ll publish in a few weeks. Meanwhile, check out their website which gives you all the detailed information about it.
4AllFamily also wins the competition in the Best insulin vial protectors category.
If you’ve never heard about the famous FRIO Insulin Cooling cases, it’s time you do! These cooling bags are specially designed to protect temperature-sensitive medicines like insulin against high heat. What I love so much about them is that you do not need ice-packs nor electricity! The FRIO Cooling cases employ a patented technology that uses water evaporation to keep your insulin below the threshold level of 25°C/77°F for up to 48hours at outside temperatures of 38°C/100°F.
How to use Frio Wallets: All you need to make FRIO wallets work is cold water, which you can find absolutely everywhere. They include an inner wallet and an outer cover.“Immerse the inner wallet containing the crystals in cold water and soak for 8-10 minutes. Towel dry and leave the wallet to dry off for 5 minutes. This allows the crystals to absorb any excess water. When semi-dry to the touch, place at the activated wallet in it’s outer cover. Place medication inside”. That’s it! No battery, no charger, no ice packs, no freezer needed! And they’re reusable for infinite number of times.
They’re very light and extremely convenient to protect your in-use insulin pens and vials during hot summer days. Plus, FRIO offers a large choice of sizes and styles. They have Frio bags for everything: insulin pens, insulin vials, and even insulin pumps.
If you want more details, I’ve written a full product review about the FRIO Wallets.
I’m really exited about this recently launched insulin cooling case concept! Vivicap Reusable insulin pen cooler is an innovative new product that has no competitor (yet!). You will need this insulin pen cooler to protect your in-use insulin pens from outside high temperature. This novel high-technology keeps insulin below 29°/84°F for a minimum of 12 hours whatever the outside temperature is. And it magically regains its capacity whenever the ambient temperature gets back below 26°C/79°F. It also insulate your insulin from the cold and prevents it from freezing in extreme cold temperature.
It requires absolutely no maintenance, no electricity, no freezer, no nothing! So, how does it work then? It’s based on a high-tech insulation and heat absorbing material that prevents heat from rising on the inside.
Vivicap is extremely easy to use: just replace your insulin pen’s existing cap with the device. It’s good for years of repetitive use. It has an indicator button that shows you the temperature status so you can control it. Vivicap is officially FDA registered for the cooling of insulin. You can safely use it.
This new jewel is the smallest insulin pen cooler you can get, very lightweight (2oz/60g only!). It fits in your purse and even in your pocket for most convenience. Be careful when buying to choose the right size that fits your insulin pen. You can select different ones for Flexpen, Flextouch, Kwikpen, Reffilable pens, and Solostar insulin pens.
I’ve just received it myself for trial, so I will soon publish a full product review about it. Meanwhile, here’s a Diabetes Educator and Vivicap user’s opinion.
An insulin cooling bag designed by a diabetic entrepreneur! He knows what he’s talking about. Fridge-to-Go is the name of the insulin cooling bag designed by Robin, the Type 1 Diabetic man behind GetBacktoBasix company. These FDA-approved cooling bags use patented freezer panels filled with salt water that keep the interior temperature cool no matter what the external temperature is.
What I love about Fridge-to-Go is its interior organised design. It has several zipper compartments and elasticised straps for insulin pens and vials not to move. And the exterior zipper is lovable, you can have a small padlock if you desire extra security.
Robin has thought about kids too, offering a Kids Epipen Holder with identification window and kids-friendly design.
Aijun mini-fridge is a best seller in the temperature-sensitive medicine category. Specially designed for diabetes drugs to stay refrigerated at all times, it’s an actual mini-fridge and really works just like a real fridge would do. So you’re safe your insulin is constantly properly stored. It keeps your insulin safe between 2-8°C/35-46°F, and has an anti-freeze security function.
It works on a 1040mAh battery for a duration of 10 hours when fully charged. A battery indicator lets you know when you need to recharge, which is very handy. It comes with 3 different charging system: a USB port, a cigaret lighter adapter (so you can charge it in your car), as well as a regular house hold power charger.
Its LCD display shows the time and the refrigeration temperature in both °C and °F. It can hold up to 3 insulin pens and 4 insulin vials. Internal refrigeration space: 170mm*55mm*23mm. External dimensions: 187mm*80mm*68mm.
I have not tested Aijun mini-fridge myself, but many of my readers have reported it’s a great product!
LifeinaBox Portable Medication Fridge is another new product that did not exist when I first published this article. It’s the world’s smallest intelligent mini-fridge. It keeps insulin and other temperature-sensitive medications safe at fridge temperature (2-8°C/35-46°F) for up to 6 hours when working on battery, and 24/7 when on power. There’s the possibility to buy separate battery packs to take with you on longer off-the-grid trips.
Lifeina is a connected travel fridge: get the app on your phone and it monitors the temperature and the battery level of your fridge. Plus, there’s an alarm that automatically warns you when battery level is getting lower than 20%.
It can hold up to 8 insulin pens, and numerous insulin vials. Includes both a universal 110-240V power cord and a 12V DC power adapter for your car.
DisonCare Portable Insulin Cooling Bottle has been among the best insulin coolers for years now. It still is today, and with an even wider catalog of products! This one is the 36Hours Medication Cooler with temperature display and QR Medical tag. It’s a new upgraded version of the one I used to recommend before.
DisonCare Insulin coolers for travelling diabetics are made with stainless steel and keep the insulin at fridge temperature (2-8°C/35-46°F) for up to 36 hours even if ambient temperature is at 30°/86°F. It’s a bit less than its All4Family competitor which keeps insulin at fridge temperature for 50 hours, but it’s still more than most other ones. It works with natural bio gel freezing packs. It comes with a touch temperature display for better control and tranquility.
My favourite feature: its eye catching QR Medical Tag. Anyone who scans the QR code can view your reserved information. It’s definitely a good reassuring idea for traveling diabetics, as you never know what can happen. Plus, if you loose the cooler, chances are higher someone will contact you.
The only downside I’ve found to this cooler is its limited capacity: you can only put 2 insulin pens, 2 insulin vials, or 12 Humilin vials. It’s probably enough for most of us, but if you’re traveling long term and need to refrigerate a 6-months stock of insulin like I do, you’d rather get the Extra-Capacity DisonCare Insulin Cooler: it comes at a higher price, but can hold up to 6 insulin pens, 8 insulin vials, or 42 Humilin vials, and its cooling performance is 45 hours! Check out all of DisonCare Insulin Coolers in their catalog here. The full diabetes kits are smart choices too.
One last (great) thing about DisconCare: it has a 30-days money back policy, and offers a year warranty on its products.
Cooluli mini-fridge is not specially designed for medications, but it’s definitely one of my favourite insulin cooling solution. Many people use it for medications or for cosmetics. It’s a modern mini-fridge of 4-liters capacity with AC + DC + USB adapter so you can use it absolutely everywhere. It’s easy to transport thanks to its inset top handle. It’s without any doubt the largest capacity solution you can get. It works great and it’s actually one of the most purchased cooling system by my readers!
It’s ultra quite, 100% energy efficient, and has a cooling capacity of 40ºF-45ºF below ambient temperature. One thing to be aware of though: Cooluli mini-fridges do not work on battery. It needs power to function (USB, Car, or Household).
Outer dimensions: 7.6″x10.8″x10.25″. Inner dimension: 5.45″x8.12″x5.4″. Cooluli is expert in mini-fridges and offers a lot of different sizes, colors, and styles.
Apollo Walker’s is Amazon’s best choice for the Insulin Cooler Travel case” category. It’s actually the most sold product and has great costumers reviews. It’s a very simple insulin cooling bag that includes 2 reusable ice packs and an interior insulation liner.
It’s made with good quality durable material and a strong zipper closure. The outside is water resistant so it’s easy to clean. I especially like its interior organisation with elasticated product loops and pockets. It has a great capacity, and you can fit numerous insulin pens or insulin vials inside. It will keep your insulin cool and protected from outside high temperature from at least 12 hours.
Dimensions: 7.9” x 3.5”x 1.6”. Weight: 6.4 ounces. Exist in different colors: grey, purple, navy, blue. You get a 30 days money back policy and a year warranty.
MediCool is probably one of the oldest insulin cooling solution on the market. It still does a great job, and at a much lower price than most competitors. Only $24! It keeps insulin at fridge temperature for up to 16 hours. It comes with 2 freezer-safe cooler packs. Dimensions: 8″ x 4″ x 3″. It has inside pockets for syringes and alcohol swabs. Exist in black, blue, or red.
Downside: this one is only for insulin vials (2 vials). You cannot fit insulin pens inside. But MediCool has another insulin cooling solution for insulin pens: the Poucho Wallets. They’re similar to FRIO’s cooling wallets, but I have not tested them myself. You get one year warranty on MediCool products.
MediCool’s Insulin vials cooler is compatible with most insulin vial protectors.
MedAngel One is a wireless thermometer and App for iPhone and Android specially designed to monitor the temperature of insulin and other medications.
It’s extremely easy to use. Place the sensor inside your insulin cooling case and it will constantly monitor the inside temperature while sending the information directly to the App on your phone via bluetooth. It sends you alarm when the temperature is getting outside of the defined range.
It’s a bit expensive, but if you’re frequently traveling with insulin, it’s an excellent accessory to have as it gives you significant comfort and peace of mind.
You’ve probably noticed I’m using different terminologies when I write about insulin coolers. I sometimes refer to insulin coolers, insulin cooling bags, insulin travel cases, mini-fridges, etc. Is there actually a difference? Yes and no. I try to follow the product’s name as given by its manufacturers which sometimes vary without much sense. To guide you in your insulin cooler’s search, you can refer to the following common categorisation to help you decide what insulin cooling system is best for you.
Insulin Cooler is the most extensive term. It’s the main category that includes all the other ones. It’s what all of us are looking for. In that same category: Insulin Travel Coolers.
Insulin cooling bags are the lightest insulin coolers you can find, along with insulin cooling pouches and wallets. Usually made with soft flexible fabric, their small size and weight allow you to carry them in your handbag or even in your pockets. They usually work with icepacks (expect for the Frio ones), and will protect a few insulin pens or vials from high temperature during a few hours. They’re ideal for backpackers travelers, dail trips, and everyday use.
In that same category: Insulin Cooling Wallets – Insulin Cooling Pouches
Insulin cooling cases are most often found under the name “insulin travel cases”. They are cooling systems as well. They differ from insulin cooling bags in that they’re solid cases instead of soft and flexible bags. Their capacity is greater than insulin cooling bags, pouches or wallets, and their interior design usually includes pockets and elastics allowing you to organise your insulin supplies. Insulin travel cases most often work with ice-packs or gels to keep your insulin cool, so you need access to a freezer to re-activate them. Their solid case provides greater protection to your insulin pens or vials in case of shocks and falls.
These are more specific categories focusing on the kind of insulin containers can fit in the insulin cooler. Before buying, be careful to read carefully the instructions as some insulin coolers are designed exclusively for insulin pens while others exclusively for insulin vials.
We’re talking about the cooler’s format here. Insulin cooling bottles looks like proper thermos bottle in which you can store your insulin pens or vials for temperature control. Insulin portable cooling bottles such as All4Family or DisonCare Bottle work with USB or household power chargeable battery to keep your insulin at fridge temperature or room temperature. They’re quite bulky but have greater capacity and higher performances than insulin bags and cases.
Last, but not least, insulin fridges have the highest performances of all insulin coolers as to low-temperature insulin storage. They are ideal for diabetics who need to keep stocks of insulin at fridge-temperature, as they work exactly like fridges would do. Some are more portable and easy to carry than other. Some work on battery while others need to be constantly plugged-in. They’re the heaviest and heavier bulkiest insulin coolers and are not really adapted to backpacking travels, nor trekking days. Ideal for work office, car travel, hotel rooms, etc.
There are a lot of features to look at in order to make a smart choice when buying an insulin travel cooler. Temperature, duration, weight, powers, USB, capacity, price, etc… Finding the perfect cooler that fits all of your expectations is a tough task and you sometimes will have to make compromise.
Here’s a little help to guide you through your purchase decision. I’ve listed all the important questions you need to ask yourself before buying your new insulin cooler. For each of your answers, there’s a list of most suited product suggestions.
To protect your in-use open insulin pens or vials from the daily ambient high temperature, you’ll need an insulin cooler that will keep your insulin below 25°C/77°F. It’s not necessary that your cooler goes as low as fridge temperature. You can use simpler and cheaper coolers such as Frio Bags – ViviCap device – Fridge-to-go – Apollo Walker case
To transport stocks of insulin for more than a month, you’ll need a higher-performance cooler that guarantees your insulin is constantly kept at fridge temperature (2-8°C/35-46°F). As you know, insulin cannot be out of the fridge more than a month without risking going bad. You’ll need to use performant insulin coolers such as All4Family– Aijun mini-fridge – LifeinaBox – DisonCare Bottle – Cooluli USB mini-fridge – Medicool protector
It’s not the same if you need your cooler for few hours day trips once in a while, or if you need it to transport your insulin cold for several days in a row. Before buying, read the cooler’s performance laboratory test results and check that it can keep your insulin safe for the time you need. Some can keep your insulin cool for as long as 72 hours! The highest-performance for autonomous (working on battery) insulin coolers at fridge temperature are: All4Family – DisonCare Bottle.
Powered insulin coolers naturally have higher performances, but they’re less autonomous and require access to electricity at least to recharge the batteries. Most powered insulin coolers now come with USB chargers and Car adapter, which allows you to recharge the batteries from everywhere. Check at: All4Family– Aijun mini-fridge – LifeinaBox – DisonCare Bottle – Cooluli USB mini-fridge
Non-powered insulin coolers work with either freeze packs (you’ll need access to a freezer to activate it!), cold water, or even nothing! They give you more liberty than powered coolers, are much compact and light-weight, but are usually less performant. Check at: Frio Bags – ViviCap device – Fridge-to-go – Apollo Walker case – Medicool protector.
Before buying, be sure your insulin cooler is compatible with your insulin containers. Some insulin coolers are designed to hold exclusively insulin pens and you won’t be able to store any insulin vials: some of the Frio Bags – ViviCap device. Other insulin coolers are specially designed for insulin vials and insulin pens won’t fit in them: Medicool protector, and some of Frio Bags.
If you need an insulin cooler to carry up to 3 insulin pens or vials, you’ll be well enough with low-capacity coolers such as: ViviCap device –Frio Bags – Fridge-to-go – Medicool protector – Aijun mini-fridge
On the contrary, if you need your cooler to hold to more than 4 pens, check at high-capacity insulin coolers such as: All4Family – LifeinaBox – DisonCare Bottle – Cooluli USB mini-fridge – Apollo Walker case. Cooluli mini-fridge is the highest capacity you can find.
Some coolers are much more high-tech and connected than others. Do you want an alarm to warn you when you run out of battery? Would you like your cooler to display inside temperature? What about connecting it to your phone via an App? Would you be reassured with a security such as a QR Medical code? If you’re into technology and would appreciate that kind of options, check at the following coolers: All4Family – LifeinaBox – DisonCare Bottle
If you’re going to fly with your diabetic supplies, you’ll need an insulin cooler that is approved by the TSA so you can carry it on board with you. All insulin coolers in this article are TSA-approved (expect Cooluli mini-fridge). If you’re flying with your diabetes supplies, don’t forget to download your Diabetes Travel Letter Template and ask your doctor to fill it in. You’ll need it to carry all of your supplies through airport security checks.
Price matters for most of us. Some insulin coolers can be really expensive (LifeinaBox Smart mini-fridge for medicines costs more than $200!). If you can’t afford to pay much for your insulin cooler, there are options around $20 that work just great. The cheapest insulin coolers on this list are: Frio Bags – Fridge-to-go – Medicool protector – Apollo Walker case.
If you can’t afford to get one of the best insulin coolers, or if you can’t find one that suits your needs, you can make your own insulin cooler bag with only a few simple things. It can cost you as little as 10$.
All you need is a good insulated cooler bag, some ice, ice packs or gels, and a thermometer.
To pack your insulin that need to stay cool, the first thing you need is a good insulated cooler bag. Nothing crazy, any regular cooler bag or lunch bag that you might even already have at home.
Choose the size that you need. It can go from as small as 100mL up to more than 10L. Enough to pack insulin vials or pens for years of travel!
Choose the price you’re willing to pay. Prices range from $5 to $80 depending on a lot of options and features.
To keep your insulin cold, you’ll need to add some ice, bottles of ice, ice packs or ice gels in your insulated cooler bag. It’s really your own choice as to what you prefer using. Here are the pros and cons of each:
Regular ice: you can get it from pretty much any supermarket anywhere in the world for really cheap. If you ask nicely, any restaurant/bar/coffee shop would be happy to refill your bag with free ice cubes.
Ice bottles: fill any plastic bottle with water and freeze it. It’s free! But you’ll need access to a freezer every 24 hours to re-freeze your water.
Ice packs and gels: they’re cheap and reusable. I personally use Fit and Fresh’s reusable Ice Packs and I’m very satisfied with it. You’ll need to have access to a freezer at least every 24 hours to reactivate them.
You want your insulin to stay cool, not to freeze! It’s important that you keep you insulin isolated from the ice inside your cooling bag. Frozen insulin is bad. I usually put a dry towel around my insulin pens, and wrap it in a plastic bag. That way, my insulin won’t get wet nor in direct contact with the ice, so it’s impossible for it to freeze.
This is optional, but if you want to check the temperature inside your insulin cooling bag, I’d recommend you use a thermometer. That way, you’ll know exactly when the temperature inside your bag is going up, and you’ll be able to control it and add more ice when necessary.
Get a waterproof thermometer, as it will get humid inside your bag. Smart thermometer for insulin and medications such as MedAngel One are a bit expensive but they’re great and connect to your Phone via bluetooth so you never have to open your cooler bag to check the inside temperature.
Here’s a list of articles that might interest you before traveling with insulin:
I hope this guide and product selection have been useful to you and you’ve found the insulin travel cooler of your dreams! If not, please do not hesitate to comment that post and ask your questions. I’ll be happy to help you with more information.