Last updated on April 20, 2022 – Published on March 3, 2020
Insulin coolers are life-saving accessories for insulin-dependent diabetics in the summer. Insulin is a temperature-sensitive medicine that quickly deteriorates when exposed to hot temperatures.
While your stocks of unopened insulin pens and vials must be refrigerated, your in-use insulin should be protected from the heat and kept at room temperature (max 25°C/77°F). Injecting insulin that has gone bad because of the heat is not safe and could really mess up your blood sugar levels.
If you live in or travel to places where the outside temperature is above 25°C/77°F, an insulin travel case that keeps your insulin cool is essential.
I’ve been traveling with my insulin all around the globe over the last 10 years and I’ve tried all kinds of insulin coolers. Here are my top 10 picks for the 2022 summer season!
Before diving into this selection of insulin coolers and travel cases, make sure you know what you need. Do you need to keep your in-use insulin at room temperature? Or do you need to refrigerate your stocks of insulin? How many pens or vials must fit in your cooler? Will you have access to electricity? Answering all of these questions beforehand will help you make a smart purchase decision. If you’re not sure about what you should be looking for, there’s a great guide to buying insulin coolers at the end of this article.
Here’s a quick video featuring the 5 best insulin cooling cases in 2022. You will find more details and more products below in the article.
4AllFamily is the most versatile and performant insulin cooler on the market this year. It’s been voted “Best Diabetes Product of the year 2021”, and still is in 2022. I’ve personally used it and tested its performance in all kinds of situations.
The unique patented cooling system offers 3 different cooling methods in one product. By switching the lids, you can transform a simple Biogel thermos bottle into a real USB mini-fridge for temperature-sensitive medicines like insulin.
Laboratory tests have shown it can keep insulin at fridge temperature (2-8°C/35-46°F) for up to 50 hours and at room temperature (26°C/78°F) for up to 72 hours when the outside temperature is 35°C/95°F. It’s the highest cooling performance of all insulin coolers.
Moreover, it offers a great capacity and can hold up to 7 insulin pens, 8 Novolog Vials, or 42 Humulin vials. It’s lightweight, portable, and very easy to use once you get well acquainted with it.
4ALLFAMILY’S EXTENDED PRODUCT LINE:
Following on from the huge success of the 72-hours 3-in1 insulin cooler last year, 4AllFamily has now launched 3 new products with distinct features.
The Upgraded portable medical fridge offers even higher cooling performances and acts like a real fridge. When plugged into any power source (power bank, solar panel, car cigarette lighter, etc.) it keeps insulin refrigerated forever. No more limits to your travels! Besides, it comes with an integrated thermostat, an anti-freeze auto shut-off safety, as well as a new temperature display screen.
If you’re looking for a smaller cooler, the Nomad cooling cases are great. They’re not powered and work with the included biogel packs. Depending on the size you choose (small or large) 4AllFamily Nomad insulin cooling cases keep insulin at fridge temperature for up to 30 hours and room temperature for up to 48 hours when it’s 95°F / 35°C outside. Not bad!
4AllFamily’s insulin coolers are all TSA-approved for air travel, so you can go through security checkpoints and board the plane with your refrigerated insulin.
Tempramed VIVICap insulin pen cooler is the most innovative cooling solution to travel with insulin. With 2ox / 60g only, this new jewel is the smallest and most lightweight cooler for insulin pens. It even fits in your pocket!
Tempramed VIVI Cap requires absolutely no maintenance, no electricity, no refrigeration, no freezer, no ice packs, no nothing! The patented cooling method is based on unique insulation and heat-absorbing materials that prevent heat from rising inside the cap. When the insulin cooling cap is on your pen, your insulin is kept at room temperature 24/7/365. The built-in temperature sensor allows you to check the inside temperature and have great peace of mind that your insulin is cool at any time.
The Click & Go system is extremely easy to use: replace your insulin pen’s existing cap with the cooling device. It’s officially FDA-registered for the cooling of insulin and it’s FSA/HSA eligible. It’s good for years of repetitive use and Tempramed offers a 3-years warranty as well as a 30-days money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with the product (but you will be!)
Note: VIVICap is not meant to keep stocks of unopened insulin pens refrigerated. It keeps in-use open insulin at room temperature and protected from the heat.
DisonCare’s famous stainless steel cooling bottles for insulin have been best-sellers for years. The 48-hours insulin cooling travel bottle is my favorite because of its great capacity and high cooling performance. It can keep up to 6 insulin pens, 8 insulin vials, or 42 Humilin vials cold for up to 48 hours. It works with natural biogel freezing packs.
One of its best features is the eye-catching QR medical tag. Anyone who scans the QR code can view your reserved medical information as well as any medical or diabetes travel document of your choice. It’s a great safety for solo diabetic travelers, as you never know what can happen. Plus, if you lose the cooler, chances of someone finding you are much higher.
DisonCare and 4AllFamily are similar products. Both are thermos-like cooling cases designed for the refrigeration of medicines like insulin. Both are of excellent quality. If you doubt which one is best for you, here are a few distinct features to be aware of:
Power: 4AllFamily offers 3 cooling methods including USB power and biogel freezing packs. DisonCare’s cooler is not powered. It works with biogel freeze packs only.
Performances: 4AllFamily is slightly more powerful than DisonCare. It can keep insulin cool for up to 72 hours against 48 for its competitor.
Capacity: DisonCare’s extra capacity cooling bottle can hold up to 6 insulin pens, 8 insulin vials, or 42 Humilin vials. 4AllFamily offers a bit more space for up to 7 insulin pens.
Price: DisonCare wins the point here. It sells for $78 ($70,20 with discount code) against $139,99 ($125,99 with discount code) for 4AllFamily’s 3-in-1 travel cooler.
Conclusion: If you can afford the extra cost and want to enjoy a more versatile product to keep your insulin cool this summer, I’d recommend 4AllFamily.
Breezy Packs is a new product that has been launched last year and it’s already a best-seller! These small and compact insulin cooling bags are extraordinarily easy to use and require no maintenance at all. They’re the ideal insulin coolers for diabetic travelers.
You don’t need freezing packs, refrigeration, batteries, or power. You don’t even need water! All you need to do is place your insulin inside the pouch and close the zipper. The Breezy Pack keeps your insulin at room temperature during the day. It recharges by itself overnight when temperatures are below 24°C / 75°F.
These new medicine cooling cases are made with advanced technology Phase Change Materials (PCMs) that absorb and release thermal energy according to the outside temperature. The energy absorbing and releasing cycle can occur thousands of times, so these cases are made to last!
BREEZY PACKS’ COOLING PERFORMANCES:
There are two models of Breezy Packs: Breezy Basic and Breezy Plus. Both can fit 2 insulin pens. The only difference is the amount of active material they contain and their correlative cooling performances.
Breezy Basic keeps insulin cool for 6 hours when it’s 38°C/100°F outside and can safely be used under temperatures of up to 41°C/106°F. Breezy Plus keeps insulin cool for 9 hours when it’s 38°C/100°F and can be used under temperatures of up to 46°C/115°F. Two new models are coming soon: Breezy Extra (fits up to 5 insulin pens) and Breezy Mega for even larger quantities.
Note: Breezy Packs are not meant to store unopened insulin pens or vials at fridge temperature. They’re only meant to keep in-use insulin cool and protected from the heat.
If you’ve never heard about the world-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. You do not need ice packs or electricity! The Frio cooling bags employ a patented technology that uses water evaporation to keep your insulin below the threshold level of 25°C/77°F for up to 48 hours when the outside temperatures reach 38°C/100°F. The bags are reusable an infinite number of times.
They’re lightweight and convenient to protect your in-use insulin pens and vials during hot summer days. Frio offers a large choice of sizes and styles. There’s a Frio bag for everything: insulin pens, insulin vials, and even insulin pumps. If you’re traveling with your child, there are even a few kids-friendly diabetic travel cases!
All you need to activate your Frio wallet is cold water. The bag comes with an inner wallet and an outer cover. Instructions are pretty straightforward: “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 the activated wallet in its outer cover. Place medication inside”. That’s it! No battery, no charger, no ice packs, no freezer needed!
FRIO BAGS Vs. BREEZY PACKS?
FRIO bags had been leading the market for years until Breezy Packs came in as their main competitor recently. Both are quite similar insulin coolers. If you doubt which one to choose, here are the main distinctive features to take into account:
Frio bags are more performant. Both Frio and Breezy Packs are meant to keep insulin safe at room temperature when it’s hot outside. Neither of them can reach fridge-like temperatures to store unopened insulin. Frio bags are more performant and can keep insulin cool for up to 48 hours when it’s 38°C/100°F, while Breezy Plus bags can perform similar cooling for 9 hours.
Breezy Packs are easier to use. Breezy Packs require absolutely no maintenance. All you need to do is place your insulin inside the cooling pouch and let the Phase Change Materials do the job. They automatically recharge overnight for the next day of use. Frio bags are a bit more of a hassle. Before each use, the inner wallet must be soaked in cold water for 10 minutes to activate or reactivate the crystals. Besides, storing your Frio bags when not in use requires complete drying, which can take up to several days. On the contrary, you can store your Breezy Pack anytime and anywhere.
Conclusion. If you’re going on multiple-day hikes or outdoor trips where the temperature at night does not go down below 24°C / 75°F, I’d recommend Frio bags as the Breezy Packs won’t be able to recharge overnight. However, if the temperatures get back down to 24°C / 75°F at night, Breezy Packs are the best and most convenient choice!
Sugar Medical has got style! I personally love that a company offers a wide variety of diabetes supply cases, purses, backpacks, travel cases, and organizers with plenty of different styles. They have a large catalog of insulated cooling bags for insulin that are reasonably priced (from $23 to $69 depending on size and model). From what I know, it’s the only company to offer insulated backpacks for insulin! Extremely convenient for diabetics who enjoy traveling, hiking, sports, and outdoor adventures.
Sugar Medical’s diabetes cooling bags are of good quality and durable. They keep your in-use insulin and other medications cool at room temperature when it’s hot outside. Be aware that they’re not made to maintain fridge temperature though!
Related article: The best diabetes bags, backpacks, and purses!
Aijun portable USB mini-fridge is another best-selling insulin travel cooler. Designed for diabetes drugs to stay refrigerated at all times, it’s a real mini-fridge that works just like a real fridge would do. You’re safe your insulin is constantly refrigerated between 2-8°C/35-46°F. Besides, the anti-freeze security function guarantees it never goes below 0°C/32°F.
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. You can charge it in 3 different ways: there’s a USB port, a cigarette lighter adapter for the car, as well as a regular household power charger. It’s ideal for diabetics who are long-term traveling with stocks of unopened insulin that need to be stored at fridge temperature.
The LCD display screen shows the time and the refrigeration temperature both in °C and in °F. It can hold up to 3 insulin pens and 4 insulin vials.
LifeinaBox’s connected travel fridge is the World’s smallest intelligent mini-fridge for medicines. It keeps insulin and other temperature-sensitive medicines cold at fridge temperature (2-8°C/35-46°F) for up to 6 hours when working on its battery, and 24/7 when plugged into a power source. You can buy separate battery packs for longer off-the-grid trips.
Lifeina is a connected travel fridge: get the app on your phone to monitor the temperature and the battery level of your fridge. An alarm automatically warns you when the battery level is getting below 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.
Cooluli mini-fridge is not designed for medications, but it’s definitely one of my favorite insulin coolers for the car, the office, or the hotel room. It’s a modern mini-fridge with a 4-liters capacity (enough to store months-worth of insulin, hypo snacks, etc). It keeps insulin refrigerated at constant fridge temperature.
It comes with AC, DC, and USB adapters, so you can use it absolutely everywhere. It’s easy to transport thanks to its inset top handle. It works great and it’s actually one of the most purchased cooling systems by my diabetic readers!
It’s ultra-quiet, 100% energy efficient, and has a cooling capacity of 40ºF-45ºF below ambient temperature. One thing to be aware of though: Cooluli mini-fridge does not work on battery. It needs power to function (USB, car, or household). Cooluli is an expert in mini-fridges and offers a lot of different sizes, colors, and styles.
Apollo Walker is the cheapest insulin travel case cooler you can buy without compromising too much on quality. It’s one of Amazon’s best-sellers. It’s a very simple insulated cooling bag that includes 2 reusable ice packs and an interior insulation liner.
It’s made with durable material. The outside is water-resistant and easy to clean. I especially like its interior organizer with elastic loops and pockets to keep your needles and diabetes stuff. It has a great capacity, and you can fit numerous insulin pens or vials inside. It keeps your insulin cool and protected from outside heat for at least 12 hours.
Dimensions: 7.9” x 3.5”x 1.6”. Weight: 6.4 ounces. Available in different colors: grey, purple, navy, and blue. You get a 30-days money-back policy and a one-year warranty.
A good insulin travel cooler is an essential accessory for anyone living with insulin-dependent diabetes. But there’s no such thing as the “best insulin cooler”. They’re all different and offer distinct features. Finding the one that best suits you depends on your own needs and lifestyle. Cooling performances, duration, weight and portability, USB or ice packs, and price… are many criteria you need to identify before choosing your new insulin travel case.
There are two types of insulin coolers: the ones that keep your in-use insulin at room temperature, and the ones that keep your stocks of unopened insulin at fridge temperature.
To protect your in-use open insulin pens or vials from the daily ambient high temperature, you need an insulin cooler that keeps it below 25°C/77°F. It’s not necessary that your cooler performs refrigeration temperatures. You can use simpler and cheaper coolers such as 4AllFamily’s Nomad cooling cases, Vivicap, Frio Bags, Breezy packs, or Apollo Walker case.
Insulin cooling bags, pouches, or wallets are usually made with soft flexible fabric. They’re lightweight and small enough to fit in your handbag and sometimes in your pocket. They work either with icepacks, crystals, or PCMs (Phase Change Materials). They’re ideal for diabetic backpackers or for daily use during the summer.
On the contrary, insulin cooling cases or travel cases are solid cases. Their capacity is often greater than insulin cooling bags and their interior design usually includes pockets and elastics to organize and secure your diabetic supplies. They most often include ice packs or freeze gels to keep cool temperatures inside. Their solid case offers greater protection to your insulin pens or vials in case of shocks and falls.
If you’re traveling with stocks of unopened insulin, you need a cooler that keeps your insulin at fridge temperature (2-8°C/35-46°F). Insulin cannot be left out of the fridge for more than a month without risking going bad. You need to use performant mini-fridges for medicines such as 4AllFamily, DisonCare, Aijuin, LifeinaBox, or Cooluli portable fridge.
Such travel fridges for insulin have the highest performance of all insulin coolers. They are ideal for diabetics who need to keep stocks of insulin refrigerated for the duration of their trip. Some are more portable and easy to carry than others. Some work on battery while others need to be constantly plugged in.
You should also evaluate your needs in terms of cooling duration. Do you need to use your cooler a few hours once in a while? Or are you planning a trip where you need to keep insulin cool for several days? Make sure to read the cooler’s performance laboratory test results and check that it can keep your insulin safe for the time you need. The best cooling performance for autonomous (working on battery) insulin coolers at fridge temperature is from 4AllFamily offering up to 72-hours refrigeration!
Some insulin travel cases function with power or battery, while others only require icepacks, water, or even nothing to keep your meds cool.
Naturally, powered insulin coolers offer better cooling performances. Their downside is that they’re less autonomous and require access to electricity at least to recharge their battery. Most powered insulin coolers come with USB chargers and car adapters. Of the top 10 insulin coolers listed above, the powered ones are: 4AllFamily, Aijun, Lifeinabox, DisonCare, and Cooluli.
Think about the options and details you may find useful. Do you want an alarm to warn you when the cooler runs out of battery? Would you like your cooler to display the inside temperature? What about connecting it to your phone via an App? Would you be reassured with a safety such as a QR Medical code? If you’re into new technology and appreciate that kind of option, check at the powered coolers from 4AllFamily, LifeinaBox, or DisonCare.
Non-powered insulin coolers work with either freeze packs (you need access to a freezer), cold water, or nothing! Some new-tech insulation systems such as the ones used by Vivicap insulin pens cooling cap or Breezy Packs are completely autonomous and do not require water or ice to function. They give you more freedom than the powered coolers. They’re also more compact and lightweight. The counterpart is that they’re usually less performant. Have a look at Vivicap, Breezy Packs, Frio Bags, Sugar Medical, and Apollo Walker case.
Some insulin travel cases are designed to old exclusively insulin pens, while others can only fit vials. Frio and Sugar Medical also have special cooling pouches for insulin pumps.
Make sure the cooler is big enough to hold the quantity of insulin you need for your travels. Vivicap insulin pen cap device for example can only protect one insulin pen from the heat. It’s extremely convenient for daily use, but it limits travel plans where you need to keep several insulin pens refrigerated.
If you need to keep numerous pens or vials cool, the highest capacity insulin coolers you can find are: 4AllFamily (up to 7 pens), DisonCare (up to 6 pens), and Cooluli (4-liters capacity).
If you’re flying with diabetes, you need an insulin travel case that’s TSA-approved. Because of the hazardous atmosphere and temperature conditions in the hold of the plane, you shouldn’t pack your insulin and diabetic supplies in your checked luggage. Always pack your medical supplies in your carry-on. All the insulin coolers selected in this article, except the Cooluli mini-fridge, are TSA-approved, so you can go through airport security checks with them.
More about flying with diabetes:
Insulin is a temperature-sensitive medicine that can quickly deteriorate when exposed to extreme temperatures and temperature changes. Insulin that has not been properly stored and exposed to the wrong temperatures can break down and lose its efficiency. Injecting insulin that has gone bad can mess up your blood sugar levels and cause severe hyperglycemia.
Insulin is a liquid water-like medicine that’s clear and colorless. If the insulin inside your pens, cartridges, or vials looks cloudy or has clumps or strings inside, it has gone bad. Most of the time you can notice it with a naked eye. Anyway, when in doubt, do not use the insulin you suspect might have gone bad. It could be dangerous for your health. Dispose of it and get a new pen or vial from the fridge.
Diabetes should not be an obstacle to your travels. Hundreds of thousands of people living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, myself included, travel all around the globe. That being said, traveling with diabetes does require a bit of preplanning and organization, especially if you’re on insulin and carry plenty of supplies.
Here’s a quick list of concerns that diabetes raises for travelers:
If you can’t afford the best insulin coolers on the list above, you can make your own one for as little as $10. All you need is a good insulated cooling bag, some ice, ice packs or gels, and a thermometer.
Any cooler bag or lunch bag that you might even already have at home could work. 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 ergonomics that you’re most comfortable with. There are insulated cooler shoulder bags, insulated backpacks, and even insulated purses!
To keep your insulin cold, insert some ice, bottles of ice, ice packs, or ice gels into your cooler bag. You can get ice cubes at 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. You may also fill a plastic bottle with water and freeze it. It’s free! Ice packs and gels are also a great option. They’re cheap and reusable. I personally like Fit and Fresh’s reusable Ice Packs.
Be careful your insulin does not freeze! Frozen insulin is not safe for use, even if it has thawed. Keep your insulin isolated from the ice inside your cooling bag. I usually put a dry towel around my insulin pens and wrap them in a plastic bag.
Being able to check the temperature inside your insulin cooling bag offers great peace of mind that your insulin is safe. You can use a waterproof thermometer or a smart thermometer for insulin and medications such as MedAngel One. It’s a bit expensive but it connects to your phone via Bluetooth so you never have to open your cooler bag to check the inside temperature.
I hope this guide and insulin coolers selection have helped you! If not, please do not hesitate to comment below and ask your questions. I’ll be happy to help you out in any way I can!