The Best Portable Ice Makers: Fresh Ice on the Go
Find the perfect portable ice maker for your camper or RV with this informative guide.
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON July 7, 2021
If there’s one sure thing about traveling in the heat, it’s that ice melts. If you’re far from a convenience store, then it’s pretty safe to say that most of the ice you bring simply won’t last. A popular way to keep ice handy while you travel is simply using a portable ice maker. All you need is a generator (and some water) to keep ice on hand. From chilling injuries to cooling drinks, ice offers endless value. Of course, it works best if you have a quality portable ice maker.
You want something that works quickly, makes enough ice, and is built to last. Portable ice makers have come a long way in a short time, technology-wise. Newer models make more ice faster and use less energy than their predecessors. With those advances has also come a surge in popularity as people realize the benefits of not only having a portable ice maker when they travel, but at home for parties and gatherings also. To help make your search of the best portable ice makers easier, we’ve curated a list of the top options available. Let’s check out the leading selections.
This ice maker features a streamlined and elegant design that complements any home décor. It is capable of making up to 24 pounds of ice in 24 hours.
- Convenient window on the front of the unit allows you to easily see how much ice is in the bin
- Produces its first round of ice in just 20 minutes
- Ice cubes are the soft, crunchy kind that tends to melt quickly
- One of the heavier units available
This compact, portable unit is capable of producing up to 26 pounds of ice per day, with a new batch ready every 6-8 minutes.
- Choose from small or medium-sized ice cubes that will fit in any size opening of your water bottle
- Weighs less than 20 pounds
- Basket holds only 1.5 pounds of ice, so you need to empty it frequently
This unit is capable of making 28.7 pounds of ice in 24 hours and uses up to 40 percent less energy than other models to do it.
- Fun retro-style is compact and lightweight
- Weighs less than 20 pounds
- Ice basket is one of the smallest, so it needs to be emptied frequently
- Only comes in one color
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Portable Ice Makers
- Convenience. A portable ice maker is incredibly convenient: not only can you actually bring your ice maker anywhere, but you can move it around as needed. Use it indoors, outdoors, or anywhere you’ve got access to power. It’s an appliance you can rely on to create ice quickly, efficiently, and nearly anywhere, all without needing a full-size fridge (or any ice cube trays).
- Versatile. Because of their portable design, these ice makers are able to be moved, carried, and plugged in anywhere. Some are built for outdoor use, while others are RV- or camper-friendly. You’ll be able to create (and use) ice anywhere you go.
- Compact. You don’t need a ton of space to use a portable ice maker. Available in an array of different compact sizes, these appliances can be surprisingly petite. Many are designed to fit on a countertop; others are even smaller and are travel-ready. Instead of splurging on a sizable freezer or fridge, save space with one of these machines.
- Quick and efficient. Need ice in a hurry? A portable ice maker can get you exactly what you need in very little time. Many modern versions can get ice created and ready to use in just six to eight minutes. This is particularly helpful when you’re in need of a lot of ice quickly, or when you need to cool down warm drinks ASAP.
- Save money. If you frequently purchase huge bags of ice when you’re having a party, hosting guests, throwing a barbecue at your local park, or even while camping in your RV, you know how quickly that expense can add up. Instead of buying bag after bag of ice, use a portable ice maker to save money.
- Low maintenance. You don’t have to fuss with a complex appliance when you have a portable ice maker. These simple machines take care of all the work and most of the maintenance themselves. With features like built-in drains that can actually use melted ice and the ability to funnel water through the production channels, there’s little cleanup and little maintenance needed to keep them working smoothly.
- Smart technology. If you’ve never used a standalone portable ice maker before, you’ll love how easy they are to control and operate. Many feature smart technology now, with LED lights, visual or audio cues to tell you when your attention is needed, and automatic settings.
Types of Portable Ice Makers
Countertop Ice Makers
Countertop ice makers, which are also simply called portable ice makers, are the only variety you can find that you can bring anywhere with you. Designed for light use and convenience, these machines are compact and fit on just about any countertop or table. They’re self-contained units, which means they can operate separately — with nothing but a standard electrical outlet and water — unlike a traditional freezer ice maker.
Portable ice makers don’t require a water line or drain. You do have to manually fill the water tank to keep these appliances running, but that’s it. It’ll quickly create ice, which you can use as it’s produced or store in your freezer or cooler. As long as you’re using the ice and keeping the water tank full, you’ll be able to generate reasonable amounts of ice.
General Electric is the oldest electrical company in North America. Founded by the father of electricity, Thomas Edison, it has been a global leader in electrical innovation for over 150 years. Its line of home appliances is one of the largest selling lines in the world. It’s known for such cutting-edge products as the GE Profile Smart Refrigerator and its line of Smart Washing Machines.
Frigidaire was founded in 1916 in Fort Wayne, Ind., and is now headquartered in Dublin, Ohio. It’s another long-time and trusted corporation that makes a well-designed line of kitchen and home appliances, like the Frigidaire Gallery Induction Ranges and the Frigidaire Gallery French Door Refrigerators.
Igloo got its start in 1947 as a metalworking shop that made metal water coolers for blue-collar workers. Its headquarters are in Katy, Texas, and it is now one of the most trusted names in coolers in North America, with products like the IMX 70 Qt Cooler.
hOmeLabs is a newer player in the small appliance industry. It specializes in offering affordable and reliable appliances backed by strong customer service. While it is most widely known for its line of portable countertop ice makers, it also produces a portable induction cooktop and a line of compact room dehumidifiers.
NewAir began in founder Luke Peters’ garage in California over 15 years ago. Its goal is to be the most trusted name in compact appliances in America. Its line of compact wine and beer fridges is popular, as is its line of energy-efficient space heaters.
Check out our favorite 12-volt coolers here.
Portable Ice Maker Pricing
- Under $120: This price range is the base starting range for most portable ice maker units. It will get you a compact unit that produces ice quickly, but is generally made by lesser-known manufacturers who are trying to make a name for themselves in the industry.
- $120 to $150: This price range will include some larger, more durably-constructed portable ice makers from manufacturers whose names you recognize, and some you don’t. Ice makers in this range start to vary more in size and capacity, giving you more options.
- $150 to $250: This is the upper echelon of portable ice makers. Brought to you by trusted names in the appliance industry, this price range includes some of the most technologically advanced and efficient ice makers available.
Looking for an infrared thermometer? See our top picks of infrared thermometers here.
This is a key feature for anyone who doesn’t want to assign a ton of valuable counter space to another countertop appliance. Some portable ice makers are definitely smaller than others, so measure the space you plan to use ahead of time and don’t get something that will be too big to fit there. With that being said, you also don’t want to purchase a unit whose basket is too small to hold the amount of ice you will need, so be sure to measure that against the overall size of the ice maker.
Usually measured in pounds per day, this is how much ice your particular model is capable of making in a 24-hour period. If your requirements aren’t that high, you can likely get away with a smaller, less expensive model, but if you’re buying an ice maker to supplement a larger need for your family, or if you like to host frequent social gatherings, you’re going to need an ice maker that can keep up with that. What good is an ice maker if you have to have a backup bag of ice in your freezer anyway?
This is a key factor for a lot of people. Many people consider purchasing a portable ice maker in order to save money on buying multiple bags of ice. That doesn’t mean you want the upfront cost of the ice maker to be prohibitive. Deciding ahead of time if your budget is $120 or $250 will greatly help to narrow down your search and make your decision a lot easier when it comes to picking the ice maker that is ideal for you.
A good ice maker will have few maintenance requirements for continued and reliable use. Keeping it full of water and cleaning the system on occasion should be all you need to do in order to maintain the working parts of your portable ice maker. A good ice maker will also be backed by a solid manufacturer’s warranty that will easily and quickly take care of any defects or malfunctions.
- Weight When Empty. While a heavy portable ice maker isn’t the worst option in the world, it does limit your options and your flexibility. The heavier your ice maker is when it’s empty, the tougher it’ll be to carry and tote. If you’re planning on bringing yours camping or into your RV, you’re going to want to choose a lighter model over those that weigh close to 50 pounds.
- Functions and Features. The more your portable ice maker can do on its own, the more convenient it’ll be to use (and get your money’s worth from). Look for an ice maker that has all of the bells and whistles you need, from an easily refillable water tank to a built-in drain to roomy capacity. Intuitive, smart features can also help make your ice maker even easier to use.
- Color and Style. It might sound silly, but you can actually buy a pretty stylish portable ice maker. Some are modern and feature sleek stainless steel exteriors that’ll match other appliances. Others are brighter and more colorful in shades of red, blue, and others to match your personal taste or style. You can even find retro portable ice makers if you’d like a 1950s or 1960s flair to your appliance.
Best Portable Ice Makers Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Be sure to keep an eye on your ice maker so that forgotten ice isn’t just sitting in the basket melting and being wasted. This will keep your ice maker functioning at its optimal capacity and making as much ice as possible throughout the day.
- Keep your water clean and fresh in order to produce the best quality ice cubes possible. No one wants cloudy or odd-tasting ice. If you have hard water deposits, consider using bottled water so that you can clean the unit less often.
- Choose the location for your portable ice maker carefully. Set it in a place that is close to an outlet, but away from a wet or watery area, like beside the sink. Any water around the electrical cord is bad for obvious reasons. Also pick a spot where it’s less likely to have things dropped on it or spilled into it, so not directly below the most-used cabinet in your kitchen.
- Store already-made ice frequently. This will give you some reserves for those times when company comes and you have more people visiting. While portable ice makers are a great alternative to buying ice, they are still limited in their production capacity, so planning ahead by storing extra in your freezer ensures you will run out less often.
- Try your unit out as soon as you get it to ensure it’s free from manufacturer’s defects and that it produces ice the way you want. With many models, there is a limited return time from the time you receive the unit, so be mindful of that.
- Be sure to read online user reviews prior to purchase so that you can make an informed decision and not set yourself up for any unpleasant surprises when the ice maker arrives and you try to use it for the first time.
Q: What is the best portable ice maker to buy?
The best portable ice maker is one that will easily fit in your designated space and that will readily produce the correct amount of ice to meet your specific needs. It will also come backed by a solid warranty to protect your investment.
Q: Can I leave my portable ice maker on all the time?
Many portable ice makers feature automatic shut-off when the reservoir is dry or the ice basket is full, so while you could leave it on all the time, it’s not recommended. As unused ice melts and is recycled back into the reservoir, it will continue to use that water to make ice over and over, adding unnecessary stress to the motor and fan components, shortening the lifespan of the unit, and wasting energy that you’re paying for.
Q: What is the best ice maker for home use?
A portable, countertop model of ice maker is the best for home use. They come in a wide variety of sizes, capacities, colors, that are suitable for any home, large or small.
Q: What kind of water do you use in a portable ice maker?
While you can use regular tap water, it’s best to use filtered drinking water or even bottled water that has a higher purity content. This will not only produce a better quality ice cube, but it will run fewer hard water deposits through the system, necessitating fewer deep system cleans.
Q: Do any portable ice makers keep ice frozen?
Because of their compact and convenient size, portable ice makers typically cannot keep ice frozen. As soon as the ice is produced, it needs to be used, moved to a cooler, or put in a traditional freezer to stay frozen. The machine itself doesn’t have the room or capacity to continue cooling the ice.
Q: Do portable ice makers use a lot of electricity?
Portable ice makers don’t use a ton of electricity—they generally use around 350 kilowatts per hour, and you don’t leave the machine running when you don’t need ice. These ice makers are appropriate in terms of energy consumption for your RV or campsite power sources so that they can operate pretty efficiently.
With the ever-increasing popularity of portable ice makers, they are constantly becoming faster, more compact, and more affordable. Now is a great time to buy a portable ice maker for your home, whether you choose the GE Profile Opal Countertop Nugget Ice Maker, the hOmelabs Portable Ice Machine, or something in between, you can be sure to find one that fits your needs and your budget.