If you’re going on a camping trip, having a quality cooler with you is a must. You have to make sure that you keep your food and beverages cold while you’re out, to avoid spoiling. But what makes a cooler of good quality? What about the debate between hard colliers and soft coolers?
I’ve researched multiple coolers over the years, as camping is one of my favourite hobbies. Having had the opportunity to test these products out, review customer feedback, and analyze the results, I’ve selected the best of the best for your convenience.
Keep reading for more information on how to choose a cooler and what features to look for when you make a purchase.
- Top 9 Best Coolers
- How to Choose a Cooler For Camping
- Hard Coolers vs. Soft Coolers
- Final Thoughts
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 9 Best Coolers
Here are our top picks for the best coolers to accompany you on your camping trips:
1) Yeti Tundra Cooler Box
The YETI Tundra 35 is an excellent portable cooler that can hold 20 cans. The cooler has two inches of thick insulation with thick walls of permafrost that won’t let your ice melt. The UV-resistant construction can stand up to grizzlies and the non-slip feet keeps the cooler secure no matter where you put it.
- Designed to work effectively
- Durable and long lasting
- Convenient and easy to use
Couple this with an interlocking lid system to keep the heat out, the hinge system that prevents it from breaking, heavy-duty rubber latches, and the easy-grip handles, and you’ve got a winner with Yeti.
2) Coleman Xtreme Marine Cooler Box
The Coleman Xtreme Marine Cooler Box is a lightweight yet sturdy addition to your camping equipment arsenal. This cooler is one of the best choices for fishermen, as it’s designed to withstand extreme heat and sun exposure. It has a UV guard that also protects against yellow discolouration due to the sunlight.
- Marine Coolers are designed specifically for use in the hot sun -...
- UV Guard reflective colour additives protect the cooler, fighting...
- Very robust cool box with strong handles for assured durability...
- We care about your safety! High quality made in the USA. The cool...
- Dimensions (Outer/Inner): 46 x 33 x 40 / 38 x 25 x 31 cm; Weight...
The Xtreme Marine Cooler holds up to 26 litres, and your items will stay cold for up to five days. It has plenty of space inside to accommodate your needs, and the handles are very comfortable. This cooler also has a leak-resistant channel drain, making it a breeze to empty excess liquid.
3) Easthills Outdoor Backpack Cooler
Easthills has produced one of the best soft coolers around, with convenience and durability in mind. You can easily carry a small child or keep your hand’s free thanks to the fact that this cooler doubles as a backpack. Additionally, there are two mesh pockets on the sides for umbrellas or tall water bottles.
- 28L LARGE CAPACITY, YET LIGHTWEIGHT: Measuring 12.5 x 10 x...
- PROMOTES FRESHNESS AND PREVENTS LEAKS: The 8MM EPE foam...
- ERGONOMIC DESIGN FOR SUPERIOR COMFORT: Padded shoulder and upper...
- MULTIPLE COMPARTMENTS, POCKETS AND EXTRAS: This cooler bag offers...
- TWO-YEAR WARRANTY: Easthills guarantees against defects in...
Store your cell phone or keys in the front compartment, and use the handy reflective stripe on the backpack straps for your sunglasses. Want to grab a beer? Use the beer can opener located on the strap for a quick way to open the can. With freezer packs, you can keep your food and drinks chilled for up to 18 hours, no problem.
4) Fansteck Cooler Bag
The Fansteck Soft Cooler bag is perfect for heavy loads. It can carry 30 litres, or 50 cans, which can accommodate a large group. The high-density oxford material is not only stain-resistant and waterproof, but it also withstands wear and tear such as scratches.
- 🍺LARGE Capacity - Size of 15.7 x 9.8 x 11.8 inches (40 x 25 x...
- 🍺Materials - the exterior was made of Oxford fabric, which is...
- 🍺More Pockets - Equipped with 1 front pocket and 2 side...
- 🍺Portability - Designed with a padded handle and a detachable...
- 🍺Service - 24 months product replacment service provided, any...
The Fansteck cooler brings you extra storage space via the pockets located on the sides and front, as well as an EPE foam lining of the inside to extend the refrigeration time. Lastly, you get a two-year warranty, making this purchase risk-free.
5) WheelsNBits 24L Large Cooler Box
Looking for an uncomplicated way to carry your drinks? Look no further than the WheelsNBits 24-litre cooler bag!
- 24 litre Blue Cool Box Carry Handle Easy to Clean Abs plastic...
- Ideal for Taking away in You Car Van Camper Truck Lorry to keep...
- Made from High grade none toxin food grade plastic in Europe
Made to withstand harsh temperatures, keep things fresh, and take with you at a moment’s notice, the WheelsNBits cooler gets the job done. It comes in a vibrant light blue colour, making it easy to spot wherever you are, and it’s lightweight, yet solid.
6) Koolatron Thermoelectric Iceless Cooler
The Koolatron Thermoelectric Cooler is the definition of versatility. It has a blue dot and a red dot on the cord, and you simply match the arrow on the other side with either dot to get the warm setting or a cold setting.
- Plugs into any vehicle's 12 Volt outlet - This portable cooler...
- 26 Quart (24 Liters) capacity - Can fit up to 31 cans
- Iceless thermoelectric technology - Cools to 40°F (22°C) below...
- Comes with a removable sliding shelf to organize your snacks and...
- Removable lid and flip-up locking handle - Designed to be...
Additionally, the single-bar handle locks into place at any angle, and the lid is completely removable from the cooler. The thermoelectric fan isn’t noisy, and you can plug the 12-volt cord into your vehicle in the instance that you need to recharge the cooler. It holds up to 24 litres and 31 cans so there’s plenty of space.
7) Sunmer 50L Cooler Box
The Sunmer Cooler Box comes in a bright lime green colour and it has a convenient pull handle for you to move your box from one location to the next. The water drainage system allows you to drain the excess water without the hassle of removing the contents.
- 50L COOLER BOX WITH TWO ICE PACKS: This SUNMER 50L Cooler Box...
- LIGHTWEIGHT AND PORTABLE: Weighing just 5KG, you will have no...
- STRONG AND FOOD-GRADE MATERIALS: This SUNMER Cooler Box is made...
- PRODUCT DIMENSIONS: 61cm x 40cm x 44cm | PRODUCT WEIGHT: 5KG.
- WARRANTY: We aim to give the best customer service possible. In...
If you’re in an area where you can’t roll the cooler, you can always pick it up using the two side handles. The secure lock on the front keeps pests and small animals from breaking into the cooler. It keeps your food items cold for up to two days as well.
8) IGLOO Max Cold Cooler
The IGLOO Max Cold Cooler is the largest cooler on our list, holding up to 85 litres. It has triple foam insulation that keeps your things cool for nearly five full days.
- foam insulated lid and body for maxcold 5-day ice retention...
- flip-up tow handle reduces towing force by up to 50%
- oversized wheels provide all-terrain mobility
- hybrid latches have a stainless steel hinge for added durability...
- oversized, durable hinges with stay-open detent
If you’re going on a long journey, this is a great option to take along with you. It comes with a pill handle that folds, which reduces the amount of effort you have to put into towing it around.
The large plastic wheels can be used on any form of terrain, so you can take the cooler with you hiking, camping, or anywhere that doesn’t have a smooth surface. The cooler also has durable hinges that keep the lid open when you retrieve something from inside.
9) TOURIT Backpack Cooler
The TOURIT Backpack Cooler comes in a beautiful dark turquoise colour, making it both practical and stylish. It also has padded straps for extra comfort and support while travelling.
- Leakproof Cooler Backpack: High-density insulation material and...
- Multiple Pockets: 1 main roomy storage compartment, 2 side mesh...
- Large Capacity Insulated Backpack: 11 3/4" x 7 3/4" x 17 1/4" /...
- Light yet Durable: Made of water-repellent, durable fabric, best...
- Multiple Functions: The stylish design of our insulated cooler...
This soft cooler bag has extra pockets for storing your cell phone, keys, wallet, and snacks, so you have everything in one spot for wash access. The mesh pocket on the underside of the lid allows you to carry paper plates and utensils so that you can. eat comfortably.
Additionally, this bag has a leak-proof design, and the ventilation system on the back keeps your clothes from getting wet due to condensation. You can securely carry 36 cans in the TOURIT Backpack Cooler.
How to Choose a Cooler For Camping
How do you know which type of cooler to choose when you’re shopping around? There are some key features that you should look out for when you invest in a cooler because you don’t want to invest in something that’s going to break down with moderate to heavy usage.
Based on consumer reports and my own experience as well, these are the most critical features you need to consider when you choose a cooler for your trip.
The most important feature that we’re all looking for is good insulation with the cooler. How well does the cooler actually keep your food and drinks cold and fresh? Some coolers advertise five days or three days, some even state an entire week.
You want to make sure that the cooler can keep the contents cold for at least three days at 4.4°C (40°F). This temperature will keep any food from spoiling, and your drinks will still be fairly chilled. Anything over a couple days is a bonus.
You don’t want to buy a cooler and have to replace it a few years later. Polyurethane is a durable material that stands up to wear and tear, and won’t easily get cracked or dented.
You’ll also want a cooler that has bear-resistant locks and hinges so that it can’t be ripped open with ease. Make sure that the handles are easy to grip to prevent the cooler from slipping out of your hands when you carry it.
Ease of Use
Different features such as ergonomically designed handles, latches that are simple to manoeuvre, adequate storage space, and so on, make coolers either easy to use or a pain in the butt.
Small details can put the cooler over the top, something as simple as the lid staying open when you’re trying to get a drink out may make it better than the next. What about dry bins that keep items away from ice? Is the cooler tall enough to fit large bottles of pop or champagne?
The cooler should have a standard rectangular shape, a dual-drain system, and be spacious so that you can enjoy your trip without the hassle.
Evaluating the potability of coolers can be more involved than you may think. Of course, conceptually finding a portable cooler should entail that it moves easily from place to place. However, we’ve taken a more comprehensive approach whereby we put these coolers through a gauntlet of testing to see how they hold up in many different situations.
Every pair of wheels were tested on a plethora of surfaces such as construction debris that you may find as you’re making your way to the park from the parking lot. We’ve tested the run of the mill paved driveway and even seen how the wheels fair against the soft sand at the beach.
Not only this, we’ve examined the comfort of every handle design while carrying a full load. The weight of the chest was taken into consideration as well to determine whether or not the extra weight of the cooler was justified by the additional space that is provided.
We’ve filled the lot of them up and transported them from place to place to discover which of them were awkward, nipped at your heels, or blistered your palms from lugging the cooler around.
After our close examination, we noticed that there were vast differences between the large non-wheeled models which made some units simply more portable than others.
However, the mid-sized coolers strike a middle ground between the larger options where they can be a bit too much for a simple road trip or picnic. The mid-sized cooler gives you greater portability and more space than the small personal chest.
Sometimes the little things are what come together to make a product so great! Usually, these are the things that make the product easier to use such as helping you not to have to lug so much stuff around unnecessarily. With that said, we’ve rated the features according to how much value it adds to the product as it pertains to its usefulness.
Features such as measurement notches, bottle openers and cup holders are immensely helpful. Some brands offer great add-ons, that if you were to take advantage of them, can make your cooler perfect.
One add-on that you may want to consider is the dry bin. The dry bin folds down flat and can get securely stored on the top lid. There are many other useful add-ons that you can purchase after the fact, so be on the lookout you just may find something useful.
Latch and Lid Gaskets
When dealing with the larger coolers, they usually have hinged lids so it’s key to find a model which has a strong latch to keep your items secure and the interior cold.
You’ll want to check the lid gasket as well. Make sure that it has an airtight seal. That will ensure that the ice in your cooler lasts as long as possible, trapping the cold air inside.
Material and Weight
Depending on what your cooler is made of, it will have a different weight than other materials. Of course, the weight of your cooler can increase dramatically once you begin to place food items inside.
Fabric coolers are typically insulated with flexible foam and made of durable canvas. These coolers are very lightweight and designed to carry a small amount of food and drinks.
Plastic coolers come with moulded plastic and foam insulation inside of it. These coolers are relatively light and easy to clean after use. The lightweight makes it easy to haul around.
Metal coolers will provide you with the best insulation but have the drawback of being very heavy. Moreover, they are usually pricier and aren’t always the most durable because they tend to dent very easily.
Since you’ll want to be taking your cooler from place to place, having a cooler with strong and sturdy handles is a must. The most durable handles around would have to be moulded handles because there’s nothing to snap or break off. However, if you purchase a high-quality cooler, flap handles can get the job done as well.
If you’re looking for the most comfortable handles to hold, textured, or rubber grip will be the best choice because they get designed to fit your hands.
Having a bottom drain for a larger cooler is ideal because it will allow you to drain the melted ice without having to tip the cooler over. If you’re in search of one with a bottom drain, simply look for a model with a drain plug at the bottom of the cooler.
The ideal cooler size all depends on the way that you plan to use it. For some, bigger is always better. That may not be the case when you find yourself lugging around a cooler that’s much bigger than you need. Doing so will most likely only prove to be frustrating and inefficient.
If drinks are your only concern, then a 5 to 10-litre model will work wonders. If you’re going on an overnight trip, then a 20-litre cooler will be sufficient. However, if a weekend trip is in the plans, then a 35 to 45-litre cooler will be best for such an outing.
On the other hand, if you’re taking a trip where you need three or more days of food, then choose a 60 to 70-litre cooler. If you’re planning on going on a lengthier trip of a week or longer, then opt for a cooler that holds as much as 110 litres.
Lastly, don’t forget to consider how many people will be travelling with you. You don’t want to choose a 45-litre cooler that can hold food for a weekend trip with two people and you’re travelling with four. A cooler that holds 70 to 95 litres will work well for a group of four to five people.
Hard Coolers vs. Soft Coolers
If you’re looking to use your cooler daily, then the soft-sided cooler is the way to go. You can take them to the practice field or carry them to the gym, or take them to work to enjoy a packed meal on your lunch break.
Here are the main advantages to a soft cooler
One of the biggest advantages of going with the soft-sided cooler over the hard cooler is that it’s lightweight. The vinyl exterior weighs less than the rotomolded plastic, which is what the hard cooler typically comes with.
Easier to Transport
Whether it’s the convenient shoulder straps or its lighter weight, soft-sided coolers can be carried seamlessly from your home to your car and to wherever your day takes you. The useful strap allows your hands to be free so that you can tend to other things without missing a beat.
Doesn’t Need Much Storage Space
Thanks to the fact that soft-sided coolers are collapsible, storing them in your home is effortless. It takes up less storage space, leaving room to store your other precious belongings.
For a more rigorous and extensive use, hard-sided coolers are the best choice. You can take them on tailgating, hunting or, on trips. Here are the additional benefits:
Better Ice Retention
Typically, hard coolers will keep the ice colder longer than the soft-sided ones. Although, you may find some soft-sided coolers that can compete or even out due to some hard-sided cooler when choosing from the same name brand, hard coolers will keep your things colder for longer.
Soft-sided coolers are supposed to facilitate portability; thus, having a bag that’s manageable and not too big is a priority for its design. Conversely, hard-sided coolers will almost always have a greater storage capacity.
Hard-sided coolers are measured in volume and not based on how many canned drinks they can hold as is the case with the soft-sided ones. Hard-sided coolers come in many sizes, so choose the size that best suits your needs.
Hard plastic coolers are more robust than their soft-sided counterparts. So for extended trips, rugged terrain or continued exposure to the elements, choosing a hard cooler will always be the better choice.
With diligence, we’ve researched and tested and retested some of the best coolers around to give you a list of the most competitive brands on the market.
After taking the proper time to assess some of the better brands on the market, what’s left standing is this thoroughly vetted list of the best coolers on the market.
Whether you simply need a bag to grab and go and use it for daily use or if you’re planning an extravagant long camping trip, choosing from this list of coolers is sure to get the job done!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are expensive coolers worth it?
Expensive coolers come with thicker walls and a higher quality of insulation. The thicker walls work to preserve the ice for two times as long as your run of the mill, low-cost coolers.
Are soft coolers waterproof?
In most cases, soft-sided coolers get designed so as not to leak when they’re upright. However, if they get knocked over, the zippers aren’t waterproof. Therefore, water can leak everywhere very easily.
Are metal coolers better than plastic?
Steel coolers happen to be more durable than their plastic counterparts; as a result, they last longer and are less likely to break when compared to plastic coolers.
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