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Updated Sep 28, 2022 12:43 PM
Picture this: It’s a gorgeous 80-degree day, and you and a few of your best friends just arrived at the beach with a cooler in hand. You can’t wait to brush off the week’s work and celebrate the weekend with your friend by cracking into a nice drink. When you reach for the drink, however, it’s totally lukewarm. UGH! Your ice chest hadn’t kept it cold in the 40-minute ride over! Well, the story doesn’t have to end this way. There are plenty of trustworthy and well-functioning ice coolers out there—you just have to know where to look! Read on for some of the best coolers that will ensure you always arrive at your next destination with the important stuff: ice-cold drinks and provisions.
How we chose the best coolers
Coolers should do their job of keeping drinks and food cold. In order to weed out the lukewarm choices from the ice-cold items, we looked at reviews, recommendations, conducted user testing, and performed heavy research. No one wants to reach for an iced cold beverage and be met with a tepid can.
What to consider when buying the best coolers
Everyone needs a solid insulated cooler that will be there for you for picnics, or if your power goes out and you need to get meat in the freezer stored away fast! To invest in the right ice chest cooler for you, there are a few things to consider:
The first consideration is size: do you want a large cooler? Or maybe a small cooler? No matter which size you decide on, make sure you have enough space to store all your items, as well as the box itself.
The material and how you’ll carry it are also important factors in this decision. A cooler with wheels will be easy to transport, but that portable cooler will weigh more than similarly sized models without wheels. Additionally, consider where you’ll use your ice chest: soft-sided coolers work well for short trips, picnics, and lunch bags, but not as well for long road trips.
And then, of course, there’s the price-point. A good model can range from an easily affordable option to a serious investment. As you go up the price point scale, you’ll typically find more unique features. Context matters here: do you go camping often? A camping cooler might be for you. Do you live in a location where the power typically goes out? Look for an electric cooler or plug-in one that can be powered by your car or boat’s 12V outlet. Do you love hosting events? A mini cooler simply won’t do for large gatherings. You’ll want to get what works best for you—not just what’s most popular.
The decision on material: should you buy a hard or soft cooler?
One of the most key decisions to make when thinking about what ice chest to buy has to do with its material. There are tons of great hard and soft coolers out there, and you have to consider which are the best coolers for you!
A hard cooler can be counted on to get you through a week-long fishing adventure, a camping trip, or pretty much any outdoor activity that will require your drinks and food to stay cold. Hard coolers are more durable and are generally insulated enough to keep your ice cool for days on end. That said, hard coolers can be very heavy and more expensive.
A soft cooler is great for day trips—maybe a picnic lunch or a beach trip. As the name suggests, they are often made from more malleable, foldable materials like canvas or nylon. Since they are often more lightweight and easy for carrying around, it’s not uncommon to see soft coolers built like a backpack or designed like an extra piece of luggage. Soft coolers typically won’t hold as much as a hard cooler, and might not keep your ice frozen for long periods of time, but they are certainly easy to store and access and are generally less expensive.
For a portable cooler experience
It can be incredibly frustrating to lug a heavy ice chest around. If you’re traveling far, you have other things to worry about than schlepping yours from the car to the campsite. Depending on your outdoor adventure, there are many different types of coolers that can help you avoid this difficult scenario.
Nowadays, coolers come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re going on a short trek and want to pack picnic gear but still need your hands, consider a backpack cooler. If you’re heading on an RV trip with family, perhaps you want to make sure you have an ice chest with wheels.
For those who need an ice chest in a pinch
As you can tell, there are some awesome ice coolers out there, but many of them come with a hefty price tag. If you are trying to keep your ice frozen, your drinks, and your food chilled, with no other major bells and whistles, it’s certainly possible to find one at a lower price point.
The best coolers: Reviews & Recommendations
The best coolers can keep drinks and food cold for hours while you and your pals/loved ones romp around having a blast outdoors. Here’s what we found.
Best overall: YETI Tundra 65 Cooler
It’s hard to match the features of this Yeti cooler, with its T-Rex Lid Latches made of heavy-duty rubber that won’t break as well as an interlock lid system and a coldlock gasket to keep heat out and lock in cold. It also features LipGrip handles designed to stay out of the way, and DoubleHaul handles made of military-grade polyester rope. Its Vortex Drain System is leakproof and ensures easy and clean draining. Coming in four fun colors, the YETI Tundra 65 cooler is really worth the investment. If you like Yeti’s insulated water bottles, you will love the Tundra 65 cooler.
Best soft: Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack
One of the greatest issues with soft coolers is sturdiness—but this is not even close to an issue with the Polar Bear Cooler. It features one of the toughest, puncture-resistant liners made of TPU double-coated nylon, which is consumer safe for perishable storage. Plus, it has beautiful stitching with double hemmed seams, a heavy-duty and weatherproofed zipper and a side zipper compartment that can be totally customized with your name or logo!
Best backpack: TOURIT Cooler Backpack
This cooler bag comes in six colors, has a stylish design, and promises comfort on your back and shoulders with its padded and adjustable straps. This backpack keeps food and drinks chilled for up to 16 hours (freeze packs are needed, though), is durable and leak-resistant, and its ventilated exterior material ensures that your clothes won’t get wet by condensation during your adventure. It has multiple compartments perfect for organization: one main storage compartment for all your provisions, two front zipper pockets, two bottle holders, a mesh pocket on the strap, and even a bottle opener.
Best with wheels: RovR Wheeled Camping Rolling Cooler
This cooler’s 9-inch, puncture-resistant tires are able to spin fast over rough terrain, including deep sand. The ice cooler with wheels has tons of features like a removable dry bin for deep-freeze storage, a pop-up wagon bin to allow for fewer hauls, and a pull-beside dual handle. Its airtight gasket and high-density foam insulation allow for ice to stay cold for up to 10 whole days.
Best budget: Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler
This Coleman cooler features Xtreme technology, including an insulated lid and extra wall insulation, and holds up to 100 cans. The closed lid features 4 slots to rest your drinks without spilling, and is perfect to squat down on—it holds up to 250 pounds! Its EZ-clean lid and comfortable handles make this a perfect choice for a no-frills ice chest that will get the job done without breaking the bank.
Q: How much do the best coolers cost?
Depending on the size and materials, the best coolers can start as low as $20-$50 and go as high as $500. Coolers that have a hefty price tag (say 300 dollars or more), are often worth it. Once you make the investment, you won’t have to buy another ice chest for a long time (if ever again!). Plus, they often have great features that you won’t find on less expensive versions, and sometimes feature a warranty—be sure to check with the manufacturer at the time of buying.
Q: What are the top 5 coolers?
While ranking favorite coolers is a subjective task dependent on a number of factors, the five coolers listed in this article (YETI Tundra 65 Cooler, Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack, TOURIT Cooler Backpack, RovR Wheeled Camping Rolling Cooler, & Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler) are solid choices.
Q: Which cooler keeps ice the longest?
Most coolers with updated insulation technology are able to keep ice for up to a few days. Depending on the temperature and if the ice chest is located in direct sunlight or not, the maximum days will vary. That said, however, the RovR Wheeled Camping Rolling Cooler is able to hold ice for up to 10 days.
Final thoughts on the best coolers
Every family, group of friends, or even an individual can benefit from having a trusty ice cooler to pull out for that next party or outdoors adventure. Especially with the summer months approaching, it’s time to make sure you’re ready for any situation by checking off the best cooler off of your to-buy list. There are so many options out there, but you certainly won’t go wrong with any one of these five recommended best coolers.