Regardless of where you are going and what you’re doing, you’ll definitely need something to keep your drinks and food cool along the way.
Coolers can help during a short day trip and during longer trips. But in order to make sure that you get something that does what you need, you’ll need to know the best coolers out there.
We’ll be going over some of our favorites and providing advice on top-rated coolers that are available to you.
Top 5 Best Coolers (Summary)
For more detailed and complete product reviews on benefits and features, keep reading.
What Is a Cooler
You can call it a chilly bin, an icebox, a cool box, a chilled container, an ice chest, and many other monikers but it’s got one purpose – to keep food and beverages cool inside.
It is like a fridge on the go that you can carry around when you brave the outdoors for camping, fishing, or want to enjoy a lovely weekend on a picnic with family and friends. Just fill it with ice cubes or blocks of ice and you’re good to go!
Benefits of Using Coolers
Coolers have become a staple piece of equipment that makes food storage and packing cold beverages a lot easier. While a cooler is designed to keep contents as cold as ice, it also offers a lot of benefits that make it more than just a handy cooling bin.
Here are some of the benefits you should know:
Ease of Use
Coolers do not require any electricity or energy points to function. You can just fill it with your preferred drinks, beverages and all sorts of food that you need to store and cover them with ice packs or blocks of ice to keep them cold or frozen for as long as possible.
When your refrigerator breaks down and you’ve got a lot of food and beverages to store for hours, you can make the most out of your cooler use it as your alternative storage. Top it all off with lots of ice to maintain the freezing point at its optimum chilling level. It’ll be much better if you have solid blocks of ice so they won’t melt halfway through. You don’t want to end up with messy spills and leaks, particularly when you need to put away food or leftovers in containers.
The ability of a cooler to deliver efficient cooling is essential. You can use a cooler as reliable storage to keep your drinks, water, beer, other kinds of beverages and even your favorite ice cream.
While it is known to keep contents cool and freezing, a cooler can also prolong the freshness of your food when you go on long road trips or even when you bask in the scorching heat of the afternoon sun. You won’t have to worry about maintaining the quality of your food, particularly when the temperature wavers and gets too hot, as this can lead to food spoilage.
Coolers are portable and you can take them pretty much anywhere you go whether you go outdoors for camping, fishing, swimming, a family picnic or outing or you just want to frolic in the summer heat at the beach. Typically crafted with ergonomic handles, they are easy to carry around or to take it from and out of the vehicle.
Some manufacturers, however, added a few tweaks in the designs of their coolers and spruced up the portability using wheels, allowing you to push or pull the cooler easily, especially when you’re carrying a heavy load.
Handy Food and Drink Container
If you want to quench your thirst or grab a bite for a quick snack, a cooler gives you easy access to your cold drinks and packed food anytime you want.
As they are made of durable materials and intricately designed for outdoor activities, these coolers ensure a quality that won’t easily wear out even when you leave them out on rough terrain, sand or under the rain. They are reliable and sturdy enough to withstand different elements in the environment and harsh weather conditions, especially when you head outdoors for an adventurous trip.
Storage for Perishable Goods
When you go hunting or fishing, you can preserve your trophy in a cooler and keep it fresh or frozen while heading back home. You can also utilize your cooler as storage for perishable goods like raw meat, seafood or chicken after running errands and shopping for food at the market. You can keep them in a cooler for the meantime to maintain their freshness.
Pros and Cons of Using Coolers
While coolers offer a lot of advantages, they also have their share of pitfalls and limitations. Jotted down below are some of the significant points you can take note of:
Efficient Cooling System
Regardless of the size, coolers offer an efficient cooling system that does not need to be plugged into an electric outlet to function. These coolers come in a vast range of sizes and each lends ample storage space for any type of food or drink that you need to keep cold and frozen. With an adequate amount of ice, your cooler can deliver optimum cooling so you can indulge in cold and fresh drinks and other beverages anytime and anywhere.
Great Storage For Food and Beverage
Another impressive feature of these ice boxes is ice retention and insulation. While a cooler keeps the drinks and beverages cold, it also renders preservation properties that can minimize the risk of food spoilage. Whether they are perishable goods such as meat, fish, poultry or fruits and vegetables, you can keep them in the cooler and let them sit there for hours as long as there’s an adequate amount of ice.
If you have also prepared some salads and snacks for an outing or family picnic or some cooked meals that you want to reheat afterward or just want to keep the popsicles and buckets of ice cream cold and frozen, you can put them all away in your cooler for easy and efficient storage.
As coolers are innovatively designed to endure harsh conditions and different elements outdoors, they are known to be very durable. Whether you place it on the wet or dry ground or in the summer heat or cold breeze, a lot of coolers showcase an exceptional quality that won’t easily get damaged and can last for years.
Typically made of BPA-free plastic material, coolers ensure not only great quality but also safety, allowing you to make use of its cooling properties without harming your health.
A cooler is like your very own compact refrigerator that you can take on long road trips, family outings or outdoor adventures. Crafted with ergonomic handles, it is transportable and you can easily load it to or take it out from your vehicle. For large-sized coolers that can accommodate a heavier load, some manufacturers feature wheels to enhance their mobility and make them much easier to carry or push around.
May Require Frequent Ice Refilling
Solid blocks of ice are an ideal option if you want to keep your cooler cold and frozen and it will be a lot better if you let it be jam-packed with ice.
However, when the ice starts to melt you may need to refill the cooler with more ice now and then. If you’re planning to use it to store drinks and food for long hours, refilling can be time-consuming. And when you’re out on the road and ice is unavailable, that could be another problem.
As much as you want to fill it with your favorite drinks and beverages, each cooler has a capacity limit. It may not always accommodate your storage needs unless you expand in size and weight.
Coolers are available in different quart measurements and you can always go for the largest if it meets your storage needs. But of course, the larger the cooler is, the heavier it will be. It may not be as portable and compact as other alternatives.
You Can’t Open the Box Too Often
Aside from frequent ice refilling to maintain the cooling system, you should also be careful not to open it too often to prevent the ice from melting. You also don’t want to leave it open, especially when you’re outdoors because insects or dust might enter your cooler.
If you’re going to take a few bottles or cans of beverages, make sure to close and lock the lid tightly all the time. Otherwise, you’ll end up with messy spills and warm beers.
Requires Cleaning Now and Then
To deter buildup of mold and mildew, it is important to clean your cooler regularly. This is probably a general rule but it can be time-consuming and a hassle for some users. Mild soap and warm water will do or if there are tough stains, you can use baking soda and water to clean the cooler thoroughly.
Be Careful With the Products You Store
Your cooler is reliable storage for food and drinks but you can’t just put raw fish and beers inside at the same time. Otherwise, they might end up contaminating the other.
Types of Coolers
There are a ton of different coolers out there, but there are two particular types: hard-sided and soft-sided. Each one has pros and cons for normal use.
Just keep in mind that the type you choose might depend on what you’re doing. Hard-sided coolers tend to work for overall purposes, but the soft-sided coolers might suit you better as something that is easier to store.
There are different types of coolers and each has its respective features in terms of ice retention, durability, portability and storage space. If you want to know which cooler would fit your personal needs, check out the types of coolers listed below:
Hard-sided coolers are fairly common. They are usually made out of plastic. There are versions that have a bit thicker sides or use certain materials inside of the plastic area to try and make sure that the contents stay at the right temperature. These come in a range of sizes, but you will find that the hard-sided ones come in larger sizes just like the fish finders that can locate the fish anywhere.
These coolers work well for all sorts of purposes, but they are a bit harder to store. They won’t fold down and they normally take up the same amount of space. If you are trying to find a way to make them work for you when you’re not trying to store cold items, then you might be able to use them as temporary storage inside of your home.
If you’re camping or hiking on rugged terrains, a hard-sided or hard cooler lends durable storage that can endure harsh conditions and rough environments. Typically made of sturdy plastic material, they are not as prone to damage as soft coolers are. Therefore, activities like camping in the wild won’t be much of a problem.
What’s also great about hard coolers is their storage capacity. Unlike soft coolers, hard coolers offer much more space, allowing you to fill them with more contents. Therefore, if you’re after larger capacities, hard coolers can offen the ideal size for your needs with their vast range of sizes.
Another advantage that you might also want to look into is its performance in terms of ice retention. The concrete build of hard coolers makes them efficient for cooling food and beverages for long periods.
The drawback, however, of hard coolers is how they can be heavy even without the contents inside. Their rigid structure adds up on the total weight of what you put inside. As they are also bigger and bulkier compared to soft coolers, it requires a larger storage space as well.
When you think about soft-sided coolers, you are likely to think of smaller ones that are intended to be used as lunchboxes. However, that isn’t the only purpose that these coolers can have. There are some larger ones that you will be able to find. The advantage of having one that is quite a bit bigger is that you won’t have to keep a cooler that will be hard to store.
Soft coolers can work really well in specific situations, but you might not always want something like this because it won’t protect the softer foods that you put in there.
Perhaps the highlight of a soft-sided cooler is its weight. Because it is relatively lightweight compared to hard coolers, this portable icebox is ideal for daily use. If you’re up for long hikes and adventurous trips on mountainous terrains, you can carry your food and drink like a breeze.
Typically structured with a vinyl or fabric exterior, you won’t have to strain your back and shoulders with a heavy load and the total weight primarily comes from the content of your cooler. Therefore, how heavy your load is would depend on how much food or drinks you carry.If you take more than its capacity, it’ll be bulky and awkward.
Soft coolers are usually designed with backpack or shoulder straps that make them much easier to carry around, especially if you’re going uphill. They are highly portable. Also, unlike hard coolers, they are collapsible. You can fold them up or fold down for easy storage.
The downside of soft-sided coolers is their performance against rough terrains or ground. They are reliable but may not be sturdy enough to withstand harsh conditions and rugged trails. You’ve got to be careful where to place it to prevent the fabric from damaging or ripping.
For durable quality and superior ice retention, roto-molded coolers could be your best bet. They are impeccably tough and specifically designed to withstand rugged environments and even keep your perishables and trophies protected against the sneaky creatures in the wild. Some roto-molded coolers are even bear-proof!
The namesake is derived from its manufacturing process where a high-grade raw plastic — a pricey but incredibly versatile type of plastic — is typically used to make these coolers. These plastic materials are polyresin pellets and are initially utilized to coat the mold. After the coating, the mold is placed in an oven and will constantly rotate on two axes, horizontally and vertically, to make sure the material is evenly spread throughout the mold. Thus, they get the name rotationally molded coolers.
The aforementioned process ensures remarkable durability on all parts of the cooler. No wonder they are expected to last a lifetime. Also, most of them are leak-proof and UV-resistant, making them incredibly tough to withstand pressure and rugged conditions. They provide reliable storage not just for food and drinks, but also for perishables when you go hunting or fishing.
However, with such remarkable quality comes a question: Are roto-molded coolers expensive? The answer is yes, they are. But it’s worth the investment if you’re looking for a quality cooler that can last for many years.
How to Choose the Best Cooler
Picking out the best cooler is always a difficult process. You’ll have to consider a many different factors. We’ll go over the most basic things that you can look at. You might find extras that are based on what they are intended to be used for, but you may not always need those.
Additional features or coolers that are designed for very specific purposes can mean that you’ll pay more.There are a lot of basic coolers that will do everything you need that will also cost less.
Outside of style choices and extras that are specific to different uses, there are several categories that could work for you.
You may think that the style options are going to be limited to simply the two styles of soft and hard-sided options. But there are other options that are available to you. The style might change depending on the size that you are getting. Some designs are built specifically for outdoor use while others aren’t meant to be beat up that much.
There are some styles of coolers on wheels that are built to go places as well.
Just make sure that you choose a style that fits what you’re doing. The soft-side versions will work well as a lunchbox for day-to-day use, but they might not work as well for some people that are planning on taking something a further distance or in a rougher area.
There are different coolers that are made to work for specific purposes. You’ll find some specific ones that are made for very specific purposes. This is sometimes found in different types of constructions. Some of them are made to be more rugged, especially if you are taking the cooler while hiking or in a canoe.
Some are made to be of more general-purpose use, so they won’t be quite as specialized. This is good news for some as this also means that they are more likely to cost less. However, it does not mean that they might not hold up to as much if you are buying it to actually use it. Of course, it might also hold up for a long time regardless of how you use it as long as you are making sure to clean it out and really take care of it.
This can be an incredibly important factor when you are looking for a cooler that you can take with you for a trip with a ton of different people. If you know that you’ll be using the cooler often for large groups, then getting a larger cooler can be incredibly important.
However, if you aren’t going to use it that often or use it for large things that often, you might want to consider getting something that is a bit smaller. You can always get a second small cooler if you need a bit more room in the cooler. It might be a little bit annoying at the moment, but it can mean that you’re spending less at one time.
Of course, the biggest factor that you will face when it comes to getting a cooler is the fact that it will cost you some money. Getting something that is built a little bit sturdier or built out of more durable materials is going to cost you a bit more.
Any extra features will also cost more. For some people, these extras will be worth all the money. For others, these extras won’t matter that much. You’ll have to figure out what you really need and what you don’t. There are many extras that might be considered more frivolous such as the outer design of the cooler. But make sure that you focus on what is most important for you.
Different brands and types of coolers are manufactured with features that enhance their portability. Because they are primarily designed for traveling or outdoor trips, these coolers are crafted with straps that make them highly transportable.
If you’re going to purchase large-sized coolers, you can consider those units with wheels and handles so you can push or carry them around with ease, especially if your cooler contains a heavy load.
Ease of Use
Coolers are innovatively designed to make lives much easier in terms of storage and portability. The latches and buckles promote hassle-free access and secure locking system to keep the cooler tightly closed at all times.
Besides these primary features, many types of coolers crafted their designs with a few tweaks to make it much easier to use like wheels, dividers, baskets, fish openers, additional pockets and many others.
We always want to make sure that every penny we spend is worth it. And when it comes to investing in a cooler, you’ll definitely get more than what you pay for if you choose a quality that can last for years. You might want to focus on the material, design and structure or if the parts are available for replacements in case they wear out.
Reputable brands can also be your basis, especially if you’re picking out your cooler for the first time or if you’re looking for a better replacement for the old one. Settling for cheap quality will cost you more money for repairs and also time and effort in the long run.
There is a bracket of features that make a cooler durable and reliable to use. It is usually based on the design, material and the technology used. But if you delve into the intricate details and highlighted features of each type of cooler, you can differentiate how one is more durable than the other.
When it comes to soft coolers, you can probably tell its durability primarily on the material, the zipper enclosures, buckles, compartments and the straps. You may also have to check the edges if they are carefully sewn. The straps should also be strong enough to handle heavier weight.
Roto-molded and hard coolers truly are outstanding with their durability. Known for their solid structure, they can endure pressure, rugged conditions and also different levels of ambient temperature. Besides their exterior, you might also want to take a closer look at the lid, handles, latches and wheels if there are any. Their rigidity, moreover, ensures excellent quality that can last for a long time.
When a cooler delivers heavy-duty insulation, it can perform well not only in keeping the drinks and beverages cold but also in storing food. It can prolong the freshness. Each type of cooler offers respective insulation properties and roto-molded coolers may seem to be ahead of the others. But for daily use and portability, you can also go for soft-sided coolers and hard coolers.
Moreover, it is important to consider the insulation as it works both on cold drinks and hot food. It’s pretty obvious what coolers are utilized for but you can make use of it with hot food as well. Sounds crazy but if you fill it up with hot water and let the heat build up inside the cooler, just layer the bottom with folded towels and put your food in it. Make sure to wrap the food in foil and voila! You’ve got delish and warm food to dig at any time of the day!
You’ll have to worry less about cleaning if the cooler has a drainer or a drain plug. Some coolers enhance their design with this feature which makes it a lot easier to clear out any spills from food and melted ice. You won’t have to empty the cooler, wash the dirt and toss the water out.
Ice retention is probably one of the key features that will either make or break your cooler. However, it may not always be easy to identify which cooler offers the best ice retention.
But if you’re going to make your choices among soft-sided cooler, hard cooler and roto-molded cooler, the latter truly stands out in terms of durability, insulation and overall quality and hence, offers better ice retention than the two.
Although roto-molded coolers might seem a preeminent option among the other types of coolers, there are several factors that you may consider to determine if the cooler has the best ice retention whether it is a soft-sided or a hard cooler. This includes the amount of ice, how and how often you use it, the temperature, the contents, the condition of the environment and many others.
Handles and Wheels
There are significant features that make a cooler much easier to transport from one place to another. If you often travel on long road trips, for adventurous excursions, camping and family outings, a cooler with a handle and wheels allow you to hike and navigate the trails with ease.
Some brands manufacture coolers with built-in wheels and handles which could probably be an ideal design for large and heavy coolers. If you’ve already purchased a cooler and you want to maximize its mobility, you can consider buying detachable and adjustable wheels and handle.
It is a lot better if the cooler you’re buying is backed up with a decent warranty coverage as it can define the durability of the product. This may also be a plausible indicator that the brand houses a lineup of well-made products that can last for years or even a lifetime.
When it comes to expensive high-end coolers, a long warranty period seems imperative. This may range from 1 year to a lifetime warranty and a longer coverage could be a substantial offer as this somehow counterbalances the hefty price tag.
Because there are so many coolers out there, you will have to take some time and look at the coolers that will probably suit you the best. We’ve gathered 17 of our favorites to help you decide to find some that are good examples of ones that you can get. If these ones aren’t exactly what you want, then you’ll be able to find similar models of varying sizes.
15 Best Coolers – Reviews and Comparison
1. YETI Tundra 65 Cooler – Best Overall
When you’re looking for coolers, people all over the internet and in real life will tell you to consider the YETI coolers. This particular model is going to keep everything that you have very cool. It’s so well insulated that you will be able to put dry ice into the premium small cooler without worrying too much. This is great news for people who want to keep everything extra chilly in their cooler.
Because of the brand and how well it is made, this cooler is on the high end of the products we have. However, you shouldn’t let that dissuade you. This one will work great for people that need quite a bit of storage, but don’t need to travel with the cooler. It will be a bit heavier than the others. You’ll definitely be able to move it in and out of your car, but it isn’t one that you would probably want to take on a hike.
- Keep things very cold
- Thick sides for better insulation
- Rather expensive compared to other coolers
- Isn’t that easy to travel with
2. ORCA BW058ORCORCA Cooler – Best for Camping
This ORCA cooler is going to be just as good as Yeti coolers. Of course, some people will find that the cooler won’t always work for them. You have to make sure that you bring a cooler in a backpack and pack it in a way that will keep your beverages and foods cold. As long as it is well packed, this particular cooler can really make sure that you’re able to do well during your camping trip.
It is also pretty sturdy and well made. This means that it will last while you’re out in the woods. However, just like Yeti coolers, this ORCA one is going to cost a pretty penny as well. But it can be a good investment for people who like to bring polarized sunglasses for fishermen, a flashlight you can recharge and camp a lot.