Whether you're hosting backyard gatherings, or venturing on outdoor trips, the best coolers will keep your drinks and items chilled all day. In addition, the best coolers will be convenient and light to carry no matter where you go.
But with so many types of coolers on the market, it can often be tricky to find the right one to suit your needs. First, what type of material do you prefer? The best ice coolers can range from soft and traditional hard cases on wheels, to backpack styles should you wish to go hands-free. Also, what capacity do you need and how much can it hold? If you're hosting a large gathering, you need sufficient space to accommodate all your beverages and treats.
What's more, you can find coolers with plenty of convenient feature, such as handy cup holders and bottle openers so you're always prepared. To help you decide, we've selected the best coolers to suit every lifestyle, need and budget right now.
The best coolers you can buy today
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If we’re talking outdoor essentials with a sense of flair, nothing comes close to the RovR Wheeled Cooler. In fact, this thing is practically a mobile home for food and drink. Let’s start from the bottom up: the 9-inch high-performance, puncture-resistant tires are perfect for any terrain, from concrete to deep sand. A pop-up storage bin converts the RollR into a temporary wagon--perfect for short trips into bear country. (Did I mention this cooler is certified bear resistant? Well, it is.)
What’s unique about the RollR cooler is its upgradeability. What does this mean, exactly? It’s all about the accessories. For a few extra bucks, you can install cup holders, electric lanterns, and even an umbrella holder to the RollR itself. And speaking of trips, the optional bike rack lets you tow this cooler/wagon/tiny house with aplomb.
When it comes to innovative functionality, the RovR RollR is tough to beat. It’s quite possibly the best cooler (and camping accessory) you never knew you needed. (And if you have a little more to spend, the 80-quart option is worth the splurge.)
Over the age of 30? You might recognize this cooler from your childhood. Heck, you might recognize it no matter what. That’s because the iconic Steel-Belted Cooler is an oldie but a goodie. This no-nonsense stainless steel unit has a 54-quart capacity (or 85 beverage cans), and like other models in the Coleman line, its Have-a-Seat lid supports up to 250 pounds. The scorching heat is no match for this bad boy; it offers 4-day ice retention, even in temperatures as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
While aesthetics should come last when considering a cooler, this one sure aims to please. Combined with excellent portability, ease of use, and a competitive price point, this is one of the best coolers on the block. For the nostalgia types, you can get this cooler in the traditional Coleman green, or opt for matte black, red, silver, stainless steel, or turquoise models.
It might be on the expensive side, but the Pelican Elite Cooler is built like a tank. (Which is probably why it comes with a lifetime warranty.) Boasting up to a 150-quart, 216-can capacity, the Elite Cooler will take anything you throw at it--or inside it, for that matter. This monster has two inches of polyurethane insulation with a 360-degree freezer-grade gasket, which means exceptional ice retention for the long haul. (Up to 10 days, depending on weather conditions.) You won’t have to worry about rotting food anymore.
The ergonomic design is held to a higher standard, and it shows. Durability is the standout feature here, and the hard-molded plastic is meant to withstand the harshest of elements. Add in a few more perks—a fish ruler, built-in bottle opener, easy-to-open latches—and this is one of the best coolers money can buy. It might even be the last cooler you ever need to buy.
Arctic Zone proves that the best coolers don’t have to break the bank. Available in four different sizes (and three earthy colors), the Titan Deep Freeze cooler is a great companion for budget-conscious adventurers. The flip-up lid is ideal for easy access to food and drinks, and the FDA-compliant HardBody liner is equipped with a removable shelf. It’s perfect for city dwellers and food couriers--or for when cleanliness needs to be top-of-mind.
The adjustable shoulder strap lets you move your perishables around with ease, and you’ll be the talk of your friends’ next beach day with the detachable bottle opener. (Oh, the zippered/mesh pockets on the outside are a welcome addition, too.) Arctic Zone sweetens the deal with a limited lifetime warranty.
Reviewers reported poor insulation performance, but for the price, this is the cooler to beat.
If you haven’t yet heard of Yeti (the cooler brand, not the Himalayan humanoid), it’s about time you did. Since 2006, this company has been churning out high-end outdoor gear, but everything started with its cooler line. Meant for the “serious outdoor enthusiast,” these coolers are absolutely designed for maximum use and abuse--from mountaineers to fishermen to big game hunters.
It’s the extreme attention to detail that puts this cooler ahead of the pack. The freezer-quality Coldlock gasket keeps your ice retention on point; the Lipgrip handles make transporting the cooler more comfortable; the leakproof design is easy to drain; the T-Rex lid hatches keep everything in place; and the molded tie-down slots make it easy to attach the cooler to a boat, trailer, or truck bed. You won’t find any extra features—like built-in cupholders or bottle openers—but the Yeti Tundra does its job, and well.
Some of the best coolers out there can be on the pricey side, but Igloo proves you don’t need to break the bank to get one. This 25-quart cooler boasts heavy duty blow-molded construction and a reinforced base, which means the BMX 25 can take a little abuse; the rust-resistant, stainless-steel hardware should provide peace of mind while it’s bouncing around in the back of your truck. (Or getting rained on in the driveway.)
Thanks to Cool Riser Technology—which elevates the molded base to improve cooling performance—you can count on up to 5 days of ice retention; the extra-thick foam walls and insulated lid do the rest. A fish ruler and four tie-down points are both welcome perks, and the skid pads on the corners add an extra layer of protection. Not bad for a cooler that costs less than $100.
This is a fantastic cooler for keeping your stuff chilled, but that’s not all it does. The YETI Hopper M30 Portable Soft Cooler stands out for its wide mouth and magnetised closing with buckles. This means it can withstand impacts without opening up. And that’s just the start. The dryhide shell is also resistant to mildew, punctures, and UV rays, and the liner is constructed from FDA-approved food-grade material.
The “hitchpoint grid” lets you clip stuff to the cooler itself, such as a bottle opener or YETI Sidekick Dry bag (not included). The wide strap makes the Hopper easy to lug around, and the added grips on the side are a welcome design choice. This cooler isn’t cheap, and the magnetised closing can be awkward to keep open as you load and unload, but for busy parents and day-trippers, it just might be a chilly godsend.
That’s right, OtterBox doesn't just make phone cases. For those who don’t mind schlepping stuff around on their back, the Trooper LT 30 cooler might just be the perfect fit. Not only is this one of the best coolers around, but it’s also an uber-convenient option when you need to take your foodstuffs off the beaten path. And it holds an awful lot (for a backpack): up to 30 quarts or 50 cans. Another standout feature of the Trooper LT is the accessory mounting system, which lets you install cup holders, storage racks, and other useful goodies (not included).
An adjustable shoulder strap offers alternative carrying options to even out the load, and exterior pockets (OtterPockets?) are an added bonus. The Duraflex tie-downs are ideal for sporting events, road trips, and fishing expeditions; it’s even rated IP-65 to protect against rough river rapids and relentless riptides.
Coleman is an affordable outdoor brand that’s been around for ages. When it comes to quality materials that are built to last, their cooler line has always been top-notch. Case-in-point: The Xtreme 5 Wheeled Cooler is perfect for casual camping trips, baseball games, family reunions, and more. This model holds up to 62 quarts (or 85 soda pop cans, if you prefer), and it’s easy to cart around with the included flip-up handle. (Though some reviewers found the wheels to be a tad clunky.)
A good cooler is also a good travel accessory, and Coleman includes four molded cup holders built right into the lid. The Xtreme 5 is meant to be sat on, too; as an ad-hoc stool, it can hold up to 250 pounds without breaking a sweat. (Pun intended.) The extra insulation retains ice for up to 5 days, and the leak-resistant channel drain makes clean-up a snap.
How to choose the best cooler for you
Before you choose a cooler, you must consider its size. Size ultimately affects the portability. On top of that, you need to decide on the external material — whether you want a hard or soft case. If you need to carry it for extended times, opt for soft, but if you want one for large get-togethers, or you need durability, a hard case would be best.
Portable vs. non portable: If you don’t plan to move your cooler once it’s placed, then you don’t need to worry so much about its portability. But, if you’re planning to take it on vacation or on road trips, then consider how much it will weigh at full capacity and whether you will be comfortable carrying it.
Durability: The latches must seal securely and shouldn’t ease up when travelling. The cooler won’t be able to insulate effectively if the seal is broken.
Insulation: You want your cooler to be effective at insulating, so it keeps its contents chilled for as long as possible. The performance in this can vary — some models will keep ice frozen for up to a week, while others will only last a day.
Extra features: If you want the latest features and you’re happy to pay for it, look out for external storage compartments, cup holders, bottle openers and even umbrella holders. There are also models available which offer bike attachments.
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