One of the best coolers is an essential item for any outdoor barbecue, tailgate, or camping trip. Even if you're going no further than your backyard, a good cooler will save you from having to make repeated trips into your house to grab a cold brew from the fridge.
The best coolers take many shapes and sizes, and range in price from less than $100 to upwards of $500. You can get small backpack-style models which are great for day hikes, or Yeti-sized behemoths that can pack in enough cans, bottles, and food—and keep them cool—to keep the party going for days.
You don’t have to break the bank to find a good cooler; some of our favorite picks cost less than $50, and offer plenty of functionality to boot. But if huge BBQs are more your thing, you might want to splurge on a larger cooler, which can cost anywhere from $100 to $700, depending on your budget. Our favorite coolers also come with a few handy extras: cup holders, towing attachments, cutting boards, and LED lights, to name a few.
What are the best coolers?
We’ve scoured the web for the very best coolers of all shapes and sizes, but nothing quite caught our eye like the RovR RollR rolling cooler. And for good reason: this isn’t a cooler so much as it is the ultimate outdoor BBQ accessory. In fact, thanks to the pop-up storage bin, optional bike attachment, and a plethora of useful add-ons, such as a bike attachment and cutting board, you can upgrade this cooler into a mobile wagon—ideal for picnics and beach trips. It’s available in three sizes and multiple colors, too.
For those with more nostalgic sensibilities, nothing says “summertime” like the Coleman 54 Quart Steel Belted Cooler. It may not sport any extra bells or whistles like some of the more expensive models on our list, but that’s because this camping essential has exactly two jobs: chilling your stuff, and letting you sit on it once you close the lid. It accommodates fannies up to 250 pounds—or one hungry bear cub. It’s only available in once size, though Coleman offers it in six colors, from the company’s traditional green to turquoise and matte black
If you want a cooler that delivers the die-hard durability of a professional meat locker, look no further than the Pelican Elite line of coolers. Ranging from a portable 12-quart size to a massive 150 quarts, there’s not much this cooler, which has 3-inch locking latches, a reinforced lockable hasp, and an anti-shear hinge system— can’t handle. Plus, Pelican stands behind its product with a rock-solid lifetime warranty. That’s worth the price of the cooler, which is not cheap; the 70-quart model costs $350.
The best coolers you can buy today
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.
This is the best cooler for your next patio pool party, hands down. Featuring an innovative LED light system and removable see-through lid, this cooler’s massive 212-can capacity (125 quarts) will keep things chill from dusk ‘til dawn; gone are the days of fishing around in the dark for your favorite libation.
The removable drink dividers keep everything organized inside, and the heavy-duty locking casters make mobility a breeze. While this cooler isn’t really meant for ice retention, the Cool Riser design keeps the inner compartments away from sweltering surfaces, which means lukewarm drinks are never a concern.
The built-in bottle opener was literally made for parties, and the utility loop holds towels, trash bags, and more. When it comes to cleaning up, the threaded drain plug is garden hose-compatible, which means you can avoid mud pits with late-night revelers.
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 TWO is unique because it’s 100% leakproof (even when flipped upside-down), utilizing materials that are “found in things like HazMat suits and whitewater rafts,” according to the company website. 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). Different handle configurations make 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 warranty could be longer for the price, 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 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, for the largest size. 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-66 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 100 quarts (or 163 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 pulling the trigger on a new cooler, the first thing to consider is size, which directly affects how portable your foodstuffs will be. (You also don’t want to purchase something that’s too bulky for your body type.) You’ll need to decide between a soft or hard cooler: the former is usually more comfortable to carry around, but for higher storage capacities, you’ll want the latter.
Durability and ease of use should also be top of mind. Latches should fasten each compartment together securely; seals should remain tight over time; hardware should stay in place.
Depending on your lifestyle’s food-and-beverage-cooling demands, insulation performance is perhaps the most important factor. After all, a cooler’s primary purpose is to keep things...well, cold. The best coolers can keep ice from melting for up to a full week, while less expensive models might only last a day or so.
If you have a little more coin to spend, look for coolers with special features in the fine print: exterior storage compartments, cup holders, cutting boards, bottle openers, umbrella holders, and bike attachments can be found on the higher-end models.