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The grueling, hot, summer months are quickly approaching. And if you travel often in the heat, you need to be sure you have the best cooler to protect your perishables. There are a lot to choose from, and finding the right one can be dizzying.
But it doesn’t have to be. Join us as we look at the top 10 coolers and which one will serve you the best. We cover everything from long camping trips to one-off backyard get-togethers. We’re confident there’s a model that will meet your needs.
Before we move on, we’d like to share a couple of our favorite entries. These impressed us with their cooling ability and high build-quality.
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Our top pick as the best overall went to Orca. Their 75-quart ORCT075 gives you a great deal of storage while keeping your food items well-insulated for maximum chill. It seals up tightly and is built using rotomolding.
Lifetime surprised us with a more affordable approach to a big cooler. The 65-quart 91005 is tough enough to withstand a bear attack. It’s easy to drain and comes with neat features that separate it from the competition.
We have 8 more entries to go, so stick around to see what’s ahead. We’ll look at our top picks in greater detail, as well. If you’re not wanting to spend a whole lot, we have some budget-friendly options that hold their own.
The Orca ORCT075 is a big cooler. It provides you with enough room that it can be a challenge just filling it up. It’s also really easy to drain when you’re finished with it. But that’s not what impressed us the most.
We were blown away by the build-quality of this thing. Upon inspection, it’s evident that a lot of engineering and planning went into the ORCT075’s construction. No part of it feels like an afterthought.
Every inch is made to last. It’s thick, sturdy, and rock-solid. Even the lid’s hinges are heavy-duty. When it comes to outlasting the competition, our money is on Orca.
The only real downside is what makes it such a winner: its size. If you’re by yourself and this cooler is loaded to its maximum, you’re going to have a hard time handling it. The ORCT075 is just too big and awkward for one person to haul on their own.
The lid seals tightly and food stays cool for days. Orca claims you can get 10 days out of the ORTC075, but our tests showed that to be just a fuzz less. Our ice stayed solid for 6 days before it started to melt.
Your mileage may vary, but a lot of it is going to be based on how much or how little you’re trying to store. But aside from that, it is easy to drain when you’re through using it.
Lifetime delivers a worthy contender that won’t break the bank. Sure, you’re getting 10 quarts less than Orca’s ORCT075. But you’re also paying less than half of what it costs. When it comes to the best bang for your buck, it’s the deal of a lifetime.
The 91005 is one tough cooler. It is constructed using durable material that ensures you’re getting a product that lasts. In fact, it is so solid that it can withstand a bear attack for up to an hour. A bear attack!
It sports rope handles that have strong grips for easy transportation. There are even two bottle openers equipped on the cooler for added convenience. The lid locks securely so that your food stays colder longer.
We like that there are holes on the cooler for locks. This is a nice feature to see. It allows you to secure your goods without having to haul them around everywhere you go.
When you’re finished using the 91005, Lifetime equipped the cooler with an easily-accessible drain. It has a wide mouth for quickly getting rid of melted ice. The materials used in the manufacturing of the cooler are easy to keep clean, too. When it comes to user-friendliness and convenience, Lifetime delivers.
RTIC made the list thanks to its solid performance. You won’t find quite the longevity in this one when it comes to cooling retention. But RTIC makes up for it with a cooler that is sure to last. The tough materials used can take a beating while keeping your perishables cool.
It’s also not overly expensive like some similarly-sized models. And yet it is built just as well. You get 3 inches of thick insulation to ensure cold stays trapped in while keeping warm air out. Its feet are textured so that your cooler stays parked in place.
Once you have packed all your food items in, sturdy T-latches lock the lid securely in place. They do such a fine job that even a bear won’t be able to get inside.
The handles are strong and make it easy to haul the cooler around. And when it’s not in use, this unit doubles as a seat. It can easily support hundreds of pounds thanks to its rotomolded construction.
Ice stays frozen for 5 days before it starts to melt. Different combinations of foods and drinks will stay cold for an average of 3 to 4 days. Once everything has completely melted, just release the rapid-drain for quick emptying.
If you’re looking to add a little character to your cooling needs, Yeti has you covered. With 9 colors to choose from, you should have no trouble finding the perfect fit for your needs.
We included the Tundra on our list because it’s just so well-built. It’s a really nice-looking cooler, with unique molding that makes it stand out from more traditional models. Its 45-quart capacity lets you store plenty of foods and drinks.
And with its bear-resistant construction, you’re sure to get a lot of use out of this one. Three inches of insulation ensure that the cooler’s contents stay cold for days. Our tests showed that ice stays frozen for around 5 days, while drinks keep chilled for about 3.
We like the way the lid fastens into place. Thanks to custom T-Rex latches, never again do you have to worry about them breaking. They’re made of thick, durable rubber. If that bear comes sniffing around, we doubt even he would be able to break them.
Yeti uses the patented Vortex draining system. Water is sucked out with speed and force, making cleanup a breeze. The rotomolded material just takes a quick wipe-down and you’re good to go. And when it comes to hauling, strong and durable grips make the Tundra easy to carry.
RovR is fairly new to the scene, but don’t let that deter you from giving them a look. This cooler is built tough and has a lot to like. During our testing, we pegged the RollR 60 as the Jeep of coolers. And it earned this nickname for good reason.
This thing is loaded with neat features that make it unique from any other entry. It’s equipped with rubber tires that make it easy to haul across all types of terrain. And a telescopic handle lets you pull it along instead of carrying it.
The included pop-up bin turns the cooler into a rolling wagon. This is handy for hauling dry goods without the need for another unit. Deep freeze storage lets you easily separate frozen foods. And there’s even an optional bike attachment that you can buy to make transportation a cinch.
Our frozen products stayed cold for 8 days, while cans and chilled foods lasted for around 5. You’d be hard-pressed to find a cooler as convenient as the RollR. There are optional accessories that make it even handier.
It is a bit pricey, but you get what you pay for. This all-terrain beauty can handle itself in nearly any environment. It makes your camping trips and tailgating parties more enjoyable than ever.
Coleman’s colossal 120-quart Coastal cooler won’t cost you much. And yet it provides you with a ridiculous amount of storage space at an affordable price. If you’re on a budget but in need of room, this is the unit for you.
Aside from a couple of cup holders built into the lid, you won’t find a lot of fancy features. But it makes up for its plain design by offering a large capacity and durable construction. The lid and bin are both really thick, allowing the cooler to double as a bench when not in use.
At just 20 pounds when empty, the Coastal Xtreme is pretty easy to haul by yourself. The shape of the cooler is narrowed, with a single carrying handle for transportation.
Combine that with a leak-proof draining system, and you’re looking at a worthy contender. And the money you’ll save can’t be overlooked. For such a large cooler, you’re getting an incredible bargain.
We like that the Coastal Xtreme is drained without the need to tilt the cooler. This makes cleanup faster and easier. The slim design greatly improves its overall portability. We had no trouble carrying this one around. And thanks to its large handle, it’s a great unit to take with you to the job site.
Coleman makes the list yet again. The 50-quart Xtreme really surprised us with what it offers. But even more so than that, we couldn’t get over its low price. This durable unit is equipped with tough wheels and a telescopic handle for easy transport.
The lid has 4 built-in cup holders for added convenience. And when not in use, the cooler works as a bench, supporting weights of up to 250 pounds. Two molded grips on the unit’s sides allow you to easily carry it around when you don’t need to roll it.
In our testing, ice and food stayed frozen or cold for 3 to 5 days. This is an acceptable amount considering what the Xtreme costs. You’re getting plenty of storage space to work with for a couple of nights of camping or a day at the beach.
From its cup holders to handy rolling setup, the Coleman Xtreme is a breeze to use. It’s easy to keep clean and comes in a compact design. The tough wheels do a fine job on snow and sand. And it does well in the woods and on trails.
Bison came out on top as the cooler with the best storage capacity. This mammoth sports 125-quarts of space. You could probably bring your entire refrigerator’s contents, if you really wanted to.
This is the unit you want if you plan on taking a long camping trip or hunting excursion. The build-quality is nice and thick, with plenty of insulation to keep food and drinks cold. Ice stays frozen for around a week, with food starting to warm after 5.
This is pretty good for a unit this size. We like that Bison went with grippy rubber feet on this one. When hauling it in the back of a pickup truck, the cooler stays in place.
At 57 pounds, you might want to have a buddy with you to help haul it. The Bison is just a bit too bulky and awkward for one person, especially when filled to capacity.
A unit as big as the Bison needs to be easy to drain. Well, that’s exactly what you get. Bison equipped the 125-quart cooler with 2 drain plugs. This speeds up the process and makes cleanup a cinch.
There’s nothing fancy about the ReCool. It’s just a simple paper cooler that can be nabbed for a fraction of what a traditional unit would run you.
That being said, if you’re looking to chill on the cheap, this is the way to do it. The ReCool is shaped to make hauling it easy, with 2 molded handles on each side. And at only 1.6 pounds, you won’t break your back doing it.
The ReCool is the perfect companion for a picnic or hike in the woods. You won’t get much use out of it after that, but that’s what it’s designed for. To round it out, there are 4 cup holders built into the lid.
Since it’s designed for limited use, expect ice to stay cold for around 12 hours. After that, the recycled material will keep shape for about 5 days. Any longer and the water will begin to penetrate the cooler. But once it does, just recycle it again for the next person.
If you host a lot of cookouts or attend them frequently, Igloo’s MaxCold is right up your alley. There’s nothing complicated about this one. It’s just your standard cooler that does a fine job of keeping food and drinks cold.
It’s well-built and has plenty of insulation. The lid locks securely in place to keep warm air from getting in. Easy flip-up handles on each side make carrying this 9-pounder a breeze.
We wish there were cup holders built into the lid, but Igloo opted not to include them. As far as cooling goes, you can expect to get anywhere between 3 and 10 days. How much you’re hauling will depend on how long it stays cool.
When you’re ready for cleanup, a simple drain plug at the base of the cooler empties all your melted ice. The durable material of the cooler is easy to keep clean, too.
Portable coolers have improved over the past decade. They are efficient at keeping the contents cold, and the improved construction lengthens their usability.
Portable coolers are a necessity of outdoor adventures. They are an essential part of everyone who enjoys spending time outdoors.
With the improvements came the difficulty of finding a suitable portable cooler. We have spent more than enough time researching portable coolers, so you don’t have to.
Coolers that you can carry with yourself fall into one of the three categories.
Soft-sided coolers are lightweight, which makes them perfect for short trips. Older, traditional models are useful for packing lunch for work or school, but not much else. On the other hand, new models are very rugged, and their thermal efficiency is nothing to be scoffed at.
Plenty of soft-sided coolers comes with insulation in the shape of high-density foam. The higher the density of the foam, the better the cooling properties.
Soft-sided coolers have an advantage over other coolers – they are easy to carry. Most of them have shoulder straps, which means that your hands will be free to carry other things.
If you are thinking about purchasing a soft-sided cooler, then try to find a model with thick, insulated walls, and a thermally efficient zipper. Soft-sided coolers can keep your food and drinks cold for a longer period of time – 24 hours and more, depending on the model.
We’ve mentioned that soft-sided coolers are durable. But hard-sided ones are the ones that showcase the durability.
Hard-sided coolers are a great choice for outdoor enthusiasts who need a larger cooler that can keep its content cool for a long time. While hard-sided coolers are heavy to transport, most of them come with handles or built-in wheels. If you are going on an outdoors trip, then bring a friend to help you carry the cooler.
Plenty of hard-sided coolers are made of plastic. But, there are some models out there that are available in metal. But, before you go and buy a metal cooler, you need to know that metal warms up in the sun and it retains heat longer than a plastic cooler.
Before you opt in for a hard-sided cooler, make sure that the lid seals when closed, because most of the cooling gets lost through the lid. Some hard-sided coolers come with a drain plug, which allows you to empty the melted ice. Another useful addition to some of the models is a bear-resistant latching system. So, keep that in the back of your head if you decide to camp in an area where bears are known to roam.
Electric coolers are great if you don’t want to use ice packs, but they require access to a power supply.
Some of the medium-sized 12- volt electric coolers can be powered by your vehicle. But, they can also be converted to utilize the power of the 110-volt AC wall socket. So, if you have access to a cabin with a 110-volt AC wall socket, then you can power your electric cooler.
The drawback is that the cooling capacity of an electric cooler is not great while the power is cut off. Electric coolers are well insulated. But, how long they can cool the content inside them, without electricity, depends on the ambient temperature and how often you open the lid.
Electric coolers are less portable than the other ones, but they eliminate the need to use ice. Bear in mind that electric coolers can drain your car battery and that they are heavy. So, always make sure that the battery in your vehicle can handle the cooler, and that you have someone to help you with the weight of the cooler.
We have mentioned that some coolers can be hard to carry, especially when full. Some coolers are large, which makes them hard to carry.
Fortunately, manufacturers are trying to help you out by providing you with a couple of transportation methods.
Besides the types of coolers and carrying methods, there are a few more useful features that you should consider.
Most of the coolers come with so many features that it would be impossible to name them all. But, bear in mind that some coolers come with built-in cup holders and bottle openers, silverware, detachable water bottles, slots for ice packs, and plenty more.