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Who doesn’t like the convenience of a frosty drink in summer’s heat?
With a portable cooler, nothing should stop you from getting the perfect tan and having fun while at it. From road trips to beach picnics, Sunday barbecues, and even tailgating, a cooler is perhaps the best thing for the outdoors lover.
But what goes into picking the best cooler? Before you consider the most insulated model, remember to identify the reason why you are getting the cooler in the first place. Do you want to store ice for days or do you want cold drinks for a couple of hours?
Hard-shelled coolers can keep ice for longer and are designed for perishable food and long trips. Soft shells only work for a few hours and are better for a day’s excursion or at a backyard barbecue.
Other features to watch for include durability, materials, size, carrying method, drainage, external storage, and waterproofing for soft-sided coolers.
If you are here only to know the best, Yeti Tundra 45 is our top choice. It is not only cute and sleek, but it will keep your ice frozen for up to 80 hours. Though not big on capacity, you can rest assured drinks are going to stay chilled for a weekend’s trip.
For a soft-shelled, no-nonsense cooler, AO Coolers Vinyl Soft Cooler is your best bet at achieving great performance. It is on the budget side with a large capacity and up to a day of ice for cold drinks without dealing with lots of weight.
Yeti is the brand to watch if you want a model that has managed to crush its competitors. It’s a medium-sized model designed to carry up to 28 cans or a volume of 34.7qt. This cooler will take you through a long weekend excursion like a pro.
Yeti Tundra 45 comes in rotomolded plastic construction. It is built like a kayak where its mold is complete without any breaks. It does not have weak points and can, therefore, resist impact through the toughest expeditions.
When it comes to the lockdown, you get two T-Rex lid latches. Combined with the full-length aluminum rod that connects the body and lid, the cooler becomes super-efficient in ensuring it is leak-proof. Not to mention that, when used with two padlocks, you get a bear-proof cooler for camping trips.
Transport comes easy with haul handles on each end of the cooler. Two people can carry it comfortably thanks to the textured grips. And if you are alone, the integrated recessed handle will come in handy.
This cooler has PermaFrost insulation. It holds ice for up to 80 hours, perhaps more depending on your environment. Built to handle extreme temperatures the cooler is good to go with dry ice which gives you thrice the cooling power of regular ice. What’s more, you can now bring your favorite beers since it can accommodate long-neck bottles.
Yeti continues to shine with its Vortex drain system. It has a screw-in gasket drain plug that you don’t have to unplug all the way to drain your cooler.
Apart from all the cool features that come with the Yeti Tundra 45, you also get a dried goods rack. The rack keeps your sandwiches fresh and keeps your burgers from getting soggy. You also get non-slip rubber feet that keep the cooler in place at all times – even when riding at the back of your boat or truck. You can use the tie-down slots to keep it in the position you want.
At 23 pounds, this is perhaps the heaviest cooler in the list. Imagine the additional weight when you load it up, and you will be dealing with more than double the weight. A stiffer handle would be a welcome feature plus it is better to go for a soft model if you are taking on trips by yourself.
Yeti Tundra 45 is a feature-filled cooler that gives a top-notch performance. Its capabilities of dealing with dry ice mean it can keep food and drinks chilled for double the time of other coolers in its price range. The only thing you have to contend with is the weight.
Those that want a lightweight cooler that can accommodate lots of ice, food, and drinks will appreciate the convenience of the Pelican Elite Soft Cooler. Its deep exterior is sure to attract anyone looking to bring more than 20 12-ounce cans.
Most of us worry about the waterproofing of a soft cooler. That’s why Elite has made it so that this cooler has a construction from a double-coated 840D TPU material. It is not only impact-resistant and water-resistant, but it will also not scratch or tear.
Its base boasts construction from an anti-slip, compression-molded material that helps keep the cooler upright and safe from slipping. You’ll like how well Elite has gone ahead to include its rigid features around the lid. Not to mention the zipper and the dual-locking buckle system that keep it steady and tightly sealed.
Again, the zipper is a TIZIP model that is virtually leak proof. No worries about rainwater seeping into the cooler or ice water leaking to the outside.
Pelican Elite uses a combination of closed-cell insulating foam, a latch system, and a tight zipper to give you cooling of up to 36 hours on the 24-can model. It is a reliable model because some people have managed to use it for three days. That is equivalent to some hard-shell coolers.
You see, it is possible to get hard-shell performance from Pelican Elite. Since it weighs only five pounds, you won’t need help carrying the cooler. It comes with a detachable shoulder strap to carry it comfortably.
Pelican Elite uses a straightforward two-piece drain plug. The threads and the rubber gasket all have waterproof silicone which gives leak-proof properties.
What we like most about Pelican Elite are the steel tie-downs that double as bottle openers. The latches also have a mole webbing that you can use to carry extra stuff. Also, you get a separate front pocket to store wallets, keys, and phones.
We are not very excited about the side handles. Honestly, they are quite small and don’t feel comfortable to carry the cooler for an extended period.
Pelican Elite Soft Cooler is built to be on par with hard-shelled coolers. It has shed the weight allowing you to enjoy fresh meat and cold beers with a cooler that’s a breeze to carry.
The weekend is here, and you want to carry all your cool stuff with you. Here’s an excellent backpack cooler. Designed with comfort and convenience in mind, Icemule Classic gives you every reason to smile.
Perhaps the most attractive feature of this cooler is that it does not look like a traditional cooler. It is the kind you pick the last minute before heading out thanks to its portable, soft-sided engineering. Made of proprietary MuleSkinET on the exterior and MuleSkinEV for the interior, this cooler is tough and rugged.
It can undertake wild trips, mountaineering, fishing, and beach trips without a hint of wear. It comes in three capacities; 10 liters (6 cans), 15 liters (12 cans), and 20 liters (18 cans). As you can see, this cooler is ideal for small to large families.
The waterproof exterior has a welded construction and no zippers. You only need to fill the cooler and use the TriFold DriTop with a secure snap buckle which is completely leak-proof. It keeps water and air out, which allows ice to last longer.
Icemule is designed to give you up to 24 hours of fresh food and frosty drinks. Its PolarLayer insulation foam provides extra insulation not common with backpack coolers. Apart from boosting insulation, the cooler is buoyant. It can float on a lake or a river, making it ideal for boat rides.
You’ll find that this cooler has an IM AIRVALVE. It is at the center of storage since it allows you to remove all the air and fold the cooler for compact storage.
The straps on the small and medium-sized coolers are not the most comfortable. Filling them to the brim has shown to put extra pressure to the shoulders.
Icemule Classic makes for the perfect hike or any other outdoors trip. It is made from lightweight materials and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Everything about the Icemule Classic points to a well-thought-out product.
This AO Coolers product is durable and provides ice survival for a considerable amount of time. It is exclusively designed with a TPU liner and a water-resistant canvas exterior.
AO Coolers are made to never leak or sweat. The TPU liner is key to the durable performance of this cooler. It is ideal for beverages with a capacity of 24 cans while being moderately priced. Complemented by an external soft layer, you will see improved mobility since it will never scratch or leave wet marks.
Its size and shape allow you to carry it on your shoulders or by the handles. You will not want to invert or tip it since the zipper is not the most secure. But, as long as it is upside up, you are good to enjoy a ball game event and short road trips with it.
This cooler, like many other soft coolers, uses high-density closed-cell foam for its insulation. But unlike others, it has ¾ of an inch of insulation. It can hold ice for 24 hours in 120degrees of heat with no problem.
If you want a model that is easy to carry, can hold ice for hours and is cheap, this is the model to consider. It has an expansive mouth that makes it easy to put beverages inside. It also has an exterior pocket to put some nifty stuff like keys or extra change. But, this is only possible when the cooler is not filled to the brim, otherwise, the side pocket becomes useless.
However, you will like that AO Coolers has designed the handles and shoulder straps to be comfortable and simple to grip. They feel better in the hands than the ones on the Yeti cooler.
With use, you’ll start noticing loose stitches, and the YKK zipper does not compete effectively with soft coolers. But, hey, it’s on the cheap, which is to be expected.
AO Coolers Canvas Soft Cooler is budget-friendly. It offers durable and reliable features for short excursions. Its soft exterior combined with the TPU liner provides comfortable use during transit. It covers all the right features when looking for a cooler on the cheap.
AO Coolers have been around for 20 years. Seeing that waterproofing has always been a problem with soft-sided coolers, this brand decided to make a cooler that is hard on the inside and soft on the outside. That’s why this cooler is sweat and leak-proof even when inverted.
This cooler won’t last you only one weekend since it is good to go for multiple uses. The best thing about the 1000 denier vinyl exterior is that it will not hit your heels, the side of your legs, or scratch up the insides of your RV or boat.
The main compartment is quite large. It can hold drinks and sandwiches for hours and knocking it over does not mean you will end up with warm beer. Another advantage of the vinyl material is that it is almost waterproof in wet environments. This feature makes it a good choice for boating and fishing trips.
Like its canvas counterpart, this cooler also enjoys ¾ of an inch closed-cell foam insulation. It provides 24 hours of insulating ability, which is double that of most soft coolers. Now you can go fishing without watching your catch spoil before you get back home.
Despite being more massive than most soft coolers, this model comes with an overhead handle and a carrying strap. These carrying features provide flexible means of bringing the cooler to your fishing site. This is true when you have a large-size model loaded up with more than 36 cans.
The vinyl AO Cooler model tends to melt ice faster than the canvas model under the sun. You should always use the vinyl cooler in the shade for better ice-keeping capabilities.
From boating to fishing, AO Coolers Vinyl cooler is an ideal choice for wet environments. It is also pocket-friendly and has different sizing options. It handles easier than a hard cooler, which is why it is among our top recommendations.
YETI Hopper Two 20 is a leakproof portable cooler perfect for tailgating, campsites, and the boat. With a new tapered body, it is now more comfortable to carry than ever.
A DryHide shell replete with RF welded seams makes this cooler nearly indestructible. It is waterproof, UV-treated and built to withstand punctures and mildew. You’ll also like that the inner is made of FDA-approved material to avoid food contamination.
This cooler is easy to load and carry as it has an extra-wide opening and an equally wide zipper. The HydroLok zipper is airtight and leakproof. It locks in the cold and eliminates spills, which means nothing from the outside will contaminate the contents of the cooler.
With a 24-can capacity, it is a suitable size for average-size storage of ice, beverages, and food.
It’s just like Yeti to introduce some new specs in the cooler world. This particular model has ColdCell insulation, which is 1.5 inches thick at the bottom and 1-inch thick on the sides. It provides superior ice holding using rubber foam. It is far better than ordinary coolers, which is why it has a premium asking price.
You can also expect a distinct carriage with Yeti. You have three carrying options which include an adjustable and detachable shoulder strap, end handles, and primary carry handles. One or two people can carry it comfortably even when filled with all your perishable stuff.
Moreover, it has a hitchpoint grid to which you can attach items like a MOLLE Bottle opener and MOLLE Zinger. It also has daisy chains, which can be used as tie-down points or to secure gear.
You don’t get much from the exterior in terms of external storage space. The zipper is also too firm that it can stick. You should use it with zipper lube, especially the first few times.
If you are up to a 3-day trip, you’ll want a cooler like Yeti Hopper Two 20. Although it’s on the heavy side for soft coolers, it is perhaps the most reliable. But this comes at a high price tag.
Coleman 70qt. Xtreme Marine Cooler is just right for the outdoors and carrying your refrigerated lifestyle with you. With a capacity of 100 cans, it is possible to stay out for five days and never go without your favorite frosty drink.
You’ll marvel at the new, sleek exterior of the Coleman 70qt. Xtreme Marine Cooler. It is built to withstand the marine environments, so you’ll never deal with a rusty case. It has sharp edges and a streamlined design for simpler handling.
Its unique white color will never acquire a yellowish accent since it has a UV additive. This way, the lid will not weaken with time. You’ll also notice that all its hardware is of stainless steel and rustproof for improved durability. The cooler can handle salt water, direct sunlight, and extreme temperatures.
Coleman Xtreme Marine has the Have-a-Seat feature which can handle up to 250 pounds of weight when sitting or standing on it.
Five days of insulation is definitely a long time. Coleman is keen to use top-notch Xtreme 5 technology to store ice in 90 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures for five days. Its ThermOZONE insulation is without HFCs, CFCs, and HCFCs, which deplete the ozone layer.
Another thing to like is that the insulation is not just on the sides since the lid is also insulated. It improves overall insulation, and in turn, makes the ice last longer.
When it comes to the drainage, it has a spout that sits above the bottom. Although it is leakproof, it cannot drain all the water without having to overturn the cooler.
Finally, you have a comfort-grip swing handle for simple carriage.
The lid on this cooler does not have a locking gasket. Water or warm air can seep in so you’ll want to ensure the lid is always secure.
Coleman 70qt. Xtreme Marine Cooler keeps drinks cool for an extended time. Built to withstand the marine extremities, it is the only large-capacity cooler you’ll get at a decent price.
If Coleman Xtreme Marine is not for you, Coleman is not without choices. You can get this steel-belted cooler famous for its durability.
You will notice that this cooler has classic styling. From the stainless-steel belt, handles, and lid latch, everything about this cooler screams durability. Its retro design is impact and scratch-resistant. It also has the Have-a-Seat feature that can hold up to 250 pounds of weight.
The capacity of this cooler is up to 85 12-ounce cans. It can even hold 2-liter bottles upright. You get lots of space for tailgating and barbecue events for a whole group of people.
With the comfort grip handles, you will be able to bring this cooler comfortably to your destination. The sealing gasket comes in handy to squeeze the lid to the body. It, in turn, prevents warm air and rainwater from seeping to the inside.
Coleman is keen to use its proprietary insulation that is without carbon dioxide emissions. You can get up to 4 days of ice retention so no way you’ll end up a yucky warm beer. However, since it is semi-thick compared to Coleman Xtreme, it is prone to ice melting faster the more you open it.
The handles on this cooler are small and do not have the comfort-grip. Though they hold up well, you may find them uncomfortable, especially if you have to carry the cooler for a long distance. Also, it is not a lightweight model, which also adds to the carrying discomfort.
Coleman Steel-Belted Portable Cooler is an affordable Coleman cooler. It makes a few compromises but not on the insulation. That’s why it is a considerable choice among large coolers.
Do you like to go off the grid? Then you need a nice and dependable cooler to keep your stuff fresh for up to 10 days.
RTIC Cooler 45qt cooler boasts a rotomolded construction. Like Yeti coolers, it also doesn’t have any weak points, which means it is hard to damage. You get to enjoy years of good performance in a versatile and flexible model.
The practical sense of this cooler is a reason to get it over a Yeti or a Coleman. This is because it provides the same premium efficiency but at a lower price. It can fit in an all-terrain vehicle and even in your car. It can handle the abuse that comes with falling over or being dragged.
What’s more, this cooler is bearproof, and it comes with non-slip feet.
If you are not yet in on this cooler, maybe the premium, pressure-injected foam will entice you. Most people confirm that their ice has lasted the promised 10-day period since the outdoor temperatures rarely influence the interior temperatures.
It even has a freezer-grade gasket that is equally important in ice-retention. It ensures the lid and the body have a perfect seal to not only prevent leakage but to also prevent the entry of hot air. It has 3 inches of insulation, which positively influences the period of insulation.
The side handles are marine-grade ropes, and they come with textured grips. But for a 45-quart cooler, we would have expected a tie-down kit. And in some models, it may be an annoyance to keep the lid open.
RTIC Cooler 45qt looks and functions like a Yeti, but it won’t drain your pockets. It is a reasonable model for long excursions where you can’t compromise on functionality and performance.
ROVR Wheeled Camping Cooler is an all-terrain model that has a 52.8-quart capacity. It is not your ordinary tailgating cooler since it comes with exceptional features including wheels and dual, side handle. It even has a bike attachment for when the time calls for it.
You can’t fault the functionality of a cooler designed with durability, functionality, and versatility in mind. The Colorado-based startup has made sure to be innovative by building the cooler around an aluminum axle. With up to 100 pounds of capacity for beer and ice, this cooler comes with 9-inch all-terrain pneumatic tires on 5-spoke nylon hubs.
This cooler is also bear-certified. It has been tested and came out on top so you can count on it remaining safe when left out of a camping tent.
One thing you’ll like about this RTIC Cooler is that it has a removable bin that’s supposed to stay in the coldest part of the cooler. You can arrange stuff like you would in your fridge, which makes it easy to access food and keep it in the safe temperature range.
ROVR Wheeled Camping Cooler can keep your food and drinks fresh for up to 10 days. You have every reason to bring it with you because of the compartmentalization. You can bring perishable items like fish and fruits without worrying about melted water contaminating them.
Even better, it comes with cutting boards and cupholders. You can transform the cooler into a prep station, so you don’t have to hassle with extra items for your trip. The dual cup holders won’t be in the way since they attach to every anchor point.
A unique aspect of this cooler is that it can transform into an all-terrain wagon thanks to the pop-up storage bin. It allows you to haul and store gear when going over rugged terrain.
Because of its innovative features, this cooler comes at a steep price tag. You’ll want to keep this in mind because there are cheaper options that can keep ice for the same period.
For anyone who can’t stand the thought of lifting a cooler, ROVR Wheeled Camping Cooler is a perfect match. If you need a versatile and flexible cooler, this one might be what you want. It can store ice for up to 10 days, which is perfect for most campers.
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.