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The Best Coolers of 2023

The best coolers of 2021 will keep your food and drinks cold no matter what you throw at them. Read on to find the right cooler for your adventure.
The Best Coolers of 2022

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Looking for the best coolers for your next adventure?

Whether you’re tailgating by the river, backpacking with your dog, relaxing at the beach, or planning your next camping trip – we’ve found the best coolers for every situation.

For a quick look, here is our list of top picks in each cooler category. Keep reading below to see the full in-depth list of 2021’s best coolers.

Top Picks

Best cooler overall: RTIC Outdoors 65
Best cooler with wheels: RovR ROLLR 60
Most durable cooler: YETI Tundra 65
Best cooler for backpacking: ICEMULE Classic 20L
Best backpack cooler: ICEMULE BOSS
Best soft cooler: YETI Hopper M30
Best cheap cooler: Coleman Xtreme
Best lightweight cooler: Igloo Mission
Best small cooler: Pelican Personal Cooler
Most stylish cooler: Coleman Steel-Belted 54 or YETI V Series

When choosing a cooler the options can be overwhelming: coolers with wheels, backpack coolers, soft coolers, rotomolded coolers, injection-molded coolers, and more.

We did the leg work and sorted through all the options to give you a straightforward look at the best coolers in each category.

Keep reading to find more detail about the different types of coolers, as well as some helpful tips like how to pack a cooler or the optimal ice to food ratio.

Best Coolers in Detail

It might feel like there are too many options out there when it comes to finding the best cooler for your next adventure.

Don’t worry, in the sections below you’ll find details and specifications for the top performing coolers in each category.

From backpack coolers to indestructible coolers with wheels, we’ve got you covered.

The Best Coolers With Wheels

Let’s face it, carrying a big cooler around gets awkward.

The best coolers are bomb proof, and while that is what makes them great, they can be heavy and cumbersome for one person to carry.

When you want to stroll down to the waterside, tail gate party, or campsite without breaking a sweat, coolers with wheels will get you there with ease.


RovR simply makes the best cooler with wheels in existence. These coolers feature 9″ puncture resistant all-terrain tires for the smoothest ride and easiest pull available in any wheeled cooler. Directionally reinforced handles make getting over obstacles with one hand easy. RovRs are one of the heaviest coolers on the market but the rock solid handles and oversized wheels make pulling them a breeze. All RovR coolers are rotomolded, tall enough to fit a wine bottle upright, and are certified bear proof. Allowing for a number of extra features and accessories (cutting boards, dry bins, bicycle towing attachments) with a stepped interior design, RovRs are also the best coolers with wheels when it comes to versatility and organization.

Weight: 40.5 lbs. / 18.3 Kg
Capacity: 60 cans & 20 lbs. ice
Ice Retention: Up to 10 days
Warranty: 5 year limited
• Smooth rolling tires
• Certified bear proof
• Tall profile
• Lots of add-ons available

Available at EVO, Amazon, RovR

Best Coolers With Wheels

YETI Tundra Haul

YETI’s legendary toughness meets comfort and ergonomics with the Tundra Haul. With this easy to pull cooler, YETI uses a more cubed shape allowing for taller items like beverage containers to fit upright in the cooler. A heavy duty-double sided pulling handle makes hauling this cooler one handed a breeze while the curved handle shape keeps your heels away from the cooler when walking. The YETI Tundra Haul is everything you expect from a YETI in an easy to use model with a little more headroom than their standard cooler.

Weight: 37 lbs. / 16.7 Kg
Capacity: 45 cans / 55 lbs. ice
Ice Retention: Not stated
Warranty: 5 years
Available Sizes: 45 qts.
• Puncture resistant tires
• Ergonomic heavy-duty pull handles
• Tall profile for loading beverages

Available at YETI, MEC, REI, Campsaver, Amazon

Yeti Tundra Haul Best Coolers With Wheels

IGLOO Trailmate Journey

Featuring 10″ never-flat wheels – the largest of any cooler with wheels – the Trailmate conquers any terrain with ease. With the Trailmate Journey, IGLOO literally thought of everything. The features included in the Trailmate are extensive: removable butler tray, telescoping pull handle, lockable dry storage, separate dry stash pocket, a mobile device stand, cup holders, internal dry basket, marine grade stainless steel and aluminum parts, integrated tie downs, and two bottle openers. At 70 qts, the Trailmate is a larger, and more affordable alternative to other coolers with wheels. Keep in mind, the Trailmate is not rotomolded like its competitors so it won’t be as durable.

Weight: 34.7 lbs. / 15.7 Kg
Capacity: 70 qts. / 66 L / 112 cans
Ice Retention: 4 days
Available Sizes: 70 qts.
• Loaded with useful extras
• Oversized wheels
• Telescoping handle
• Dry storage
• No lid gasket
• Large capacity

Available at Amazon, REI

The coolers above are the best coolers with wheels on the market.

Sometimes though, you don’t need all that. If you are looking for a solid budget cooler with wheels to keep your drinks cool for a day at the beach, check out the Coleman 316 or the IGLOO Max Cold.

If the Yeti Tundra Haul is in your price range but you want something with a few more features and a bit more style, Pelican’s 45 Qt. Elite in tan with orange highlights is an eye catching option.

Best Backpack Coolers

When you want to get out and explore without sacrificing the cold drinks and food, backpack coolers are the perfect option.

Today’s backpack coolers offer surprisingly rugged packs with plenty of storage and ice retention times stretching multiple days.

From minimal tote style coolers like the Hydro Flask Day Escape to full on adventure backpack coolers like the ICEMULE BOSS, there is something for every endeavor.

For a reliable alternative at a surprisingly reasonable price, the Yeti Hopper BackFlip is a field tested backpack cooler that never quits.

Equivalent in design and performance to the BackFlip yet even more affordable, is the RTIC Backpack Cooler.


When it comes to backpack coolers, ICEMULE truly is the Boss. This cooler does it all without sacrificing style, durability, or insulation. The ICEMULE BOSS features a full backpacking style suspension system with double padded straps, three insulated-waterproof outer pockets for storing food or keeping things like electronics and wallets dry, industrial strength clip points, bungee tie downs, webbing clip points, welded seams, a heavy duty haul strap, and a rollable design for easy storage when not in use. Fully waterproof when loaded properly, the BOSS floats even when packed and boasts ice retention times of multiple days.

Weight: 5 lbs. / 2.3 Kg
Capacity: 30 L / 24 cans including ice
Ice Retention: 1-2 days
Warranty: 90 days
Available Sizes: 30 L
• 3 Waterproof outer pockets
• Padded straps & hip belt
• Multiple clip points & straps
• Multi-day ice retention

Available at ICEMULE, Amazon, REI

Best Backpack Coolers Ice Mule Boss Cooler

Pelican Dayventure

An innovative approach to the backpack cooler, the Dayventure brings style and durability to the portable cooler. The Dayventure features a fully separate insulated bottom cooler compartment (perfectly fits a six pack of cans) below an insulated dry bag style upper. The lower cooler closes with a burly waterproof sealed leak resistant zipper. Shoulder straps are lightweight and comfortable. There is a heavy duty rubberized upper haul loop, webbing tie downs, and a large separate outer dry storage compartment. As with most Pelican products, there is a bit of style built in. Choose from light grey with turquoise lining or coyote tan with a bright orange lining.

Weight: 9.3 lbs. / 4.2 Kg
Capacity: 18.4 L
Ice Retention: 1-2 days
Warranty: Limited lifetime
Available Sizes: 30 L
• Fully separated compartments
• Large dry storage
• Heavy duty straps and tie downs
• Sleek-stylish design
• Lifetime warranty

Available at Pelican, MEC, Amazon

Best Coolers Backpack Coolers Pelican DayVenture

Hydro Flask Day Escape

The Hydroflask Day Escape is a rugged 20L backpack cooler with a sleek style and well thought out design. It features fully padded adjustable webbing shoulder straps with a thick comfortable moisture wicking back pad. The top zipper is watertight, toothless and easy to open and close. A nice day sized backpack cooler that turns heads and is built to last.

Weight: 3 lbs. / 1.4 Kg
Capacity: 20 L
Ice Retention: 36 hours
Available Sizes: 20 L
Warranty: 5-year limited
• Food grade BPA free liner
• Toothless watertight zipper
• Thicker insulation in base
• Welded seams
• Bombproof 600D polyester

Available at Hydro Flask, REI, Backcountry, EVO

Hydro Flask Backpack cooler

For a single compartment alternative to the Dayventure backpack cooler, check out the Pelican Dayventure Sling.

The ICEMULE Boss is also offered in a paired down but larger capacity version called the ICEMULE Pro. At 40L the Pro is the largest capacity backpack cooler on the market (Pro also available in 33L and 23L sizes).

Many of these backpack coolers come in tote style shoulder bags. You can see more of this style below in the best soft coolers.

Best Coolers for Backpacking

Coolers and backpacking aren’t always words you hear in the same sentence.

For shorter trips or multi-day trips where you might be carrying a fish for the day or packing snow to melt when you descend for the night, there are some great lightweight packable coolers available.

As an added bonus, these backpacking coolers double as a dry bag!

With these innovative options, you might just have to add “cooler” to your next backpack packing list.

ICEMULE Classic 20L

This little cooler can do it all. The ICEMULE Classic is a dry bag style cooler built with a tough outer skin and insulated mid layer to keep things cold up to 24 hours. All ICEMULE coolers feature their patented IM AirValve. This allows you to put air directly into the insulating layer, making for a more efficient insulation and helping your cooler to float if needed. Similar to a camping pad valve, the air is easily released to roll the bag up for storage. When properly sealed, the ICEMULE Classic doubles as a fully waterproof dry-bag.

Capacity: 20L / 18 cans w/ice
Ice Retention: 24 hours
Available Sizes: 9L, 10L, 15L, 20L
Warranty: 90 day
• Rugged exterior/interior material
• IM AirValve for added insulation & flotation
• Beefy shoulder strap included
• Up to 24 hours cold
• Doubles as a dry bag

Available at ICEMULE, REI, Amazon, Backcountry Gear,

Ice Mule Coolers

For a larger capacity with easily rollable and packable shoulder straps, check out the ICEMULE Pro.

Best Soft Coolers

When rotomolded coolers like the Yeti came on the market it seemed impossible anyone could make a better cooler.

But what if you want all that functionality in an easier to carry more versatile model?

Well, today’s cooler manufacturers have a solution: the soft cooler.

There are two main types of soft sided coolers. Tote style coolers like the Yeti Hopper and lunchbox style soft coolers like the RTIC Soft Pack.

These coolers are made of high denier fabrics with welded seams, reliable insulation, and indestructible carry straps.

Perfect for short walks, fishing trips at the river or on the boat, and generally anything in-between from grocery shopping to hitting the boulder wall, soft coolers fill that niche between car camping and full on backpacking.

For day trips or overnighters, you don’t need a tonne of space or cooling capacity. We use our Hydro Flask soft cooler way more often than the burlier rotomolded Pelican cooler.

We also use our soft cooler as part of our 2-cooler system (more on this below), with the soft cooler reserved for beverages and non-perishable snacks.

On quick trips, soft coolers are just easier to carry and deal with than a bigger solid sided cooler.

Moral of the story, don’t miss out on these great soft coolers, they just might be that one piece of gear you never knew you couldn’t live without.

YETI Hopper M30

Leave it to Yeti to set the bar high. The Yeti Hopper is the best insulating, most rugged, versatile, and stylish tote style soft cooler on the market. The 2021 Hopper features a wide mouth magnetic top closure that has garnered a lot of attention (both positive and negative). The new closure takes some getting used to, but once you figure it out you won’t ever want to go back to zippers. Aside from this, the Hopper features welded seams, strong webbing straps with multiple hitch points, a UV/Mildew resistant & puncture proof outer, and closed cell foam insulation for longer stay cool times. If you want a more rigid hands free soft cooler, check out the Hopper Backflip.

Weight: 7 lbs. / 3 Kg
Capacity: 20 Cans / 30L
Ice Retention: Not stated
Warranty: 3 Years
• Welded seams
• Wide mouth for easy loading/unloading
• Webbing shoulder straps & hitch points
• Stylish freestanding design

Available at YETI, Amazon, MEC, REI, Backcountry

Yeti Hopper

Hydro Flask Day Escape Soft Cooler Tote

The Day Escape from Hydro Flask is an incredibly well performing and stylish alternative to the Yeti Hopper listed above. Everything Hydro Flask makes is sleek, perfectly constructed, and built to last. The Day Escape comes in two sizes; 18 L and a spacious 26 L. It features welded seams, up to 36 hours of ice retention, a removable shoulder/cross body strap, plenty of strong hitch points, and the best soft cooler zipper on the market. Hydro Flask’s TRU Zip watertight toothless zipper silently seals in cold air and keeps out dust and debris. The zipper is also self healing, meaning if it gets misaligned you simply slide it back together and your food stays cold! No more messing with broken or crooked zippers. For a paired down version of the Soft Tote, check out the 35L Insulated Tote.

Weight: 3 lbs. / 1.5 Kg
Capacity: 26L
Ice Retention: 36 hours
Warranty: 5-year limited
Available Sizes: 18L, 26L
• Food grade BPA free liner
• Toothless watertight zipper
• Removable shoulder strap
• Welded seams
• Bombproof 600D polyester

Available at Hydro Flask, MEC, REI, Backcountry

Hydroflask soft cooler

REI Cool Haul

A great soft cooler with everything you need and nothing you don’t. The Cool Haul has removable seam sealed leak proof inner liner for easy cleaning – meaning the outer ripstop nylon case can be used as a tote on its own. Three handle options including a detachable shoulder strap. Daisy chain hitch points, bottle opener, and a front slip pocket for keeping essential close and dry. The Cool Haul is an affordable soft cooler that performs well without all the bells and whistles.

Weight: 3.8 lbs. / 1.75 Kg
Capacity: 22L
Ice Retention: Up to 65 hours
Warranty: 100% Guarantee
Available Sizes: 22L
• Removable inner liner
• Front slip pocket for essentials
• Removable shoulder strap
• Welded internal seams
• Multiple hitch points

Available at REI

REI Soft Cooler

The big difference between the premium soft coolers above and lower end models is not only seen in ice retention times but in the materials.

Welded seams and high denier fabrics built for abrasion resistance not only look great and perform well but are also super easy to clean and don’t hold odors like other materials do.

Still, if you don’t really need all that ruggedness, there are some great soft sided coolers on the market with much more affordable price tags.

Check out the Hydro Flask Insulate Tote or Igloo’s Pursuit Tote.

For a lunch box style soft cooler the Yeti Hopper Flip, the RTIC Soft Pack Cooler are both high performing soft coolers with a classic design.

Best Cooler for Camping

Below, the RTIC Ultra-Light Cooler is an incredible cooler for camping.

As the name implies, the Ultra-Light is ultra light. It is also rugged and functional.

The only drawback with RTIC is that their coolers can be hard to find. For an equivalent option, take a look at the Pelican Elite.

RTIC Ultra-Light Cooler

RTIC’s Ultra-Light cooler just might be the best expedition style cooler you can buy. Weighing in ~30% lighter than its rotomolded competition, built with a bulletproof injection molded design, and boasting 3 inches of insulating foam on all 4 sides; the RTIC Ultra-Light was created for adventure. The Ultra-Light still has all the quality features you’d expect from a premium camping cooler: heavy duty rope handles, bear resistant rubberized latches, no fail hinges, an easy flow drain system, and no slip feet. For adventure camping of any type, the RTIC Ultra-Light is a more than capable companion.

Weight: 21 lbs. / 9 Kg
Capacity: 52 Qts.
Ice Retention: 10 days
Warranty: 1 Year
• Removable divider & basket included
• ~30% lighter than similar sized competition
• Up to 3″ of insulation on all sides
• Affordable price tag
• Unique color combinations

Available at RTIC

Best Camping Cooler of Best Coolers RTIC Ultra Light Cooler

Which cooler you choose for camping depends on what kind of camping you are doing.

Here is a list of the best coolers for camping (divided into car camping and camping expeditions).

Keep in mind, injection molded coolers are much lighter than rotomolded coolers. For example, the RTIC Ultra-light 52 is 2 lbs. lighter than the much smaller rotomolded Yeti 45.

Their durability level is near the same as well, while their ice retention times are generally slightly less than rotomolded equivalents.

Best Coolers for Expedition Camping:

YETI Tundra Series (35-350L sizes)
Blue Cooler 55-100 Qt.
Pelican Elite Cooler 70 Qt.
RTIC Ultra-Light Cooler 52 Qt.
Dometic Patrol 20-105L

Best Coolers for Car Camping:

Pelican Elite Wheeled
Coleman Xtreme Wheeled
OtterBox Venture 65
YETI Tundra Haul

For car camping or destination camping you might want a cooler with wheels and lots of space like the RovR shown above for your big group. In that case you will have extra people to help you move the cooler.

For more than 2 or 3 people on a multi-day car camping trip, you might need something like the YETI Tundra 105 or 110 Hard Cooler. Keep in mind, the Yeti 105 weighs 36 lbs. empty.

The best camping coolers are animal proof, will stay cool for days on end, have room for extras, and can withstand an insane amount of wear and tear.

Regardless of whether you are taking a water taxi to an island to set up base camp for a fishing expedition, raft tripping it down the Colorado, getting flown into the mountains, or you just want to pull the car in, start the camp fire, and set up camp; the coolers for camping listed above are ready for every challenge.

Best Budget Coolers

Let’s face it, some of the best camping coolers are expensive. Like, really expensive.

But, if you’re using them often, they will quickly pay for themselves in performance and durability.

Still, there are some options out there that come with almost all the performance at a more affordable price.

The best budget coolers might not keep your fish frozen for 10 days or withstand a couple of hungry bears. But if you just want a high performing cooler without the bells and whistles, these budget coolers are a great option.

Coleman Xtreme

For Xtreme insulation at an affordable price look no further than the Coleman Xtreme cooler. As far as budget coolers go the Xtreme is the best cooler a small amount of money can buy. With an insulated lid, large capacity, and available in a variety of colors and styles as well as a wheeled option, the Xtreme performs decently well without all the frills. For the size, it is also one of the lightest coolers on the market. But, while not the best cooler on the market – it is not leak proof, has no latches or a lid gasket, and is not as durable as rotomolded coolers – at nearly 1/4 the price of similarly sized competitors, the Coleman Xtreme is a solid budget cooler option.

Weight: 12.3 lbs. / 5.6 Kg
Capacity: 70 Qts.
Ice Retention: ~5 days
Warranty: Limited
• Lightweight
• Large inner capacity
• Various colors & styles
• No latches or lid gasket
• Wheeled option available

Available at Amazon

Coleman Cooler For Camping


The IGLOO BMX is well designed budget coolers with decent performance. For a low price you get a fairly high performing cooler with some useful bells and whistles all in a relatively lightweight package. Raised rubberized feet to improve insulation, an insulated lid, up to 5 days ice retention, rubberized latches, built in fish ruler, oversized handles for easy carry, steel hardware and kick plate, 4 tie down points, and a 3 year warranty. Keep in mind the BMX is blow-molded instead of rotomolded so it wont be as durable over the long run but this is also what makes it so light.

Weight: 16.3 lbs. / 7.4 Kg
Capacity: 52 Qts.
Ice Retention: ~5 days
Warranty: 3 years
Available Sizes: 25, 52, 72 Qt.
• Light for the size
• Multi-color styles
• Rubberized latches
• Stainless steel hardware
• 4 tie down points & ruler
• Oversized handles

Available at Amazon

Igloo Cooler For Camping

For a super affordable budget cooler option, you can always get a simple foam cooler from your local hardware or fishing store.

These won’t keep ice for more than a short day and will fall apart after even a moderately demanding trip but they get the job done.

If you just need a cooler for the day, Coleman’s classic 48 Qt. cooler works well and comes in at an affordable price.

It doesn’t have thick insulation or an insulated lid, and is a bit flimsy, but for occasional light use it might be all you need.

Best Lightweight Cooler

By far, the best lightweight cooler for the size is the RTIC Ultra-Light Cooler shown above.

With the Ultra-Light you get all the performance of a high end cooler with out all the weight.

All of the best coolers are either rotomolded or injection molded coolers.

This technology is what makes them so durable and so good at insulating. However, it is also a little heavy.

On average, a rotomolded cooler in the 50 Qt. range weighs around 25-29 lbs.

Similarly sized basic coolers weight much less but the level of performance between the two varies dramatically.

For example, one of the best camping coolers on the market, the Yeti Tundra 45 weighs in at 23 lbs; while a similarly sized budget cooler like the Coleman Poly-Lite weighs 7.1 lbs.

A rotomolded cooler like the Yeti will outperform and outlast a basic plastic cooler in every way.

But, if you don’t want to feel like you are at the gym every time you pick up your cooler check out the RTIC Ultra-Light.

An equivalent option and actually the next lightest high performance cooler is the Yeti Tundra.

Best Small Cooler

Sometimes you just don’t need all the space a standard large cooler provides. Luckily, the best small coolers perform just as well as their larger cousins.

Whether you work outside, love picnics, or need something a little more portable there is definitely a small cooler to fit your lifestyle.

YETI Roadie 24

The Roadie is far and away one of the best small coolers available today. With an inverted-vertical design, the roadie has a taller-slimmer profile. It can store a wine bottle upright while its small footprint makes for easier stowage. Like all Yeti’s, the Roadie features a rotomolded design, bombproof rubberized latches, no slip feet, tie down loops, and a leak-proof lid gasket. At only 12 lbs. and with a perfectly sized webbing shoulder strap the Roadie makes transportation easy with the option for hands free carry.

Weight: 12.8 lbs. / 5.8 Kg
Capacity: 24 Qts. / 18 cans
Ice Retention: Not stated
Warranty: 5 years
• Vertical design
• Webbing shoulder strap
• Rubberized latches

Available at Yeti, REI, Backcountry

Yeti Cooler for Camping

Dometic Patrol 20

Although more widely known for their electric coolers, Dometic also makes some high performing hard coolers. Their Patrol 20 is a perfectly sized small cooler for lunch on the boat or at the work site. Dometic uses rotomolded construction for an unbreakable product that insulates just about as well as the best coolers on the market. Featuring a solid carry handle that locks the lid tight, plenty of tie down and add on loops options, and thick insulation with some unique color options; the Patrol is a great choice for a more affordable small cooler.

Weight: 17 lbs. / 7.7 Kg
Capacity: 19L
Ice Retention: Not stated
Warranty: Limited
• Locking solid handle
• Options for add ons
• Single hand rubber latches

Available at Dometic, REI, Moosejaw

Dometic Cooler

Pelican 14 Qt. Elite Cooler

Pelican’s Elite coolers are super durable, insulate well, come in a number of stylish color combinations, and include ingenious features like dry storage lids and magnetic bottle openers. Match this with a leak proof lid and 1.5 inch thick insulation on all sides, this small cooler is capable of big things. Also available in a vertically designed 20 Qt. model capable of holding 4 wine bottles plus some extras.

Weight: 17 lbs. / 7.7 Kg
Capacity: 14 Qts.
Ice Retention: Not stated
Warranty: 3 years
• Upper dry box
• Multiple color options
• Inner tray included
• Molded cup holders
• Built in bottle opener

Available at Pelican, Backcountry, Amazon

Palican small Cooler

For a more affordable small cooler that still performs well from day to day the 16 Qt. Stanley Adventure Cooler and the 20 Qt. RTIC Hard Cooler are both great options.

Most Stylish Camping Coolers

Sometimes, you just want a cooler that looks great and works well.

From retro to colorful, these stylish coolers with keep your food cool and keep you looking cool.

Check out our top pick then keep scrolling to see some stylish yet more affordable alternatives.

Yeti V Series Stainless Steel Cooler

With an internal capacity slightly larger than the Tundra 65 in a significantly smaller footprint, the Yeti V Series is a true came changer when it comes to the best coolers. Although it’s one of the most expensive coolers on the market, it also incorporates ground breaking engineering that makes it one of the highest performing coolers available. What makes the Yeti V Series coolers so amazing is their vacuum sealed insulation panels. Vacuums are actually one of the best insulators in the world. This is why your Yeti mug or HydroFlask bottle keep things cold and hot for so long – both use vacuum sealed walls. Up until now it wasn’t possible to use vacuums in coolers. An added bonus, vacuum sealed walls are thinner, so you get more internal cooler space in a smaller package. Yeti changed the game with the V Series while also taking a style nod from the past to create the sleekest most stylish and best performing cooler there is.

Weight: 35 lbs. / 15.8 Kg
Capacity: 46 cans
Ice Retention: Not stated
Warranty: 5 years
• Stainless steel construction
• Innovative vacuum sealed panels
• Classic retro styling
• Single center latch
• Can hold wine bottle upright

Available at YETI, Amazon

Yeti High End Cooler

With the V Series you get an undeniably beautiful cooler with serious insulation.

Still, it is very expensive.

You might be wondering if its worth the price or if a rotomolded cooler will perform similarly?

Well, you’re in luck. Outside Magazine’s Gear Guy put the V Series head to head with the Tundra Haul.

When it comes to the most stylish camping coolers, looking good doesn’t have to cost as much as the V Series.

Here are some handsome alternatives that won’t break the bank.

IGLOO Legacy Coolers

Igloo has been making coolers for a long time. With their legacy series they bring back an old standard with a bit of modern day technology, creating a great looking cooler that still performs as well as Igloo’s top coolers. Multiple retro colors available as well as a stainless steel version.

Weight: 16.9 lbs. / 7.7 Kg
Capacity: 54 Qts. / 85 cans
Ice Retention: Not stated
Warranty: 3 years
• Stainless steel body
• Insulated lid
• Multiple color options
• Mounted bottle opener
• Single swivel latch

Available at IGLOO, Amazon, MEC

Budget Camping Cooler with Style

Coleman Vintage Steel Belted

People have been taking Coleman coolers camping for a long time. With the Vintage Steel Belted cooler, Coleman took a step back to simpler times. The Vintage cooler performs about as good as their low end plastic models but adds that longed for bit of style. Overall, a decent cooler that looks great at a reasonable price.

Weight: 15.7 lbs. / 7.1 Kg
Capacity: 54 Qts. / 85 cans
Ice Retention: Not stated
Warranty: 3 years
• Stainless steel body wrap
• Multiple color options
• Mounted bottle opener
• Single swivel latch

Available at Backcountry, Amazon

Coleman Retro Cooler

If you’re not into the vintage look or want a higher performing cooler that still looks fresh and unique, then take a look at Pelican’s two tone and three tone options.

Pelican Elite Cooler

As discussed above, the Pelican Elite is an incredibly high performing cooler suitable for camping, river tripping, traveling, boating, and just about any other adventure you can think up. The beauty of the Elite, it comes in a variety of sizes and stylish color combinations. Check out the Pelican website for all the options.

• Injection molded design
• Multi-color options
• Leak proof lid gasket
• Dry compartment

Available at Pelican, Backcountry, Amazon

Best Coolers Most Stylish Cooler Pelican Elite Cooler

How to Pack a Cooler for Camping

Packing a cooler, seems like a no brainer right?

Well, you can just throw some ice in with your cold cuts and beer and a solid cooler will keep things fresh for days.

But, even the best camping coolers will perform better when packed correctly.

Want your veggies crisp while also keeping your steaks fresh?

Read on to learn how to pack a cooler.

Packing order
Ice for coolers
Fill in the spaces– use ice cubes to fill air pockets/empty space
Store in shade
Don’t drain the water
Add insulation
Keep it closed and latched
Don’t trust food packaging
Wrap your greens
Add even more insulation
Separate cooler for drinks
After care


Probably one of the most over looked steps in packing a cooler, pre-chilling is a simple step that significantly extends how long your food will stay fresh.

Keep your food in the fridge or freezer before packing it into your camping cooler.

Additionally, pre-chilling your actual camping cooler makes the gains even more dramatic.

If you have some extra ice or ice packs, throw them in your cooler for a few hours before you start packing your cooler.

When you don’t have spare ice or time, try giving your cooler a quick cold water bath with a hose or shower.

Packing Order

There are few different schools of thought on packing order.

Some people start with ice blocks on the bottom whereas others will start with frozen meats on the bottom with a layer of loose ice on top.

In general, keep in mind that cold air sinks, you want to avoid empty spaces, and it’s best to pack in order of use.

Food for later in the trip should be near the bottom (to minimize time with the lid open which allows cool air to escape) while frequently used items like mayonnaise or cold cuts are better near the top for quick access.

You can find more detail on this below, but remember to repackage your food (especially meats and liquids). Use a vacuum sealer or heavy duty Ziplocks to keep your food from getting water logged as the ice melts.

Remember, even the best Ziplocks with let some water in if submerged for extended periods of time.

We’ve experimented with a few packing systems.

From bottom up, this is our preferred layering system for packing a cooler:

• Reusable freezer sheets
• Frozen/pre-chilled meats
• Layer of thin reusable ice blocks
• Vacuum sealed veggies and frequently used items
• Cubed ice to fill in empty spaces
• Reusable freezer sheets

*Note: We like to use a two cooler system. This means all our beverages are in a separate cooler. If you are putting your cans or bottles in the same cooler as food, be sure to pre-chill them and fill the spaces between with loose ice.

Ice for Coolers

Coolers don’t really work without ice.

But there are so many different kinds of ice available, which is best?

And where do you put the ice in a cooler to keep things cold longest?

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about ice for coolers.

What Kind of Ice?

Not all ice is created equal.

Crushed ice, cubed ice, block ice, reusable ice blocks, ice sheets, freeze dried ice; which do you choose?

Ultimately, it comes down to what you are doing and user preference.

But for our packing system described above we use a base layer of ice blocks or ice sheets, a layer of thin reusable ice blocks in the middle, cubed ice to fill the empty spaces, then a layer of ice sheets over the top of everything.

Reusable ice blocks or block ice will last longer than crushed or cubed ice.

Dry ice will last the longest (should only be used in compatible hard coolers like the Yeti Roadie).

Yeti has an entire page dedicated to safe use of dry ice in their coolers.

One nice bonus of dry ice, as it “melts” it actually evaporates rather than turning into water, so there is less mess to deal with.

The simple answer; dry ice will keep your items cold much longer without having to deal with all the melted water. Just be sure your cooler is dry ice compatible and you follow proper safety guidelines.

Crushed or cubed ice is perfect for filling small spaces left in the cooler after packing.

Remember, you want as little air space as possible in your cooler. This will keep things cold much longer.

Some coolers like the RTIC, Pelican, and Yeti have molded slots for brand specific reusable block dividers.

Pelican Cooler Internal Detail

These are great for organizing and won’t move around as the cooler gets emptier during your trip.

Keep in mind however, most built in ice block slots are oriented vertically and cold air sinks. So, if you have the space, you may want to add a few layers of horizontal ice in-between your items.

Where Should The Ice Go?

Use layers of ice.

If you have flat ice blocks, put a layer on the bottom, then a layer in the middle, and one on top. Using ice sheets or ice blankets as the top layer will save space.

For occasions when you don’t have a lot of ice or have to resort to cubed ice from the gas station, keep in mind that cold air sinks so put the ice in the middle or upper layers of the cooler.

Items on the bottom should be in leak proof containers or vacuum sealed bags to keep them dry as the ice melts.

For super users using Dry Ice place it in the bottom of the cooler.

How Much Ice For a Cooler?

General rule of thumb, aim for a 1:2 ratio of cooler contents to ice.

Meaning, you should use twice as much ice as the contents in your cooler.

For example, if 1/3 of your cooler is full of food and drink, the remaining 2/3 is ice.

Keep this in mind when deciding what size cooler to purchase for your needs.

The exact ratio that works for you will take some experimenting with your specific cooler and climate.

If you are using Dry Ice, you get away with using less.

DIY Ice Blocks

The best coolers aren’t cheap, they can be a big investment. If you don’t want to spend even more on fancy ice blocks and ice sheets for you cooler, there are some simple DIY Ice Blocks you can make with everyday items in your fridge or pantry.

The easiest DIY reusable ice block is an old soda or juice bottle.

Fill it up with water, throw it in the freezer, and you’ve got a reusable ice block!

Tip: Don’t fill the bottle up all the way. When water freezes it expands and will burst in your freezer if filled to the top. Fill the container halfway to 3/4 at most.

Screw the caps back on before freezing, this way, if the bottle warps while freezing the water tight seal won’t be affected.

Pro-tip: Use potable water. Once melted your DIY ice block will double as a back up source of drinking water.

For flat DIY ice blocks, you can double up some large Ziplocks and fill them with water. Remember to put them flat when placed in the freezer. And, same as a bottle, don’t fill them all the way or they will burst in the freezer.

Even better than Ziplocks, fill some Food Saver bags and seal them without vacuuming. Food Saver bags are 100% leak proof and much more durable over time than Ziplocks. Same thing though, leave room for the water to expand as it freezes.

Fill it Up Completely

Lots of air space left in a packed cooler causes ice to melt more quickly.

Fill empty spaces with cubed ice or use it as storage for towels, paper towel, or clothing.

If all else fails, a lightweight alternative is filling the extra spaces with crumpled newspaper.

Store In Shade

Ice inside a cooler will last much longer when the cooler itself is kept cool.

When possible keep your cooler in the shade or under a towel or tarp.

At the beach or river, with leak proof coolers like the ones listed above, you can even put your cooler directly in the water to keep it cool.

Just make sure it doesn’t float away!

Don’t Drain The Water

It seems counterintuitive, but resist the temptation to drain water from your cooler.

Unless the water is seeping into your food and containers, it is actually better to leave it than drain it.

When you drain out cold water, that space inside the cooler is taken up by warm air that your ice now has to work double time to cool down again.

Drain your water when it is dirty, at the end of your trip, or if it is causing a problem. Otherwise, in terms of insulation and cooling, you are better off leaving melted water in your cooler.

Add Even More Insulation

To step up your camping cooler cooling game even more, wrap or cover the entire cooler in a reflective rescue blanket or camping pad.

Especially if you don’t have a high quality cooler like the ones listed above, the lid likely will not have any insulation.

This is a critical area of cooling failure. At the very least put a beach towel or large bag on top of the cooler – this simple step can make a big difference in ice retention times overall.

Keep It Closed and Latched

Even if you’ve packed your cooler perfectly, placed it in an ice-cold lake, and covered it in foil, one little action can melt even the coldest ice: opening the lid too often.

Every time the lid is opened, cool air is replaced with warm air. Your ice has to work hard to cool the new warm air down again so it will melt much faster.

When packing your cooler, try to place high traffic items near the top so when the lid is opened it’s only for a second or two.

Watch that the lid is fully closed and latched between uses.

A lid left slightly open for a full day will defeat even the best coolers.

Plus, a securely closed and latched lid keeps your food safe from animals!

Pro-tip: Use a 2-cooler system. One for drinks and snacks, the second for food with more perishable items. This will minimize time the lid is open, make getting a fresh drink easier, and ultimately keep your food and drinks fresher overall.

Bear Resistant Coolers

Many of the best hiking and camping areas require bear-proof gear.

Luckily for backcountry fresh food enthusiasts, some of the best camping coolers are also bear resistant!

Check that your cooler has a IGBC (Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee) rating.

The RovR and Kong are examples of two amazing certified bear resistant coolers.

Here’s proof direct from RovR:

Don’t Trust Food Packaging

Most food comes in some sort of packaging.

Bagels, for example, come in their own plastic bag – don’t trust it.

Food packaging usually comes with invisible wear and tear that can allow water to get in when placed in a cooler.

No body wants a soggy bagel!

Remove your food from its packaging and re-package it in heavy duty Ziplocks, leak proof containers, or vacuum sealed bags.

Wrap Your Greens

Greens and veggies can get soggy in a cooler.

Try wrapping them in damp paper towel before placing them in a Ziplock.

This will keep them crisp longer.

Separate Cooler for Drinks

Drinks can take up a lot of space in a cooler.

Plus, they are usually cylindrical shapes that makes for a lot of empty air space.

Empty spaces in a camping cooler are not ideal!

Also, the most common reason to open a cooler is to get a fresh drink.

The lid will constantly be open letting precious cool air out and warm air in.

If you have the resources, think about using a two-cooler system.

One cooler for food items and one for drinks. We like to use a cheaper cooler for drinks and reserve our high end cooler for food, fragile items, and other perishables.

After Care

Often overlooked, aftercare is an important part of owning a great cooler.

Dark and damp, the inside of a cooler is the perfect breeding ground for potentially harmful bacteria.

It doesn’t take much, simply give the inside a quick scrub with soapy water or diluted vinegar.

Allow it to dry completely inside and out before storing.


Store your cooler out of direct sunlight in a dry environment.

If your cooler has a drain, leave the drain open to allow airflow.

How to Choose the Best Cooler

Types of coolers to consider
Price – is it worth it?
Ice retention time
What size cooler to get?
Portability: wheels, backpacks & straps
Durability – rotomolding vs injection molding
Important features & accessories to consider

Types of Coolers to Consider

In general, there are 3 types of coolers: Hard sided, soft sided, and backpack coolers.

Read above for the best coolers in each category.

Which cooler is best for your next adventure depends on what you are doing and for how long you need to keep your food and drinks cold.

Simple hard sided coolers like the ubiquitous Coleman Polylite 48 are great budget coolers for a quick overnight or weekend getaway.

For longer or hotter trips, a higher end rotomolded cooler like the legendary Yeti Tundra can keep your food and drinks cold for up to 5 or more days.

If you need your cooler to close securely, on a river rafting trip for example, you will want to look at rotomolded or injection molded coolers with either rubberized or heavy duty latches as seen on RovR and Pelican coolers.

Soft sided coolers are a lighter option that take up less space and are much easier to carry. They usually have either an over the shoulder beach bag design or a backpack design.

While a bit heavier than other soft sided coolers, backpack coolers offer superior mobility and carrying capacity.

Keep in mind, ice retention for a soft sided cooler or backpack cooler is usually a day or two less than quality hard sided coolers, but high end soft sided coolers like the Hydroflask will still keep things cooler longer than a budget cooler like the Coleman.


Great camping coolers are not cheap, but they are built to last.

Unlike a lot of other outdoor gear where the difference in performance is minimal between inexpensive and expensive models; a high end cooler outperforms cheaper options by leaps and bounds.

Rotomolded technology (high durability denier and welded seams for soft sided coolers) makes these coolers nearly indestructible with no degradation of their cooling capabilities over time.

Budget coolers might work great for a quick trip to the lake. But for longer trips you will have to keep buying new ice to keep your food and drinks cold longer than a day or two.

Difference Between High End Coolers and Other Coolers

The first time you see the price tag on a high end cooler, you’ll probably ask yourself, “Why?”

Well, there are actually a few key features that explain the difference in price and performance between high end coolers and other camping coolers.

  1. Most quality coolers are rotomolded or injection molded. More on this later, but ultimately rotomolding creates a single thick walled piece of plastic – making the cooler more durable and better at insulating.
  2. All of the best coolers listed above like the Yeti or RTIC also have a thick layer or insulation in the lid. Other coolers have a hollow lid with no insulation.
  3. High end coolers use pressure injected Polystyrene versus Polyurethane. Polystyrene possesses superior insulation qualities, sets much harder, and is heavier than the average polyurethane.
  4. Lower priced coolers don’t have secure latches. Latches create a much more efficient seal, prevent spillage, and help keep animals out.

Even though all these differences add up to higher price tag, they are just part of what make quality camping coolers so durable and high performing.


Coolers are insulated with foam. Not all foam, however, is created equal.

Cheaper models invariably use Polyurethane while higher performing coolers use pressure injected polystyrene.

The insulating properties of foam come from the air bubbles trapped in the foam.

In polystyrene, air bubbles are packed together more densely than in other foams.

Additionally, polystyrene is a harder foam.

Together, these features make polystyrene a stronger and better insulating material than regular foam.

Ice Retention Time

Often referred to as Ice Retention Level, your cooler’s Ice retention time is the approximate amount of time it takes for the ice in your cooler to heat up and melt.

Some camping coolers offer Ice Retention times of up to 10 days!

For longer trips in more exposed conditions, choose a cooler with higher Ice Retention times.

Of course, this number will vary greatly based on the outside temperature, how you pack your cooler, and it’s closure system.

Still, the high quality camping coolers shown above usually have Ice Retention times of 3-5 days or more.

What Size Cooler to Get?

When it comes to buying a great cooler, one of the most important decisions you will make is choosing the right size for your needs.

Capacities are usually stated in quarts/liters or in the number of 12 oz./350ml cans the cooler can hold.

One quart is approximately 0.75 cans.

But remember, around 2/3 of your cooler’s space should be occupied by ice.

For example, Yeti shows their cooler capacity based on a 2:1 ice to can ratio.

The Yeti Tundra 45 has a capacity of ~45 quarts which translates to 28 cans or 34 pounds of ice.

Yeti Cooler Specifications


Another important consideration is weight.

Durable rotomolded coolers can be heavy. The Yeti shown above has an empty weight of 23 lbs.

Add the weight of your food plus ice to that number and this cooler can easily weigh 50 lbs or more.

If that seems too heavy to be carrying back and forth all the time, consider a two cooler system or a cooler with wheels.

Two Coolers Are Better Than One

Sometimes it is better to have two smaller coolers rather than one big one.

Pack drinks and other non-perishables in one cooler while reserving the other for food and easily perishable items.

Lids are opened most often to access beverages. The more often the lid is open, the more cool air gets out, reducing your cooler’s overall ice retention time.

Having two coolers also allows for greater flexibility in your trips.

You don’t want to drag around a 65 quart/29 lb cooler on a day trip to the river when you could just hit the trail with your 24 quart/5 lb backpack cooler.

The best system we’ve found is to have one large capacity cooler and one smaller backpack cooler like the Yeti Hopper or Hydroflask Day Escape with more vertical space.

This way, you have one cooler that can hold taller beverage containers and takes up less space in the car, tent, or boat.

When you need more room for longer trips, load up the big cooler, then use your smaller cooler for day trips to and from base camp.

Portability: Wheels, Backpacks & Straps

Camping coolers can be heavy and difficult to move, especially when fully loaded with food and ice.

Fortunately there are some great options available to make keeping food and drinks cold on the go easy and enjoyable.


Coolers with wheels make for a smooth ride when you’ve got a fully loaded cooler to get down the dock, to the beach, the campsite, or the riverside.

Not all wheeled coolers are created equal however.

For use in areas with pavement or smooth pathways, something like the basic Coleman Wheeled Cooler will probably work fine.

But if you plan on walking an significant distance over sand, loose gravel, or bumpy roads, check out the RovR ROLLR. RovR coolers are built to withstand the toughest roads and trails.

Ultimately, the larger and more durable the wheels on the cooler, the better it will ride on rough terrain.

The plastic wheels on the Coleman work ok for paved parks with even grass and gravel.

Yeti’s Haul features slightly bigger single construction never-flat wheels that work great for bumpier terrain.

RovR coolers provide the smoothest ride of all coolers with wheels.

They incorporate larger 9 inch puncture resistant tire – similar to wheel barrel tires – allowing you to roll over and through just about any obstacle.


As far as portability goes, it doesn’t get much better than backpack coolers.

Today’s backpack coolers have ice retention times better than the average hard sided cooler, are made of indestructible materials, and have space for accessories.

If you’ve got a long hike in or just need your hands free, these ultra portable coolers won’t disappoint.


For those times when you just want to put on your sandals and stroll to the water, checkout a shoulder style cooler bag like the Yeti Hopper.

You get the portability and insulation of a backpack cooler in a more relaxed model.


Nearly indestructible, rotomolded coolers are the most durable coolers on the market.

Due to their one piece design rotomolded coolers lack seams and joints which can weaken an object.

Additionally, rotomolded designs usually have thicker side walls for increased insulation and strength.

A close second in durability are injection molded coolers like the Pelican Elite Cooler.

While these are still made in pieces, the injection molding process allows for more design features to make these coolers nearly as strong as their rotomolded counterparts.

Injection molded coolers are usually much lighter than comparably sized rotomolded models even though they have roughly the same amount of insulation.

All the soft sided coolers listed above are surprisingly durable. Made of bombproof high density fabrics, full webbing straps, and welded seams – you literally can’t destroy these coolers.

What is Rotomolding?

The best coolers on the market today (with the exception of the ground breaking vacuum cooled Yeti V Series) are rotomolded coolers.

During the rotomolding (or Rotational Molding) process a heated hollow mold is filled with plastic then rotated to evenly disperse the material throughout the mold.

This creates a single seamless end product that is more durable than coolers composed of assembled parts.

Rotomolding vs Injection Molding

Almost all of the best camping coolers use rotomolding in their production.

However, some companies like Pelican and Otterbox are offer high quality Injection Molded coolers.

Injection molding is similar to Rotomolding but does not create a single hollow product.

Instead, the coolers are made in two pieces then filled with insulation and fused together.

While this does make the cooler slightly less durable – not by much – injection molding also allows for a significantly lighter cooler with more design features like handles and alternating colors.

Important Features to Consider

Once you’ve got the size and type of cooler figured out, take a look at the extras your camping cooler has already integrated or that can be added on.

For example, some coolers have molded internal slots to fit specifically sized ice blocks. Some have extra eyelets for attaching line or keeping the lid locked shut. Others have attachable accessories like bottle openers, separating baskets, cutting boards, and cup holders.

Look at the type of handle a cooler has and how the lid is shaped.

Do you prefer flexible cord straps? Or, are hard-integrated handles better suited to your needs?

Are cup holders important to you?

Each cooler brand has its own extras. RTIC Outdoors, Blue Coolers, and Yeti are more minimal whereas brands like Pelican and RovR offer all the bells and whistles.

The presence or absence of these features doesn’t change cooler performance in anyway – although some of these features like dividers or trays will help you pack your cooler more efficiently to achieve greater cooling abilities. Ultimately though, this becomes a matter of preference and purpose.

When spending the time and money to get a high end camping cooler, be sure to find out what extra features it has or can be added on to ensure it has everything you want and need before purchasing.

Not sure what features you need?

Start with the simplest model you can find then work up from there.


The best coolers are incredibly durable, stylish, practical, and can keep your food and drinks cold for days and days without flinching.

Here’s a quick summary of the main considerations around finding the best cooler for your needs. And once you do choose one, how to get the most out of your cooler.

  1. How to pack a cooler?

    1. Packing a cooler from the bottom up:
    • Start with a layer of thin ice blocks or ice sheets.
    • Place the most important or perishable items (meats and dairy) near the bottom.
    • In the middle add another layer of ice sheets or cubed ice.
    • Pack the most frequently used items (beverages, condiments, snacks) at the top.
    • Fill in empty spaces with cubed ice or paper towels.

    2. Pre-chill: Pre-cooling your cooler and the contents down before packing will go a long way in preserving your ice. Keep your cooler in the shade and give it a quick rinse with a cold hose before filling it. When possible keep the food and drinks you plan on packing in the fridge or freezer before hand.

    3. Ice: Reusable ice blocks and ice sheets are the best option. Some coolers sell ice blocks that fit into their coolers acting as dividers. Ice blocks are the next best option. With real ice, the smaller the pieces the quicker it will melt. Dry ice stays cold the longest and evaporates rather than melting so be sure your cooler is dry ice compatible before use.

    4. Fill in spaces: Empty spaces between the items in your cooler will decrease ice retention time. Fill in empty spaces with small ice or even paper towel, napkins, newspaper, or something similar.

    5. Keep it closed: The quickest way to decrease your coolers ice retention time is opening it too often and for too long. Place high traffic items like beverages and condiments near the top. Or alternatively, use a separate cooler for drinks and snacks and another cooler that stays closed all day for food and perishables.

  2. Should you drain a cooler?

    Unless the water is seeping into your food or causing other problems, don’t drain it. Water stays cold longer than air. When you drain cold melted water from your cooler, that space is taken up by warmer air. Now your ice has to work harder to cool that air; reducing ice retention time overall.

  3. How much ice for a cooler?

    Ideally, use a 1:2 ratio of cooler contents to ice. This means twice as much ice as the contents in the cooler. If 1/3 of the cooler is food containers, the remaining 2/3 should be filled with ice. The perfect ice to food ratio for your needs will depends on your cooler and the climate you are using it in.

There are a lot of high quality coolers out there. This guide is meant to help you find the best cooler for your needs.

Whether you need a durable camping cooler, a cooler with wheels, or maybe the right cooler for your next rafting trip or tail gating party – there is a cooler for you.

Hard sided coolers will give you the most durability with the best insulation.

Rotomolded coolers are a type of hard sided cooler. They are the most durable but also very heavy.

Injection molded coolers are a lighter option compared to rotomolded coolers while still offering high performance insulation.

For longer hikes or more versatility, back pack coolers and other soft sided coolers are perfect options for shorter outings. These coolers also come in many sizes and styles that make them perfect coolers for backpacking.

Most manufacturers offer a wheeled version of their flagship model.

Coolers with wheels make transporting heavy camping coolers easy even over rough terrain.

Keep an eye on what accessories come standard with each cooler and what add-ons each cooler is compatible with.

The best coolers are designed to keep your food and drinks fresh even in the most challenging conditions so you can focus on enjoying the experience at hand.

Check out our top picks above for each type of cooler then get out there and find your next adventure!

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