Since tents, fishing boats, and SUVs do not have refrigerators in them, it is important to have the best cooler or ice chest to keep your food safe and cool. There are plenty of options that will work, but deciding what is the best cooler can be difficult. This is why we are here, so show you the best coolers and ice chests for your camping expeditions. We have tested them in the field so we can tell you all about the features that we love the most.
The size of the cooler that you choose can make a big difference in your camping trip. There are several sizes to choose from and they are all useful for different purposes. Some coolers are great for a small camping trip on your own, while others can be heavy to tote around and need a few hands to get them from the car to the site.
- 1 How to Choose the Best Camping Cooler & Ice Chest
- 2 Reviews: Best Camping Coolers for the Money
- 3 Best Cooler Brands
- 4 Conclusion
How to Choose the Best Camping Cooler & Ice Chest
Different Cooler Sizes
The small camping coolers hold 25 quarts. These are not usually the best for a large party, but they can be useful to keep in an individual tent if you are camping with a big group. They are also good choices for campers who like to go out on their own.
The next size up is the medium cooler. These carry up to 45 quarts and can be useful for three to five days or a long weekend. They can get heavy if loaded with ice and glass.
Finally, the large camping cooler, which can hold up to 70 quarts is the best option for a long camping trip. Unfortunately, these do require a lot of ice to keep the items inside cold for the long haul. These are ideal for families who take camping trips for a weekend or for several weeks. They are versatile, but they can be very heavy.
Another important feature of the best camping coolers is strength. The wilderness is full of animals and in some cases, those animals are bears. The best coolers can withstand bears. This type of cooler is called a grizzly cooler because they are strong enough to stay closed, even in the event of a hungry bear trying its hardest to get the lid open. These coolers will certainly keep your food cold and the ice inside.
Along with protecting your food, a grizzly cooler will also keep the bear safe and it will keep other campers safe. Some people keep non-food items in their coolers and bears can be harmed by eating non-food items. And, when bears get into one cooler, they will look for more to open – which puts other campers at risk.
There are actual certifications that show how strong coolers are when it comes to grizzly bears. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee certifies coolers. They actually test them to see if grizzly bears can into them and whether or not the coolers will be safe to use in the wilderness. If a cooler has a IGBC certification, then you know it is one of the best in the industry.
When you shop around for your cooler, it is helpful to know how long the ice will last. If the cooler is repeatedly opened and closed, then the ice will not last very long. But, a cooler that can be pre-chilled will keep the ice nice and cold for much of the trip. The best coolers will maintain ice for days.
Durability is another important feature for a camping cooler. They usually sit outside in the elements, so they need to withstand the rough ground, wind, and rain. They need to have rugged bottoms and wheels because they are usually dragged over gravel terrain. No one wants their cooler to fall apart while out in the woods. A good cooler also has handles that can take the weight of the contents.
Easy to Move
Coolers can become quite heavy when fully loaded with ice, drinks, and food. The best coolers have handles that make them easy to carry. Many of the best coolers also have wheels and tall handles like carry-on luggage. It is important that coolers will stay closed when they are being carried or wheeled around, too.
Reviews: Best Camping Coolers for the Money
One of the most recognizable names in coolers is Igloo. The Yukon Locker Cooler is not the typical Igloo cooler. This cooler is huge and it is built to last. It is one of the best for keeping food on the inside because it has dual lid locks and the polyurethane insulation is three inches thick on the lid and two inches thick on the body of the cooler. Nothing is getting inside of this cooler unless it has thumbs. This cooler is ideal for anyone who loves to fish because it has a fish keeper scale in the lid. The lid also has a raised and textured work surface, to make it easy to take care of the fish you catch. Because it is important to be able to keep the inside of the cooler clean, the drain is oversized and the plug is tethered, so you won’t lose it.
Igloo developed a technology they call Cool Riser Technology. It is designed to reduce surface contact so the air flows underneath to keep everything on the inside nice and cold. This is considered a large cooler because it holds up to 70 quarts. Because of the high-tech cooling technology, it can keep ice on the inside for up to two weeks. The cooler has built in handles that are extremely durable.
2. RTIC Cooler
The RTIC Cooler is a great choice for camping, especially if a fishing boat is involved. This medium-sized cooler holds up to 45 quarts and fits perfectly on the floor of a boat or in the back of a truck for a tailgating event. It is also easy to bring along for a camping trip. The RTIC Cooler is nearly indestructible and includes an integrated locking system to keep unwanted hands out of the contents. The heavy-duty rubber T-latches make the cooler easy to open and close. It is small enough that it can be carried by one person with the strong handles on the sides of the cooler. It is also durable enough that it can be used as a stool or bench as well as a cutting board or table.
The RTIC Cooler is called a “roto-cooler” because of its manufacturing design. It is considered rotationally molded, which is constructed to keep ice cool for a long time. The manufacturing design has thick walls that are free of flaws so it keeps out any unwanted paws and it is practically impossible to break. Because of its construction, ice and items in the cooler will last for up to one week and possibly even longer if the lid is not opened excessively.
With its retro design, this cooler looks as cool as the food it keeps on the inside. This large cooler is a throwback to 1954, but with cooling capabilities that last long into the future. The cooler has a pair of stainless steel handles on the side, making it easy for one person to carry. The handles are covered in rubber to make them comfortable to hold, too. Once you arrived at your destination, you can use this durable cooler as a comfortable seat, too. This cooler is so big that it will hold 85 cans! When it comes time to drain and empty the cooler, you just open the drain hole and let the water leave. There is no need to tilt the cooler because of the leak-resistant and rust-proof channel drain. Then, you simply wipe down the interior and let it dry.
Everything about this cooler is built to last. It has high quality metal hinges that will not snap off or break. The o-rings will also keep the warm air out and the coolness inside. It is a fabulous cooler that will last for several years and keep your food cool for a long time. In fact, it can keep a bag of ice inside for up to one week.
No cooler review is complete without a Yeti option. This is the Cadillac of coolers and is a perfect choice for every situation that requires a cooler. You can use it for camping, fishing, a family BBQ, and more. The cooler holds up to 65 quarts and keeps everything inside cool due to its three inches of PermaFrost insulation. It also has a certified bear-resistant FatWall design from the rotomolded construction making the cooler practically indestructible. Yeti included its T-Rex latches to keep the lid securely in place. This cooler is 30 ½” x 17 ½” x 16 and weighs 29 pounds empty. It does come with a basket to keep dry goods inside, but away from the ice at the bottom.
It isn’t unheard of for the Yeti Tundra to hold ice for over one week, especially when paired with a layer of dry ice. The design of the handles makes the cooler easy for two people to carry without fatigue. The large o-ring on the top keeps the cooler airtight so your food stays the perfect temperature for long periods of time. This durable cooler will outlast the elements. You can use it as a seat or a stool, too. While this cooler is perfect for every condition, it is best for people who really need a heavy-duty cooler because of terrain or weather conditions.
As a bear-resistant roto-molded cooler, the Engel Eng65 is built to last. It will keep ice cold for up to 10 days and has been rated the best in class for its quality performance. The roto-molded cooler is surrounded by two inches of polyurethane insulation. The cooler has received the official IGBC certification for being bear resistant and it has been designed to be a tough and water-resistant as whitewater kayaks. The latches are marine-grade and the lid stays tightly in place due to the silicone gaskets. The cooler is ideal for any situation from camping, fishing, and hunting to fun days at the beach or the ballpark. But, it is designed to last in the most rugged terrain and the hottest weather conditions. It also includes handles that are long enough to make it easy for two people to carry.
If you need to sit or stand on the cooler, the lid will stay in place and will not crack under pressure. It is a great choice for boating and rafting because of its water-tight design. The cooler has tight latches, but it also can be locked with its DuoLock Security Holes. If you need the lid to remain open, it is includes what Engel calls the Anvil Hinge. It can be easily tied down to keep the cooler from moving around your trunk or truck bed. It is easy to drain the cooler due to the one-twist Flick Drain plug. The non-marking feet do not leave marks, either.
Pelican is known for making durable coolers that will last for a long time. This cooler is rated to keep ice cold for up to 10 days. The freezer-grade gasket and two inches of polyurethane insulation makes this a great choice for people who like to camp in the heat of the summer. The hinged handles are molded so they are comfortable to use while carrying the cooler with a partner. The latches stay nice and tight and cannot be opened by wilderness critter; but, you can open them – even if you are wearing gloves. The cooler can be easily drained with the gently sloped interior. It is also possible to attach the drain opening to a garden hose to move the water away.
Pelican’s cooler is strong and durable, so you can use it as a seat or a stool. The lid has a measuring device so you can see how long your fish are. Even with the two inches of insulation, there is plenty of room on the inside to hold more than 60 cans as well as plenty of ice. The latches and other hardware are top quality and are built to last. It is a big cooler that does require two people to carry it. Pelican products are made in the USA.
With capacity for 60 quarts, this Grizzly Cooler will withstand the elements and keep your food cool for several days. It is a durable cooler that will function as a seat or stool and it has three tough latches that keep the lid sealed. The two-inch diameter drain makes it easy to clean and empty. It as non-skid feet so it won’t roll around in the back of your truck. It has molded handles with nylon ropes that are comfortable and easy to carry with two people. It is lighter than other brands so it can be easier to carry and it is designed to outlast the elements – even the hottest days.
This cooler has an embossed ruler on top so you can measure your catches and the rubber gasket keeps the cooler sealed so your catch will not spoil. The BearClaw latches keep unwanted claws and paws out. It comes with two-inch tie-down slots. It is rotomolded, made in the USA, and comes with a respectable warranty, too.
Best Cooler Brands
When it comes to choosing the best cooler, brands can be the best way to finalize your decision. The traditional brands like Coleman and Igloo are always good choices. They have continued to make quality products with features that families, hunters, and anglers enjoy using. However, the newer players like Yeti, Pelican, and Grizzly are also good choices because of their updated and heavy-duty designs. The traditional brands tend to be more affordably priced that the newer brands because of the new manufacturing and high-tech features. Honestly, every single one of the coolers on our list are good choices. The Coleman and Igloo are good options for casual campers and for families that like to go to the beach or the ballpark for a day or two. Serious hunters and anglers appreciate the quality and durability of the Yeti and Pelican brands. It is best to choose a cooler that fits into your budget and has the capacity to hold everything that you want to bring with you.
Selecting the best cooler can be difficult, because there are so many high quality options that come a wide price range. While the Coleman 54-quart cooler has been a favorite for decades, there are options that are more durable. The Yeti is a top option, but it can be hard for consumers to justify the price. Therefore, the best choice on this list is the Engel High-Performance Cooler. This model is bear-proof and has features that are designed to outlast everything else on this list. Its marine-grade latches and outstanding silicone ring can keep food cool for days longer than the other options on this list. It is also extremely affordable, considering the quality and the features.