The Best Coolers for Every Adventure
Say "no" to styrofoam coolers. Whether you need something heavy-duty to hold ice for a week or a burly lunchbox to keep your drinks cold for a small picnic, these coolers are up for the challenge.
Best Budget Buy: Coleman 70 Quart Xtreme 5 Day Heavy-Duty Cooler
Don't be fooled by the bargain-basement price of the Coleman Xtreme: This is not your average budget cooler. One tester brought it out on a 75-80-degree weekend just a quarter full of ice and was surprised to find he still had cold drinks about 24 hours later. Even though it doesn't have clips or fasteners of any kind, the cooler lid stays sealed shut when moving it and doesn't pop open. Unlike many other budget coolers made from cheap plastic, this one is also sturdy enough to sit on, so you won't risk caving in the lid when you want to have a seat.
Buy It: Amazon, $48
Best Budget Buy for Bear Resistance: Ozark Trail 26 High Performance Cooler
This is the cheapest cooler on this list that's also certified bear-resistant when you padlock the lid shut. If you're heading out for a weekend in bear country and want a small, easy-to-tote cooler that will keep your goods safe from wildlife, this is the one you're looking for. It's sturdy enough to sit on, has a fish measuring ruler and two cup holders on the lid and a bottle opener in the front.
Buy It: Walmart, $78 (Originally $86)
Best for Lunch & Short Trips: YETI Daytrip Lunch Bag
This is not your average lunch bag. I stuck an icepack in it and left it outside in the sun on a hot day in Boulder, Colorado, and at the end of the day, the ice pack was still mostly frozen. If you often pack your lunch and are sick of your food not staying cold, it might be time to upgrade. The bag snaps shut with a magnetic closure and folds over to clip into a series of loops on the front to stay securely fastened whether it's completely full or a lighter lunch day.
Buy It: Amazon, $80
Best for Van Life: Otterbox Venture 25
Two testers who live in their van in Boulder, Colorado, put this Otterbox cooler to the test. They've long struggled with keeping food cold because the van often reaches 100 degrees inside during the day. This cooler, finally, impressed them. They filled it with food for two people for four days and a solid block of ice, without pre-cooling it to prep the temperature of the cooler. After two days in the van, about half the ice block had melted. They were easily able to pour out the excess water thanks to the port in the side of the cooler. They appreciated that it's the perfect height for seating, the fastening system works easily even one-handed and that the non-skid base works as advertised. Their one complaint is that the handles don't fold down, which takes up extra space, but they did find a couple of upsides to this snag, too: Instead of needing to put food on the ground to reorganize, they were able to keep things clean by using the handles as shelves. This cooler is also easy and comfortable to carry thanks to those big handles.
Buy It: Otterbox, $230
Best for Style: ORCA 40 Quart
ORCA's 40-quart cooler will hold ice for up to 10 days, so you can rest assured knowing your stuff will stay safe and cold no matter the conditions. One tester filled it with warm beer and just enough ice to cover it and was pleased to find that there was still ice in the cooler the following day, in spite of using just a little. The wide, flat lid of this rugged cooler is great for sitting on, and it comes with a cargo net attachment so you can store other items on the outside of the cooler. Extra bonus: This cooler comes in a wide variety of fun, bright colors, so you can pick what matches your style.
Buy It: Amazon, $290
Best for Long Hikes: YETI Hopper Backflip 24
If you're going for a long walk or hike in sweltering conditions, this is the backpack cooler you want. One tester left the Hopper Backflip in her unairconditioned car in 85-degree weather for two days, and even though all the ice had melted at that point, the interior was still cool. Unlike other soft coolers that have short shelf lives, this one is extremely rugged and will last through years of tough use.
Buy It: Amazon, $300
Best for a Day on the River: YETI Hopper 18
This soft-sided cooler might look like a glorified lunchbox, but it's a fantastic, lightweight solution to a bulkier cooler when you're just packing a few small things. It's also extremely rugged: I once clipped this cooler to an inner tube when floating down a river near Jackson, Wyoming, and it stayed afloat and didn't even get a scratch in spite of bumping against quite a few rocks along the way. YETI's soft-sided coolers don't hold ice for quite as long as their hard-sided ones, but this cooler will indeed hold ice for a couple of days or longer, depending on the conditions and how much ice you use. The shoulder strap is comfortable to use, making it easy to port.
Buy It: Amazon, $300
Best for Long Road Trips: YETI Tundra
YETI coolers are expensive, yes, but they do exactly as they promise. The Tundra, which comes in several sizes, truly does hold ice for days. This is the cooler you want if you're heading out on a long trip and need to keep food cold without constantly buying more ice. It's bear-resistant when you padlock the lid shut, and more than sturdy enough to make a solid seat. When I've taken it on long camping trips in the past, I've also used it as a table and food prep surface thanks to its flat, smooth lid.
Buy It: Amazon, $300
Best for Rugged Adventure: RovR Wheeled Cooler
The RovR might be one of the most customizable coolers on the market. This 60-quart cooler won't just haul your perishables and beer, it'll also help you carry all the extra odds and ends, thanks to the collapsible wagon bin that secures to the lid of the cooler. A cutting board slides into brackets on the side of the cooler to give you a little extra room for food prep. The burly wheels easily handle rugged terrain. Want to bike to a picnic? An optional bike attachment lets you pull the cooler like a trailer.
Buy It: Amazon, $400
Best for Long Trips: Pelican 45QW Elite Wheeled Cooler
This cooler is rugged. If you're heading out on a long road trip and will be moving a cooler long distances every day, this is probably the one you want. The Pelican Elite will hold ice and keep your food cold for days on end (up to 10 days, they claim), and it's easy to tow thanks to its rugged wheels. The fasteners on this cooler are remarkably easy to open even one-handed. It also has little built-in extras that really make a difference, like a bottle opener in the front and a built-in fish scale for measuring on the lid. Easily dump water from the cooler without tipping it over thanks to the sloped drain in the side of the cooler.
Buy It: Moosejaw, $380