Buying Guide for Coolers
Why buy a cooler?
It’s vital to ensure you and your loved ones have access to water and food whenever you plan on being outdoors for extended periods, especially in the heat. Coolers are the easiest way to keep snacks and drinks cold without frustrating leaks or spills. Plus, they feature multiple storage and transportation options that make it easier to pack and move whatever’s inside. Pick the perfect size, fill it with your favorites, add ice or freeze packs, and forget about it.
What should you know when buying a cooler?
- Size: Choose a model that fits your vacation needs, whether a 30-pack of beer for an all-day party or a few bottles of water and a granola bar for your short hike. Bringing the kids? Consider a cooler with plenty of space for sports drinks and snacks without sacrificing your favorite adult options.
- Insulation: Ensure your cooler has sufficient insulation to last the length of your stay. Some ice chests cool items for up to ten days at a time (great for long camping trips), while others only offer ten hours and are better suited for short day-cations.
- Portability: Rolling over rough terrain? Keep an eye out for heavy-duty wheels and comfortable handles for a more leisurely trek to your favorite spots. If you’re an avid hiker or need a fast solution for hot game days, consider purchasing a lightweight cooler backpack or shoulder bag.
Which extra features should you look out for in a cooler?
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, think about any extra features that may come in handy on your next trip. Do you need a bear-resistant latch or locking mechanism? How about a sturdy cooler lid for extra preparation space or seating? You’ll find coolers that double as lunchboxes or feature an attached bottle opener. Keep an eye out for all the bells and whistles that could take your trip (or daily lunches) to the next level.
Our Picks for the Best Coolers
Pros: Discover the perfect travel buddy in the Titan deep-freeze, waterproof cooler from Arctic Zone. This hardbody ice chest features a patented flip lid, instead of zippers, for quick, easy access to food and drinks, plus an insulated front pocket for extra storage. Depending on your upcoming adventures, you can conveniently choose between four sizes, storing up to 48 cans in a single bag. The Titan’s deep-freeze performance insulation with heat barrier and ColdBlock base also protects ice for up to two days, even in the most intense heat. Pack your new cooler with all the essentials (no worries about heavy cans crushing softer items, like sandwiches) and enjoy your walk down to the beach with its extra-wide shoulder strap.
Cons: If you previously owned a Titan cooler, you’ll notice differences in this newer model, like a smaller top divider.
Bottom Line: This comfortable, convenient cooler with handy features ensure the integrity of your food and drinks (and your back).
Pros: Who doesn’t love a classic? This Coleman portable 62-quart cooler on wheels features revolutionary cooling technology, insulating and keeping ice for up to five days in temperatures as high as 90 degrees. Its large, plastic construction holds up to 95 cans and rolls on heavy-duty wheels for an effortless experience on any terrain, including stubborn sand. Need extra seating? The great thing about Coleman coolers is their sturdiness and ability to support up to 250 pounds, so feel free to grab a seat when the lid’s closed. Otherwise, crack open a cold one and keep it conveniently close in one of the lid’s handy cupholders.
Cons: Handle with extra care on high, rocky terrain, as the water valve cover at the bottom of the cooler is exposed.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a more traditional ice chest for overnight trips without sacrificing extra-cool storage and durability, Coleman has you covered at an excellent price.
Pros: If you want to keep things small and simple, this TOURIT cooler backpack is an excellent option at a great value. It’s a top-notch large-capacity backpack (holds up to 30 cans) constructed from strong 600 Oxford fabric, density foam, and thick lining for the ultimate leak-free experience. Store snacks and drinks for up to 16 hours in temperatures below 59 degrees when you add freezer packs. Your new backpack also features one extra-roomy storage compartment, two side and front pockets, a lid pocket, plus a super handy bottle opener connected to the strap—feel free to bring your favorite glass-bottle drinks without the hassle.
Cons: Use freezer packs instead of ice to cool your food and drinks to avoid extra weight and potential leaks.
Bottom Line: A stylish, comfortable way to transport important nutrients on your long hike or bike ride. Fill with freezer packs and enjoy hours of fun in the sun.
Pros: If backpacks and wheeling coolers are overkill for your trip, consider this deluxe dual-compartment cooler bag from Carhartt. Constructed from water-repellent Rain Defender material and thick interior insulation, this carry-along cooler sturdily holds up to six cans in its main compartment, with room for food and snacks in a convenient zipper compartment on top. Its triple-needle stitching and metal hardware ensure extra durability and allow you to carry your bag with its nifty top handle or shoulder strap without worrying about tearing. This Carhartt bag is also a great addition to everyday hauls, like hearty work lunches or baby’s daycare essentials.
Cons: Handle, and straps are not removable, so make sure you’re content with both before purchasing.
Bottom Line: It’s a simple solution without sacrificing the necessities, like sufficient room for freezer packs and a few of your favorite snacks and drinks. Great for hungry hikers and hard workers alike.
Pros: This RTIC hard cooler with industrial rubber latches is a beast on the beach, tent-side, or wherever you need to store food and drinks (for up to ten days). Its traction lid alone doubles as a casting platform, cutting board, chair, or tabletop. Three-inch foam-insulated walls, plus a “cool-lift” design, which lifts your cooler above the hot surface, ensure ice and freezer packs stay cold. It’s also designed with T-latches and molded tie-down slots, so you don’t have to worry about food and beverages staying in place during bumpy rides as you pull your cooler along by its marine-grade rope handles and textured grips. It’s bear-resistant and virtually indestructible.
Cons: Over time, you may need to apply super glue to the cooler’s rubber feet to help maintain their integrity on rough terrain.
Bottom Line: If you’re happy to spend a little more on a high-quality, long-lasting cooling solution, this could be the cooler of your dreams. It’s got all the bells and whistles, which explains the higher price tag.
Ready to hit the road? Any of these top-rated coolers will keep drinks and food fresh for hours of fun in the hot sun. Think about your next trip and how much space and insulation you’ll need for important nutrients and hydration, so you can enjoy the scenery without worrying about anything.