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When you're headed to a ballgame or a campground or hosting a backyard get-together, having a top-quality cooler provides enough insulation to prevent food spoilage and keep drinks cold.
Over the last two years, we've spent hours researching and testing the most popular coolers, evaluating capacity, effectiveness, and value. Our top pick, the Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler, is bear-resistant, dry ice compatible, and has a "coldlock" gasket to block out the heat.
Here are the best coolers.
Best Overall: YETI Tundra 45 Cooler
When it comes to coolers, you can’t beat YETI. The brand has earned cult-favorite status for good reason—they make quality coolers in attractive styles you’re proud to display in your backyard or at any tailgate. If there’s a downside, it’s definitely the high price. That said, the brand's coolers are extremely high quality and will last for many years to come.
This particular model—the YETI Tundra 45—is a good place to start if you're looking for a cooler suited to tailgating, camping, or long beach days. While it's the brand's middle-of-the-road option, there’s hardly a sacrifice to be made as it features 3 inches of bear-resistant permafrost insulation that keeps up to 26 cans ice-cold for days at a time. The Tundra 45 measures 25.5 x 16 x 15.5 inches and is available in a handful of fun colors like chartreuse, coral, seafoam, and charcoal.
Best Budget: Igloo Quick and Cool
If you need a ton of space but don’t have a ton of cash to throw at your next cooler, this a great option. At 100 quarts, the Igloo Quick and Cool has impressive capacity for drinks, food, and even your catch of the day. Everything will stay nice and cold, too, as it features an ultratherm insulated body and lid that's able to keep ice intact for up to five days at temperatures as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since it has a threaded drain plug for easy and convenient draining—no lifting required—the Igloo is also a great option for boaters. Wherever you take it, reinforced swing-up handles make it easy to load and unload from your vehicle.
Best Splurge: ROVR PRODUCTS EST. 2016 Steel-Belted 54-Quart Cooler
If you’re willing to invest a pretty penny in your next cooler, let us introduce you to the RovR Wheeled Camping Rolling Cooler. The RovR features a bear-resistant and highly insulated interior—in fact, this model is able to keep its internal temperature below FDA food safe temperatures for up to ten—yes, ten—days straight.
Beachgoers and campers will also appreciate the cooler's large set of lightweight all-terrain puncture-resistant rubber tires which were built to traverse nearly any type of path, no matter how rocky or uneven, with relative efficiency. To make your trek even easier, the RovR also has a lengthy aluminum handle, so you can trudge along without any awkward bending. The 80-liter cooler can hold as many as 120 cans and 20 pounds of ice. Since the cooler's gaskets, tubes, latches, non-skid feet, handle, and axle are all easily removable, you can also opt to have them repaired or replaced rather than buying a whole new cooler just a few years from now.
Best for Camping: Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Cooler
Though many premium coolers come with shockingly high price tags, this pick is an exception. The retro-inspired steel-sided cooler won’t break the bank, but it’s just as dependable as other comparable models. The Coleman Steel-Belted Cooler features incredible insulation that preserves ice for up to four days in temperatures as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Thanks to its generous 54-quart capacity, you can fit everything you need for a rather decent-sized crowd, too. The cooler can accommodate up to 85 cans and can even hold 2-liter bottles upright to help prevent spills.
Other nice-to-have, but not necessary features include a lid that doubles as an extra seat (it can support up to 250 pounds) and comfortable yet sturdy steel handles which make it easy to transport. The Coleman 54-Quart Cooler is available in six retro-leaning shades and finishes including turquoise, stainless steel, and dark green.
Best for Wine: Corkcicle Lucy Handbag Cooler
If you want to tote a bottle of wine (or two) to the park for a picnic, the beach for a sunset happy hour, or even to your favorite BYOB restaurant, you don’t have to do so with a bulky and unattractive cooler. This much sleeker alternative does exactly the same job as others while looking like a regular old purse.
Corkcicle's Lucy Handbag Cooler is made from vegan leather and available in three great colors: rose quartz, seafoam, and black. The zippered bag can hold 18 cans or 12 cans and two standard wine bottles. Thanks to a removable (and padded) shoulder strap, you don't have to struggle as you transport it, either.
Best Soft-Sided: IceMule Classic Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag
If you’re camping or taking a quick weekend trip to the beach, chances are space is at a premium. That doesn’t mean you have to forgo perishables or ice-cold beverages, though. This sling-style backpack straps to your back to leave your arms free for balancing or carrying other goods. Alternatively, you can also strap it to your hiking pack.
The IceMule Classic Soft Cooler comes in three sizes: 10 liters (can hold six cans or four bottles of wine), 15 liters (can hold 12 cans or five bottles of wine), and 20 liters (can hold 18 cans or six bottles of wine). All sizes are designed to be as convenient as possible—there are no zippers, no welded seams, and each is fully collapsible when not in use. The cherry on top? It floats, too.
Best Floating: Intex Mega Chill II, Inflatable Floating Cooler
The quickest way to make any pool party exponentially more fun is to have a bunch of beverages readily available to swimmers. A floating cooler takes that convenience to a whole new level by allowing you to put the drinks directly in the pool.
Intex's Mega Chill II raft has a removable ice chest that holds up to 72 cans as well as ice, plus it has six exterior cup holders that allow bathers to use the float as a sort of swim-up bar. For even better insulation, you can opt to nestle a hard-sided cooler of your choice—up to 48 quarts—into the float’s ice chest.
Best With Wheels: YETI Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Cooler
If you love the standard YETI Tundra you’ll love this model even more. The Tundra Haul has all of the same great features—bear-resistant permafrost insulation to keep up to 45 cans of beer cold for days at a time, as well as a virtually indestructible attractive exterior in a rainbow of cool colors—plus a convenient set of wheels.
The YETI Tundra Haul is outfitted with a durable welded aluminum arm and a pair of solid puncture- and impact-resistant wheels that make toting the cooler a real breeze. Whether you're pulling it along the beach or dragging it from your back shed, its 32-pound heft will glide easily.
Best Compact: eBags Crew Cooler II Soft Sided Insulated Lunch Box
When you don’t need an abundance of space—just enough to hold a few beverages and a sandwich or so—a small insulated bag will do just the trick. eBags' Crew Cooler II is only about 10 inches high and 15 inches wide, so you can stuff it in the car or toss it over your shoulder.
Despite the cooler's compact size, eBags' offering has plenty of bells and whistles including a dry top compartment, zippered mesh interior pockets, and a separate front-zip pocket for other essentials like cutlery and napkins. You can pick one up in black, graphite, or red!
What to Look for in a Cooler
Coolers come in a wide range of sizes. Based on the primary use of the cooler, determine the right size for you. Are you using it for camping so the cooler needs to hold foods and drink for an entire weekend? If you use it primarily to bring home perishables from the grocery store in the trunk of your car, then you might not need a very large cooler. For bringing a bottle or two of chilled wine to a party or to keep sandwiches cool, a small, bag-style cooler is the way to go.
The better the insulation, the longer the cooler will keep things chilled. When you go on a trip, it is crucial that that the food you bring along stays cool as long as possible. Check the product information for how many days food will stay at FDA-recommended food safe temperature of 40 degrees F or below even in hot weather.
A fully packed cooler can be a bear to carry so if you know you will be moving more than a few feet, having a cooler with sturdy wheels is important. For rugged terrain, the wheels should be puncture- and impact-resistant.
For uses where a standard cooler is out of the question, consider getting one with a special design, such as a backpack cooler for hiking and biking, or a floating cooler for your pool.
How does a portable cooler work?
The combination of the cooler’s insulation layer, usually foam or plastic, with ice that you place inside—either ice cubes or ice packs—slows down the circulation of warm air inside the cooler and keeps things cool.
Does food stay cool in a portable cooler without ice?
Yes, but not as long as when you also put ice in the cooler. The insulation of the cooler prevents the food from warming up as quickly as if it was left outside the cooler. How long food stays cool in a cooler without ice depends on how cold the food was initially, and also the temperature inside the cooler. In a cooler that was kept in the trunk of a car on a hot day food, even frozen food-will warm up much quicker.
How long does a cooler stay cold?
That depends on the efficiency of the cooler’s insulation is, the outside temperature, the initial temperature of the food, and the way it’s stacked. With ice in the cooler (a must), food can stay cold anywhere from two to four, under ideal conditions and in a high-end cooler even up to 10 days.