For picnics, camping, tailgates, and more.

Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Advertisement
cooler

It's simple: Everyone needs a good cooler. It not only keeps drinks and foods chilled for outdoor adventures, long road trips, and tailgates, but it also provides backup cold storage space if the power goes out. What's less straightforward is picking out the right one.

From soft-sided totes ideal for work lunches to massive chests that hold ice for more than a week, there is a wide variety of containers and bags that keep contents cool. What's more, options range from an affordable $50 to more than $400.

Rather than waste hundreds of dollars on an option that doesn't live up to its claims or fit your needs, we've done the research for you. After reading through thousands of reviews from real shoppers who purchased and tried coolers for themselves, and testing out a couple of the top picks ourselves, we've picked the 12 best of the bunch. Below, you'll find customer-loved coolers from Igloo, Coleman, and Yeti, the brand nearly synonymous with the words "ice chest."

Best Coolers for 2021

From small coolers for day trips to high-end splurges that hold ice for weeks, we've found choices for every price point and experience level. Keep reading to learn more about what makes an excellent cooler and shop the options customers love the most.

What to look for when buying a cooler

While we all want our coolers to keep contents chilled, there are tons of other factors to consider, too. From durability and portability to capacity and frequency of use, you need to think about your specific needs. 

If you're trying to keep food or drinks cold for a long time or during an outdoor adventure, you'll want a hard-sided cooler. Typically made from double-walled plastic and insulated with foam, they can hold ice for days and withstand everything from camping excursions to deep-sea fishing to cross-country road trips. Depending on the size or material, they can be an investment of hundreds of dollars. Most people won't need anything bigger than 65 quarts, which holds enough food to feed a family for a week. And because hard coolers can be heavy when full, comfortable handles are a must (and wheeled options are especially handy). 

Soft-sided options are great for anyone who just needs a cooler for smaller groups or day-long activities, like picnics, a short hike, or carrying lunch to work. As their name suggests, they're made with more malleable materials, like polyester, canvas, or rubber, and can be flattened for storage between uses. Soft coolers are also usually designed as totes or backpacks, which don't hold as much as a hard-sided chest but are certainly easier to transport.

How to keep a cooler cold for days

A little bit of preparation can make a major difference how long your cooler will stay cold. The first step is bringing down the interior temperature of your cooler. If it's been sitting in a hot garage or shed, allow it to reach room temperature, then toss some bags of ice inside the night before you need it. You'll need to dump the ice before loading in your goods, but now you have a fighting chance to keep your chill. 

Packing refrigerated or frozen food is another way to promote ice retention, and put items you'll use later toward the bottom of the chest so you minimize the amount of time the lid is open. Also, layer block ice or ice packs at the bottom of your cooler and add ice cubes to leave as little air space as possible. Yeti recommends filling two thirds of your cooler with ice and not draining the water as it melts. It insulates the remaining ice in the chest.

When your cooler is out in the wild, try to keep it out of direct sunlight. If shade isn't available, create your own protection with a light-colored towel or blanket. Also, since air exposure accelerates melt, limit the amount of times you open your cooler. One trick is to create a map of food and drinks on the lid of your cooler, or consider packing a separate container with high-use items (like that six-pack). 

Related Items

Portable Coolers
Credit: Courtesy of Yeti

Best Overall: Yeti Tundra 65 Cooler

As far as coolers are concerned, there's Yeti, and then there's everyone else. The Austin-based brand was dreamed up in 2006 by two brothers who felt the average ice chest wasn't tough enough to withstand their outdoor adventures. The Tundra is their better-built solution.  

Designed from a single piece of hollow plastic in a process called rotomolding, the Tundra's seamless shell is the secret to its incredible durability and ice retention. Yeti pressure-injects three inches of polyurethane foam into its extra-thick walls and adds a freezer-quality seal around its edges so outside air doesn't stand a chance of entering the cooler. When our editors tested the cooler, it held solid ice without melting for days. Other thoughtful features include replaceable T-shaped rubber latches, two sets of handles, and a slightly sloped drain for speedy emptying or cleaning. And the Tundra is built for traveling, too. It has built-in tie-down slots and a non-slip padding to prevent sliding.    

Professional outdoors enthusiasts and casual campers both swear by their Yeti Tundra coolers. The Tundra 65, which holds about 52 pounds of ice, has more than 3,600 five-star reviews on its own website, and is a favorite of Amazon shoppers, too. Users praise the cooler for its impeccable build and durability, saying it's worth the investment. "We gave this Yeti the ultimate test: Loaded it down with meat, milk, juice, beer, and eggs then placed it in the back of our pickup truck with a camper shell while we road tripped through Death Valley, Las Vegas, and northern Nevada for three days," one wrote. "We used two Yeti blue ice blocks and a bag of regular ice. Still had ice at the end of day three."

A second added, "I bought it essentially for catering big parties and needed added refrigeration space. This held ice almost a week before the ice started to melt!"

To buy: $350 at amazon.com and yeti.com

Portable Coolers
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Rated: Igloo Polar 120-Quart Cooler

More than 6,000 Amazon shoppers have left perfect ratings for the Igloo Polar Cooler, making it the most popular model we found. Whether you pack it up for big tailgating parties or week-long camping trips, you can trust your contents will keep cool: It is built with the brand's powerful Ultratherm insulation that claims to hold ice for up to five days—even in temperatures as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit—and can fit as many as 188 12-ounce cans. 

Additionally, the Polar Cooler is built to handle tough treatment. It's outfitted with an interior liner to prevent odors and staining, and its lid guard has UV protection for sun damage. "I bought this cooler in 1998," one Amazon shopper said. "I've used it hundreds of times in the 20 years I've had it. Camping trips every year, birthday parties, weddings, cookouts. This cooler held up through all of it."

To buy: $88 at amazon.com

Portable Coolers
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Value: RTIC 45 Cooler

Rotomolded coolers certainly offer superior sturdiness and insulation—and command a high price for it. But if you buy one of RTIC's models, your investment is guaranteed to last. The hard-sided coolers have full-length interlocking hinges, heavy-duty T-shaped latches, and 3-inch insulated walls that claim to hold ice for up to 10 days. And while still a splurge, RTIC's ice chests typically cost $100 less than similar-sized Yetis.

From deep-sea fishing expeditions to weekend-long baseball tournaments, RTIC's coolers are designed to go anywhere. They have both molded built-in handles and professional-grade rope handles with textured grips, nonslip feet so it won't slide around, and tie-down slots for extra security. "I am so impressed with this cooler," one happy Amazon shopper wrote. "Had this outside full of ice all day (in the shade) and overnight in the Texas heat while camping. Still had plenty of ice the next day." 

A second added, "I am a Drill Sergeant and I am constantly in the field and on rifle ranges in the sun. I've had this cooler for a couple of weeks now and it's held up amazing, keeping 20 pounds of ice for about three days, with a good bit of opening and closing."

To buy: $200 at amazon.com 

Portable Coolers
Credit: Courtesy of Yeti

Best Soft Cooler: Yeti Hopper M30 Soft Cooler

When Yeti dropped its Hopper M30, we were more than impressed. While most soft-sided coolers close with a zipper, the M30 is designed with powerful magnets that create an extra-wide opening for easy access as well as a leak-proof seal. (It has an extra security of two quick-release buckles, too.) Built from a high-density fabric that resists punctures and discoloring from mildew or UV rays, the cooler features an equally durable interior. Its closed-cell foam insulation keeps up to 20 cans frosty for days and an industrial-grade liner promises no leaks.

Even when we tested it in 98 degrees of pure Florida humidity, the M30 didn't disappoint. It kept a mixture of beverages and snacks ice cold with minimal melting and no exterior sweating from sunrise to sunset. Likewise, hundreds of Amazon reviewers confirm the soft cooler is user-friendly and a top performer. "I have multiple hard and soft coolers from Yeti, but this one is the best so far," one five-star reviewer wrote. "It holds a ton of beers (24 beers plus 4 small Yeti ice blocks) and kept them cold the entire day in the sun on the beach in 90 degree weather."

To buy: $300 at amazon.com and yeti.com

Portable Coolers
Credit: Courtesy of Rovr

Best with Wheels: Rovr Rollr 60-Quart Wheeled Camping Cooler

Lifting a well-stocked ice chest is a workout, which is why we're fans of wheeled coolers. And when it comes to rolling models, Rovr's tools are the best of the best. With 9-inch all-terrain rubber tires and an aluminum handle that's long enough to pull without hitting your heels, the rotomolded cooler isn't limited to flat surfaces or short scoots. 

The 60-quart version holds up to 60 cans and 10 pounds of ice for a reported 10 days, and is certified grizzly-proof. (Although protecting your cooler might be lower on the list of priorities during a bear encounter.) What also makes the Rovr Rollr special is its add-ons. It can accommodate a collapsible storage bin, dry storage bins, prep board, cup holder, and umbrella or rod holder. You can even attach the Rollr to bikes for longer journeys. 

Users love Rovr Rollr coolers for their versatility and high-quality build, with many leaving perfect reviews on the maker's site. "I'm blown away by the innovation that RovR has come out with," one wrote. "Sure it holds ice for days, but it's the innovations inside and outside the box that truly sets RovR apart. The collapsable wagon bin, internal dry storage bin, handle, and big wheels are absolute industry game changers."

To buy: $450 at amazon.com and rovrproducts.com

Portable Coolers
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Backpack: IceMule Pro Cooler

No matter if you're packing for an overnight camping trip or lazy day rafting, the IceMule Pro Cooler is an excellent pick for hands-free insulation. The 23-liter backpack cooler keeps ice frozen for 24 hours and is comfortable, with wide-padded straps, a ventilated back panel, and sternum strap for extra stability. It also uses air as an insulation layer, which means the lightweight bag conveniently collapses for easy storage.

Available in 23 liter, 33 liter, and 40 liter sizes, all IceMule Pro coolers skip the zipper and feature an accessible roll-top opening. The design also makes the soft-sided bags waterproof, and they'll even float thanks to that air filling. "This bag cooler is so easy to carry and it's a godsend not having to deal with the cooler zipper the other brands think is a good idea," one Amazon reviewer said.

Another added, "Aside from your more standard deployments, we've carried it on a long lazy river float (it's very buoyant when you keep a little air in it), we've donned it on a cycling excursion to get to a party, and we've walked around with it all day long at a music festival ... It has always performed brilliantly."

To buy: $115 at amazon.com

Portable Coolers
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Budget-Friendly: Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler

This Coleman cooler proves you don't have to spend tons of money for a solid ice chest. The Xtreme 5 fits up to 100 cans, keeps ice for up to five days, and can support 250 pounds if you're in need of a seat. It's also lightweight—only about 13 pounds when empty—so transporting it is a breeze. Best of all, it's a fraction of the price of those rotomolded coolers.

The Coleman Xtreme performed admirably under adverse conditions when we tested it. While it didn't stay as cool as the thicker, pricier brands in a heat test, it outperformed coolers in a similar class in ice retention and a heat test. Unsurprisingly, it has nearly 3,000 perfect ratings on Amazon. One user wrote: "While this cooler isn't roto-molded, it is sturdy and can support a large adult. Took on a trip to Yosemite and held ice and kept food cold for five days before needing more ice, and that was being opened daily."

To buy: $52 at amazon.com

Portable Coolers
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Small: Pelican 20-Quart Elite Cooler

Pelican is the gold standard for transporting audio and video hardware, but they make incredible coolers too. Built like a tank, the Pelican Elite line features 2-inch polyurethane insulation, 3-inch locking latches, and freezer-grade gasket to seal in air. The 20-quart model fits up to 15 cans and keeps them cold for up to three days in direct sunlight. And with its grip-friendly handle and grooved lid that accommodates your legs while walking, it's convenient to pick up and go.  

Like other Pelican gear, the Elite Cooler comes with a lifetime warranty, which has won over thousands of loyal customers. "Made in the USA and made well," one said. "Everything is user-replaceable (but nothing ever breaks). This is the perfect size, has can holders on top, holds tall wine bottles, has a built-in can opener, and is plenty sturdy to sit on. Can't recommend it enough!"

To buy: $150 at amazon.com

Portable Coolers
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Personal-Sized: Carhartt Deluxe Lunch Cooler Bag

If you're going to the extra effort of packing your lunch for work or school, you want to ensure it'll stay fresh from Point A to B. Enter the Carhartt Deluxe Lunch Cooler Bag. It has two insulated compartments—a bottom that can fit a six-pack and a lid that keeps sandwiches and snacks from getting smushed—as well as a pocket for utensils, carrying handles, and a shoulder strap. And just like Carhartt's heavy-duty apparel and gear, this bag can handle a full day's work. It's made from sturdy water-repellent material kept together by triple-needle stitching.

More than 17,000 Amazon shoppers have given the Carhartt lunch bag a perfect rating, saying it's dependable, roomy, and an excellent value. "I bought it for my grandfather, a bus driver who works long days and whose lunch box constantly sits next to a blazing heater," one said. "After a 12-hour day, his sodas and food were still cold!"

To buy: $25 at amazon.com

Portable Coolers
Credit: Courtesy of Bed Bath and beyond

Best for Camping: Orca 58-Quart Cooler

Developed by an avid hunter, Orca's rotomolded coolers are favored by the camping and hunting crowd and come with a lifetime warranty. The American-made ice chest is designed to keep contents cold for up to 10 days with its integrated insulation and gasket seal, and its attached cargo net provides extra storage space when on the road. Plus, the ice chest is certified bear-proof, which can be handy in the great outdoors.

Amazon shoppers confirm Orca coolers are excellent insulators, with many calling it "a beast." A reviewer said, "Went camping right after I purchased this cooler for 4 days with minimal ice (10 lbs) and it worked exceptionally with very little water discharge at the end. Be prepared, the cooler loaded can be pretty heavy." 

To buy: from $340 at amazon.com and bedbathandbeyond.com

Portable Coolers
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best for Wine: Tirrinia 4-Bottle Wine Carrier

Pack up your precious bottles for a day at the beach or picnic in the park with this insulated wine carrier from Tirrinia. With its foam padding and thick insulation, it keeps up to four bottles of wine chilled for hours without the risk of breaking. What's more, its protective dividers are removable, so you can use the bag to hold a variety of bites, too.

The Tirrina's sturdy handle and adjustable shoulder strap make it easy to tote around, and its leakproof lining means you won't need to worry about ice meltage. It's also worth mentioning that the carriers come in 11 stylish patterns and colors, including summer-perfect stripes. "Not only do I love wine, but I work in the wine industry and I am always in search of stylish and professional bags of different sizes to carry wine in," one Amazon user said. "This bag by far is one of my favorites. For the price the quality is outstanding. The design is clean and simple and does not scream, 'I'm a wine bag!,' which is nice because it can also be used to carry lunch or food on trips or in the office."

To buy: $26 (originally $40) at amazon.com

Portable Coolers
Credit: Courtesy of Otter Box

Best for Customization: OtterBox Venture 65 Cooler

If you're an out-of-the-box thinker, you'll appreciate all of the extras you can add to OtterBox's Venture line of coolers. The brand not only boasts grizzly-proof durability and 16-day ice retention, but it also accommodates a variety of accessories. A dry storage tray and bottle opener come standard, and you can buy separators to create individual compartments for wet and dry items. Additionally, the cooler holds a side table and cutting board, and fits on an all-terrain wheeled attachment.

You'll find tons of happy customers who've left reviews on OtterBox's site, including one who said, "I've owned a variety of coolers in my years and never have I seen one as well thought out as the Venture 65. It is built like a tank as far as durability but for the size is incredibly lightweight. I love the organization and the moveable bottle opener but most of all I love that ice acts as if this cooler is an electric freezer."

To buy: from $280 at otterbox.com and amazon.com