When it comes to universal products that every home should have, a cooler is definitely on our list. Whether you live somewhere that’s warm year-round or you experience all four seasons to full effect, a cooler is a must-have. Do you like to spend holidays camping in the great outdoors, or even stay close to home where you can invite friends over for a backyard party? The same cooler can go anywhere you want, even if you just need a safe way to get groceries home without the ice cream melting. Of course, not all coolers are created equally, and only the coldest coolers can keep food and beverages chill for hours or even days.
For a cooler to be worth the space it takes up in your closet, garage or car, it needs to be well designed and durable, which means keeping ice frozen and not leaving a melted mess after a couple of hours in the sun. Instead, you want a cooler with a large capacity, enough insulation to protect your goods, and a durable exterior that can withstand bumpy roads, uneven terrain and the occasional spill. Because there’s always a spill. And, if that’s not enough, some of our favorite coolers are even rated to stand up against hungry grizzly bears. That might sound like a joke, but bear testing is serious business, and the best cooler brands take it seriously, too.
What to Consider Before Buying a Cooler
Performance might seem like the most obvious factor to look at, but there are a lot of other considerations, some of which are arguably more important. For example, it’s pertinent to ask what you expect to use these coolers for. Sure, you could spend hundreds of dollars on the biggest, baddest and coldest cooler, but do you need one for an afternoon at the beach or a picnic with friends? Short answer, no. For light use and day trips, you might want to stick with a compact cooler bag, which might not be as cold, but is a lot more convenient. Capacity is also important. Are you packing for yourself? Or are you on beer duty for the whole group?
What We Looked For When Choosing the Best Coolers
We wanted a broad variety in choosing the best coolers — we picked out options that work for day-trippers and long-haulers alike. We turned to brands like Yeti and Igloo that reflect a wide range in price, but are respected in their categories. We also looked for other features such as rotomolding, which is considered the gold standard in cooler construction, as well as factors like ease-of-carrying and more subjective factors like style.
Whether you need a cooler big enough to hold all the food and drinks for your next tailgating party or one that won’t take up much room on a solo camping trip, the coldest coolers will keep your items cold and ready to consume.
1. YETI Roadie 24 Cooler
Yeti makes some coolers that are absolute behemoths, but the Roadie 24 is a great option for storing in a sedan trunk or hauling to a picnic. The rotomolded construction means it can keep cool for longer, and the internal compartment is designed to make the most of the internal space. For example, it’s just tall enough to store wine bottles upright. The quick latches are easy to open but secure, so you can quickly grab the next beer without any hassle. It comes in a few different stylish colors as well.
Pros: Rotomolded to ensure long-term insulation. Easy-access quick-release latches.
Cons: No wheels, so can be hard to haul if it’s really full.
2. Igloo BMX
The Igloo BMX has a stylish, rugged look with unique anchor-inspired latches that keep the lid securely closed. Of course, looks are just the first thing to love about the Igloo BMX cooler. It’s a lot more affordable than some of the premium cooler brands, but the blow-molded construction provides multiple days of ice retention — that’s a lot more than you need for the average day at the beach. It comes in a few colorways, and it comes in 25, 52 or 72-quart sizes.
Pros: Stylish design. Economical. Sturdy build. Keeps cold for multiple days.
Cons: Lid could use a rubber seal for better insulation.
3. Coleman Soft Cooler Bag
A soft cooler bag is a great option for days out at the beach or picnics in the park, where a full-sized hard cooler would be cumbersome to carry from the car. This compact option can be slung over your shoulder, but it’s capable of holding up to 16 cans. The removable liner makes it easy to deal with any spills. There are also handy zippered side pockets and mesh exterior pockets for a little extra storage.
Pros: Lightweight, easy to carry and has plenty of external pockets for extra storage. Hard liner adds structure, and is removable for easy cleaning.
Cons: Putting 16 cans would leave no space for ice or anything else, so the usable capacity is less than what’s stated.
4. Pelican Elite 20 Quart Cooler
The Pelican Elite 20 Quart Cooler comes with a lifetime guarantee that includes replacing any cooler that breaks. Designed for outdoor adventures, the Pelican includes 3” locking latches, a reinforced lockable fastener, an anti-shear hinge system and molded tie-down slots that make it easy to attach to a roof rack or boat. Contents stay cold with the Pelican’s 2” of polyurethane insulation with a 360-degree freezer-grade gasket. The 20-quart cooler can hold up to three bottles of wine or 15 cans.
Pros: The top of the Pelican includes four self-draining cup holders that provide users with a convenient space to put their drinks, as well as a built-in bottle opener. This cooler comes in a variety of attractive colors.
Cons: The Pelican is one of the smallest coolers on our list but still has a considerable price tag (thanks to its admittedly impressive features).
5. Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Cooler
Keep food and drinks cold without adding extra bulk using the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Cooler. The 16-can cooler uses Rhino-Technology for a bag that is water, odor and stain-resistant. The Hardbody liner makes the cooler durable, with the patented zipperless lid providing easy access to the bag’s contents when you’re on the go. The leakproof container has a triple layer cold block base and a removable smart shelf for small items. An exterior zippered compartment gives users a safe place to store personal belongings like keys, wallet and a cell phone. The Article Zone is available in larger sizes which have longer cooling periods and come with extras like bottle openers and side carry handles.
Pros: At 2.2 lbs, the Arctic Zone is the lightest cooler on our list and is still strong enough to keep ice frozen for up to two days.
Cons: The zipperless top is super convenient, but the feature is also prone to wear and tear. Due to the smaller size, the cooler can’t hold as much ice as other options on this list when full.
6. CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag
Where do you store your cooler the majority of the months you’re not using it? This cooler bag from CleverMade makes it easy. It’s collapsible, so it can be packed away in the offseasons. It’s easy to carry when in use — there’s a handle strap as well as a shoulder strap. Plus, the shoulder strap also has an integrated bottle opener. It can carry up to 30 cans.
Pros: Collapsible design for easy storage. Handle and strap for easy carrying. Strap has an integrated bottle opener.
Cons: Some options have longer-lasting insulation.
7. Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme
Whether you’re throwing a big party and need space to keep up to 100 cans at once or you’re planning an extended camping trip and want to keep your food safe to eat for five days, the Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme is an excellent choice. The extra-large cooler can keep ice cold up to five days, even in 90°F weather, thanks to its insulated lid and body. Not all of the coldest coolers are easy to clean, but the Coleman is thanks to a leak-resistant channel that enables users to empty the cooler without tilting it. Two side handles allow for pinch-free, comfortable carrying.
Pros: The Coleman is designed with a Have-A-Seat lid support that can hold up to 250 lbs, perfect for sitting or stacking.
Cons: The Coleman is 31.1” long, making it cumbersome for one person to carry on their own.