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Given the change in seasons, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when we say it — but it’s finally time. Beach days, backyard BBQs and pool parties are back, people. Hallelujah. As we start to dust off all of the most-used summer items from the back of the shed, there’s one item in particular that remains one of the most important as the heat begins to swelter: your very best cooler made for keeping summer sips chilly.
From camping trips to hikes to beach visits to boozin’ in the backyard, you simply need a cooler to do summer correctly. No cooler means unrefreshing, warm-to-the-tongue beverages nobody wants in their body as the sun blazes above you. Hard seltzers, brews, bottles of vodka and even your trusty non-alcoholic water bottle all need a chipper chest to sit inside on the majority of your summer excursions. We don’t make the rules, it’s just the way warm weather works.
But, as coolers come in a variety of forms, you might struggle when trying to find exactly what you need. What are the best cooler brands? What’s the most valuable cooler size for your specific needs? Do you need something travel-ready, easy to carry or effortless to wheel around? These are questions you need to ask yourself when choosing the best cooler for you. There are styles for more sedentary activities, like tailgating and at-home barbecues, as well as options for more active pursuits, like hiking and days out at theme parks. This versatility means you can keep your food and drinks cool while you’re away from your kitchen. In general, coolers come in the following forms:
To help SPY readers get ready for summer, we’ve tested a lot of coolers. To help you find the best cooler for every situation, take a look through our list of the best coolers available online and find the right fit for your cooling needs. We’ve included many different types of coolers, from premium YETI steel coolers to more affordable picks from brands like Igloo. Whatever you require, make sure you’re never without a refreshing drink. Finally, after picking out your new cooler, don’t forget to check out the top-rated ice packs for coolers.
1. Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler
The Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler has everything we look for in a cooler — plus a nifty, all-black design. Let’s be clear: this isn’t the best cooler in the world (that award will always go to YETI), but it is the best cooler for most people. This extra-wall insulated cooler will keep ice cold for five whole days in temperatures up to 90-degrees Fahrenheit. It’s built to last with heavy-duty handles and a holding capacity of 250-lbs and up to 100 cans. Best of all, it’s more than half the price of YETI coolers.
2. YETI Tundra Cooler
With its easy-carry handles and heavy-duty T-Rex Lid Latches, the YETI Tundra Cooler is a convenient and durable cooler choice. The construction of the cooler boasts three-inch permafrost insulation and a fat-wall design to ensure your drinks stay cool inside, even when it’s baking hot outside. There’s also enough space for up to 20 cans with the recommended 2:1 beer to ice ratio. This nearly indestructible cooler is an ideal choice for fishermen, tailgaters, road trippers and backyard hosts. It also comes in a range of attractive colors.
Consider us obsessed with YETI’s iconic coolers, but there’s one reason why we simply couldn’t name this puppy the very best — that price tag. Sure, this cooler will last you year after year which makes the price much more understandable, but it still isn’t the most exciting number to see in your shopping cart. Nonetheless, it will be worth it and sits as one of the best YETI gifts money can buy. All you have to do is allow yourself to pull the trigger.
3. Coleman 316 Series Wheeled Hard Coolers
BEST WITH WHEELS
When your cooler is packed full of ice, beer and food, a good set of wheels makes it a lot easier to lug around, which is why we’re partial to coolers with wheels. And for this extra-hot summer, the Coleman 316 Series Wheeled Hard Coolers isn’t just one of the best rolling coolers, but also one of the best coolers, period. Like our previous pick from Coleman, it boasts superior thermal retention, keeping food and drinks cold for up to five days in temperatures up to 90-degrees. It’s leak-resistant and has an easy-to-clean liner. In total, this Coleman cooler can hold 160 cans, and after you close the lid, the included drink holders turn this cooler into a nifty side table.
4. YETI V Series Stainless Steel Cooler
BEST STAINLESS STEEL
It should go without saying that stainless steel is incredibly good-looking. And, plastered on the exterior of a cooler? Well, it seems like our knees have gotten weak all of a sudden. YETI’s sophisticated V Series cooler is a striking, vacuum-insulated cooler that uses rough and tough, kitchen-grade stainless steel on the exterior. This baby won’t rust, it’s meanly durable and is even food safe. Visually speaking, this might be the most gorgeous cooler we’ve ever seen, and because it’s from YETI, you can be sure this is the cooler of your dreams.
We love this cooler so much, we named it one of our favorite products of the year in The 2021 Man, our end-of-year awards. Yes, it’s definitely a splurge, but after testing this cooler on weekend getaways, we’re absolutely convinced it’s worth every penny.
5. Carhartt Deluxe Insulated Lunch Cooler Bag
If you’re headed out for a picnic with a friend, this is a great cooler on the more personal size. It has room for a meal and drinks for two and a little extra. Large enough for a six-pack or your favorite snacks, this is a great cooler to take to a game, a day in the park or at the beach with no heavy lifting required. Just sling this baby on your shoulder and you’ll be good to go.
6. Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze
BEST MINI COOLER WITH WHEELS
The Arctic Zone Titan holds up to 60 cans and is a rolling cooler that comes in handy if you’re in for a bit of a hike. this is the ultimate party cooler for days with friends. It can store everyone’s favorite snacks or as many drinks as everyone wants. It has an expandable front compartment for even more room. It can hold up to 100 pounds.
7. YETI Hopper M20 Backpack
BEST FOR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES
The best combo has arrived — the YETI backpack cooler. We really love this backpack cooler, which outperformed every other cooler we tested. This is the ultimate companion on hikes, climbs, or any kind of adventure where you need to be hands-free. An average-sized cooler, this YETI holds up to 18 cans or a 2:1 can-to-ice ratio. This can be the party packer or the picnic crusade saver. If you’re going up the mountain and want to have a cool drink at the summit, this is the best cooler for you.
8. Coleman Portable Hard Cooler
BEST ICE CHEST
For a traditional ice chest that’s easily portable and does its job without any unnecessary bells and whistles, look no further than the Coleman Portable Hard Cooler. It boasts a top swing handle and space for 4 cans as well as ice. The liner is both stain and odor-resistant. It’s also especially easy to clean. Plus, the cooler itself offers amazing thermal retention to keep everything you put inside as cold as possible.
9. Igloo Trailmate Journey 70 Qt Cooler
BEST FOR THE BEACH
Pardon our French, but bringing a cooler to the beach can be a bitch. We’ve all been there. It’s the hottest day of the summer. You get to the beach a little later than you anticipated, so you have to park miles from the shore. You think, “okay, I’ll carry the cooler, might as well get a little workout in.” So, you pick up the cooler. You get one block, notice you’re at least six more away and completely regret your decision to be on cooler duty. Well, never regret it again with the Igloo Trailmate Journey Cooler. This baby is made to be wheeled so you don’t have to do any heavy lifting. Once you get to the sand, the all-terrain wheels kick it up a notch and allow users to pick up the pace, unlike other coolers on the sand. To top it all off, you’ll get an included bottle opening, storage pocket and butler tray — plus it will be able to fit a whopping 112 cans in total. Talk about a beach day!
10. Igloo Playmate Cooler
BEST PERSONAL COOLER
You don’t always need to haul a massive cooler from point A to point B to enjoy a cold, refreshing beverage. Whether you only need to keep your lunch cold or you want to carry drinks for you and a couple of friends, the Igloo Playmate Cooler will do the trick. This seven-quart capacity device can hold numerous cans, lunch and snacks if needed. It’s available in a number of colors and features a bail handle for simple, one-hand carrying.
11. YETI Hopper Flip Portable Cooler
BEST SOFT-SIDED COOLER
With ColdCell insulation, the YETI hopper is the best soft-sided, portable cooler you’ll find. It is 100% leakproof, fits a six-pack, and has a wider lid for larger items to fit inside. A great option to take boating or to the beach as it is waterproof and very durable; it will avoid punctures or abrasions so you can have a wild adventure without worrying about the cooler.
12. Igloo BMX Family
BEST FOR TRUCK BEDS
One of the best things about the Igloo BMX Family cooler is that it comes with built-in tie-down points for hauling in your truck bed or on any other vehicle. But, this cooler is packed full of other features, too. It’s built using heavy-duty, blow-molded construction and boasts a reinforced base. In addition, the cooler can keep ice for four to five days, and the UV inhibitors on the exterior prevent the sun from damaging the container. Finally, it should be noted that this cooler features cool riser technology and sports a built-in fish ruler for ease of use out on the water.
13. OtterBox Trooper Cooler
BEST MOUNTING SYSTEM
You know OtterBox makes some of the best phone cases around, but did you know they also make heavy-duty yet incredibly functional coolers? The OtterBox Trooper Cooler boasts an incredible 20-quart capacity, meaning it can hold up to 28 cans without ice. Beyond its capacity, this cooler includes many more interesting features, such as thermal insulation, a leak-proof seal and exterior pockets. But, the one feature we’re most impressed with is the mounting system, which allows users to attach accessories you may need out and about, like a bottle opener, grilling gear and more.
14. IceMule Pro Cooler
There’s a reason the IceMule Pro Cooler looks like a backpack, and that’s because it is one. The design includes built-in straps for easy carrying along with a waist buckle for an even more secure fit. This impressive portability makes this cooler an ideal choice for adventurous activities like tubing, trips to the park or even just hanging out in the garden with friends. The large capacity has enough room for 18 cans with ice, while the heavy-duty, flexible wall and Trifold DriTop closure is capable of keeping ice cold for up to 24 hours at a time.
15. Coleman Coastal Xtreme Series Marine Portable Cooler
BEST FOR FISHING
Sometimes you just need a heavy-duty cooler. The Coleman 70-quart Coastal Xtreme Marine Cooler has an insulated lid and extra insulation in the walls for longer ice retention. In other words, this cooler will keep your recently caught fish fresh until you get back to shore. Plus, you can sit on it if your legs get tired when stand-fishing.
16. Igloo Special Edition 25 Quart Retro Cooler
One of the reasons people love YETI coolers is because they come in a range of stylish colors. Yet in terms of snazzy design, nothing compares to Igloo’s new Retro Cooler series. (Seriously, the Beer-Bandolier fanny pack is a must-have for hard partyers and tailgates.) If you’re searching for the best cooler for picnics, then make it this limited-edition retro Igloo cooler. The bright colors will get everyone in the mood for a fun weekend, and it has all the cooling powers you’d expect from the best Igloo coolers.
Updates: This article was last updated on Friday, July 22. After additional research and product testing, we added additional coolers and updated pricing information based on the latest data. We replaced an older Coleman cooler with the new Coleman 316 Series Wheeled Cooler. We also added a special-edition Igloo 25QT Retro Cooler as a “Best Design” pick.