Coolers, also known as ice chests, can completely revolutionize your camping trips, especially on a sunny day. They’re great for taking on your day hike and picnic, or on a long family or group camping trip. How else are you going to keep all your food preserved, ready for that BBQ later, or keep your water and beer cool for a refreshing tipple at the end of a long, hot hike?
But coolers are often quite expensive. So, to make sure you’re choosing the right investment for you, we’ve compiled reviews of our top best coolers for camping: to make the decision easy!
Before we look at our top picks of coolers, here are some things you should be looking for, to help you find the perfect cooler for you:
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:
And here’s an overview of the best coolers for camping on the market today:
How portable is the model?
When considering the portability of your cooler, you need to first decide on how you intend to use it. If you can drive to your preferred camping spot and set up your camp near the parking lot, or if you’re RV or car camping, then you can opt for a larger cooler (65 quarts+) which will keep your supplies cool for you and your group for roughly 5 days. These coolers are big enough to store all the foods and drinks you’ll need to keep cool for your trip.
However if you’re going to be hiking for long distances, or it’s a long walk from the parking lot to the camp, then take a look at some of the smaller, lighter options of coolers. There are even some backpack cooler options, a great option for hiking. Some coolers also have handles and wheels, which is great if you’re setting up camp in even ground. Depending on your needs, there are portability options for you in the models we’re reviewing.
How insulated is the model?
The type of insulation used in your cooler determines how long the cooler can keep cool on the inside. When looking at and comparing models of cooler, you should be looking at its ice retention rate. You definitely don’t want your ice to melt, leaving your food and beverages wet, sooner than you can help it!
But also, don’t hope for the impossible. It’s unlikely that you’ll get a cooler that can retain the ice for much longer than 5 days, so if you’re planning a longer trip, consider going to a grocery store halfway through, and replacing your ice and adding some new, fresh contents.
How durable is the model?
Durability is always key when it comes to camping or outdoor products. Your cooler will need to survive any weather eventuality, because, after all, we can never entirely predict the weather. The cooler you choose should be made from durable and robust material which guarantees a long life for your cooler.
Due to the price points of most coolers, they are usually seen as a one-off investment. Fashions may change, but a great cooler should last you for years, in all weather conditions and seasons.
Is it the right price?
Just like with all outdoors products, the cost of your cooler can be influenced by many factors such as quality, size, and brand. When considering how much you’re willing to pay, you should also think about how often you’re planning on using your cooler.
If it’s coming out of storage just a couple of times a year, then maybe there’s not much point looking at the more expensive options of coolers.
The 6 coolers we have reviewed are in a variety of sizes, to help you decide on what capacity suits your needs, and help you stay cool while camping. We’ll start with the smallest cooler, from Igloo, review a few options of coolers with different quart capacity, 40-50 quartz, and then some larger options for those who need optimum cooling capacity.
Best Coolers for Camping – Overview
1. Igloo 6-Can Capacity Mini Playmate Cooler
- Igloo cooler, series: playmate, mini, 4 qt capacity, Red. Capacity 6 12-oz cans, 4 quarts (3 liters)
Let’s begin with a simple cooler, with no bells and whistles, that’s at a cheap price point. This model from Igloo is a great option for you if you’re looking for a simple, cheap and easy cooler, to pick up with you and take on a day or weekend hike. It’s even perfect for taking to sports matches or family days out too! And at around $15, you really can’t go wrong with this cooler.
Igloo’s model is the king of grab-and-go convenience. Its tiny size is a real plus point for those who have portability as their top requirement. Its adventure-ready 4-quart size is just right for sandwiches for your group, a few drinks, or your favorite 6 pack. One great feature of this cooler, which adds to its portability, is the swinging lid. It swings open to one side, allowing quick and easy access to the contents, even on the move.
But even though the lid makes this model super convenient, it is still secure. The lid is designed to prevent spills. It also has a molded-in handle, making carrying it with one hand super easy, the perfect accompaniment for you on your hike!
The one-handed operation is further aided by the push-button lid, which is designed to be conveniently operated with one hand. This model is also super light, at only 1.41 pounds. It’s the lightest of the coolers that we’re reviewing, and one of the lightest on the market.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t buy this product if you’re looking for a heavy-duty cooler. Some people even say that it’s hard to fit six cans in, or if you do, you can’t fit any ice around them. It’s a great option if you need to keep your medications cool.
Or if you want to bring a couple of cans, and some snacks, for you and your group, or even use this as an individual lunch box, it’s a great option. However, we’d only recommend this option for days trips, as the ice retention isn’t long enough for longer camping trips.
- Very cheap
- Portable, with a swinging lid
- Easy to open with one hand
- 1.41 pounds
- Only suitable for day trips
- Very small, ideal for one person or medications
2. Pelican Elite 50 Quart Cooler
- INTERIOR DIMENSIONS - 17.50 x 11.00 x 13.70 (44.5 x 27.9 x 34.8 centimeters) EXTERIOR (L X W X D) 30.00 x 20.30 x 20.40 (76.2 x 51.6 x 51.8 centimeters) INT VOLUME: 1.53 feet³ (0.043 meter³ )...
Pelican produces high quality, long-lasting outdoors and camping coolers that really do stand the test of time. However, this is reflected in their high price points, so if you’re looking to purchase a cooler on a budget, this is certainly not the right option for you. However, with their hardy designs and lifetime guarantees, you might find that you get even more bang for your buck with Pelican over other brands.
This cooler from Pelican Elite has well-insulated walls, that are 2 inches thick, made from polyurethane insulation, and also feature a 360-degree freezer-grade gasket to deliver extreme ice retention. Some extra, important features of the Pelican cooler include: an overlocking hinge system (meaning that heat cannot enter as easily though the hinges), non-skid rubber feet (to stop the cooler from sliding in transit, or if you use it as a chair), and molded-in tie-down slots (to lash to your vehicle to make transporting it a breeze).
One feature which makes this cooler stand out is its over-molded, ergonomic carry handle, for comfort while transporting your cooler. Some other models of cooler have hard plastic handles, which can make carrying it really tricky, especially considering the weight of the cooler when full. Extra stand out features include 4 self-draining cup holders; a lifetime guarantee; a stainless steel bottle opener; and reinforced lockable clasps.
Depending on your tastes, one thing you should consider with this cooler is aesthetics. If you like the rugged, outdoorsy look, then this model could be perfect for you. The Pelican cooler certainly looks quite utilitarian and comes in tan or khaki colors, so it might look more appropriate for the more adventurous outdoors enthusiast. If you’re looking for a cooler with more color options, and perhaps a chicer design, then consider another brand.
- Good gasket for cool retention
- Ergonomic handle
- Cup holders
- Lifetime warranty
- Top price range
- Rugged looking
3. Yeti Tundra 45
- The YETI Tundra 45 combines versatility with durability with a capacity of up to 26 cans with a recommended 2:1 ice-to-contents ratio
The Yeti Tundra 45 is one of Yeti’s most popular products, and Yeti is famously one of the best brands for coolers. Their products have even become somewhat of a status symbol in recent years. This product is both durable and versatile. It has a capacity of up to 26 cans, with the recommended 2:1 ice to contents ratio.
One of the biggest selling factors about Yeti’s coolers, not just with their Tundra model but also with their other sizes and models, is the ice retention. Yeti Tundra 45 boasts 3 inches of PermaFrost Insulation.
PermaFrost Insulation, according to Yeti, is in the walls and lid which have been pressure-injected with commercial-grade polyurethane. They also have a “FatWall” design: extra thick rotomolded walls can hold up to two inches of insulation, for ice retention that keeps it top of the market.
Another feature that makes the Yeti Tundra unique is its cold lock gasket. Although all other quality coolers have a gasket, circling the length of the interior of the lid acting as a seal to lock in the cold, Yeti uses a freezer quality gasket.
The second main selling point of this high-end cooler is its durability. Yeti Tundra 45 boasts a one-piece roto-molded construction. This is shorthand for the manufacturing process known as rotational molding, meaning that the plastic exterior of the cooler is made in one continuous process, making it stronger and more durable. Because of this, Yeti claims that their coolers are virtually indestructible.
There are many other features that act as unique selling points for Yeti. Firstly, they have T-Rex lid latches, in an anchor shape, made out of heavy-duty rubber. You’ll never have a plastic broken latch again, the Yeti latches will always move, bend and stretch due to their design and material, even when knocked.
Secondly, they use an interlocking lid system in their grooves, meaning that where the lid meets the main part of the cooler acts as a barrier against the heat, with less room for temperature exchange. This is common amongst coolers, but Yeti’s version is particularly well designed.
This model’s handles are made with military-grade polyester for extra durability. However, the part of the handles which you hold is made of hard plastic. Some of the other coolers we are reviewing have rubber ergonomic handles, which can make the cooler easier to carry and hurt less on your hands while walking.
This cooler also has anchor point tie-down slots, which are folded tie-down slots to make it easy to mount the cooler to your trailer, boat, or truck bed, meaning that the cooler won’t slide around while you’re in transit.
The Yeti Tundra cooler has a vortex drain system. It’s leak-proof and designed for easy draining when your ice melts. This is an effective system, but some of the other models of coolers have bigger holes, to make draining faster. Yeti coolers come with a 5-year warranty, but we think, due to their durability and top-notch construction, they could last you nearly a lifetime.
- Rotomolded construction
- Vortex drain system
- Bear resistant
- 5 year warranty
- Three inches of the highest quality insulation
- Hard handles
4. RTIC Cooler, 45 qt
- The RTIC 45 - Brand New in Box
The Rtic cooler is more in the mid-range price bracket for coolers, at just under $200, but interestingly shares many of the same features as the more expensive brands. Namely: roto-molded construction, heavy-duty T-latches, a freezer grade gasket, molded rubber tie-down Slots, 3 inches of insulated walls, non-slip feet, and integrated locking system and hinges.
One huge benefit of this model for serious outdoors enthusiasts is that it’s bear-resistant, meaning you can take this cooler with you, even if you’re going primitive camping, or there’s a risk of wild animals being close to your campsite. Read our recommendations on choosing the right campsite for you.
This model boasts some extra features too. Firstly, it’s rapid V-drain system operates differently to Yeti’s and has a slightly bigger hole, meaning that your water could potentially drain water quicker with Rtic’s cooler. They also have folded side handles, which make it more streamlined to transport.
Some of the materials used in Rtic aren’t quite as high a quality as with Yeti, such as the insulation and the rope handles, but we think they have a similar level of durability, and impact resistance. The design is also visually very similar between the two products, the only difference is that there are more color options with Yeti. So if you’re looking for a cooler that has almost the same quality of Yeti, looks very similar, but is a lot cheaper, then the Rtic model could be the perfect fit for you.
- V-drain design
- Freezer grade gasket
- Rubber tie-down slots
- 3 inches of insulated walls
- Bear proof
- Less quality in the materials
- High- mid-range price
5. ORCA 40 Quart Tan Cooler
The Orca 40 quart cooler is a slightly cheaper option than the Yeti cooler. But similarly to Pelican, it comes with a lifetime guarantee. Just like with the Yeti cooler, Orca coolers have a root molded construction to provide maximum strength and durability. This could be a winner when it comes to ice retention! Orca boasts an integrated insulation technique for optimal coolness retention which is supposed to keep ice fresh for up to 10 days.
Some of the useful features of this Orca cooler include: the easy-flow drainage spout, rubber latches, in the shape of a whale tail, which are durable and won’t break if knocked, and a lid gasket ensuring a perfect seal to keep your ice for longer. These are features that are shared amongst most great coolers. Some extra features include: an attached cargo net for added storage space and ergonomic handles to make carrying easier.
However the insulation isn’t as effective with Orca, and some of the features of the slightly more expensive models of Yeti and Pelican aren’t present in the Orca, such as a vortex drain system or anchor tie-down slots. Seeing as the price points really aren’t too dissimilar, with only about $40 difference, you might decide that it’s worth the small extra investment to get some of those features.
- Rotomolded construction
- Cute whale themed rubber latches
- Cargo net
- Ergonomic handles
- Less brand recognition
6. Coleman 62-Quart Xtreme 5-Day Heavy-Duty Cooler with Wheels
Although the quality of materials used by Coleman aren’t as durable as some of the other models we have reviewed, the Coleman cooler has a lot of extra features which means you should consider it as an option. This is especially true considering its low price point.
You can buy this product new on Amazon, for just under $60. Seeing as this model has a whopping 62 quartz, and claims to have 5 days ice retention, even in 90-degree heat, this is the perfect option for large groups, especially families, who want a bit more bang for their buck.
One great feature of this large cooler is the smooth texture lid, making cleaning a breeze, another benefit for family groups. It also has folded cup holders in the lid, and a reinforced, sturdy lid that can carry up to 250 pounds, meaning that you can easily use it as an extra chair.
One of the biggest selling points for a Coleman cooler is the heavy-duty wheels and convenient handle. You can roll your Coleman wheeled cooler to your campsite our outdoor location, even in rough or rocky terrain!
One good thing about Coleman’s insulation is that it’s low CO2, meaning it has reduced carbon emissions from foam manufacturing. We think that when you’re venturing into the great outdoors, why not consider protecting it at the same time?
- Very cheap
- Brand recognition
- Easy to clean
- Heavy-duty wheels to use on all surfaces
- Low CO2 manufacturing
- Less quality in the materials
- Less attractive design
There’s an option here for everyone, depending on the nature of your camping trips, the way you intend to use your cooler, and your budget. For the ultimate combination of quality and cheapness, we would recommend investing in a cooler by Coleman, especially the Coleman 62-Quart Xtreme 5-Day Heavy-Duty Cooler with Wheels. We think they’re some of the best camping coolers on the market.
This is the perfect solution for you if you’re going camping in your car, so can lug a heavy bit of kit. With their cheap price points and large portable coolers, this is the perfect solution for big groups, even if you might get fewer days of ice.
So there we have it, our top 6 picks for the best coolers for camping. Follow our buying guide to keep your camping trips refreshed for years to come.
Bonus tip: Check out this 5-day ice challenge with some of the biggest brands in the realm of coolers to see who stands the test of time!