Have you ever gone camping and ran out of ice in your cooler or ice chest way sooner than you thought you would? Those cheap coolers just don’t work too well and this happens far too often. Sure for just a few hours almost any cooler will work, but wouldn’t it be nice if you had one that could keep ice from melting, and thus your drinks nice and cold, for multiple days? That is why we sought out to review the best coolers and ice chests.
Buyers should be aware that many models of ice chests come in different sizes, so if you like one particular style or brand then they probably have a size close to what you need. You should also be aware that some of the top versions are heavy due to the thick insulation. To maximize the ice retention of your cooler you should pre-cool your cooler with ice 24 hours prior or at least store it in a cool spot – not in a 90 degree garage. You should also put cans of pop or beer in the fridge and only put them in the cooler once cooled. If you are bringing water, we recommend freezing some in a reusable bottle which you can then drink as it melts.
We took a look at many models and varieties to come up with our list of the best. We also tried to choose models in all price ranges, because we know spending $300 on a cooler just isn’t feasible for everyone. Below you will find the top 10 best coolers.
Our pick for the best ice chest goes to the $340 Orca 40 Quart cooler. The Orca is perfect for a camping, hunting or fishing trip – it can even withstand a bear mauling – and comes with a lifetime warranty. Orca models are American-made and sourced with all American materials. The 40-quart roto-molded version weighs 24 pounds and has a lid gasket to keep an air tight seal. You can expect the ice to last up to as many as 10 days under favorable conditions.
The Orca 40 is not for everybody due to the price, but for those of you who take extended camping or hunting trips then you will think it is worth every penny.
If you are looking for the perfect cooler to take on your next fishing trip then we recommend the Yeti Tundra 75 which costs about $450. We like it for boats and fishing trips since it has enough space for drinks and the fish you catch, it has non-slip feet for on deck, and can handle two people sitting on it. It has excellent insulation thanks to its roto-molded construction and several layers of pressure-injected insulation which can hold ice for many days even in extreme heat. There are also other sizes of Yeti models available if want a smaller or larger version.
Buyers should be aware that once fully loaded with food, beverages, and ice this thing could weigh close to 80 pounds.
The Pelican ProGear Elite Marine Deluxe 65 quart ice chest offers nearly the same performance as an Orca or Yeti model, but for a bit more affordable $240. It offers two inches of insulation, a freezer-grade gasket, and a polyurethane body that is watertight, leak-proof, and bear resistant. It is super durable and thus comes with a lifetime guarantee.
The biggest negative is that is extremely heavy at nearly 50 pounds unfilled and could be too heavy for one person to lift once filled. However that weight means enough insulation for ice to last up to 10 days on a camping trip. We only recommend it for trips where you will be camping close to your car or boat and don’t have to lug this Pelican unit a long ways.
The Coleman Esky Series 55 Quart cooler is Coleman’s high end line designed to withstand the great outdoors and can be had for about $310. This American made unit features an interior antimicrobial liner that helps protect against mold, mildew and odor, over two inches of insulation, a dry basket storage, dual drains, and a scratch-resistant outer shell with non-skid feet. It is also available in bigger sizes.
Overall the Esky is a very solid cooler and would work great for camping, fishing, or hunting trips with several days of ice retention, although it is on the heavy side as well.
Another model designed for extended trips and many days of ice retention is the 35 quart Engle ENG35T Deep Blue Ice Box which sells for about $245. It features two-inches of insulation on all sides and roto-molded construction which can retain ice for up to 8 days under ideal conditions. The lid has a textured surface that you can sit or stand on safely.
This Engel ice chest is another good choice for extended camping trips.
We chose the Coleman Steel Belted 54 Quart as the best cooler under $100 with a price tag of $86. You can’t really compare any ice chest that cost under $100 to the top-tier models that cost a whole lot more, but this Coleman model will retain ice for a max of 3 days. It comes in multiple colors and is capable of holding up to 85 cans. This Coleman model is a good choice for anyone who needs a large cooler for short trips or a weekend get-together. For extended trips more than 4 days then you might want to consider a more expensive unit or just plan on adding more ice occasionally.
If you are looking for a soft cooler then we recommend the Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack which sells for about $75. Users on Amazon love this model with an average rating of 4.8 stars out of 5 on over 450 reviews. This thing can hold 24 cans and will retain ice for 24 hours in 100 degree heat, and much longer in cooler temperatures. It is made from rugged 1000 denier Cordura nylon and features a leak-proof, sweat-proof design.
It doesn’t hold a huge amount of food, but it is just right for a small family to keep their beverages cold on a short camping trip or outdoor gathering.
Perhaps the best overall value is the Coleman 100 Quart Xtreme Wheeled cooler which you can buy for around $60. The main advantages of this model are the massive capacity which can hold 160 cans, and the easy portability thanks to the wheels and handle. The insulation value is also surprisingly good with the ability to keep ice for multiple days in ideal settings.
Just remember that the large size means you need much more ice overall to keep it cool, so if you don’t have a need for a large capacity then you can look elsewhere. Although there is a smaller 62 quart version available as well.
If you are looking for a thermoelectric cooler then you should consider the $80 Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric 28 Quart cooler. This thing works by cooling without ice with a brushless motor and convection cooling fan by plugging into any 12V DC receptacle (a cigarette lighter). Due to its size and lack of ice it is compact, lightweight, and portable. Overall it is great for an extending road-trip, but not good for a camping trip without access to an outlet.
The main downside for this Igloo model is that you need to keep it plugged in at all times for it to work effectively. One tip is that can help is that you can get an adapter to which allows you to plug-in to a normal outlet.
If you are looking for a decent budget or cheap cooler then we would suggest the Rubbermaid 24 quart which can be had for about $23 (although we have seen specials on Amazon for as low as $17 for Prime members). This Made in the USA model won’t compare to the much more expensive brands, but it will work great for short trips or the family barbeque. It comes with a top swing handle which makes it easy to carry, plus it can fit up to 30 cans. It is available in a few different colors and several sizes.
We do not recommend this Rubbermaid unit for multi-day trips, unless you have access to more ice because you will have to add more. Users should also note that it does not have a drain plug.