Best Coolers For Camping
One of the mainstays on your camping equipment list is a durable cooler. Whether you’re storing food for a five-day grand adventure or even just bringing drinks and snacks for a quick day trip, you need a cooler you can rely on whenever you enjoy the great outdoors.
Choosing one will depend on your needs, such as the length of the trip, number of people, and destination. There are coolers created for specific purposes only, while others are more versatile and can suit several types of outdoor adventures.
But how do you select the best one? A good cooler can last for decades and will be your trusty camping partner for years. We’ll share all the things you need to know so that you can find the perfect cooler for your next camping trip.
What You Must Know
Size and Capacity
One of the first things you’re going to need to look at is the size of the cooler. The longer you’re camping, the bigger your cooler needs to be. On average, for a 3–4 person sized camping group staying overnight, a 20–50 quart range is a good size.
When comparing the capacity of different coolers, don’t forget to factor in the space that will be used for ice or ice packs. To save space, only use the cooler for food and drinks that need to stay cold.
Also note the size of your vehicle and trunk space. You’ll need enough room in your car to transport the cooler along with all of your other camping equipment.
There are three basic types of coolers suited for camping trips.
- Basic coolers are the simplest ones. These are the coolers you see at picnics, outdoor parties, or get-togethers. They have minimal insulation (can usually just stay cold for several hours) and only offer a basic seal on the lid. These are relatively inexpensive and are available at most department and hardware stores.
- Soft side coolers are created specifically for space and weight-conscious campers or those going on shorter day trips. These coolers have slightly lesser insulation but are still sturdy enough for outdoor use. Some are inexpensive, while others are pricier and can stand toe-to-toe with their heavy-duty counterparts.
- Heavy duty coolers have thicker insulation and sealed lids that lock, making them the perfect choice for long camping trips or harsh weather conditions. They weigh more than the other types of coolers and cost more, but if you’re camping for longer periods, it’s a good investment.
Insulation determines how long your ice or ice packs will stay frozen. A good hard-shell cooler will keep ice cold for roughly three days. Some of the more expensive ones claim to stay cold for five to six days. These types of coolers are significantly bigger because of extra insulation. They’re also bulkier and more expensive.
Since you’ll be camping and on the move, it’s important to consider how easy it will be to move your cooler after loading it with all your items. When it comes to moving a heavily packed cooler, you might want to consider options that have sturdy wheels, secure handles, straps, or handholds.
If your cooler will just be staying in your vehicle, then tie-down points are required. Soft-side coolers are the most portable, but these are only insulated to last for a day at most.
Best Coolers For Camping
The Pelican Elite 70 quart cooler is from a reliable brand and is built to last. This cooler has two inches of polyurethane insulation and a 360-degree freezer-grade gasket. It can keep your ice frozen for roughly seven to eight days.
It features an over-molded carry handle, a strong reinforced lockable fastener, a stainless steel bottle opener, and tie-down slots molded in. Its press and pull latches, despite being heavy duty, make it easy to use for campers of all ages. It also has four self-draining cup holders and stable non-skid rubber feet. It utilizes the Pelican’s HPX2 technology, giving the cooler extra protection to avoid it from being crushed. It is also said to be waterproof, making it the perfect companion for when you encounter different terrains. The Pelican Elite 70 is available in several colors. This includes cactus green, coyote tan, green, gray, orange–tan, pacific blue, red, and white.
This price range puts it on the more expensive side for coolers, but it is a durable, high-quality, and versatile product that can be used for every camping trip for years. In fact, the manufacturer is so sure of this that it comes with a lifetime warranty.
- Good insulation
- Built to last
- Good additional features
- Longer ice life
- Useable for varied camping conditions
- Extra insulation and durable build make it bulky and heavy. It weighs about 40 pounds.
Another cooler from a reliable and trusted outdoor equipment brand name is the Engel ENG65 High-Performance Cooler. This cooler is from Engel’s premium line for those looking for a durable, rugged, and long-lasting cooling solutions.
The ENG65 High-Performance cooler is made primarily from a mix of plastic, metal, and rubber. It is very tough and is surrounded by a two-inch-thick layer of polyurethane insulation. It utilizes an airtight gasket to help maximize ice longevity and comes with non-skid feet, padlock holes, and a self-stopping rear hinge. It also has two side rope handles and built-in molded handles for mobility. It comes in white, tan, and haze gray.
Overall, it is a good cooler choice, but the ice doesn’t stay frozen in this as long. Ice usually stays frozen for four to five days tops. Additionally, the features on this cooler are the bare minimum.
It is a well-made cooler and is a good choice for campers who aren’t looking for all the bells and whistles and just want a reliable cooler at a reasonable price.
- Very durable and rugged
- Slightly smaller
- Cheaper option
- Usable in varied camping conditions
- Rope handles and built-in handles offer more mobility choices
- Ice doesn’t stay frozen as long in this cooler
- Sometimes gasket doesn’t form a good seal, affecting cooling capabilities
Coleman is one of the world’s most reliable outdoor brands, and the Coleman Xtreme 5-Day 70 quart cooler is the best choice for campers on a tight budget. This cooler is just a fraction of the cost of other heavy duty coolers. However, it also doesn’t hold up as well as more expensive alternatives.
Still, it has very decent insulation and a good non-airtight design that delivers anywhere from three to four days of ice life. You can also pre-chill this model and extend ice life to five days. However, despite this, the walls are a bit thin, making this cooler less rugged and durable in harsh conditions.
The benefit of thinner walls on the flip side though is that the Coleman Xtreme 5-Day 70 is more lightweight and mobile. It’s additionally quite spacious inside. Plus, another bonus is the sleek, olive retro look and minimalist design that gives it a cool stylish feel.
This cooler is a good choice for those looking for low-cost coolers with decent performance. It’s not meant for harsh weather camping or longer trips. But, for short trips with a few friends or family members, it’s a good option.
- Very affordable
- Lightweight and easy to move
- Looks sleek and stylish
- Built-in beverage holders
- Large storage capacity
- Not airtight
- Not as durable as others
- Ice doesn’t stay frozen as long as other premium coolers
The Yeti brand is known for its superior insulation and unparalleled durability. This cooler has a three-inch thick layer of polyurethane foam in its “fat wall” insulation design that keeps ice frozen for up to a week. Meanwhile, its sturdy construction ensures that this cooler is built to last and withstand even the harshest of camping conditions. Its slip rubber feet gives you leverage and stability when out fishing on a boat. It is even “bear-certified.” It has seven designs: coral, desert tan, ice blue, reef blue, river green, seafoam, and white.
The Yeti Tundra 45 is a bit smaller in capacity than other coolers listed, but it’s perfect for a smaller camping group. It fits up to 28 cans or the equivalent amount in food. It also has a rubber freezer-style sealing gasket, built-in tie-down points, and flexible rubber latches. It features a vortex drain system, which makes it convenient for you when it comes to draining the cooler. Another good addition is a small basket for food items, to keep them cooled but raised above melting ice.
If you plan on camping often and in different types of camping conditions, then investing in the Yeti Tundra 45 is well worth it.
- Very durable
- Super insulation
- Stylish design and unique colors
- Good mobility
- Basket for keeping food items dry above ice
- Slightly smaller in capacity
While RTIC is also known for their top-quality rotomolded heavy-duty coolers, their soft-side coolers are just as good. A versatile model that’s perfect for camping is the RTIC Soft Pack 30.
However, this cooler isn’t suited for longer multi-night camping trips. It works perfectly for an overnight trip and is the best option for day trips or short hikes in the woods. It even functions great as a second cooler option alongside heavy-duty coolers for longer camping trips.
The RTIC Soft Pack 30 has great insulation and can hold ice for roughly 48 hours. Despite its soft exterior, it’s very durable. It’s wrapped in a heavy-duty vinyl shell with a waterproof liner and closed-cell foam insulation. It weighs only six pounds and comes with a padded comfortable-to-use shoulder strap, making it easy to carry and transport.
The RTIC Soft Pack 30 is 100% leak-proof, UV protected to ensure it doesn’t fade, puncture-resistant, and has an antimicrobial liner to protect against mildew. It also has an exterior pocket you can use for dry items and other snacks. It comes in eight designs: black, blue–gray, kanati, pink camo, rift blue, seafoam, strata, and tan.
- Lightweight design and good mobility
- Durable exterior
- Spacious for a soft-cooler
- Several colors to choose from
- Waterproof zipper design makes it prone to sticking
- Does not work for multi-day camping
If you’re looking for the best camping cooler that’s durable, heavy duty, and versatile, then the Yeti Tundra 45 is the perfect choice for you. It costs more than entry-level coolers, but it’s definitely worth the price tag and won’t let you down, especially if you go camping often. Its ice lasts longer here than in the Coleman, Engel, and RTIC. Plus, its unique colors make it nice to look at than other coolers.
The Yeti brand has proven itself as a good investment option for camping equipment. They perform excellently, live up to their promises, and look great. Some would even say Yeti coolers are something of a status symbol in the outdoor world. And while that’s a great bonus, the real selling point of these coolers is that they do their job and can be relied on time and time again.
Why we like it better than the others:
- Superior insulation
- Bear-proof durability
- Built-to-last construction
- Streamlined stylish design
- Military-grade doublehaul handles provide good mobility
- Interlocking lid creates form-fitting barrier against heat
- Leak-proof with exceptional drainage
- Versatile design for all camping conditions