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The best cooler for the money is not the same for everybody because we have different needs and purposes. For camping, however, our intentions for a cooler are mainly to keep food fresh or frozen, and drinks cold.
It’s different for fishers or hunters who need a cooler to store their catch or game in addition to their food and drinks. The point is, finding the best cooler should be subjective.
There are two basic types of coolers: soft coolers and rigid coolers. Whichever type you choose, you need to consider the same factors. This includes storage capacity, portability, insulation performance, and more.
- Cooler Buyer’s Guide
- Top 5 Best Cooler for Camping
Cooler Buyer’s Guide
How much storage space do you need? How much food or drinks are you planning to bring? Coolers come in so many sizes, so you have to consider how much space you will usually need. Are you a big family of campers or is just going to be a few people camping?
Cooler are usually measured in quarts and can dictate how much you can fit in it. Sometimes, the manufacturer will indicate how many cans it can fit. This is very helpful when you decide how long your trip will be and how many you are packing for.
For instance, 25 quarts or less is ideal for carrying food for a single person camping for one night, 40 quarts can keep food for people camping for two or three nights.
Coolers are probably one of the heaviest things you’ll bring when you go camping. Obviously, the smaller cooler is, the easier it will be to carry around. You should get the size that’s enough for you needs. Anyways, a fully loaded cooler is most likely going to insulate better.
If your supplies don’t need a large cooler, then stick to a smaller one. It’ll be easier to lug around. If not, consider how easy it will be to move around. Large coolers may require two people to carry. Look into the handles, the width, and the weight of the empty cooler.
For hard wall coolers, you might want to consider wheels. For soft wall coolers, check the straps, the handles, and how you can carry it. There are backpack styles, shoulder bag style, and lunchbox style soft coolers.
What will you be storing in the cooler? This is critical to consider because some food such as meat and cheese need 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. It will be unsafe to eat if it is at room temperature even if it’s just two hours.
Some coolers can keep ice frozen for days, while others can only do a day or less. It depends on the kind and the quality. Hard wall coolers have excellent insulation. However, if you’re trip is only overnight, then a large soft cooler may do just fine. Still, you should always check the manufacturer’s recommendations.
You also have to remember that when a cooler is fully loaded, it is most likely to stay colder longer than a half empty cooler. With that in mind, don’t forget to get just the right size for your needs.
Considering how tough the outdoors can get, coolers tend to take some beating. Some may even encounter bears! As consumers, we want to get the best out of our purchase, and not something that’s going to give up after one or two uses.
Generally speaking, hard wall coolers are more durable than soft wall coolers. However, it also depends on how well you take care of your things.
When looking for durable coolers, be sure to check their locks, zippers, and hinges if any. You should also check what material it uses and how they are put together.
Soft or Hard Cooler?
Choosing between a soft or hard cooler shouldn’t be so difficult. You just have to base it on your needs and intent of use. Hard coolers insulate better than a soft cooler. However, you won’t necessarily need a hard cooler for a short camping trip.
Soft coolers can keep perishable goods for short excursions; they’re easy to maintain and carry.
For longer camping trips, a hard cooler might be better because they can keep things cold longer. They’re also more durable, so it’s a better choice if you’re a frequent camper.
Also, ask the following questions to narrow down your choices:
- How long are you camping?
- What are you bringing and for how many people are you packing for?
- How often do you go camping?
- Will you be using the cooler for other occasions?
No matter what type of cooler you pick, just remember to read the manufacturer’s recommendations. They may not always be right, but they still know more about their product than you.
Finally, think of it as an investment. We’re sure you’ll find other occasions where you’ll need a cooler, aside from camping.
Top 5 Best Cooler for Camping
1. Coleman 42-Can Wheeled Soft Cooler With Hard Liner
It’s no surprise that Coleman is part of our best picks. In fact, there are three Coleman coolers on here. This first one is a soft wheeled cooler with retractable handles.
It is about 19 inches deep, 13.5 inches wide, and 11 thick (front to back), giving enough space for 42 cans. It’s ideal for storing drinks for overnight camping trips with family, day trips to the beach, and other short excursions.
When empty, it weighs about 6.4 pounds, which is pretty light. When it does get heavy with food and drinks, it’ll still be easy to transport because of the wheels. On the side, there are also handles, in case rolling is not ideal.
- The extra compartments in the front and on the side are helpful. I use it to store food that I want easy access to and need to be cold.
- There are side handles for when carrying it is ideal than rolling it.
- The wheels are durable and make it easier to transport.
- There is extra storage space in the front pocket and side mesh pocket.
- I like that it has a hard plastic liner inside so that contents won’t get crushed. It’s also removable, so it’s easy to clean.
- Taking traveling can be tricky. When the cooler is sideways, it leaks. Be careful when putting it in the trunk of your vehicle. Preventing leaks should be upright.The front legs are a little unstable. It tips forward.
- The front legs are a little unstable. It tips forward.
- Insulation is only good for less than a day. Ice melts in just a few hours. When you pack for overnight trips, make sure it isn’t exactly perishable and that you put a lot of ice.
2. Coleman 100 Quart Xtreme 5 Wheeled Cooler
This next Coleman cooler is a hard cooler. At 100 quarts, it fits about 160 cans inside! This cooler is ideal for family weekend camping trips because it keeps the ice for up to 5 days. It’s also large enough to fit a few food containers.
For easy transport, the cooler has two heavy-duty wheels and a handle on the opposite side. It also features lids with four cup holders, so it acts a little like a table. It can also be a chair or a stand because the cooler can support up to 250 pounds!
- The draining system works well.
- If you’re looking for a cooler for at least two days of camping, this cooler might work for you. It keeps cold for up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The wheels are helpful but be careful when using them on a full load.The lid is easy to open and close.
- For the price, it’s pretty cheap, considering that it is sturdy and of good quality.
- The tow handle is low, so if you are tall, towing the cooler might be difficult. It’s also not very strong, so I am afraid to use it with a fully-loaded cooler.
- The cooler is large, so make sure you have space in your vehicle.
3. Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Cooler
The last Coleman cooler on our list is the 54-Quart Steel-belted cooler. It works well for multi-day camping trips because it can retain ice for up to four days at up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s large enough to hold 85 cans and tall enough to store 2-liter bottles upright.
The stainless steel lid and body makes it a very durable and sturdy cooler. You can sit on it without having to worry about it breaking or sinking.
- I like that I can store bottles upright.
- The cooler is easier to clean than the others because of the smooth surface that doesn’t hide any dirt.
- I also like the classic look of this cooler. It comes in different colors, too!
- This steel cooler is very sturdy and splendid at keeping things cold for a few days.
- The comfort grip on the steel hand is still a little hard on the hands, especially when the cooler is full.
- The latch is loose, so it’s not ideal for canoeing and other instance that risk it from tipping over. Everything just might spill.
- The paint on the steel can easily get scratches.
4. AO Coolers Canvas Soft Cooler with High-Density Insulation
AO Coolers is a brand that focuses on coolers, so you can trust that they know what they know and what they’re doing with coolers. The Canvas Soft Cooler comes in different sizes, from 12 cans to 48 cans so that you can choose according to your needs.
According to the product description, this line of coolers can keep ice for 24 hours in 120 degrees forecast. It also features a leak-proof liner.
- Easy to transport and to keep. Since it is a soft cooler, it doesn’t take a lot of storage space.
- Though the primary purpose of the cooler is to keep things cold, this soft-sided cooler can also be used to keep food warm.
- It’s a great go-to cooler for more casual activities.
- The pockets outside are useful for keeping things/food you want to have easy access to.
- The shoulder strap can be uncomfortable.
- Regarding insulation, I think it is just average. It works well for day activities. I wouldn’t say it’s ideal for keeping food or drinks cold for overnight camping.
- For the price, you can already get a good quality hard cooler.
5. eBags Crew Cooler II
This soft-sided cooler was originally made for pilots and flight attendants to store their food and drinks. However, it is certainly loved by many.
The compartments are made to stay dry, with easy access through zippers. The lining uses a PVC-free food-safe Peva material.
- It’s very portable.
- The line is removable and replaceable.
- This cooler packs small since it’s foldable. That could be useful when traveling.
- There are mesh pockets on the side of the cooler and the inside of the lid.
- It also has dry compartments that are easy to access.
- The pass-through pocket allows you to stack the cooler on top of a wheeled bag.
- It’s quite small to store food for camping. You’ll probably only get to pack one meal for one or two people.
- Insulation performance is just average. You can keep things cold for less than a day.
Overall, I think the “best” camping cooler varies from camper to camper because each camper is different and has different needs. When you’ve considered the factors, then it won’t be long until you find the right one.
For many campers, a hard cooler might be a better option. I would choose the Coleman 100 Quart Wheel for a large group of campers or the steel-belted for a smaller group. If you only go camping occasionally, then a soft cooler will do just fine.
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