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People use ice chests mostly in outdoor situations, and they’re just about as tough and adventurous as their owner. The best ones are designed to keep the contents cold for multiple days while taking some beating.
Most households probably have one of some sort for camping, fishing, beach getaways, soccer games, or other outdoor activities. It may not be the best ice chest, but that’s why you’re here reading this, right?
If you’re looking to get an ice chest, make sure you read some of our tips before you make the purchase. We also have a list of the best ice chests out in there to help you narrow down your choices.
Top 9 Best Ice Chests and Coolers
Though “best” is totally dependent on a person’s needs and preference, we think these five are worth considering.
1. ORCA Cooler, Tan, 58-Quart
One of the most durable types of coolers are ones that have a roto-molded construction. The Orca Cooler is just that! Its boasts on its ice or cold retention for up to 10 days, so it’s perfect for multi-day fishing trips, boating, camping, and hunting excursions.
- The lid seals nice and tightly, keeping the cold air in and the warm air out.
- It’s very durable. I wouldn’t worry about animals trying to break it.
- The size is perfect for multi-day trips. I love that I can enjoy having meat and other perishable food outdoors. It keeps my drinks nice and cold too!
- The handles offer a nice and comfortable grip. It also seems strong enough to use even on a fully-loaded chest.
- The drainage system is great and doesn’t require any tilting.
- The net attachment that comes with the cooler is great. It offers more storage for small and dry items.
- It has a heavy empty weight, which is around 32 pounds.
- Quite on the expensive side, but if you want ice retention, this is better than the low-cost ones.
- The lid may shut unexpectedly.
2. Yeti Tundra Cooler
Yeti has quite a good reputation for outdoorsmen. This is another cooler that is roto-molded, making it very durable and hard to beat up. That’s why fishermen, campers, and hunters love this ice chest.
The Yeti Tundra comes in many different sizes; from 35 quarts so 350 quarts. The 50-quart can fit 32 cans. The manufacturers recommend that you fill it with a ratio of 2 parts ice and 1 part contents. All Tundra coolers come with a dry basket.
- This cooler also has bear-resistant certification.
- Their standard T-Rex lid latch design keeps the lid secure. It also has the Coldlock Gasket, which seals the cold in and keeps the warm air out.
- You can use this on deck as a casting platform.
- The 65-quart is lighter than the 58-quart of the Orca cooler.
- The draining system isn’t as neat as the others on this list.
- It can get quite uncomfortable carrying it with the handles, even when the cooler isn’t full.
3. Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Cooler
Coleman has got to be a part of any ice chest/cooler list. It’s a widely known reliable brand for anything involving the outdoors. The Coleman 54-quart steel-belted cooler is one of their popular ones. It has a classic look but has a body made of steel.
The cooler can fit about 85 cans, and it’s tall enough to fit 2-liter bottles upright. As for insulation performance, it can keep ice for up to 4 days at temperatures up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The steel body is durable, strong, and easy to clean.
- I love that you don’t have to lay down the bottles since they can fit standing up.
- You can use it as a seat or a stand because it is sturdy enough to support up to 250 pounds.
- It’s easy to open, and it locks pretty well.
- For the quality, the price is pretty reasonable. You can choose from a variety of colors: Green, Black, Red/Black, Rose, Silver, Stainless Steel, Turquoise.
- The side handles can be quite painful to the hands.
- The paint can easily be scratched off. After a few uses in camping, it already looks so scratched down.
4. Pelican ProGear Elite Cooler, 45 quart
Another high-end cooler is the Pelican ProGear Elite Cooler, which was designed with fishermen and hunters in mind. It can hold ice for up to 7-10 days, making it ideal for multi-day excursions.
The inside of the cooler is 19 inches long, 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. The exterior is over 29 inches long, 20 inches wide and almost 20 inches in height.
Pelican boasts on their bear resistance certification, which means their product is safe for bears and reduces the risk of bear-human encounters. This is done by ensuring that bears cannot access and become accustomed to anthropogenic food.
- Insulation performance is pretty good.
- The features are ideal for fishing. The top of the lid is a great surface for cleaning fish, and it also has measurement lines so you can measure your catch.
- The drainage system allows for easy draining. It requires little to no manual effort.
- The handles are pretty comfortable and durable for using on a full load.
- It has a bulky exterior, and it’s quite heavy.
- This brand is also on the more expensive side.
5. Coolest Cooler in Classic Orange
How about a cooler with built in speakers so your group can have a blast? That’s right! The Coolest Cooler is a unique cooler that allows you to play music via Bluetooth. The makers had a party in mind when they made this.
Aside from the detachable speakers, this cooler also has a USB, a built in blender, and LED lights. For easy transport, it is designed with big rubberized wheels. It also has a tie-down bungee cord which you can use to secure items on top of the cooler. That way, you don’t have to make multiple trips to get the things you need.
- It’s a fun cooler for beach and backyard fun.
- The handles and wheels are sturdy. It makes transporting the cooler easy, consider an empty cooler is already heavy alone.
- The cooler has a bottle opener and a compartment on the front where you can put small items.
- Insulation performance doesn’t live up to the 4-5 days it advertises. I think it can hold ice for two days, at most.
- The cooler is very heavy even when empty, which is around 29 pounds.. It might be better to get a regular cooler and separate blender, speakers, etc.
- This cooler is expensive, in my opinion.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
What to Look for the Best Ice Chest or Cooler?
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.
Easy is Better
Ice chests should be easy to open, close, pack, unpack, fill, and drain. That’s what you’ll do with it most of the time, so make sure you look at how easy they are easy to do. Look at the how the lids open up and stay open, or close and stay closed.
How the ice chest drains is also another factor to consider. A nice cooler doesn’t require manual effort to drain the water out. Ice chests with low drain holes often excel at this function because it allows the water to drain by gravity.
But don’t forget to check how large the drain holes is as well. Otherwise, you might end up losing ice as you drain the water out.
Finally, consider how easy it will be to transport. Coolers with wheels are easy and require no lifting, but not all coolers have them. Look into handles as well and see how easy they are on your hands. Look for handles that are sturdy and comfortable.
Finding the best cooler requires some research and a little knowledge on what to look for. People buy one with one main purpose: to keep things cold. That said, insulation performance is one of the top factors consider.
First, identify what situations you’ll be using a cooler for and how long you want it to keep things cold. Second, identify what size is just right for your needs. Then finally, look for one that has features that make it easy to handle.
When it comes to insulation performance, I would say that the Orca does it best. The Yeti Tundra and Pelican also perform very well in this area. These three brands are all on the expensive side, but also because they are high-quality cooler.
If you’re looking for a cheaper option, I think the Coleman is the best option. For the price, it’s still a very good ice chest.
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.