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5 Best Camping Coolers for Food and Beverage Storage

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Coolers have evolved significantly since the 1990s, when Igloo coolers were ubiquitous at every cookout.

They’ve fascinatingly improved now, allowing you to keep your food nice and cold for days on end.

When you’re camping, having a pack of cold brews and keeping that fresh steak on ice is important until it’s time to enjoy them. 

Use a better cooler, like the ones listed below, to extend the best parts of your camping trip.

5 Best Camping Coolers Reviewed

Let’s now take a closer look at our top picks.

1. YETI Tundra 35 Camping Cooler

YETI Tundra 35 Camping Cooler
4,037 Reviews
YETI Tundra 35 Camping Cooler
  • The YETI Tundra 35 is portable enough for one person to haul...
  • Ice stays ice thanks to up to 3 inches of PermaFrost...
  • The Rotomolded Construction makes the Tundra armored to the...

If you’re serious about keeping your refreshments cool, you might not have to look any further than the YETI Tundra 35.

This beast of a cooler is every bit as serious as you are, packing 3 inches of tough PermaFrost Insulation, an incredibly durable, bear-proof construction, solid lid latches to prevent accidental spills, simple drainage, and pressure-injected, commercial-grade polyurethane walls.

Many highly lovable features of this cooler win our vote, but the most significant ones are its take-anywhere ruggedness and durability, as well as its ability to live up to the manufacturers’ 3-day cooling capacity claim (not something we can say about every cooler, we assure you!).

While other coolers will wilt after a few hours in the sun, be a bit rough and tumble, or simply deteriorate performance-wise over time, the YETI Tundra 35 is made to last and offers the same kind of cooling performance it offers on day one, many years down the line.

It’s hard to find any fault with this cooler, barring its price and—for some—limited capacity.

Mitigating the first of these potential failings, however, is the fact that for your added buck, you get a cooler that performs better than any we’ve ever known and will be with you for the long run, no matter how much abuse you subject it to on your backcountry outings.

This cooler doesn’t come cheap, granted, and might weigh a little more than you’d like when empty, but in terms of performance, there are very few competitor coolers that come even close to matching it.

Pros

  • 20-can capacity
  • Made in the USA
  • It comes with one dry goods basket.
  • Ideal for rafting: Fits nicely inside an inner tube.
  • Possibly the best insulated cooler on the market

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Heavy (20 lb. empty weight)

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 15.25”x21”x16” (outside); 10”x14”x9.5” (inside).
  • Material: 3 inches of PermaFrostTM insulation and rotomolded construction.
  • Can capacity: 20
  • Warranty: 5 years

2. Igloo Thermoelectric Iceless Camping Cooler

Sale
Igloo Thermoelectric Iceless Camping Cooler
4,912 Reviews
Igloo Thermoelectric Iceless Camping Cooler
  • Swing-up bale handle with comfort grip for easy carrying
  • Molded-in side handles for two handed carrying or lifting....
  • 8' long power cord plugs into any 12V DC receptacle (e.g....

Does it get any more convenient than plugging your cooler into your car’s 12V DC receptacle and having your drinks, snacks, and whatever else you might want to squeeze in your cooler nicely chilled by the time you reach your destination?

That’s exactly what the Igloo Iceless Cooler brings to the table: a thermoelectric design that cools your goods directly from the cigarette lighter in your car, just like your fridge at home. As the name implies, you can use this cooler ice-free, increasing the storage capacity to up to 34 cans.

The Igloo Iceless also cools its contents down to 36F below the ambient temperature and comes with an 8-foot power lead that allows you to shift your cooler wherever is most convenient or to make the best use of the shade.

The only notable downsides to this cooler are that it isn’t quite as robust as other models like the YETI Tundra (above), takes up to three hours to chill fully, and doesn’t have the thick insulation that allows other models to work so effectively when not plugged in.

This cooler is ideal for car campers because you can plug it into your vehicle’s 12V DC receptacle, kick back, and wait for your refreshments to cool while you go about your business.

You can be sure that the ice melting isn’t making your goods warmer by the minute, but rather cooling them down as the thermoelectric cooling system activates and reaches its maximum chilling capacity.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Lightweight (7lbs)
  • Ideal for car camping
  • Plugs into any 12V DC receptacle
  • High capacity
  • The temperature drops by 36°F below the ambient level.
  • Can be used vertically or horizontally.

Cons

  • It takes 3 hours to get cold.
  • No wheels
  • Limited insulation makes it a mediocre performer when not plugged in.

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 18.19″ L x 13.13″ W x 15.5″ D
  • Material: Polypropylene
  • Can capacity: 24 (34 with no ice)
  • Warranty: 1 year

3. Coleman Rolling Camping Cooler

Sale
Coleman Rolling Camping Cooler
19,103 Reviews
Coleman Rolling Camping Cooler
  • EXTENDED ICE RETENTION: Using Xtreme technology, this ice...
  • LARGE CAPACITY: Acting as both a large cooler with wheels...
  • EASE OF TRANSPORT: With its durable wheels, this cooler on...

There’s convenience, and then there’s the capital ‘C’ convenience.

When you rock up at your campsite late in the day or are stumbling down to the riverside with all your gear in your backpack, maybe nursing a hangover to boot, the last thing you want is to have a 40- to 50-pound load of liquids weighing you down.

With the Coleman Xtreme Wheeled Cooler, you don’t have to—simply load her up, set her down, and roll her to your desired destination.

This fuss- and frill-free cooler is the very last word in practicality, saving you not only the hassle of using brute strength to carry your refreshments where you want them but also—thanks to built-in cup holders in the lid—carrying a table.

Not bad, right? Add to that a massive 84-can capacity and a very practical drainage gasket, and you’ve got a cooler that’s, well, very cool! So what are the downsides to this cooler?

Considering the low cost, this cooler’s failings are largely forgivable, but compared to high-end coolers like the YETI Tundra, it isn’t quite as rugged, has far less cooling capacity (the five-day claim is overstated), is certainly not bear-proof, and is not the type of cooler you’d like to carry terribly far if using the wheels isn’t an option.

We only recommend buying a wheeled cooler if you’re sure you’re going to be able to make use of the cooler’s unique selling point: the wheels!

Many wheeled models lack the same portability as non-wheeled models, and hauling them over lengthy trail distances to your fishing or hunting spot or campsite may be quite inconvenient.

Pros

  • Very reasonably priced
  • It has wheels! (Tough, heavy-duty ones, too.)
  • 50-quart capacity
  • Built to last
  • Practical drainage gasket

Cons

  • It’s hard to carry when you can’t use wheels.
  • There are no clips or latches to lock shut.
  • The 5-day cooling capacity was overstated by 2 days.

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 17 long, 23 wide, and 20” deep.
  • Material: Polypropylene
  • Can capacity: up to 84
  • Warranty: 1 year

4. Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Camping Cooler

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Camping Cooler
929 Reviews
Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Camping Cooler
  • Deep Freeze high performance insulation with radiant heat...
  • Patented, "flip open" Zipperless lid allows for quick access...
  • Features an Ultra Safe leak proof, easy clean interior...

For those who like to travel fast and light, coolers don’t come much—if any—better than the Arctic Zone Zipperless Cooler.

This one wins our award for the best small camping cooler because of not only its lightweight and manageable size, but also a wealth of other very lovable features. First up, this cooler is superbly versatile and convenient.

In addition to a walled storage compartment with a removable and adjustable shelf, it comes with a contoured shoulder strap to facilitate carrying, an external pocket for stashing accessories such as cutlery, phones, or keys, and a flip-open design that allows for quick, simple access to your goodies.

In terms of chilling capacity, it performs none too shabbily, either. While you wouldn’t bring this cooler on a multi-day trip in the backcountry, its DeepFreeze insulation, radiant heat barrier, and triple-layer Cold Blockbase all guarantee that your belongings will stay cold for the entire trip.

Compared to the hard-walled coolers in our review, the Arctic Zone Zipperless Cooler obviously lacks a lot of trail-ready toughness and long-term insulating capacity, but for solo, one-night trips, it’s just about ideal and is truly hard to beat in terms of value for money.

If mobility is a big issue, this cooler is a winner all day long thanks to its robust carry handles and incredibly user-friendly “Backsaver” shoulder strap.

That said, before buying, be sure to consider whether you’ll need the added ruggedness and insulation of a hard-case model.

Pros

  • Nicely priced
  • Very portable
  • Available in various sizes
  • Easy to clean
  • FDA-grade materials

Cons

  • 3-day chill time is overstated; 1 day is more realistic.
  • Hard lines can crack if not handled with care.

Product Information

  • Dimensions: Varies
  • Material: UltraSafe Microban liner; Rhino-Tech, food-grade water and stain-resistant exterior
  • Can capacity: 9-48 cans
  • Warranty: Lifetime

5. Coleman Xtreme Portable Camping Cooler

Coleman Xtreme Portable Camping Cooler
11,607 Reviews
Coleman Xtreme Portable Camping Cooler
  • Xtreme Technology; Insulated lid and extra wall insulation...
  • High Capacity: Holds Up to 100 Cans
  • HAVE-A-SEAT LID: Closed lid supports up to 250 lb.

Beer costs enough without having to pay a lot of extra just to keep it cool when out on your camping adventures, right?

But how is that coolness achieved without breaking (or robbing!) the bank, when almost every efficient and effective model of camping cooler on the market costs a small fortune?

This neat, tidy, hugely practical little cooler does pretty much everything you could ask a cooler to do, and, most impressively, does it all at a fraction of the price of some of its closest competitors, performance-wise.

Already sold? If not, the rest of the specs might just do the trick. For our money, the most notable of this cooler’s winning specs and features is its storage potential. With a capacity of (up to) 100 cans, this isn’t so much a camping cooler as a portable fridge-freezer.

As a result, for longer trips or adventures with the whole family, this one is just about ideal, and in terms of per-dollar storage, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option even if you seriously downgrade your performance expectations.

With regard to performance, however, the Coleman Xtreme Series Portable Cooler doesn’t quite live up to the billing of a “5-day cooler” stipulated by the manufacturers.

In reality, the chill duration is more in the region of 2–3 days if you pack carefully. Nevertheless, a 2/3-day chill for around the same price as a 24-pack of budget beer isn’t bad, right?

If you’re considering this option, keep in mind that it will require two carriers when fully loaded—unless, that is, you’re the type of person who prefers to earn your goodies with a bit of a workout before enjoying them.

Pros

  • Nicely priced
  • Huge capacity
  • Practical drainage
  • You can sit on it!

Cons

  • Bulky dimension
  • When it’s fully loaded, it’s very heavy.
  • Chill time is closer to 2 days (not 5 as claimed by Coleman).

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 28.4” x 15.8” x 17.5”
  • Material: Polypropylene
  • Can capacity: up to 100
  • Warranty: 1 year

Things to Consider Before Buying

large camping cooler

The composition of a great camping cooler is far more complicated than many first-time prospective buyers may expect.

A number of factors go into making the best models in every category:

1. Size

Camping coolers come in a wide variety of sizes. To estimate the suitability of different cooler sizes for different group sizes and trip durations, the following provides a rough guide:

  • 25 quarts and under are ideal for smaller groups, day trips, and single overnighters.
  • 30-50 quarts: Provide enough storage to accommodate a solo camper for a three- or four-night trip, a couple for a weekend trip, or a larger group for a single overnighter or day trip.
  • 50-75 quarts are ideal for longer trips with the whole family and extended 5- to 10-day backcountry trips (rafting, hunting, camping) with smaller groups.

It’s important to note that carrying a larger cooler will be more difficult. While your cooler may seem perfectly portable when empty, once you’ve filled it up with ice and all your goodies, you might be looking at a 50-pound burden that will be fairly unwieldy if carrying it long distances.

The external dimensions of your cooler are another consideration with regard to size. Before buying, ask yourself a few questions to help you determine whether or not the cooler in question will be suitable for your needs:

Is this cooler going to fit on my raft, boat, or tent porch? Is it likely that I will camp in any national parks where bear boxes are required?

And, if so, will this cooler fit inside the boxes at the national park I’m heading to? Is this cooler going to take up too much space in my vehicle?

2. Insulation

Your camping cooler’s insulation is like your car’s engine—essential if you want it to work. When choosing a cooler, one of the most important considerations is how long you need to keep your goods chilled.

Most budget models are capable of keeping your goodies cold for at least a day if well packed and stored correctly, and some top-of-the-range refrigerators can keep their contents cool for as long as ten days with some very careful storage.

The bottom line with regard to insulation is this: the longer your trip, the better insulation you will need. The better the insulation on the cooler, the more money you’re going to have to part with to get your hands on it.

However, we recommend high-end insulation for longer trips, trips in high temperatures, and hunting and fishing outings where you plan to store your kills in the cooler.

Naturally, the body temperature of the fish or game you’ll be storing will be much higher than the interior of the cooler, which will quickly melt ice in more basic models.

Finally, if you plan on carrying frozen or refrigerated foodstuffs on your trip, most budget models of coolers won’t keep either frozen or fresh for very long.

Of course, the biggest downside to high-end outdoor coolers is the cost, but one potentially mitigating factor to this initial outlay is the fact that the superior insulation in such models could save you a small fortune on ice.

Because better insulation keeps things cooler for longer, you won’t need to replenish your reserves of frozen stuff quite so often.

3. Portability

medium camping cooler

If you’re car camping or pitching your tent not too far from the roadside, then portability isn’t a big issue when buying your cooler.

However, the size, weight, and ease of carrying your cooler are all important if you envision a longish trek or plan to take it on a few trips down the river, fishing, hunting, or on any other adventures far from the car.

In short, there’s a direct trade-off between storage capacity, insulation, and portability. Smaller coolers may have a smaller capacity, but they are much easier to transport from one place to another.

While heavily insulated coolers may maintain your goods’ temperature for a longer period of time, they typically weigh at least a few pounds more than less well-insulated models with a similar capacity.

As such, striking a balance between your storage needs and portability is often the key to getting your hands on the cooler that’s right for you.

If you need the storage that a model in the 70-quart range offers, we strongly advise you to choose a wheeled model with two sets of handles—unless you have a personal Sherpa or friendly weightlifter nearby who will do the carrying for you!

Having said that, consider the type of terrain you’ll be hauling the cooler over when selecting a wheeled model—while those wheels will be invaluable on flat, even surfaces, they will be nearly useless on rougher trails.

4. Seal

The seal or latch on your cooler might seem of secondary importance to other features, but only if you’ve never previously wrangled with an ill-fitting seal or latch or one that has refused to close fully, thereby leaving your ice to melt and your goods to slowly warm up inside.

Most cheaper models of coolers rely on an internal seal that works much like the door of your fridge, sealing shut by way of suction and, in some cases, a small latch that clicks into place when closing.

While this design is okay if you envision lazing around the campsite with your cooler safely stationed on the floor or in your vehicle, if you’re taking it with you on any hunting, hiking, or river adventures, then external, clip-over latches are a huge plus.

These external latches may slightly reduce accessibility, but if you plan to subject your cooler to some rough handling, they guarantee that all your belongings remain securely within the cooler.

5. Ease of Use

A number of factors contribute to a cooler’s ease of use.

In addition to the portability, size, and weight considerations mentioned above, it’s a good idea to take a good look at how it measures up in terms of care, maintenance, and—in particular—drainage before committing to a purchase.

Other less crucial but nonetheless significant factors to consider are the compartmentalization of the storage and any handy add-ons that simplify finding your food when needed, such as shelves, partitions, or dividers.

6. Drainage

Making a cooler user-friendly requires a simple yet effective drainage system.

This not only simplifies cleaning, but it also helps to keep your cooler in good shape over time and facilitates emptying out all of that melted ice you’ve packed in to aid cooling.

Some budget models of coolers don’t feature any built-in drainage systems. While this isn’t a dealbreaker in and of itself, it does mean that you’ll have to entirely empty the cooler’s contents before draining out excess meltwater.

The drainage setups that allow you to get around this small but irksome logistical inconvenience typically use a screw-in gasket and drain plug or a simple faucet.

Ideally, these should be located low enough to allow you to drain water without losing ice or putting in too much manual effort to tip the cooler.

A few features that can simplify the drainage process are lanyards attached to the gasket plug and garden hose compatibility.

The former will ensure you don’t lose your plug (which is also easy to do, particularly if the cooler’s contents happen to be beer!). In the latter case, you can empty the meltwater without the need to shift the cooler or risk soaking your vehicle, gear, or tent.

FAQs

using a camping cooler

What should I put in a camping cooler?

You can store and cool almost anything in camping coolers, not just beer! The main point to note here is that it’s vital to store different items in leak-proof containers, and to keep raw meat and fish separate from drinks and other foods.

How can I keep food cold in a cooler when camping?

Try to fill all the unused space inside your box with ice. Start off with a layer on the bottom of the cooler, fill any gaps between items as you pack them in, and then add a further layer of ice on top of the goods before closing the lid. Naturally, your food and drinks will stay cold for longer if frozen or refrigerated before placing them in the cooler.

How can I use dry ice in a cooler for camping?

Dry ice is twice as effective at cooling your goods compared to regular ice. To prevent freezer burns, always wear gloves when handling dry ice. It’s also crucial to store your cooler in a well-ventilated space, especially when disposing of the meltwater. Additionally, be cautious with bottled liquids in the cooler, as the dry ice can cause them to explode if left inside for extended periods.

How do you keep your cooler cold while camping?

To ensure your cooler stays as cool as possible, it’s advisable to position it in the shade. Instead of a bulky, heavy fabric blanket, opt for a reflective one for better insulation. In cases of extreme heat, dampening the blanket before draping it over the cooler can further enhance its cooling efficiency.

How should I pack a cooler for camping?

Start by preparing your food at home. Use leak-proof containers for storage to maintain cleanliness and resealability. For optimal cooling, especially on longer trips, freeze what you can and refrigerate the rest. To keep your cooler’s temperature low, transfer it to your car at the last possible moment.

Wrap-Up

Keeping your food cool, fresh, edible, and drinkable in the backcountry requires a bit of effort.

Most of us who’ve spent a week chewing on squished granola bars or drinking lukewarm beer, however, will all agree that it’s an effort well worth making.

But that effort doesn’t merely entail carrying a cooler full of ice with you on your trips. With the right cooler, you don’t have to limit yourself to jerky and granola bars.