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Best Cooler for Camping

Taking a cooler along on your camping trip can save time and money.
Taking a cooler along on your camping trip can save time and money.

When you go camping it is absolutely essential that you take a cooler with you – how else are you going to keep your food fresh? But any old cooler won’t always do.

My current GO-TO: the Pelican 50-Quart Elite Cooler at Amazon.

If you are going to be camping for any more than a couple of days, then you will want to make sure that you get a cooler that can keep food at its freshest for the longest time possible. In some cases, you’ll need it to be strong enough to keep animals with sharp claws and teeth out of it.

When looking for a cooler, you should make sure that it is durable, has an excellent seal, and can withstand the beating that it will undoubtedly take when you go camping.

There are two deciding factors to consider: where you will use the cooler, and for how long. While it’s true that there should be many other things that go into picking a cooler, your choice will be a lot easier when you address these two.

Make sure you know how to pack your cooler with dry ice too.

Based on these factors, we’ve come up with ten recommendations for the best camping coolers. Whether you are going on an overnight trip or a week-long expedition, we got everything covered for you. We’ll look at which ones are best for which situations so we can help you decide which one is best for you.

Best Cooler for CampingCapacityOur Favorite Features
1. Driftsun Ice Chest 20 quartsdurable and strong rotomolded construction and thick insulation
2. Pelican Elite Cooler 50 quarts10-day ice retention and tough, strong handles
3. Yeti Tundra Cooler 35 quartsbear resistant and comes in a number of colors
4. RovR Wheeled Camping Rolling Cooler with Wheels 60 quartsheavy-duty rubber tires go over almost any terrain and 10-day ice retention
5. Igloo Trailmate Journey 70 quartslarge all-terrain, no-flat wheels and comparatively lower price than other similar coolers
6. Plano Bear-Resistant Camping Cooler 21 quartsbear-proof and lightweight
7. Orca Hard Sided Classic Cooler 58 quartsunbeatable ice retention and lifetime warranty on bearproof cooler
8. Grizzly Cooler 20 quartsbear-resistant cooler has eco-friendly foam insulation and rotomolded constrution
9. Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler 70 quartssturdy cooler can be used as an extra seat and is comparatively reasonably priced
10. RTIC Hard Cooler 65 quarts3-inch commercial-grade insulated walls and sturdy enough to stand on as platform

What Should I Look For in a Cooler for Camping?

Knowing beforehand what to look for in a camping cooler will make your buying experience much less daunting. Here are the factors that you should consider to filter your search for the perfect cooler for you and your family.

Insulation and Construction

The best cooler for camping should have at least 2-inch thick walls of commercial-grade insulation. Thick insulation means you lose as little cold air in the cooler as possible. Together with the cooler’s lid and gasket, insulation is responsible for keeping your ice frozen and your food and beverages cold.

After you make sure your cooler has enough insulation, you need to check out the construction of the cooler. Rotomolded construction makes for a very tough cooler structure, something that is essential for a cooler that you need to be able to depend upon out in the wild.

Most hard coolers are traditionally assembled with multiple pieces that have to be attached using glue, heat, or other methods. This results in weak connection points. These points are usually where you’ll see many of these coolers break first.

With rotomolded construction, a cooler is molded at high temperatures in one entire piece. The whole cooler is made with a continuous thick wall with no imperfections so that there are no weak connection points.

Rotomolded coolers can handle almost any abuse. They are made to last a lifetime and are usually the best coolers you can find in the market. We highly recommend that any cooler purchased for camping be rotomolded.

Size and Capacity

Another piece of advice: choose the size of your cooler depending on how much you will generally need to store and how long you will need the cooler to cool food and drinks. A small cooler would be fine for a day trip, but for longer journeys than that, you’ll need something bigger.

Getting a cooler that’s the correct size for your and your family’s camping needs is important, since ice-retention and how long your stored food will remain cold depend upon it. Tightly packed coolers keep food cold longer.

If your cooler is bigger than necessary, there will be too much open space inside that will cause the ice to melt more quickly. One solution is that you can fill the excess space with more ice, but you’ll also have to deal with all that extra weight when you have to haul your cooler around. That brings us to the next characteristic you should keep in mind when purchasing a cooler for camping: mobility.

Mobility

large white cooler next to green kayak on side of river
Size and mobility are important considerations when you’re buying a cooler for camping.

When you travel to a camping site that’s off the beaten track, you’ll have to carry your cooler yourself. Your large, heavy-duty cooler–filled with at least a couple days’ worth of ice, food, and drinks–will probably weigh at least one hundred pounds. You may also have to carry it over rugged and elevated terrain.

Are these enough reasons for you to get a mobile cooler? Many of the higher-end coolers come with various ways of making their transportation easier. They usually have rope handles or flexible side handles with rubber grips to make it easier for one or two people to carry the cooler. These are made of the best materials that won’t break from the immense weight of the coolers.

Some campers prefer having a wheeled cooler, since they’re so convenient on camping trips that require long hikes to get to the campsite. Another benefit of a wheeled cooler is that you have your hands (or at least one of them) free to carry other supplies.

If you want a wheeled cooler for your camping trips, be sure to choose one that has heavy-duty wheels that can go over different types of terrain. The wheels must be on the larger side and must be easily maneuverable.

Ice Retention

Ice retention is hard to measure, since it can be subjective. That said, you’ll probably have to rely upon the manufacturers’ claims. You’ll need to consider a few different factors when choosing your new cooler, particularly the rough and tumble conditions that the cooler is subjected to while you’re camping.

Check on the key features that impact the ice retention of the cooler. First, the cooler must have a rotomolded construction. Coolers built this way have better insulation capabilities.

You also need to examine the cooler’s gasket, which forms the seal between the base and the lid, as it’s also key for long ice retention. The best ones are made of very thick rubber that is similar to the ones used for refrigerators and freezers.

Drains

When buying a cooler, people rarely think to check its drain. But this is important.

The drain is usually found on one side near the bottom of the cooler. It helps drain melted ice from the cooler quickly and conveniently. It also lets out the soap and water you use when you wash out the inside of your cooler.

Look for a cooler that has a recessed drain inside the cooler. You don’t want to have to pick the cooler up and turn it upside down to get the last of any residual water out of it. Any dampness left in a closed, stored cooler will lead to mildew and mold.

Also, if the drain or drain plug is compromised, this may cause a water leak: trouble for the cooler’s insulation. If this happens, cold water will leak out at the same time that warm air seeps in.

It will also create a big mess around the cooler when it’s leaking water. To avoid any of this, you must make sure that the drain of your cooler is in good condition and that its plug fits snugly.

Bear Resistance

black bear peeking around tree
Your camping cooler needs to be bear resistant to keep you, your fellow campers, and the bears themselves safe.

If you plan to go camping in the wild, you need your cooler to be certified bear resistant. You never know when you will encounter bears that are very, very interested in getting at what’s inside your cooler.

A bear resistant cooler should have a rotomolded construction. Coolers with this construction are virtually indestructible. You should also be able to lock your cooler’s lid with padlocks. Coolers are only truly bear proof when they can be locked on each side of the lid.

Although we want to protect our food and ourselves, few people realize that a bear may be putting itself in danger, too, if it eats what it finds inside a camper’s unsecured cooler. Some of our favorite foods can possibly harm or even kill bears.

An unsecured cooler that attracts wildlife can also be a safety hazard to other campers. That is why the best bear-resistant coolers are certified as such by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC).

The IGBC is an organization that works to preserve the grizzly bear population. Certified bear resistant coolers have gone through rigorous tests to ensure that they can keep food and drinks safe inside. It also protects bears from possible harm as a result.

Extras

Camping coolers used to be simple, but with the introduction of many new cooler brands, manufacturers have added, and keep on adding, more features to make their coolers stand out from the rest.

While they are not absolute necessities, these new features can add the convenience of home on your camping trips. Examples of these are built-in bottle openers, molded tie-downs, rope handles, fish scalers, wire baskets, and cutting boards. There’s really no end to the extras that they can add.

We suggest that you make a checklist of the extra things you want in your cooler before you commit to buying. Get the cooler that has all the bells and whistles you want–you’ll have this for years and years.


The Ten Best Coolers for Camping

Driftsun 20-Quart Ice Chest

Driftsun 20-Quart Ice Chest, Heavy Duty, High Performance Roto-Molded Commercial Grade Insulated Cooler, Tan

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This is a commercial grade cooler with tremendous insulation ability. As the name would suggest, it has a holding capacity of 20 quarts, and it can keep your ice frozen for multiple days. The three-inch insulation core, the freezer style gasket, and the cold seal latches all make sure that you have maximum temperature retention.

Like all Driftsun coolers, this one is built using rotomolded construction. It also has a “no sweat” exterior design that prevents condensation to allow its contents to stay fresh and cool longer.

Another outstanding feature is its Thermal Lock Style Gasket. Together with its three-inch commercial-grade insulation, heat is prevented from finding its way into the cooler, and cold air remains sealed inside for longer ice retention.

The cooler has molded tie-down slots so that you can secure the cooler to your car or boat during a trip. Another cool feature is the non-slip feet that guarantee your cooler stays where you left it, even on soft and slippery surfaces.

The Driftsun cooler features non-slip rubber feet to keep it stable on all surfaces, a comfort grip handle, pressure release valves, a recessed no-leak drain plug, and two bottle openers–all in an extremely lightweight design.

Besides having good tier insulation power, it is also extremely tough and can handle almost anything you throw at it. But if it does happen to break, there is a 1 year manufacturer warranty on the cooler. As long as you don’t abuse it, the product will be replaced for you free of charge.

The only thing that could make this cooler better is if they were to redesign the latches. The rubber of the latch mechanism may be a weak point in an otherwise extremely durable product.

Should You Get This Cooler?

One excellent feature of this cooler is its ice retention capacity. It has an amazing ability to keep the contents inside cool for a long time. The rotomolded body allows items you put in to stay cool for a long time.

It is very durable but also relatively easy to carry. If I were to name a downside of the Driftsun, it would be its storage capacity. Twenty quarts is not terribly small, but you won’t be able to fit nearly as much into it as you would with some other coolers on the market today. It will work nicely for your short weekend getaways, brief road trips, or a day on the beach.

This cooler offers premium features at a more affordable price for its size.

PROS:

  • Rotomolded construction
  • Gasket prevents air exchange
  • Three-inch insulation
  • Molded tie-down slots

CONS:

  • Latches could be made stronger
  • Capacity is lower than other coolers

Pelican 50 Quart Elite Cooler

Pelican 50 Quart Elite Cooler (Orange/Tan)

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Pelican is one of my favorite companies when it comes to building containers. They are very durable (some of the most heavy-duty cases I have ever seen), they’re sturdy in design, and they always look amazing.

This one is no different from any other Pelican container that’s on the market. In fact, being that it’s also a cooler, this may be the absolute best product they make. This cooler belongs to the new Pelican Elite cooler line that is up to 30% lighter than the older Pelicans without sacrificing durability and performance.

The Pelican elite has an internal capacity of an incredible 50 quarts, which is more than enough room to carry almost anything you want to bring on your camping trip.

It has 2 inches of polyurethane insulation and a 360-degree gasket that is freezer grade. This can keep your food and drinks fresh and cool for several days and is capable of keeping ice frozen for up to 10 days.

This model also features a leak-proof drain plug, reinforced lockable hasp, 3-inch locking latches, four self-draining cup holders, a stainless steel bottle opener, molded handles with tie-downs, and an anti-shear hinge system. The lid is durable enough to serve as a makeshift cutting board. Finally, the Pelican has a one-of-a-kind press-and-pull latch system that is unique to their coolers. Its built-in handles are considered among the toughest handles in the industry.

One reason I love Pelican is that it is a company that manufactures its products right here in the United States, meaning if you have any issues with it, they are going to be able to get you a replacement quickly.

Pelican also has a lifetime warranty on all of their products, and if it breaks, they will replace it for free.

Should You Get This Cooler?

I love Pelican cases. I use them for almost all of my fun toys when I am transporting them, and I think their coolers are absolutely incredible. The company is famous for its products being the best possible quality and for being quick to replace any product that fails to live up to that quality.

This Pelican Elite wheeled cooler is excellent in terms of everything you look for in a cooler: it’s extremely tough, has lots of great features, holds ice very well, and certainly looks great–it comes in no fewer than ten color combinations.

However, this model is well into the premium price range. You will be able to enjoy its many premium qualities and excellent ice retention, but only if you are prepared to pay more.

A final note: some other coolers can keep your food cold for even longer than this one, so if you are looking for something to keep food and drinks cool a bit longer than two weeks, then this may not be for you.

PROS:

  • Press-and-pull latches unique to Pelican coolers
  • Handles are the toughest in the industry
  • Stainless steel hardware
  • 10-day ice retention

CONS:

  • Price well into the premium price range

Yeti Tundra 35 Cooler

YETI Tundra 35 Cooler, Chartreuse

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Yeti is the go-to company when you need to keep your food and drinks ice cold. They’ve been around for only a few years, but in that time have established themselves as the greatest cooler company on the market.

The Tundra 35 Cooler offers you 35 quarts of internal storage space and only weighs 20 pounds when it is empty. It holds 20 cans with a 2 to 1 ice to content ratio.

The Tundra features a “T Rex” lid latches made with heavy duty rubber, so they will not break easily. It has 3 inches of PermaFrost insulation and an extra thick design that is actually bear resistant (great if you’re camping in areas occupied by bears).

Rotomolded construction means that your Yeti Tundra is as close to indestructible as you can get.

Should You Get This Cooler?

Yeti is easily one of the best cooler companies out there today. They stand by their name and back all of their products.

The Tundra 35 has insane insulation capabilities and can keep everything fresh for more than 2 weeks. If you are going on very long trips, then you should consider getting a Yeti cooler.

However, because they are so popular and held in such high regard, you can expect to pay a handsome price for this cooler.

PROS:

  • Very durable
  • Bear resistant
  • 3-inch insulation
  • Perfect size for weekend camping

CONS:

  • Heavy for its size
  • Not great for those on a budget

Do you want a matching tumbler to keep your drinks cold? Find the best ones in my guide.


RovR Wheeled Camping Rolling Cooler with Wheels (60 qt.)

RovR Wheeled Camping Rolling Cooler with Wheels (60 qt.) (Desert)

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The RovR cooler is equipped with heavy-duty 9-inch rubber wheels that can move on different terrains due to their aluminum hubs, interchangeable tubes, and sealed bearings that you can repair or replace as needed.

The refrigerator-style gasket on the lid ensures that no warm air can go in and cool air can’t go out, as long as the lid is properly shut. This results in 10 days of ice retentions, which is great by any standards.

This cooler comes with a removable dry bin that you place in its coldest part. It even has individual compartments for easy organization of your foods and beverages. It also has a removable wagon bin that can be attached to the top of the cooler that will drastically increase your storage capacity.

Should You Get This Cooler?

The thing that impresses me about this model the most are its rubber tires. True, other coolers also have wheels–but they’re not nearly as sturdy and advanced as the ones on the RovR Rollr. Not even close!

Any outdoor enthusiast will appreciate this cooler’s high-quality design and features. You won’t be seeing any cheap plastic material on this cooler. It’s all bear-resistant material: aluminum, or heavy-duty rubber.

PROS:

  • Heavy-duty rubber tires
  • 10-day ice retention
  • Refrigerator-style gasket
  • Removable dry and wagon bins for added storage capacity

CONS:

  • Can be considered pricey, as premium coolers go

Igloo Trailmate Journey

Igloo Trailmate Journey 70 Qt Cooler , Charcoal/Acid Green/Chrome

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This cooler has the largest wheels you might have ever seen on a cooler. The best thing about these wheels is that they are never-flats and their aggressive tread allows great traction in dirt, sand, and grass surfaces–perfect for taking it camping.

There’s already a lot of storage space inside–this Igloo has a 70 quart capacity!–but the cooler also comes with a special dry storage bin for any personal items you want to keep secure and dry, like wallets and electronic gadgets.

There is another large storage pocket right below the dry storage bin where you can place other items, as well. For items you want chilled but dry, there is also a food basket that hangs in the chilled section of the cooler.

The Trailmate Journey keeps ice for up to four days. Compared to other coolers with rotomolded construction, this is not that impressive. For some casual campers, however, that’s plenty sufficient if they only use the cooler over long weekends.

Should You Get This Cooler?

The Igloo Trailmate has some of the most impressive features you can find in camping coolers. It lives up to the all-in-one cooler package it claims to be.

A common complaint with large coolers is their lack of mobility. This cooler has found a way to solve this issue, and even added a lot of other cool features with it (need a butler tray, anyone?).

And, despite all of its additional features, you will find the Trailmate more affordable than other similarly-sized premium coolers with rotomolded construction.

So, if you need a cooler that is mobile for a quick weekend trip or simply to use for entertaining on your patio, this cooler should be on your list of potential coolers.

PROS:

  • Big never-flat wheels with great traction
  • Rotomolded construction
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Affordable

CONS:

  • Short ice retention

Plano Bear-Resistant 21-Quart Camping Cooler

Plano Frost Cooler 21-Quart Capacity | Heavy-Duty Insulated Cooler Keeps Ice Up to 5 Days | for Tailgating, Camping and Outdoor Activities

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Most IGBC-certified coolers are just way too big to bring along if you decide to head out for a short camping trip in bear country. The Plano Bear- Resistant Arctic Cooler, weighing in at a mere 16.4 pounds, may be the answer to this dilemma.

It features an easy and secure latching system that creates an airtight seal. You’ll also appreciate its stainless handle with a soft pad designed for convenience and comfort while you transport the cooler.

There are extra features included, too, like a built-in bottle opener, a fish ruler, and two cup holders. You’ll also like the cooler’s rubberized feet that ensure that it won’t slide away easily in elevated terrains.

I find the cooler’s insulation not quite as good as those of other brands. It didn’t live up to its 3 days or more ice retention claim. But this won’t be an issue if you’re on a one-man trip for the weekend.

Should You Get This Cooler?

If you’re the weekend warrior type of camper, you’ll definitely be happy with this. Its size is perfect for one person to handle when it’s full.

The ice retention is nothing to crow about, but it will keep your food cold and hold the ice you need for a weekend’s worth of use. That said, it more than makes up for this weakness with its other features.

I like that it is very portable. It can be easily placed in your car’s trunk and fastened to boats or ATVs with cable locks. Also, its rotomolded construction makes it suitable to be taken anywhere, since it can withstand the rigors of almost any camping trip.

PROS:

  • Lightweight for a bear proof cooler
  • Latching system creates an airtight seal
  • Rubberized feet
  • Rotomolded construction

CONS:

  • Less than three days of ice retention

Orca Hard Sided Classic Cooler White 58 Quart

Orca Hard Sided Classic Cooler White 58 Quart

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The Orca 58 can beat any competition when it comes to ice retention. Depending on external conditions, it can go 10 full days before it completely runs out of ice.

Like all Orca coolers, this model is certified to be bear-proof and virtually indestructible. Some of its more notable features include a rubber sealing gasket, integrated hinges, thick rubber latches, and built-in tie-downs.

The exterior organizer pocket is good additional storage for storing small items like keys or bottle openers. I also like its netted pocket on the back of the cooler that more than makes up for its lack of a dry storage basket.

The cooler might be larger, and therefore heavier, than others of its kind. However, you can carry it easily alone or with a friend, thanks to its extendable flex-grip handles.

Should You Get This Cooler?

This is an excellent heavy-duty capacity cooler for anyone willing to spend the money to invest in it. This Orca cooler is a true 58-quart cooler and it is just as big as advertised. It provides more than enough space for a week-long camping trip.

It’s a top performer in insulation, too. Made with rotomolded construction, it’s more durable and sturdier than the average cooler. In addition, it is one of the six models from Orca that is dry ice compatible.

To top it all off, the manufacturer backs it up with a lifetime warranty. What more can you ask for?

PROS:

  • Unbeatable ice retention
  • Bear-proof
  • Netted pocket at the back for dry storage
  • Lifetime warranty

CONS:

  • Heavier than others of its class

Grizzly 20 Cooler, G20, 20 QT

Grizzly 20 Cooler, Teal, G20, 20 QT

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As its name suggests, the Grizzly rotomolded cooler is bear-resistant. It has a IGBC certification to back this up. It also comes with two lock holes to keep the cooler secured and its contents safe.

The Grizzly cooler has the awesome patented Bearclaw Latch and Grip/Slick Feet that helps it stay in place easily without sliding on wet ground or hilly terrain.

The lid is sealed with a rubber gasket to keep cold air trapped in the cooler. This extends the life of the ice inside. The cooler walls are also injected with up to two inches of eco-friendly foam for optimal cooling, and this unique insulation is not harmful to the environment.

I noticed, though, that this cooler is a bit heavier than the typical cooler. However, this is due to the rotomolded construction that makes it a standout for camping trips.

Should You Get This Cooler?

If you’re looking for a 20-quart capacity cooler and the brand name doesn’t make a difference, this may be for you. It’s also relatively cheaper than other 20-quart coolers.

I like that it is rotomolded with environmentally friendly insulation. And, although it’s heavy, the cooler’s stainless steel handles are molded with a foam grid which makes transport easy.

Lastly, the cooler comes with a lifetime warranty, even with its reasonable price.

PROS:

  • Bear-resistant
  • Rubber gasket keeps cold air trapped
  • Eco-friendly foam insulation
  • Rotomolded construction

CONS:

  • A bit heavy for its size

Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler, 70 Quart

Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler | 70 Quart Day Cooler | Hard Cooler Keeps Ice Up to 5 Days, Black

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This model belongs to the Coleman Xtreme Coolers line that has thicker insulated walls than other models from the brand. Unlike other Coleman coolers, the lid is insulated, as well as the walls. Both of these features play a huge role in extending the Coleman’s ice retention ability.

This cooler includes the Coleman Have-A-Seat Support Lid. It makes a great makeshift seat when you need an extra seat around the campfire. It can hold up to 250 pounds.

This 70-quart capacity cooler has side-mounted comfort-grip handles that can rotate to almost 180 degrees. This provides you with a good angle to grab onto when carrying the cooler. It also makes it easier for two people to share the load.

This model comes with robust plastic wheels with semi-aggressive grooves that provide good traction. However, don’t expect them to give you the insane grip and traction of the more expensive brands. They’re a good compromise for those of us on a budget, though.

Should You Get This Cooler?

Overall, I find this cooler very reasonably priced, helping me overlook its minor shortcomings. Granted, this model does cost more than the standard Coleman chest coolers, but it’s well worth it considering you can enjoy significantly longer ice retention.

Overall, this Coleman is an affordable starter cooler for someone needing to use it for short weekend trips. It performs pretty well for its price.

PROS:

  • Can be made into a makeshift seat
  • Side handles with comfort grip
  • Reasonably priced
  • With robust plastic wheels

CONS:

  • Wheels do not have the same traction as other coolers

RTIC Hard Cooler

RTIC Ice Chest Hard Cooler, Heavy Duty Rubber Latches, 3 Inch Insulated Walls, 65 Quart View on Amazon

This cooler’s 3 inches of commercial-grade insulated walls and freezer-grade gasket are among its most notable features. They allow the RTIC to function as a portable freezer.

This model’s T latches stay in place, making it easier for you to grasp when opening the cooler. They are made from durable silicone, so will never corrode over years of heavy use.

Its non-slip surface makes it possible for you to stand on the cooler in case you need it as a platform while camping, as well.

Wheels would have made this already excellent cooler perfect. It weighs 36.5 pounds empty, so added mobility would be very welcome. However, the cooler can still be picked up and carried by one person, but having two persons carry it will make transporting it much easier and more comfortable.

Should You Get This Cooler?

The RTIC 65 will be a standout anywhere you bring it. But what really makes it one of the best coolers is its great insulation that can compete with any premium cooler. If you’re going on a long trip, you will appreciate this cooler’s thick insulated walls that retain ice longer.

This cooler is built so solidly that it’s almost resistant to damage. It has no-fail hinges, a no-sweat exterior, a cool lift design, and molded side handles and tie-downs.

PROS:

  • 3-inches commercial grade insulated walls
  • Freezer-grade gasket
  • Latches will not corrode
  • Can be used as a platform to stand on

CONS:

  • Does not come with wheels

Wrap-Up

Whether for a week-long camping trip or just keeping drinks cold at a backyard barbecue, coolers have become indispensable outdoor equipment.

Coolers might be easy to find in stores, but there are so many designs, sizes, prices, and varieties to choose from that it makes selecting one for purchase an almost impossible task. Knowing what to look for in a camping cooler before you go shopping for it makes the whole endeavor already half-won.

Spending the time to pick the right camping cooler that fits your needs and specifications will definitely be worthwhile. The best cooler for you will, and should, last a lifetime.

Finding the best cooler for your camping trip is an important task. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of nowhere and find that your cooler wasn’t able to keep your food cold.

The cooler on this list with the best insulating properties is definitely the Yeti cooler. But the Pelican comes in at a very close second, and in my estimation is the most durable cooler on this list.

The Pelican Elite gets my vote for the best cooler.

Heading to the beach instead? Read up on the best coolers with wheels for the beach.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which cooler keeps ice the longest?

Orca coolers can outperform all other cooler brands including Yeti, which has been the gold standard for coolers. They will likely hold ice a full 2 days longer than Yeti coolers.

Orca coolers can keep ice for more than 7 days in warm climates and even longer in colder ones. The longer ice life may be due to the extra insulation of Orca coolers.

Yeti coolers have 2-inch thick walls and a 3-inch lid but Orca provided for 3-inch thick walls to go with its 3-inch thick lid. The extra inch of thickness all around the cooler is likely the reason for the longer ice life.

What is the best cooler to take camping?

The Yeti Tundra is a bit pricey but it is our top pick for the best cooler to take camping especially if you go regularly. Yeti coolers are noted for their superior insulation and unsurpassed durability.

The rotomolded construction means they are practically indestructible and will last you a lifetime. It is even certified as bear-resistant. The cooler has some cool features like no-slip feet, flexible rubber latches, freezer-style rubber sealing gasket, built-in tie-down points, and many more.

It also cannot be denied that the Yeti brand has become somewhat of a status symbol in outdoor activities. It is also the standard that other brands go by. The coolers are not only the best in terms of performance but also aesthetics.

How do I choose a cooler for camping?

You have to choose according to your camping needs. If you are only going for a day-trip, almost any model will work for you, even the not so expensive ones.

More than a day of camping would mean a bigger cooler with more features such as wheels and long ice retention, for example. It should also be durable for it to be able to withstand any road and weather conditions.

The more expensive coolers for camping are now made of polyethylene. This material plus a rotomolded construction can make a cooler practically indestructible.

You also have to check on the screws, hinges, and latches. They have to be made from stainless steel to survive repeated opening/closing and the heavy loads put in the cooler.

Lastly, look at the accessories that come with the cooler. They are there to make your camping easier and stress-free. Built-in items in the cooler mean you don’t have to purchase them separately.

What cooler is comparable to a Yeti?

RTIC coolers are very similar to Yeti coolers. This may be intentional because since it started in 2014, the company positioned itself as a direct competitor of Yeti.

It seems that they tried to match their products feature to feature with Yeti but can sell them for half the price. Another thing that RTIC has over the other brand is that it has a bigger storage size so, you can put more ice in it. This results in longer ice life for the cooler.

How do I choose a cooler?

Choosing a cooler can be daunting the first time you do it. You will be looking at what seems like an unlimited number of shapes, sizes, and brands. You might end up selecting one that might not meet your needs.

Knowing what you need a cooler for is very important. What you need for an overnight trip would be far different from what a week-long trip would require.

For instance, how much ice do you need, and how long do you need for it to hold? You certainly will not need a heavy-duty cooler with ice retention of 7 days for your backyard barbecues!

Other important factors that you need to consider in choosing a cooler are insulation and construction, size and capacity, mobility, ice retention, drains, bear resistance, and extra accessories.

What size cooler should I buy?

When buying a cooler for the first time, you might be tempted to buy a large cooler. Unfortunately, it might be too late to see the impracticality of your choice.

You wouldn’t want to be weighed down by a 100-quart cooler on an overnight camping trip. You will be better off bringing an efficient 25-quart one instead. On the other hand, an extended camping trip off the beaten tracks would require at least a 100-quart ice chest.

Remember, the less empty air space inside your cooler, the longer it can hold ice.

Again, you need to know how much ice you will be needing in your trip and choose the smallest option among the coolers that will fit your needs.

Additional Resources:

Kitchen Professor author

Samantha spent most of her childhood in the family kitchen, watching her mother and father prepare traditional Greek dishes. By the time she was 8 she could make spanakopita with her eyes closed. When she’s not prepping meals for her kids, she loves to try out new recipes, cookware and kitchen utensils. Samatha lives in sunny Denver, Colorado.

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