Best Coolers and Ice Chests
Whether you are planning on going camping, to the beach, hosting outdoor event chances are you may end up needing a cooler or ice chest sometime in your life. But, there are a lot of factors that go into the perfect cooler. Through a series of particular criteria and vast reviews, user feedback, and general quality, you will find the best of the best amongst coolers and ice chests. Then, the next time you find a use for one, you will have it in storage and ready to go. When you finally make your decision, be sure to get creative with where you use it! Take it with you camping, to friends’ houses, to the park for a picnic, to backyard barbecues, or even on a hike.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 13 hrs of research
The hardware is both rust-resistant and made from stainless steel
Top of the cooler cleans with ease
- COLEMAN COASTAL
- RUBBERMAID ICE CHEST
- PELICAN PROGEAR ELITE
- EBAGS CREW COOLER II
- IGLOO ICE CUBE
- RTIC COOLER
- COLEMAN 48-QUART
- OUTDOOR RECREATIONAL
- SWELL-AVENUE CAMO
- COLEMAN FLIPLID
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top Ten Coolers & Ice Chests
1. COLEMAN COASTAL
The hardware is both rust-resistant and made from stainless steel
Top of the cooler cleans with ease
Handles are known to crack
To accommodate for the most situations, there is not a better cooler than the Coleman Coastal Xtreme Series. In fact, it is the best cooler you can buy, period.Read more
To ensure a pinch-free experience when carrying this cooler, there is a comfort-grip with no-crush handles. In addition, they are two-way handles making the cooler simpler to lift.
For up to six days, at outdoor temperatures of up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the ThermOZONE Insulation will keep ice un-melted inside. With insulation, all throughout the lid and the walls, it will keep the contents inside freezing cold for quite a while.
This is a 120-quart cooler and it will hold approximately 200 cans.
As a bonus, the outside is coated with a UVGuard material that will protect it from the rays of the sun. Also, the lid accommodates up to 250 pounds; so anyone under that weight could sit on it as a stand. Plus, there are cup holders molded on top of the lid.
The drain is leak-resistant and rustproof and users do not have to tilt the cooler to get all the excess water out.
The Xtreme series is truly one of a kind, with excellent portability, an interior with superior insulation, and even some nifty additional features.
2. RUBBERMAID ICE CHEST
Multiple versions available
Split lid that prevents too much cold air from escaping
When closed and latched, it can be pain to open it
The latch is a little too tight and may be difficult for weaker/older individuals
Much like the 48-quart cooler from Coleman, the Rubbermaid ice chest/cooler may not blow you away but it remains a great choice for anyone.Read more
The 60-quart version has built-in wheels and a handle for moving. Meanwhile, the side swing handles have a comfortable grip and make moving it a breeze.
Thermal retention keeps all the contents inside chilled and the Microban liner is very simple to clean.
There are different versions available, such as 10-quart, 20-quart, and 60-quart.
On the top are built in cup holders to hold your drinks, while the split lid allows you to open the cooler without all the cold air being dismissed. Plus, the cooler is stain and odor resistant.
The drain plug is located on the front of the cooler and will adequately remove excess liquids from it.
There is not too much wrong with this cooler and the option to choose different capacity amounts is a nice feature.
3. PELICAN PROGEAR ELITE
The hardware is made from stainless steel, making it corrosion resistant
Contents can be inside for up to ten days
The Pelican ProGear Elite Cooler could have easily taken the top spot, but the steep price kept it from climbing any higher.Read more
Molded right into the sides of the ProGear are dual, hinged handles that create a comfortable user-experience.
For up to ten long days, this cooler can maintain cold contents; thanks in large part to its freezer grade gasket and 2” polyurethane insulation.
This cooler is designed to hold up to 65 quarts of liquids/foods.
In addition to the molded handles on the side, there are molded in-tie downs and molded in-hasp with a steel plate.
Not only is the drain tethered and sloped but it can be attached to the receiving end of a garden hose.
This is truly an elite model, with its excellent insulation and innovative drain design.
4. EBAGS CREW COOLER II
Comes in different colors; blue, red, black, grey, etc
A limited five-year warranty is included
Smaller cooler than others on our list
While the previous entry is the best overall cooler you can invest in, the eBags Crew Cooler II is the best single-person cooler on the market.Read more
With it being designed for only a few people, it is small enough to easily transport. The included shoulder strap only increases the ease of use. What is really nifty, though, is the front pocket can be passed through and it can be passed through wheeled carry-on luggage.
The bottom is properly insulated to hold all cold beverages and food items with a replaceable PVC-free PEVA liner; while the top has a compartment that will store dry foods that do not need to be chilled.
While there is not a set limit from the manufacturer, it can easily fit two people’s lunch and multiple thermos packs.
On the sides of the cooler, there are water bottle pockets and in the front, there is a tip-out pocket that allows easy access for accessories.
Anyone can easily lift the bag upside down and drain all the water out, then let it dry.
The number of compartments is what is truly noteworthy here, but the accommodation for both foods that need refrigerated and those that do not is a nice touch.
5. IGLOO ICE CUBE
Four cup holders on the top
Durable wheels and handle for rolling
The top is very hollow, may accidentally crack if someone sits on it
The insulation is not quite as great as others due to the hollow top
So far down the list, do not think for one second that these coolers are not fantastic. A great example of this is the Igloo Ice Cube Roller Cooler.Read more
For easy transportation, the Roller Cooler comes equipped with a locking telescopic handle and durable wheels. When it needs to be lifted, there are molded handles on each side.
Inside the lid, there is a section for dry storage. While inside the actual cooler, Ultratherm insulation will keep the contents cold.
This is a 60-quart capacity cooler, fitting around 90, 12-ounce cans.
On top of the cooler, there are four cup holders that have been molded in.
To allow you to easily drain the liquid inside, the Igloo Ice Cube is equipped with a recessed, triple-snap drain plug that is resistant to leaks.
For a heavy-duty cooler, it is nice that a handle and wheels are present. Meanwhile, everything else is up to par.
6. RTIC COOLER
Easy to carry
Up to 3 inches insulation
Ice does not last long
This cooler comes in at half the price of some other brands but it gives an incredibly good performance which is easily competitive. You get a very good cooler which can also be a cutting board, step stool, a bench and a table top.
Feedback from reviews has been excellent.Read more
The cooler is a bit heavier than some other brands but in return, it can cover additional functions such as a cutting board, bench, tabletop area and even a step stool.
For lifting and carry a very good designed grip hand molded system
Up to 3 inches Insulated Walls.
Open area for extensive stacked storage.
Freezer Grade Gasket.
For example, 30 plus bottles which will all stay very cold for a long time.
Non-Slip Feet. Integrated Locking System.
Bear Resistant. Heavy Duty T-Latches.
No Fail Hinges. Molded Tie-Down Slots.
No Sweat Exterior.
Rapid V-Drain System
Overall and Cost
This is a top product at a customer appreciated price, the ability to keep foods/drinks very cool is outstanding.
7. COLEMAN 48-QUART
Tall enough to stand 2-liter bottles upright
Comes in both red and blue
The lid can sometimes not stay open
The hinges are not attached with metal screws, instead plastic rivets
Coleman makes their way on this list once again. This time, with their 48-quart cooler and while this is not quite as sufficient as their others it still holds up very well.Read more
Handles on each side of the cooler make it easy for one, or two, people to lift and carry it.
The 48-quart cooler from Coleman has ThermOZONE insulation that does not contain any harmful materials that will deplete the ozone layer. It also does a great job of insulating the inside of the cooler.
As the name reveals, this will hold 48-quarts.
With the lid being hinged, it is fairly easy to grab items inside of the cooler.
The included drain system is leak-resistant and it is incredibly simple to utilize it.
This is just a stellar cooler, nothing too flashy or amazing but ideal for anyone’s needs.
8. OUTDOOR RECREATIONAL
Ability to choose certain capacities from 20 quarts to 75 quarts
A durable roto-molded constructed cooler
The handle is below-average as it pops out very easily; which can result in scratches
Outdoor Recreational Company of America offers the same cooler in a variety of sizes, but every last one of them is excellent.Read more
To ease the pain of carrying such a heavy cooler, there is extendable flex grip on the carrying handles.
The lid gasket ensures a perfect seal every single time, while the lockable shell and integrated insulation allow contents to have proper retention for up to ten days.
The capacity is up to the user, as there are several options available; from 20 quarts to 75 quarts (around five to six selections).
For added storage capabilities, there is a cargo net that is attached (on some of the versions).
For convenience purposes, there is an easy-flow drain spout to rid the cooler of excess liquid.
Its hard to go wrong with this model, but the price can be a little steep. But, the quality more than makes up for it.
9. SWELL-AVENUE CAMO
Easy to transport with the adjustable shoulder strap
Front pockets hold extra accessories
The camo design may not be for everyone
The Swell-Avenue is another cooler that is ideal for one or two people. But, due to its camo design, is not going to be for everyone.Read more
Right along with being small and easy to carry, there is an adjustable strap that allows a lot of leeway on how to carry it.
To trap all the coolness inside, this cooler is designed with a PEVA lining PU fabric that provides superb insulation.
For such a small cooler, it will hold up to 24 cans.
For a convenient place to store extra accessories, there is a front zipper pocket and a top zipper mesh pocket.
Once again, with a cooler this small, draining out the excess water is going to be little to no issue. Simply remove the contents and tip it upside down.
Utterly perfect for someone looking for a solo cooler, but a no go for something to accommodate a multitude of people.
10. COLEMAN FLIPLID
Cab be used as a cooler and a mini-table
Blue and red color options available
Incredibly small, only holding five quarts
This is the first entry on this list to be a traditional cooler, but be intended for personal use. For what it is, it is absolutely superb.Read more
This cooler can easily be carried with one hand with the bail handle. Plus, it is a personal cooler which means it is small in nature.
The inside material is made from liner and polypropylene which maintains stellar insulation.
It does not hold too much at only five quarts; which would be around six cans.
The FlipLid is what makes this cooler unique and one of a kind as the lid will transform into a mini-table sported with beverage holders.
As has been the theme will personal coolers, simply turn it over to properly drain it.
No doubt, the convertible mini-table is the key selling point here. But, outside of that, the interior design and portability are phenomenal.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
No, there is nothing in the “cooler and ice chests rule book” that states you must transport it with you to various events. If you truly wanted to, you could invest in a cooler for the sole purpose of storing it inside of your home or your garage. But, oftentimes, and rightfully so, coolers are associated with social events, camping, vacationing, outdoor activities, etc. It is a high probability that you are planning on taking your cooler with you on certain occasions. Thus, it makes it extremely important for them to be user-friendly when it comes to portability.
For personal-sized coolers, this is not going to be an issue. After all, these kinds of coolers are specifically designed to accommodate one or two people; meaning they are light and compact enough to carry with ease. But, for ones that are made to be designed like a carry bag, it is nice to have an adjustable shoulder strap in case your hands get tired.
This idea of portability, however, truly becomes noticeable with larger and beefier coolers. With some of them, you will not be able to avoid them being heavy to lift. However, manufacturers can make it slightly easier by designing their cooler with dual handles with comfortable grips. Even if you need more than one person to transport it, comfortable grips can make all the difference in the world.
What some fail to do, and what all heavy-duty ones should have, is include a telescopic handle with attached wheels. Without them, there is a real chance that you will not be able to carry the cooler around (especially considering the included contents inside along with the weight of some coolers by themselves).
Typically, with a product, it is smart to look at the overall design. However, when it comes to coolers and ice chests the outside is not nearly as important as the inside. For those who think otherwise, what good would a cooler be if it did not properly hold in cold air? If after a few hours your drinks are warm and your food is soft and beginning to spoil, then the cooler is utterly useless. It may just be the biggest selling point and if you noticed, all entries on this list had great to fantastic insulation technology.
Now, not all coolers will have the same type of insulation. Some models use PEVA lining with PU fabric, some ThermOZONE insulation, some Ultratherm insulation and some PermaFrost insulation. As long as the cooler has some sort of insulation, and it is not cheap, that will conceal cold air for days, you should be in the clear. Past that, you may be looking to separate some of your refrigerated foods from your dry foods. That is what is nice about certain versions because they come equipped with a section for dry storage (usually at the top or under the lid). This allows you to store everything in one big cooler, but not having to eat cold potato chips.
Another selling point could be how deep coolers are, as you may want to stand up certain bottles and cans. Unfortunately, not every single cooler you find will be deep enough to adequately stack up multiple-liter bottles.
This one truly goes without saying, but you need to make sure you do not overlook the simple aspects. There will never be any mystery to how much a certain cooler will hold, as most will distinguish it right away in the product title. However, figuring this aspect out beforehand can end up saving you money. Before you come to one conclusion on what cooler you may end up investing in, you need to assess what you are going to use the cooler for in the first place. Do you plan on bringing it with you on family camping trips? Are you the only one who is going to be using it or do you want it to accommodate multiple people? If so, how many people (several individuals at a social event, one or two guests at a local sports game, etc.)?
Simply, if you know for a fact you are the only one who is going to use it, then you should narrow your search for strictly personal-sized coolers and ice chests. On the contrary, if the cooler is going to be used when camping or going to parties, consider larger ones with higher capacities. Why is this important to begin with, though? Just like everything else in the world (most of the time), the bigger and worse something is the more expensive it is. The same principle applies to coolers, so why waste extra money on a cooler that you (or a few people) are only going to use?
Extra features on products is always an interesting criterion because you can easily make the argument that they are not that important. They usually are not features that are needed to make it succeed, but they are always fun to have. So, why not get a cooler and ice chest that has loads of additional features for your convenience. As you noticed, though, most of the models on this list have extra features that can put them over the top.
One prime example is the coolers that come equipped with cup holders on the lid. Now, why would this be of any use to you? Well, while sitting in your lawn chair you could use it as a place for your drink. This lessens the chance of you spilling it and having to clean the lid of the cooler. Or, how about the ones that present you with additional storage capabilities? Such as an attached cargo net for electronics or food items, front pockets, and side water bottle pockets.
Of course, there are also some exclusive features that some models offer. Take, for instance, the ability to transform the lid of the cooler into a mini-tablet, or being able to sit on top of the lid when resting, or the ability to mount it on the back of your trailer, truck bed, and boat.
There is no doubt that all these features are great to have, but none of them are necessary. Thus, you do not have to concern yourself with this if you do not desire to. Basically, think of these as added bonuses but not necessities.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
If you chill a cooler before packing it with ice, the ice will last longer as the temperature of the cooler and the ice will be the same and take longer for the ice to melt. This means your drinks and food will stay cooler longer, and this is beneficial especially if you are going on a long road trip.
Other Factors to Consider
If you are new to coolers and know nothing about them, this is the aspect that you may completely glance over. When first thinking about coolers, you may not be thinking or considering how much the design of the drain will alter your decision. If you plan on placing ice inside your cooler, and why wouldn’t you, then it is eventually going to melt and you will want to rid the cooler of the excess water. For heavier coolers, there is no way you should be required to tip it over yourself to get rid of the water. Sure, it is a faster solution but not one you should have to settle for.
Obviously, manufacturers are not going to make you scoop the water out, either. Thus, they build a drain plug to properly eliminate all water. But, in doing so there is one important aspect that must be checked for: is the drain resistant to leaks? Most of the models on this list are resistant to leaks, as a drain with a leak is not going to properly do what it was designed to do. They also need to be easy to use, and it’s a bonus for the models that do not require you to tip it over while draining.
Drain plugs are extremely important in heavy-duty coolers, but what about personal-sized versions? Due to their size, designers do not have to worry too much about this. With personal-sized coolers, it is simple enough to tip them over and remove all the water.
If you find a great cooler but come to the realization that you think the color and design is not for you, it can be a bummer to realize there are no other options. Honestly, this could even lead you to look an entirely different direction. Same situation for the number of contents that can be placed inside the cooler at one given time, as was addressed earlier.
Although the interior design was already documented, you can pay attention to how the exterior is constructed. To keep the coolers looking clean and preventing them from being damaged, look for ones that are rotomolded constructed, built of stainless steel, and resistant to both rust and corrosion. To cap it off, never forget about limited warranties being offered by some companies. When ordering online, you never know when something will come damaged or defected. In this circumstance, it is nice to know you are guaranteed to either get your money back or get a replacement part.
Frequently Asked Questions
You would not even think this would be a question, as the name of the product is a “cooler or ice chest”. But, the ironic part is, coolers will keep certain foods warm just as well as they will keep them cold. The insulation that is inside the cooler is not keeping the contents cold, the ice you put inside of it is. Nope, the insulation is just preventing the cold air from leaving (much like a home would do). This means that if you placed some hot meals inside of a cooler by themselves, they would stay warm for an extended period.
But, you will also need to cover them with towels and foil to further keep them from becoming cold. However, you are not going to be able to mix hot foods with cold ones. Yes, there are some dry compartments available in some coolers but if you have ice inside hot meals will not remain so for very long.
Although this was not addressed for the coolers that made this list, you may run into some that have rulers on top of them. If you come across that and are baffled by why someone would include that, do not worry as millions around the world are feeling the same way. However, if you thought it was there for no reason at all then you are wrong. The ruler on top of some coolers does serve a purpose, but only if you like fishing. Due to fishing licenses having restrictions on lengths, fishermen have to make sure that if they want to take a fish home with them, it be at or past the certain length.
This is where the ruler on the cooler comes into play as to see if the fish is legal to keep, the fisherman can measure it right on top of the cooler that they might be placing it into. If you find other uses for it, though, good for you!
Not every single cooler is going to be designed with the same type of insulation, nor are all going to have the same amount of it. Typically, the manufacturer will make it crystal clear how long you can store contents inside before they go bad (or begin to warm). However, you do have some control over the situation. There is nothing you can do to replace good insulation, but the way you pack your food can make it last longer.
Firstly, be sure to pack your cooler in a certain way. For example, place the contents you are going to use first directly on top. This way, you do not have to dig for them and leave the cooler open. If your food is in plastic bags, make sure as much air is out as possible. Ideally, if you have a vacuum sealer you can remove all the excess air. If not, get as much as you physically can out. Lastly, for meats, make sure they are frozen beforehand and keep them as close to the bottom as you can.
While this is slightly related to the previous question, it deserves its own spot on this list. On a really hot, muggy afternoon, your ice may end up melting rather quickly. Most coolers will only properly work under a certain temperature, so if it climbs beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit you may have to adapt. The problem with simply placing a bunch of ice inside a cooler is if it gets pervasively hot outside, it is going to melt inside of the cooler. Thus, you are left with a huge puddle of water. If you have food placed inside, it is going to get soggy and no one enjoys eating soggy food.
So, instead of placing ice inside, try placing ice packs or bottles of frozen water. This way, if the ice melts it will melt inside of a plastic container. Better yet, you can then drink the thawed water (or whatever beverage you choose to freeze).
This question can get a little complicated, but all it takes is common sense and memory. The simple answer to the question, can you leave a cooler out in the rain, is yes. But, there is more to it than just that. If it is a light rain, even a medium rain, then the sealing capabilities of most coolers will hold up just fine. In a huge thunderstorm in which buckets of rain are falling down, you may want to place it in a safe location. The rain may still not penetrate inside the cooler, but it may end up damaging the outside.
Now, if it is even worse than this, such as a hurricane or tornado then you will definitely want to move it as it will probably tip over. In a standard rainstorm, however, as long as you remember to properly close and seal the cooler it should be fine.
Some coolers are odor resistant and some are not. As you already know, there is nothing worse than opening up something with a nasty whiff of bad odors. This is multiplied when you consider you are storing your food and drinks inside of it. The great news for you is there are methods you can partake in to remove bad scents and odors from your cooler.
Firstly, someone came up with the idea of moistening a cotton ball with vanilla and placing it inside the cooler for several hours. Before long, whatever fungus or bacteria that you were smelling will be gone. If that does not seem to work, try crumbling up a piece of newspaper and setting it inside. Let this sit until the next time you plan to use it and the odors should be removed.
For the last resort, you can use some elbow grease to clean out the cooler with soapy water. Then, place some exposed vanilla inside for several days. When you return to use it, it should be smelling fresh and ready to go.