Best Coolers of 2023
Tasty food, cold drinks, and the great outdoors – the perfect trifecta! Whether you’re heading out for a picnic or a full-blown expedition, a quality cooler makes all the difference. There are A LOT of options out there, but don’t worry! We did the hard part for you.
We’ve rounded up a bunch of the most raved-about coolers on the market and put them to the test to find out which are really the best.
Check out this quick list of our favorites if you’re in a hurry, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.
- Best cooler overall for value & performance:Coleman 316 Series 70 Quart
- Spacious, stylish cooler with a value price:Coleman Steel-Belted Cooler
- Best insulated cooler for the price: RTIC 65
- Best soft cooler:YETI Hopper Flip 12
- Best waterproof backpack cooler: IceMule BOSS
- Durable & well-insulated cooler for long trips:YETI Tundra 65
- Budget soft cooler for day trips:REI Packaway 24 Soft Cooler
- Best value soft cooler:Hydro Flask Carry Out 20L
- Most durable cooler:Pelican 50QT Elite
- Highly-insulated cooler with wheels: Rovr Rollr 60
What’s Most Important to You in a Cooler?
PRICE – Quality coolers can be expensive, but performance and functionality are well worth paying a bit more for if you spend a lot of time outdoors. We recommend quality options at a variety of price points in our list below.
INSULATION – Modern coolers with thick insulation offer excellent reliability for long trips or serious expeditions. If you don’t need your ice to last a whole week, though, less insulated coolers are typically more portable.
DURABILITY – If you put your gear through the wringer on a regular basis, it’s probably worth investing in a rugged cooler that will last a long time. Our top durable picks are robust enough to literally take a beating from a grizzly bear.
PORTABILITY – Soft coolers are the easiest to tote around if you’re on the go. They’re lightweight, comfortable to carry, and versatile. If you want a large-capacity cooler that’s portable, choose one that’s lightweight, or one that has wheels. You can also consider adding a wheel kit.
VOLUME – Coolers with thick walls keep contents cold for a long time. But the thicker the walls, the less stuff you can fit inside. If you want to be able to fit in as much ice, food, and beverages as possible without having to size up, a lightweight cooler with average insulation might be your best bet.
Best Coolers of 2023
BEST COOLER OVERALL FOR VALUE & PERFORMANCE
EMPTY WEIGHT: 70 qt.
VOLUME: 66.2 L
PROS: Affordable,lightweight, ample interior space, retains ice for up to five days, built-in cupholders
CONS: No latch to keep closed, not as durable as some
BOTTOM LINE: It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to get a great cooler. The Coleman 316 Series 70 qt is very effective at keeping things cold for multiple days, and it gave the more expensive coolers a real run for their money in our performance tests.
Of all the coolers we own, the Xtreme is the one we tend to use the most because it’s lightweight, easy to maneuver, and has plenty of interior space. It even has built-in cupholders, so it can double as a convenient side table between two chairs.
It may not be as rugged as some of the fancy rotomolded coolers out there, but it covers our needs for most trips without being overkill, and it’s a fantastic value.
SPACIOUS & STYLISH COOLER WITH A VALUE PRICE
EMPTY WEIGHT: 15 lbs. 11 oz.
VOLUME: 54 qt.
PROS: Durable, lightweight, ample interior space
CONS: Less insulated than some, exterior can get hot in the sun
BOTTOM LINE: Hit the outdoors in style with the retroColeman Steel-Belted Cooler.The classic metal exterior gives it a timeless look and provides reliable old-school durability. We love that we can use it as a seat, side table, or step stool around camp. The Steel-Belted Cooler is the “goldilocks” size for weekend trips too; it has plenty of interior space for a generous amount of ice, food, and drinks without being overly bulky or difficult to haul. Overall, it’s an excellent value for the money and a charming choice for your camping adventures. If you want a built-in bottle opener and a modern matte finish, check out the Reunion Steel-Belted Cooler.
BEST INSULATED COOLER FOR THE PRICE
EMPTY WEIGHT: 36.5 lbs.
VOLUME: 65 qt.
PROS: Retains ice for up to 10 days, durable, certified bear-resistant
CONS: Heavy, less interior space due to thick insulation
BOTTOM LINE: If you’re ready for an upgrade in performance and durability, but can’t stand the thought of spending half your paycheck on a cooler, the RTIC 65 is an excellent value. It’s one of the most affordable roto-molded (super insulated) coolers on the market, and it performs just as well as the more expensive brands. It’s tough-as-nails and capable of retaining ice for well over a week if you prep it right. The RTIC 65 has a great balance of cost and quality, and is practical solution for anyone who needs to keep their food (especially meat/fish) reliably cold on multiday trips.
BEST SOFT COOLER
EMPTY WEIGHT: 3.4 lbs.
VOLUME: 12.4 qt.
PROS: Durable, excellent ice retention, portable
BOTTOM LINE: If you live an active lifestyle, a portable soft cooler like the YETI Hopper Flip could easily become your favorite piece of gear.
This stylish, side-sling cooler bag brings the best in ice retention and rugged durability to all your activities from the campsite to the BBQ. Goods stored in the Hopper will stay ice-cold all day long in the sun if you load it up right. It also performs very well on multi-day trips and fits perfectly in the backseat of the car to keep refreshments close at hand.
Accolades aside, the Hopper will cost you a pretty penny. We think it’s well worth the investment if you prioritize quality and are willing to pay more upfront for a cooler that’ll last for years of trips and adventures.
BEST WATERPROOF BACKPACK COOLER
EMPTY WEIGHT: 7.5lbs.
VOLUME: 31.7 qt.
PROS: Easy to carry, retains ice for up to three days, durable, waterproof, floats, doubles as a dry bag, pockets and gear loops
BOTTOM LINE: TheIceMule BOSS is, well… boss for activities on the water like rafting, kayaking, fishing, or paddleboarding. It’s comfortable to carry thanks to the well-padded backpack straps and hipbelt, and it retains ice for multiple days. Since the BOSS is 100% waterproof and insulated with both foam and air chambers, it floats if it happens to end up in the water too. It can also be used as a dry bag for your phone, keys, wallet, or a dry change of clothes. The BOSS is a super durable, high-quality backpack cooler that will stand the test of time on your adventures.
DURABLE & WELL-INSULATED COOLER FOR LONG TRIPS
EMPTY WEIGHT: 29 lbs.
VOLUME: 65 qt.
PROS: Retains ice for up to 10 days, durable, certified bear-resistant, basket for dry goods
CONS: Expensive, heavy, less interior space due to thick insulation
BOTTOM LINE: It isn’t any wonder why the YETI Tundra 65 has made such a big name for itself. Its best-in-class insulation makes it very efficient, so you can keep ice the way it should be; frozen on long trips. The Tundra is also extremely tough. No matter how hard you play, you don’t have to worry about dents or breaking hardware. This cooler is a bit of a beast to carry, but the durability and ice retention are practically unrivaled. The Tundra is an extremely attractive and well-made cooler that won’t let you down no matter how harsh the conditions.
BUDGET SOFT COOLER FOR DAY TRIPS
EMPTY WEIGHT: 1.6 lb.
VOLUME: 34 qt.
PROS: Affordable, lightweight, easy to carry, convertible, space-saving, pocket and gear loops
CONS: Less insulated than some, zipper leaks
BOTTOM LINE: TheREI Packaway 24 Soft Cooler is our go-to cooler bag for lunches, day trips, potlucks, and everything in between. It converts from a tote to a cube-style bag with the click of two buckles, and it folds flat when not in use to save space. Even though it doesn’t retain ice as well as some others, it’s one of our most-used coolers because it’s lightweight, easy to carry, and easy to store. Because the Packaway Cooler is so affordable and versatile, we own it in multiple sizes and love them all.
BEST VALUE SOFT COOLER
EMPTY WEIGHT: 2 lbs. 8.3 oz.
VOLUME: 21 qt.
PROS: Lightweight, compact, multiple ways to carry, retains ice for up to three days
CONS: Less insulated than some, less durable than some
BOTTOM LINE: The Hydro Flask Carry Out is perfect for active people who need a high-quality grab-and-go cooler that works well for everything from day trips to camping and everything in between. It’s small enough that it’s easy to throw over your shoulder and it won’t take up too much space in the car. But it’s also surprisingly spacious – we easily fit a whole case of seltzers and a hearty array of road-trip snacks in it. It kept things deliciously chilled for multiple days of enjoyment, and we found that the cooler’s flat top makes a convenient side table between two camping chairs. You won’t find a better quality and more stylish soft cooler than the Carry Out, especially for the price.
MOST DURABLE COOLER
EMPTY WEIGHT: 26.4 lbs.
VOLUME: 50 qt.
PROS: Retains ice for up to 10 days, durable, certified bear-resistant, comfortable handles, locking latches
CONS: Expensive, heavy, less interior space due to thick insulation
BOTTOM LINE: If durability and long-term ice retention are your priorities, thePelican 50 Quart Eliteis an excellent choice. It’s built like a tank and has super thick insulation, which makes it very efficient and nearly indestructible. Because the Elite has such burly walls, there’s less interior space than there is in other coolers. But it’s also one of the most impervious to hot sun, so the ice inside stays frozen. If you need a cooler you can really trust in rigorous conditions or on long trips, the Elite is tough to beat.
HIGHLY-INSULATED COOLER WITH WHEELS
EMPTY WEIGHT: 45lbs.
VOLUME: 60 qt.
CONS: Very expensive, heavy, less interior space due to thick insulation
BOTTOM LINE: With the Rovr Rollr 60, you can think of your cooler as a party wagon with all the details worked out to make your job as the camp chef or bartender easy. There’s an organizer inside to keep produce or dry goods separate, and you can attach accessories like cup holders, a prep board, or umbrella support. The Rollr is heavy to get in and out of the car, but once it’s unloaded the inflatable tires make it easy to pull over any terrain. This cooler is also expensive, and the latest version doesn’t come with a top storage bin, so you’ll have to shell out a bit more if you want that feature. But since Rollr is well-designed and has such excellent ice retention, it’s well worth the price if you’ll use it a lot.
The following coolers didn’t make our final list, but they’re very popular and they’ve still got a lot of good things going for them. You never know, one of these coolers might be perfect for you:
- Igloo Recool – biodegradable single-use cooler made with recycled materials
- Coleman 42-Can Wheeled Soft Cooler – affordable lightweight cooler with wheels that work well on flat surfaces
- REI Cool Trail Split Pack – affordable backpack cooler with upper compartment for hiking essentials
- Igloo MaxCold 70 – classic affordable lightweight cooler with plenty of interior space
- Orca ORCT040 40 Qt. – roto-molded cooler at a lower price point
How to Properly Pack a Cooler for Performance
Let’s be honest, most of us just grab a couple bags of ice on our way to our destination, dump it in our coolers, and call it good. But, if you really want your cooler to retain ice like nobody’s business, you’ll need to up your game a bit. No matter what type of cooler you choose, start your trip off on the right foot by practicing the following steps:
- Freeze or refrigerate items before placing them in the cooler
- Pre-chill the cooler itself by placing some ice inside an hour before you load it (a tray of ice cubes or an ice pack will work)
- PACK IN ORDER
- Pack foods you’ll eat last on the bottom and store first-used and often-used items near the top
- CHOOSE YOUR ICE WISELY
- Crushed ice cools food and drinks fast, but, block ice lasts longer
- Freeze drinking water in bottles and jugs as an alternative to store-bought ice
- ADD ICE LAST
- Cold air sinks, so pack perishable foods, like meat and dairy products, towards the bottom and layer ice on top
- For beverage-only coolers, load cans and bottles first, then cover with ice
- PACK IT FULL
- A completely full cooler will stay much colder than a half-empty one
- Use as much ice as possible (cooler manufacturers recommend a 2:1 ratio of ice to food and drink by volume – that’s a lot!)
- KEEP IT IN SHADE
- Store coolers out of direct sun, and your ice will last twice as long. In the car, pack sleeping bags or clothing around the cooler to insulate it even more. Packing blankets are excellent for this and can also be used to cover the cooler in camp.
- KEEP IT CLOSED
- To keep warm air out and cold air in, open the lid only when necessary and close it right away
- For big groups, it can be helpful to have separate coolers for drinks and food, to limit the number of times the precious food cooler is opened
- DON’T DRAIN
- Don’t drain the cold water from freshly melted ice out of your cooler (cold water will preserve the remaining ice much better than air)
- Drain the water only when necessary for convenient removal of cooler contents or before adding more ice and chilled items
These steps may seem like a lot at first, but once you get into the swing of chilling stuff the night before and you see awesome results, you’ll never go back.
Critical Cooler Considerations
CHOOSING A CAPACITY – The capacity of most coolers is measured in quarts or liters. The right way to pack a cooler will vary depending on your needs. Some people may prefer to go with less ice so that they can store more cans. And some people may want to go with more ice to maximize cooling performance. Personally, we aim for a happy medium between maximizing storage and ice longevity.
ROTO-MOLDING – Rotational molding, or roto-molding, is a process that allows manufacturers to inject and evenly distribute liquid insulation into the walls of hard-sided coolers using specialized machines. The insulation material hardens and gives the cooler thick, rigid walls that are both durable and excellent at retaining cold.
HINGES, LATCHES, HANDLES & DRAINS – Hardware, like hinges, latches, handles, and drains, is usually the first thing to break on coolers, especially if the pieces are plastic. Thankfully, many companies sell replacements. You can even upgrade some parts from plastic to metal if they’re available for your specific cooler. Durable coolers, like the RTIC 65, Rovr Rollr 60, Pelican 50QT Elite, YETI Tundra 65, and Coleman Steel-Belted Cooler will have far fewer issues with hardware over time.
Need More Gear Advice?
If you liked this list, you’ll love the CleverHiker Gear Guide where we test and recommend tons of outdoor adventure gear from a variety of categories. here are some links to popular articles:
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- Our choices are completely independent and based on personal experience.
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