Planning to go camping in the woods or host a barbeque with your friends?
You’ll need a durable cooler that can keep your essentials cold.
From hard-sided ice chests to backpack-style soft coolers, there’s a cooler for everyone! With so many options, manufacturers like to claim that their products are the best in the market.
But how true are they? This article compares different cooler brands to find out the 11 best coolers.
11 Best Coolers for Ice Retention
If you intend to use your cooler for long excursions, you’re going to need one that can hold up for an extended period.
Depending on the brand, size, and cooler type, coolers can keep contents cold for two days to up to 2 weeks.
After rigorous testing and research, here are the 11 best coolers brands available that offer great ice retention and performance specs.
1. RTIC 52 Ultra-Light – Best Overall
30% Lighter Than Rotomolded
- Interior dimensions: 13” H x 21” W x 12” D
- Exterior dimensions: 18” H x 27” W x 18” D
- Capacity: 52 qts.
- Empty weight: 21 lbs.
- Warranty: 1 year
Packed with features but without the large weight and price tag of other coolers, the RTIC 52 Ultra-Light is our TOP PICK for the best cooler of 2023.
Coming at 21 lbs. with 52-quart storage, you can keep as many as 41 cans with enough room for ice in this hard-sided cooler.
Thanks to 3 inches of closed-cell foam insulation, the RTIC 52 Ultra-Light boasts a solid ice retention performance of 5 to 7 days.
This model also comes with tie-down slots, non-skid rubber feet, and durable latches that keep your cooler secure even on rocky terrain or boats.
Even with all these features, it remains reasonably priced, costing $100’s less than the similarly-sized YETI Tundra 45.
One thing to note is that this model is injection-molded, which means it may not be as durable as rotomolded coolers.
The 52 Ultra-Light is RTIC’s best-selling cooler that perfectly balances durability, capacity, weight, and cost.
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- Reasonable price
- Great ice retention
- Reputable brand
- Can only be purchased online
- Injection-molded construction
- Short warranty period
2. Lifetime 65-Quart High-Performance Cooler – Best Value
- Interior dimensions: 13” H x 12-13.7” W x 21-23” D
- Exterior dimensions: 20” H x 38.9” W x 18.75” D
- Capacity: 65 qts.
- Empty weight: 25.5 lbs.
- Warranty: 5 years
You won’t find another high-geared cooler at a low price other than the Lifetime 65-Quart High-Performance Cooler.
This model retails at a third of the price of premium coolers while OUTPERFORMING them in the ice retention test.
Its rugged polyethylene body provides thick insulation that contributes to an incredible ice retention performance of 6 to 7 days.
The Lifetime 65-Quart High-Performance Cooler also comes with a capped drain spout, nylon rope handles, bottle openers, and other neat features.
This cooler has a generous storage capacity of 65 quarts. You fit about 34 cans inside filled with twice as much ice.
If durability is what you’re after, this cooler is a robust model that is certified BEAR-PROOF. The cooler can withstand drop tests and additional loads without buckling under the weight.
That said, it’s a 25-pound cooler that can get quite heavy when loaded with food and beverages.
The Lifetime 65-Quart is a solid cooler equipped with all the best features at a great value.
- Adequate ice retention
- Limited color options
- Not portable
3. Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme 5 Hard Ice Chest Cooler – Best Budget Pick
- Interior dimensions: 13” H x 24.1” W x 12” D
- Exterior dimensions: 17.5” H x 28.4” W x 15.49” D
- Capacity: 70 qts.
- Empty weight: 13.14 lbs.
- Warranty: Limited warranty
A high-capacity cooler for under $90? The Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme 5 has you covered.
Aside from being the best budget cooler available right now, this hard cooler can hold ice for up to a week.
This Coleman model has a whopping 70-quart capacity that can store as many as 50 cans alongside twice the amount of ice.
Despite its intimidating size, it only weighs 13.14 lbs. when empty. Even when filled halfway through with ice, it remains manageable enough to transport.
It’s reasonably sized enough to easily squeeze this cooler into your car trunk or truck. It can also work as an extra seat, supporting up to 250 lbs. of load.
Designed to weather harsh marine conditions, the Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme 5 is built with UVGuard material and stainless steel to protect against rusting and sun damage.
The Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme 5 is THE cooler for budget-conscious buyers who don’t want to skimp on ice retention performance and features.
- Channeled drain plug for easy draining
- No rubber latches
- Not airtight
- Low-quality handles
4. YETI Tundra 65 – Best Premium Cooler
- Interior dimensions: 11.3” H x 23.3” W x 10.7” D
- Exterior dimensions: 16” H x 30.8” W x 17.3” D
- Capacity: 60 qts.
- Empty weight: 30.3 lbs.
- Warranty: 5 years
If you’re in any way familiar with cooler brands, then you’ve probably heard about YETI coolers.
Known for high-end ice coolers, YETI Tundra 65 is the brand’s top-selling model yet. This rotomolded cooler offers the best of the best in ice retention, durability, and design.
This YETI Tundra boasts an impressive ice retention performance of up to 10 days thanks to three inches of permafrost insulation and YETI’s interlock lid system.
On top of that, this ice cooler also includes a dry goods basket, heavy-duty latches, and tie-down slots to help secure it to your vehicle.
All YETI Tundra hard-sided coolers have been tested and certified as bear-resistant based on Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) standards.
However, this 30-lbs. cooler is not the most portable, even when empty. Expect that it will take up considerable storage space.
Retailing at $375, it is considerably pricier than other coolers that have similar specs, like ORCA and RTIC coolers.
Though not everyone needs a crazy expensive ice cooler, the YETI Tundra 65 offers premier cooling capabilities that can last for many years.
- Great ice retention
- Incredibly durable
- Not portable
5. Orca 140-Quart Cooler – Best Large Capacity
- Interior dimensions: 21.38” H x 39.4” W x 23” D
- Exterior dimensions: 15.13″H x 32.5″W x 16.94″D
- Capacity: 140 qts.
- Empty weight: 64 lbs.
- Warranty: Lifetime warranty
You’ll want to look at high-capacity ORCA coolers for truly hefty loads of refreshments, foodstuffs, or game meat.
This 140-quart ORCA cooler can hold up to 68 filled canisters with a 2:1 ratio of ice to can. That’s enough interior storage for a week-long camping trip or a big backyard barbecue.
It also comes with an additional cargo net for even more storage and a drain plug for easy water removal.
Apart from its remarkable capacity, the Orca 140-Quart Cooler surpasses other coolers on this list with an outstanding 10-day ice retention!
It’s a well-built rotomolded cooler that can withstand drops from a table with barely a scratch.
Even when unfilled, you’ll need an extra hand to carry this 64-lb. hard cooler around. Its bulky design may also take up too much space in a vehicle.
If you don’t want to lug around a massive cooler but still fancy that ORCA-brand ice retention, you might be better off with their smaller capacity models.
The Orca 140-Quart ice chest is essentially a second fridge for off-the-grid cooling.
- Robust and durable
- Superior ice retention
- Lifetime warranty
- Not portable
- Latches can be difficult to close
6. Igloo BMX 25 – Best Small Cooler
- Interior dimensions: 11.6” H x 15” W x 8.56” D
- Exterior dimensions: 16.34″H x 20″W x 13.9″D
- Capacity: 25 qts.
- Empty weight: 10 lbs.
- Warranty: 3 years
Don’t underestimate its compact size.
The Igloo BMX 25 is a low-capacity cooler that offers heavy-duty durability at an economical price.
This 25-quart model can hold up to 15 cans alongside some ice or reusable ice packs.
It’s equipped with neat performance features, such as a rubberized three-point handle for easy carrying, stainless steel hardware for extra protection, and UV inhibitors for a longer lifespan.
If you plan to use your cooler for casual fishing, this small hard cooler comes with a built-in ruler so you can readily measure your haul.
With hard-sided coolers this size, there’s an obvious DROP in ice retention. Nevertheless, the Igloo BMX 25 can keep a load of ice frozen for up to 3 days.
The lack of a rubber seal on the lid has resulted in minor leakages, contributing to its moderate cooling performance.
That being said, it doubles as a budget cooler that you can readily use for weekend trips at the docks or campsite.
- Portable and easy to handle
- Robust design
- Comes with extra features
- Average ice retention
- Not airtight
7. YETI Hopper M20 Backpack Soft Cooler – Best Backpack Cooler
- Interior dimensions: 17.3” H x 11.6” W x 8.9” D
- Exterior dimensions: 18.1″H x 18.1″W x 8.9″D
- Capacity: 20 qts.
- Empty weight: 5.6 lbs.
- Warranty: 3 years
Yet another YETI cooler makes the list, solidifying the industry leader’s track record of top-quality ice coolers.
The interior is lined with closed-cell foam to keep the cold air in for better ice retention. You can get a little over 3 days of ice life with this backpack cooler.
It’s an incredibly lightweight cooler bag coming in at 5.6 lbs. with a 20-quart storage capacity.
Fill this YETI backpack cooler with as many as 13 cans, and you can still trek comfortably thanks to its padded shoulder straps.
The shoulder straps are also easy to adjust so you can maximize back support.
This backpack cooler is engineered with a magnetic rolltop latch for ultimate leak resistance and insulation. Even a push of a table didn’t unfasten the latch or cause leakage.
Some users reported that this feature makes it harder to keep the backpack cooler open, as the magnets tend to close automatically.
As with all YETI coolers, you can expect a hefty price tag to come along with it. But if you want the best insulated cooler backpack on the market, this YETI cooler is the way to go.
- Lightweight and wearable
- Waterproof and leak-proof
- Robust closure system
- Supports wine bottle vertical fit
- Expensive despite the reduced size
8. RTIC Soft Pack Cooler 20 Can – Best Soft-Sided Cooler
- Interior dimensions: 10” H x 11.5” W x 7” D
- Exterior dimensions: 13.75” H x 13.5” W x 9.5” D
- Capacity: 20 qts.
- Empty weight: 3 lbs.
- Warranty: 1 year
A soft cooler will never have the same ice retention as hard-sided models, but the RTIC Soft Pack Cooler 20 Can comes close.
This soft-sided cooler bag can keep ice intact just as well as any cheap hard cooler and then some.
The lid of this RTIC cooler is insulated with 2 inches of closed-cell foam, which is more than half the insulation of YETI coolers of the same type.
It gives this soft cooler up to four days of ice retention in real-world use. Like other 20-quart coolers, you fit around 10 to 15 cans inside.
This RTIC 20-Quarts soft cooler is remarkably durable with a tear and scratch-proof vinyl exterior.
It also has a molle grid system that allows you to attach compatible accessories like bottle openers, flashlights, and cup holders.
The RTIC Soft Pack Cooler can also float. If you love swimming in pools or lakes, a soft cooler might be worth considering.
- Easy to carry
- Leak-proof and durable
- Great value for money
- Competitive ice retention
- Weak zippers
- Not as long-lasting as hard-sided coolers
9. RovR RollR 45 – Best Wheeled Cooler
- Interior dimensions: N/A
- Exterior dimensions: 19.75” H x 20.5” W x 22.5” D
- Capacity: 45 qts.
- Empty weight: 37 lbs.
- Warranty: 5 years
If you’re going to transport your cooler over a considerable distance, getting a wheeled cooler can make your job much easier.
The RovR RollR 45 is built precisely for all sorts of terrain with its 9-inch puncture-resistant wheels and a lengthy aluminum handle.
For even better transportability, you can hitch this wheeled cooler to the back of your bike using RovR’s bicycle tow bar or BikR kit (sold separately).
This wheeled cooler has a premium rotomolded design combined with an airtight gasket and thick insulation that allows it to hold up ice for as long as ten days.
Certified bear-resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), you can confidently tow this rugged cooler out in bear country.
What’s more, it comes with interior compartments to keep your supplies separate and anchor points so you can attach accessories like cup holders and a prepping board.
All the added functional features make it a hefty container that weighs in at 37 lbs. even when empty.
It comes at a pretty steep price, but even compared with the wheeled YETI Tundra (which costs $10 more), the RovR RollR 45 remains unparalleled.
- Sturdy wheels
- It can be attached to a bike
- Supports cooler accessories
- Bulky and weighty
10. Pelican 50QT Elite Cooler – Best Heavy-Duty
- Interior dimensions: 17.5” H x 11” W x 13.7” D
- Exterior dimensions: 30” H x 20.3” W x 20.4” D
- Capacity: 52 qts.
- Empty weight: 26.3 lbs.
- Warranty: Lifetime warranty
Coming from a company known for its durable products that protect everything from guns to camera equipment, the Pelican 50-Quart Elite Cooler is engineered for maximum toughness.
With 2 inches of insulation and a freezer-grade seal, it delivers extreme ice retention for ten full days.
Every part is designed to provide robust functionality that can withstand even the harshest conditions.
You’ll notice that the press-and-pull latches are UNIQUE to Pelican coolers. These latches make it more convenient to open but more resistant to bear attacks.
This hard cooler comes with functional extras, including an integrated bottle opener, built-in cup holders, and molded tie-down slots for your convenience.
This new Pelican model also comes with stainless steel hardware to ensure the security and durability of the closure system.
However, its rugged and top-heavy design might end up being a challenge to store in a trunk bed.
For enthusiasts and pros looking for the best cooler for intensive outdoor activities, the Pelican 50-Quart Elite Cooler is a great cooler option.
- Ultimate insulation performance
- Secure closure
- Lifetime warranty
- Bulky exterior
11. The Get Out Cooler Bag – Best Stylish
- Interior dimensions: N/A
- Exterior dimensions: 16” H x 17.15” W x 10” D
- Capacity: 30 qts.
- Empty weight: 6 lbs.
- Warranty: N/A
There’s no denying that most coolers on the market don’t place much emphasis on visual appeal. The Get Out brand believes otherwise.
This Get Out Cooler Bagis just the right side of fun and functional for the casual backpacker.
Despite its minimalist design, the Get Out soft-sided cooler can fit as many as six wine bottles for a picnic at the park or seaside.
With cushioned backpack straps and a waterproof lining, this soft-sided cooler is just as comfortable to use as it is durable.
It has a firm zipper closure that keeps your refreshments secure as you trek. A quick drop test confirms its durability, showing no ice spills or scratches.
Bearing in mind its economic size and limited features compared to other soft coolers, it can keep ice frozen for only one full day.
If you simply want to spend an afternoon hiking or chilling with your friends, then this head-turning Get Out soft cooler can keep enough drinks for everybody.
- Fashionable design
- Reasonably priced
- Mediocre ice retention
- Limited storage space
Choosing the Best Coolers for Ice Retention
With so many options for coolers, which one is the best? Finding the most suitable product depends on several factors.
Check out the buying guide below to help you narrow down your choices:
1: Cooler Type and Construction
There are two main construction processes used for hard-sided ice coolers:
- Rotational molding (Rotomolding)
- Injection Molding
Enthusiasts typically recommend rotomolded coolers for their durability, ice retention, and ergonomics.
Rotational Molding (Rotomolding)
Rotomoldingis a production process that involves putting molten plastic in a mold, which is rotated vertically and horizontally at a pre-set speed as it is heated.
Simultaneously rotating and heating allow for a uniform distributionof the plastic along the interior of the mold.
It produces CONSISTENT thickness that protects rotomolded coolers from shattering or cracking. It results in a leak-proof, lightweight, and durable product.
YETI is typically credited as the brand that popularized rotomolded coolers, making them the cooler giant they are today.
Injection molding is the second-most common method. It’s often used to create wheeled coolers.
It works by injecting molten plastic into a mold. The shape is cooled in the mold and eventually ejected.
This process involves multiple pieces that are assembled into a single product. It’s a relatively inexpensive method that gives greater precision in creating complex designs.
The disadvantage of this method is that the use of multiple pieces translates to reduced durability and a greater risk of cracking.
Nevertheless, there are injection-molded ice coolers that can measure up to rotomolded coolers in terms of robustness.
Which Is The Better Type?
There is no significant difference in terms of cooling performance between the two construction types.
However, a rotomolded cooler has the advantage of a seamless design that can hold ice and water with the least possible chance of leakage.
That being said, many injected-molded designs are just as capable of decent ice retention.
Get a rotomolded cooler if you intend to use it for outdoor useon a camping trip or for other high-impact activities where durability is CRUCIAL.
You can opt for injection-molded coolers if you want a hard cooler for parties or casual travel.
Coolers are made to keep food and drinks cold. This process works via insulation.
Insulation minimizes heat transfer to maintain low temperatures for a longer period. Better insulation means less ice melting.
All commercial coolers use some form of foam insulation.
The most common materials used to insulate ice coolers are the following:
- Styrofoam – Although inexpensive, it is not as effective at keeping ice frozen as other types of foam.
- Polyurethane Foam – This dense material has smaller air bubbles, which can provide maximum insulation and durability.
- Polyethylene Foam – This foam comes in two types: open-cell and closed-cell. Because it’s lightweight, it’s ideal for soft coolers.
In closed-cell foams, gas bubbles do not come in contact with each other. It produces a rigid, dense material that effectively PREVENTS heat transfer.
Open-cell foams are breathable and lightweight because the bubbles are close to each other. It means it’s easier for heat to travel through, making it less insulating.
Some cheaper coolers may have thinner insulation at the bottom of the cooler or may not have insulation in the lids at all.
Look for products that have airtight lids, as air gaps can affect how long coolers stay cold.
3: Size and Capacity
Before buying a cooler, you should consider how many items you intend to put in it to accommodate how many people.
Some brands use metrics such as gallons, liters, and quarts to measure cooler capacity. Others base it on the number of cans certain coolers can hold.
Generally, the standard measurement for cooler capacity is in QUARTS.
To better understand how this looks in real life, most of us would rather measure the interior capacity of coolers based on the number of 12-oz. cans they can carry.
This measurement roughly equates to 0.75 cans per 1 quart. Note that this measurement does not account for ice or cold packs.
A general rule of thumb is to place twice the volume of ice to one volume of supplies (2:1 ratio) to keep your food and drink cold.
Small coolers are around 10 to 35 quarts and can hold 8 to 26 cans. This option is enough for day trips to the beach or campsite.
A small capacity cooler of about 15 to 20 quarts can fit a few drinks, one or two meals, and minimal ice. It’s generally small enough to be carried by one person alone.
A 20-quart backpack cooler can reasonably accommodate supplies fit for one person over the course of one to two days.
Coolers ranging from 35 to 55 quarts are the middle-ground for many buyers. It can fit roughly 26 to 41 cans.
These coolers are versatile enough to work for a variety of purposes, from weekend travel to extended road trips.
A 40-quart cooler is enough to fit food and drinks for two people for two days. It’s a moderately sized cooler that can easily fit in the back of a car or truck.
A small family of three may benefit more from coolers with capacities of 55 quarts or upward.
Using a large cooler is the way to go if you intend to take a week-long trip with three or more people.
With capacities ranging from 55 to 75 quarts, large coolers can fit 41 to 56 cans. They are ideal for large groups going on extended trips or outdoor gatherings.
The best coolers in this range have great ice retention, storage space, and the addition of extra cooler features such as dividers and side tables.
Large-capacity coolers are significantly less portable. Expect a sizeable amount of space needed to store them.
Coolers in this range have capacities of 75 quarts and above, which can amount to 56 cans or more.
This cooler capacity is generally reserved for professional or semi-professional use.
If you’re an avid outdoor enthusiast who wants to use their cooler for activities like hunting or fishing, an extra-large model might be more your speed.
Take note, though, these coolers can get up to 90 lbs. and cost upwards of $1,000!
In addition to being pricey, these coolers are incredibly heavy and bulky. They won’t be the easiest to move or transport.
That being said, extra-large coolers mean greater storage space that can accommodate a larger amount of supplies and ice. It’s ideal for big groups and longer trips.
4: Weight and Portability
There’s no universal cooler that can suit all types of outdoor activities.
You need to consider how you’ll carry your cooler if you plan to transport it regularly.
Hard-sided coolers with low capacity can be anywhere from 10 to 15 lbs., but large-capacity coolers can get up to 50 lbs. even when empty.
You’d be hard-pressed to carry a large cooler in rough trails or sand.
ERGONOMIC alternatives such as soft-sided coolers and backpack coolers are ideal for outdoor enthusiasts on the go.
Soft-sided coolers tend to be more convenient and handy to lug around outdoors, but they’re not as well-insulated as hard coolers.
If you must have a large cooler, a hard-sided cooler with wheels can offer better portability, larger storage, and greater ice retention.
Some YETI and RTIC coolers can also be equipped with add-on wheels that can be easily attached and removed.
5: Cooler Latch and Closure
The closure system is an essential feature of a reliable cooler that contributes to its overall cooling performance.
A good closure system minimizes air gaps for maximum insulation and better ice retention.
Expensive coolers typically have rubber latches that keep your cooler securely locked. These latches reduce the risk of air escaping, which helps keep the internal temperature constant.
In comparison, most budget coolers don’t have latches at all.
These models depend on the fit of the lid and the body to keep your cooler close. It results in a drop in insulation and security.
If you frequent bear country or areas where bear-proof equipment is required, an effective latch can help keep food away from bears.
Look for an Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) rating to certify whether your chosen cooler is bear-resistant.
There are two major types of coolers: soft coolers and hard coolers. Both types vary in durability and toughness.
Hard-sided coolers are thick, insulated containers made from molded plastic for longer ice retention.
Although they tend to be on the heavy side, they’re designed to withstand scratches, cracks, and leaks.
On the other hand, soft coolers are made from waterproof fabric lined with rubber.
Soft coolers are primarily intended to be lightweight and portable, coming in an array of forms, such as totes and backpack coolers.
The drawback of this form is that they are less durable. A soft cooler may not be as long-lasting as a hard-sided cooler.
Purchasing a quality cooler does not come cheap. However, a good warranty can ensure that your cooler is covered for repair or replacement should anything happen to it.
Different cooler brands have different manufacturer guarantees that range from one to ten years to a lifetime.
Some manufacturers offer varied warranties for their hard-sided and soft-sided products.
If you intend to use your cooler for high-impact activities regularly, you can benefit more from products that are under a lifetime warranty.
Do note that you’ll likely be paying more as long warranty periods are typically reserved for premium models.
Coolers are available at different price points that cater to a broad range of consumers: from relatively economical to wildly expensive.
In most cases, high-end coolers do outperform their lower-cost counterparts in several aspects, such as durability, ice retention, and warranty.
Premium models also come equipped with more features, so you know you’re really getting your money’s worth.
However, not everyone can justify spending $700 for an ice chest.
Your decision will depend on how often you’ll use a cooler and under what circumstances.
If you simply want to keep a few beers cold, you don’t need all the additional features of a pricey model. A cheap cooler can work just fine.
Which Type of Ice Should You Use?
Getting a high-quality ice chest is not the only thing to consider when it comes to keeping ice frozen. To maximize your cooler’s ice retention performance, we need to start with ice.
Let’s look into the two main types of ice that can be used for coolers: regular and dry ice.
With proper handling and precautionary measures, you can use both regular and dry ice to keep your cooler chilled for longer.
This is your standard all-purpose ice made from frozen water (H2O). It’s typically used to keep food and drinks cold.
Regular ice can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the two most commonly used for coolers are:
- Cubed Ice – Best for pre-chilling the cooler and its contents because it melts fast.
- Block Ice – Best for ice retention because of its slower melting rate and compact size.
Combining both shapes of ice is a great method to effectively boost your cooler’s ice retention.
To do this, pre-chill your cooler using cubed ice. Drain out the melted ice and pack the bottom layer of the cooler with block ice.
Load the container with your supplies and fill the remaining spaces with cubed ice according to the 2:1 ratio.
Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide (CO2). It’s colder than regular ice and quickly freezes anything that comes in contact with it.
Using dry ice is a foolproof way to keep your supplies cold for longer. Unlike regular ice, dry ice also doesn’t melt, simply dissipating into gas.
It makes dry ice particularly useful when carrying meat or ice cream because any item stored alongside it won’t get wet.
Do note that dry ice should NEVER be handled without protective gloves, as it can cause frostbite.
Make sure that your cooler is also compatible with dry ice before usage. Dry ice needs good ventilation, or else the build-up of gas can cause an explosion.
TAKE NOTE: Soft-sided and backpack coolers are often designed to be leak-proof. Do not attempt to use dry ice if you’re using such products.
To use dry ice to keep your cooler cold, wrap it in a towel and layer it at the top or bottom of the container. Fill the remaining space with regular ice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still unsure about which cooler you should get?
Here are some related questions buyers commonly ask about ice coolers.
Are Hard Coolers Better than Soft Coolers?
Both options can effectively keep your food and drinks ice cold.
A hard cooler is made from thick plastic to provide greater insulation. If you want maximum ice retention with added durability, a hard-sided cooler might be for you.
In comparison, a soft cooler is designed to be portable, lightweight, and leak-resistant while keeping your supplies cool.
A soft cooler may benefit you more if you primarily intend to use your cooler for long walks or hikes in the country.
Which Cooler has the Longest Ice Retention?
Many brands claim that their products have the longest ice life, but real-world testing may prove otherwise.
In practice, the ice retention time is greatly reduced when coolers are subjected to real-world use in comparison to manufacturer claims.
High-quality models from top brands can hold ice for up to 10 to 14 days, while other coolers can only last for two.
That being said, among the best-performing coolers in terms of ice retention are the RTIC 52 Ultra-Light, and the Orca 40-Quart Cooler.
Do Small Coolers Hold Ice Longer?
All things held equal, a comparison between a large cooler and a small cooler shows no significant difference in ice retention.
Small coolers surpass bigger-sized coolers only when a small amount of ice is used.
This result is because extra air space in a large cooler makes the ice melt faster.
How Do I Make My Cooler Keep Ice Longer?
To keep your ice frozen longer, you can try out the following tips:
- Pre-chill the food and beverages you want to store in your cooler.
- Fill your cooler as much as possible to reduce air space, as it can cause the interior temperature to rise.
- Add your ice last to keep your entire cooler cold since cold air travels downward.
- Use ice blocks instead of cubes because blocks melt slower.
- Limit cooler access and keep the lid closed as much as possible.
- Keep the cooler away from direct sunlight.
Top 3 Picks Recap
The best cooler option will ultimately come down to your needs, budget, and preferences.
To summarize this cooler review, below are my top 3 picks for the best coolers.
Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme 5 Hard Ice Chest – Best Budget Pick
Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme 5 is undoubtedlythe best high-capacity cooler under $100, with an incredible ice retention performance of 7 full days.
With a solidly-built construction and ample storage space, this 70-quart cooler proves that pricier products aren’t always better.
Lifetime 65-Quart High-Performance Cooler – Best Value
Bear-proof, robust, and filled with features, the Lifetime 65-Quart High-Performance Cooler delivers impressive ice retention at a great value.
This hefty 65-quart cooler is the perfect companion for extended trips to the beach or backcountry.
RTIC 52 Ultra-Light – Best Overall
This RTIC cooler strikes the perfect balance of versatility, durability, and cost, making it the best all-purpose cooler with great ice retention.
At a third of the price of similar products like the YETI Tundra 45, you get a high-performing cooler that can keep your cooler chilled for days.
As newer and better coolers with advanced cooling technology continue to emerge, there’s no shortage of options in the cooler market.
We tested soft coolers, backpacks, and hard coolers to find the best products that can keep ice frozen the longest.
Our research found that the best cooler for ice retention is RTIC 52 Ultra-Light, followed closely by Lifetime 65-Quart and Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme 5.
Our top picks can last up to 7 days, which is already an impressive number for many people.
Heavy hitters like the RovR RollR 45 and the Pelican Elite Cooler can retain ice for a maximum of 10 days, but they’re specialized models that are best suited for NICHE purposes.
Finding the best cooler for you will largely depend on how you intend to use it and in what conditions.
Lead marketer, brewer, dad, and husband. Pretty much an all-round awesome guy.