Cooler brands can be tricky as they vary in capability and size.
Do you want a small but light cooler? Are you sure with which quarts (qts) capacity you want your cooler to be?
There is even the matter of cost to consider as the prices can be rather hefty.
Thankfully we have just the guide for choosing only the best coolers that would serve you well for years.
The 10 Best Cooler Brands – Full Reviews
Let’s go over all the cooler brands that will have you enjoying those ice-cold drinks for that weekend getaway you’ve been planning with your friends.
1. RTIC 52 Ultra Light Cabela Polar Cap Equalizer 80qt Cooler – Best Overall
The RTIC 52 Ultralight can balance all the factors that make a tremendous hard-sided cooler:
- Balance capacity
- Ice retention
This cooler can carry around 52 quarts of storage while being compact enough to be stored and carried easily.
The portability is due to the lightweight material the RTIC coolers are made from; the cooler weighs around 23 lbs.
The model even has a drain spout to release any melted ice to keep its content cold and dry.
This RTIC cooler costs only around $200 due to being sold on the RTIC website and having many discounts available, compared to a Yeti or other premium cooler price of $300.
However, RTIC coolers aren’t available physically in an outdoor goods store.
The lightweight material and the injection-molded construct are much less durable or robust than other premium roto-molded coolers.
The $200+ price is the logical price for being more weight manageable and less expensive than a soft cooler.
- Affordable price point
- Quality ice retention
- Capacity (52 qts)
- Very portable
- Very lightweight (23 lbs)
- Only sold online
- Injection-molded model is not as robust as the roto-molded variation
- It comes only in one capacity variation
2. Yeti Tundra 65 – Best Value
This Yeti cooler’s roto-molded construction is designed for a long trek or an extended camping trip.
The Tundra’s excellent quality and durability are not surprising as Yeti coolers are known for their years-long longevity sculpt-wise and product performance.
The Tundra is even robust and bear-resistant thanks to the extra accessories like:
- Additional locks
- Tie-down slots
- Basket for dry goods
The external sculpt also has a beautiful design and colorway,
The biggest downside for this Yeti cooler is that the model line is relatively expensive at around $375+, even compared to other premium cooler brands.
The capacity for quart the Yeti Tundra 65 carries is ironically only 60 qts, with most of its bulk coming from its sculpt. You can get “flimsier” cheaper coolers that can hold more quarts.
The Tundra also lacks an integrated bottle opener and cup holder set despite the number of accessories available.
- Great longevity
- Premium cooler
- Roto-molded sculpt
- Ice retention
- Relatively expensive
- Missing important accessories (cup holder, bottle opener, etc.)
3. The Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler – Best Budget Pick
This Coleman cooler model makes up for its modest price of $80+ compared to similarly priced coolers.
The cooler comes with a very generous capacity of 70 qts. They also have other carrying capacity models, as little as 50 to a hefty 150 qts.
The Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler can support up to 250 pounds due to its Have-a-Seat lid should you choose to use it as an impromptu seat.
It even has 4 handy cup holders built in!
However, its ice retention is relatively poor in that its ice can only remain frozen for 2-3 days in good conditions.
It’s heavily recommended to pre-chill the cooler before loading it with ice.
Remember, the Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler was explicitly designed for the casual camper or outdoorsman that more than makes up its price despite its poor retention.
- Very budget-friendly price
- Still quite large despite the price
- Sturdy enough to act as a chair
- Lightweight (12lbs)
- 70 qts cooler with other carrying capacities (62,100,150 qts)
- Plastic construction
- Poor ice retention
- Can be compared as lacking to more expensive coolers
4. Yeti Roadie 24 – Best Small Cooler
The Yeti Roadie 24 is a small, reliable, convenient cooler perfect for picnics, outdoor dates, and other casual outings.
Expect all the best qualities of a Yeti Cooler product.
These include extended longevity, robust construction, and capable ice retention, all in a much lighter sculpt (12lbs) for a 23.6 qts capacity.
The Yeti Roadie 24 also comes with the following features:
- Sturdy roto-molded construction
- Thick but easy-to-open rubber latches
- Compatibility with a Yeti Tie-Down-Kit for trips on a boat or a truck
All great for an adventure or long trips!
However, the Roadie is ultimately too expensive for its niche of being a complete but significantly smaller cooler than other Yeti products.
- Robust yet easy-to-carry sculpt
- Superior ice retention among diminutive coolers
- Yeti brand longevity
- Capacity for 23.6 qts
- Very pricey for its size
5. Canyon Pro 45 Quart Cooler
The Pro 45 cooler from Canyon Coolers has a capacity of 45 quarts, is available in Diamond and Sandstone, and has ice retention up to 7 days.
The interior dimensions are 19.75 x 11.25 x 11.75 inches and it is made of hard roto-molded kayak plastic.
The Pro 45 has several benefits, including long-lasting cooling, a lifetime warranty, impressive storage capacity, and an airtight seal.
The only drawback is its weight, but this is due to the cooler’s sturdy construction.
6. RovR Products RollR 45
The RollR 45 of RovR Products is the best cooler with wheels on the market.
The wheeled cooler comes with the following:
- Quarts capacity range of 45 to 85
- Burly all-terrain wheels
- Long pull handle
- BiKR Kit Attachment (sold separately) capability for your bike
It also provides you with rigid construction, capable ice retention, optional cup holders and side prepping boards, etc.
However, the model is among the more expensive wheeled coolers at around $400+.
Another concern is that all the extra features and accessories add unnecessary weight to the wheeled cooler.
- 45 Qts with other sizes (60, 80, & 85 qts)
- High-quality all-terrain wheels
- Can be attached to a bike
- Excellent ice retention
- Robust construction
- Expensive price point
- Very heavy (37 lbs)
7. Orca 40 Quart Cooler
Outdoor Recreation Company of America (ORCA) is a smaller Tennessee cooler brand known for its committed outdoors people following.
This 40 qts cooler is made from a robust sculpt that would rival other yeti coolers in long-term durability.
The model even comes in many quarts capacities for just about any activity.
The model has flexible side handles for EASY PORTABILITY. It even comes with an exterior organizer pocket for small trinkets and gear like a bottle opener.
It also has a stiffer t-handle attached to the sculpting compared to its competitors.
However, despite the wide range, the model costs a steep $320+.
ORCA isn’t as mainstream online and available in physical stores as other cooler brands, so ORCA coolers aren’t as accessible as other brands.
- Big capacity (40 qts) with a wide capacity variations (20, 26, 58, 75, & 140 qts)
- A very sold all-rounder cooler
- The hard and robust construction of ORCA coolers
- Long durability or longevity
- It doesn’t stand out enough for its price
- Stiff handle latch
- Not as available or as widespread
8. Engel HD30 Soft-Sided Cooler
Engel Coolers have a reputation for their ice retention test design, keeping their ice frozen solid for 3-5 days.
This is all thanks to the vacuum technology and welded seams preventing warm air out and cold air in.
The best soft-sided cooler even has an air release valve to help regulate airflow to keep ice from melting.
You also get an adjustable strap and supporting accessories such as a bottle opener and a water-resistant front pocket to support the cooler.
It has a 32 quarts capacity (48 cans according to the description – important metric for choosing a beer cooler) and comes in 3 rugged colors — all for the modest price of around $240+.
However, despite the excellent vacuum technology fabric and temperature control, the Engel HD30 is pretty large for its soft-sided category.
The bag is very cumbersome for extended outdoor activities such as a hike. The bag’s soft-sided exterior is also vulnerable to tears due to accidental tears.
Its zippered exterior pocket was also vulnerable to water so keep that in mind while carrying it around.
- Easy to pack and carry
- Lightweight yet quality fabric construction
- Reasonably priced
- Longer ice retention compared to similarly sized coolers
- Not as robust compared to hard-sided coolers.
- Rather large and cumbersome for a soft-sided cooler
9. Hydroflask Day Escape Soft Cooler Pack
The Hydroflask Day Escape Soft Cooler Pack is a soft-sided backpack cooler that can hold up to 21 qts of ice for days.
The cooler, unlike the heavier hard-sided coolers, is comparatively lightweight and has supportive straps and padding for easy transportation of any cargo.
The ice retention can last 36 hours, all the while having extra space for anything else due to its spacious and stretchy side pocket.
The space’s seams are welded and made from a food-grade liner, meaning any leak is contained and easily cleanable.
However, the cooler can be comparatively pricey, not for other coolers but for backpacks. $180+ for a cooler can be seen as expensive for a backpack.
Some buyers say that carrying the cooler as a backpack can be awkward when wearing it despite its comfortable features.
- Long-lasting ice retention
- Leak-proof interior space
- Weighs only 3lbs
- A lot of features to sport it as a backpack
- Pricey for a backpack cooler
- It needs a lot of adjustments
- Only one kind variation of quarts capacity
10. Pelican 20 Quart Elite Cooler
The Pelican company is known for making dependable storing cases ranging from camera gear to guns to even drones.
Pelican coolers are no exception to this trend with their hard-sided cooler construction.
It’s considered bear-proof for a reason for the simple camping trips it’s designed for. The hard-sided construction even comes in different color tones and other colorways.
The Pelican Elite cooler series comes in a wide range of quarts capacities from 14 to 150 qts.
This cooler comes with more functional accessories. These are:
- Integrated self-draining cup holders
- Easy-to-use latches
- Firmer handle that is cheaper than the brand
However, this cooler series can’t match up performance-wise and durability-wise due to being injection-molded.
The cooler wasn’t designed for prolonged use as it lacks a drain plug for accumulated melted ice, and its ice retention is only suitable for a couple of days.
- Bear-proof hard-sided cooler construction
- A massive carrying capacity of 20 qts
- Self-draining cup holders and other accessories
- A line of hard coolers cheaper than Yeti coolers
- Not for very long day trips
- Not as high-quality as other cooler brands
This Igloo cooler is designed for low-capacity day trips.
This model’s MOST prominent standout feature is that it is only around $100+ for a quart cooler compared to other cooler brands.
The cooler model has the following features, such as:
- Triple-point grab rubber handle for easy gripping
- Protective kick plate
- Large molded ruler on the lid for measuring fish
However, the model’s capabilities reflect how much you are paying. Remember that $300+ is the standard price of a quality cooler for good reason
In exchange for the affordable cooler, the ice retention can be seen as lacking compared to other cooler brands.
It can only keep their ice cold for only 4 days in peak conditions. The cooler also has been noted to have leaks due to a lack of a rubber seal.
All in all, the Igloo BMX is still a quality cooler compared to similar budget coolers. It just pales to more established brands.
- Budget-friendly price point
- Built for longevity
- Very poor ice retention
- Low capacity
What Should You Consider When Picking a Cooler Brand?
It’s only natural to want the best coolers when you purchase one for yourself. However, there are many factors to consider before you can buy the best cooler for you.
We’ll be discussing each element thoroughly.
1. Cooler Construction (Hard-Sided)
Construction techniques help shape what kind of performance and function the product will do.
Hard-sided cooler construction techniques used to make high-end hard-sided coolers are divided into TWO TYPES:
- Rotational Modeling techniques
- Injection Modeling techniques
Rotational Modeling Techniques
Rotational Modeling or rotomolding techniques construct a single continuous plastic piece that has been rotationally molded into a single shape.
The process creates a durable outer shell that leaves fewer stress points (e.g., Yeti coolers, Kong coolers, and other high-end coolers).
However, these hard-sided coolers are very costly and can be very heavy. The standard price among similar quality coolers is around $300+.
Injection Modeling techniques
Injection Molding techniques work by inserting hot plastic into an exact molding process for their desired molded shape.
Unfortunately, they are constructed from multiple pieces, resulting in decreased durability.
Only really high-end coolers can match roto-molded cooler durability.
2. Cooler Construction (Soft-Sided Cooler)
Construction techniques help shape the product’s performance and functionality. Soft-sided coolers are much more lightweight and portable than hard coolers.
The model is also even cheaper in many cases and is preferable for buyers who only plan to carry small amounts of food and drink or for casual outings.
Famous soft-sided coolers include the Hydro Flask Day Escape, the YETI Hopper, backpack coolers, and other high-quality coolers.
However, even the best soft coolers can only retain ice for 3-5 days at the maximum. They are also predictably less durable and offered only in smaller sizes for carrying capacity.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Cooler construction does not affect a cooler’s ability to retain ice. Both a soft-sided cooler and a hard-sided cooler have similar ice retention abilities.
3. Cooler Capacity (Sizes) or Quart Capacity
Sizing for Coolers varies as different units can measure them by differing companies. Some use liters, gallons, etc.
However, quarts are the industry standard.
- SMALL (10-35 Quarts): These coolers are usually the more mobile and portable variants. They were only made to carry at least a small amount of ice, a few drinks, and enough meals for a single or 2 days.
- MEDIUM (35-55 Quarts): Most general-purpose cooler models for a few people fit this size. The kind is large but compact enough to fit a car’s trunk or boat for a single person to carry with enough food for several days.
- LARGE (55-75 Quarts): A large cooler can hold enough food for a large group of people but would require at least 2 people to carry the cooler around. However, coolers of this size have great or decent retention ability that can last even a week.
- EXTRA LARGE (75+ Quarts): These giant coolers are best used as outdoor gear for hardcore outdoor people. Usually expensive, very bulky, and heavy, they benefit big groups of people and strenuous outdoor activities such as fishing or hunting.
It’s a rule of thumb to buy a cooler slightly larger than you think so you can fill it with extra ice.
SIDE NOTE: Just because a cooler has a number designation, it doesn’t always mean it can hold that capacity. For example, the Yeti Tundra 65 is, in reality, a 60-quart cooler.
4. Ice Retention and Cooling Performance
Ice retention is the metric for the best coolers to buy. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most complex parts of the cooler to research for.
First, these factors can play a factor in keeping your ice cool for a long time.
- Air temperature inside (amount of ice inside the ice chest)
- Air temperature outside (direct sunlight)
Remember to avoid leaving any area with direct sunlight on the cooler or a room with a high ambient temperature.
The external temperature will heat your ice chest regardless of construction.
It’s recommended, for maximum performance, to pre-chill your ice chest BEFORE transport.
You can fill the insides with ice for a few hours beforehand to keep a cool interior temperature. Change the pre-chill ice with fresh ice to the ratio before loading it into your truck bed.
The practice also extends to pre-chill your food beforehand as their heat can cause melting also. Do this with an ice chest or with an electric cooler.
5. Ice Retention Claims
When a cooler provides an estimate of their ice retention specs (2-16 days), you must take these claims with a grain of salt.
There isn’t a standardized test for such claims, and the company made any test under optimal conditions.
It’s best to assume that any claim of how long cold retention is half the length during real-world use, give or take your external circumstances.
If you are looking for maximum cooling power, It’s best to buy from high-performance cooler brands with rotational molding.
They may be expensive, but they have long cold retention periods of about 16 days or longer.
Soft-sided coolers and cheaper hard-sided coolers can retain ice but not the same length.
6. Weight and Portability
Weight is especially important if you imagine yourself regularly carrying and lifting your traditional cooler or ice box.
- Hard-sided coolers tend to weigh around at least 10 pounds for smaller-capacity models.
- The premium hard coolers can weigh about 50+ pounds alongside their high quarts yield.
This is before ice, food, and cold drinks are loaded inside with their collective weight. Handles and ropes in some models can only do so much to mitigate the heft product.
For portability, you can consider wheeled coolers or Motorized Coolers.
Try out the RollR 45, a hefty cooler with wheels that can mitigate their already considerable mass and make it more manageable for extended periods for one person.
However, the downsides include even more weight due to the extra features of the cooler and difficulty going over rough terrain, so smooth paths are much more preferred.
7. Cooler Latch and Closure Systems
The Cooler latch or closure system is one of the mainstay features for premium coolers as they are important for cooler performance.
You’ll find two rubbery T-handles that keep the lid closed secretly around the front among quality coolers.
These handles or rubber latches are highly user-friendly and solid because they minimize any leaks of the interior’s cold from escaping.
A quality high-performance cooler can have cam-style latches that are easy to use while also acting like a quality seal.
In contrast, more budget-friendly or cheaper alternatives can forgo latches entirely and use a proper hold between the lid and the cooler.
However, such shortcuts can lead to reduced insulating performance. So you must observe the lid, or it may fall off during transport.
8. Cooler Drain Systems
Most hard coolers have drainage systems to clear the ice water.
These drainage systems usually come in the form of a pop-off cap or drain plug at the center of the cooler’s exterior.
All you need to do is remove the drain plug and let the water flow out. Some cooler product lines even have slanted interiors to drain and funnel the water for you.
Smaller cooler models such as the Pelican 20 quart Elite model don’t use these drainage systems, leading to a bit of hassle on their owner’s part.
However, their owners would be emptying and replacing the stocked contents anyway.
9. Cooler Warranties
While expensive coolers can leave a large hole in your savings, a generous warranty with such hefty products can ease your buyer’s anxiety.
There is a wide range of warranties from any given cooler manufacturer guarantees, ranging from 10 years or even lifetime warranties for ORCA coolers.
The other brands base their warranties on the cooler’s kind of construction.
For example, Yeti covers its hard tundra series with a 5-year warranty while only giving the soft Hopper series a 3-year warranty.
10. Accessories and Add-Ons
Extra and useful add-ons help provide a unique advantage one cooler model line has over the other model lines.
Such add-ons include integrated food basket dividers for separating food packs for each meal to more external integrations like cupholders and a side table.
The latter especially can help by expanding prep and storage space.
There are even more niche integrations, such as a fishing rod among Yeti coolers or a cutting board/food prep station.
However, they also make some models significantly more expensive for the overall cost of your chosen cooler.
11. Expensive Coolers
Most coolers on the list are worth around $200 or more, showing how expensive premium quality can be.
Most of these prices are justifiable and fair for what they provide.
Rotationally molded coolers from RTIC, Yeti, and other companies are known to be able to keep their ice frozen for much longer than the retention period of smaller companies.
The melted ice water can be a hassle to drain and replace despite being easily replaceable.
There is also the associated factor of durability and longevity. The more expensive brands can last even a lifetime or at least 10 years despite overuse.
All you would wish for is just a reliable cooler to keep your food warm and drink cold and refreshing.
Cooler Size Comparison Chart
|Cooler Name||Weight||Length||Width||Height||Capacity (qt)||Check Price|
|Yeti Roadie 20||15 lbs||13.75"||9.25"||10"||22 quarts||
|Yeti Tundra 35||20 lbs||15"||10.5"||10"||28 quarts||
|Yeti Tundra 45||23 lbs||19.5"||10.5"||10"||37 quarts||
|Yeti Tundra 50||26 lbs||18"||12"||12.125"||46 quarts||Discontinued*
|Yeti Tundra 65||29 lbs||24.5"||12"||10.125"||52 quarts||
|Yeti Tundra 75||34 lbs||27.25"||14"||12"||79 quarts||
|Yeti Tundra 105||36 lbs||24.5"||14"||14.25"||84 quarts||
|Yeti Tundra 110||39 lbs||31"||12.5"||13.75"||92 quarts||
|Pelican Elite 20Qt||16 lbs||20"||15.5"||14"||22 quarts||
|Pelican Elite 30Qt||32 lbs||26"||20"||19"||37 quarts||
|Pelican Elite 50Qt||36 lbs||30"||20"||19"||47 quarts||
|Pelican Elite 65Qt||48 lbs||37"||20"||19"||69 quarts||
|Grizzly 15 Qt||12 lbs||18"||14"||9"||16 quarts||
|Grizzly 20 Qt||22 lbs||20"||14"||8"||20 quarts||
|Grizzly 40 Qt||22 lbs||25"||16"||10"||40 quarts||
|Grizzly 60 Qt||22 lbs||30"||17"||11"||60 quarts||
Frequently Asked Questions
You may now know our top 10 choices for coolers and what factors to look at before you buy one.
Now, here is some extra info you would need to know regarding coolers:
Why the 2:1 Ice to Food Ratio?
The 2:1 ratio is important as properly proportioning your cooler’s space is directly related to your cooler’s performance.
The 2:1 ice-to-food ratio is the optimal proportion for cooler performance, such as getting a 50 qts cooler over a smaller cooler.
The extra ice acts as a buffer for additional cold retention for the cooler, but only to a certain point. Any more, and you’ll get diminishing returns.
Any excess air can expedite melting as external temperatures can heat it. So fill up those extra empty pockets with ice cubes.
You can trap the cold air with a damp towel or a reusable freezer sheet. The sheets and towels also inversely prevent the warm air from getting inside.
Can I Store Hot Drinks and Meals With My Cooler?
YES, foam insulation or general insulation works by trapping the heat of hot items within the cooler via the interior insulating walls.
You can fill up plastic bags with hot water for extra heat and then place your cargo over them.
Please do this only with a hard-sided cooler because it has better thermal insulation capabilities than a soft cooler like a backpack cooler.
This is to avoid accidentally scalding yourself and damaging the soft coolers’ fabric lining while carrying the heated cargo by accident.
Should I Consider Bear-Resistant Ratings?
It depends on your area, for the most part.
You should consider bear-resistant ratings if you live around the bear country, especially in forested areas around North America, or are just a camping or outdoor enthusiast.
These ratings will protect your food from scavenging animals, bears, or otherwise.
Bear-resistant coolers are usually hard-shelled coolers or cooler lines with foam insulation designed to be solid enough to withstand any conditions and abuse.
They also produce very little excess waste, ensuring economic and environmental consciousness.
Certified bear-resistant coolers are usually certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC).
They provide ratings and strict tests for bear resistance for coolers to be certified by their just as strict standards.
You can verify if your cooler line of choice is bear resistant with the IGBC website.
How Do I Clean My Cooler?
You can clean your cooler with two hands, a bucket of preferably warm water, and any common household dish soap.
Also, a mix of warm water and bleach works just as effectively for this task.
You must clean your cooler after many uses, especially after storing food. The cooler would develop a foul smell and begin to reek.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Most coolers are not dishwasher-friendly and should not be washed with pure bleach, detergent, and soap with chlorine unless you dilute those cleaning products with water beforehand.
Are the Types of Ice Important?
YES, even the kind of ice and how much you store impacts cold retention within a cooler.
Don’t underestimate the items that keep your drinks cold, as how they are formed distinguishes each one in keeping cool.
The MOST readily available version of ice from any convenience store to a major supermarket.
Their biggest advantage is that crushed ice can quickly get between your food and drinks for quick and efficient cooling.
However, crushed ice is the easiest and fastest to melt among the kinds of ice.
It would require you to restock your ice within the cooler daily, depending on how long your use is.
Blocks of Ice
Blocks of ice are much MORE robust and take much longer to melt compared to crushed ice.
However, these take up much more space around your cooler and don’t conform to your food and drinks.
These kinds of ice are best used with crushed ice to mitigate their disadvantages when used within a large cooler for efficient cold retention.
Packs of Ice
If you are concerned about restocking, ice packs are a reliable option for your ice-related needs.
Most big brands have their own takes on ice packs for their unique product lines without having to drain ice water repeatedly.
However, they can be rather pricey and need refreezing when they begin to lose their chill, a major downside for camping and trekking trips for several days.
The final option to use is dry ice.
The main component of dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide, which has NO WATER within it to melt.
Dry ice is formed directly from a solid state to a gaseous state. Dry ice can be dangerous when touched without protection from heavy gloves.
They also don’t last long in the first place, and most coolers aren’t made to handle dry ice.
A Recap of the Top Picks
These best coolers are our top picks for the following reasons. They are AFFORDABLE, USEFUL, and LONG-LASTING.
Best Budget Cooler: The Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler
The Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler is the best budget cooler with decent capabilities and longevity you can get. Unfortunately, it pales to the others in capabilities – but not in price.
Best Value: Yeti Tundra 65
The Yeti Tundra 65 is Coleman’s exact opposite, an incredibly durable and long-lasting cooler with second-to-none cold retention.
However, it also has the downside of being expensive.
Best Overall: RTIC Ultralight 52
The RTIC Ultralight 52 shines the brightest by having the best of both worlds.
It’s affordable at around $200 and has almost the same durability, longevity, and cold retention level as a yeti product.
The best cooler must be a product with all categories applied and be more than worth its price as an investment.
Its downside is that it’s only available online.
The best coolers can keep your beverages cold and meals hot for a long time during any trip. Not just trips but also family gatherings, camping outings, fishing boat adventures, etc.
In a way, they can be seen as the unsung heroes of your good times.
So when shopping for one, think of them as a worthy investment, and you’ll be rewarded with a long-lasting and satisfying treasure.