If you’re in a hurry and just want to know which is the overall best camping cooler we recommend, then check out the YETI Tundra 45 Quart Cooler.
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Suppose you’re looking for any old cooler you can drag with you to tailgate at the ball game or to the beach. In that case, you can get one of these for less than $50, and you don’t need to read an in-depth review of what it takes to be the best camping cooler.
But, if you’re looking for something more than just an insulated box with wheels and a handle, then you will appreciate the latest and greatest camping coolers we found.
Whether you’re going into the woods four or five days for some “R and R,” or on a hot weather hunt to tag a 225 lb bull, or just heading out for a day trip to the lake to catch some fresh wild salmon, we found the best camping coolers for the job.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the following top coolers to keep whatever you bring with you or take home ice cold and fresh:
If you would like to read an in-depth review on why we chose each one of these coolers as the best camping cooler than read on.
But if you would like to know more about camping coolers and what makes them the best, then use the table of contents below to jump to the informational section and learn how to choose the best camping cooler for yourself.
Our Top Choices Of The Best Camping Coolers
Overall Best Camping Cooler
It should be no surprise that our overall best camping cooler is the Yeti 45.
Everyone wants to bag on Yetis being overpriced, but when it comes down to it, it keeps your stuff the coldest the longest.
There are lots of websites out there that compare other factors, but when you buy a camping cooler to take with you on the road, into the woods, or out to sea, you really need it to do one thing, and that it keeps things cold.
So after looking at dozens of coolers, we found that the best cooler for ice retention is still the Yeti.
We won’t give you an exact time frame and say it will work the same for you because, to be honest, it depends on how you pack it, how much ice you put in it, and how often you open it.
But with all things held constant, the Yeti will keep items colder longer than any other camping cooler on the market.
We’re recommending the Yeti 45 as it’s the average size and price that most people will find useful.
But, the larger and smaller Yeti Tundras perform equally as well.
The only difference being the capacity and the price.
So they have an option you if you need a cooler to sling over your shoulder with a couple of sandwiches and some beer.
Or if you’re looking for a real beast that can handle two quartered deer, then they have a cooler size for you too.
The Yeti 45 can hold up to 34lbs of ice alone or up to 28 cans of beer (or other canned beverage) with a 2:1 ice ratio.
The three inches of permafrost insulations that comes with every Yeti makes it extremely durable and certified grizzly resistant.
But only when it’s locked. Bears won’t break the cooler, but they are clever enough to knock it over…
The T-Rex lid latches made from heavy-duty rubber do a good job at keeping the lid closed and are maybe good enough to keep out your drunk uncle, but they won’t keep bears out on their own.
While it is durable and extra insulated, its weight adds up to about 23lbs empty.
Add another 30-40lbs of ice and stuff, and you’re looking at a 65lb chest.
Now, usually, the Yeti Tundras don’t come with wheels. So, if you’re planning on keeping it in the truck’s bed or in the back of the SUV, then all is well.
But if you decide to take it with you later down to the shoreline or need to transfer it to the boat, you may want to get a wheel kit to go with it.
While every Yeti comes standard with a dry basket, the wheel kit is sold separately by a third party.
Unless you want a Yeti Tundra with built-in wheels.
Which you can get by checking out our next choice.
Best Camping Cooler With Wheels
So, you want the performance and durability of a Yeti, but you don’t have the desire or the back strength to lug it 100 yards to the campsite, shoreline, or down to the dock.
The folks over at Yeti listened and slapped some wheels on a cooler for you too, which, combined with Yeti’s cold performance, makes it the best camping cooler with wheels.
This Yet, in particular, is a little larger than the Yeti Tundra 45, coming in at 55 quarts of capacity.
It can hold up to 45 cans of beer with a 2:1 ice ratio, or 55lbs of ice.
Empty, it weighs around 37lbs.
So filled up, you’re looking at around 90lbs of total weight.
Hence, the wheels.
The wheels are tight to the cooler’s frame to take up as small a footprint as possible while still giving you enough clearance to take it off the pavement.
The built-in collapsible handle also folds down nicely and is inset to the frame, so it stays out of the way.
I don’t like that it comes with the hard plastic wheels you find on Tonka trucks…
Which renders them kind of useless in the sand. So it may not be the best cooler for the beach.
You would probably be better off getting a standard Yeti Tundra and then mounting it on the pneumatic wheel kit we mentioned above.
For most uses, the hard plastic wheels are okay. They will make maneuvering the heavy cooler around the campsite easy enough.
It comes with all of the other components standards to the Yeti, including the hard-rubber T-rex latches, three inches of PermaFrost insulation, lid lock compatible, and a gasket-sealed lid to keep the heat out.
Best Extra Large Camping Cooler
Now, you may be familiar with RTIC as the “cheaper” alternative to the Yeti. While you are right, the Yeti still performs better than RTIC under constant conditions.
So then why do we choose the RTIC here? Well, because it’s the best one we can find with high performance, extra capacity, and a moderate price tag.
The Yetis come available at 125 quarts and 160 quarts, making them both a little too small and a little too big, respectively.
The RTIC 145 quart is sufficiently large to keep a big harvest cool for the trip back home. At the same time, it is still able to fit lengthwise within the short side of a standard truck bed, which makes it the best extra large camping cooler.
It, too, comes with three inches of insulation, a sealed gasket lid, and the T-rex hard rubber latches.
Its empty weight is around 59lbs, and it can hold up to 145 cans with a 2:1 ice ratio or up to 155lbs of ice alone.
When fully loaded, you’re looking at around 200lbs or more depending on what you put in it.
So, unless you got arms like a lumberjack, you’re going to want that wheel kit we’ve been harping on about.
It telescopes to fit any size Yeti or RTIC cooler larger than the Yeti 35. It also has pneumatic wheels, which help get it over rough terrain and sand.
Best Small / Lightweight Coolers For The Money
Let’s say you aren’t looking to cool a 200lb buck and just need something to keep your beverages on ice and some sandwiches fresh. At the same time, you hike up to your favorite lookout point or down to the shoreline.
We talked a lot about Yeti Tundras and RTICs so far, but they are behemoths that you won’t want to carry even just walking from the truck to the garage.
So, what can you take with you that is equally as powerful at keeping things cold, yet small enough to carry with you? But large enough to actually hold something more than two cans of beer?
Enter the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Zipperless Hardbody Cooler…
And the Yeti Hopper Backflip.
You see, we’re torn. The Arctic Zone Titan is a great cooler.
Plenty of space, well constructed, keeps your stuff cold, and it’s easy to carry.
But, the shoulder strap design is not as good as the Yeti’s backpack shoulder strap design.
Yet, the Arctic Zone Titan is a fraction of the cost compared to the Yeti.
So, for us to say which is the best small camping cooler, we would say it depends on how far you need to carry it.
The Yeti’s empty weight is just over five pounds, which isn’t too bad. But when you fill it with the 25lbs of ice it can hold, you’re looking at a 30lb rucksack. Hence the need for the backpack design.
Meanwhile, the Arctic Zone Titan weighs just three and a half pounds and can carry the same load.
But it only has a single shoulder strap…
So, if I had to choose between distributing 30lbs on one shoulder or both shoulders, I would again have to say it depends.
If you’re just hoofing it a few hundred yards to the beach or to the boat, then yeah, not a big deal. You can save a couple hundred bucks and sling the cooler over your shoulder.
Suck it up!
You’ll have to juggle the kids and the chairs and the umbrella, but you’ll manage.
But going on a hike… no way.
Do yourself a favor and fork out the cash for the Yeti and be done with it.
Best Soft Coolers For The Money
Okay, so you need something that’s more portable than a Yeti, yet equally as powerful, and can easily store away when not in use.
You want a soft cooler.
Not a soft-sided cooler with a hardliner interior.
But an actual, soft cooler that can collapse and tuck away into a drawer or small compartment.
For that, there are a lot of cooler bags out there, but there is only one Engel.
The Engel is the first soft cooler with vacuum valve technology. It lets you remove any warm air that gets trapped inside your cooler when you close it.
It has a thermoplastic urethane lining and closed foam insulation that chills faster and won’t absorb the cold if you forget to prechill it.
That combined with the vacuum technology, and your ice will last for days.
Yes, you should still pre-chill whatever you put in it to increase performance.
But it will surprise you how long this bag will keep ice.
I forgot to empty it after a day at the beach, and when I went to do it the next day, it still had more than half the ice left.
I zipped it shut to do a little test and knocked it over to see how well the zipper held the slush, and I’m happy to say there were no leaks!
I’m also impressed with the comfortable shoulder strap.
As a bonus, they throw in a bottle opener.
Best Budget Camping Cooler
So let’s look at a high-performance cooler now that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
If you refuse to pay more than $100 for a cooler, I totally get it.
There’s a lot of bad blood out there for paying for overpriced, poorly performing products.
But, you have to be careful, because as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”
So what’s the solution? Can you find the best cooler for under $100?
Well, for the budget, you would be hard-pressed to find a cooler that is as durable and performs as well as the Igloo BMX.
They’ve gone the distance in reinforcing the exterior with armored plating and using stainless steel hinges.
They use the same hard rubber T latches and insulated gasket lid that the more expensive brands use to make sure it stays cold.
But one thing Igloo does that even the expensive brands don’t do is they built-in risers to keep your cooler off the hot ground wherever you need to put it.
Keeping the heat out of your cooler is the same as maintaining the cold in.
Suppose you have to leave your cooler on the ground or in the sun. In that case, this little fix will keep it out of direct contact with the heat source. Give it a little ground clearance that will ventilate it better than standard coolers flush with the ground surface.
After running multiple tests, this cooler proves to keep cold for up to five days filled with pre-chilled food and beverages.
It comes in two sizes. You have a standard 52 quart that will hold up to around 40 cans with a 2:1 ice ratio.
Empty, it weighs around 16lbs.
Combined with 55lbs of ice, it could hold, and you’re looking at around 70lbs. Which is much lighter than the Yeti or RTIC.
The 72 Quart weighs in around 19lbs empty and can hold up to 60 cans with a 2:1 ice ratio of about 70lbs of ice.
When all is said and done, you can’t beat the performance and durability for the price.
Why A Camping Cooler May Be Right For You
A camping cooler has a particular job to fulfill.
Standard coolers will keep some drinks cold for a few hours.
Make sure your hor’s d’ oeuvres get to the party fresh.
Or can even keep your food warm if you choose to use it that way.
But taking any old cooler into the woods to bring back that buck you tagged or getting a few limits of redfish or trout back to shore could spell trouble if they don’t keep cold.
It’s critical that when you close that lid, the cooler works to keep the perishables your family needs to stay fed a few days fresh.
That it will be strong enough to protect your food from bears.
When it comes down to it, you need a team member.
You’re only as strong as your weakest link.
Don’t let your cooler slow you down or endanger the rest of your team by not doing its job.
What To Look For In The Best Camping Coolers
As we mentioned before, if you’re looking for something to keep your brewski icy cold for a few hours tailgating at the ball game, then there’s nothing that makes any one cooler better than the other.
They all have four walls and a lid.
You’ll get what you pay for.
A lid that stays closed better than others.
A cooler strong enough that you can sit on if you packed on some weight over the years.
The price will vary on how big you want it to be.
Other than that, pretty much anything will do the job.
But suppose you’re looking for a cooler that you can depend on as much as you would rely on your best bush knife or hunting scope. In that case, there are some details you’ll want to pay attention to when choosing your next camping cooler.
You may have heard many talks about the rotomolding versus other molding tactics like injection or blow molding.
It comes down to that rotomolding allows for the construction of thicker insulated walls and lids that are more durable than injected or blown products.
Rotomolded coolers are not inherently “better” than other coolers. But they do have the advantage of better performance if you use them correctly.
At the end of the day, what makes one cooler better than another is how well it performs.
Or better said, how long does it keep things cold.
Am I right?
So let’s get down to brass tacks.
No one really cares about how thick the walls are or how long a bear can pound on it if it doesn’t keep what you need inside it cold.
We’ve kept that in mind with every cooler we found for this article.
Yes, we want it to be durable, but more importantly, we want to know that it will keep your stuff cold.
Raw meat needs to be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less before it is in danger of spoiling.
So we base performance on how long it can keep at 40 degrees or below.
The next factor to consider is its ease of use.
You don’t want to be fiddling with stupid latches that won’t open, or close, or a lid that won’t stay open when you’re trying to keep your harvest off the ground.
The capacity that matches what they claim on the box is also essential.
You don’t want to buy a cooler thinking it can hold one volume and come to find that it isn’t what the manufacturer claimed.
Its internal capacity should hold what you expect it to so that you’re not caught having to stuff your cooler so tight that it loses its cooling ability.
It’s also important that the cooler’s external dimensions fit within the space you allotted for it in your camper or truck bed.
Unfortunately, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Finding a cooler that’s as tough as you are will cost you both in price and weight.
While rotomolded coolers are easier to make, they use more material and thus have an inherently higher cost.
They also weigh more.
Keep that in before deciding to get a 150-quart rotomolded cooler that can weigh 50 lbs or more empty.
Ideally, you’re going to set it in one place and not move it once it’s full.
But if you have to move it, you may want to consider getting multiple smaller coolers if you need the capacity.
And also, make sure they come with tough handles that aren’t going to pop off when you load up the chest and haul it in and out of the truck.
The weight comes from the extra plastic and insulation that makes it bear-resistant and keeps things ice-cold even in hot temperatures.
Without it, it would just be an overpriced ice bag.
The best camping coolers come with at least three inches of insulation in the walls and the lid.
Most standard coolers do not insulate the lid and lets the heat in much faster than insulated lids.
Another feature that helps keep the heat out is a seal or gasket between the lid and the cooler walls.
If warm air can get into your cooler, then it doesn’t matter how thick the walls are. It’s going to warm up, and just keep the warmer temperature better.
If the heat does get in and start to melt your ice, you want the cooler to have a big enough drain to get it out without having to tip it over and risk losing the ice you do have.
You also don’t want the drain to be so big that it again starts to let out good ice.
If your ice does start to get slushy, you should consider having dry bins to keep things you don’t want to get wet out of harm’s way.
Having a thick, insulated lid will also help give your cooler a second purpose as a seat or a table to prep.
Some coolers will even come with built-in prep boards now, so you have one less thing to pack.
Finally, some last things to consider before you invest in your next camping cooler is if you’re going to need it to have wheels.
Having wheels seems like a nice feature, and it is if you anticipate having to move your cooler long distances.
But if you don’t intend on moving the cooler once it’s full, then having wheels and a handle may just be extra weight or take up extra space that you don’t need.
Being outdoorsmen, we appreciate eco-friendly products.
It’s not easy to find, but if the cooler is made in the USA (if you live in the US), that’s better for the planet.
We like it if the cooler is made from recycled plastic.
And we also think that a cooler that lasts longer means there are fewer coolers in landfills.
It’s not a must, but if it also comes with a built-in bottle opener, then, heck, why not.
The color may be of importance to you as well.
To match your gear and have a lighter or darker colored exterior will help keep what’s inside colder longer.
For example, if you know, it’s going to be sitting in the sun on the back of your boat, then having a white cooler will reflect sunlight (and heat) better than a darker color.
Having a built-in ground clearance will also help keep the cooler off the ground to keep it colder longer.
And last but not least, getting a worth camping cooler is a pricey investment. Ideally, the manufacturer you buy it from will provide you with a fair warranty to ensure you don’t end up with an expensive lemon.
We’ve done the due diligence to ensure that our choices include as many of these factors as possible to save you the hassle.
How Does The Best Camping Cooler Work / How To Keep Your Cooler Cold The Longest
When shopping for a camping cooler, you may notice many mixed opinions about how long a cooler can keep what’s inside cold.
But what most people fail to talk about is that they don’t know how to use the cooler.
You may scratch your head and think,” What’s so difficult about using a cooler?”
“You put your stuff in it you want cold, fill it with ice, and Bob’s your uncle.”
There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Most people don’t learn how to use a cooler properly and thus suffer from poor performance or at least the same performance you would get from a poorer constructed and much less expensive cooler.
But never fear.
In the next few minutes, you’ll know how to use your cooler like a pro to keep it the coldest the longest.
Let’s go over a few key points to keep in mind when using your camping cooler to make sure you didn’t waste a lot of money on a cooler that can’t do its job because you don’t know how to use it.
The first thing you need to do will sound obvious, but invest in a quality cooler!
It doesn’t have to be the most expensive like the Orion coolers in the video above, but it should be well-insulated, have a quality gasket to keep warm air out, and tight locking latches that keep that lid closed.
If you have a cooler that’s not insulated well or has a hollow lid, you can fill it with foam yourself to insulate it better.
After washing it, the next thing you should do before you pack it is pre-chill it the night before.
Pre-chilling the cooler will lower the insulation’s temperature and thus rob less cold from the ice and perishables you load it with the next day.
As necessary as a quality cooler, you should also use quality ice.
Not all are equal!
Ice you get from the drug store is not as cold as ice you can get from your freezer.
I know it’s not possible to get as much ice from your freezer as you could from the drug store.
But you can freeze large blocks of ice or use ice packs that will be much colder than the ice cubes you get from the store.
Ice blocks have less surface area exposed to the air and will stay frozen longer.
Your freezer can also get the blocks much colder than the freezers at the store.
There’s been some talk about using dry ice…
Well, yes, dry ice is much colder than regular ice. Still, the problem is that dry ice produces carbon dioxide gas as it “melts” compared to water from regular ice.
When your cooler fills up with the gas, it can pressurize and rupture if the gas doesn’t have a way to dissipate.
If you leave the cooler open, then you’re letting warm air in and defeating the purpose of having cold ice to begin with…
Just get some solid ice blocks and keep that lid closed!
You should also avoid putting in things that are warm into your cold cooler. The cooler will keep things cold, but it does a poor job at making things warm cold.
Though they do have coolers that can do that if you’re looking for that sort of thing.
Pre-chill or freeze your food and drinks you’re bringing with you.
If you’re just bringing ice to keep your harvest cold on the way home, then make sure to leave meat out overnight and pack it first thing in the morning when the meat is coolest.
If you’re transporting fish, then get it on ice as soon as possible before it warms up.
Once you pre-chill the cooler and everything that goes in it, fill the gaps with as many ice chips or cubes as possible. This will reduce the warm air’s ability to stay inside the cooler when you close it.
The chips will do a better job filling the gaps to keep the air out, while the large solid ice blocks will do a better job at keeping the temperature cold for as long as possible.
If you don’t have enough ice to fill the cooler, then use a foam pad or anything water-resistant to fill the void and keep the warm air out.
When it’s packed, and you close the lid, be sure to keep that lid closed!
Whatever’s inside isn’t going anywhere.
Opening the lid will ultimately undermine the coolers ability to keep what’s inside cold if you fill it with warm air by opening the lid.
Next is to be mindful to keep the cooler out of direct sunlight.
If it’s not possible to keep it in a shaded area, be sure to get a white-colored cooler to reflect as much heat and sunlight as possible.
You may also consider wrapping it in some Reflectix to help keep it cool.
You shouldn’t be opening the cooler’s lid. Still, if it’s unusually hot out, you can open the drain to let out any water without letting any warm air get in.
In line with keeping your cooler out of the sun, you should also keep it off the hot ground.
Some coolers come with built-in risers, but if you can keep it off the ground, then even better.
If that’s not possible, the next best thing you can do is dig a hole and bury the cooler under the surface.
Not only will the ground be cooler, but it will also serve as natural insulation to help keep the contents cold.
Another trick you can try is using rock salt once your ice starts to melt.
Salt lowers the freezing point of water which will keep melted ice colder and keep it from melting the solid ice.
I know that sounds confusing but just throw a couple handfuls of rock salt in the cooler when you pack it with the ice chips.
Now that you know everything there is to know about the best camping coolers, you should look at some cooler accessories that can make your life a little easier.
For example, you may have noticed that most of the rotomolded and insulated coolers weigh a ton (almost).
And most don’t come with wheels aside from the one we listed.
And maybe you don’t need the wheel all the time.
So what do you do when the cooler itself weighs more than 50lbs, and then you load with another 50 to 100 lbs of ice, meat, or fish?
Unless you have an extra set of hands, you’re going to risk getting a hernia lifting in and out of the truck.
Luckily, they make wheel kits you can buy separately that adjust to whatever size cooler you have.
It’s really more like a dolly for your cooler that telescopes to fit your cooler’s size and then retract so that you can store it.
They come with pneumatic wheels so that you can roll over whatever gets in your way and not sink or grind up in the sand.
Keep it in the cooler for easy access, and to reduce any extra space for warm air.
Just don’t go opening and closing the cooler!
Some coolers also come ready for basket use to keep things dry.
If you don’t want to reuse your milk jugs as ice blocks, you can get some of these nifty Yeti ice packs that freeze in half the time and last twice as long as regular ice packs.
Getting some tie-downs that fit your cooler is also handy to keep the cooler from sliding around the back of the truck or SUV.
I don’t know how many times I loaded up the cooler, put it in the back of the truck, took off down the road, and then bam!
The cooler slides and almost takes off the truck bed gate.
When you’re on the boat or around the campfire, space and function are of the essence.
You can double the cooler as a seat or a step to ensure that it earns its place.
But that doesn’t mean you bum has to suffer for it.
You can now get one of these padded adhesive cushions to turn the hardtop into a nice plush pillow to keep that hiney comfortable.
Finally, security is of the utmost importance when it comes to protecting your investment.
It’s not practical to have to lock your cooler up in the cab every night.
You may also be in bear country and not want to empty your cooler into a bear locker.
Now, most of these coolers come with the ability to slap on a padlock on it to keep Yogi out.
They also have security cables to keep any sly neighbors from walking off with your $500 investment.
Well, there you have it, folks. The most complete guide on how to choose the best camping coolers.
What makes a cooler the best for us?
Performance. How long does it keep your stuff cold is really what it comes down to.
But don’t be fooled.
Nothing will work as it claims if you don’t use it properly.
If we didn’t stress the importance of keeping the lid to your cooler closed enough before, we’ll say it again here.
Once you pre-chill the cooler and get your stuff inside it, keep it closed!
So many people complain that their super expensive coolers don’t work. Yet, at the same time, they’re opening it multiple times per day.
The cooler won’t work if you don’t let it.
Take the extra step, so people don’t accidentally open it either. Lock it with a padlock.
Cover it with a blanket, so everyone knows that’s the cooler that needs to stay shut.
Wrap a bungee cord around it.
Another thing to keep in mind is to keep it out of direct sunlight, if possible, and of direct contact with the hot ground.
Put the cooler in the shade, cover it with blankets, and put it on blocks if it doesn’t come with built-in risers to keep it off the hot ground.
Follow these simple steps, and you’ll see your cooler’s ability to retain ice, and its temperature improves significantly.
If you’re still having trouble deciding which cooler to choose, I would go with the YETI Tundra 45 Quart Cooler. It will stay cold the longest compared to any other cooler, and it’s the overall best camping cooler for pretty much any job you have.
If you need something larger than 45 quarts, the Yeti Tundras size up incrementally for whatever capacity you may need.
One thing to keep in mind is they do get heavy.
They have three-inch thick foam insulation and hard, rotomolded plastic. Empty, the 45 quart weighs around 50 pounds, so you may want to get a wheel kit if you plan on moving in and out of the truck.
If you have any questions or concerns about our list of camping coolers please let us know down in the comments below.
We also appreciate any feedback if you have experience with any of the coolers we talked about, or failed to talk about.
Until next time.