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Introduction

Almost every outdoor activity requires a Cooler. Whether you are going for a 1 day hike up the mountain, or, going for a week long camping trip in the middle of nowhere. It is always great to know that you have the cooler that will do its job.

So here is the scoop…

There are so many different types of coolers to choose from. There are also so many features that need to be considered before you make your purchase.

  1. What do you want your cooler to be able to do?
  2. What do you want your cooler to look like?
  3. What sort of capacity should it have?
  4. What kind of durability should it have?
  5. How easy should it be to move your cooler around?

These are just some of the things to consider when making a decision on which cooler will be the best one for you. There are some great tips to help you decide.

Types of Cooler

Traditional Coolers

Coleman Traditional Cooler

Staying true to their namesake “Traditional Coolers” present a classical option for buyers. Using the old and trusted engineering to bring tradition into the 21st century. Not to mention the designs that are sure to bring up memories or stories from the early 1950’s.

Soft Coolers

AO Soft cooler

These coolers generally have a soft looking exterior and are designed to be carried with one hand or shoulder. There is usually a leak proof internal liner and high density insulation foam in the walls for ice retention.

High-end Roto-molded Coolers

Yeti Tundra Cooler

These coolers are made using the same method that kayaks are made with. This incredibly rugged method of assembling coolers is the best way to ensure that the ice retention is in excess of 7 days. The insulation in this type of cooler is mostly pressure injected polyurethane foam.

Backpack Coolers

Igloo MaxCold

These are usually soft walled and heavily insulated coolers that have the added ability of easy mobility. They are designed to be light enough when loaded, to still be able to carry on one’s back. Backpack coolers also come with storage for dry foods on the outsides.

Wheeled Coolers

Igloo Marine Breeze Roller Cooler

They have been designed for ultimate mobility while still maintaining the features of a highly insulated cooler. The telescope handles and all of the extra features that they can come with, make these coolers a great well rounded investment. They are usually compact and easy to anchor.

 

Best Cooler Reviews – 2017

Now we will give you the run-down of our top 10 coolers of 2017-2018. We feature a range of different cooler types in this list, but if you are looking for a specific type please visit our sub-pages for detailed guides and product reviews of the different cooler types. Without further ado, here is our top 10!

Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Cooler 

A retro cooler that may lack practicality but makes up for it with an attractive vintage design.

The Coleman Steel-Belted Cooler is one of the best coolers in terms of aesthetic design. The design attracts a lot of buyers due to the fact that it has a vintage charm to it. The design brings back memories and stories of the old days. Along with the beautiful design, Coleman have managed to upgrade the features to suit newer world necessities. For example: Integrated bottle top openers, leak proof drainage systems and heavy duty latching systems for when the road gets a bit bumpy.

This stylish cooler can hold approximately 85 cans with ice. Coleman has also cleverly thought of adding a little extra height to enable you to fit a 2L bottle upright inside. So no more spillage. Yay!

Key Features

  • Stainless steel construction
  • Traditional design
  • 54 quart capacity
  • Leak proof drainage system
  • Heavy-duty latching system

Pros

  • Classic Design
  • Integrated bottle top opener
  • Holds 2L Bottles upright

Cons

  • No tie-down anchor points
  • Only 1 size
  • Stainless steel construction makes it heavy

 

A rugged roto-molded cooler, which is ideal for fishermen, huntsmen, and other endevours which require long-term ice retition.

The amazingly rugged Pelican ProGear Elite Cooler is a fisherman’s dream cooler. Imagine having the power to retain your ice for days on end. You know your fresh catch of the day will still be fresh when you get home. This baby can retain the ice for up to 10 days.

How is this even possible you ask?

This is due to the fact that the Pelican Elite Coolers have the thickest wall insulation in the industry. And don’t forget the 360 degree around freezer-grade, 2 inch thick gasket. There is just nothing that Pelican has not thought of.

  • There are wide Press and Pull latches for extra durability and easy use.
  • There are two styles of heavy duty handles: Molded-in grab bars or ergonomic swing handles. These make it so easy to carry the cooler when it is loaded or unloaded.
  • Put it to the test!

Key Features

  • Roto-molded construction
  • Press and Pull latches
  • 65 quart capacity
  • 2 inch thick gasket
  • Up to 10 day ice retention

Pros

  • Large variety of sizes
  • Maximum ice retention
  • Very durable

Cons

  • Some users say it scratches easily
  • No wheels

 

A cooler that is as tough as them come and has top of the range ice retention. Top marks in our books!

The Yeti Tundra Cooler is the original Yeti. This cooler has toughness that legends are born with. Yeti took the standard cooler from back in the day and engineered the heck out it.

The result?

A cooler which we believe beats all other coolers. The rotomolded construction makes this cooler virtually indestructable. It has even been certified as Bear-proof. You don’t get more durable than that.

This is the deal…

The amazing FatWall design and pressure injected Permafrost insulation will keep your ice, icey for a very long time. This is surely important to the serious campers and fishermen. There is nothing worse than grabbing a cold one from the cooler that isn’t really that cold. What a nightmare.

This cooler is probably one of the best coolers on the market today. Online reviews show many customers are delighted with this beautiful cooler.

Key Features

  • Legendary toughness
  • Bear-proof
  • Various sizes
  • Molded-in tie-down anchor points
  • Heavy-duty, rubber lid latches

Pros

  • Roto-molded
  • Large range of sizes
  • Freezer quality gasket

Cons

  • Not visually appealing
  • Slightly difficult to carry
  • Limited warranty

 

AO Soft cooler

 

The perfect companion for picnics and day-trips, this soft cooler incorporates ice retention with comfort and design sublimely.

The AO Coolers Deluxe Canvas Soft Cooler is the ultimate picnic cooler. With the 24 can capacity you will have more than enough space to carry your drinks and meat for the picnic.

Do you know what else you can use this cooler for?

No? – Well, you can use it to transport your potluck dinner. Not only does the insulation keep things cold, it can also keep things warm. The leak and sweat proof lining can hold its own. You don’t have to worry about your dish falling over in transport. It will fit nice and snug.

The compact size is also great for fitting right on the back seat, or in the centre console. Saves you space for all of your other cool gear.

A great little all rounder for 1 day occasions.

Key Features

  • This cooler meets airline carry-on requirement
  • Removable shoulder strap
  • Various sizes
  • Has side pockets for fry items
  • Twice the insulation of other soft coolers

Pros

  • Great portability
  • Can keep items cold or warm
  • Leak-proof liner

Cons

  • Only retainers ice for up to 24 hours
  • Not very durable
  • Not crush resistant

 

This classic lightweight traditional cooler from Coleman which is ideal for picnics and camping adventures.

The Coleman 52 qt. Xtreme Cooler is light in weight but big on insulation. Don’t let its look deceive you, it can retain its ice for up to 5 days. The newer models have added insulation in the lid and the case. This makes it the perfect cooler for weekend camping trips. It will keep your drinks and meat cold the whole time. This cooler is easy to carry around with its 2 way handles and light construction.

Key Features

  • No-tilt drainage system
  • 5 day ice retention
  • 52 quart capacity
  • Molded-in cup holders
  • Integrated tie-down anchor points

Pros

  • Strong enough to be used as an extra seat
  • Light to carry
  • Molded-in cup holders

Cons

  • Not a great visual appeal
  • Lid does not have a latch so it can open over bumpy roads
  • Can stain and absorb smells easily

 

Rubbermaid Cooler

 

Great for picnics and family outings but has limited further utility due to low insulation and capacity.

This Rubbermaid traditional cooler is the perfect size to fit the drinks and food for a family of 5 for the day.

The top swing handle ensures easy transportation with one hand which we all know is a priority when buying coolers. The worst thing that can happen to a cooler is when it absorbs a stain or odor, Rubbermaid Coolers are resistant AND have an easy-to-clean liner. You can wipe away the spills, no problem! Sounds like an ideal picnic cooler, wouldn’t you say?

Key Features

  • Top swing handle
  • Stain and Odor resistant
  • 24 quart capacity
  • Thermal retention
  • Easy to clean

Pros

  • Light weight
  • Stain and odor resistant
  • Strong exterior

Cons

  • No drainage point
  • Low capacity
  • Very limited ice retention time

 

Igloo MaxCold

 

A great easy-clean backpack cooler, perfect for lovers of the outdoors!

The Igloo MaxCold Cooler is a great backpack cooler for one-day hiking or adventuring. The rucksack style gives this cooler an edge in the outdoors.

Here’s the edge…

Not only do you have the ability to store your water bottles and food inside, but you also have the additional external pockets to store your dry items. This should be your number 1 tool in your outdoor activity gear. It has an anti-crush zipper top compartment which puts its durability on a higher level than other “soft” coolers. If this is not enough functionality for you, then also know that it has an Antimicrobial, leak-resistant liner that is easy to clean.

Key Features

  • 25% more foam for insulation
  • Light weight
  • Superior portability
  • Expandable front stash pocket.

Pros

  • Hands free carrying
  • Adjustable padded comfort straps
  • Leak resistant liner

Cons

  • Low capacity
  • Overall durability is low
  • Ice retention is only 24 hours at maximum

 

A highly durable rotomolded cooler with extreme ice retention. Perfectly suited for Camping trips, fishing trips, Picnics, Outdoor events and Tailgates.

The Igloo Yukon Cold Locker Cooler is extremely durable and insulting due to a roto-molded polyethylene body. The ruggedness of this cooler will last you a lifetime. You will never need to buy another cooler again.

Ice for days…

A 7 day ice retention estimation! That’s amazing! There are just so many quality features that this cooler comes with. To name a few excellent ones:

  • UV inhibitors to resist sun damage.
  • Oversized drainage plug for a quick and easy clean-up.
  • 360˚ freezer-style gasket that helps to seal in the cold and keeps out the heat.

Key Features

  • Molded-in no swing handles
  • Reversible skid and anti-skid feet for easy unloading and loading.
  • Various sizes
  • Heavy-duty latches
  • Dry ice compatible

Pros

  • Highly durable
  • Elevated case for airflow and maximum cooling potential
  • Amazing capacity

Cons

  • Too many detachable parts
  • No cup holders

 

Igloo Marine Breeze Roller Cooler

 

A great quality wheeled cooler for fishing or other heavy load storage requirements.

The Igloo Marine Breezwe Roller Cooler is the perfect size for a 1 day fishing trip or Picnic. You have enough space to keep your bait, drinks and food cool at the same time all in one convenient place. It’s portability far surpasses that of other coolers. It’s a dream to move it around using either the wheels and telescoping handle or the reinforced comfort grip handles.

Even if you use this cooler for just a day at a time, you can rest assured that the ice will be retained for up to 3 days. This is a lot of retention for such a compact cooler. It’s definitely worth the investment for a serious fisherman.

Key Features

  • Telescoping handle
  • Wheeled cooler for maximum portability
  • Various sizes
  • UV inhibitors make it resistant to sun damage
  • Cool riser technology aids in ice retention

Pros

  • Maximum portability
  • UV resistant
  • Stain and odor resistant

Cons

  • No latching system to keep closed on bumpy roads
  • Limited capacity
  • Can scratch easily

 

Polar Bear Soft Cooler

 

A stylish cooler for the discerningly fashion conscious, showing great durability and ice retention for a soft cooler!

The Polar Bear Soft Cooler has a beautiful design, making it suitable for events even without the kids! It does have a certain rugged durability about it also, especially for a soft cooler type. Carrying this around is no problem at all using the heavy-duty hand straps or the removable shoulder strap. It is small enough to fit on one of the car seats, so that the trunk space is left for the picnic blankets, chairs, toys and games.

Key Features

  • PVC free
  • Adjustable shoulder strap
  • Various sizes
  • Comfortable heavy duty hand straps
  • 1000-Denier Nylon outer shell

Pros

  • Easy to carry around
  • Leak-proof and sweat-proof
  • Side zipper pockets

Cons

  • Low capacity
  • Low ice retention capability
  • Does not have long lasting durability

 

Buyer’s Guide

What do you need in a cooler?

The most important question you should ask yourself before you buy a cooler is: What do I need my cooler to do for me? The answer to this question can save you a lot of time and money. Here are a few examples of what you can use a cooler for and what coolers can offer you:

  • Coolers are typically used to keep things cold.
  • You can keep things cold, like: Drinks, meat, fish and dairy products.
  • Some coolers can also be used to keep thing warm. Like a potluck dinner. This is usually a use of a soft cooler.
  • The more durable coolers can be used as an extra seat around the fire or picnic blanket.
  • The larger coolers can be used as a table for your drinks. Some of them even come with integrated cup holders for your convenience.
  • You definitely need your cooler to be able to retain your ice for the entire camping trip, fishing trip, music festival, tailgate or picnic.
  • You can use your cooler to keep your catch-of-the-day or prey cold and fresh for longer.
  • You can use your cooler as a temporary chest freezer at home if you really wanted to.

What type of cooler would suit you?

There are five main types of coolers that one can buy. Each of the types of coolers have their advantages and their disadvantages. Once you have a clear idea of what you want out of your cooler, then finding the right type is easy.

The types of cooler and what activity they are best for:

  • Traditional coolers – Great for Picnics, Tailgates, BBQ’s and short camping trips.
  • Soft Coolers – Great for potluck dinner transportation, BBQ’s and small Picnicks.
  • High-end Roto-molded Coolers – The Ultimate cooler. This cooler can be used for any activity that requires maximum cooling power and durability.
  • Backpack Coolers – A hiker’s best friend! A survival tool if you will.
  • Wheeled Coolers – The best coolers for marine activities. The wheels and telescope handles make this cooler the easiest type to move around.

Check out this article for some great advice on coolers for long-haul truckers.

Best cooler for your budget

If you want the best cooler that is going to last you a long time that has the most features and the most to offer then you are going to have to be willing to spend the appropriate amount of money.

This is the deal:

Something that has amazing durability and capacity will not be your average run of the mill cooler. You may spend more, but, you will have the best quality. When it comes to purchasing a cooler, it is safe to say that you get what you pay for. With investments like these, we are grateful that coolers come with warranties. Though with a well made cooler, there should be no need to use the warranty.

Best cooler brands

There are so many cooler brands on the market these days. It’s hard to be sure which brands are going to give you the best quality for your money.

The top brands of coolers by far would be:

  • Yeti Tundras and
  • Coleman Steel-belted coolers.

These two brands, Yeti and Coleman, have shown great staying power over the years. Moving from strength to strength in their construction methods, these brands have definitely set the bar for other brands to work to.

Other really great brands of coolers include the following:

  • Pelican Coolers
  • Polar Bear Coolers
  • Igloo Coolers (Soft and hard)
  • AO Coolers
  • Rubbermaid

Cooler care

If you want your cooler to last then there are a few general guidelines you should take when caring for them:

  • Clean with soap and water prior to use. Also use for day-to-day cleaning.
  • For tougher stains, use a 6:1 water to bleach ration and scrub briskly with a brush.
  • Use a high pressure sprayer for the most stubborn stains.
  • Tie down the cooler whenever possible.
  • Store out of sunlight. Even though a lot of coolers are UV resistant, prolonged exposure to sunlight or UV rays can hinder the dexterity of the material of your cooler.
  • Even though some coolers say they are bear resistant, don’t try and test that theory. The cooler is bear resistant, you are not!
  • Don’t store food in the cooler after all the ice has melted. This will increase the chance of your cooler absorbing odors and getting stained.

How to get the most out of your cooler

The best way to ensure that your cooler lasts a long, long time is by taking proper care of it.

Follow these simple steps or guidelines to get optimal performance from your cooler. This guide has been referenced from Polar Bear Coolers and Yeti Coolers (leaders in their field and their advice should not be taken lightly)

  • Pack your cooler with as much ice as possible. Air inside the cooler will cause ice to melt more rapidly. Use a 3 to 1 ice to product ratio. (You can use a 2:1 ice water ratio if need be but limit your air exposure a bit more to compensate)
  • Make sure the items you pack in your cooler are cold from the start.
  • Make sure you use the side buckles when your cooler is not open. Using the buckles creates a seal in the insulation and will ensure your goods stay cold for as long as possible.
  • When possible, keep the ice in a bag together on top of the products in the cooler. Cold air descends, loose ice melts faster.
  • When you first put ice in your cooler, the cooler will cool from room temp and join the temp of the ice. This means the ice is working extra hard in the beginning. If you are traveling and refilling your cooler as you go, you can expect better results the next time you add ice.
  • Limit air exposure (opening and closing) in your cooler when possible.
  • Ice temperatures vary significantly. Warm ice (around 32°F) is typically wet or dripping, and won’t last long. Ice that is colder than the freezing point is relatively dry and will last substantially longer.
  • Block Ice VS Cube Ice. Smaller, cubed ice will chill a cooler and the contents more quickly, but block ice melts at a much slower rate. Most pros use a mix of both to chill contents and achieve long-term ice retention.
  • Don’t drain the water. Once your cooler is in use, do not empty the cold water. It will be almost as cold as the ice and will help insulate the remaining ice. However, exposed food and meat should be kept out of the water.
  • Dry ice is the best. Not all coolers are compatible with dry ice, but if you have one then you are definitely going to be smiling.

Conclusion

In conclusion: One does not simply purchase any random cooler. The decision is actually more important than you think it is. One of the best ways to help you choose your cooler is by finding the best cooler reviews and taking them to heart. Let people with first hand experience, help you choose the cooler that will best suit your needs.

Use your starting point, which is, your assessment of what you want in a cooler. Use the 5 evaluation categories to help you get a good overall idea of what each cooler can offer you. Here is a reminder of your categories:

  • Durability: How tough is the cooler?
  • Insulation: Is it well insulated and will it retain your ice for as long as you need it to?
  • Capacity: Is it big enough to fit in all of the drinks and or food and ice that you may need to keep cool for the given amount of time?
  • Functionality: Does it do more than what you need it to do? Does it have the extra feature that you may or may not need at some time?
  • Portability: Will you be carrying the cooler by yourself or will there be help? Capacity will also be affected in this case, as you can’t expect to carry a loaded 350 Quart cooler all on your own, now can you?

Most coolers come with an Owner’s Manual. Keep this safe because it is packed with more tips and useful bits of information. It may come in handy one day.

Taking all of these five evaluation categories into mind, make your decision carefully and ensure that you get the best quality for your money.

Read your warranty very well so that you know if you should take your cooler in for fixing or not. The warranty will also give you a good indication of what kind of quality you should receive from your product.

A cooler should be for life, and it will be if you take care of it properly. Follow the steps and you should have your cooler even when you take your grandchildren for their first fishing trip.

Always make an informed decision rather than an impulse buy.

Happy shopping.