Few things are more satisfying than a cold drink in the great outdoors. But whether you’re relaxing at the campsite, tailgating or just spending a day at the beach, you’ll need a great outdoor cooler to enjoy those cold drinks.
If you’re not much of an outdoorsmen (or you’re currently upgrading your outdoor gear), you might be surprised by how quickly coolers have evolved over the past couple decades. High-end brands such as Yeti have transformed the classic ice chest into ultra-durable coolers that keep ice for over a week. The best outdoor coolers from these innovative brands can withstand summer heat, rugged terrain and even bears (no, seriously) while keeping food and drinks cold.
This makes now a better time than ever to invest in a good outdoor cooler. The best outdoor coolers have become an essential on camping excursions, family road trips, tailgates and day trips, ensuring that everyone stays happy with cold drinks, snacks and refreshments.
Outdoor Cooler Buying Guide
Insulation: Insulation – the most important feature of a cooler – is also the most difficult to assess while shopping. Most brands will claim that their coolers can retain ice for a certain number of days (often five to ten days) but that might only be true when the cooler is unopened and kept in mild weather. To nail down the actual insulation powers of our chosen coolers, we did some research on brands and cross-referenced our own experience with user reviews.
Durability: As with most outdoor gear, coolers are bound to get knocked around a bit. The best outdoor coolers should be able to withstand hectic unpacking, dragging around at the campsite and a camper (or two) in need of a place to sit. The best way to figure out a cooler’s ruggedness is by checking out the build materials, with rotomolded plastic being the highest quality option.
Size: Most coolers range from about 25 to 100 quarts. For a large group of campers (say, more than five people) or longer trips (maybe a week) go for a cooler that’s larger than 50 quarts. We’re also believers that more cold drinks is always better, so even if it’s just the family on a weekend trip, it won’t hurt to upsize a tad.
Mobility: Ice and drinks can get heavy, so you’ll want a cooler than can be carried (or even better, rolled) with ease. Coolers that are lightweight with wheels will be best – especially for one person to move around.
What Are the Best Outdoor Coolers?
If you’re unsure where to start looking for the best outdoor cooler, read on. We’ve rounded up eight of the best outdoor coolers from the best cooler brands around, and we’ve outlined what to look for while shopping.
1. Pelican Elite 80-quart Cooler
Another high-end cooler brand with plenty of well-deserved praise is Pelican. The American brand’s coolers are all made here in the U.S. and come with an incredible lifetime warranty which guarantees a replacement if your cooler breaks.
Pelican is known to be upfront about their coolers’ insulation. This Elite cooler boasts eight days of ice retention, and unlike many insulation claims, that’s under real-life use. Durability is also top-notch with a rotomolded polyethylene (similar to the Yeti) that’s also been tested against a real bear as well.
The cooler is decked out with some handy features including a bottle opener, four self-draining cup holders and a measuring board on the lid. We also like the Pelican Elite because you can get the roller model in this large 80-quart version, making it suitable for large groups and extra thirsty campers.
2. Igloo BMX
This BMX cooler from Igloo isn’t as high-end as the Yeti or Pelican but still delivers very impressive specs that make it a worthy contender. On the exterior, you’ll find a rugged blow-molded construction with a reinforced base, plus a measuring board on the lid. The BMX cooler also comes in a good range of sizes including 25, 52 and 72-quart, offering enough options for personal use or larger groups.
Igloo doesn’t claim long-period insulation, but what they do claim is pretty impressive: five-day ice retention in 90-degree heat. This means it’ll keep everything cool during a weekend camping trip – even in the summer. Another notable insulation feature is Cool Riser Technology which elevates the base of the Igloo away from the hot ground.
3. Engel Eng35
If you’re looking for something a little smaller, check out the Engel Eng35. The 35-quart capacity will hold about 24 cans, plus ice, making it ideal for day trips to the beach, park or tailgate. However, it could still manage a short camping trip if necessary.
Engel uses a high-quality rotomolded plastic construction for exterior durability (yes, it’s also been bear-tested) and foam lining throughout the sides, bottom and lid for insulation. Engel claims that this will retain ice for 10 days, but under real use it’s good for about five or six days.
This Eng35 also comes with the peace of mind you get from Engel. The brand has been around since 1962 and invented rotomolded coolers (for reference, the modern cooler was invented in the 1950s). Plus, Engel offers a handful of fun colors to liven-up your campsite or tailgate.
4. Coleman 100qrt Xtreme Cooler
Looking for a large, old-school cooler to knock around? Pick up one of these 100-quart coolers from Coleman. The build is a simple insulated synthetic that weighs in at just 18 pounds, making it far lighter than premium rotomolded coolers. This minimal weight, plus wheels makes the Coleman very easy to transport despite its large 160-can capacity.
Coleman claims that the Xtreme cooler will retain ice for five days in 90-degree heat, which is pretty impressive despite its less-than-high-tech construction. The cooler can also support 250 pounds on its lid, allowing a large person or two smaller people to have a seat. Overall, it’s quite durable, although certainly not as rugged as high-end rotomolded coolers.
From Rolling Stone US