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Updated Mar 4, 2022 4:17 PM

Ever find yourself stretched out on a seaside dune in the blistering August sun, pining for the cool rejuvenation of a fresh mint tea? Whether your taste is sparkling waters or brewskies, sweltering deserts or music festivals, any prolonged occasion in the out-of-doors can benefit from the power of a cooler; with the best coolers, you’ll be sure to keep things ice-cold no matter where the adventure may take you. These coolers are ready for extended camping trips, multiple-day fishing trips, and anywhere else you need easy portability. 

The best coolers come in different sizes and shapes. Hard-bodied coolers are usually made out of roto- or injection-molded plastics and feature thick, rigid sides containing layered insulation. Often latching and sometimes on wheels, some can retain ice for over a week. Soft-bodied coolers are designed to be lighter, usually using various polymer-constructed fabrics and often strapping to a user’s back or slinging over a shoulder. Here are our favorites: 

How We Picked the Best Coolers Of 2022

Methodology 

For this article I examined a wide range of coolers, looking for the best coolers from multiple manufacturers. I stacked the specs against one another and accumulated as much info on each model as possible. I also used my experience from multiple cross-country US road trips and camping trips, when I lived out of a cooler for weeks. A few factors emerged as the most important in this search.

Ice retention varies dramatically from cooler to cooler. Some coolers will retain ice for an afternoon, and some boast ice retention of over a week. Great ice retention requires expensive components and heavier builds, so ice retention isn’t a be-all and end-all. However, if you’re looking for a cooler that can keep supplies cold in the back of your truck for a week, then it might be. Good ice retention was one of the most important factors I looked at.

Portability is an all-important metric for a good cooler (at least for most people). Even if you’re buying a cooler that will live in the back of your truck, it still needs to be mobile enough and have enough purchases to load it in and out. The most portable coolers are usually soft-bodied ones that will likely sacrifice some ice retention for a lightweight build. This list features a few highly portable coolers, and a few that focus elsewhere.

Ruggedness can be an important factor. Loaded coolers can be very heavy. That’s why I looked for models that are rugged enough to survive a drop or two, or repeat scraping against the sharp edges of a boat. For hard-bodied coolers, this often means roto-molded plastics rather than injection molds.

Price is always a factor with outdoor gear. Where coolers are concerned, long ice-retention times generally increase price dramatically. Thus this list highlights a few coolers that make a low price the prerogative, while simultaneously prioritizing expensive and impressive insulation in others.

The Best Coolers of 2022: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: YETI Tundra 35

Best Overall

Cool it for a week with this bear-resistant cooler. YETI

Why It Made The Cut: With days of ice retention and a design that’s rugged enough to keep out bears, this roto-molded cooler is a powerful piece of camping gear.

Specs: 

  • Weight (Empty): 20 pounds
  • Outer Dimensions: 21.38 x 16.13 x 15.75 inches
  • Inner Dimensions: 13.88 x 10.63 x 9.38 inches
  • Materials: Roto-molded polyurethane 

Pros: 

  • Keeps ice for long stretches
  • Gasket seals lid
  • Rugged construction that’s even bear resistant

Cons: 

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

YETI is such a well-known name in coolers that I specifically looked for a cooler that could outrank it for the “best overall” category in this article, but with its long ice retention and rugged build, the YETI Tundra 35 is simply the clear choice. YETI hard-body coolers are designed with a roto-molded frame that provides greater structural integrity, drop resistance, and insulation than lesser injection-molded coolers. The lid seals with an industrial gasket, so it’s guaranteed to keep contents at the desired temperature, and it opens with easy-to-use rubber latches. 

At 20 pounds, the YETI is heavy. However this is addressed in its design. Rope handles are attached to both sides, making carrying easy. The cooler is also designed to be tied down and is easily secured to your boat or truck with ropes. A removable metal dry basket also ships with the product. Further, the Tundra meets the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) standards for grizzly bear (or black bear) resistance when locked with standard long-stem master locks. YETI sells these on their site.

When it comes to coolers, YETI is one of the undisputed industry leaders, and the Tundra is no isolated golden child. YETI makes a great cooler called the Tundra Haul, which is equipped with wheels for greater portability. If you’re looking for a soft-body cooler or a hard-bodied water cooler, their offerings are also worth a look.

Best Budget: Igloo 7-Quart Hardsided Playmate

Your dad’s lunch box is still a great budget cooler. Igloo

Why It Made The Cut: Immediately recognizable, the Playmate is still a great daily-use lunch-box cooler. 

Specs:

  • Weight (Empty): 2.2 pounds
  • Outer Dimensions: 10.63 x 8.27 x 11.81 inches
  • Inner Dimensions: Top: 9.06 x 6.31 x 8.38 inches. Bottom: 8.63 x 6.13 x 8.38 inches.
  • Materials: High-density polyethylene

Pros: 

  • Inexpensive
  • Keeps your drinks cold or your soup hot
  • Easy to carry

Cons:

  • Some users have trouble with the latch breaking
  • Insulation doesn’t achieve long-term ice retention

Igloo’s 7-Quart Hardsided Playmate is one of those staples of job sites all over America. The design has stayed largely the same for over 30 years, and that’s because it does a great job as an affordable lunch-box cooler. Made out of high-density polyethylene, the Playmate features a high, tented design with a handle that swings open for access to the cooler space below. Igloo has capitalized on the Playmate’s fame by offering Playmates sporting splashes of color and featuring characters and logos, everything from the Grateful Dead to Rugrats. 

Sadly, modern Playmates do have an issue with build quality. Unlike their older counterparts from the ’80s and ’90s, Playmates now latch from the handle. This latch isn’t as strong as old Playmates’. Some products ship with latches that soon break. However, the company does offer a one-year limited warranty, so you can still buy with relative peace of mind—if your latch is faulty, it will most likely show in a year. That said, the Playmate is still a strong product that works well for the majority of users.

Igloo also offers an exciting line of coolers made of recycled plastics. The Ecocool Playmate is a great post-consumer recycled resin alternative to the standard Playmate line. It also notably retains the original side button from the old-school Playmates, which means it shouldn’t suffer from the same latch trouble that mars some contemporary Playmates. This means that not only is the Ecocool version better for environmental sustainability, but it also offers better build quality.

Best Soft-Body Cooler: OtterBox Trooper Cooler

Best Soft-Body Cooler

Easily sling it over your shoulder for convenient mobility. OtterBox

Why It Made The Cut: With ice retention that can last for days, a shoulder strap, and rugged insulated nylon construction, this is an adventure-ready cooler.

Specs:

  • Weight (Empty): 6.49 pounds
  • Outer Dimensions: 17.50  x 14.30 x 10.25 inches
  • Inner Dimensions: 20 quarts
  • Materials: Thermoplastic-polyurethane-coated nylon, premium-grade thermal insulation

Pros:

  • Multi-day ice retention
  • Food-grade interior liner
  • Exterior features multiple straps and pockets

Cons:

  • Latch could be more rugged
  • For the price, longer ice retention would be nice

If you’re looking for the heights of mobility coupled with good ice retention, the OtterBox Trooper Cooler is one of the best soft-body coolers out there. Soft-body coolers usually don’t achieve the same super long ice retention that hard-body coolers do. Instead, they usually prioritize mobility. The Trooper uses a more rigid plastic upper and a reinforced lower, with a malleable insulated body lined with food-grade material. The cooler is easily carried over a shoulder with the included strap.

While the three days of ice retention OtterBox brags about might not be achieved on a July canoe trip over the Gulf of Mexico, the Trooper still delivers remarkable cooling that will last for two or three nights in most climates. It may not retain ice longer than the YETI Hopper M30, but with its latch, it will appeal to those who are turned off by the YETI’s difficult-to-use magnetic seal. 

All in all, it’s a powerful and rugged soft-body cooler that’s worth a look for anyone shopping for a cooler that can guarantee all-day ice, especially if good mobility is an important factor as well. 

Best Ice Retention: Grizzly 75-Quart Cooler

Best Ice Retention

This desert-ready cooler can keep you refreshed even in the harshest heat. Grizzly

Why It Made The Cut: This roto-molded polyurethane-sealed power cooler is rugged enough to resist bears and will keep ice for most of a week—even in the desert.

Specs:

  • Weight (Empty): 33 pounds
  • Outer Dimensions: 33.13 x 17.75 x 18 inches
  • Inner Dimensions: 27.5 x 12.63 x 13.75 inches
  • Materials: Roto-molded linear low-density polyethylene plastic with Ecomate polyurethane foam insulation

Pros: 

  • Extreme ice retention can last five days to over a week
  • Sealing gasket
  • IGBC-certified bear resistant and includes placements for locks

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

For those among us who are looking for a cooler that can go and go, the Grizzly 75 Quart Cooler is about as rugged as its namesake. Manufacturing rugged coolers in Iowa, Grizzly is an American company that specializes in reliability. With ice retention that can last for well over a week in moderate conditions, and most of a week even in scorching desert settings, the Grizzly is a powerhouse. If you’re looking for an ice chest that will work for days angling on the Everglades, weeklong hunts in the mountains of Colorado, or months on the road in your van-life rig, this is the one. 

Built of roto-molded plastic that is injected with a special non-VOC environmentally friendly polyurethane called Ecomate, the Grizzly is both more sustainably minded and more sustainably insulated than most of the competition. IGBC-certified grizzly resistant, the cooler is also remarkably rugged and closes with three latches; it also has padlock holes on each side (for real bear thwarting). A rubber gasket in the lid seals the deal.

Grizzly builds a cooler that really delivers longevity. It comes at an expensive price point, but for those looking for a truly fortified cooling system that’s ready for weeks in the field, it’s the best out there.

Best for Short Adventures: IceMule Classic

Best for Short Adventures

A great sling-over-the-shoulder soft-body cooler, the IceMule will keep ice all day. IceMule

Why It Made The Cut: With 24 hours of ice retention, a shoulder strap, and a water-resistant design that will float, this cooler is as adventurous as you are.

Specs:

  • Weight (Empty): 1.93 pounds
  • Outer Dimensions: 16.5 x 6 x 7 inches
  • Inner Dimensions: 15 liters
  • Materials: Fiberglass

Pros:

  • This cooler floats and can even be towed behind a boat
  • Slings over the back easily
  • Easy to stuff with whatever you need
  • Can keep food cold for over 24 hours

Cons:

  • Not the best ice retention out there
  • Material isn’t the most rugged and may tear on sharp or rough surfaces like unfinished metal boat parts

At the most portable end of the spectrum, the IceMule Classic is a soft-body roll-closed cooler that looks like a dry bag and slings over your shoulder. It also floats. If water sports and agile adventuring are your prerogative, the IceMule is ready.

While it doesn’t have the best ice retention of any cooler out there, the IceMule will still retain ice all day and keep your food and drinks cold for over 24 hours. Because of its roll-over design it doesn’t seal watertight, so liquids can get out if the cooler is held upside down. This also means that water can get in if you do take it floating in the water. It’s not a big enough issue to get in the way for most users, but it’s something to be aware of. 

Another issue with the IceMule is that the fabric isn’t as rugged as it could be. With all-week use, your IceMule may crack or scratch, especially if it’s being used around rough or jagged materials, such as sharp metal edges on a boat.

Where the IceMule shines is on adventurous outdoor day trips in and out of water. The fact that it floats means you won’t have to worry about your lunch sinking if you take it out paddleboarding, and the shoulder strap makes it easy to pack fresh food or drinks on one- or two-night backpacking trips. 

Things to Consider Before Buying a Cooler

When you’re shopping for a new cooler, there are a few factors that are important to keep in mind. 

Sustainability

The vast majority of coolers are made from plastics, but more environmentally friendly options are out there. Igloo makes a 100 percent biodegradable cooler called the Recool 16-Quart Cooler out of recycled paper and alkyl ketene dimer (a hydrophobic sizing agent). It’s an excellent budget alternative to the Styrofoam coolers of yesterday that’s biodegradable. Igloo’s post-consumer recycled resin coolers are also worth a look, especially the Parks Project Playmate line, which donates a portion of proceeds to the National Parks Conservation Association.

When buying any product, it’s important to consider its effects. When shopping for coolers, remember that there are more sustainable options out there that might biodegrade or use plastics that won’t leach harmful chemicals.

Portability

It’s important to strategize how you’ll use your cooler before you buy. If you need an ultraportable cooler that you can take in and out of the water, you’ll most likely want a soft-body cooler that can strap to your back. If you fish and like to head out for multiple-day excursions, you may want a cooler that will keep ice frozen (and fish fresh) for up to a week. Usually the best ice retention requires more weight to achieve. So ultimate portability and ultimate ice retention are mutually exclusive factors.

Performance

Unless you’re heading into the field for multiple-day camping trips, or driving across the country in a modified sprinter van, you may not really need multiple days of ice retention. If you’re looking for a solid cooler that will keep your drinks cold all afternoon at the beach, there are many cheaper options that could do the job fairly well. 

FAQs

Q: What is the best cooler I can buy?

For most people, the YETI Tundra 35 delivers the best balance between ice retention and ruggedness for the price. It’s an excellent cooler that’s ready for most anything you throw at it. On the other hand, the expensive Grizzly 75-Quart Cooler is the most rugged cooler out there with the best ice retention. 

Q: How do coolers work?

The best coolers generally use hard or soft plastic exteriors with dense insulators that block heat transfer. Sometimes including a gasket that further insulates the seal on a coolers lid, coolers are (usually) waterproof boxes that prevent heat transfer.

Q: What cooler is comparable to YETI?

The Grizzly 75-Quart Cooler surpasses the YETI in terms of ice retention and ruggedness. It also offers bear protection, roto-molded plastic, and rugged latches.

Q: What are in coolers?

Coolers are useful for keeping beverages and foods cold away from an electricity source. Want to keep cream cheese and lox cold for days in the Arizona desert? A cooler will do the trick. Usually coolers are filled with ice or freeze packs as well as the desired food and drinks meant to be kept cold.

Final Thoughts

The best coolers offer adventure-ready portability that can keep your beer and bacon cold for days on your back, or extreme insulation that can keep foods cold for over a week. For the best ice retention out there, the Grizzly 75-Quart Cooler is a super-high-end powerhouse that will keep your food cold for a week. The Igloo 7-Quart Hardsided Playmate is a great everyday lunch box. The YETI Tundra 35, however, is the best overall cooler for most people. And if you’re just looking for a cooler for a day at the beach, don’t forget to look at the biodegradable Recool 16-Quart Cooler from Igloo, which delivers a plastic alternative that will keep those black-bean patties chilled, yet won’t last for one thousand years. 

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