Best Camping Coolers of 2020

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Do you go out often and constantly get stranded trying to find ice-cold drinks? Of course, you do. It can be particularly frustrating when you’re craving a cold drink, but you can’t find one because you’re miles away out in the woods. Well, you can beat this frustration by taking up the challenge of finding yourself a pretty little “jewel” called a camping cooler. Well, we are calling it a challenge because we have firsthand experience of how it feels to search for a perfect cooler. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, no pun intended! Luckily, we are here for you and our mission is simple. To ease the burden for you. Yes, there is the advantage of plenty of choices on the market but believe it or not, this is yet another challenge altogether. Without a bit of some background, you’re going to have it rough trying to buy a cooler for camping. For this reason, we try to bring together all the info you’ll need to make an informed buying decision. Read on for some tips on buying a camping cooler as well as a collection of some best camping coolers. You will trust our judgment as It’s informed by camping cooler reviews from actual users. The following are the coolers that we are going to review in-depth in the subsequent section of the article.

Table of Contents

 

Best Overall Camping Cooler

1) Pelican Elite 70 Quart Cooler

Pelican Elite 70 Quart CoolerType: Hard Case
Capacity: 70 qt.
Weight: 33.3 lbs.
Ice Retention Duration: 10 days

Well, there’s a limited number of campers out there who do not know about Pelican. The brand has done a great job to maintain market dominance. This has been sufficiently replicated in the performance of its coolers as evidenced by the Elite 70 Quart cooler. This product is packed with some of the best features including a built-in bottle opener and an over-molded carry handle not to mention the overwhelming sturdy build that doesn’t get in the way of aesthetics.

If the marketing claims are anything to go by, the Pelican Elite 70 Qt. cooler is capable of retaining ice for up to 10 days thanks to the 2 inches of polyurethane insulation and the gasket that sits 360 degrees inside offering freezer-grade performance.

What we like:
It offers a high capacity, extreme ice retention, sturdy build quality, and unique design. It boasts premium looks
What we don't:
The extreme effect of external temperatures on the ice retention capabilities of the cooler is a deal-breaker. The ice retention capability is highly affected by external temperatures but you can easily circumvent this drawback by precooling it before you go out on a trip.

 


 

Best Medium Sized Cooler

2) YETI Tundra 35 Cooler

YETI Tundra 35 CoolerType: Hard Case
Capacity: 35 qt.
Weight: 20 lbs.
Ice Retention Duration: 2.5 days

The YETI Tundra 35 is one of the most compact and sturdy outdoor coolers you can find on the market. If you’re planning an “into-the-woods” trip with your buddies for more than a day, you’d want to be assured there will be enough supplies of cold drinks. The best way to do this is to get a cooler for camping that offers extended periods of ice retention. The YETI Tundra 35 Cooler is built just for that. Its construction features some extra-thick walls that ensure sufficient insulation throughout the trip. What’s more, it has the Rotomolded construction to ensure It’s sturdy enough to withstand whatever Mother Nature throws at it.

What we like:
It’s portable and lightweight for a one-person carry. Sturdy build makes it more durable, thick insulation to guarantee prolonged ice retention, highly portable.
What we don't:
The ice retention duration does not allow for prolonged outdoor trips. The cooler is overpriced.

 


 

Most Stylish Cooler

3) Coleman 54-Quart Cooler

Coleman Cooler SteelBelted Cooler Keeps Ice Up to 4 Days54Quart Cooler for Camping,Type: Hard Case
Capacity: 54 qt.
Weight: 19 lbs.
Ice Retention Duration: 4 days

This is an amazing cooler with a signature retro design that is both appealing and satisfactory. If you’re planning to go on a trip in a large number, this cooler promise to keep the supply of cold drinks coming for up to 4 days. Its 54 qt. capacity ensures that you do not run out of supplies for the entire time. What’s more, it comes with a strong lid that you can sit on as it supports up to 250 lbs. The comfort-grip steel handles ensure that you’re comfortable moving the cooler from point A to B.

What we like:
The performance of the cooler is just as advertised plus it offers value for money. It features a unique design, high volume capacity, durable and lightweight.
What we don't:
The presence of metal in the construction increases the weight of the cooler. It’s missing the latest technology and features.

 


 

Best Budget Camping Cooler

4) Coleman 62-Quart Xtreme Cooler

Coleman 62Quart XtremeType: Hard Case and Wheeled
Weight: 13 lbs. 8 oz.
Ice Retention Duration: 5 days

The Coleman 62-Qt. Xtreme cooler comes highly recommended as the best value for your money and here’s why. It promises and delivers 5 days of ice retention and this is made possible by the Xtreme technology that ensures the lid is insulated. What’s more, this cooler also offers leak-resistant drain technology, which ensures that you do not have to turn the cooler upside down to remove the water.

What we like:
It has a seat lid that supports up to 250 lbs. and an extended handle for pulling. It has a high capacity for up to 95 cans, comes with an ergonomic handle and wheels for easy movement, high ice retention duration.
What we don't:
We’re afraid the build quality is not sturdy enough to withstand some harsh conditions in the environment. This cooler only has wheels on the “rear” and not the “front” and this makes it more prone to soaking up a lot of sand especially if you’re camping at the beach.

 


 

Best Soft-Sided Cooler

5) HANICOL Insulated Backpack Cooler

HANICOL Insulated Backpack Cooler, LargeType: Backpack
Weight: 1.7 lbs.
Capacity: 30 L
Ice Retention Duration: Not indicated

With the flexibility of a backpack and the functionality of a fully-fledged cooler, the HANICOL backpack is what you need for that family picnic, hiking, camping or beach trip. It features a double leak-proof rugged construction that promises and delivers satisfactory service. It has a maximum capacity of 36 cans of 330ml each or 18 cans of 500ml each.

What we like:
It’s convenient in the sense that you can carry it on your back. It’s leak-proof, rugged construction offering high durability.
What we don't:
The capacity is limited. It has limited capacity. When full, can be too heavy to be carried by a single person.

 


 

Other Best Option

6) Igloo Sports Beverage Cooler

Igloo Sports Beverage CoolerType: Hard-sided
Weight: Approximately 7 lbs.
Capacity: 7.6 L
Ice Retention Duration: Not indicated

This is a uniquely designed cooler with a swing-up handle that enhances the convenience of carrying around. It comes with a spigot at the base. The cool riser technology helps to minimize the cooler’s contact with the surface thereby improving the cooling performance. With the lid vent in place, liquids can freely flow through the spigot.

What we like:
It’s a low-budget cooler that is ideal for the short term. It’s compact.
What we don't:
Limited capacity, build quality is not strong enough to stand the test of time. However, you can work with it for the short term. It’s not suitable for those who intend to go on a prolonged camping trip.

 


 

Camping Cooler Buying Guide

When you’re on the market for any product, you want to be spot-on with your decisions. We all know how impactful a buying decision can be. It’s for this reason that we dedicate an entire section just to share with you factors that you need to consider when buying a camping cooler. The following are the factors that we shall be discussing in-depth to gain an insight into how one can make an informed decision when it comes to buying a camping cooler.

best camping coolers

9 Things to Consider Before Buying a Cooler for Camping

  1. Type of Cooler

    When it comes to the type of cooler, there are four main categories and they are; hard case coolers, soft case coolers, backpack coolers, and electric coolers.

    • Hard-Sided Coolers

      This is the main category of coolers, which means that the majority of coolers belong to this category. They are built from a hard outer case designed to reinforce a thick inner layer of insulation. Hard case coolers are usually designed to withstand a wide variety of environmental conditions, which is a convincing explanation as to why some of the most expensive camping coolers are in this category. It’s also worth noting that there is a wide price range of hard case coolers, which begs the question of what determines the price of a cooler. Well, this will be covered under the “cost” section so hold your horses. The prices of hard case coolers can be as low as around $50 and as high as $500. If you intend to use your camping cooler for a long period, say, for several years, then you cannot go wrong with a hard case cooler. Examples of hard case coolers from our best camping cooler reviews include the RTIC 65 Tan, Pelican Elite and the YETI Tundra among others.

    • Soft-Sided Coolers

      This is a cheaper build of a less durable cooler for camp kitchen that is made of a soft case, usually reinforced fabric. If you’re planning to go on a day’s camping trip, a hard case cooler would not be quite necessary because its soft case counterpart will be fine. This type of cooler is built to retain ice for a day or two and some soft case coolers can retain ice for up to four days. They are usually lightweight and easy to carry. This is because, unlike the hard case coolers, these do not have very thick insulating sides. They are ideal for campers who are on a budget and do not plan on spending days in the camp.

    • Backpack Coolers

      These are soft case coolers whose design features borrow from mountaineering backpacks. If you want to achieve as much portability as possible, perhaps because your camping activities involve moving around, then the backpack coolers are the best option for you. However, it has been noted that backpack coolers are surprisingly expensive. This is even though they do not offer as much ice retention capabilities as the hard case coolers. Some of the most effective backpack coolers can only retain ice up to 48 hours. This is because they do not have insulating sides as thick as the hard case coolers. Note that choosing this type of cooler will limit the number of supplies you can carry to the camp because they are often built with minimal space. An example of a backpack cooler from the best camping cooler reviews above is the HANICOL Insulated Backpack Cooler.

    • Electric Coolers

      This is a relatively new type of camping cooler that is designed to address the niche of those people who are always on the move. Electric coolers are relatively expensive and this is because they often come with quite a hefty price tag. If you’re the type of camper who is always on the move, then an electric cooler is what you need.

  2. Capacity

    This refers to the volume of a cooler and it is often measured in quarts although several manufacturers measure theirs in gallons, liters, and cans. It is always important to consider the purpose for which you intend to use the cooler. In this case, we mean the number of people who will be joining you on the camping trip. When a camping cooler is categorized as a small one, it means that the capacity ranges between 10-35 quarts. If you intend to go on a solo trip, then a small cooler will be enough. A 35 quarts cooler will be enough for 2-day supplies for a single person. An example of a small camping cooler is the YETI Tundra 35 cooler.

    Medium coolers have a capacity of between 35 and 55 quarts. They are ideal for a group of campers not exceeding 4 provided the trip does not last for more than 5 days. An example of a medium cooler is the LiONCooler and the Coleman 54 quarts cooler. If your trip lasts longer than 4 days, it is recommended to buy a large cooler for camping, whose capacity is usually 55-75 quarts.

    Examples of large coolers from the ones reviewed above include the Coleman 62 quarts Extreme and the Pelican Elite coolers. For the extremely large groups, the extra-large coolers of 75 and above quarts will be sufficient. To avoid an overkill of any kind, it is important to put into consideration the size of your camping group. This will help you to decide the appropriate capacity for a camping cooler.

  3. Ice Retention

    This is the ability of the cooler to preserve ice for a given period. Usually, the manufacturer quotes on the label of the cooler its ice retention duration. The longer the period, the more convenient the cooler will be for extended camping trips. It is worth noting that high dry ice retention durations are associated with high prices.

    Over the years, it has proven to be a tricky feat to come up with a standardized test of dry ice retention in a cooler. The values shared by manufacturers on the labels of their products are usually estimates and even if they are accurate, they arrive at such figures using the most favorable conditions, which are not always constant. The highest-rated cooler in the ones reviewed above has a 10-day ice retention rating. However, there is a likelihood that these figures will not be true once you put the cooler to real-life tests. This can be excused because of the fluctuating nature of weather elements.

    Whatever the case, ensure that you purchase a camping cooler with an ice retention rating that is high enough to give you the peace of mind you need to enjoy your camping trip. Remember that hard case coolers have a higher ice retention capability than their soft case counterparts. This is because they have features such as the thick insulating sides. It is also important to note that some habits can have an impact on the cooler’s ice retention ability. For instance, if you keep opening the lid from time to time, this will interfere with the temperatures by causing them to fluctuate.

    how to choose a camping cooler

  4. Weight

    The weight of the cooler is a significant factor to consider before making the purchase. This is because the weight greatly determines the portability of the cooler. A heavy cooler makes it difficult to carry. Whether you plan to camp in a small group or a large one, it is always better if the items to carry with you to the campsite can be easily carried. The weight of the cooler will greatly affect the ease with which it can be carried.

    Hard case coolers are quite heavy. Even when empty, this type of cooler can weigh from 10 pounds for the small ones to over 50 pounds for the large ones. Try to estimate the quantity of food and drinks that you intend to carry and then do the math to establish the kind of weight you will be dealing with. If you have a means of transport to carry the coolers to the camping site, then you won’t have to worry much about weight. However, it is important to put into consideration the availability of any assistance you might need to lift the coolers around from the house to the vehicle and back.

    At the end of the day, it is important to note that the lightweight feature is a desirable aspect of a camping cooler regardless of the availability of manpower to carry it around. This is because camping involves a lot of movement and having heavy items will get in the way of your fun.

  5. Cost

    Cost considerations will be the most instinctive thoughts to put into the buying of a camping cooler. Without any consultation, you will go for the bargain right off the bat, which is understandable. However, several cost considerations come into play when it comes to camping coolers. First off, the big brands with huge presence tend to cost more than their upcoming counterparts. It is worth noting that this does not necessarily shove the less-known brands down the drain. Doing some bit of research to find out from firsthand users will go a long way in helping you save tens or even hundreds of dollars.

    Brand popularity aside, it is obvious that high-end coolers will cost much higher than their midrange counterparts. Ensure that your purchase does not affect your budget. Remember, you can always find something that falls within your budget. Also, bear in mind that cheap is always expensive. In this regard, put into consideration the frequency of your camping activities. If you tend to go camping quite frequently, then it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to spend more on a camping cooler. It is better to buy a costly cooler that is known to be durable than to spend less on a knock-off that will barely last a month or two. Bottom-line, cost considerations are important but they should not cloud your judgment and cause you to fall for a substandard product all because you want to save a couple of dollars.

  6. Portability

    This is the ease with which you can transport something from one point to another. As we all know, camping involves a lot of movement and for every time that you move, you are required to move with everything you have. For this reason, every item you have at the campsite must be easy to carry.

    The three most important factors that determine the portability of an item are weight, presence of wheels and compactness. Weight can be a less essential issue if the cooler has wheels. The presence of handles and the nature of their construction can go a long way in determining how portable the cooler is. The handle on the Coleman 62-quarts Xtreme cooler plays a major role in enhancing its portability. The handle is designed to reduce the pulling effort and this, in turn, enhances the portability of the cooler.

    The extent of a cooler’s compactness is yet another essential determinant of its portability. Compact coolers can be carried around with ease provided that they are light in weight and they have ergonomic handles. When you are on the market for a highly portable cooler for camping, look at the presence of the wheels, ensure the weight is light, and it is compact and the design of the handle is ergonomic. If it checks all these boxes, then you are buying a portable camping cooler.

    camping cooler buying guide

  7. Durability

    Durability is one of the most desirable characteristics of any product. It is hard to think of a product whose durability you won’t desire. When it comes to camping coolers, durability is a key feature that you cannot afford to forego. This is because the environmental conditions your cooler faces require it to be up to the task. Hard case coolers are designed to withstand some of the harshest conditions Mother Nature throws at them. Some are even equipped with a lid that supports the weight of a fully grown adult.

    When looking out for a durable cooler for camping, it is always advisable to check out reviews of firsthand users. This is because sometimes marketing claims could be false although this could be excused because of the diverse nature of conditions each cooler face during use. Strive to seek the experiences of people who have used the particular model you intend to buy. This way, you can have a glimpse of the kind of service you are going to get.

    More often than not, highly durable camping coolers cost higher than their less durable counterparts. One of the reasons for this is because of the rarity of the materials used in the construction of the durable coolers. For instance, the Coleman 54-quart cooler features a reinforcement of a steel belt, which makes it even more durable than most of the coolers in the same category. Weigh accordingly to establish the extent to which you are willing to spend to buy a more durable cooler.

  8. Ease of use

    Just like every other piece of equipment, usability is extremely important. Before you make your purchase, ensure that you are comfortable with the user-friendliness of the cooler. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the basic functionalities of the cooler. Some of the camping coolers on the market have quite a complicated collection of features and technologies. Ensure that your model of choice is accompanied by a user manual and if not, at least help is accessible either online or from an expert at the store. Luckily enough, most of the camping coolers are pretty easy to use. Unless you have gone for the electric cooler for camping, the rest is straightforward enough to use without the need for a manual.

  9. Additional features and accessories

    The presence of additional features in a camping cooler is always welcome as it enhances the user experience. Some of the most common accessories include food baskets and dividers. If you can get access to some external attachments such as side tables and cup holders, then this can be a great way to utilize space while camping. Find out if these accessories are available at the store and consider buying them alongside the cooler. Strive to choose the ones that come with these accessories for free. This will help you in saving a lot because buying some of the accessories separately is relatively expensive.

Differences Between Hard-Sided and Soft-Sided Coolers

hard vs soft camping coolers

There are two different types of coolers. And there are serious differences between these coolers. We describe all of these differences below.

  • Weight

    Hard-sided coolers are bulky and heavy whereas soft-sided coolers are light and compact. This makes the latter convenient for daily use and the former only ideal for occasional use. The heavy-duty materials used in the construction of a hard-sided cooler plays the important role of increasing its efficiency of insulating cold air. This role in the soft-sided cooler is played by a thin aluminum insulating material and it is this thinness that is responsible for the lightweight nature of this type of cooler.

  • Ice Retention Duration

    Hard-sided coolers keep the contents cold for a longer period than the soft-sided coolers. This is because they have a thicker insulating material that effectively traps cold air preventing it from escaping to the outside. The insulating capacity of a soft-sided cooler is less than that of the hard-sided cooler because of its thin insulating material.

  • Portability

    When it comes to portability, hard-sided coolers are less portable than their soft-sided counterparts. Soft-sided coolers have construction features resembling the hiking backpacks, which makes them easy to carry. The same cannot be said about the hard-sided coolers because their construction often comprises of heavy-duty materials. Nevertheless, the portability of a hard-sided cooler is usually achieved by the addition of wheels and ergonomic handles for easy pulling.

  • Storage Space

    Since the soft-sided cooler is made of a collapsible material, there is a lot more storage convenience for them than there is for a hard-sided cooler, which requires a lot of storage space.

Best Camping Coolers Comparison Chart

ProductPriceTypeCapacityWeightIce Retention Duration
LiONCooler 1st Battery Powered Portable Solar Fridge Freezer$$$$$Electric42 qt.25 lbs.Battery life duration/10 hrs.
RTIC Cooler (RTIC 65 Tan)$$$Hard Case65 qt.36.5 lbs.10 days
Pelican Elite 70 Quart Cooler$$$$Hard Case70 qt.33.3 lbs.10 days
YETI Tundra 35 Cooler$$$Hard Case35 qt.20 lbs.2.5 days
Coleman 54-Quart Cooler$$Hard Case54 qt.19 lbs.4 days
Coleman 62-Quart Xtreme$$Hard Case and Wheeled13 lbs. 8 oz.1-2 persons5 days
HANICOL Insulated Backpack Cooler$Backpack1.7 lbs.30 LNot indicated
Igloo Sports Beverage Cooler$Hard-sidedApproximately 7 lbs.7.6 LNot indicated

Check also: Best Camping Grills

camping cooler reviews

Conclusion

The two main types of camping coolers are hard-sided and soft-sided and the minor types include the electric and backpack coolers. They do a great job of preserving the temperatures of chilled drinks thus ensuring that we do not miss out on the fun of enjoying an ice-cold drink while we are out and about camping. It is, therefore, an important possession for you if you camp regularly. Make sure you make an informed decision when you go to buy one and you can do this by using our buying guide or simply picking one from the list of the best camping coolers. You can trust our judgment considering that we have picked camping cooler reviews from actual users of those coolers. Whichever way you decide to acquire yours, we believe that following our guide will put you a step or more ahead as far as buying decisions are concerned.

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