Finding a quality cooler today takes a bit more effort than in earlier times. Only a couple of decades ago, a cooler was a box looking thing that kept your beer cold during a tailgating party or your milk from spoiling during a family camping trip. At worst it was made from cheap Styrofoam. At best, it was a flimsy plastic contraption that wasn’t the most attractive part of your camping setup.
Today, however, there are dozens of different coolers on the market all proclaiming to be the best model for certain activities. From coolers promise to keep your ice from melting for up to week to coolers that claim they can withstand a bear mauling, there truly is something for everyone.
In this short article, we will look the different types of coolers on the market, the most well trusted brands of coolers, and also offer a breakdown of the top ten top rated coolers.Once you have read through our ice chest reviews, we also will give you a complete buying guide so that you can find the best cooler for your needs.
Here's Our Top Picks At A Glance:
Different Types of Coolers
It doesn't matter where you are going, on a hike or a trip to the beach, the type of cooler you need will largely depend on how you plan to use it, where you will be taking it, and what you will be storing in it. For example, if you are heading out on an overnight hike with some buddies and want to keep a few T-bone steaks cold, you obviously don’t want to be hauling around a massive 35-pound ice chest. Rather, a smaller and lighter model with a carrying strap would be much more adequate.
Similarly, if you are planning on taking your family camping in the backwoods of Glacier National Park, you will one of the toughest coolers on the market to make sure that you won ́t wake up in the morning to find your food had been stolen by raccoons, bears, or any other type of animal.
This cooler is what you probably remember from the time you were a kid; a rather plain,square box made from hard plastic. These types of coolers usually come with some sort of foam insulation which helps to keep things cool for a day, at most, but not much longer than that. The plastic exterior casing is usually glued to the inner foam walls which provide most of the insulation.
One of the perks of these types of coolers is that they are usually on the inexpensive end and definitely do the trick for most family camping outings, trips to the beach, or other types of activities where a nearby gas station can offer you another bag of ice to cool things down.
High-End Cooler Models
Why would you pay four times as much for a cooler you might ask? While high-end cooler sare certainly more expensive than traditional models, they are also without a doubt much better made, more durable, much more efficient, and offer superior insulation. Instead of cheap foam for insulation, these models offer foam injected insulation that is often twice as thick.
The outside plastic shell uses a unique molding technique where in plastic is essentially melted and then made into the shape you need. For these coolers, then, the exterior plastic shell is actually a hollow inside (adding extra insulation) and has no seams whatsoever which is a big plus when it comes to stopping the escape of cool air.
Furthermore, the lids come with rubber gaskets to make a completely air tight seal. With a high-end cooler, you are pretty much taking a refrigerator with you since they will keep your food and drinks cool and preserved for several days at a time. They are great options for everything from those week-long fishing trips to a cross country drive with the kids.
Soft and Strapped Models
The main drawback to both the traditional and high end coolers is that they are heavy and bulky. While you can pretty easily put them in a car and take them wherever you need, if you are planning on carrying them on your back, you most likely won ́t last a mile.
Soft and strapped models don’t offer the same storage capacity nor the insulation for long term storage of foods, but they are definitely more mobile and you to comfortably carry your cooler during day hikes or into the stadium.
There are dozens of different companies manufacturing coolers of all different types,though some are definitely of higher quality than others. Here we will look at three different companies, each one best known for manufacturing one of the types of coolers we explained above.
Coleman is one of those companies that has been around since the days of your grandparents. In fact, you probably have a distant, stored memory of your grandpa pulling some beers out of his trusty Coleman cooler during a picnic or trip to the beach.
Coleman has been manufacturing all different types of camping supplies since 1900 when the founder started selling gasoline pressure lamps in rural Oklahoma. Since that time they have grown to one of the largest outdoor gear and camping supply companies in the world. Most of the coolers that Coleman sells are of the traditional type, though they are significantly better made than the one your grandpa used.
Yeti is a relative newcomer to the cooler industry, though they do offer some of the most unique and quality high-end coolers on the market. Yeti is a company that specializes in making high-end coolers, soft coolers, vacuum insulated stainless steel drinkware and other similar accessories.
Yeti started up by the initiative of two brothers in 2006 and has since found a niche mostly amongst hunting and fishing enthusiasts who are looking for quality coolers and other gear to keep them cool on a hot summer day. Though their coolers are much pricier than other models, the fact that they are one of the fastest growing outdoor companies gives testament to the quality of their products.
RTIC is another company offering high-end coolers that compare in quality to what companies like Yeti produce. RTIC claims that because of their direct marketing schemes they are able to offer high-end coolers and soft coolers of quality making for a much-discounted price.
This Houston based company does not distribute through major chains nor advertise through traditional means. Rather because of their direct marketing scheme, they are able to offer quality products that get sent directly to the consumer from the producer without any sort of middlemen.
Overview of the Top 5 Coolers on the Market
Though the best cooler for you will depend on how you plan to use it, we offer here the top five coolers, including two high-end coolers, one traditional cooler, and two soft and strapped coolers. With these five products you will surely be able to find a quality product for whatever your need may be.
Coleman 48 Quart Cooler
The Coleman 48-quart cooler is the bread and butter when it comes to traditional coolers.While there is nothing fancy about this model, it is extremely useful and well designed for a number of different uses.
They claim they you can store up to 63 cans in this cooler, making it a great addition for any tailgating party. Their ThermOZONE insulation carries the promise that absolutely no CFC ́s, HFC ́s, or HCFC ́s were used in the insulation making it one of the most“ecological” models out there.
This Coleman cooler has a handy drain that will help you get rid of the extra melted water without having to completely empty the cooler. It is also tall enough that you can even place a two-liter bottle upright in the cooler. You should be able to find this cooler for under$40 dollars no matter where you look making it one of the most inexpensive coolers out there.
RTIC 30 Soft Pack
If you are looking for a quality soft cooler that you can easily and comfortably carry with you during your day trip backpacking trips, the RTIC 30 soft pack is one of the best options out there. With this cooler, you can easily fit 30 cans plus ice into the cooling pouch.A comfortable soft shell and strap makes for easy transportation.
The insulation on this little cooler is quality made, and RTIC guarantees that even despite its lightweight design, it will keep ice for up to 5 days. There is 2 inches of quality foam insulation packed into this design.
The unique zipper design comes with an anti-leak technology so that you don ́t have to worry about making a mess if your cooler bag gets knocked over. You should be able to find the Yeti 30 for around $100 dollars making it a reasonably priced cooler that is a hybrid high-end and soft pack cooler.
Arctic Zone Titan Zipperless Cooler
The Arctic Zone Titan Zipper less Cooler is another well-made and durable soft and strapless model. This cooler is similar in size to the RTIC model reviewed above as it claims to hold 30 cans. You can also find this product in 16 can and 48 can sizes.
Furthermore, the Artic Zone cooler has a radiant heat barrier for added insulation and an insulated exterior pocket. If you dislike having to move a bunch of cans just to find a stick of butter than you wanted to keep cool for popping popcorn, this exterior pouch is a great addition to help keep you organized.
One of the biggest perks of this little cooler is its price. At around $35 dollars, it is significantly cheaper than other similar models. While it not might offer the same high-end technologies as other models, it does perform reasonably well for shorter term use.
Yeti Tundra 35
The Yeti Tundra 35 is one of the top high-end coolers on the market today. If you are looking for one of the best coolers for all around performance and long term insulation, this is the option for you.
The Yeti Tundra 35 is built like a tank, and will most likely be the last cooler you ever buy.Its extremely sturdy design is built to stand the test of time and even resist the jaws of a hungry and curious grizzly bear. Of course, this product is extremely heavy, so you will most likely only be taking it with you wherever your car can get to. The T-Rex Tundra Lid Latches are built completely water proof to help you avoid unwanted spills.
The Yeti Tundra is also one of the more inexpensive of the high-end cooler models. For around $300 dollars, you will probably end up saving that amount in ice over the next decade of use.
Pelican Elite Cooler
The Pelican Elite Cooler is another quality high end cooler model, that while slightly more expensive, combines a unique and attractive design with high functionality. The 70 quart internal volume is one of the largest cooler models out there and will hold pretty much everything a small refrigerator will hold.
The Pelican cooler also comes with 2 inches of polyurethane insulation. They claim that this will keep ice from melting for up to 10 days. The built-in cup holders on the lid allow you cooler to double as a table that will keep your drinks from spilling. The stainless steel bottle opener will also keep you from trying to break open a beer with your teeth.
The close to $400 dollar price tag might frighten some people off, but they also offer a life time warranty. If your product breaks, they will replace it at no cost.
Best Coolers on the Market Buying Guide
Before going out to purchase a new cooler, you need to make sure that you have a clear idea of what you will be using the cooler for. You will also want to make sure that it comes with a list of some of the top features that we look at below.
- Weight: If you don’t want to be lugging around a 50 pound cooler filled with another50 pounds of food and drinks, then make sure you check out the weight of yourcooler option. If you are planning on taking your cooler by foot, say for hiking, youwill want to opt for a smaller soft cooler with straps.
- Spigot: Even the best coolers will eventually lose ice to melting. If you don’t want tohave to take out all of the contents of your cooler to get rid of the extra liquid, a spigot can be helpful to drain off the water that is making your bread soggy. Makesure to find an option that is leak proof.
- Extra Pouches: If you want easy access to smaller items, cooler products thatcome with outside pouches (that are also insulated) can be a help.
- Extra Features: Instead of just a big box, some of the best coolers also have built in can holders, bottle openers, and other unique features. While not necessary, these little perks can go a long way. There is nothing worse than having a cold bottle of beer but no way to get it open.
- Read up on the cooler reviews: Of course, every product out there will claim to be top quality. A great way to get the low down on any product is reading through some of the customer reviews to see how it actually performs.
As we have seen throughout this article, a cooler is much more than just a simple ice box.While your grandparent’s generation probably didn’t think that a cooler could be much more than square plastic thing with a lid, we have all sorts of different options in front of us.Choosing between a traditional, high end or soft pack cooler will depend on your particular lifestyle and planned use. Whichever cooler you eventually settle on, any of the top 10 coolers reviewed above will offer you a quality option.