December 2, 2016

As Cold as Ice: Best Coolers for Everything

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Want the best cooler for the money? Here is a list of the top coolers for every occasion.

Best Coolers
Best Coolers © CreditDonkey

Coolers don’t always receive the attention they deserve when it comes to planning a trip, but they can make or break an adventure. Choose your next cooler wisely, and you’ll be able to enjoy yourself—and not worry about spoiled food.

Finding the Right Cooler

When you’re camping and the main course doesn’t stay cold or frozen, then it’s going in the trash and you’ll leave everyone hungry. Meat that doesn’t stay cold will lead to bacteria that makes everyone sick. A shabby cooler of melting ice will give you a leaky container of lukewarm beverages. Be the hero of your next camping trip, football game, or day away by making sure you buy the best cooler for your needs—and your budget.

Back in the day, you could get away with just grabbing a Styrofoam box from the supermarket and hope it wouldn’t fall apart before you needed to eat was inside. Now you’ve got a ton of options to consider: off-road wheels, cup holders, storage areas, outside straps, handles, dry ice, speakers, and insulation thickness. Yes, there are even coolers with speakers so you can entertain while serving food.

Which detail and which cooler makes sense for you depends on what you’ll do with it. You might want something that will trek through sand if you’re heading to the beach. For a week in the woods, you could be dealing with a variety of temperatures, direct sunlight and a limited amount of ice. If you are a taller person, then handle length is going to make the difference when it comes to dragging your cooler around. If you’re on the small side, then you might not want the heaviest cooler on the market. However, what everyone does want is a cooler that will last.

We broke down the different coolers on the market, the brands, purposes and features so that you can find the one that’s the best fit for your next adventure.

Best Cooler with Wheels: Coleman Xtreme 5 Wheeled Cooler

The Coleman Xtreme 5 Wheeled Cooler – 50-Quart gets so many things right that it’s tough to beat for the price when you consider all the features. Retailing for $59.99, this cooler provides enough features at a competitive cost.

Even though there are stronger, more durable and thicker coolers on the market, it’s tough to find one for under $60. What makes us like this offering is the stylish design, four cup holders, a lid that supports up to 250 lbs. so you always have a place to sit, plus a long handle, ability to hold 84 cans, and enough height for two-liter bottles.

It fits nicely with Coleman’s offerings when it comes to car camping and picnics. You can use the wheels and handles to drag it around the campsite with ease. It’s not going to be the best for your rougher trips, but when it comes to wheeling enough stuff to a picnic table, this one is hard to beat.

Honorary mention goes to the Igloo Trailmate 70-quart cooler if you want something that you can take on rugged trails and are willing to pay around $250.

Best Cooler Bag: Picnic at Ascot Eco Picnic Cooler

The Picnic at Ascot Eco Picnic Cooler for 4 is stylish, upscale and versatile while coming in at just under the three-digit price at $98. It includes everything you could imagine for a picnic. There are separate storage sections for wine and food. It is leak-proof, making it great for when the ice does melt, and it includes a full dining set for a family—glasses, cups, plates, napkins and utensils. There’s a comfortable shoulder strap that makes for easy portability.

If you are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a cooler bag that will last longer than the rest, also check out the YETI Hopper 20. This is perfect if you are hunting, fishing or rafting and need something extreme and comfortable for days on end. It can hold around 12 cans ice-cold and can be hauled anywhere. Stylish and durable, the bag runs around $300.

Best Cooler Backpack: IceMule Pro Cooler

The IceMule Pro Cooler 20-liter is a stylish, versatile and cool backpack that gives you easy access to your beverages and snacks when you’re on the move. It has simple and comfortable straps to keep the contents pressed against your back. It has an outside strap for additional storage and one of the coolest designs for your outdoor adventures. They can hold around 18 cans plus ice and run just under $100.

A more affordable option for shorter and less extreme trips would be the Igloo MaxCold backpack, which costs around $49.99. A little heavier, it offers extra pockets and storage for a day on the move when you want to have your hands and stuff readily available.

Best Cooler for Camping: YETI Tundra 50 Cooler

You’re not going to find a more high-end, durable, bear-proof, tough and rugged cooler than the YETI Tundra 50 Cooler, although it will definitely come at a price. Clocking in at $379.99, the YETI seals shut with the quality of a freezer, has two locks, extra-thick walls and the ability to transport dry ice (which triples the cooling power). It has a drain plug for emptying liquids and is completely leak-proof. This will keep items cold for days (some have said weeks) and has convenient handles for moving it around.

If you want to spend much less, then check out the Rubbermaid 75-Quart DuraChill Wheeled 6-Day Cooler for usually under $55. With extra thick insulation, it offers side swing handles, wheels, and built-in cup holders for lounging around a campsite. It doesn’t have the bear prevention and toughness of the highest-end coolers, but it’s a great value for car camping and weekend trips with friends and families.

Best Cooler for the Beach: KoolMAX 40

The KoolMAX 40-quart wheeled cooler offers a Bluetooth PA system and power station for under $400 that lets you keep your electronics dry and safe and makes you the star of any beach event you want to throw. It can play music for your beach or barbecue gathering, hold 48 cans or 28 beer bottles, and has weather-resistant storage area for any electronics you want to keep out of the sand and water.

The battery is rechargeable and lasts for up to 16 hours of playing time. The digital tuner and unique design extra features will make you the hit of any beach outing.

If you want something simpler and more affordable, go with the Coleman Collapsible Sport Cooler. Running at a fraction of the price (at around $39.99), you can pack these up and expand once you get to the beach. They offer great value and hold around 45 cans for your day at the beach.

Best Cooler Under $100: Igloo Maxcold Island Breeze 50

The Igloo Maxcold Island Breeze 50, running at under $45, will do everything you need from a cooler if you are keen on car camping, family trips, hosting parties and going to the beach. It has wheels, handles, and a long handle for portability. It features tie-down loops that allow you to strap on extra gear, a design that keeps your items elevated from hot surfaces, and 5-day ice retention up to 90 degrees. It is a solid, all-around cooler that will get the job done when it comes to a majority of activities.

For a slightly smaller and unconventional option, consider the IceMule Pro at around $99.95. The backpack and outside straps give you tremendous portability for more rugged adventures. It is long-lasting, durable, and great for more extreme activities than just traditional car camping.

Tailgating: Coleman 60-Quart Performance Wheeled Cooler

The Coleman 60-Quart Performance Wheeled Cooler runs around $60, features cup holders on the lid, rugged wheels and a durable handle. What sets it apart in the world of tailgating is that you can find it in some of the most popular team logos and colors on the market. You can stand out with your Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos cooler, or even stick with your college alma mater. Dozens of schools from Arizona State through USC have their logo emblazoned on the side.

Or if you’re an away fan and don’t want to draw too much attention to yourself, then go with the Rubbermaid Extreme Wheeled Ice Chest. Offering the tremendous storage space of 75 quarts at a great price ($49.97), the cooler has cup holders and plenty of storage space for 130 cans plus ice as well as an easy-to-clean liner.

If you want to look in the $150-$200 range and host a lot of parties, take a look at the Igloo Party Bar. Offering 125 quarts of storage, LED lighting and four wheels to trek around, it’s perfect if you need a bar on the move.

Best Overall Cooler: YETI Tundra 75

If money isn’t a question and you’re looking for the best cooler on the market, you can’t get any higher end than the YETI Tundra 75. It’s built out of the same tough materials as a whitewater kayak and features top-of-the-line thermal insulation. It also features the patent-pending T-Rex latches and keeps air exchange to a minimum. Currently running at around $450, if you get enough use out of it, this will last a lot longer than any other cooler on the market.

If you want the best YETI-type cooler but don’t have $450 to spend, then check out the Summit Series coolers that K2 has to offer, especially the Summit 50, which costs around $329. Summit coolers are dry ice compatible and have their own locking design to protect your contents from the elements.

Cooler Brands

When comparing coolers, you’ll see a lot of brands with different features and price points. While they all offer plenty of options, they tend to fall into categories for the kind of trip you’re looking to do. They work their way up in price, depending on the amount of insulation, seam quality, and difficulty in construction. More expensive coolers offer seamless construction, thicker insulation, stabilized polyethylene and a higher-density foam. More affordable coolers are constructed with cheaper plastics and thinner insulation, which translate into a shorter amount of time you’ll have frozen contents.


Stylish and versatile, Igloo coolers are great if you’re looking to throw backyard parties, have kids running around to different sports activities, or are looking for portable coolers to take to the beach or on fishing trips. They don’t always come with the most extreme features but they get the job done at a competitive price. The Igloo Ice Cube 60 Roller, for example, can hold up to 90 cans and retails for $49.99. It has a locking telescopic handle, wheels and tow handles. It won’t keep your perishables frozen for as long as the competition, but it’s an excellent cooler for weekend trips and daylong adventures.


Coleman’s coolers fit nicely with their wide array of outdoors products, which make them great for car camping, fishing trips and family adventures. You can often find great values on their coolers, but they’re not the best when it comes to high-end containers for longer trips. One of the great things about Coleman coolers is that they carry a line of 60-quart wheeled coolers decked out in logos for NFL and college teams that make a great offering for tailgating.


Creator of the ubiquitous water jugs filled with Gatorade or some other icy unknown beverage that you downed at summer camp, Rubbermaid offers low-frills coolers at great value. They hold up just as well (if not better) than their Coleman and Igloo competition. They are great for sports, picnics and day trips, even if they’re not as flashy as their competitors.

IceMule Coolers

These are uniquely designed bags and backpacks that are great for getting off the grid. They offer outdoor straps, a tough design and excellent versatility. Perfect for rafting and kayak trips, they set themselves apart in a crowded market.

K2 and Yeti Coolers

Moving into the highest-end brands for coolers, K2 and Yeti are the Cadillacs of coolers, offering unmatched products and design (although this comes at a price). If you are open to dropping $300, $400 or $500 for a cooler, K2 and Yeti offer inches of insulation, stronger materials and unparalleled sealing that can work for anything from camping trip beverages all the way through dry ice. They are ideal for fishing trips, camping when you’ll be off the grid for long periods of time, protection from any hungry bears, and the use of dry ice to triple the ability to keep beverages cold.

Where to Buy Coolers

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