Camping comes with a lot of unknowns. It brings you somewhere you don’t usually go. You are in the outdoors, most of the time with little to no electricity/Internet access. When you’re out camping, one important accessory to have with you is a cooler. Having a cooler helps keep your drinks cold because after all, no one likes warm water, beer, or soda. Not just any cooler will suffice for the average camper. One must find something mobile, big enough to contain drinks for over a handful of people, and something that will be able to keep the inside temperature low, even in hot weather.
This buying guide will introduce you to different varieties of coolers that could be beneficial for your camping trip. Some are large, mobile products that work well with ice, while others don’t need ice in order to get started. Two brands basically dominate the market for coolers. One is Coleman, and the other is Igloo. Rubbermaid is also a recognizable brand that has been around for a while. Each of the brands makes a handful of appearances on this list, so there are plenty of options for you in your search for an efficient camping cooler.
What makes a cooler great? At face value, the answer to this question should be simple. Generally speaking, campers want a cooler that will be able to keep their drinks, food, and other miscellaneous items cold for an extended period of time. But in this day and age, there are other elements that should be considered before buying a random cooler for your next camping trip.
Top Camping Coolers Comparison Chart
Traditional vs. Thermoelectric
Nowadays we are significantly more advanced than our ancestors. In a matter of minutes, we can communicate with a friend across the globe. We can have food delivered to our door without saying a word. And now I present you: thermoelectric coolers. This type of cooler is best for those who don’t feel like buying a handful of ice bags at a time, just for the ice to melt within a few hours (or days.) If you are camping with an RV, or somewhere with a power source, you can easily utilize this iceless cooler. Even if you have access power via your car, that would be enough for this type of cooler. It artificially cools your drinks and food using the power source, similar to an air conditioning unit (I say this loosely.)
Now if your campground is in the middle of nowhere, and you are out on your own, a traditional cooler doesn’t put a dent in your camping experience. With this type of cooler, simply find an ice supply (most commonly used method is purchasing ice bags from your local convenience store) and dump the ice in there, along with the things you want to be chilled.
These two types of coolers have their own pros and cons. Thermoelectric coolers need to be powered, whereas traditional coolers can be taken almost anywhere with no worries except when the ice is going to melt.
This is arguably the most important part of any cooler, especially for those used during camping trips. Insulation is important because it is the foundation of the cooler. Having well-made insulation will help keep the insides cool for a longer period of time. On average, coolers with poor insulation don’t allow ice to last very long. Needless to say, a cooler is much more valuable when it can hold ice for at least a few days. Some brands have custom insulation that lasts almost a week, and others barely a day, so it’s very important to determine how strong the insulation in a cooler is prior to making that final purchase.
Is there a drain?
Surprisingly (or not), people looking for a cooler tend to focus on this aspect. Drains are extremely useful when you want to release the melted ice out of the cooler. Most of the time people do this to make room and add fresh ice. Once the ice melts, the water is likely to become warmer over time, so having a drain handy makes it so much easier to get rid of the dirty water so that ice can be replaced. Is this part a necessity? No. But it does make the life of the person using it that much easier.
Is it mobile?
Mobility is a lot more important than people tend to realize. You don’t want to be the last people at the campsite with the duty of bringing the cooler to wherever your friends are, because it will likely be a hassle. A cooler will become heavier with ice and drinks in it, and the bigger the cooler the heavier the weight. With that being said, you will likely resent this strenuous action and would much rather an easier way to take the cooler from point A to point B. This is why most coolers that are considered heavy have a set of wheels and a swing handle so that you can easily pull it wherever it needs to go.
Best Camping Cooler Reviews
Finally, at #1 on the list, The Coleman Steel-Belted cooler. This Coleman cooler topped the list because of a handful of options that were scarcely available in other models. You can easily hold about 85 cans on average in this cooler, and it is tall enough for 2-liter soda bottles, as well as wine bottles. If you’ve been frustrated in the past while trying to find a bottle opener for your beer, you’ll be happy to know that this Coleman cooler has a built-in bottle opener right in front. All you have to do is simply bring your drink to the cooler and let the opener do the rest.
Having a handful of color options puts this Coleman cooler in front of the competition and will help you and your friends stand out at the campsite. Besides black, silver, and stainless steel (the latter two nearly identical), you can find this cooler in unique colors. Green, Rose, and Turquoise are a few colors that stand out in comparison to the “traditional” camping cooler.
Arguably the best perk of having this cooler is the warranty. Upon purchasing the Coleman Steel-belted cooler, the buyer will receive a limited 6-year limited warranty. So essentially what this means is that you will be able to replace any defective/deteriorated parts on the cooler if need be. This feature enhances the buyer’s piece of mind tremendously; as they now know that they can take this cooler to whatever camp environment without worrying about getting damaged. On top of that, the average price for a Coleman steel-belted cooler is no more than $200. The price range depends on what color you purchase, but you are looking at something that can last you a long time, keep your ice cool, and is protected under warranty for 6 years.
- Holds ice at natural temperature for days at a time
- Stainless steel lid is rust resistant
- Six-year limited warranty
- Added height allows you to put in large bottles
- A handful of color options available
- Priced slightly high
This cooler is a no-brainer for the Coleman 100 quart cooler has more than enough room for your food supply during a camping weekend. The Xtreme 5 100 quart cooler can hold up to almost 160 cans at once. This cooler has excellent insulation. Coleman’s Xtreme 5 technology keeps ice at a normal state for up to 5 days. You can have the Xtreme 5 cooler in over 90-degree weather and be confident that your ice won’t melt at a rapid pace. The ThermOzone insulation was designed to help the ozone, as it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals
There two wheels and the swing handle on the side make it fairly easy to take this cooler wherever it needs to go. The wheels look like they have slight tread on them, so it might be safe to take it off the road if you absolutely need to. The current price range for a cooler this big is very reasonable. For the amount of space you’ll receive with this cooler, it has a great value being under $100. You can even have your friends chip in, and it would be even cheaper! This method makes sense because such a spacious cooler is best for camping trips with big groups. In addition, there are four-cup holders that can be used when hanging out with friends. One of the biggest issues buyers have noticed with this cooler is the lid’s hinge.
- Holds a substantial amount of cans
- Material used in the insulation is safe for the ozone
- Can stay cold in hot weather environments
- Hinges aren’t durable
- Handles are fragile
The Yeti Hopper was built to be not only portable but QUICK and portable. It’s totally leak-proof and can keep ice for days according to Yeti. Yeti is proud of its toughness and they’re quick to let us know the materials that comprise the Hopper are the same as those found in whitewater raft construction and HazMat suits. Ooooh, Ahhhh! In any case, this cooler is meant for rough carry from floatplanes and ATVs to duck boats and tree stands.
The high-density fabric found on the Hopper is also resistant to mildew, UV rays and external forces like punctures or tears. The interior liner is made from FDA-approved food-grade materials. Yet uses “coldcell” insulation which is another fancy word they use for closed-cell rubber foam which offers a far higher degree of temperature-retention than other soft coolers. We love the unique “hitchpoint grid” which allows you to attach nearly anything of the right size from the MOLLE Zinger to the MOLLE bottle opener and Sidekick.
The Yeti’s ice packs are packed with scientific advancements including an advanced gel that is meant to hold the cold longer than other materials including water, and even its shape is meant to freeze faster.
Yeti is truly a top-end brand that takes its name and brand very seriously. It promises to offer the best, coldest and most durable soft cooler on the market.
- Best name in the soft cooler industry
- Lots of science and tech in the design
- High capacity for a soft cooler
- Ready for accessories
- Not cheap!!! It’s tough to swallow the price of $250 for what looks (at first) like a soft, nylon cooler that one COULD potentially see in a thrift store.
Igloo isn’t the only brand that has iceless coolers! Coleman’s 40-quart thermoelectric cooler allows up to 44 cans to be stored inside, with room for more. The base of the cooler contains a silent motor that can be powered by 110V along with an adaptor for a home outlet, or it can be plugged into a 12V outlet inside the car. One big factor to consider if you are interested in this cooler is that it only runs when it is plugged in. In others words, the fan will always be running if you want to run the cooler, which could take up a lot of power, as well as bring unnecessary heat to the product. The power cord is bound to get hot as it is plugged in for several hours at a time, so keep that in mind. Also, if your campsite does not have a power source nearby, you won’t be able to use ice as an alternative, since it will melt and leak into the cooler’s motor. Speaking of the motor, the Coleman brand’s motor lasts long and is silent in comparison to the Igloo’s version of the thermoelectric cooler.
Versatility is an accurate description of this cooler. The lid converts the way it opens between the left or right side, so you can use it as a traditional cooler or in an upright position like a small refrigerator. Another plus is the 8-foot power cord that comes with the cooler. This allows you to supply power to the thermoelectric cooler from a distance, so you aren’t glued to your car while everyone else is hanging out at the campsite. The tray in the middle of the cooler helps you organize the contents of your cooler, so if you want drinks on one side and food on the other, you can do that. You can essentially sort your stuff out in any way you would like using the tray.
- Lid can open at different angles
- Two different options to charge the cooler
- Tray helps organize items
- Can only use when it is plugged in
- Cannot use with ice
- Takes a while to cool everything
Another Igloo cooler on the list; this one arguably the most advanced. The 2017 Igloo Thermoelectric cooler can conveniently hold food and beverages; keeping them cool without any ice. Let’s start with the downsides: this cooler currently comes in two sizes: 26-quart and 28-quart. So the people looking for a smaller/average-sized cooler will get the most out of this item. Also, this cooler works best for people looking to store it inside their car. It comes with a 12V DC outlet that can simply be plugged into the lighter charger. The electric charge is the heart of the entire cooling process because it supplies the energy needed to give the cooler power. The most convenient part of this cooler is that you don’t need ice to keep your stuff cool! The cooler has a brushless motor, so it can thoroughly supply a cool atmosphere to every item inside, not just a few of them.
The Igloo brand uses thermoelectric technology in order to artificially supply coolness throughout the entire interior. It cools down up to 36 degrees Fahrenheit below the outside temperature. For those who aren’t exceptional at math: if you are out camping with this cooler on an 80-degree day, the inside of the cooler would be roughly 44 degrees. This measurement will efficiently keep your food and drinks cool and enjoyable, without needed to put in a bag of ice and deal with it melting every few hours. Overall, this iceless cooler will be a great addition to any camping trip or long car ride.
- Thermoelectric technology keeps inside cool without ice
- Needs to be plugged in order to stay cool
- Small size
You will certainly have a good camping experience with this cooler from the Igloo brand. The Marine cooler comes in four different sizes: 25 quart, 36 quart, 48 quart, and an overwhelming 94-quart. This all white, standard looking cooler might seem like a generic piece of equipment, but it is fully capable of containing ice, drinks, and food while out on your camping trip. The interior has odor resistant materials that won’t let bad smells accumulate within. There is also the Cool Riser technology, which is used to encourage airflow throughout the bottom for the ultimate cooling experience. One of the better parts of the Igloo Marine cooler is the insulation. Unlike select coolers that only last for a limited time, you can leave ice in this cooler for up to three days, and still expect to have it in there by the end of your camping trip. This cooler uses Ultratherm insulation for maximum cold retention, so the cooler will stay cool even at about 90 degree Fahrenheit and higher.
When it comes down to price, you can get a good deal depending on what size you buy. Currently, the 48-quart has the best value in comparison to what it’s worth. The price of the Marine cooler fluctuates based on the size, so if you need a particular cooler, be prepared to pay the difference. There are also two carrying handles for easy access, although it is likely that you will need two people to carry this cooler once it is filled.
- Cool Riser Technology increases breathability
- UV resistant exterior will keep the cooler undamaged while outdoors
- Ultratherm insulation keeps ice at normal temperature for up to three days
- Prices are reasonable in relation to size
- Likely needs two people to carry
- Prices change depending on size
- Hinges don’t last long
This camping cooler set has a lot of value for a comfortable price. You essentially get much more than a cooler with this set. Igloo’s 3-piece camping cooler set provides buyers with a wheeled cooler, a two-liter bottle, and a Playmate mini cooler. The main cooler has two wheels (one on each side) as well as a swing up tow handle. These features help consumers easily move the cooler from one spot to another. Built with the Ultratherm insulation, you can always expect your food and drinks to be cold with this Igloo cooler.
One of the biggest complaints from consumers is that there is no drain plug for the big cooler. Without a drain, it will take some effort to pick up this tall cooler and dump the melted ice water onto the ground; opposed to simply unplugging the drain and letting it seep out. This can be viewed as an inconvenience from the consumer’s perspective, but besides that, this cooler has the perfect size and valuable accessories. As a matter of fact, this 3-piece camping cooler set has a great value based on its price. At under $50, not only do you receive a tall, mobile cooler, but also an icebox and 1 quart cooler than can be used to drink out of.
- Cooler comes with additional items
- Tall enough to hold up 2 liter bottles
- Swing up handle and wheels enhance mobility
- Reasonably cheap
- Insulation is subpar
- Wheels aren’t as durable as they should be
- No drain plug
Whether you need it for camping, or another outdoor activity, this cooler looks like a tank! Yeti’s Tundra 65 cooler has a Rotomolded Construction, which adds a significant amount of armor throughout the entire frame of the product. This adds onto the durability of the cooler because no matter where you take it, you can be confident that it can take a beating and still work at 110%. While it is great to have a durable cooler in an unstable environment, one of the consequences of extra armor is extra weight. People that have used this cooler claimed that while it is put in a position to protect your items, it is substantially heavier than the average cooler. If you value protection more than carrying weight, the Tundra 65 is the ideal cooler for you.
The Yeti Tundra 65 cooler also provides users with plenty of options for their camping experience. This camping cooler comes in four colors: Ice Blue, Desert Tan, White, and Seafoam. These options will allow you to mildly express your personality while keeping your food and drinks at a cool temperature. The Tundra 65 has about three inches of Yeti’s PermaFrost insulation, which keeps the stuff inside the cooler just as icy as when it came in. You won’t be hindered with melted ice water because this unique insulation will keep everything at its normal temperature.
- T-Rex Latch easily opens and closes the lid
- Rotomolded construction is extremely durable
- PermaFrost insulation keeps food and drinks cool
- Unique colors available
- Naturally heavy
- Doesn’t keep ice cold overnight
Rubbermaid has come out with exceptional coolers for generations, and this ice chest is no different. Campers who value simplicity are likely to appreciate this ice chest. You can get this particular cooler in any size and can choose between blue and red for its color. The five sizes available are the 10-quart, 20-quart, 24-quart, 34-quart, and the 60-quart, which has wheels for efficient mobility. Assuming you are looking for a cooler that can hold the maximum amount of food and drinks, we will go with the 60-quart ice chest. The lid has two cup holders on each side, so feel free to have a few drinks on there when you’re camping with family and friends.
A plus side of having this cooler is its mobility. There are two wheels behind it as well as a lifting handle that makes it that much easier to move around. You can essentially take it anywhere without having to strain yourself by lifting such a heavy item. There is also an opening at the bottom to allow melted ice to seep out so you can add more ice to the container and keep your stuff cold. The simplicity of this ice chest is also reflected in the price. You can easily find this cooler for less than $100; so don’t worry about breaking the bank if this is the type of cooler you are looking for.
- Odor resistant interior
- Different sizes to choose from
- Doesn’t hold ice very long
- Handle breaks easily
Starting with the Igloo Sportsman Cooler, this product scores well in price, convenience, and keeping the inside ice cold. Depending on how much stuff you’re trying to hold, you can choose between two different varieties of the Sportsman cooler. The two sizes offered by Igloo are 100-quart and 52-quart. Being that the 100-quart seems a better fit for camping with a group, we will go with that version of the Igloo Sportsman cooler. A few things you won’t have to worry about is emptying leftover water and dealing with odd odors. The refrigerator-like lining helps protect the inside of the cooler. It doesn’t allow the items you put inside to stain or create an uneasy odor. This easily speeds up the cleaning process when you are done with your camping trip.
The Sportsman cooler has a sturdy dual snap-fit lid that properly secures everything inside. This snap latch will not only ensure that your goods are kept at the right temperature, but it is also a child safety latch so that children don’t raid the cooler and eat or drink something that isn’t theirs.
- Patented insulation keeps things very cold
- Snap-fit lid secures the items in your cooler
- Rust resistant
- Fair price
- Not very durable
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
Finding a cooler for your camping trip might become slightly more complex than you had originally hoped. There are so many different variations of the typical cooler, and one must be fully aware of their needs before making that final purchase. If you’re looking for something that will last you long so that you can bring it to every camping trip, you need to keep a few elements in mind. Most of these things are considered preferences instead necessities. The ideal cooler should have carrying handles and wheels so that you can either carry it with someone in your group or pull it with you on your way to its destination. Furthermore, having an efficient insulation within the interior of the cooler is crucial. These ten camping coolers are the best combination of value, durability, and mobility.