Top 10 Reviews of Today’s Most Popular
Small, Medium, and Large Camping Coolers
Unless you plan to live completely off the land, hunting and foraging during your camping trip, I suggest purchasing a cooler to safely store all of your food. Some food doesn’t require cold storage, but much of what you will bring with you on your trip likely will. A bag of chips can easily be tossed in a backpack or Tupperware container or even the backseat of your car. Things such as milk, eggs, and meat, on the other hand, will require a cold, refrigerator-like space.
This page is chock full of helpful resources when it comes to camping coolers. First, since this is the reason most of you are here, you will find our “reviews” section. The critical reviews on this page are designed to show you the upsides and downsides to each cooler so that you can make an informed decision about which best suits your particular needs. Second, you will find our buying guide which is filled with things you should consider before purchasing a cooler to help you narrow down your choices. Finally, you will see our Tips and Tricks section, which features a few key tips and tricks to storing food and selecting a cooler.
Top Three Camp Coolers
If you have perused other pages on this website, you may have noticed that I often feature a “Best Overall” title in the Top Three choices section. Don’t be disappointed that I’ve strayed from the norm on this page. It simply isn’t possible to select a “Best Overall” cooler. The sizes of coolers varies tremendously, from those built to hold food for one person for one day to those built to hold food for a family for a week.
Instead of selecting a “Best Overall”, I decided to select three equally impressive coolers which are designed to meet very different needs. Based on sales statistics, each of the following coolers has proven itself to be very popular when compared with many other similar coolers on the market. They have also each received some of the best consumer reviews and ratings in their respective categories.
Best Personal-Sized Cooler
Coleman FlipLid 6
Of all the coolers I reviewed in this size category, it appears that consumers were the most satisfied with the Coleman FlipLid 6. This small, personal-sized cooler is convenient for day trips and long-term camping trips. As with any small cooler, you will likely need to replace the ice about once a day if you use loose ice. See the bottom of this page for some handy alternatives to using loose ice, which will make this cooler stay colder for longer.
Measuring about seven inches tall, eight inches from front to back, and 10.5 inches from side to side, this small cooler is the perfect size for a six pack of water or soda to keep you and those you are traveling with hydrated all day. Alternatively, you could easily pack a few drinks and a few sandwiches inside to meet your dietary needs for an entire day. Using some of the space-saving techniques described later on this page, you can even manage to stuff two days worth of food and drinks inside the FlipLid. Remember, you only need to put perishable food in a cooler and any drinks you wish to keep cold. Your non-perishable foods can easily be thrown into a backpack or plastic bag.
What is so unique about the Coleman FlipLid 6? Its “FlipLid” allows you to lift the lid up and flip it over to expose multiple drink holders. The lid also comes off completely for easy cleaning, so that you don’t have to struggle to get into its crevices if something gets spilled. Its lunchbox-style bail handle gives you the option of carrying it in your hand or draping it over your forearm – freeing up your hand for carrying other objects.
Best Family-Sized Cooler
Igloo Polar Cooler 120 Quart
I want you to know that I didn’t select the Igloo Polar based solely on its size. However, let’s not forget how big it is. With 120 quarts of available space inside, it is large enough to hold 188 cans or, I estimate, somewhere between 100 and 120 bottles of water. Its external dimensions are approximately 38 inches in length, 17 inches in depth (front to back), and 18 inches in height, which definitely means it will take up some considerable space in your vehicle.
However, this large exterior size also means that there is a lot of room inside the cooler. The Polar’s internal dimensions are 34 inches in length, 15 inches in depth, and 13 inches in height. This is more than enough room to pack enough cool drinks and perishable food items for a family of four for an entire 5-day camping trip.
Igloo boasts that the Polar can withstand 5 days of direct heat of about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Though this may be true if the lid is left unopened, it is much more likely that loose ice will last about 3 days in 90 degree weather if you are opening the lid throughout the day to actually fetch your food. Still, five days unopened in 90 degree weather appears to be some sort of threshold that cooler companies are unable to design past, which places the Igloo among those coolers with the best cold retention.
Additional impressive features include a threaded drainage plug, hideaway handles, and latch locks. The threaded drainage plug allows you to drain water with ease. Unlike pull plugs, the chances of this plug disengaging itself in the back of your car are extremely thin. The hideaway handles slide down into special cut-out spaces to maintain a sleek exterior which will allow you to pack it into your car without worrying that the handles will snag on anything else. The plastic latch locks hold the lid closed during transportation to keep things from jumping out of your cooler as you go over bumps.
Pelican Products ProGear Elite
Can we take a minute to talk about extreme? This cooler is not only designed to withstand extreme environments, it also comes in a range of extreme colors including yellow, blue, green, pink, and orange. Built of very durable plastic, it can handle most of the wear and tear you can throw at it in hiking and climbing conditions. It can handle a tumble down a hill with ease.
The hard plastic latches are designed to open only if a button is first pushed then the latch is disengaged. This extra protection means that your cooler will not accidentally open up, even if it is dropped in such a way that something pulls on its latches. Latches like these can also be difficult for annoying critters to get into and can be a deterrent to children who love to open coolers and stare inside as if ice cream will magically appear.
This 20-quart cooler is capable of holding approximately 24 cans plus ice. Its internal dimensions (which we all know are the most important) are 15 inches in length, 10 inches in depth, and 9 inches in height. It is the perfect size to hold perishable foods for an individual for a week, a couple for a few days, or a family for an overnight trip.
Perhaps you are looking for a cooler that differs slightly from those listed above. Of course, you aren’t looking for one which differs much in terms of quality, but perhaps you are looking for something with a bit of a different style. All of the following eight coolers are popular among consumers and have received rave reviews by them. Take a moment to peruse this section to see if there is anything which meets your needs.
Coleman 48-Quart Family-Sized Cooler
This mid-sized 48-quart camping cooler is adequately sized to house food for a family of four for three to four days. Alternatively, it could easily hold enough perishable food for two people for over a week. Of course, as with any cooler, you will need to replace the ice every so often. Based on consumer feedback, I estimate that the Coleman 48-Quart can stay adequately cold for about three days if properly filled with ice and opened at regular intervals.
I was happy to see that, measuring 12 inches tall, it is able to hold something as tall as a two liter bottle of soda. The height means that you will be able to stack food more effectively than you would in shorter coolers of similar capacities. Though some people prefer the ruggedness of metal hinges, I am also happy to see that Coleman uses plastic hinges that hold no risk of rusting. The plastic pull plug water drain will not rust either and provides convenience since you will not need to stress your back to dump excess water from this cooler.
My fellow tree-huggers will be happy to know that all Coleman coolers listed on this page boast ozone-friendly insulation.
Rubbermaid 60-Quart Ice Chest with Wheels and Telescopic Handle
I absolutely love the way that this cooler is designed. As someone with a bad back, I have to be quite careful about how I choose to transport things from one area to another. I absolutely cannot bend over to dead lift a cooler off the ground with small side handles. Even coolers with wheels on one end and a long handle on the other are difficult for me to pull. The design of this Rubbermaid cooler, on the other hand, is perfect for people like me. Created to mimic the design of a suitcase, this cooler’s wheels are on the same end as its handle, which means less drag as you pull it along behind you. Alternatively, it even opens up the possibility that you can push it in front of you.
The long telescopic handle is built to assist those of most average heights in pulling or pushing the cooler without having to bend over at all or place extra strain on shoulder muscles. With the push of a button you can easily collapse the handle, making it much easier to store.
Measuring approximately 29 inches across, 16 inches deep, and 18 inches high, the Rubbermaid 60-Quart ice chest is a sufficient size for accommodating enough perishable food items to feed an individual for over a week, a couple for about five to seven days, and a small family for three to five days. Half the size of a the 120-quart cooler many people choose to bring on camping excursions, this Rubbermaid will easily fit into most trunks with plenty of room to spare for other gear.
The Rubbermaid 60-Quart isn’t only convenient in terms of its suitcase-style handle and wheels or the fact that its handle collapses. Its easy-pull drainage plug allows you to drain excess water without having to tip it on its side, making it even more user-friendly for those with bad backs.
Coleman 6201A748 100-Quart Xtreme 5
With a 100-quart capacity you will be able to use the Coleman 6201A748 for everything from carrying drinks and perishable foods to thawing Thanksgiving turkeys. Large internal dimensions allow you to fit awkwardly-shaped food containers inside. From pizza boxes to tall bottles, this cooler should be able to fit everything you need for your camping trip. Its internal measurements are approximately 24 inches in length, 12 inches in depth, and 13 inches in height.
Effortlessly pull this large cooler behind you from your car to your campsite with its long, fold-down handle and two rugged, hard plastic wheels. When loose ice inside the cooler begins to melt and you worry that it will cause damage to certain containers, simply unscrew the drainage plug and allow the water to self-drain from the cooler’s bottom edge.
Like most Coleman coolers, this one boasts being able to handle five days of 90 degree heat without losing its food-safe internal temperature. Of course, if you actually open it throughout the day or happen to sit it in direct sunlight, the ice won’t really stay frozen for quite that long. Instead, I suspect that it will stay at a reasonable temperature for about three days if frequently used and filled with loose ice. See our Tips and Tricks section at the bottom of the page for ideas on how to make your cooler stay cold for longer.
ENGEL USA 19-Quart Cooler/Dry Box
This tough box is fully insulated and waterproof. It is even marketed as being both a cooler and a “dry box” for storing sensitive equipment and materials. The rubber gasket seal inside the lid ensures that anything you place inside this box stays cold or dry. Of course, keeping things dry will not be your main concern if you are using this as a camping cooler.
The rubber gasket will, however, ensure that heat does not make its way into your cooler and melt your ice. It will also help keep water inside if it is tipped or turned while the latches are closed. This brings us to the metal lid latches. Made of stainless steel, these lid latches are rust-proof and durable.
With a 19-quart capacity, the ENGEL USA is much smaller than many of the others we’ve featured on this website, and is best used as a personal cooler or a drink cooler. Its internal dimensions are approximately 13.5 inches in length, 8 inches in depth, and 10 inches in height. Though it is smaller inside, I am willing to bet that you will be able to fit more food inside the ENGEL than any of the 20-quart coolers listed on this page. Why do I say that? The rubber gasket will hold the coolness inside this cooler much better which means that you will not need to put as much ice inside with your food.
Igloo Maxcold Ultra Roller Cooler 60 Quart
What’s better than a high-quality 60-quart cooler? A high-quality 60-quart cooler on wheels, of course. This Igloo Maxcold Ultra Roller is large enough to hold perishable food and some cool drinks for an entire family of four for three to five days. If you can manage to magically withdraw food from this cooler without opening it, the company claims it will stay cool for up to five days in 90 degree weather. Here in the real world, however, you will probably manage about three days of cool temperatures before having to drain the water left behind by melted ice and replace it with fresh ice. Luckily, the durable, threaded drain plug will make draining the water a simple task.
Though it is fairly standard in terms of its shape, dimensions and wheels, the Igloo Maxcold stands out among the rest thanks to the locking latch mechanism Igloo chose to include for its lid. Most other coolers in this price range feature lids which are held closed with simple friction and which will undoubtedly spill the cooler’s content if it is ever knocked over. Rest with peace of mind knowing that you can pull the Maxcold over bumpy terrain without losing your precious cargo.
Coleman 40-Quart Wheeled Cooler
Why waste money and precious packing space purchasing an oversized 60 or 120-quart cooler if you and your family usually only go away for one or two nights? Why waste money and space if you don’t camp with a family and only need to feed yourself for a week-long trip? This 40-quart cooler is the perfect size for either of those uses. Measuring approximately 20 inches in interior length, 13.5 inches deep, and 15 inches tall, this Coleman will adequately house food and cool refreshments for either of the above-mentioned purposes.
Kicking in drinks for a large day-long get together? This cooler’s 59-can capacity will allow you to impress your family and friends with an assortment of beer, soda, or both. Of course, you can always squeeze a few water bottles in for good measure. This cooler’s plastic pull plug will allow you to drain melted ice without hurting your back trying to tip it over, or frustrating yourself trying to fidget with a threaded plug. Four cup holders have been built into this cooler’s lid to allow you to use it as a side table while you’re lounging by the beach or gathering around the campfire.
Igloo 45069 Island Breeze
Designed to resemble carryon luggage, the Island Breeze features a collapsible handle for storage convenience. Its durable, plastic wheels are fixed to the bottom of this cooler on the same side as its long, ergonomically-friendly handle. This means that you simply have to tilt the cooler to move it from one place to another. Many other wheeled coolers require you to pull their heavy weight behind you as you move, because the wheels are on the opposite side of their handles. This unique Igloo Island Breeze removes the hassle and back strain from your cooler moving experience and replaces it with simplicity and ease. Extend the handle, tilt the cooler and either pull it behind you or push it in front of you. It’s really that simple.
Adding further to its unique design, this 28-quart Igloo has been raised off the ground to better maintain its internal temperature. Since its base never lays flat on the ground you will not have to worry that hot pavement or concrete will raise its internal temperature and cause your ice to melt faster. When your ice does melt, simply pull the plastic drain plug at the bottom and allow the water to rush out.
Cooler Buying Guide
The U.S Food and Drug Administration suggests keeping perishable foods below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent dangerous bacteria from forming within them. Though you cannot see these bacteria with your eye, they can be very dangerous to your health. Food such as meat, cheese, yogurt, milk, eggs, mayonnaise, and other main courses, side dishes, and condiments need to be kept at low temperatures to be safe to eat.
Keeping foods cold in an insulated thermos or lunch bag is helpful for day trips in relatively cool weather or if you’re taking your food to work with you. However, if you are planning to spend hours in the summer heat or need to store your food for multiple days, it is crucial that you purchase a quality cooler in which to store you perishable foods. This entire page is devoted to bringing you the quality coolers you are searching for. Every cooler on this list has proven itself capable of keeping your food safe.
Since we already know that all of these coolers are quality-built, this guide will focus on helping you narrow down other features and functions you will require from your cooler. Everyone’s needs are different, so let’s work together to figure out what yours may be.
What size of cooler do you need? Ask yourself, how many people do I need to feed and for how long? Since coolers are sized by dimensions and quarts it can be easier to figure this out by actually taking food out of your refrigerator and measuring the amount of space it takes up. You can measure the dimensions you will need by stacking food and multiplying the length, width, and height of the space it takes up. This will tell you approximately how many cubic inches of space your cooler should have inside it. When researching coolers, you can multiply the length, width, and height of the cooler’s interior to see if the number comes out similar. Remember that your ice will take up some space as well, so account for ice in your calculations.
Generally speaking, something in the 10 to 20 quart size range is good for an individual for one or two days. A 40-quart cooler is helpful for an individual for a week, a couple of people for two days or a family overnight. A 60-quart cooler can accommodate enough food to feed two people for an entire week. It can even hold enough food for a family for a week, so long as you bring non-perishables in a separate container.
Do you need a lockable lid? Very few coolers exist which feature fully lockable lids with actual combination or padlocks, so we won’t discuss those here. What we are actually discussing are those with clip and latch systems designed to hold lids tightly closed. If you will be transporting your cooler over long distances or tricky terrain, this is a definite consideration. It is also important to consider if you will be camping with small children. I know from experience how easily they can forget to fully close a lid. If they get in the habit of latching it shut you can prevent ice from melting too quickly as a result of their oversight.
Some campgrounds in areas which bears are known to populate have special bear-proof storage boxes on site that they ask you to use for storing your food. If you plan to camp anywhere with bear boxes, find out what the dimensions of the bear boxes are so that you can be sure your cooler will fit inside.
Cooler Camping Tips and Tricks
Who doesn’t love a few great tips and tricks? Here are a few of my favorites that I have learned through my own personal experience (in other words, my own personal mistakes). I hope that you find them helpful to your camping experience.
Tip #1 – Be Smart
When it comes to coolers, companies love to tell you that how long they will maintain a specific internal temperature. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen things like “Stays cool for 5 days in 90 degree weather” written on the side of a cooler. In fact, I’ve even used some of that information to help me write the reviews of the coolers listed above. It isn’t useless information and they do not lie.
The difference between their tests and your actual experience, however, is that they don’t usually walk over and open these coolers as often as you would or for as long as you would as you rummage around inside trying to find that last package of hotdogs. Therefore, if a company claims that the cooler will stay cold for 5 days at 90 degrees, assume that it will actually be somewhere closer to three (or less if you have children who like to open the lid and stare inside the cooler until the food they want magically appears at the top of everything piled inside).
Tip #2 – Know Your Temperature
The purpose of a cooler is to keep your food cold so that it will be safe to eat. I can recall more than one occasion when I went to reach into our cooler to grab a package of bacon to find that the bacon didn’t really feel all that cold and neither did the interior of cooler. I remember wondering if it was too warm or maybe hovering somewhere around the safe mark. Instead of worrying like this, attach a thermometer to the inside of your cooler. To get the most accurate reading, adhere it to the inside of the lid, since your food may not all be submerged in ice. Double-sided tape or Velcro tape can be very helpful for this task.
Tip #3 – Keep It Cool for Longer While Saving Space
If you would like the inside of your cooler to stay cold longer than the typical amount of time, one thing people suggest using is dry ice. Dry ice is much colder than regular ice and stays colder for much longer. The downside to dry ice, however, is that it can damage the interior of some coolers and can burn your skin if you touch it.
If the risks associated with dry ice aren’t worth it to you or if you are looking for a way to save space as well, I suggest freezing some of your food. I always plan out our meals before we leave on a week-long camping trip and manage to make it a full seven days without having to change the ice in our cooler. I do this by freezing half of the things I bring with us. Everything we plan to eat in the last three to four days gets frozen along with a bunch of drinks. This saves space which would otherwise be taken up by ice. Also, since these frozen items are solid they stay frozen much longer than the loose ice I scatter along the top of the cooler.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this entire page. Making it all the way to bottom is truly an accomplishment! That is, of course, unless you skipped all the way here. If that’s the case, I hope you managed to find something helpful as you scanned through the content above.
Good luck on your next camping adventure. I hope it is relaxing, exciting, fun, and helps you get back in touch with nature.