Discover the Ultimate Cooler for Outdoor Weddings: Unveiling the Perfect Portacool Evaporative Cooler
Are you on the hunt for the best cooler for outdoor weddings? Look no further, because we've got you covered! In this article, we will explore the top coolers of 2023, including the most insulated option and the easiest to use. But that's not all – we'll also delve into the world of outdoor air conditioners, fans, and plant and water features to keep you and your guests cool and comfortable on your special day. With a focus on ice retention and our own testing, we'll provide you with all the information you need to find the perfect Portacool Outdoor Evaporative Cooler for your team. So let's get started and create unforgettable memories without breaking a sweat!
Top Coolers of 2023
Steve Conaway/CNET In my previous cooler testing for this list, I had chosen Cabela's 60-quart cooler as the best large cooler. However, the new champion in that category is the Magellan Outdoors model. Despite that, Cabela's Polar Cap cooler still reigns supreme when it comes to keeping things cold. In fact, it maintained the lowest internal temperature for the longest duration compared to its competitors.
The prices for Cabela's Polar Cap coolers range from $300 to $400 for the 60-, 80-, and 100-quart models. You're paying for top-notch performance. While this unit doesn't have many extravagant features, it does have built-in bottle openers, a pressure relief valve, and rubber padded feet. It's also certified bear-resistant.
Steve Conaway/CNET The performance of Magellan's largest cooler was very close to that of Cabela's Polar Cap Equalizer. The temperature difference between the two was less than a degree Fahrenheit (44.6 vs. 45.5 degrees). If your primary concern is keeping things cold, then it's worth considering whether that slight temperature difference is worth the higher price tag of the Magellan cooler.
In my opinion, saving the extra money and using it to stock your cooler is the better choice. What sets the Magellan Outdoors coolers apart is their double-sided hinge latches that make accessing your drinks from any side of the cooler a breeze. These coolers also have wheels and built-in metal bottle openers.
Steve Conaway/CNET Yeti is a well-known brand that is known for its superior performance (although it does come with a higher price). The Tundra Haul cooler is no different. Although it didn't achieve the lowest overall temperature among the coolers tested, it did maintain its lowest temperature for a significantly longer period than its competitors. The Tundra Haul also features rugged "Neverflat" wheels, which makes it ideal for traveling in rough terrain. It is a reliable choice that ensures maximum cooling duration.
Steve Conaway/CNET Another Magellan cooler, I know. But trust me, the performance speaks for itself. Looking at the data and the graphs, there is no doubt that this cooler outperforms the competition. The other coolers simply don't have sufficient insulation to keep things cold. However, if you prefer a cheaper option or a backpack cooler, there are a few alternatives available.
Personally, I believe that all soft-sided coolers are not the best choice. They don't get cold enough and don't maintain their cool temperature for long. Of course, there may be some people who disagree and are happy with keeping their food and drinks slightly cooler than room temperature while hiking to a picnic spot. But let's move on...
Steve Conaway/CNET The previous title holder for this category was the Coleman Stacker, one of the cheapest coolers we've tested. However, the best value doesn't always mean spending the least amount of money. The RTIC cooler performed impressively well, with consistently low temperatures. It achieved the lowest temperatures among midsize coolers and performed just as well as the larger coolers.
At $220, this cooler is currently the most affordable option in both the midsize and large cooler categories, except for the Igloo BMX 52qt Cooler, which was the worst performer. If you're looking for great performance at a friendlier price, the RTIC cooler is a solid choice.
Steve Conaway/CNET The performance of this newcomer cooler is nearly identical to the Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler, the previous titleholder. The Yeti cooler got slightly colder, while the Magellan cooler held its temperature a bit longer. The deciding factor here is the price. At $120, the Magellan Outdoors cooler is less than half the cost of the Yeti.
Apart from its impressive performance, this Magellan cooler offers several additional features, such as the innovative dual-side latches that serve as hinges, allowing for easy access from either side. It also includes bottle openers, a reinforced lock area, and a drain plug.
Read our Magellan Outdoors Dual Open 20qt Cooler review.
Best Insulated Cooler
Consistently Strong Performance
Exterior Dimensions: 25.8 x 15.4 x 16.1 inches | Interior Height: 10.6 inches | Capacity: 34.8 quarts | Weight: 23 pounds | Wheels: No | Extras: No | Warranty: 5 years
- Overnight provisions for four
- Drinks for a day on the water, or at the campsite
- Pretty much any outdoor location or unpredictable conditions
- You're looking to save money
- You don’t care about brand recognition
- You want something small that's also portable
In the world of coolers, Yeti is a name that stands out for its exceptional performance. The Tundra Haul cooler proves this once again. While it may not have achieved the absolute coldest temperature, it maintained its lowest temperature for a longer duration compared to its competitors. The Tundra Haul comes equipped with rugged "Neverflat" wheels, allowing for easy transport even in challenging terrains. You can trust that this cooler will provide maximum cooling for your outdoor adventures.
Easiest To Use Cooler
Convenient To Load, Carry, Open, Clean And Close
Exterior Dimensions: 27 x 18 x 18 inches | Interior Height: 14 inches | Capacity: 52 quarts | Weight: 21 pounds | Wheels: No | Extras: Yes | Warranty: 1 year
- Campers who need to carry a 50-plus quart cooler without wheels
- Those who enjoy a good value and want to spend less
- Adventurers seeking a decent cooler that's easy to load, unload, and clean
- Beyond just reasonably durable, you actually need something certified bear-proof
RTIC takes a different approach with its Ultra-Light coolers by using injection molding instead of the traditional rotomolding. This results in a cooler that is lighter and easier to handle. Despite its lightweight design, this RTIC cooler offers excellent insulation with up to three inches of closed-cell foam. It also stands out for its user-friendly features. The rubber latches are easy to operate, and the lid is simple to secure and open. The 52 Quart Ultra-Light cooler is tall enough to accommodate bottles vertically, making loading and unloading hassle-free. Additionally, it has two drain ports for easy cleaning and maintenance. The included divider serves as both a cutting board and a reusable ice pack.
During insulation testing, the RTIC cooler performed above average at the 36- and 48-hour check-ins. However, it didn't maintain its ice as long as some of the other coolers. Overall, the RTIC cooler offers a great balance of price, weight, and ease of use.
Outdoor Air Conditioners
Air conditioning is effective for cooling your house, but it's not the best choice for your patio. Outdoor air conditioning faces two major challenges. First, it can't cool the air over multiple passes like indoor air conditioning, resulting in less effective cooling. Second, air conditioners generate waste heat, which becomes counterproductive when used outdoors. Cooling and heating the air simultaneously outdoors is both inefficient and expensive.
While fans don't lower the temperature, they do offer a cooling effect by increasing air circulation. When the temperature is in the upper 80s to low 90s, a fan can enhance your body's ability to dissipate heat. It provides a constant flow of cool air, making you feel more comfortable. However, when the temperature reaches the upper 90s, fans can only help with sweating more effectively. They won't provide complete relief from the heat, but they can still be useful for relaxation.
Plant and Water Features
Surrounding your patio with plants and water features is a natural and effective way to keep it cool. Both plants and water use evaporation to cool the air. This process absorbs energy from the surrounding air, resulting in a cooler environment. By incorporating plants and installing a water feature like a pool or fountain, you can enjoy the cooling benefits of evaporation. It's a refreshing and eco-friendly solution for keeping your patio cool.
When shopping for a cooler, one of the most talked-about factors is ice retention. It refers to how long a cooler can keep a full load of ice frozen. Melted ice, or water, isn't as effective at keeping drinks cold. Expensive options in the market pride themselves on excelling in this test. They are roto-molded coolers specifically designed to retain ice for longer durations, justifying their higher price tags.
However, I believe that an ice retention test alone doesn't provide the complete picture. While some coolers may keep ice frozen longer than others, using melting point as the only metric doesn't consider other important factors. I wanted to assess performance not only after several days, but also during the initial hours when no ice had melted yet.
To achieve this, I modified the ice retention test. Instead of using a full load of ice in each cooler, I used an amount of ice equivalent to 10% of its total volume. This smaller ice load posed a greater challenge to the coolers, allowing for a more detailed comparison of their performance.
I wanted to track the ambient temperature within each cooler, so I placed the ice in each one and positioned an elevated jar of propylene glycol solution (watered-down antifreeze) with a temperature probe beneath it. By elevating the jar, I ensured that the temperature in the ice would be consistent across all the coolers, making ice retention the only variable. Monitoring the ambient temperature above the ice provided more valuable insights and additional variables to consider.
9 more See all photos
To ensure consistent testing conditions, I conducted these experiments in one of our appliance lab's climate-controlled test chambers. Each cooler was left open in the room for several hours beforehand to ensure that they all started at room temperature, which was set at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit to replicate outdoor summertime conditions.
The results of the test were enlightening. After 48 hours (72 hours for the largest coolers), I had a detailed graph showing the minute-by-minute temperature inside each cooler. The differences between the coolers were stark. To provide a clear comparison, I categorized the coolers into different size groups, excluding soft-sided coolers. The categories were small (less than 40 quarts), midsize (40-59 quarts), and large (60 quarts or more).
Mobility and Durability
In addition to ice retention, I also considered the design and features of each cooler and paid attention to any durability concerns. For example, one cooler that didn't impress me was the Igloo Latitude wheeled cooler. Its lid lacked a locking mechanism, and the plastic nub hinges were subpar. A slight tug was enough to detach the entire lid, and the cheap plastic wheels didn't inspire confidence. It wouldn't be the best choice for camping.
On the other hand, the Rovr Rollr wheeled cooler performed much better. It boasted a rugged design with heavy-duty wheels, a sturdy steel handlebar, and an optional accessory that allowed towing it behind a bike for added convenience. I appreciated the inclusion of a divider inside the cooler, making it easy to separate items that shouldn't get wet from the ice. The cooler also offered customization options with different interior liner designs. My only minor complaint was that the T-shaped handlebar lacked comfortable rubber grips in the middle, where it would be held during one-handed carrying.
No single photo can capture all the impressive features of the Igloo Trailmate.
Steve Conaway/CNET Among the wheeled coolers, the Igloo Journey Trailmate 70qt All-Terrain cooler stood out with its numerous extras and features. Overall, it wasn't as durable as the Rovr Rollr, but the two coolers seemed to be designed for different purposes. For a weekend trip to the woods with friends, the Rovr would be my top choice. However, for a day at the beach with the family, I would likely opt for the Igloo cooler.
If you plan on camping in bear-populated areas, investing in a bear-resistant cooler is crucial. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee maintains a list of certified options, which includes several coolers from the ones I tested, such as Cabela's, Orca, Rovr, Magellan Outdoors, and Yeti.
It's also important to consider whether a cooler is sturdy enough to sit on, especially during camping trips. Most of the coolers I tested were suitable for sitting, but some went above and beyond. For example, the Bison Gen 2 Cooler not only felt premium to the touch with its hinges, lid, drain plug, and latches, but it also advertised itself as an ideal casting platform for fishing trips. Additionally, it offered nonslip traction mats for the lid in various designs. However, despite these impressive qualities, the Bison cooler didn't perform as well in retaining cold air compared to other roto-molded models, and its price was significantly higher than the more affordable Xspec 60qt High Performance cooler, which was our top pick in that category.
Latches and Lids
The Magellan Outdoors model features four hinge latches, two on either side, so you can open the cooler from either side or remove the lid completely.
Steve Conaway/CNET Now, let's discuss hinges and latches in more detail. Some coolers have good ones, some have bad ones, and others don't have them at all. Coolers with removable lids tend to be cheaper options that don't perform as well as top-tier models, with a few exceptions. Magellan Outdoors, for instance, has a double-latching, double-hinged removable lid and has been chosen as the best small and large cooler. Its design allows for easy opening from either side, and the lid can be completely removed by disengaging the latches on both sides.
In contrast, newer cooler designs from brands like Yeti, RTIC, Orca, Cabela's, and Frosted Frog have rubber T-shaped handles that need to be stretched to secure the lid. These handles can be challenging to pull down, even for adults. I asked three other adults to secure these handles, and out of the four of us, only two were successful, one struggled, and the last one managed it after significant effort. While performance is important, design also plays a crucial role, and in some cases, it can be a deal-breaker.
I understand that rubber bungee-style latches may be cost-effective and low-maintenance for manufacturers, as they have fewer moving parts and can bend easily. However, there is a type of latch that strikes a middle ground between rubber latches and Magellan Outdoors' latches. I've seen this design in coolers like the Xspec 60qt, Amazon's Commercial 20qt cooler, and the Lifetime 55qt high-performance cooler. These latches feature rubber straps for securing the lid, but at the end of each strap, there is a plastic handle that can be leveraged against the mounting point for easy tensioning. This design is superior to rubber T handles. However, Magellan Outdoors still deserves praise for its overall latching mechanism.
Our first soft-sided and backpack cooler didn't perform the best, but it is durable and a great option for hikers and campers alike.
Steve Conaway/CNET The Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 was the first backpack-style cooler we tested, and while its overall performance wasn't outstanding, it had some notable features. First and foremost, it is a backpack, which is a major advantage. Whether you're carrying gear to the beach or embarking on a hiking adventure, having free hands is always beneficial. The backpack also offers various straps and hitching points, making it versatile for different purposes. While the target demographic is likely more inclined towards hiking, it can still serve those heading to the beach by providing additional secure storage options.
Since the Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 is a soft-sided cooler, it doesn't have latches. Instead, it is equipped with a zipper that is claimed to be both water- and leakproof. We tested this claim during our capacity evaluations by filling the entire cooler with water and sloshing it around. Not a single drop spilled, so it's safe to assume that leaks won't be an issue. This zipper setup is also present in our previous Magellan Outdoors soft-sided cooler, which received the title of the best in its category.
It's no surprise that brand reputation plays a significant role in consumer expectations. Yeti coolers, for example, are renowned for their performance, but they also come at a higher price compared to competitors. I recommend considering other brands that have gained respect in the market and offer more affordable options. Magellan Outdoors, Frosted Frog, RTIC, and even Amazon Commercial coolers have proven themselves across various product offerings, based on my observations.
One observation worth noting is the lack of innovative bonus features among high-end coolers. I'm surprised that more premium options haven't introduced clever additions like built-in batteries for charging devices during outdoor camping trips, or perhaps even solar panels. Those seeking such features may find more success with crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, where coolers with extravagant designs and features exist. However, caution is advised, as many of these projects have faced production delays and dissatisfied customers. It's essential to thoroughly research and consider the risks before investing in such campaigns.
After all is said and done, I still believe that traditional coolers, like the ones I recommended earlier, are reliable choices that offer excellent performance.
Other coolers we've tested
These coolers are currently available for purchase and are among the ones we have tested extensively over the past few years. Here is a list of them with some brief insights:
- Lifewit Collapsible Cooler Bag 24L (25 quarts): This is a handle-carry cooler with soft sides. While it is popular on Amazon, it did not perform well in terms of keeping things cool during our testing, as expected with soft-sided coolers.
- Tourit Cooler Backpack (20 quarts): Another popular find on Amazon. While these backpack coolers were not great for cooling in our testing, this one stands out for its style and the fact that it comes with a connected metal bottle opener.
- OlarHike Cooler Backpack (23 quarts): Similar to the Tourit, this cooler backpack may not be as attractive but allows for a slightly larger load.
- Amazon Commercial Rotomolded Cooler, 20qt (20 quarts): Amazon has a line of roto-molded coolers that perform better than most, but not as well as the best. It also has one of the best cooler latching designs. (Update: Temporarily out of stock.)
- Camp Zero 20L Premium Cooler (21 quarts): This cooler performed average overall. It offers different color options and has four lid molded-in cup holders, which is great unless you need to open the cooler.
- Frosted Frog 20qt Rotomolded Ice Chest (20 quarts): This brand was requested for review by multiple CNET readers, and we have come to love it as well. It had excellent performance, just not the absolute best. (Update: Temporarily out of stock.)
- Klein Tools Work Cooler (17 quarts): While this cooler is sturdy, it did not perform well compared to traditional coolers. However, it may be suitable for keeping your lunch cool.
- Igloo Playmate Cooler 4qt (4 quarts): This cooler is small in every aspect, including capacity and performance. However, it is also inexpensive.
- Orca Light Blue 40 Quart Cooler (40 quarts): This cooler is priced higher than average for its performance in this category.
- Igloo BMX 52 Quart Cooler (52 quarts): This cooler has a unique design and is the least expensive among the midsize coolers we tested. However, it also performed the worst.
- KENAI 65 Quart Cooler (65 quarts): This cooler has a classic design, offers great color options, and performs decently.
- Frosted Frog 75QT Cooler (75 quarts): Similar to the other Frosted Frog model we tested, this cooler offers good performance at a reasonable price.
- Bison Gen 2 Cooler (50 quarts): This cooler has a higher price tag but provides the coldest temperature in its category. However, it struggles to maintain that temperature, which keeps it from being the best overall.
- Cabela's Polar Cap Equalizer Cooler (60 quarts): This cooler is one of the most expensive on the list but has previously held the title of "best large cooler."
- Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler (33 quarts): This small cooler reaches the lowest temperature but is quite expensive, which prevents it from being our top pick.
- Rubbermaid Ice Chest Cooler (48 quarts): This midsized cooler performs poorly in terms of temperature retention. (Update: Temporarily out of stock.)
- Coleman Xtreme Marine Cooler (70 quarts): This cooler provides ample capacity at an affordable price of less than , making it a solid choice.
- Coleman Xtreme Wheeled Cooler (50 quarts): This midsized cooler performs poorly in our tests but is priced under $50. (Update: Temporarily out of stock.)
- RTIC 65 Cooler (65 quarts): This cooler provides average performance and is priced slightly higher than average.
- Igloo Island Breeze Cooler (48 quarts): This cooler is low-cost (around $35) but scored second to last in performance in its division.
- Igloo Latitude Wheeled Cooler (60 quarts): This large cooler had the lowest performance scores in its division. (Update: Temporarily out of stock.)
- Igloo MaxCold Cooler (50 quarts): This cooler had some of the best scores among midsize coolers and comes with an attractive price tag.
- Rovr Rollr 60 Wheeled Cooler (60 quarts): This cooler holds its temperature well, but it may not be as cold as its competitors. It has the highest price tag among those we tested. (Update: Currently unavailable.)
- Lifetime High Performance Cooler (55 quarts): This midsized cooler performs well and is a great deal at just over $100.
- Orca Classic Cooler (58 quarts): This cooler was formerly named the best midsized cooler for a reason, but it comes with a steep price to pay.
- Pelican Elite Cooler (50 quarts): This cooler gets colder than most but cannot maintain that temperature as long as others.
- Yeti Roadie 24 Cooler (20 quarts): This small cooler performs average overall. It is able to hold a stable temperature well.
- Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 Insulated Backpack Cooler (22 quarts): While this cooler is in the form of a backpack, most other coolers perform better overall.
- Coleman Portable Cooler (16 quarts): This cooler is one of the cheapest options at only $23. However, it will not maintain its temperature for very long. (Update: Temporarily out of stock.)
- Pelican 20 Quart Elite Cooler (20 quarts): This cooler is not as competitive compared to others.
- Coleman 24-Can Party Stacker Portable Cooler (23 quarts): This cooler gets extremely cold but does not retain its temperature for a long time. It is available at a low price of $30.
- Rubbermaid 45qt Blue Wheeled Cooler (45 quarts): This cooler performs average overall but is priced at only $33 and comes with wheels! (Update: Temporarily out of stock.)
- Xspec 60 Quart Roto Molded High Performance Cooler (60 quarts): This cooler is one of the best we have ever tested. It was formerly named our best overall cooler and is priced at $270. It offers top-notch features and performance。
- Igloo Trailmate Journey 70qt All-Terrain Cooler (70 quarts): This cooler is feature-rich and offers excellent performance. It is priced slightly above average.
Before discussing performance, it is important to consider the capacity of the coolers. While some ice chest sizes, such as 50 quarts, are more popular, there is no uniformity in size and shape among coolers. Apart from determining how many cans the coolers can hold, the size and shape also impact performance. For instance, a 75-quart cooler like the Frosted Frog has a larger task of cooling compared to a 45-quart RTIC when the quantity of ice is the same.
To ensure accurate evaluations of performance, I took into account the size differences among the coolers. However, it was important to have precise measurements of the cooler capacities. Rather than relying on manufacturer claims or simply counting cans, I conducted tests to measure the amount of water each cooler could hold. This information is crucial when dealing with large amounts of melted ice.
To conduct the tests, I carefully filled each cooler with water until closing the lid caused some overflow. Then, I measured the exact number of quarts each cooler could accommodate. This provided me with valuable information for evaluating their performance. Interestingly, the smaller and cheaper models tended to be conservative in their capacity estimates. The Coleman Xtreme and Igloo Latitude wheeled coolers, for example, were able to hold several quarts more than advertised.
On the other hand, the more expensive models did not meet their capacity claims. The Rovr Rollr wheeled cooler, priced at $400, had a capacity of only 52.8 quarts rather than the advertised 60 quarts. The RTIC, priced at $219, could hold only 39.6 quarts of water instead of the specified 45 quarts. In contrast, the 55-quart Lifetime High Performance Cooler exceeded its spec, holding 62.4 quarts of water. Despite not retaining ice as long as the RTIC, it still performed exceptionally well. The Yeti Hopper Backflip 24, a soft-sided backpack cooler, had the most accurate volume measurement among all the coolers tested. Although it claimed space for 20 12-ounce cans (at a ratio of 2:1 ice-to-can) for a total of 22.5 quarts, I found that the actual internal volume was 26.42 quarts, which is 117 percent of the stated volume (equivalent to an extra six-pack compared to other 20-quart coolers). The worst offender in terms of capacity, offering only 65 percent of its claimed 30-quart capacity, was the Tourit Backpack Cooler.
Discover the Ideal Portacool Outdoor Evaporative Cooler for Your Team
The Portacool® 510 Portable Evaporative Cooler is a compact unit that provides impressive cooling capacity. With the ability to cool up to 300 sq. ft., it is perfect for a patio area that accommodates 2-4 individuals. Equipped with Kuul® Control MicroTech™ evaporative media, oscillating louvers, a water fill door, low-water shutoff, and sturdy casters, the Portacool™ 510 is designed to ensure maximum cooling comfort. This unit features a convenient manual fill door and does not require any assembly.
Click the following links to find the Portacool 510:
- Northern Tool & Equipment
- NAPA Tools & Equipment
- The Home Depot
The Portacool Cyclone™ 120 is specially designed for smaller settings, yet it still delivers a remarkable amount of air output. This portable cooler brings mobile, energy-efficient, and refreshing comfort to your outdoor or open spaces. It's perfect for cooling areas where traditional cooling methods are ineffective, such as small patios, garages, hobby areas, or single-stalls. However, we strongly advise against using this product inside homes or enclosed spaces without proper ventilation.
Explore the following links to find the Portacool Cyclone 120:
- The Home Depot
- Northern Tool & Equipment
In conclusion, planning an outdoor wedding can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to keeping your guests comfortable in the summer heat. However, with the help of the best coolers of 2023, such as the best insulated cooler and the easiest to use cooler, you can ensure that everyone stays cool and refreshed throughout the celebration. Additionally, considering outdoor air conditioners, fans, plant and water features can further enhance the ambiance and keep the temperature pleasant. Whether you need excellent ice retention or want to explore other coolers we've tested, there are plenty of options available to suit your needs. So, don't let the heat dictate your special day – find the perfect Portacool Outdoor Evaporative Cooler for your team and create unforgettable memories in comfort and style.
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