Finding the Ultimate Cooler: Unveiling the Best Coolers for Outdoor Adventures
Looking to keep your drinks perfectly chilled on your next camping adventure? Look no further! We've done the research and put the latest coolers to the test to bring you the ultimate guide to the best coolers for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you're planning a weekend getaway or a week-long camping trip, you need a cooler that can withstand the elements, maximize ice retention, and make your life easier. From the best overall cooler to the most innovative designs, we've got you covered. So, buckle up and get ready to discover the best cooler for outdoor enthusiasts in 2023!
Best Coolers For Camping: The Details
Let's dive into the specifics of the coolers we tested to help you find the best ones for your needs. First, we'll provide an overview of each individual cooler, and then compare their performance, features, and specifications.
Tips to Get the Most Out Of Your Cooler – Best Coolers
To maximize the performance of any cooler, including the best ones on the market, there are several things you should do. While some of these may seem obvious, they require intentional planning to ensure optimal performance.
COOL THE COOLER
Cooling the cooler itself is often overlooked but can significantly improve its performance. If your cooler is stored in a hot garage or shed, and you immediately fill it with ice and food, it will take longer for the ice to cool the cooler and keep your food and beverages cold.
To overcome this issue, place frozen gallons of water in the cooler the night before your trip. Then, only put already chilled food and beverages in the cooler. The same principle applies to warm food – avoid putting it in the cooler without chilling it first. Simply put, for optimal cooler performance, chill the cooler overnight before your trip and only put chilled items inside.
OPEN AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE
The less you open the cooler, the longer it will keep the food cold. It may be challenging to resist constantly opening the cooler to grab your favorite snack or beverage, but doing so reduces its cooling efficiency.
DON’T DRAIN THE WATER
The melted water in the cooler helps maintain its internal temperature. As long as the water doesn't damage your food, it's best to leave it inside. If possible, elevate items that could be ruined by the water and place your drinks in the bottom to utilize the cold water.
USE ENOUGH ICE
When packing your cooler, it's important not to skimp on ice. While it may be tempting to use less ice, especially on short trips, it's crucial to use a 2:1 ratio of ice to food for extended periods. This means putting twice as much ice as food in the cooler to maximize its performance. If you don't have space for an extra cooler or a larger one, be prepared to replenish the ice frequently during your trip.
What Size Do I Need? Best Coolers For Hunting and Camping
WEEKEND CAMPING TRIPS
When choosing a cooler size for a weekend camping trip, consider factors like the number of people you're packing for. Generally, a 65 quart cooler is a great starting point for weekends with up to four people. If you're packing for more than four people, consider an 80 or 100 quart cooler.
WILD GAME STORAGE
Storing large game harvests requires a different approach. If you've harvested a deer, elk, moose, or pronghorn and want to continue hunting, you'll need a larger cooler. Based on our testing, here are some starting points:
- 65-75 quart – 1 deer plus ice; 2 deer with limited ice space
- 110-125 quart – 3 deer with some ice space
- 140-165 quart – 4 deer or 1 deboned elk with some ice space
Interesting Things We Learned: Best Coolers For Camping
- Some coolers experienced greater temperature swings throughout the day compared to others.
- Maintaining a low internal temperature is more important than how long the cooler holds ice. Just because a cooler still has ice does not mean it is safe for storing meat (the temperature needs to be below 40°F).
- While some coolers were able to maintain sub 40°F temperatures until all the ice melted, others could not.
- Ultralight coolers generally have poorer thermal retention performance.
Although your choice of cooler ultimately depends on personal preferences, the following coolers made it to the testing phase. While they may not have performed as well overall, they still have unique features that make them worth considering. Here are the rest of the coolers we tested:
- Igloo EcoCool Latitude 52: This cooler is the cheapest and lightest among the group. It is designed to be better for the environment by using post-consumer plastic and eco-friendly foam. While it offers more capacity than similarly sized coolers, its insulation performance was poor. It also lacks a reliable lid closure mechanism, although it does have cupholders. The Igloo is a more environmentally friendly option than styrofoam coolers for short outings but falls short compared to the others tested.
- BruMate BruTank: This cooler stands out with its integrated 2.8-gallon reservoir, allowing you to dispense beverages through an external tap. The tank can also be used as a separate compartment for dry goods. However, it is heavy and expensive. The lid has lockable features and a manual pressure relief valve. The BruMate performed averagely in insulation tests, considering its large capacity. While it has its unique tank feature, it did not exceed expectations in other categories.
- Orca 40 Quart: The ORCA cooler is a strong contender, featuring a bear-proof design, a storage compartment with a cargo net, and various color options. It performed well in insulation tests, although it had difficulty with the lid, which consistently got stuck. The lack of a relief valve made it difficult to open due to the partial vacuum created when cooling the air inside. It is also relatively heavy for its capacity. Nonetheless, it remains a great cooler, and an 80-quart model is now available.
- RovR RollR 60 With LandR Bin: This cooler stands out with its large pneumatic tires and bear-proof metal bars for lock attachment. It is heavy but easy to carry and fits well in various vehicles. It offers ample storage, with a tall internal dry bin and a removable folding bin for additional accessories. It performed well, but its substantial size hindered its performance in insulation tests. Despite its drawbacks, it is a reliable cooler for rugged terrains and beaches.
Best coolers of 2023
Steve Conaway/CNET In our previous cooler testing, Cabela's 60-quart cooler held the title for the best large cooler. However, it has now been surpassed by Magellan Outdoors. Nevertheless, when it comes to keeping things cold, Cabela's Polar Cap cooler remains unbeatable. It maintained the lowest internal temperature for a significantly longer duration than its competitors.
The 60-, 80-, and 100-quart models of Cabela's Polar Cap cooler range from $300 to $400. The price reflects its exceptional performance. While it may not have extravagant features, it includes bottle openers on the rubber latches, a pressure relief valve to ease opening, and rubber padded feet to reduce heat transfer. Additionally, it is certified bear-resistant.
Steve Conaway/CNET Magellan's largest cooler performs comparably to Cabela's Polar Cap Equalizer. The temperature difference between the two is less than a degree (44.6 vs. 45.5 degrees Fahrenheit). If your main concern is keeping things cold, the question arises whether the additional cost for that extra 0.9 degrees is worth it.
In my opinion, it is more practical to invest the additional cost in stocking the cooler. One standout feature of these hard-sided Magellan Outdoors coolers is the double-sided hinge latches. The hinges function as the latches on both sides, eliminating the need to reach over the lid or ask someone to retrieve items. This model also includes wheels and metal bottle opener inserts on the sides.
Steve Conaway/CNET Yeti is a brand known for superior performance, although it often comes with a higher price tag. The Tundra Haul cooler is no exception. Although it did not reach the lowest internal temperature, it maintained that low temperature for a longer duration compared to its competitors. The Haul features rugged "Neverflat" wheels, making it suitable for rough terrains. It also offers easier transportation and maximum cooling efficiency.
Steve Conaway/CNET Here we have another Magellan cooler, and trust me, it was not planned that way. I conduct tests, analyze the data, and the results speak for themselves. The performance data clearly indicates that this cooler outperformed the others. The competitors have thinner walls, which hampers their insulative capabilities. However, if you prefer a cheaper and backpack-format cooler, these options are still available.
In all fairness, I personally believe that all soft-sided coolers are not ideal choices. They don't get as cold, and their ability to maintain a median temperature is limited. However, I understand that some people may be content with slightly cooler temperatures for short hikes or outdoor activities. Let's move on.
Steve Conaway/CNET Previously, the Coleman Stacker held the title for the best value cooler, as it was one of the cheapest tested. However, value doesn't necessarily equate to the lowest price. The RTIC cooler demonstrated impressively low temperatures, performing better than most midsize coolers and even competing with larger ones.
This RTIC cooler is currently priced at $220, making it the cheapest in its size category, along with the exception of the Igloo BMX 52qt cooler, which showed subpar performance. So, if you want excellent performance at a friendlier price compared to its competitors, the RTIC cooler is a great choice.
Steve Conaway/CNET This newcomer to the ice chest category demonstrated performance nearly identical to the previous titleholder, the Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler. While the Yeti reached slightly lower temperatures, the Magellan Outdoors cooler retained its temperature for a longer duration. The main distinguishing factor here is the price. At $120, the Magellan Outdoors cooler is less than half the cost of the Yeti.
In addition to its performance, this Magellan cooler offers numerous extras, including my favorite lid design: dual-side latches that also serve as hinges for opening the cooler from either side. It is equipped with bottle openers, a metal-reinforced lock area, and a drain plug.
Read our Magellan Outdoors Dual Open 20qt Cooler review.
Best Overall Cooler
Unique Features And Unexpectedly Great Insulation
Academy Sports Outdoors
Exterior Dimensions: 30 x 16.65 x 16.75 inches | Interior Height: 11.25 inches | Capacity: 45 quarts | Weight: 30 pounds | Wheels: Yes | Extras: Yes | Warranty: 1 year
- Car camping, backyard gatherings and tailgating
- A mix of dry and wet (iced) goods
- Any type of ice
- You're hiking a ways on a trail or beach and weight is a factor
To simplify, let's refer to this cooler as "the Academy."
One remarkable feature of the Academy cooler is its lid design, specifically the easy-to-use buckles. Most coolers utilize rubber pull-down latches, which can be difficult to operate. In contrast, the Academy utilizes simple buckles. Additionally, it allows you to open the lid from either side or remove it completely, setting it apart from other coolers.
Scott Tharler For ForbesDespite its easy-to-open lid, the Academy cooler maintains a strong seal, thanks in part to an integrated automatic pressure relief valve. During our 60-hour insulation test, the Academy was one of only three coolers to consistently outperform others in maintaining low internal temperatures and preventing the test meat from entering the danger zone.
The Academy cooler includes a solid plastic dry bin and a combination divider/cutting board. It also features stainless steel locking systems, a built-in bottle opener, and a 2-way drain with a leash.
It's worth noting that the Academy cooler is not designed for long hikes or sandy beaches, as it performs best on hard and flat surfaces. While it may not be bear-proof like some other Academy models, it is still durable enough for most situations. It is slightly heavier compared to its capacity ratio. However, these are minor concerns considering its undeniable superiority. For a more in-depth review and long-term testing results, check out the full Academy cooler review.
Best Designed Cooler
A Cooler that Checks All the Boxes
Exterior Dimensions: 30.5 x 17.375 x 16.875 inches | Interior Height: 12 inches | Capacity: 50 quarts | Weight: 33 pounds | Wheels: No | Extras: Yes | Warranty: Limited lifetime
- Car camping and shorter distances
- Excellent durability and ice retention
- Optional accessories that add value
- You prefer a more affordable option
- Long-lasting ice retention isn't a priority
- You prefer a basic and lightweight cooler
When it comes to securing and opening the lid, the cam-action latches are built into the body rather than the lid itself. To close it, you simply catch the buckles on the lid and pull down. This closure system is praised for its simplicity and security.
The Kong 50 uses convenient cam action pull-down latches.
Scott Tharler For ForbesHowever, where the Kong truly stands out is in how it opens. Unlike other coolers, even if it's placed against a wall, the specially designed Kong lid can be cracked open at a 45-degree angle, allowing easy access to your chilled beverages.
Next, let's talk about the included divider. This versatile piece of 3/8-inch thick plastic doubles as a cutting board and a shelf. Additionally, if you prop up the rigid plastic handles on the side, it transforms into a convenient tabletop. I personally found that the plastic handles make it easy to carry the cooler solo, and it also reduces swaying when carried by two people compared to coolers with loose straps.
The Kong 50 also features a dual-action drain and hard plastic swing-out carrying handles.
Scott Tharler For ForbesThe Kong performed exceptionally well in insulation tests. While its internal temperatures were average at the beginning, the lid's surface temperature was higher, indicating that the ice inside was effectively keeping the contents cool. At the end, the cooler maintained a low internal surface temperature, retained 1.6 pounds of ice, and had the second coolest meat temperatures, only behind Yeti—quite impressive considering it has 50 percent more capacity than the Yeti.
Priced at $329, the Kong is not cheap, but it is reasonably priced compared to other coolers. For this price, you get a rugged and durable cooler with excellent insulation, as well as a limited lifetime warranty. The Kong is available in eight color options and offers some unique optional accessories, such as rubber stoppers, a gorilla mouth bottle opener, and metal kickers to create additional tabletop space. While these extras are not necessary for the Kong's award-winning status, they are a testament to the thoughtful design of this formidable cooler. Read the full review of the Kong for long-term testing thoughts and updates. (Forbes)
Best Insulated Cooler
Consistently Excellent 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 trips for four
- Day trips on the water or at the campsite
- Various outdoor locations and unpredictable conditions
- You're looking for a more budget-friendly option
- You are not concerned about brand recognition
- You want a small and portable cooler
One notable advantage the Yeti Tundra 45 has is its smaller size compared to the other coolers in this selection. Despite its name, its actual capacity is less than 35 quarts, which is below the average of approximately 49 quarts for the test group. This compact size posed a minor challenge during the insulation tests as the cooler was almost full and slightly difficult to close.
Yeti's Tundra 45 offers excellent insulation thanks to its thick rotomolding and secure gasket seal.
Scott Tharler For ForbesHowever, this lack of non-insulative air trapped inside the cooler worked in its favor. There was a noticeable pattern where insulation performance generally declined as cooler capacity increased, with the exception of the Igloo. Nonetheless, the Yeti consistently maintained the lowest internal temperature and the lowest overall meat temperatures throughout the twice-daily check-ins. Even after 60 hours, the Yeti still had 2 pounds of ice remaining, which was only surpassed by the Orca and Academy coolers, each with 2.4 pounds. This performance is particularly impressive considering the Yeti has a larger capacity than the other two.
Despite being considered a premium brand, the Yeti Tundra 45 is priced average compared to the other coolers in this review. While it may be pricier relative to its smaller capacity, it offers exceptional build quality, insulation, and a five-year warranty. Yeti provides a range of optional accessories on their website, along with helpful advice and even a visualization tool to see how their coolers would fit in your vehicle. Additionally, the Tundra 45 is certified bear-proof, making it a top contender in the world of coolers.
Easiest To Use Cooler
Convenient for Loading, Carrying, Opening, Cleaning, and Closing
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 in need of a 50-plus quart cooler without wheels
- Value-conscious consumers looking for a more affordable option
- Adventurers seeking an easy-to-load, unload, and clean cooler
- You require a cooler that is certified bear-proof in addition to being reasonably durable
Among the coolers with rubber latches, the RTIC stands out as the easiest to operate. Unlike the need to exert pressure to secure the latches, fastening them in place is as simple as pushing each one into its slot. Securing and opening the lid is effortless.
The RTIC 52 Quart Ultra-Light features easy-to-use rubber latches.
Scott Tharler For ForbesIn addition to its lightweight and user-friendly rubber latches, the RTIC excels in ease of use by being one of the few coolers on this list that can accommodate soda and wine bottles upright. This feature makes loading and unloading more convenient. Furthermore, it is the only cooler with two drain ports, allowing for easier cleaning and maintenance.
Another standout feature is RTIC's ingenious divider. Instead of serving as a cutting board like other coolers, this divider doubles as a reusable ice pack. While it was not included in the insulation test to maintain fairness, it would undoubtedly improve the cooler's performance.
The divider included with the RTIC 52 Quart Ultra-Light also functions as a freezer pack.
Scott Tharler For ForbesIn terms of insulation, the RTIC's performance was average compared to the rest of the coolers in this review. It maintained above-average internal surface temperatures and temperature differentials to its external surface at the 36- and 48-hour check-ins. However, it did not fare as well as the other five coolers, although it outperformed the Igloo and RovR models.
Priced at $200, the RTIC offers good value, although its performance did not match that of the higher-ranked coolers. However, for those seeking a sizable rotomolded cooler at a relatively affordable price, it is an excellent choice. The RTIC not only delivers on performance but also shines in overall ease of use.
Other coolers we tested
Pelican Elite 45-Quart Cooler with Wheels
The Pelican Cooler with Wheels was a previous winner in our tests, but in this review, it was surpassed by the Yeti due to its design choices. While the Pelican features grippable molded handles and wheels, the wheel orientation on the Yeti makes it easier to maneuver. The Pelican has a 45-quart capacity, making it quite spacious, and it has a freezer-grade gasket and a sloped drain for easy cleaning. It also comes with a lifetime warranty, justifying its higher price. As an added bonus, it includes a built-in bottle opener.
Pelican Elite 45-Quart Cooler with Wheels
RTIC offers high-quality coolers at a more affordable price compared to other brands. At the time of writing, the RTIC 45 is more than $100 cheaper than a similarly sized Yeti. Despite the cost savings, the RTIC delivers comparable performance. In fact, it retained slightly more ice than the winning Yeti Roadie in the insulation test. The RTIC features rope handles and rubber latches, which work well. The latches and wheels of the Yeti Roadie, however, give it a slight edge. If you're looking for a rotomolded cooler under $250, the RTIC 45 is an excellent option.
RTIC 45-Quart Hard Cooler
Yeti Tundra 65
The Yeti Tundra 65 Cooler has garnered significant popularity due to its impeccable build quality and exceptional insulation. With its sturdy construction, it can withstand anything, and its three-inch insulation ensures excellent temperature retention. The spacious 65-quart capacity can hold 42 cans or 52 pounds of ice, and it comes with a dry goods basket. However, it did not drain as effectively as expected, requiring tipping to empty pooled water. Additionally, it is heavy and lacks wheels, making it challenging to maneuver.
RovR RollR 45
The RovR Products RollR 45 features wheels but remains challenging to maneuver, particularly when changing directions or traversing bumps. It also exhibited faster warm-up times compared to similarly priced models. The taller and narrower build hindered storage, making it difficult to fit various containers and canisters.
RovR RollR 45 Wheeled Cooler
Igloo Maxcold 50-Quart Cooler.
The budget-friendly Igloo Maxcold 50-Quart Cooler fell slightly short compared to the Coleman in terms of capacity, aesthetics, and additional features.
Igloo Maxcold 50-Quart Cooler
Other small coolers
Yeti Roadie 24
The scaled-down version of Yeti's larger models, the Yeti Roadie 24, proves that size is not everything. It boasts the same thoughtful design as its larger counterparts, including rotomolded construction and easy-to-use latches. The taller build of the Roadie 24 allows it to hold upright items like two-liter soda bottles and wine bottles. It competes closely with the Oyster cooler and remains a favorite among smaller coolers.
Engel 13-Quart Cooler
The Engel cooler is a solid performer at a moderate price, although it does not quite reach the level of performance achieved by Yeti and Oyster coolers.
Coleman 5-Quart FlipLid
Coleman's personal cooler is a highly affordable option but has a very small capacity, barely fitting a six-pack. While suitable for solo outings on a boat, it is not adequate for group outings or larger gatherings.
Performance Review: Best Coolers For Camping
To determine the best coolers, we evaluated them in various categories such as thermal retention, size to weight ratio, and cost per quart. Let's first focus on thermal retention, which is crucial for keeping things cold during longer camping trips.
Thermal Retention – Testing Method: Best Coolers For Camping
The primary purpose of an ice chest is to keep things cold, so we wanted to determine which coolers truly excelled in this aspect. We conducted extensive testing to measure the thermal retention of each cooler. Our goal was to find the greatest cooler for camping, hunting, or the beach by evaluating their ability to maintain low temperatures.
To ensure fair testing, we created an identical environment for each cooler, eliminating any variables that could affect the results. We carefully monitored the internal temperature of each cooler and recorded when it exceeded the FDA's recommended temperature of 40°F for storing meat.
It's important to note that we used the same thermometers in all coolers, which have an accuracy of +/- 1°F. To account for any discrepancies caused by the thermometers, we marked a cooler as surpassing the recommended internal temperature for meat (41°F) only after two consecutive readings. Additionally, we documented when each cooler reached the 50°F threshold, which is considered the maximum temperature for a cold beverage.
Finally, we observed and recorded the duration of ice retention in each cooler until all ice melted, leaving behind only water and any water bottles we had placed inside on day one.
To ensure accuracy, each cooler was set up in an identical manner. We aimed for a realistic camping scenario, opening the cooler four times a day for about 10 seconds each time. All coolers were placed inside a canvas tent and exposed to the same sunlight and ambient temperature. We tracked the temperature inside the tent, as it provides a more accurate representation of the cooler's performance than the external temperature alone.
Here is how we set up each cooler:
- A ratio of 40% ice to 20% beverage relative to the measured internal volume of the cooler (not just the advertised size)
- Ice cubes were used for all coolers
- Each cooler was opened four times a day for approximately 10 seconds each time
- All coolers were placed inside a canvas tent exposed to sunlight
- The coolers remained in the same position throughout the test
Outside and Tent Temperatures During Testing – Best Coolers
The following chart displays the recorded temperature variations outside the tent and, more importantly, the temperature inside the tent during our testing. While cooler performance depends on the specific temperatures they are exposed to, this chart provides a consistent basis for comparison.
As shown, our test covered a wide range of temperatures. Though the final day was relatively cool, we had already gathered sufficient data by then, except for the 50-degree benchmark for a couple of coolers.
Results by Size Category – Best Coolers
After conducting our thermal retention testing, we categorized the coolers based on their size to provide a more manageable presentation of the results.
Here are the thermal retention results for each size category:
- 50-65 Quart Category: [Results]
- 75-80 Quart Category: [Results]
- 110-165 Quart Category: [Results]
- Number of Days Below 40°F (Safe for Meat): [Results]
While the breakdown above is helpful if you already know the desired cooler size, what if you prioritize overall thermal retention performance without considering size? Let's compare how each cooler performs side by side.
- Number of Days Below 50°F (Ideal for Beverages): [Results]
If you are primarily using a cooler for drinks, a temperature below 50°F is considered acceptable. Let's assess the performance of all coolers in this aspect.
- Lowest Average Internal Temperature: [Results]
Next, we determined which cooler held the lowest average temperature until it reached the critical 40-degree mark on two consecutive readings. While this metric is less crucial, it offers insight into the correlation between average temperature and overall thermal retention. Generally, a lower average temperature suggests a longer-lasting cooler.
- Internal Temperature Stability: [Results]
Temperature stability was another factor we considered when determining the best coolers. Throughout the test, we monitored the daily internal temperature fluctuations based on four readings per day. The 8 AM and 10 PM readings typically provided the lowest temperatures, while the noon and 5 PM readings yielded the highest temperatures, as expected. These readings marked the point of failure for most coolers.
It was intriguing to observe the varying degrees of temperature swings among different coolers. A smaller temperature swing indicates a more stable internal temperature, even during the hottest parts of the day. A lower number signifies less fluctuation and, therefore, better performance.
- The Last Cooler Standing: [Results]
Finally, to determine the best cooler for ice retention, we allowed the coolers to sit until all the ice melted, leaving only water in the cooler. This aspect is crucial since the temperature of the melted water remains cooler than the air temperature, allowing for extended use by submerging the cooler's contents in the ice water.
Here are the results:
- Top to Bottom Ice Retention Rankings: [Results]
This simple spreadsheet ranks each cooler from top to bottom based on its ability to maintain an internal air temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Size to Weight Ratio: Best Coolers For Camping
Below is a chart comparing the size (represented by the orange bar) and weight (represented by the green bar) of each cooler. This information helps determine the best size to weight ratio, useful for individuals concerned about minimizing weight without sacrificing internal volume.
The higher the number, the better the size to weight ratio. The Rugged Road Outdoors 65 Quart cooler stands out as the lightest by a significant margin. If weight is a priority for you, the Rugged Road Outdoors coolers are worth considering.
Actual Measured Volume: Best Coolers For Camping
In this chart, we compared the actual measured volume of each cooler (obtained by filling the cooler with water until the lid displaced water) to its advertised volume. This process took a considerable amount of time, but we aimed for the most accurate measurement possible, accounting for minor variations due to spilled drops.
Surprisingly, some coolers had internal volumes larger than their advertised sizes. On the other hand, some coolers were significantly smaller than advertised. The Rugged Road 65 Quart Cooler had the most significant discrepancy, with an internal volume of approximately 44.1 quarts compared to its advertised 65-quart size.
Weights: Best Coolers For Camping
If you prioritize the weight of the cooler, refer to the chart below for the actual weight of each ice chest. Keep in mind that coolers with built-in wheels, such as the Blue 110, Pelican 65, and Pelican 80, are heavier due to the added convenience of portability. Consider the extra weight of these wheeled coolers in the context of the substantial advantage provided by the wheels in transportation.
Value – Cost Per Quart: Best Coolers for Camping
We also evaluated the value offered by each cooler by calculating the cost per quart based on our own measurements of the interior volume. By comparing our measurements to the advertised size, we determined the actual cost per quart for each cooler.
Here are the results:
Durability: Best Coolers For Camping
While durability is a crucial factor in selecting the best coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and value, we did not extensively test the long-term durability of the coolers in this review. We used them during hunting and camping trips but did not push them to their limits.
All the coolers in this review are rotomolded and should offer excellent durability for an extended period. However, thorough evaluation of their durability would require many years of use, which we did not conduct. Therefore, we refrain from making definitive statements about the most durable coolers.
During our review process, we noticed a couple of factors that may indicate a potential lack of durability in certain coolers:
- The RTIC Ultralight 52 Quart Cooler stood out as notably lighter than others, but this lightness seemed to correlate with a slightly more vulnerable outer shell. The shell material appeared more prone to cracking compared to typical rotomolded coolers. Users should handle this cooler with extra care to avoid rough treatment or accidental drops.
- The Rugged Road Outdoors Cooler was significantly lighter than other coolers, emphasizing its ultralight design. However, this lighter weight also resulted in a perceived fragility compared to other coolers. While the Rigorite blast-resistant exterior coating and ultralight Titan shell performed well during light use, it seemed more susceptible to potential damage from sharp objects or falls from heights. However, since we did not conduct specific tests to verify these assumptions, they remain speculative. Ultralight coolers like this make trade-offs to achieve lower weight and should be treated accordingly.
The remaining coolers appeared to have similar outer shell materials and constructions, suggesting similar durability and high-quality craftsmanship.
Hardware – Latch Styles: Best Coolers For Camping
Coolers may not have many additional features, but the latch style can greatly impact ease of use. Although the latch type is not necessarily a determining factor, it may influence your decision if you are undecided between a few different brands.
Four of the coolers we tested—Yeti, RTIC, Orca, and Grizzly Coolers—employ a rubber latch system that stretches over a notch. While these coolers operate similarly, we found that Grizzly Cooler's latches were the easiest to use, as they were pre-formed to stay out of the way when closing the lid.
Several coolers featured unique latch systems worth mentioning:
Bison Coolers utilize an all-rubber latch system, which allows for foot-operated opening if needed. This latch system is incredibly user-friendly, although we did notice that it occasionally interfered with the lid closing smoothly, occasionally becoming caught in the lid.
Pelican Coolers feature a push-button latch system that is unique among the coolers we tested. This latch system requires intentional effort to open, but offers exceptional security. Some individuals may find it requires more dexterity, but the added security is worth it. Additionally, the latch never interferes with lid closure.
Blue Coolers are equipped with a latch system similar to Orion Coolers, utilizing a polymer latch instead of steel on the lower section. These latches are easy to operate, functional, and straightforward. Unlike some other latch systems, they do not get stuck in the lid.
RUGGED ROAD COOLERS
Rugged Road Outdoors Coolers feature a convenient "Kick Flip Lid" that is fully removable and reversible. These coolers can be opened with your foot, and the lid can be easily flipped to serve as a cup holder. Rugged Road coolers are unique among this group, as they only have a single latch compared to two or three latches on other coolers.
Orion Coolers utilize a latch system similar to Blue Coolers, but with a steel component on the lower part. These latches are reliable, easy to use, and do not obstruct the lid like some other latch systems.
This comprehensive review provides valuable insights into the performance, features, and characteristics of the best coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and various other outdoor activities. Use the provided information to make an informed decision based on your specific needs and preferences.
In conclusion, when it comes to finding the best cooler for your outdoor adventures, the key is to consider durability, insulation, and convenience. After extensive testing, we've compiled a list of the top coolers that stood out in each category. Whether you're looking for the best overall performance, eye-catching design, superior insulation, or effortless usability, we've got you covered. So, ditch the worry of spoiled food and lukewarm drinks and invest in one of the best coolers for camping. Trust us, it will be a game-changer for your next outdoor getaway.
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