My research and experience have led me to conclude that the Academy Magellan Outdoors Pro Explore is the finest cooler currently on the market.

In my tested best coolers roundup, the Academy Magellan Outdoors Pro Explore came out on top as the best cooler overall. Learn more about this excellent cooler and our strong endorsement of it here.

Given its robust insulation, solid durability, and straightforward usability, the Pro Explore from retailer Academy Sports Outdoors' in-store brand, Magellan Outdoors, offers an incredible value. As a result, when I put it to the test against seven of the most well-liked mid-sized models, it came out on top. Other coolers excelled in one or two areas, but the Academy was unquestionably the most complete design.

Due to its sturdy construction and low price, Academy's 45-quart Magellan Outdoors Pro Explore is a great value. [ ] exemplary features and performance

From Forbes' Scott Tharler

Overall, this adaptable cooler is perfect for the majority of occasions, including tailgating, picnics, barbecues, and car camping. Features that are both necessary and desirable are both a result of its thoughtful design. For instance, it has a removable lid and a built-in steel bottle opener, and unlike many modern coolers, it is essentially effortless to open. A nice bonus is that its $200 price tag reflects its capabilities and additional features.


Outdoor Sports Academy

Dimensions on the outside: 30 x 16 65 x 16 75 inches | 11 inches inside 25 inches, 45 quarts, 30 pounds, wheels, extras, and a one-year warranty are the specifications.

Personally, I think that many coolers' rubber pull-down latches are overly difficult to use. It's not like I'm weak or uncoordinated. Simply put, it seems that most fasteners require too much concentration and effort to engage and disengage, a task that is made more challenging when hands are occupied with objects like drinks, foods, and various tools. The latches at the Academy, however, are a simple delight. Simply use your thumbs to push in and your fingers to lift and open.

The Pro Explore is very simple to open thanks to the buckles, and the steel-reinforced locking holes attest to its [ ] durability

From Forbes' Scott Tharler

Although it seems like such a simple thing to get right, so many competitors fail to do so. Perhaps because rubber latches seem more secure or durable, they have supposedly become the standard. But during my testing, which involved throwing this cooler around, its structure never cracked under the strain. I consider this locking mechanism to be both straightforward and reliable.

The Pro Explore is even better because it has latches on both sides, allowing you to open the cooler on whichever side you prefer at the time or even remove the lid entirely. Knowing about this practical feature, I had lower expectations going into the insulation test, but this cooler pleasantly surprised me there as well.

Insulation that is thick keeps your supplies cool.

I believed that because the lid was simple to open and completely remove (a feature that was unique among the coolers I tested), its insulation would suffer as a result. But that's not at all what I discovered during the 60-hour insulation test. In actuality, the exact opposite happened.

Only the models of the Academy, ORCA, and Yeti coolers tested produced internal surface temperature readings that were above average at all five check-ins. And of those three, the 45-quart Academy has the largest capacity, giving it an inherent disadvantage. (A cooler's performance suffers when there is extra air trapped inside. Additionally, it shared the title of having the most ice retained after the test with the ORCA.

The Pro Explore has a two-way drain that, when partially removed, can slowly release water.

From Forbes' Scott Tharler

Along with having thick insulation, like other coolers, this one also has an automatic pressure relief valve that is still pending patent protection. Given a proper seal, one of the side effects of a cooler cooling down is a discernible drop in air pressure. It can be very challenging to physically pry open the lid in the absence of a valve to balance that pressure, as I frustratingly discovered with the ORCA model I tested. Thus, the combination of this Academy cooler's special pressure release valve and the aforementioned latches results in a cooler that is both efficient and simple to use.

Other Outstanding Features

Of course, portability is yet another important aspect of usability. And this might be the only flaw with the Pro Explore. Given its capacity, it's a bit on the heavy side at 30 pounds. Although it has wheels, they are tiny, plasticky, and not nearly as all-terrain as the RovR RollR or an Igloo Trailmate (shown below). However, its handle is more manageable and balanced in both one and two hands. And thanks to its elastic rubber-gripped straps, two people can carry it with relative ease. Overall, the Academy receives mixed reviews for portability. Although not bad, perhaps only average overall

Despite the fact that the RollR RovR (pictured on the right in white) has larger, much more capable tires [ ] The Academy's straightforward U-shaped handle (left) makes it simpler to carry on all surfaces.

From Forbes' Scott Tharler

Despite this, the Pro Explore nonetheless has a number of noteworthy features. It includes a useful divider that serves as a cutting board. This cooler includes a sturdy plastic dry bin in place of the customary metal basket, a thoughtful addition that actually keeps your sandwiches and other dry foods from becoming soggy. The cooler's inclusion of a built-in steel bottle opener, a chain leash for the drain plug, and steel-reinforced locking holes for increased security and toughness is also a nice touch by Academy.

One last plus is that Academy sells this cooler in numerous other sizes and more than a dozen different colorways. You have some good options for shorter and longer trips with the Pro Explore's other capacities, which include 25, 35, 55, and 75 quarts across two smaller and two larger models. Additionally, it is available in various interesting combinations of purples, blues, oranges, and reds, as well as gray, green, and other colors, depending on your mood.

Best For:

  • Tailgating, backyard parties, and car camping
  • Excellent features at a reasonable cost
  • A combination of wet (iced) and dry goods

Skip If:

  • Weight is a concern when hiking on a trail or a beach.

Comparing Other Coolers To The Academy Magellan Outdoors Pro Explore

The Pro Explore is a powerful, adaptable cooler that works in a variety of situations. It cools almost as well as a Yeti for about 60% of the price. Since it has small wheels, I'm not sure I'd choose it as my first choice if I were heading to the beach or a far-off campsite. But if one or two people can roll it on reasonably rough, flat surfaces or carry it relatively short distances over challenging terrain, you'd be hard-pressed to find a cooler that does it all better.

I'm an expert

I'm a journalist who writes about outdoor equipment for Forbes Vetted right now. You can read my in-depth analysis of the top coolers, in which I rank the Academy Magellan Outdoors Pro Explore first.

I've previously written about necessary equipment and daily carry items for widely respected websites like Maxim, Gear Patrol, and Newsweek. Additionally, for the past 25 years, I have covered consumer technology, appearing publicly on TV, radio, and podcasts as well as giving private presentations at businesses, retreats, libraries, and educational institutions.

My Technique

I put eight of the top mid-sized coolers to the test, and after careful consideration and testing, I came up with my final list of four standout choices. I compared the coolers both during and after the testing period, taking into account a few important characteristics like insulation, portability, durability, and ease of use. I conducted the insulative testing of the coolers in a temperature-controlled, isolated area of my home. Additionally, I put them to use and tested them in my backyard, loaded (and unloaded) my SUV, and took them out and about. I monitored each cooler's capacity to achieve and sustain a cold internal temperature while preserving the freshness of the meat and beverages throughout the insulation testing. I also observed how simple it was to open and close each lid, fill up each cooler, and clean/drain it.

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