The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Cooler for Hunting Trips
Are you tired of lugging around heavy coolers that barely keep your drinks cold on your hunting trips? Well, we have the solution for you. In this article, we have rounded up the best coolers for hunting trips, guaranteed to keep your food and beverages icy cold no matter how remote your campsite may be. From the rugged RTIC 110-Quart Hard Cooler to the versatile Orca 58-Quart Cooler, we've tested them all. Read on to discover the top picks and find the best cooler for your next hunting adventure.
Performance Comparison: Best Coolers For Camping
To determine the best coolers, we evaluated them based on various factors like thermal retention, size to weight ratio, and value. Let's start with the most important aspect: thermal retention, which refers to how long the cooler can keep things cold.
Testing Thermal Retention: Best Coolers For Camping
The primary function of an ice chest is to keep things cold. If a cooler fails to maintain a low enough temperature, it cannot be considered one of the best coolers for longer camping trips unless you have an option to regularly replenish it with ice. To determine the top coolers on the market, we conducted tests to assess their thermal retention.
This testing process was extensive and costly, requiring a significant amount of ice and water. However, it was necessary to accurately evaluate the coolers. When considering the best coolers for camping, hunting, or the beach, thermal retention is a crucial factor. Our goal was to find the cooler with the highest performance in this area.
To maintain consistency, we created an identical environment for each cooler, eliminating variables that could affect the test results. We closely monitored the internal temperature of each cooler, noting when it exceeded the FDA's recommended temperature of 40°F for storing meat.
It's important to mention that we used the same thermometers for all the coolers, which had an accuracy of +/- 1°F. To account for any potential discrepancies in thermometer readings, we recorded the results when the cooler reached 41°F for two consecutive readings, considering it surpassed the recommended internal temperature for storing meat. We also noted when each cooler reached the 50°F mark, which is an acceptable temperature for cold beverages.
Finally, we tracked and documented the duration that each cooler retained ice before complete melting, leaving only water along with any water bottles we placed inside on the first day.
To ensure accurate results, we set up each cooler in an identical manner. We aimed to mimic real-life camping conditions by opening the cooler four times throughout the day for approximately 10 seconds each time. Additionally, we placed all the coolers inside my Kodiak Canvas 12×12 Cabin tent to ensure equal temperature and sun exposure for all the coolers. We focused on monitoring the temperature inside the tent rather than outdoors.
Here's how we prepared each cooler:
- 40% ice and 20% beverage (2:1 ratio) relative to each cooler's measured internal volume, not just the advertised size
- We used ice cubes from Costco for all the coolers
- The cooler was opened four times a day for approximately 10 seconds each time
- All coolers were kept inside a canvas tent exposed to sunlight for most of the day
- The coolers remained in the same spot throughout the test
Outside and Tent Temperatures During Testing
The following chart displays the temperature variations observed outside and, more importantly, inside the tent during our testing. While the performance of coolers may vary depending on the external temperatures they encounter, this chart helps create a level playing field for all the coolers.
As evident from the chart, we experienced a wide range of temperatures during the test. Unfortunately, the last day was relatively cool, but by that time, the results had been established, except for the 50-degree benchmark for a couple of coolers.
Results by Size Category
After subjecting each cooler to thermal retention testing, we compiled the results and classified them based on their size to facilitate better understanding.
Here are the results for how long each cooler maintained an internal air temperature below 40°F compared to others in the same size class.
50-65 Quart Category
75-80 Quart Category
110-165 Quart Category
Days Below 40°F (Safe for Meat)
Categorizing the results based on size is useful if you already know what cooler size you prefer. However, if overall thermal retention performance is your primary concern and you haven't decided on a particular size, let's examine the performance of all coolers side by side.
Days Below 50°F (Ideal for Beverages)
If you are willing to relax your standards and primarily use a cooler for beverages, a temperature below 50°F is generally considered acceptable. Let's compare how the coolers performed in this aspect.
Lowest Average Internal Temperature
Using the aforementioned information, we identified the cooler with the lowest average temperature before reaching the 40-degree benchmark. This metric is less crucial but offers an interesting perspective on how average temperature correlates with the duration a cooler can maintain its internal temperature below the critical 40-degree mark. Generally, a lower average represents longer-lasting cooling capability.
Internal Temperature Stability
Temperature stability is another critical factor in determining the best coolers. Throughout our testing, we tracked the daily internal temperature stability of each cooler, based on our four temperature readings per day. The lowest temperatures were typically recorded at 8 AM and 10 PM, while the highest temperatures occurred around noon and 5 PM, as expected. These are the time points at which coolers often begin to struggle.
Interestingly, we observed varying degrees of temperature fluctuation among the coolers. Coolers with smaller temperature swings exhibited a more stable temperature environment and better performance, even during the hottest parts of the day. A smaller number in this context indicates less significant changes in internal temperature over the course of the day. Coolers with larger temperature fluctuations appeared to be more affected by the external temperatures.
The Last Cooler Standing
To determine the best cooler for ice retention, we let the coolers sit until all the ice was completely melted, leaving only water behind. This is a crucial consideration, as the temperature of the melted water remains cooler than the air temperature, allowing for additional use if you choose to submerge your cooler's contents in the ice water.
Here are the results:
Top to Bottom Ice Retention Rankings
The following chart presents a simple overview of how each cooler ranks from top to bottom based on their ability to maintain an internal air temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
|Thermal Retention Ranking||Cooler|
|#4||Blue 110qt (W)|
|#5||Pelican 80qt (W)|
|#9||Pelican 65qt (W)|
|#14||RTIC UL 52qt|
|#16||Rugged Road 65qt|
Size to Weight Ratio: Best Coolers For Camping
In the chart below, we compare the size of each cooler (represented by the orange bar) to its weight (represented by the green bar) to determine the best size to weight ratio. While this may not be important to everyone, it can be valuable to individuals seeking to minimize weight while maximizing internal volume.
A higher number in this category indicates a better size to weight ratio. The Rugged Road Outdoors 65 Quart cooler significantly outperformed others in terms of lightness. If weight is a priority for you, the Rugged Road Outdoors coolers are worth considering.
Actual Internal Volume vs. Advertised Size: Best Coolers For Camping
This next segment explores the actual internal volume of the coolers and how it compares to the advertised size. To ensure accuracy, we filled each cooler with water until the water level matched the lid, then measured the drained water. This meticulous process, although time-consuming, allowed us to obtain reliable measurements (with minimal discrepancies due to minor spilling).
Surprisingly, we found that the actual internal volume of many coolers exceeded their advertised size. However, some coolers fell significantly short of their advertised capacity. The most pronounced discrepancy occurred with the Rugged Road 65 Quart cooler, whose internal volume was approximately 44.1 quarts—considerably smaller than the advertised 65 quarts.
Weights: Best Coolers For Camping
If you are primarily concerned with the weight of the cooler you choose, refer to the chart below, which displays the actual weights of each ice chest. It's worth noting that coolers with built-in wheels—such as the Blue 110, Pelican 65, and Pelican 80—tend to be heavier. However, the extra weight is offset by the convenience of wheels, which can make a significant difference when transporting your cooler to the beach, campground, or boat.
Value – Cost Per Quart: Best Coolers for Camping
Calculating the cost per quart provides an interesting perspective on the value offered by each cooler. To determine this, we measured the interior volume of each cooler manually and compared it to the advertised size. Based on our measurements, we calculated the actual cost per quart for each cooler, considering our own measurements as more accurate (with a slight margin of error due to drops/spills).
Here are the results:
Durability: Best Coolers For Camping
While durability is a significant factor in choosing the best coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and value, we did not fully test the coolers' durability for this review. Although we took them on hunting and camping trips, we did not push the limits of their durability.
All the coolers we tested are rotomolded and expected to offer excellent durability for an extended period. However, a comprehensive assessment of their durability would require several years of use. Therefore, we refrain from making definitive statements on durability based on our limited testing.
Nevertheless, we did observe a few indications of potential differences in durability during the review process:
- The RTIC UltraLight 52 Quart Cooler stood out as exceptionally lightweight compared to the others. However, this lighter weight was noticeable in the outer shell, which seemed more prone to cracking than the typical rotomolded coolers. Therefore, it is essential to handle this cooler with care and avoid dropping or rough handling.
- The Rugged Road Outdoors Cooler was by far the lightest cooler we tested. While an ultralight design is convenient for carrying the cooler to your campsite, beach, or boat, it also felt relatively fragile compared to the other coolers. The Rigorite blast-resistant exterior coating and ultralight Titan shell appeared suitable for light use but could be more susceptible to cuts, punctures, or damage from a fall. However, we did not conduct specific tests to verify these assumptions. These coolers prioritize weight reduction, which necessitates certain compromises in durability.
The remaining coolers exhibited comparable outer shell materials, construction, and durability. Hence, we withhold conjectures about which coolers are the most durable, as they are all premium coolers constructed with high-quality materials.
Hardware – Latch Styles: Best Coolers For Camping
While coolers may not have many features, the type of latch used can significantly impact ease of use. Although the latch style alone is not a make-or-break factor, it may sway your decision if you are considering multiple brands.
Four of the coolers we tested — Yeti, RTIC, Orca, and Grizzly Coolers — employed a rubber latch system that stretches over a notch. Each cooler's latch operated similarly, but the Grizzly Coolers' latches were notably easier to manipulate as they were already shaped to avoid obstructing the lid when closing.
Several coolers featured distinct latch systems worth mentioning:
The all-rubber latch on the Bison Coolers is among our favorites, as it allows for easy opening with a foot if necessary. However, we noticed that this latch system sometimes hindered the lid from closing freely, often getting caught in the lid rather than smoothly securing it.
The push-button latch system on Pelican Coolers stands out as the most unique among the tested models. It requires deliberate effort to open, making it highly secure. While it may be less intuitive to operate for some individuals, it guarantees a robust latch system that never obstructs the closing process.
Blue Coolers are equipped with a latch system similar to Orion's, but instead of steel, the latch material appears to be polymer. They are simple, functional, and effortless to operate. A notable advantage of this latch system is its compatibility with smooth lid closing, minimizing the risk of obstruction.
RUGGED ROAD COOLERS
Rugged Road Outdoors Coolers feature a convenient "Kick Flip Lid" that can be reversed and fully removed. These coolers can be opened using your foot, and the lid can be flipped to function as a cup holder within seconds. This feature adds practicality to the cooler. Moreover, Rugged Road Outdoors Coolers have a single latch system, while others typically have two or three latches.
RTIC 110-Quart Hard Cooler
When it comes to size, RTIC's 110-Quart Hard Cooler delivers. It's spacious enough for long fishing and hunting trips, and it can also serve as a bench, non-slip stool, or additional tabletop. The durable construction ensures that it can withstand rough conditions. With three inches of foam insulation in the walls, it keeps your perishables fresh until you return to civilization.
Canyon Coolers Outfitter 125-Quart Cooler
Canyon Coolers' Outfitter 125-Quart Cooler is the largest on this list. It's perfect for a whole family on a week-long trip. The one-piece construction is extremely durable, and the two-inch tiedown slots make it easy to secure in a truck bed or vehicle.
Yeti Tundra Haul Hard Cooler
The Tundra Haul Hard Cooler is Yeti's first-ever wheeled cooler, and it's a winner. Made with rotomolded construction, it's durable and perfect for any adventure. Two never-flat wheels make it easy to transport, and its compact size allows for solo carrying. Despite its size, it can hold up to 55 pounds of ice.
Pelican 45QW Elite Wheeled Cooler
Pelican is a well-known brand when it comes to coolers. The 45QW Elite Wheeled Cooler is the perfect size for smaller hunting and fishing trips. With its compact form factor, it rolls easily on dual heavy-duty wheels and a trolley handle. It provides up to 10 days of ice retention with a freezer-grade gasket and two inches of insulation. Plus, it's certified bear-resistant, making it ideal for the backcountry.
Roam Adventure Co. 50QT Rolling Rugged Cooler
Roam Adventure Co. is a well-known name in the overlanding community. Their 50QT Rolling Rugged Cooler is the brand's second-largest cooler and a great size for hunting and fishing trips. It features flexible carry straps, a trolley handle, and twin wheels for easy portage. With a weather-tight seal and premium materials, it can retain ice for up to eight days.
Orca 58-Quart Cooler
The Orca 58 Quart Cooler is smaller compared to most hunting and fishing coolers. However, its compact size makes it lighter and easier to carry alone. It features extendable flex-grip handles for added convenience. The rotomolded construction ensures durability, making it perfect for weekend trips or adventures in the backcountry. It can keep your ice frozen for up to 10 days.
Roam Adventure Co.
Best Hunting Backpack Cooler
Yeti Hopper M20
I purchased the original Yeti backpack cooler years ago, and I didn't think it could get any better, but little did I know...
The Yeti Hopper M20 Backpack Cooler is one of the most innovative designs on the market today. With a 20 qt capacity, it can hold 18 cans with a 2:1 ice-to-can ratio. Its rugged DryHide shell resists punctures, UV rays, and mildew, ensuring durability. The ColdCell insulation inside keeps your beverages cold for hours.
Yeti's latest Hopper iteration features a wider opening and innovative MagShield Access, which is my favorite part. The magnetic seal prevents leaks and makes packing and unpacking easy. This versatile cooler comes with buckles, daisy chains, side handles, carry handles, and a removable shoulder strap.
Take a chance on the Yeti Hopper M20 Backpack Cooler and see how well it performs on your next hunting trip!
What We Dislike
- Expensive Price Point
- Difficult To Carry Around
For the latest prices and more information about the Yeti Tundra 65, click below!
Yeti Tundra 65
The Best Overall Hunting Cooler
The Yeti Tundra 65 is the best hunting cooler because it offers a bearproof design with integrated permafrost insulation that keeps your meat protected and cold for days!
What We Like
- Thick Insulation
- Roto-Molded Construction
- Durable & Secure Construction
- 5 Year Warranty
In conclusion, when it comes to finding the best cooler for your hunting trips, there are several top contenders that have proven their worth. From the RTIC 110-Quart Hard Cooler and the Canyon Coolers Outfitter 125-Quart Cooler to the Yeti Tundra Haul Hard Cooler and the Pelican 45QW Elite Wheeled Cooler, these brands provide reliable cooling capabilities and durability in the rugged wilderness. The Roam Adventure Co. 50QT Rolling Rugged Cooler and the Orca 58-Quart Cooler also offer excellent performance, making them worthy options for avid hunters. And let's not forget about the Best Hunting Backpack Cooler – a portable and convenient choice that allows you to keep your beverages and food cold on the go. While each cooler has its own unique features, there are a few drawbacks to consider. However, overall, the performance and reliability of these coolers far outweigh any dislikes. So, whether you're embarking on a short hunting trip or a week-long adventure, investing in one of these top coolers is sure to enhance your experience in the great outdoors.
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