The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best Coolers for Fishing: Uncover the Top Picks, Key Features, and Benefits of Marine Coolers
When it comes to fishing, having a reliable cooler to store your catch and keep your drinks cold is essential. But with so many options available, how do you choose the best one? In this article, we'll explore the key features to consider when buying a fishing cooler, the different types available, and our top picks for the best fishing coolers on the market in 2023. Plus, we'll cover the benefits of choosing a marine cooler and provide tips on how to find the best one for your needs. Whether you're a seasoned angler or just starting out, this guide will help you make an informed decision and ensure your fishing trips are a success.
Igloo BMX Ice Chest
Dimensions: 19.6 x 13.3 x 15.7 inches | Capacity: 25 quarts | Weight: 10.3 pounds
For anglers who are looking to save money without compromising on ice retention, the Igloo BMX Ice Chest is a reliable and durable option. With its blown-molded, reinforced base and 20% thicker insulation, this ice chest can keep ice frozen for up to four days. The raised molded base helps keep the contents away from the heat, while the UV-resistant materials protect the cooler from prolonged sun exposure. The rubberized T-grip latches keep the contents secure, and the rust-resistant stainless-steel hinges and hardware ensure long-lasting performance. Priced at under $100, the Igloo BMX Ice Chest offers great value for its quality and features.
Yeti Hopper Flip 18
Dimensions: 17.7 x 11.5 x 12.8 inches | Capacity: 18 quarts | Weight: 4.5 pounds
The Yeti Hopper Flip 18 is a versatile cooler that performs exceptionally well whether you're fishing from the shore or a boat. With a capacity of 18 quarts, it can hold up to 30 cans without ice or 28 pounds of ice, making it perfect for a couple of days on the water. The ColdCell Insulation technology preserves the temperature of your food and drinks, while the hydro-lock zipper ensures that the cold stays in and the heat stays out. Despite being a soft cooler, the DryHide shell and HitchPoint Grid provide durability, protecting it from rocks, sand, and dirt. The shoulder strap makes it easy to carry your catch home after a productive day of fishing.
RTIC Ultra-Light Cooler
Dimensions: 27.3 x 17.3 x 17 inches | Capacity: 52 quarts | Weight: 21 pounds
The RTIC Ultra-Light Cooler is a game-changer for anglers who prioritize weight and spaciousness. Despite its larger size compared to other coolers, it weighs only 21 pounds, making it incredibly lightweight. With enough room for 70 cans or 60 pounds of ice, it offers ample space for your favorite beverages or fresh catch. The premium insulation ensures long-lasting cold retention, and the ergonomic handles, grippy rubber feet, and tie-down slots add convenience and versatility. Priced under $200, this cooler is an excellent choice for those seeking a durable and lightweight ice chest without breaking the bank.
OtterBox Trooper 20
Dimensions: 14.3 x 17.5 x 10.3 inches | Capacity: 20 quarts | Weight: 6.5 pounds
The OtterBox Trooper 20 offers easy access and great functionality for anglers who prefer a hassle-free experience. With a simple latch click, the large wide-mouth opening provides quick access to ice, food, and drinks. The 20-quart capacity is perfect for a weekend fishing trip, accommodating your catch and other essentials. The exterior pockets are ideal for storing fishing gear, and the built-in bottle opener is a handy addition. The Trooper 20 is a reliable option that ensures your fish stays fresh and cool throughout your fishing adventure.
Dimensions: 29.8 x 18.8 x 16.4 inches | Capacity: 57 quarts | Weight: 33 pounds
Dometic's Patrol 55 cooler is an excellent choice for anglers embarking on multi-day fishing trips. With a 43-can capacity and ample room for ice, it offers plenty of space to store beverages, food, and fresh fish. The cooler features a dry tray to keep items separate from the ice melt, and the easy-to-carry rope handles make transportation a breeze. The rubber clasps ensure secure closure, and the large drain spout effectively removes excess liquid. The Patrol 55's ice retention capabilities are impressive, making it a reliable companion for fishing trips.
Dimensions: 16.5 x 12.3 x 10 inches inches | Capacity: 25 quarts | Weight: 25 pounds
The Orca 26-quart cooler is an American-made option that offers superior insulation and durability. Its roto-molded exterior ensures long-lasting ice retention for up to 10 days. The extendable flex-grip handles provide comfortable carrying, and the cargo net attachment on the back offers additional storage for fly boxes or bait. The cooler's airtight seal provides excellent temperature control, and the pressure release feature makes it easy to open the lid at higher elevations. For anglers who value supporting local manufacturing, the Orca cooler is an excellent choice that combines quality and patriotic pride.
How We Chose The Best Fishing Coolers
To determine the best fishing coolers, we extensively tested them during fishing trips across the country. Testing involved assessing ice retention capabilities in hot desert conditions where coolers and their contents experience prolonged exposure to the sun. In cases where direct testing was not possible, we relied on research, expert advice, and independent reviews to gather valuable insights for inclusion in our evaluation. We conducted thorough research on various cooler options, considering factors such as product specifications, dimensions, insulation technology, and unique features. We also consulted with cooler product designers and engineers to gain a better understanding of what makes a fishing cooler exceptional.
What To Consider When Investing In A Fishing Cooler
When selecting a fishing cooler, it is essential to consider the following factors that can impact your choices.
Pelican™ 50QT Elite Cooler
The Pelican™ 50QT Elite Cooler, with a volume of 52.87QT, offers ample space for up to 24 or 34 cans and 2-day camping trip food. This cooler is perfect for kayak fishing trips, multi-day fishing excursions, and other outdoor activities. It is built with premium materials to withstand the toughest conditions and comes with a Lifetime Guarantee.
Pelican™ 70QT Elite Cooler
The Pelican™ 70QT Elite Cooler is a heavy-duty cooler designed for extreme conditions and extended ice retention. With an internal volume of 72.42QT, this cooler can hold food for a 4-day camping trip and 24 or 46 cans, making it ideal for multi-day fishing trips, marine adventures, and more. Its durability and ice retention capabilities make it a reliable choice for anglers.
Best Fishing Coolers on the Market in 2023
In this first part of the buyer’s guide, we present our top recommendations for fishing coolers this season. Each product is carefully explained, highlighting the reasons why we believe they are worth considering. Rest assured that all the products we recommend are ones that we personally use and trust.
YETI Tundra 45
YETI Tundra 45Key features:
- Capacity: 28 cans (with ice) / 34lbs of ice (ice only)
- Dimensions: 25 3/4 x 16 1/8 x 15 3/8 inches
- Weight: 23lbs
- Multiple colors available
Why we picked it:
YETI, an American manufacturer, has gained a well-deserved reputation for producing some of the most durable outdoor equipment in the market. While they are known for their waterproof bags and backpacks, their coolers, such as the YETI Tundra 45, are their flagship products.
The YETI Tundra 45 excels in all the key features one looks for in a fishing cooler: excellent ice retention, durability, sturdiness, and design. This cooler can hold up to 28 cans (with ice), and for those in need of more capacity, there is the YETI Tundra 65 option. It also includes a dry goods basket, and its 3-inch insulation, extra-thick walls, and tightly-fitting lid ensure that the interior remains cool even on hot days. The YETI Tundra 45 is incredibly sturdy, capable of being tossed around or used as a casting platform on a fishing boat.
- Fantastic ice retention
- Very sturdy - can be used as a seat or step
- Wide range of colors to choose from
- Relatively heavy, especially when fully loaded
RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler
RTIC 45 QT HardKey features:
- Capacity: 36 cans
- Dimensions: 26 1/2 x 16 1/2 x 15 7/8 inches
- Weight: 29lbs
Why we picked it:
The RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler is another excellent option for a hard cooler, showcasing similar qualities to the YETI Tundra 45. It has earned a dedicated following among outdoor enthusiasts due to the quality of its products. This cooler also features T-latches that ensure a secure fit and provide freezer-grade insulation.
The RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler has a slightly larger capacity than the YETI Tundra 45, capable of holding 36 cans and 40lbs of ice. Like the YETI Tundra 45, it is incredibly sturdy and can be used as a bench, tabletop, or cutting board. RTIC claims that the cooler can keep ice cold for up to 10 days, although keeping in mind that this will vary depending on how frequently the cooler is opened. It is designed to be carried by one person and weighs 29lbs.
- Very good ice retention
- T-latches provide a secure closure
- Even heavier than the YETI Tundra 45
Orca 26 Quart
Orca 26 QuartKey features:
- Capacity: 24 cans / 18 bottles
- Dimensions: 23 5/8" x 17 3/4" x 14 5/8"
- Weight: 25lbs
Why we picked it:
The Orca 26 Quart is another high-quality hard cooler made in the USA. It shares comparable dimensions with the YETI Tundra 45 and is available in a variety of colors and sizes. This cooler features a durable roto-molded construction, which ensures exceptional durability.
A notable feature of the Orca 26 Quart is the small cargo net on the back of the cooler, allowing for the storage of small items. Additionally, it comes with a drainage spout to facilitate the removal of excess water after a fishing trip or when storing your catch.
- American made
- Excellent grip options
- Roto-molded construction for enhanced durability
- Ice retention not quite on the level of the YETI in our test
Igloo 52 Qt BMX Cooler
Igloo 52 Qt BMX CoolerKey features:
- Capacity: 83 cans (without ice)
- Dimensions: 25.98 x 16.34 x 16.54 inches
- Weight: 16.4lbs
Why we picked it:
The Igloo 52 Qt BMX Cooler is an excellent choice for those seeking a cooler at a lower price point. While it may not be as rugged as the YETI Tundra 45 or the RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler, it still offers some high-quality features. For instance, it includes T-latches for a secure fit and can keep the interior cool for up to 5 days.
The cooler features large anti-slip handles, making it easy to carry even when fully loaded. It also includes a fish ruler on the lid as an additional bonus feature. With a capacity of 83 12-oz cans, the Igloo 52 Qt BMX Cooler weighs a mere 16.4lbs.
- Offers solid cooling capabilities
- Ice retention not on par with Orca or YETI (as expected given the price)
Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler
Coleman Xtreme 5 CoolerKey features:
- Capacity: Up to 100 cans (without ice)
- Dimensions: 28.25 x 15.75 x 18.25 inches
- Weight: 12.3lbs
Why we picked it:
The Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler provides exceptional quality at an affordable price, making it a great option for those who don't want to spend $200 or $300 on a cooler. It differs from the previous coolers in terms of its closure technology, lacking T-latches for the top lid. As a result, it doesn't boast the same cooling capabilities as its competitors. However, it can still keep the interior cool for a couple of days.
One of the advantages of this cooler's lower insulation level is its large interior capacity. The Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler can hold up to 100 cans (without ice) and also includes cup holders integrated into the top lid. While it may not be as rugged as the RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler or the YETI Tundra 45, it is lightweight at 12.3lbs and easy to carry.
- Well-designed features, such as cup holders
- Good for day trips
- Closure system is not as effective due to the lack of lid closure
Best Fishing Cooler with Wheels
In the second part of our guide, we present several options for those in search of a fishing cooler with wheels. Rollable fishing coolers have the advantage of being easily transported to the dock without the need for carrying them, especially when they are fully loaded and become heavy. Here are a few excellent choices.
Best Overall Rolling Cooler: YETI Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Cooler
YETI Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Fishing CoolerKey features:
- Capacity: Up to 45 cans (plus ice) or 55 lbs of ice only
- Dimensions: 28.25 x 18.63 x 19.5 inches
- Weight: 32lbs
Why we picked it:
Once again, the YETI Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Cooler is our favorite choice overall when it comes to rollable fishing coolers. It combines all the exceptional features of a classic YETI cooler with the added benefit of sturdy wheels. The wheels of the YETI Tundra Haul feature YETI’s NeverFlat construction, providing high impact and puncture resistance. The cooler also boasts an arm handle made from welded aluminum, allowing for easy pulling even when fully loaded. It's the perfect choice for fishermen and women unwilling to shoulder the burden of a heavy cooler on hot days.
- Excellent, large wheels
- Fantastic lid closure
- Relatively heavy at 32lbs
- Handle is rather short
Best Budget Rolling Cooler: Coleman Ice Chest | 316
Coleman Ice Chest | Coleman 316 – Wheeled Fishing CoolerKey features:
- Capacity: Up to 101 cans (without ice)
- Dimensions: 28.2 x 15 x 18 inches
- Weight: 16.8lbs
Why we picked it:
The Coleman Ice Chest | Coleman 316 is an excellent choice for those in search of a wheeled fishing cooler that offers great value for money. Priced at under $100, this product is a fantastic entry-level option that doesn't compromise on features. It features 6-inch wheels that provide solid stability when rolling the cooler, such as when maneuvering it to the dock. The lid, when closed, can support a weight of 250lbs, a feature shared with more expensive options like the YETI Tundra Haul. Despite its thinner insulation, the Coleman Ice Chest | Coleman 316 can keep ice for up to 5 days. For those needing even more capacity, there is a larger version available with 100 quarts.
- Sturdy with a weight capacity of 250lbs for sitting on
- Good handle for pulling
- Closure could be better
Best Big Rolling Fishing Cooler: Seavilis Milee-Heavy Duty Wheeled 70QT
Seavilis Milee-Heavy Duty Wheeled Fishing 70QTKey features:
- Capacity: 70 quarts
- Dimensions: 33.3 x 17.2 x 17.6 inches
- Weight: 46lbs
Why we picked it:
As our final recommendation in this review, we have chosen the Seavilis Milee-Heavy Duty Wheeled 70QT as the best big rolling fishing cooler. Its large size ensures you can bring everything you need for a long day or even a weekend on the water. The cooler comes with a basket, cup holder, and divider, allowing for the creation of multiple compartments. Its build quality is comparable to that of YETI, featuring industry-grade insulation and T-zips for secure lid closure. The 7-inch wheels ensure smooth movement, even when the cooler is fully loaded.
- Huge capacity
- Excellent ice retention
- Reliable wheels
- Heavy, particularly when lifting it in and out of a truck
Why Choose a Marine Cooler?
When selecting a cooler, it is essential to consider the conditions it will endure. The last thing you want is a cooler that warps or cracks after prolonged exposure to the sun. Lower-priced models have been observed to experience warping and bubbling of the lid. Marine coolers, on the other hand, are specifically designed to withstand the extreme conditions of boating. They are rust-resistant, slip-proof, and UV-protected. In addition, marine coolers provide enhanced insulation compared to standard coolers. Some even feature commercial-grade gasket lids to effectively seal out the hot summer heat. Certain models include rulers on the lid to assist in measuring the fish caught. Moreover, many marine coolers are odor-resistant, preventing the lingering smell of fish experienced with other coolers.
Fish Kill Bag Option
For those engaged in kayak fishing or tournament fishing, another option gaining popularity is the fish kill bag cooler. These coolers occupy less space compared to larger hard-sided coolers. However, they may not retain ice as long and have size limitations. Check out our Fish Bag Cooler Post for popular sizes and brands.
How to Find the Best Marine Cooler
One crucial consideration when purchasing a marine cooler is its ice retention capability. You'll want a cooler that can keep ice for as long as you need, whether for a day trip or a week-long excursion. Fortunately, we have conducted extensive tests and ranked nearly all available coolers based on their ice retention performance (see table above).
Additionally, if you desire a cooler that is sturdy enough to double as a seat or casting platform, it is important to look for one with nonskid features and constructed from high-end roto-molded plastic.
Key Features to Consider When Buying a Fishing Cooler
A. Drain Plug
One crucial feature to prioritize in a fishing cooler is a drain plug. A drain plug allows for easy removal of melted ice and water, ensuring cleanliness and preventing the growth of bacteria and contaminants. Look for coolers with easily accessible and user-friendly drain plugs, preferably located on the side for increased convenience.
B. Wheeled Cooler
For anglers who need to transport their coolers to fishing locations, a wheeled cooler is an excellent choice. Wheeled coolers offer enhanced portability, especially over rough terrain or uneven surfaces. Look for coolers with sturdy wheels and handles that provide reliable mobility even when fully loaded.
C. Ice Retention
The ability to maintain ice is a vital consideration when selecting a fishing cooler, especially for multi-day fishing trips. Look for coolers with excellent insulation and tight-fitting lids. A good seal around the lid is crucial for minimizing heat transfer and maximizing ice retention.
A leak-proof cooler is essential to protect fishing gear and prevent any damage to vehicles or surrounding areas. Prioritize coolers with sturdy construction and reliable gaskets around the lid to ensure watertightness and prevent leaks.
E. Reliable Fishing Products
Choose fishing coolers made by reputable brands that specialize in marine coolers. These brands have a proven track record in providing high-quality and reliable products designed specifically for fishing. Look for coolers with features tailored to meet the demands of fishing trips.
F. Insulated Fish Cooler Bags
For kayak fishing or short fishing trips, consider insulated fish cooler bags. These lightweight, soft-sided coolers are easy to transport and provide efficient insulation. Look for bags with good insulation, leak-proof designs, and easy cleaning features to protect your gear and keep temperatures low.
Different Types of Fishing Coolers
A. Marine Coolers
Marine coolers are specifically designed for use on fishing boats. These coolers prioritize durability and are made from high-quality materials like rotomolded plastic and stainless steel hardware. Marine coolers have excellent ice retention capabilities and often feature drain plugs and leak-proof lids for ease of use and maintenance.
B. Heavy Coolers
Heavy coolers are ideal for extended ice retention periods. Made from rotomolded plastic, these coolers are known for their durability and insulation capabilities. Look for heavy coolers with excellent insulation and tight-fitting lids to ensure maximum ice retention.
C. Soft-Sided Coolers
Soft-sided coolers are lightweight and perfect for easy transportation. Made from insulated fabric and leak-proof liners, these coolers are great for kayak fishing or short fishing trips. Look for soft-sided coolers with good insulation, leak-proof designs, and efficient ice retention capabilities.
In conclusion, when it comes to finding the best coolers for fishing, there are a variety of options to choose from. From the rugged Igloo BMX Ice Chest to the durable Yeti Hopper Flip 18, each cooler offers its own unique features and benefits. Factors such as insulation, size and capacity, durability, carrying options, and drainage systems should all be considered when making your decision. Additionally, it is important to choose a cooler that is specifically designed for marine environments to ensure it can withstand the demands of fishing trips. With so many great options on the market, you are sure to find the perfect fishing cooler to meet your needs and keep your catch fresh. Don't let your next fishing adventure be without the essential tool of a high-quality fishing cooler.
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