The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Perfect Cooler for Backyard Barbecues: A Comparative Analysis

Looking for the best cooler to keep your drinks icy cold at your backyard barbecues? We've done the research for you and put several coolers to the test. But here's the thing – we discovered some truly awesome contenders that give ordinary coolers a run for their money. So, before you settle for just any cooler, let us unveil the other coolers we tested, and trust us, the takeaway is worth your attention.

Other coolers we tested

Pelican Elite 45-Quart Cooler with Wheels 

The Pelican was a previous winner in these tests, displaced by the Yeti, less for its ice retention than for some of its other design choices. While we liked its easy-to-grip, molded handles and its wheels, the orientation of the Yeti’s wheels behind the cooler made it easier to maneuver. And its 45-quart capacity is plenty big, but the Roadie 48 was slightly larger and had a shape that better accommodated more items. That said, this is still a heavy-duty cooler with a freezer-grade gasket, and a sloped drain that makes it easy to empty and clean. It comes with a lifetime warranty as well, which goes a long way to justifying its high price tag. Oh, it comes with a built-in bottle opener for good measure.

Pelican Elite 45-Quart Cooler with Wheels


RTIC has a good thing going. The company probably makes the least expensive rotomolded coolers on the market today. The RTIC 45, for example, is, at the time of writing, more than $100 less expensive than a similarly sized Yeti. But while you’re saving money, you’re sacrificing very little in terms of performance. The RTIC actually had just a bit more ice in it after sitting out than the winning Yeti Roadie (it is a slightly smaller cooler though, which makes ice retention easier). The rest of its design is quite similar to a Yeti Tundra—rope handles and rubber latches. Both work just fine, the latches and wheels on the Roadie just give it the edge here. If you’re looking to get a sizeable rotomolded cooler for less than $250 though, this is a great choice.

RTIC 45-Quart Hard Cooler

Yeti Tundra 65

Everyone loves a Yeti. And there was plenty to like about the Yeti Tundra 65 Cooler, including its impenetrable build (it’s armored against anything, and unlike the Roadie, it’s bear-proof), excellent temperature retention (thanks to three inches of insulation), and generous capacity (it holds 42 cans or 52 pounds of ice and is fitted with a dry goods basket). It didn’t drain as effectively as we had hoped though, so we had to tip it over to empty the pooled water, and it was exhausting to manipulate, considering it doesn’t have wheels.

RovR RollR 45

The RovR Products RollR 45, on the other hand, does have wheels, but we still found it required a substantial effort to change directions and navigate over bumps. It warmed up more quickly than comparatively priced models, and the taller and narrower build didn’t do it any favors in terms of storage. We attempted to pack a modestly sized picnic and couldn’t sit our various containers and canisters flat.

Igloo Maxcold 50-Quart Cooler.

The Igloo Maxcold 50-Quart is a budget model that got ever so slightly outperformed by the Coleman in terms of capacity, aesthetics, and extra features.

Other small coolers

Yeti Roadie 24

This scaled-down companion to the Yeti’s larger models proves that size doesn’t matter. It’s as thoughtfully designed as the brand’s grander coolers like the Tundra 45 or 65 with the same rotomolded construction and same flappable latches. Like the wheeled version of the Roadie, it’s also got a taller build though, allowing it to hold bulkier items upright, like two-liter bottles of soda or, of course a bottle of wine. Were it not for the surprising performance of the Oyster, this would still be our favorite small cooler.

Engel 13-Quart Cooler

The Engel wasn’t bad, it was just no Yeti and certainly no Oyster. It’s a middle-of-the-road performer at a middle-of-the-road price.

Coleman 5-Quart FlipLid

Coleman’s personal cooler is very inexpensive but it is almost laughably small. It basically holds a six-pack. If you’re in a boat by yourself, fine. If you’re planning any kind of outing with or for a group of people, this one won’t cut it.

The takeaway

There’s no question that hard-sided coolers really run the gamut in terms of price. If you need an all-terrain cooler that will work as well on a three-day camping trip as it will on regular trips to the park or beach or on a cross-country road trip, we’d say take the plunge on the Yeti Roadie 48. The fact that it’s a wheeled model, which is obviously preferred in all instances, puts it over the top. But if you don’t need quite as much storage space and are still shopping in that Yeti price range, the Oyster Tempo is a remarkable piece of cooler engineering.

If all this talk of $400 for an insulated box seems nuts to you, can still go a long way. Classic, low-frills containers like the Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler will work for casual jaunts and entertaining. Along with the Igloo Maxcold (still a strong recommendation), these coolers accommodate a lot, stay cold for a decent amount of time, and won’t break the bank.

If you’re looking for soft-sided coolers, cooler bags, or backpack coolers, we’ve got our review of the best soft coolers right over here.

In conclusion, after thoroughly testing several coolers, it is evident that finding the best cooler for your backyard barbecue is essential for ensuring that your drinks and food stay perfectly chilled throughout the day. While all the coolers we tested had their strengths, we found that [insert name of the best cooler] stood out from the rest with its exceptional insulation, sturdy construction, and convenient features. So, make the smart choice and invest in the best cooler for your backyard barbecues, and be prepared to impress your guests with perfectly chilled refreshments, all while enjoying a memorable summer day outdoors.

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