The Ultimate Guide to the 2023 Versatile Cooler with Dividers: Unveiling the Best Coolers for Every Need
Looking for the ultimate summertime companion that keeps your beverages icy cold as you embark on new adventures? Say hello to the year 2023, where cooler technology has reached new heights! In this article, we delve into the world of the best coolers, unveiling the champions that will make your outdoor escapades truly unforgettable. From the best overall cooler that reigns supreme in all categories to the cooler that boasts the most striking design, we've put these versatile coolers with dividers to the test and emerged with the absolute cream of the crop. So, get ready to immerse yourself in the world of state-of-the-art cooling technology and unlock the secrets of the most sought-after coolers in 2023!
Best Coolers of 2023
When I last tested coolers for this list, I found that the Cabela's 60-quart version was the best large cooler. However, the title now goes to the Magellan Outdoors model. But in terms of overall performance, you simply cannot beat Cabela's Polar Cap option if you want to keep things cold. It had the coldest internal temperature during testing and maintained that low temperature for about 20% longer than its closest competitor.
The prices for the 60-, 80-, and 100-quart models range from $300 to $400, and you're paying for exceptional performance. While this unit doesn't have many fancy features, it does have built-in bottle openers on the rubber latches, a pressure relief valve to help open the cooler when the pressure rises inside, and rubber padded feet to elevate the cooler and prevent direct heat transfer. It's also certified bear-resistant.
The Magellan Outdoors cooler, the closest competitor to Cabela's Polar Cap Equalizer, performed very similarly. The temperature difference between the two models was less than a degree (44.6 vs. 45.5 degrees Fahrenheit). If your main concern is temperature retention, it might not be worth paying an extra hundred dollars for just 0.9 degrees difference. Save your money and use it to stock your cooler instead. One of the standout features of Magellan Outdoors coolers is the double-sided hinge latches, which allow you to open the cooler from either side. The coolers also come with wheels for easy transportation and metal bottle opener inserts on both sides.
Yeti is already a well-known brand associated with top performance, and their Tundra Haul cooler lives up to the reputation. Although it didn't reach the lowest overall temperature, it maintained its lowest temperature for a significantly longer time than its competitors. The Tundra Haul also has rugged "Neverflat" wheels, which make it suitable for more challenging terrains. It offers maximum cooling duration and easy transportation.
I know, another Magellan cooler. But the performance speaks for itself. The competitors' coolers have thin walls that don't provide good insulation. However, they are cheaper and some even come in backpack format for convenience. Personally, I believe that all soft-sided coolers are not the best choice. They don't get cold enough and don't retain their temperature for long. But I know there are some who prefer them and are perfectly happy with slightly-cooler-than-room-temperature drinks and snacks. Moving on...
The Coleman Stacker used to be the best value cooler in this category, but now the RTIC cooler takes the title. It performed impressively in terms of temperature retention, offering the lowest temperatures in the midsize cooler category. It can compete with even the largest coolers. At $220, it is currently the cheapest cooler in both the midsize and large cooler categories, except for the Igloo BMX 52qt Cooler, which was the worst performer in those categories. If you want great performance at a friendlier price, the RTIC cooler is a solid choice.
The performance data between the RTIC cooler and the Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler was nearly identical. Yeti got slightly colder, but the Magellan cooler held its temperature a bit longer. The deciding factor here is the price. The Magellan Outdoors cooler costs $120, which is less than half the price of the Yeti cooler. In addition to great performance, the Magellan cooler also offers other extras such as dual-side latches that double as hinges, bottle openers, a metal reinforced lock area, and a drain plug.
Best Overall Cooler
Unique Features And Unexpectedly Great Insulation
This versatile cooler from Academy Sports & Outdoors tops the list because of its strong performance, ease of use, and excellent value. Despite its unique features and outstanding insulation, it comes at a surprisingly low price—almost $100 below the average of the tested group. That's why I've crowned the Magellan Outdoors Pro Explore as the overall champion. For simplicity, I'll refer to this cooler as "the Academy" from now on.
One of the standout features of the Academy cooler is its lid. Unlike other coolers that use rubber pull-down latches, the Academy features buckles that are easy to operate. You can open the lid from either side or fully remove it—a feature that sets it apart from the competition. Despite its easy opening, the lid forms a strong seal, thanks to an integrated automatic pressure relief valve.
During the insulation test, the Academy cooler consistently outperformed the others. It maintained low temperatures internally and kept the test meat out of the danger zone for the entire testing period. It comes with a solid dry bin and a combination divider that doubles as a cutting board. The cooler also features stainless steel locking systems for durability, a built-in bottle opener, and a 2-way drain for convenience. Additionally, it is available in 14 colors and four other capacities.
While the Academy cooler is a standout, it does have some minor drawbacks. It's not ideal for long treks or hauling across sandy beaches. Although it's not certified bear-proof, it is still durable enough for most situations. It's also relatively heavy for its capacity. However, these are minor issues compared to the overall excellence of the cooler. For more insights and long-term testing results, you can read the full review of the Academy cooler.
Best Designed Cooler
It Checks A Lot Of Boxes
The Kong ice chest wins the Best Designed accolade for its thoughtful construction, features, and functionality. It is truly well-designed and does many things right. The cam-action latches are built into the body for secure and easy closure. The lid is specially designed to open even against a wall, making it convenient to access your items. The included divider is a versatile piece that can act as a cutting board, shelf, or tabletop when propped up with the plastic handles. The Kong cooler performed well in the insulation test, offering impressive temperature retention and keeping the test meat out of the danger zone throughout the testing period.
Priced at $329, the Kong cooler is not cheap, but it's in line with the average price of the group. It offers durability, excellent insulation, and a limited lifetime warranty. The cooler is available in eight colorways and offers cool accessories such as rubber stoppers, a gorilla mouth bottle opener, and metal kickers to create extra tabletop areas. The Kong cooler is a well-designed beast that stands out among its competitors. For more details and long-term testing thoughts, you can read the full review of the Kong cooler.
Best Insulated Cooler
Predictably Strong Performance
Yeti is a well-known brand, and their Tundra 45 Cooler lives up to their reputation. Despite being the smallest cooler in the running, it performed exceptionally well in terms of insulation. The Tundra 45 maintained the lowest internal temperatures during the insulation test and had impressive ice retention, with 2 pounds of ice remaining after 60 hours. While it may be relatively expensive compared to some competitors, it offers reliable performance and durability.
The Tundra 45 has rubber pull-down latches, which can be a bit difficult to operate. It comes with a standard metal basket for separating dry goods and may not be tall enough to accommodate certain bottle sizes. Yeti offers a range of optional accessories and solid advice on their website. The Tundra 45 is certified bear-proof and remains one of the top contenders in the cooler market. It may be more expensive, but it delivers on its promise of superior insulation.
Other Tested Coolers Worth Considering
These coolers have been tested extensively over the past few years and are currently available for purchase. Here's a list of the coolers along with some brief insights:
- Lifewit Collapsible Cooler Bag 24L (25 quarts): This soft-sided cooler, although popular on Amazon, didn't perform well in terms of keeping things cool during testing.
- Tourit Cooler Backpack (20 quarts): While stylish and equipped with a metal bottle opener, these backpack coolers didn't perform well in terms of cooling.
- OlarHike Cooler Backpack (23 quarts): Similar to the Tourit cooler, this one is less attractive but can hold a bit more.
- Amazon Commercial Rotomolded Cooler, 20qt (20 quarts): One of Amazon's roto-molded coolers that performs better than most, with a great latching design. (Temporarily out of stock.)
- Camp Zero 20L Premium Cooler (21 quarts): Offers average performance, neat color options, and cup holders on the lid. However, the lid design may make it difficult to open.
- Klein Tools Work Cooler (17 quarts): Sturdy, but not the best performing traditional cooler. It may be suitable for keeping your lunch cool.
- Orca Light Blue 40 Quart Cooler (40 quarts): A cooler with a high price tag but average performance in this category.
- Igloo BMX 52 Quart Cooler (52 quarts): A neat-looking cooler with a "BMX" style, but it performed the worst among midsize coolers.
- KENAI 65 Quart Cooler (65 quarts): A classic design with good color options but only average performance.
- Frosted Frog 75QT Cooler (75 quarts): Another model from Frosted Frog that delivers excellent performance for a reasonable price.
- Bison Gen 2 Cooler (50 quarts): This cooler can reach the coldest temperature in its category, but it struggles to maintain that temperature for long.
- Cabela's Polar Cap Equalizer Cooler (60 quarts): One of the more expensive coolers on the list, but it has earned the title of "best large cooler" in the past.
- Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler (33 quarts): A small cooler that reaches the lowest temperature, but it comes with a higher price tag.
- Rubbermaid Ice Chest Cooler (48 quarts): One of the worst performers in terms of temperature retention among midsize coolers. (Temporarily out of stock.)
- Coleman Xtreme Marine Cooler (70 quarts): This cooler offers a large capacity and solid performance at an affordable price.
- Coleman Xtreme Wheeled Cooler (50 quarts): This cooler has poor performance among midsize coolers, but it's available at a lower price. (Temporarily out of stock.)
- RTIC 65 Cooler (65 quarts): This cooler offers average performance and comes with a slightly higher price tag.
- Igloo Island Breeze Cooler (48 quarts): This cooler has a low cost of around $35, but it underperforms compared to other coolers in its category.
- Igloo Latitude Wheeled Cooler (60 quarts): Although large and spacious, this cooler has the lowest performance scores among its counterparts. (Temporarily out of stock.)
- Igloo MaxCold Cooler (50 quarts): With excellent performance in the midsize cooler division and an attractive price, this cooler stands out.
- Rovr Rollr 60 Wheeled Cooler (60 quarts): This cooler boasts good temperature retention, although not as cold as its competitors, and comes with a higher price tag. (Currently unavailable.)
- Lifetime High Performance Cooler (55 quarts): Among midsize coolers, this cooler performs well and offers a great deal at just over $100.
- Orca Classic Cooler (58 quarts): A former winner in the midsized cooler category, the Orca Classic Cooler offers great performance at a steep price.
- Pelican Elite Cooler (50 quarts): This cooler gets colder than most others, but it cannot maintain the low temperature for as long.
- Yeti Roadie 24 Cooler (20 quarts): With average performance, this cooler is capable of maintaining a chosen temperature effectively.
- Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 Insulated Backpack Cooler (22 quarts): While it is a convenient backpack, there are other coolers that perform better.
- Coleman Portable Cooler (16 quarts): With a low price of only $23, this cooler cannot keep its contents cold for extended periods. (Temporarily out of stock.)
- Pelican 20 Quart Elite Cooler (20 quarts): This cooler is not as competitive compared to others in terms of performance.
- Coleman 24-Can Party Stacker Portable Cooler (23 quarts): This cooler cools well but cannot maintain the low temperature for long. It is available at a price of $30.
- Rubbermaid 45qt Blue Wheeled Cooler (45 quarts): With average performance, this cooler is available at a low price of $33 and comes with wheels. (Temporarily out of stock.)
- Xspec 60 Quart Roto Molded High Performance Cooler (60 quarts): One of the top coolers we've tested with superior features and performance, available at a price of $270.
- Igloo Trailmate Journey 70qt All-Terrain Cooler (70 quarts): This cooler offers a range of features and excellent performance at a price slightly above average.
Before discussing performance, it's important to consider the capacity of the coolers. While some capacities, like the popular 50-quart size, are more common, there is significant variation in size and shape among coolers. Size and shape not only determine how many cans a cooler can hold but also impact its performance. For example, a 75-quart cooler, such as the Frosted Frog, has a larger task to cool its contents compared to a 45-quart RTIC.
To accurately evaluate performance, it was crucial to have precise measurements, starting with the manufacturer's capacity claims. To achieve this, I filled each cooler with water until closing the lid caused some water to overflow. I then measured the exact number of quarts each cooler could hold, which is important when dealing with melted ice. Interestingly, the smaller and cheaper models tended to underestimate their capacity, with coolers like the Coleman Xtreme and Igloo Latitude wheeled coolers surpassing their advertised sizes by several quarts.
On the other hand, the higher-priced models didn't quite live up to their capacity claims. The Rovr Rollr wheeled cooler, listed as 60 quarts, could only hold 52.8 quarts of water. The RTIC, priced at $219, held just 39.6 quarts instead of the advertised 45 quarts. In contrast, the 55-quart Lifetime High Performance Cooler exceeded expectations, measuring at 62.4 quarts. Yeti's Hopper Backflip 24, a soft-sided backpack cooler, had the most understated volume, with an internal volume of 26.42 quarts instead of the claimed 22.5 quarts. The worst offender, the Tourit Backpack Cooler, offered only 65 percent of its claimed 30-quart capacity.
In conclusion, when it comes to finding the perfect cooler to keep your drinks cold wherever you go, versatility is key. With their innovative dividers, the best coolers of 2023 have made it easier than ever to organize and separate your items, whether it's separating beverages from food or keeping delicate items safe from squishing. From the overall performance of the best coolers to the sleek design and insulation capabilities, these coolers have truly raised the bar. So, whether you're planning a camping trip, a day at the beach, or a BBQ in your backyard, investing in a versatile cooler with dividers is a game changer that will surely elevate your outdoor adventures to the next level.
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