The Ultimate Guide to the Best Cooler for Outdoor Festivals: Unveiling the Top Picks of 2023

Are you tired of lugging around a clunky, outdated cooler that just can't keep up with your outdoor adventures? Look no further! We've put the latest and greatest coolers to the test, and have rounded up the very best options of 2023. Whether you're heading to a music festival, planning a weekend camping trip, or simply enjoying a sunny picnic in the park, we've got the perfect cooler to keep your drinks ice cold and your snacks fresh. Say goodbye to lukewarm beverages and melted ice - it's time to discover the best cooler for outdoor festivals and beyond. Get ready to upgrade your cooling game and embark on unforgettable adventures with the coolest coolers on the market.

Other coolers we have tested

These are the coolers that we have tested in the past few years and are currently available commercially. Here is a list with brief descriptions:

  • Lifewit Collapsible Cooler Bag 24L (25 quarts): This soft-sided cooler is popular on Amazon, but it didn't perform well in terms of keeping things cool during our testing.
  • Tourit Cooler Backpack (20 quarts): Another popular Amazon find. In our testing, these backpacks weren't great for cooling, but at least this one is stylish and has a connected metal bottle opener. 
  • OlarHike Cooler Backpack (23 quarts): Similar to the Tourit, this cooler is not as attractive but can hold a bit more.
  • Amazon Commercial Rotomolded Cooler, 20qt (20 quarts): Amazon's roto-molded coolers perform better than most and have one of the best latching designs. (Update: Temporarily out of stock.)
  • Camp Zero 20L Premium Cooler (21 quarts): This cooler has average performance and offers neat color options and molded-in cup holders on the lid.
  • Frosted Frog 20qt Rotomolded Ice Chest (20 quarts): This brand was requested by multiple CNET readers and has excellent performance, just not the best. (Update: Temporarily out of stock.)
  • Klein Tools Work Cooler (17 quarts): This cooler is sturdy but doesn't perform well as a traditional cooler. It may be good for keeping your lunch cool. 
  • Igloo Playmate Cooler 4qt (4 quarts): This cooler has a small capacity and average performance, but it is also inexpensive.
  • Orca Light Blue 40 Quart Cooler (40 quarts): This cooler has a higher price tag but performs medianly in this category.
  • Igloo BMX 52 Quart Cooler (52 quarts): This cooler has a unique design but performed the worst among the midsize coolers we tested, and it is the lowest-priced. 
  • KENAI 65 Quart Cooler (65 quarts): This cooler has a classic design, offers great color options, and has average performance.
  • Frosted Frog 75QT Cooler (75 quarts): Similar to the other Frosted Frog model, this cooler offers reasonable pricing for excellent performance.
  • Bison Gen 2 Cooler (50 quarts): This cooler has the coldest temperature in its category, but it doesn't maintain that temperature well. 
  • Cabela's Polar Cap Equalizer Cooler (60 quarts): This cooler is one of the most expensive on the list but has been a former "best large cooler" title holder.
  • Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler (33 quarts): This small cooler reaches the lowest temperature, but its price tag keeps it from being the top pick.
  • Rubbermaid Ice Chest Cooler (48 quarts): This midsize cooler performs poorly in temperature tests. (Update: Temporarily out of stock.)
  • Coleman Xtreme Marine Cooler (70 quarts): This cooler has a large capacity and is a solid choice for less than .
  • Coleman Xtreme Wheeled Cooler (50 quarts): This midsize cooler performs poorly but is only less than $50. (Update: Temporarily out stock.)
  • Rovr Rollr 60 Wheeled Cooler (60 quarts): This cooler holds temperature well but might not be as cold as its competitors. It has the highest price tag. (Update: Currently unavailable.)
  • Lifetime High Performance Cooler (55 quarts): This midsize cooler performs well and is a deal at just over $100.
  • Orca Classic Cooler (58 quarts): This cooler was formerly awarded as the best midsize cooler, but it has a steep price tag.
  • Pelican Elite Cooler (50 quarts): This cooler gets colder than most, but it doesn't hold the temperature as long as others. 
  • Yeti Roadie 24 Cooler (20 quarts): This cooler performs averagely and holds its temperature well. 
  • Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 Insulated Backpack Cooler (22 quarts): This backpack cooler does not perform as well as other coolers. 
  • Coleman Portable Cooler (16 quarts): This cooler is inexpensive but does not hold its temperature for long. (Update: Temporarily out of stock.)
  • Pelican 20 Quart Elite Cooler (20 quarts): This cooler does not compete well with others in terms of performance. 
  • Coleman 24-Can Party Stacker Portable Cooler (23 quarts): This cooler gets very cold but does not maintain it for long. And it is only $30.
  • Rubbermaid 45qt Blue Wheeled Cooler (45 quarts): This cooler performs average, but it is only $33 and has wheels! (Update: Temporarily out of stock.)
  • Xspec 60 Quart Roto Molded High Performance Cooler (60 quarts): This cooler is one of the best we have ever tested. It is our former best overall cooler and is priced at $270. It has top-notch features and performance.
  • Igloo Trailmate Journey 70qt All-Terrain Cooler (70 quarts): This cooler has great features and excellent performance. It has an above-median price tag.

Capacity considerations

Before discussing performance, it is important to consider the capacity of the coolers. While certain sizes, like the 50-quart cooler, are more popular, there is no uniformity in terms of size and shape among coolers. Size and shape not only determine how many cans a cooler can hold but also impact its performance. For instance, a 75-quart cooler like the Frosted Frog has a bigger task than a 45-quart RTIC when it comes to maintaining the same quantity of ice.

To evaluate performance accurately, I ensured precise measurements by filling each cooler with water to the point of overflow when the lid is closed. I measured the exact number of quarts each cooler could hold, which is important information when dealing with melted ice. The smaller and cheaper models usually underestimated their capacity, with coolers like the Coleman Xtreme and Igloo Latitude wheeled coolers exceeding their advertised size.

On the other hand, the more expensive models did not match their claimed capacity. For example, the Rovr Rollr wheeled cooler claimed to have 60 quarts, but it could only hold 52.8 quarts of water. Similarly, the RTIC held less water than expected, only 39.6 quarts instead of the advertised 45 quarts.

In contrast, the Lifetime High Performance Cooler exceeded its specified capacity, holding 62.4 quarts of water. Though it didn't maintain its ice as long as the RTIC, it still performed excellently. The Yeti Hopper Backflip 24, a soft-sided backpack cooler, had the smallest volume among the coolers we tested. It claimed space for 20 12-ounce cans but actually held 26.42 quarts, about one extra six-pack compared to other 20-quart coolers. The Tourit Backpack Cooler had the worst performance, offering only 65 percent of its claimed 30-quart capacity.

Top Coolers of 2023

Steve Conaway/CNET In a previous assessment of coolers, I had designated Cabela's 60-quart version as the best large cooler. However, that title is now held by a Magellan Outdoors model. Nevertheless, when it comes to keeping things cold, Cabela's Polar Cap option truly outshines the competition. During testing, it maintained the lowest internal temperature for a significantly longer duration compared to its closest competitor.

The price range for the 60-, 80-, and 100-quart models is between $300 and $400, and you are paying for exceptional performance. This particular unit does not boast many extravagant features, but it does come with built-in bottle openers within the rubber latches, a pressure relief valve to assist in opening the cooler when internal pressure rises, and rubber padded feet to elevate the cooler and reduce direct heat transfer. Additionally, it is certified bear-resistant.

Steve Conaway/CNET The performance of Magellan's largest offering closely rivals that of Cabela's Polar Cap Equalizer. The difference in the lowest recorded temperature between the two is less than one degree Fahrenheit (44.6 vs. 45.5). If the primary purpose is to keep things cold, the question becomes whether paying an extra hundred dollars for that 0.9-degree difference is worth it.

In my opinion, it is better to keep the cash and use it to stock your cooler, especially considering that these hard-sided Magellan Outdoors coolers offer one of the best cooler features I have encountered: double-sided hinge latches. The hinges themselves serve as latches and are featured on both sides of the cooler, eliminating the need to reach over the lid or ask someone to grab your drink. This model also includes wheels for easy transportation and metal bottle opener inserts on either side of the cooler.

Steve Conaway/CNET Yeti is a name already associated with superior performance and relatively higher prices, and this reputation holds true for its coolers. Yeti coolers consistently rank at the top. The Tundra Haul is no exception. While it may not have reached the lowest overall temperature among its competitors, it did maintain its lowest temperature for a significantly longer period. The Haul model features rugged "Neverflat" wheels, suggesting that it can handle more challenging terrains compared to inferior coolers. It also provides easier transportability and ensures maximum cooling duration.

Steve Conaway/CNET Yes, I understand. Another Magellan cooler. Allow me to clarify. I conduct tests and analyze the data. The results speak for themselves, as demonstrated in this case. Just take a look at the graphs. The performance distinction was substantial, and I could not have named another victor even if I wanted to.

Even before conducting the tests, it was clear that this cooler would outperform the competition. The other models have very thin walls, which significantly impacts their insulating capabilities. However, the other models are less expensive, and a few are available in backpack formats, if that is your preference.

However, from my point of view, all soft-sided coolers are not ideal choices. They do not get cold enough, and they do not maintain their median temperature for long. I understand that some individuals may disagree and are content with keeping their charcuterie samples and bottles of red wine at a slightly cooler than room temperature for the hour-long hike to a serene spot with a city view (or any other location of their choice). With that said, let's move on...

Steve Conaway/CNET The previous title holder in this category was the Coleman Stacker, which happens to be one of the most affordable coolers we have tested thus far. However, the best value does not necessarily equate to the lowest price. This RTIC unit demonstrated impressively low temperatures and outperformed other midsize coolers. Its cooling capability rivals that of the largest coolers we tested.

Currently priced at $220, this cooler is the most affordable option in both the midsize and large cooler categories, with the exception of the Igloo BMX 52qt Cooler, which unfortunately performed poorly. Therefore, if you are seeking exceptional performance with a friendlier price tag than its competitors, the RTIC cooler is a reliable choice.

Steve Conaway/CNET The performance data between this new entrant in the ice chest market and the previous titleholder, the Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler, was nearly identical. The Yeti model achieved a slightly lower temperature, while the Magellan cooler maintained its temperature for a slightly longer duration. The deciding factor here is the price. The Magellan Outdoors unit costs $120, which is less than half the price of the Yeti.

In addition to its performance, this Magellan cooler offers numerous other features, including a dual-side latch system that serves as hinges, allowing the cooler to be opened from either side. Truly ingenious. Magellan also includes a couple of bottle openers, a metal reinforced lock area, and a drain plug.

Read our Magellan Outdoors Dual Open 20qt Cooler review.

In conclusion, from the sweltering hot desert at Burning Man to the sun-soaked fields of Glastonbury, having the best cooler for outdoor festivals is an absolute game-changer. After extensively testing numerous options, we can confidently say that the coolers mentioned above are a cut above the rest. Not only are they capable of keeping your beverages ice-cold for days, but they also boast incredible durability, impressive portability, and innovative features. So, whether you're a seasoned festival-goer or a newbie looking to make the most out of your outdoor adventures, investing in one of these top-rated coolers is a decision you won't regret. Stay cool, stay refreshed, and enjoy every moment of your festival experience!

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