Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best Fishing Cooler for Your Expeditions
Planning a fishing expedition? Don't let your catch go to waste! Whether you're a passionate angler or a casual weekend fisherman, having the best cooler for fishing expeditions is essential. With the wide variety of coolers available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. But fear not! In this article, we'll explore the different types of fishing coolers, from insulation to durability, size to carrying options, and even the best options on the market in 2023. So grab your bait, because we're about to dive into the coolest world of fishing coolers you've ever encountered!
Different Types of Fishing Coolers
A. Marine Coolers
Marine coolers are specifically designed for use on fishing boats. They are built to endure the tough conditions of fishing and are made from high-quality materials like rotomolded plastic and stainless steel hardware.
Marine coolers are known for their excellent ice retention and often come with features like drain plugs and leak-proof lids for easy use and maintenance.
B. Heavy Coolers
Heavy coolers are a great choice for those who need long-lasting ice retention. These coolers are typically made from rotomolded plastic and are known for their durability and ice retention capabilities.
When choosing a heavy cooler, look for good insulation and a tight-fitting lid to keep your catch cold for as long as possible.
C. Soft-Sided Coolers
Soft-sided coolers are ideal for easy transportation. They are much lighter than traditional coolers and are made from high-quality materials like insulated fabric and leak-proof liners.
When choosing a soft-sided cooler, look for good insulation and a leak-proof design. Also, consider the cooler's ice retention capabilities to maintain the freshness of your catch.
Insulation quality is a crucial factor to consider when choosing a fishing cooler. Look for coolers with thick insulation, preferably made with high-density foam or pressure-injected insulation, as they provide better temperature retention.
Size And Capacity
The right size and capacity of the cooler depend on your specific needs. Consider the amount of food, beverages, or catch you typically carry, as well as the available space on your boat or vehicle. It's important to find a balance between capacity and portability, as every pound added to the cooler increases the weight you have to carry.
A fishing cooler should be sturdy and durable enough to withstand outdoor use. Look for coolers made from high-quality materials like rotomolded plastic, which offers excellent impact resistance, insulation, and durability. Furthermore, consider options that can double as a seat, table, or casting platform for added convenience.
Consider the cooler's handle design and carrying options for convenience. Look for coolers with sturdy, ergonomic handles and additional features like side handles, shoulder straps, or wheels.
A reliable drainage system is essential for easy cleaning and the removal of melted ice or water. Look for coolers with integrated drain plugs or spigots that allow for quick and effortless drainage without the need to tilt the cooler.
Igloo BMX Ice Chest
Dimensions: 19.6 x 13.3 x 15.7 inches | Capacity: 25 quarts | Weight: 10.3 pounds
If you're on a budget, the heavy-duty Igloo BMX Ice Chest is a great option that doesn't compromise on ice retention. With 20% thicker insulation and an insulated lid, this cooler can hold ice for up to four days. It features a reinforced base to keep the ice and contents away from heat, and its UV-resistant materials make it durable under exposure. The cooler is secured with rubberized T-grip latches and boasts rust-resistant stainless-steel hinges and hardware. Available for less than $100, it's the best affordable cooler you can find.
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 great option if you prioritize portability. Despite its larger size compared to the Yeti Tundra 45, it's nearly 4 pounds lighter. It can hold up to 70 cans or 60 pounds of ice. The cooler's premium insulation keeps goods cold for extended periods. It features comfortable hauling handles, grippy rubber feet, and tie-down slots, making it a great value option for under $200.
Best Fishing Cooler with Wheels
In this section, we present a few options for those looking for a fishing cooler with wheels. Rollable coolers have the advantage of being easier to transport, especially when fully loaded.
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: 32 lbs
The YETI Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Cooler is our top choice for rolling coolers. It combines the great features of a classic YETI cooler with sturdy wheels. The NeverFlat wheels are highly impact and puncture resistant, and the welded aluminum arm handle allows for easy pulling even when the cooler is fully loaded. It's a perfect option for anglers who don't want to carry a heavy cooler on a hot day.
- Excellent, big wheels
- Fantastic lid closure
- Heavy (32 lbs)
- Relatively short handle
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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: 28.20 x 15 x 18 inches
- Weight: 16.8 lbs
The Coleman Ice Chest | Coleman 316 is an affordable option for a wheeled fishing cooler. It offers premium features at a reasonable price. With 6-inch wheels for stability and a lid that can support up to 250 lbs, it compares favorably to more expensive options. Despite thinner insulation, this cooler can keep ice for up to 5 days. For greater capacity, there's a larger version featuring 100 Quarts.
- Sturdy with a weight capacity of 250 lbs
- Good handle for pulling
- Closure could be better
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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: 46 lbs
For those needing a large rolling fishing cooler, the Seavilis Milee-Heavy Duty Wheeled 70QT is an excellent choice. Its generous size allows for storage during long fishing trips. It comes with a basket cupholder and divider to create multiple compartments. The cooler features industry-grade insulation, T-zips for secure closure, and 7-inch wheels for smooth rolling even when fully loaded.
- Huge capacity
- Excellent ice retention
- Well-functioning wheels
- Heavy (particularly when lifting it in and out of a truck)
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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 with its click latch, providing a large wide-mouth opening for ice, food, and drinks. Although OtterBox is well-known for phone cases, their coolers like the Trooper shouldn't be overlooked. With a capacity of 20 quarts, its insulation retains ice and keeps items cold for up to 10 days. The cooler features extendable flex-grip handles for easy carrying and a cargo net attachment for additional storage. It's a reliable choice for a weekend fishing trip.
Dimensions: 29.8 x 18.8 x 16.4 inches | Capacity: 57 quarts | Weight: 33 pounds
Dometic's Patrol 55 cooler offers anglers a solid option with its 43-can capacity. It's ideal for multi-day fishing trips, providing ample space for drinks, food, and ice, with room for fish. The cooler includes a dry tray for items that need to be kept separate from the ice. Its easy-to-carry rope handles make hauling a breeze. Designed with a large drain spout and rubber clasps, this cooler can withstand rigorous use. It proved its ability to hold ice for several days even in hot desert conditions.
Dimensions: 16.5 x 12.3 x 10 inches | Capacity: 25 quarts | Weight: 25 pounds
For those looking to support American-made products, the Orca 26-quart cooler is an excellent choice. Featuring a durable roto-molded exterior, it offers industry-grade insulation for extended ice retention. The extendable flex-grip handles make it easy to carry. Additionally, it comes with a cargo net attachment for storing fly boxes or bait. With its reliable seal, the cooler can withstand changes in elevation. Simply release the pressure through the drain for easy opening.
How We Chose The Best Fishing Coolers
To determine the best fishing coolers, we conducted thorough research and testing. Our team regularly uses coolers on fishing trips across the country, ensuring we were well-prepared for this evaluation. We tested the coolers in the desert conditions of Utah, assessing their ice retention capabilities. For coolers we couldn't directly test, we relied on research, expert advice, and independent reviews to gather useful insights. We considered various cooler options and analyzed product specifications, dimensions, insulation technology, and unique features that set them apart. We also consulted cooler product designers and engineers to understand their criteria for a good fishing cooler.
What To Consider When Investing In A Fishing Cooler
When searching for a fishing cooler, consider the following factors that will impact your decision:
- Insulation quality: Look for coolers with thick insulation, such as high-density foam or pressure-injected insulation, as they provide better temperature retention.
- Size and capacity: Think about the amount of food, beverages, or catch you typically carry, as well as the available space on your boat or vehicle. Strike a balance between capacity and portability.
- Durability: Choose a cooler made from high-quality materials like rotomolded plastic for excellent impact resistance, insulation, and durability.
- Carrying options: Consider the handle design and additional features like side handles, shoulder straps, or wheels for convenient transportation.
- Drainage system: Look for coolers with integrated drain plugs or spigots for easy cleaning and removal of melted ice or water.
- Price: Take your budget into account and find a fishing cooler that offers the features you need within your price range.
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 suitable for both shore and boat fishing. With its 18-quart capacity, it can hold up to 30 cans or 28 pounds of ice. The ColdCell Insulation ensures the preservation of food and drinks, while the hydro-lock zipper keeps the cold in and the heat out. Despite being a soft cooler, the DryHide shell and HitchPoint Grid make it durable and resistant to rocks, sand, and dirt. It's equipped with a shoulder strap for easy transportation after a long day on the water.
Best Fishing Coolers on the Market in 2023
In this first part of the buyer's guide, we present our favorite fishing coolers of the season. We will provide an overview of each product and explain why we recommend them. Rest assured that all the products we recommend are ones we personally use and trust.
YETI Tundra 45
YETI Tundra 45Key features:
- Capacity: 28 cans (plus ice) / 34lbs of ice (only)
- Dimensions: 25 3/4 x 16 1/8 x 15 3/8 inches
- Weight: 23lbs
- Available in multiple colors
Why we picked it:
YETI, an American manufacturer, is known for producing extremely durable outdoor equipment. While they are famous for their waterproof bags and backpacks, their coolers—like the YETI Tundra 45—are their flagship products.
The YETI Tundra 45 excels in several key features of a fishing cooler, including ice retention, durability, sturdiness, and design. It can hold up to 28 cans (with ice) and also features a dry goods basket. With its 3-inch insulation, extra-thick walls, and tightly-fitting lid, this cooler keeps the contents cool even on hot days. Its sturdiness is unmatched, allowing it to withstand rough handling and even serve as a casting platform on a boat.
- Fantastic ice retention
- Very sturdy—can be sat or stood on
- Available in a variety of colors
- Heavy, especially when fully loaded
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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 with similar features to the YETI Tundra 45. RTIC has gained a loyal following among outdoor enthusiasts due to the high quality of their products. The RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler features T-latches for a secure fit and provides freezer-grade insulation. It 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 RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler can keep ice cold for up to 10 days. While our experience suggests that may be difficult to achieve with regular opening of the cooler, a few days of ice retention is still impressive. The cooler is manageable for one person to carry, although it is slightly heavier at 29lbs compared to the YETI Tundra 45.
- Very good ice retention
- Secure closure with T-latches
- Even heavier than the YETI Tundra 45
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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 excellent hard cooler made in the USA. It has similar dimensions to the YETI Tundra 45 and is available in a wide range of colors and sizes. This cooler features a durable, roto-molded construction that provides exceptional durability. Like the YETI and RTIC coolers, it has a secure lid system that ensures everything inside stays cold and fresh even in hot conditions.
One neat feature of the Orca 26 Quart is the small cargo net on the back of the cooler, which allows for the storage of small items. It also includes a drainage spout for easy removal of excess water. The Orca 26 Quart can hold 24 cans or 18 bottles and weighs 25lbs.
- American made
- Excellent grip options
- Roto-molded construction for extra durability
- Ice retention not as good as the YETI in our tests
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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 option for those looking for a more affordable cooler. While it may not match the sturdiness of the YETI Tundra 45 or the RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler, it does offer some high-quality features such as T-latches for a secure fit. The Igloo 52 Qt BMX Cooler can keep the contents cool for up to 5 days. It also features large, anti-slip handles for comfortable carrying, even when fully loaded. The lid includes a fish ruler—an added bonus for anglers. This cooler can hold up to 83 12-oz cans and weighs only 16.4lbs.
The outside dimensions of the Igloo 52 Qt BMX Cooler are comparable to the RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler and the YETI Tundra 45, but it has more internal space. However, the walls and insulation of the RTIC and YETI coolers are stronger.
- Offers solid cooling capacity
- Ice retention not as good as the Orca or YETI (as expected at this price)
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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 is a high-quality option for those looking for a cooler under $100. The main difference compared to the previous three coolers is the closure technology. The Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler does not have T-latches to secure the top lid, which affects its cooling capacity compared to its competitors. However, it can still keep the contents cool for a couple of days.
On the positive side, its lower level of insulation allows for a larger internal capacity. The Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler can hold up to 100 cans without ice. It also includes integrated cup holders on the lid. While it may not be as durable as the RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler or the YETI Tundra 45, it is lightweight at only 12.3lbs and easily carried by one person.
- Well-designed features like cup holders
- Suitable for day trips
- Closure system is not as secure (no lid closure)
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Our Top Picks for Fishing Coolers
Pelican Elite coolers are our top recommendation for fishing trips due to their exceptional durability and performance. These coolers have a strong foundation in protecting equipment for defense, emergency, and scientific expeditions in even the harshest conditions. You can trust that your fish will remain fresh and well-preserved. The Pelican Elite Cooler is engineered to meet the highest standards of durability, performance, and ergonomic design. Every component, from the latches to the freezer-grade seal, is constructed to last a lifetime and comes with a Lifetime Guarantee. The Pelican Elite Cooler also boasts outstanding ice retention, press & pull latches, integrated cup holders, a built-in bottle opener, non-skid & non-marking raised feet, a fishing ruler on the lid, and a molded-in lock hasp with a stainless steel plate. Whether you're kayak fishing, embarking on a multi-day fishing trip, or tailgating during a big game, the Pelican Elite Cooler is the perfect solution for all your fishing needs. For more information on why we love Pelican Elite Coolers, please read The Best Cooler for Fishing: Pelican Coolers.
A. Pelican™ 50QT Elite Cooler
The Pelican™ 50QT Elite Cooler has a volume of 52.87QT and can accommodate enough food for a 2-day camping trip, as well as 24 or 34 cans. This size is perfect for kayak fishing trips, multi-day fishing excursions, and more. The Pelican™ 50QT Elite Cooler is constructed with premium materials meant to last a lifetime and is backed by a Lifetime Guarantee.
B. Pelican™ 70QT Elite Cooler
The Pelican™ 70QT Elite Cooler is a heavy-duty cooler specifically designed for extreme conditions and prolonged ice retention. With an internal volume of 72.42QT, this cooler offers ample space for all your fishing essentials. After adding ice, it can hold enough food for a 4-day camping trip, along with 24 or 46 cans. This makes it an ideal choice for multi-day fishing trips, marine adventures, and more.
In conclusion, when it comes to choosing the best cooler for your fishing expeditions, it's crucial to consider factors such as insulation, size, durability, carrying options, and drainage system. With a plethora of options available in the market, selecting the perfect fishing cooler can be an overwhelming task. However, our top picks for fishing coolers in 2023, including the Igloo BMX Ice Chest, RTIC Ultra-Light Cooler, Best Fishing Cooler with Wheels, OtterBox Trooper 20, and Yeti Hopper Flip 18, offer a range of features and functionality to suit your specific needs. So, gear up and get ready to keep your catch fresh and your drinks cold, ensuring a successful fishing trip every time!
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