Ultimate Guide to the Top RTIC Coolers: Unveiling the Best Cooling Power of 2023
The scorching summer heat and long-awaited outdoor adventures call for one essential item: a top-notch cooler. As we delve into the year 2023, it's time to explore the best coolers on the market that promise not only exceptional ice retention but also durability and innovative designs. In this article, we will highlight our rigorous testing of various coolers and present our findings, with a special focus on the highly acclaimed RTIC coolers. Get ready to discover the ultimate companion for your next adventure as we delve into the realm of the top RTIC coolers.
Top Coolers for 2023
Introduction: In this article, we present the best coolers available in 2023. Our evaluation is based on performance and features to ensure your items stay cold for longer durations. We compared various models, and below are our top picks.
Cabela's Polar Cap Cooler
Performance: Cabela's Polar Cap Cooler is a top performer in our tests, maintaining the lowest internal temperature for an impressive amount of time compared to its competitors. If you prioritize keeping your items cold, this cooler is unbeatable.
Price: The 60-, 80-, and 100-quart models are priced between $300 to $400. The cost is justified by the exceptional performance and useful features such as built-in bottle openers, a pressure relief valve, rubber padded feet, and bear-resistance certification.
Magellan Outdoors Cooler:
Steve Conaway/CNET The Magellan Outdoors Cooler offers performance comparable to Cabela's Polar Cap Equalizer, with only a marginal difference in the lowest recorded temperature. Paying an extra hundred dollars for a slightly lower temperature may not be worth it for most users. Instead, use that money to stock your cooler.
This model of Magellan Outdoors Cooler features double-sided hinge latches that eliminate the need to walk around to reach the other side of the cooler. It also includes wheels for easy transportation and metal bottle opener inserts.
Yeti Tundra Haul Cooler
Performance: Yeti is a renowned brand known for its impressive cooler performance, and the Tundra Haul Cooler lives up to that reputation. Although it did not achieve the lowest temperature, it held its lowest temperature for a longer duration compared to its competitors.
Features: The Tundra Haul Cooler features rugged "Neverflat" wheels, making it suitable for more demanding terrains. It offers easy transportation and maximum cooling duration.
Magellan Outdoors Cooler (Again)
Performance: Once again, the Magellan Outdoors Cooler emerges as a standout performer. Its competitors have thin walls, compromising their insulative capabilities. Despite being more expensive, they offer backpack-friendly options.
Personal Opinion: Soft-sided coolers, in general, are not recommended. They do not achieve low temperatures and fail to maintain a consistently cool internal temperature. However, personal preferences may differ, and some users might be satisfied with cooler temperatures slightly lower than room temperature.
Performance: The RTIC Cooler offers impressive cooling performance, achieving the lowest temperatures among midsize coolers and competing with larger models.
Value for Money: Priced at $220, the RTIC Cooler is affordable compared to its competitors in the midsize and large cooler categories. It provides excellent performance without breaking the bank.
Magellan Outdoors Cooler (Once Again)
Performance Comparison: It is clear from the performance data that the Magellan Outdoors Cooler competes closely with the Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler. Yeti achieves slightly lower temperatures, while Magellan outperforms in maintaining the temperature.
Price: The Magellan Outdoors unit is priced at $120, making it significantly more affordable than the Yeti cooler.
Additional Features: The Magellan Outdoors Cooler includes dual-side latches that serve as hinges, allowing easy access from both sides. It also provides bottle openers, a metal reinforced lock area, and a drain plug.
To read a detailed review of the Magellan Outdoors Dual Open 20qt Cooler, click here.
Other coolers we have tested
These are the coolers that we have tested extensively over the past few years and are currently available for purchase. Below is a list of the coolers along with a brief description:
- Lifewit Collapsible Cooler Bag 24L (25 quarts): This soft-sided cooler with a handle is quite popular on Amazon. However, it didn't perform well in keeping things cool during our testing due to its soft sides.
- Tourit Cooler Backpack (20 quarts): Another popular find on Amazon, this backpack cooler didn't excel in cooling performance. However, it has a stylish design and even comes with a connected metal bottle opener.
- OlarHike Cooler Backpack (23 quarts): Similar to the Tourit Cooler Backpack, this cooler has a slightly higher capacity and is less attractive in terms of design.
- Amazon Commercial Rotomolded Cooler, 20qt (20 quarts): Amazon offers a line of roto-molded coolers that perform better than most. They also have a well-designed cooler latching system. Please note that this particular model is currently out of stock.
- Camp Zero 20L Premium Cooler (21 quarts): This cooler offers average performance in terms of cooling. It comes with neat color options and four lid molded-in cup holders, although opening the cooler might be a bit challenging with the cups in place.
- Frosted Frog 20qt Rotomolded Ice Chest (20 quarts): Recommended by multiple CNET readers, this brand performed excellently in our testing, although it wasn't the absolute best. Please note that this model is currently out of stock.
- Klein Tools Work Cooler (17 quarts): While not great as a traditional cooler, this sturdy cooler might be able to keep your lunch cool.
- Orca Light Blue 40 Quart Cooler (40 quarts): This cooler offers median performance at a higher price point.
- Igloo BMX 52 Quart Cooler (52 quarts): Although it has a neat and "BMX-y" design, this cooler performed the worst among the midsize coolers we tested.
- KENAI 65 Quart Cooler (65 quarts): This classic design cooler offers decent performance along with great color options.
- Frosted Frog 75QT Cooler (75 quarts): Another model from Frosted Frog, this cooler offers excellent performance at a reasonable price.
- Bison Gen 2 Cooler (50 quarts): With a higher price tag, this cooler can reach colder temperatures than most in its category, but it doesn't maintain the temperature as effectively.
- Cabela's Polar Cap Equalizer Cooler (60 quarts): This cooler is on the expensive end, but it was previously awarded as the best large cooler.
- Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler (33 quarts): Though it has the lowest temperature reached among small coolers, its price might be a drawback.
- Rubbermaid Ice Chest Cooler (48 quarts): This cooler performed poorly in terms of temperature retention compared to other midsize coolers. Please note that this model is currently out of stock.
- Coleman Xtreme Marine Cooler (70 quarts): With a large capacity at an affordable price, this cooler is a solid choice.
- Coleman Xtreme Wheeled Cooler (50 quarts): This midsized cooler scored poorly in our performance tests, but it comes at an affordable price. Please note that this model is currently out of stock.
- RTIC 65 Cooler (65 quarts): This cooler offers average performance with a slightly higher price tag.
- Igloo Island Breeze Cooler (48 quarts): This low-cost cooler might be a budget-friendly option, but it scored second to last in terms of performance in its division.
- Igloo Latitude Wheeled Cooler (60 quarts): Although it has a large capacity, this cooler scored the lowest in terms of performance in its division. Please note that this model is currently out of stock.
- Igloo MaxCold Cooler (50 quarts): Among midsize coolers, this cooler scored the best in performance and comes at an attractive price.
- Rovr Rollr 60 Wheeled Cooler (60 quarts): While this cooler holds temperature well, it might not reach the same level of coldness as its competitors. It is the most expensive cooler we have tested. Please note that this model is currently unavailable.
- Lifetime High Performance Cooler (55 quarts): This cooler performed well in our tests and comes at a great deal, priced just over $100.
- Orca Classic Cooler (58 quarts): This cooler has previously been awarded as the best midsized cooler for a reason, but its higher price reflects its quality.
- Pelican Elite Cooler (50 quarts): This cooler can reach lower temperatures than most, but it might not hold that temperature for as long.
- Yeti Roadie 24 Cooler (20 quarts): This cooler offers average performance, maintaining a consistent temperature once it reaches the desired level.
- Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 Insulated Backpack Cooler (22 quarts): While this cooler is in the form of a backpack, most other coolers will offer superior performance.
- Coleman Portable Cooler (16 quarts): This affordable option at only $23 might not keep its contents cool for an extended period of time. Please note that this model is currently out of stock.
- Pelican 20 Quart Elite Cooler (20 quarts): This cooler didn't perform as well as its competitors.
- Coleman 24-Can Party Stacker Portable Cooler (23 quarts): This cooler can reach extremely low temperatures, but it doesn't maintain that temperature for long. It is available for only $30.
- Rubbermaid 45qt Blue Wheeled Cooler (45 quarts): This cooler offers average performance, it is priced at $33, and comes with wheels for easy transportation. Please note that this model is currently 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 was previously named our best overall cooler and is priced at $270. It offers top-notch features and performance.
- Igloo Trailmate Journey 70qt All-Terrain Cooler (70 quarts): This cooler is packed with features and performs excellently. It comes at a slightly higher price compared to others in its division.
Before discussing the performance of these coolers, it is important to consider their capacity. While some sizes, such as the 50-quart cooler, are more commonly used, there is no standardized size or shape for coolers. Apart from determining the number of cans each cooler can hold, the size and shape also affect the performance. A larger cooler, like the 75-quart Frosted Frog cooler, has a more challenging task than a 45-quart RTIC when it comes to maintaining a cool temperature.
To ensure accurate evaluations, I measured the capacity of each cooler. I wanted to have a reliable metric beyond just counting cans. For this purpose, I filled each cooler with water up to the point where closing the lid would cause some water overflow. This allowed me to measure the exact number of quarts each cooler could hold. This information is crucial when dealing with large amounts of melted ice. Most smaller and cheaper models provided conservative estimates, with coolers like the Coleman Xtreme and Igloo Latitude wheeled coolers having sizes larger than advertised.
On the other hand, the more expensive models were not as accurate. For example, the $400 Rovr Rollr wheeled cooler claimed to have a capacity of 60 quarts, but it could only hold 52.8 quarts of water. The $219 RTIC cooler also had a smaller capacity than expected, holding only 39.6 quarts instead of the advertised 45 quarts.
In contrast, the 55-quart Lifetime High Performance Cooler exceeded expectations with a measured capacity of 62.4 quarts, offering great value for its price. Among all the coolers we tested, the Yeti Hopper Backflip 24, a soft-sided backpack cooler, had the most understated volume. While the cooler claimed to have space for 20 12-ounce cans with a 2:1 ice-to-can ratio, totaling 22.5 quarts, its actual internal volume was 26.42 quarts, which is 117% of the stated volume, equivalent to one extra six-pack compared to other 20-quart coolers. The most notable underperformer was the Tourit Backpack Cooler, which only offered 65% of its claimed 30-quart capacity.
One of the key factors to consider when shopping for a cooler is its ice retention ability. This refers to how long a cooler can keep a full load of ice frozen, which is important for keeping drinks cold. Many new and expensive coolers emphasize their ice retention performance, particularly the roto-molded coolers that are designed to excel in this area.
However, relying solely on an ice retention test may not provide a complete picture. While it's true that some coolers can keep ice frozen for longer, solely focusing on the melting point overlooks other crucial aspects. To gain a comprehensive understanding of performance, it's important to evaluate how well a cooler performs not just after a few days but also from the beginning, before any ice has melted.
To achieve this, I conducted a modified ice retention test. Rather than using a full load of ice, I used an amount equivalent to 10% of each cooler's total volume. This challenged the coolers more, allowing a more detailed comparison of their performance relative to each other.
To monitor the ambient temperature inside each cooler, I placed the ice in each cooler and positioned it beneath an elevated jar of propylene glycol solution (a diluted antifreeze) with a temperature probe. By elevating the jar, I ensured that the temperature within the ice would be consistent across all coolers, with ice retention being the main variable. Monitoring the ambient temperature above the ice provided more informative data and allowed for consideration of additional factors.
Link to relevant images of cooler temperature performance:
1. Small cooler temperature performance data
2. Small cooler lowest average temperatures
3. Small cooler capacity comparison (and 9 more images)
Please follow the links for more information.
It's worth noting that all the testing was conducted in a climate-controlled test chamber in our appliance lab. To ensure consistency, I allowed each cooler to sit open in the room for several hours prior to testing. This ensured that all coolers started at room temperature, approximately 80°F, simulating a typical outdoor summer temperature.
The results of the test were illuminating. After 48 hours (72 hours for the largest coolers), I had a detailed graph showing the temperature inside each cooler on a minute-by-minute basis. The differences between coolers were significant. To facilitate analysis, I categorized the coolers into small coolers (less than 40 quarts), midsize coolers (40-59 quarts), and large coolers (60 quarts or more).
Mobility and Durability
Throughout the testing, I also considered the design and features of each cooler, paying attention to any durability concerns. One cooler that fell short in this regard was the Igloo Latitude wheeled cooler. Its lid lacked a locking mechanism and its plastic hinges were not reliable. The lid could easily come off with a modest force, and the plastic wheels did not inspire confidence. As a result, I would not recommend this cooler for camping.
On the other hand, the Rovr Rollr wheeled cooler performed much better. Its rugged design featured heavy-duty wheels, a sturdy steel handlebar, and an optional accessory that allowed for towing behind a bike. I appreciated the divider in the interior, which made it convenient to separate items that shouldn't come into contact with the ice. Additionally, the cooler offered customizable interior liner designs. My only minor complaint was that the T-shaped handlebar lacked rubber grips in the middle, where it is most often held while carrying the cooler one-handed.
Please refer to the image for a visual representation of the Igloo cooler.
When it comes to wheeled coolers, another notable option is the Igloo Journey Trailmate 70qt All-Terrain cooler. It comes with numerous extras and features. While it may not be as durable as the Rovr, it caters to different needs. For weekend trips into the woods with friends, the Rovr is the clear choice. However, for a day at the beach with the family, the Igloo cooler is likely the better option.
If you plan on camping in bear-populated areas, it is advisable to invest in a bear-resistant cooler. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee provides a list of certified options, which includes coolers from Cabela's, Orca, Rovr, Magellan Outdoors, and Yeti from this review.
Additionally, it's worth considering whether a cooler is sturdy enough to serve as a seat, which can be useful during camping trips. Most coolers in the test were capable of functioning as seats, but some went above and beyond. For example, the Bison Gen 2 Cooler not only felt premium to the touch, with exceptional hinges, lid, drain plug, and lid latches, but it also advertised itself as an ideal casting platform for fishing trips. The Bison cooler, however, did not retain cold air as effectively as other roto-molded models and came at a higher price compared to the Xspec 60 qt High-Performance cooler, our most affordable roto-molded pick.
Latches and Lids
Moving on to latches and lids, Magellan Outdoors stands out for its double-latching, double-hinged removable lid design. While coolers with removable lids are generally less expensive and may not perform as well as top-tier options, Magellan Outdoors offers an exception. Their easy-to-use, double-latched design allows for opening the cooler from either side, and the lid can be completely detached if desired.
In comparison, newer cooler designs from brands like Yeti, RTIC, Orca, Cabela's, or Frosted Frog typically feature rubber T-shaped handles that require stretching to secure the lid. These handles can be difficult to pull down, even for adults. During testing, I asked three other adults to secure these handles, and the success rate was mixed. Some struggled excessively. While performance is crucial, design also plays a significant role and can be a deciding factor.
I observed that a rubber bungee-style latching mechanism, as seen in products like the Xspec 60 qt cooler, Amazon's Commercial 20 qt cooler, and the Lifetime 55 qt High-Performance cooler, strikes a better balance between the rubber latches and Magellan Outdoors' design. These latches feature rubber straps for securing the lid, but each strap has a plastic handle at the end that can be leveraged against the mounting point to achieve the desired tension. Despite this, Magellan Outdoors still receives my vote for the best latching mechanism.
For those seeking a backpack-style cooler, the Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 is a notable option. Although its overall performance was not exceptional, it offers the convenience of hands-free carrying. It features multiple straps and hitching points, catering to hikers and adventurers. The lid is secured with a zipper that claims to be water- and leakproof, which was successfully tested during capacity evaluations. The Magellan Outdoors soft-sided cooler also shares a similar zipper setup.
RTIC 65 QT Hard Cooler Review
The RTIC 65 QT Hard Cooler is a robust rotomolded cooler, sharing common characteristics with other coolers of its kind. Its rugged construction boasts thick insulated sidewalls, ensuring durability and temperature retention. However, this sturdiness comes at the cost of increased weight.
The RTIC 65 QT Hard Cooler excels in ice retention due to its thick insulation, measuring up to 3 inches. The lid features a freezer-style gasket that creates a secure seal, preventing leaks and maximizing cooling performance.
The cooler is designed with two carry options. The sides of the cooler feature molded handle slots, while additional heavy-duty, foam-padded rope handles offer versatility in transportation.
To secure the cooler, two molded-in tie-down slots are available on each side. These slots are compatible with 1-inch wide nylon straps, such as the renowned NRS straps.
The lid is secured with rubber T-latches, providing reliable closure. While the tension of these latches is lighter compared to some competitors, such as YETI and Cabela's Polar Cap Equalizer, it offers a more user-friendly experience, particularly for families.
Comparing the RTIC 65 QT Hard Cooler to a typical 45-quart cooler, its larger size provides a significant capacity increase. With the ability to accommodate four frozen gallon jugs and ample space for food and drinks, it is ideal for weekend camping trips.
Consider exploring the RTIC Ultra-Light Cooler, a 52-quart midsize cooler that weighs just 21 pounds. While it may not offer the same ruggedness as a rotomolded cooler, its excellent insulation-to-weight ratio makes it a compelling option. For more details, refer to the complete RTIC Ultra-Light Cooler review.
RTIC Competition & Alternative Options
YETI Tundra 65 Hard Cooler — The YETI hard coolers have the advantage of offering a wide range of rich color choices and carrying the power of the YETI brand, for those who value branded products. In terms of real-world performance, the differences between YETI and RTIC hard coolers are minimal. However, it is worth noting that YETI hard coolers have a slightly superior build quality and ruggedness in certain components. Nevertheless, this difference is comparable to distinguishing between a 450-pound gorilla and a 430-pound gorilla, as they both exhibit exceptional strength. The primary drawback of choosing a YETI hard cooler over an RTIC hard cooler is its higher cost.
Cabela’s Polar Cap Equalizer 60-Quart Cooler — We highly recommend the Cabela’s Polar Cap hard cooler series due to their outstanding ice retention capabilities and rugged construction. However, it is important to note that the Cabela's Polar Cap Equalizer Cooler has a bulkier design. This is attributed to the inclusion of two large molded carry handles that extend out from the sides, requiring more storage space for the Polar Cap Equalizer coolers.
RTIC 52 QT Ultra-Light Cooler — One of the most intriguing competitors to the RTIC 65 QT Hard Cooler is the RTIC 52 QT Ultra-Light Cooler. While it may offer a slightly reduced capacity, it provides a versatile mid-size option that is lightweight and nearly as rugged and efficient in keeping ice. The most notable advantage of the RTIC Ultra-Light Cooler is its significant weight savings.
In conclusion, when it comes to top coolers in 2023, RTIC certainly stands out among the rest. With their impressive ice retention, durable design, and a range of sizes to choose from like the RTIC 65 QT Hard Cooler, RTIC proves why they are a trusted brand in the market. However, it's essential to acknowledge that there are other coolers worth considering as well. Whether you're looking for affordability, portability, or unique features, exploring the competition and alternative options available can help you find the perfect cooling companion for your next adventure. So, don't limit yourself to just one brand and keep exploring the fascinating world of coolers to find the one that best suits your needs and preferences.
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