Where to Find the Finest Styrofoam Cooler: In the Cooler Area

best styrofoam cooler

Brandon F. updated in 2021 on December 8

TheCoolerZone typically focuses on coolers made of metal, plastic, and fabric, but Styrofoam is a very popular material that is frequently disregarded. The advantages and disadvantages of Styrofoam will be covered in this article. We will also list what we believe to be the top Styrofoam cooler currently available.  

In many cases, choosing Styrofoam over a more conventional hard-sided cooler or soft-sided cooler may be your best option. After reading this article, hopefully you'll know what to look for and whether or not Styrofoam is the right material for you.

We have all used Styrofoam at some point, but how many of us actually know what it is? Many will just say it's that flimsy white stuff that breaks and makes a big mess, and they would be right. ) But it goes much deeper than that.

The Dow Chemical Company owns the trademarked brand Styrofoam, which is not just a generic term for a material like steel or plastic. Expanded polystyrene foam (EPF) is the more general term for material that resembles Styrofoam. But the majority of people probably just call it "styrofoam."

Depending on the application, closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam's density and porosity can change significantly. Speaking of uses, it is applied to much more than just coolers.

Other instances of its use are in life rafts.

Building supplies

Insulation sheathing

Insulate pipes


Crafts and Arts

Construction of roads

Automobile production


Food safety

...and a lot more

Making of Styrofoam


Chemical bond in styrene

Styrene, which is made from natural gas or petroleum and produced as a result of a reaction between benzene and ethylene, serves as the primary component of EPF. The production process is very fascinating.  

First, a catalyst is used to combine the ethylene and benzene to produce styrene. Through a process known as suspension polymerization, the styrene is then combined to create polystyrene.

Mechanical agitation is used in the suspension polymerization process to mix the components in a liquid. As a result, polystyrene "beads" are produced, serving as the Styrofoam's base. Then, impurities are cleaned and filtered out of these beads.

These beads are cleaned and prepared, and then a heated polymerization initiator is added. Without getting too technical, this attracts the beads to one another, forming long chains of polystyrene beads. After that, these chains are cooled, cleaned, and dried. Finally, they are occasionally sorted by size to remove unusually big or small beads, which promotes uniformity.

Closeup of Styrofoam beads

Detailed shot of foam beads

The beads are then heated with steam or hot air after this is finished, which causes them to expand. They are given an agent to prevent them from fusing. They are cooled and aged for about a day after they have expanded to harden them.

You currently possess a number of those tiny beads that most people associate with Styrofoam. The beads are placed into a mold and a low-pressure stream is injected into them to cause them to expand and fuse into the various configurations and shapes that they are formed into.  

Once in their final form, they are once more cooled to harden them and add much-needed rigidity to the structure.

Continue with me If not, the following video provides an easy explanation:

Now that we are aware of the origins of Styrofoam, let's relate this to the advantages and disadvantages it has with regard to the subject at hand: coolers.

Styrofoam Coolers: Pros and Cons

One of the most widely used materials for cooler construction is Styrofoam. Their low cost is the main cause of this. They are very inexpensive, widely accessible, and quickly discarded. They are also incredibly light, with the majority weighing well under a pound, even in the large sizes. When compared to a typical plastic or metal cooler in these sizes, it might weigh 20 pounds or more.

They are available in a variety of sizes and shapes that are perhaps uncommon for a traditional plastic or metal cooler. This is due to the production process being so straightforward that almost any shape is practicable. Some businesses can quickly and cheaply produce Styrofoam coolers in custom sizes for you.  

This is excellent if you need a short-term cooling solution and have a unique enclosure size, like the back of a motorcycle or a crevice in a boat corner.

However, there are some drawbacks to using Styrofoam. They have very little ice life. Even a Styrofoam cooler with thick walls won't typically have ice performance that lasts more than a day. This is due to a few factors.  

First, compared to other materials of comparable thickness, Styrofoam transfers heat significantly more than most plastics or metals do. Simply put, Styrofoam is not dense enough.

Due to the lack of a gasket or a metal-to-metal barrier, the lid usually forms a very flimsy seal. This indicates that the cooler has a sizable opening at the top that, even when closed, constantly allows cold air to escape.

This implies that you will either need a traditional cooler or be ready to reload it with ice for any trip or outing lasting longer than a day.

styrofoam environment

Styrofoam's propensity to break and sustain damage is yet another drawback. Have you ever unintentionally spilled a full Styrofoam cooler on the ground? Typically, a disaster results. The walls can sustain significant damage even from relatively minor bumps and scrapes. Styrofoam might not be the best choice for you if you intend to treat your cooler roughly.

Environmental effects are the last factor. Styrofoam is made of non-renewable petroleum products and is not biodegradable. Whether or not you find that to be an issue will depend on you, but using Styrofoam products has historically been controversial.

The benefits and drawbacks of foam coolers

Pros extremely reasonable prices, light weight, a huge variety of shapes and sizes, accessibility, and quick manufacturing

Cons poor ice life, extremely fragile, harmful to the environment

Do you need a Styrofoam cooler?

Is a Styrofoam cooler the right choice for you now that we understand where Styrofoam comes from, how it is used in coolers, and the benefits and drawbacks of Styrofoam coolers? There are many more factors, but if you check off some or all of these boxes, we believe it might be worthwhile to try a Styrofoam cooler:

Do you have a limited budget and don't want to spend a lot of money on a cooler?

-Will you only use your cooler for a single outing or event?

Do you only require a day's worth of ice life at most? If not, are you ready to replace the ice as needed?

-Will your cooler be in a secure location away from potential dings and scratches?

If some of these apply to you, continue reading.

The Most Effective Foam Cooler

So which Styrofoam cooler is the best?

Styrofoam coolers are generally the same, unlike conventional plastic and metal coolers, which have more variations. Most won't have any distinctive features besides the occasional molded cup holder, and the length of the ice depends on how thick the Styrofoam is. The toughness will also be closely related to the thickness (and, to some extent, the cost).

Having said that, the Styrofoam cooler we believe to be the best is the Ice Chest of Hercules by Lifoam

hercules ice chest

Check Amazon for current prices.

This product's 2" thick, extremely dense Styrofoam construction aids in both durability and cooling performance, making it a Styrofoam cooler that might withstand repeated uses without issue. The lid is hinged as well to aid in improving the seal and extending the life of the cooler.  

Although the thick and dense foam does add some weight, it is still very light—less than 2 pounds. The 45 quarts of storage in this particular model are sufficient for the majority of day-long activities, even for a family or group of friends. Although this is a minor criticism, we do wish it had some sort of overhead carrying case.

This article should have clarified what Styrofoam is, where it comes from, and how coolers can use it. If you choose to go with a more traditional plastic or steel cooler, we encourage you to read through our many other cooler reviews. For many people, a Styrofoam cooler will be the best option.

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