9 Best Coolers for Camping in 2019

Do you want a cooler that actually stays cold?

Of course, you do! So, today, I’m going to walk you through the most important features that all the best camping coolers must have.

But that’s not all. I also review the 9 best coolers for camping that I’ve tested myself. I’ll show you what I like and dislike about each model as well as their key features. I end with a list of my top tips on how to get the most from your cooler, including how to make ice last longer.

Here’s how to choose the best cooler for camping in 2019.

Index

  1. Types
  2. Buying Advice
  3. How to Choose
  4. Best Camping Coolers
  5. Additional Tips

* And don’t forget to check out our first of many cooler challenges: the Coleman Xtreme vs Yeti Cooler.


Types of Coolers for Camping

Enjoying a camping cooler

Start your search by narrowing down the best type of camping cooler for you:

  • Soft Coolers – Similar to a stiff, insulated bag, these are lightweight and extremely portable. They are best for day use due to their smaller size and lower insulating power.
  • Hard Coolers – The original style of camping ice chest, these are still the most popular option. They are often heavy but they have the best ice retention and are very durable. They’re available in a huge variety of sizes and styles – at a huge range of prices.  
  • Powered Coolers – Similar to a portable mini fridge, these use electricity from your vehicle’s DC outlet, a portable power station, portable solar panel, or another power source to stay cool. Many don’t even require ice. Powered coolers are very expensive.

Because they’re the best option for camping, we focus most of our best camping cooler reviews on hard coolers, although we do review one soft cooler for those that prefer a more portable model.


Camping Cooler Buying Advice

group camping

Address the following points to further narrow down your options for the best camping cooler:

  • Type of Camping – Family camping requires a different type of cooler than solo camping. The same goes for walk-in camping, car camping, kayak camping, and more.
  • Number of Users – You’ll need a larger cooler for larger groups of people (or bring multiple smaller coolers). For camping with a small group, a large cooler is often overkill (and is often less effective at keeping food cold).
  • Trip Duration – Longer trips without a chance to restock on ice require a larger cooler than shorter trips or camping road trips where you can buy new ice every couple days.
  • Expected Weather – Extremely hot weather takes a toll on even the best insulated coolers – but a model with thicker insulation and a freezer-style gasket will perform better than one without these features.
  • Type of Food – What type of camping meals do you cook? Ingredients like meat, dairy products, and eggs all require more cooling power from your cooler than fruits, vegetables, and beverages.
  • Wildlife Encounters – A bear-resistant cooler is essential for camping in bear country, although you must still follow all camping food storage best practices. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee maintains a list of bear-resistant products, including camping coolers.

Use your answers to these questions to help assess and prioritize your needs while reviewing the most important features that make up the best camping coolers below.


How to Choose the Best Cooler for Camping

foam camping cooler

The best camping coolers are designed specifically for camping. Here are a few key factors to keep an eye on during the buying process:

  • Volume – Longer trips and larger groups usually require larger camp coolers. Make sure you have adequate storage space by making a camping meal plan.
  • Insulation – The better the insulation, the better your cooler will stay cold. The best coolers are up to 3 inches thick with double-wall construction sandwiched around dense polyurethane foam.
  • Durability – Thicker walls also mean more durability. Rotomolded coolers are usually the most durable thanks to the lack of pressure points. Also look for a model with top-quality components, such as integrated hinges and rubber latches.
  • Ice Life – Cooling performance, more specifically length of ice life, is directly related to insulation type as well as additional factors like a rotomolded construction, elevated feet to minimize heat transfer, and a freezer-style rubber gasket for proper lid sealing.
  • Size & Weight – Large rotomolded coolers are usually the most spacious and best insulated but they also take up the most space and can be very heavy.
  • Ease of Use – Most models are fairly intuitive to use. Some, however, are easier to dig around in than others. You should also look for a model that’s readily portable. If you need a large cooler, consider a model with built-in wheels and handles.
  • Features – Some additional features like built-in beverage holders and bottle openers are merely nice touches while others like integrated tie-down points, drain plugs (with leashes), and locking lids directly relate to their performance.
  • Accessories – Many of the best camping coolers now come with a wire storage basket to keep food away from melting ice. Most brands also offer a variety of other camping cooler accessories to help you customize your ice chest.   

Keep these factors in mind while reading our best camping cooler reviews below to select the best model for you.


Best Camping Cooler Reviews

Let’s take a look at some of the best coolers for camping on the market today.

Know that many, if not most, of the coolers reviewed below are available in a variety of different sizes – and size can influence performance. Our reviews focus on the size listed so remember that performance might vary slightly if you select a differently sized model.

Here are the best coolers for camping in 2019.

1. Yeti Tundra 45

Yeti Camping Cooler

The Yeti Tundra 45 costs a pretty penny, but you’re sure to get your money’s worth, especially if you go camping on a regular basis.

The entire Tundra line of Yeti coolers is notable for their superior insulation and unsurpassed durability. A 3-inch thick layer of polyurethane foam helps your ice stay cold for up to a week while the rotomolded construction means these coolers will likely last a lifetime. The Yeti Tundra is even certified as bear resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

The Tundra 45, in particular, fits up to 28 cans of soda (/beer) or the equivalent amount of food, although the interior is a good deal smaller than the listed 45 quarts at just 32.9 quarts total. Chief among its many features are no-slip feet, a freezer-style rubber sealing gasket, flexible rubber latches, and built-in tie down points. It even comes with a small basket to keep food items raised above melting ice.

There’s also no denying that Yeti camping coolers have become something of a status symbol in camping, fishing, and other outdoor circles. Not only do they perform excellently, but they look great while doing it (plus the aspirational Yeti brand image is nothing to scoff at either).

Aside from weight (the Tundra 45 clocks in at 23 pounds when empty), price is our only gripe with this Yeti cooler. Even if you have the spare dough, it can be hard to dish out a couple hundred dollars on a camping cooler.

What We Like:

  • Superior Insulation
  • Unbeatable Durability
  • Bearproof Construction
  • Easy to Use
  • Lots of Special Features

What We Don’t Like:

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

Buy the Yeti Tundra 45 here.

2. Orca 58 Quart

Orca Cooler

The Orca 58 Quart is another rotomolded cooler that’s perfect for family camping.

Immediately noticeable is its tall, narrow design. I like this shape because it takes up slightly less space, but it is a little difficult to dig through.

This Orca cooler boasts excellent insulation and durable construction. Orca states that it keeps food cold for up to 10 days but I found that around 5 days with the same ice is about average depending on the conditions.

Additional features include a rubber sealing gasket for improved insulation, integrated hinges, thick rubber latches, burly rope handles, and built-in tie downs. Another feature I really like is the netted pocket on the back of the cooler. Unfortunately, this cooler doesn’t come with a dry storage basket.

Unfortunately, this Orca cooler is expensive! But that’s par for the course with the newest breed of camping coolers. Other than that, the only con is the heavy weight. This baby clocks in at 30.6 pounds total.

What We Like:

  • Compact Design
  • Excellent Insulation
  • Bearproof Construction
  • Built-In Storage Net
  • Durable Components

What We Don’t Like:

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

Buy the Orca 58 Quart here.

3. Pelican Elite 70

Pelican Cooler

The Pelican Elite 70 is another expensive cooler – but, like usual, it’s well worth the extra cost if you go camping on a regular basis.

Like many high-end coolers, the Elite 70 actually has a lower capacity than the advertised 70 quarts at around 54 quarts total. The robust design accounts for this. While the larger size does make the cooler heavier and slightly less portable, it also makes for superior insulation. 

In fact, the Elite 70, like the entire Elite line of Pelican coolers, is built like a tank. It boasts some of the best ice retention of any camping cooler on the market. You can easily get 5 days of ice life out of this cooler (I was able to get a full week in mild conditions while keeping opening/closing to a minimum).

The extra bulk also means this Pelican cooler lasts for years on end. In fact, it comes with a lifetime guarantee like all of Pelican’s injection molded coolers. Additional features include raised non-skid feet, a built-in bottle opener and cup holders, and some of the most comfortable handles of any camping cooler available in 2019.

Like other premium camping ice chests, the main downside to the Pelican Elite 70 is the high price tag. This sucker is expensive. But if you’re willing to dish out the big bucks, you’ll get excellent insulation in a robust package that will keep your food and drinks cold for years on end. 

What We Like:

  • Excellent Insulation
  • Long Ice Life (/Ice Retention)
  • Extremely Durable
  • Rugged Good Looks
  • Lots of Built-In Features

What We Don’t Like:

  • Expensive
  • Smaller Capacity Than Advertised

Buy the Pelican Elite 70 here.

4. RTIC SoftPak 20

RTIC Cooler

RTIC is another brand that’s known for their top-quality rotomolded coolers – but I’m just as big of a fan of their RTIC SoftPak 20.

One of the best soft coolers on the market, the SoftPak 20 is comparable to the Yeti Hopper line of soft coolers. Not only is the SoftPak 20 more affordable than most rotomolded coolers, including the ever popular RTIC 65, but it’s also lightweight and extremely portable.

Do note that the RTIC SoftPak, like all soft coolers, isn’t best for multi-night trips. Although I’ll sometimes use mine for overnight camping, these coolers work best for day trips, such as hanging out at the beach.

That said, this RTIC cooler does have remarkable insulation for a soft-sided model. I’ve found that around 48 hours is the sweet spot for its ice retention. It’s also very durable with a rubber exterior, closed cell foam insulation, and waterproof liner. At just 3 pounds with a comfortable padded shoulder strap, you can even carry this cooler on a short hike.

For a soft cooler, there is very little wrong with the RTIC SoftPak 20. The only real negative is the frustrating zipper. Because of its waterproof design, the zipper is prone to sticking and requires a lot of effort to open and close.

What We Like:

  • Good Value
  • Lightweight Design
  • Durable Exterior
  • Padded Shoulder Strap
  • Easy to Use

What We Don’t Like:

  • “Sticky” Zipper
  • Less Insulation than Hard Cooler

Buy the RTIC SoftPak 20 here.

5. Yeti Roadie 20

Blue Yeti Cooler

The Yeti Roadie 20 is one of the best personal coolers available today.

Although it’s quite small compared to other models on this list, it’s plenty large enough for one person for short camping trips. Personally, I use it as my go-to ice chest for road trips.

Most notable about the Roadie 20 is its build quality. It’s built to last. It utilizes rotomolded construction, polyurethane foam insulation, thick rubber latches, integrated hinges, and a freezer-style rubber gasket for a one-two punch of durability and insulation.

In fact, this Yeti cooler is so durable that it is bear resistant approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. Additional features include non-slip feet, four tie-down points, a metal handle with cushioned grip, and built-in drain. Perhaps my favorite aspect of this personal camping cooler is its overall versatility.

Like most Yeti coolers, the Roadie 20 comes at a steep price. It’s much more expensive than most similarly sized coolers from other brands. It’s also quite heavy (almost 15 pounds) for its small size.

What We Like:

  • Versatile
  • Easy to Use
  • Convenient Features
  • Nearly Indestructible Construction
  • Quality Insulation

What We Don’t Like:

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

Buy the Yeti Roadie 20 here.

6. RovR RollR 60

RovR Cooler

The RovR RollR 60 is our top choice for the best wheeled cooler for camping.

Unlike many wheeled coolers that are difficult to roll, especially over uneven terrain, this RovR cooler handles even the roughest ground with ease. This supreme portability is thanks to the large, inflatable wheels (not plastic like most competitors), comfortable “motocross” handle, and relatively high ground clearance.

In addition to the all-around portability, this wheeled cooler boasts rotomolded construction with high-density foam insulation for the utmost in insulation and durability. It doesn’t quite have the ice retention of other top models, but its 5ish days ice life is certainly nothing to scoff at.

The RovR RollR is also notable for all of its special features. It comes with a large dry basket, rubber sealing gasket, non-skid feet, six tie-down points, and a secure storage basket for the top of the cooler.

Cons for this camping cooler are few and far between. Other than slightly worse ice retention than other rotomolded models, the only disadvantages are its high price tag and heavy weight.

What We Like:

  • Large Wheels
  • Comfortable Handle
  • Lots of Features
  • Decent Insulation
  • Durable Construction

What We Don’t Like:

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

Buy the RovR RollR 60 here.

7. Coleman Xtreme 5-Day 70  

Coleman Xtreme Cooler

The Coleman Xtreme 5-Day 70 is far from the best cooler for camping – but it is an inexpensive option that does the job well.

In fact, this Coleman cooler is our number one choice for those on a tight budget. At just a fraction of the price of the best rotomolded coolers, it will keep your food and drink cold without breaking the bank.

Most notable is the surprisingly decent insulation. Despite thin walls and a non-airtight design, I’m able to easily get 3 to 4 days of ice life out of my Coleman Xtreme. By pre-chilling the cooler and its contents as well as keeping it in the shade, I’ve been able to up this to around 5 full days of ice retention in mild summer weather.

Other highlights are the lightweight and spacious design. The lightweight construction in itself makes it very portable. You can fit a whole lot inside thanks to the minimalist design. For an old-fashioned cooler, the Coleman Xtreme actually looks pretty sleek and stylish.

As for negatives, this Coleman camping cooler has just a few. It’s not as well insulated as the best rotomolded models. It’s not as durable. And it’s not airtight. Also, the plastic handles aren’t comfortable. But, depending on your family camping needs, the low cost and decent performance make this a great value option.

What We Like:

  • Affordable
  • Decent Insulation for Price
  • Large Storage Capacity
  • Built-In Beverage Holders
  • Lightweight Design

What We Don’t Like:

  • Not Airtight
  • Not Very Durable

Buy the Coleman Xtreme 5-Day 70 here.

8. Igloo BMX 25

Igloo camping cooler

The Igloo BMX 25 is another one of our favorite personal-sized coolers for 2019.

Most surprising was the overall build quality, especially considering the cooler’s small size and lightweight design. At just a hair over 11 pounds, this Igloo cooler is quite a bit lighter than the similarly sized Yeti Roadie 20 that clocks in at 15 pounds despite its smaller size.

As for insulation, the BMX 25 hits almost all the marks. It has thick walls and a thick lid. It’s able to hit around three days of ice retention. With a freezer-style rubber gasket (which it lacks), it would likely be able to hit up to four or even five days of ice life.

Overall, the Igloo BMX is one of the best value coolers for everyday use. At a relatively affordable price (especially compared to high-end models), it gives you a whole lot of bang for your buck performance wise. It’s durable enough to stand up to all the bangs and bruises of camping.

The only notable setback is a slight lack of build quality in some of the individual components. In addition to the lack of a freezer-style rubber gasket, the hinges lack the durability the rest of the Igloo BMX is notable for.

What We Like:

  • Great Value
  • Good Insulation
  • Durable Construction
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to Use

What We Don’t Like:

  • Poor Quality Hinges
  • Doesn’t Seal Completely

Buy the Igloo BMX 25 here.

9. Ozark Trail 73

Ozark Trail Cooler

Ozark Trail is best known as Walmart’s private label brand of outdoor gear and equipment.

In recent years, the brand’s entire line of hard and soft coolers, including the Ozark Trail 73, have experienced a big spike in popularity thanks to their affordable prices and quality performance.

The Ozark Trail 73 is a large, spacious cooler with enough room for long camping trips for the whole family. It features one-piece rotomolded construction like many of the top models on the market. Paired with thick insulation this makes for quality ice retention (up to five days) as well as remarkable durability for the low price.

This Ozark Trail rotomolded cooler comes with a variety of additional features. These include internal wire baskets to keep food items from getting soggy, a thick rubber gasket for improved sealing, strong latches, and a drain plug with leash.

The most important disadvantage to note is slightly inferior insulation, performance, and durability compared to high-end models. But for many campers, especially families on a budget, this is an okay tradeoff for the lower price. Certainly, as one of the cheapest rotomolded coolers for camping, it’s hard to scoff at the Ozark Trail 73.

What We Like:

  • Affordable
  • Decent Insulation
  • Durable Construction
  • Good Drain Plug (w/ Leash)
  • Comes with Internal Basket

What We Don’t Like:

  • Heavy
  • Shorter Ice Life than Top Models

Buy the Ozark Trail 73 here.


How to Get the Most Out of Your Cooler

One of the trickiest things about recommending the best cooler for camping is that so much of a cooler’s performance relies on how it is used.

For example, even the most well-insulated cooler will falter in extremely hot weather, especially if it’s left in direct sunlight for hours. And then there’s additional factors that influence ice life like the amount of ice used compared to the amount of food/beverages, to name just one example.

That said, there are a few key ways to get the most out of any camping cooler. Here’s how to maximize insulation efficiency to improve ice life:

  • Pre-Chill Cooler – A cold cooler is more effective than a warm cooler, so cool yours with an extra bag of ice a night before your trip.
  • Pre-Chill Contents – Do your shopping ahead of time if possible. This allows you to pre-chill the contents in the refrigerator before placing them in your pre-chilled cooler.
  • Pre-Chill Ice – When using store-bought ice, I like to chill the bags at home in my freezer to make sure they’re colder than freezing. The colder the ice, the longer it will last.
  • Twice the Ice – A good ratio is to use twice the ice as the contents of your cooler. Also note that the more of your cooler you fill up with ice, the better it will perform.  
  • Mix Blocks and Cubes – Cubed ice provides more immediate cooling power while blocked ice lasts longer. Use both at the same time for the best of both worlds.
  • Don’t Empty Water – Melting ice creates cold water. Don’t empty it until the end of your trip as this cold water actually helps keep your cooler colder for longer.
  • Shade is Your Friend – Store your cooler in a shady spot away from direct sunlight if at all possible. This in itself can increase ice life by almost double.
  • Limit Access – Open your cooler as infrequently as possible. And keep it open for as short a time as possible. Whenever it’s opened, warmer air replaces the colder air inside.

Pair these ice retention tips with a top-quality cooler for camping for the longest ice life possible. But do know that you can still get a whole lot from a budget cooler with proper packing, the right amount of ice, and a little extra care during use.


Need More Help?

For most campers, a cooler is an essential piece of camping equipment.

I personally use my camping cooler for everything from car camping to long road trips to kayaking and canoeing to fishing trips to just lounging on the beach and so much more.

Whether you’re in the market for a high-end model or prefer something cheaper, we’re here to help you find the best cooler for camping – so don’t hesitate to ask questions!

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