Skip to Content

The 5 Best Small Coolers for 2023

It’s crucial to make sure you are staying hydrated and nourished when camping, hiking, and enjoying the great outdoors. One of the most important items to help ensure you have everything you need on the fueling front is a small cooler. Transportable and efficient, this a piece of gear every camper needs in their repertoire.

Read on for our top picks of the best small coolers, some key factors to consider when purchasing, and more!

The Best Small Coolers

Our Top Picks

Best Overall:
YETI Portable Soft Cooler

Best Budget:
Coleman 28 Can Backpack Soft Cooler 

Best Hard Design:
Stanley Adventure Leakproof Outdoor Cooler

Best Overall

YETI Portable Soft Cooler

When making your selection for the best small cooler on the market, there are a few different qualities you should be on the lookout for. Besides the obvious—long-lasting cold capacity and a good-sized storage space—you also want a cooler that’s durable and from a reliable brand.

In addition, the optimal cooler is one you can take on all of your wilderness adventures, camping trips, car rides, and more—something simple to carry, leakproof, and waterproof as well. For checking all of these boxes, we’ve rated the YETI Portable Soft Cooler as the best small cooler overall.

YETI Hopper Flip 12 Portable Soft Cooler, Nordic Purple

Clocking in at dimensions of just 14 by 14 by 11 inches, this cooler can hold up to 12 beverage cans plus ice. It can pack in meals, beverages, and snacks for a day out in the sun and keep everything cool the whole time. You can even select from a multitude of colors to match your camping gear aesthetic!

For all these reasons and more, this is truly the best small cooler you can find.


  • Is a proven sturdy, waterproof, leakproof cooler
  • Keeps items cold for many hours, even up to multiple days in the right conditions
  • Comes in a variety of colors


  • Occasional issues with compromised items; however, no consistent product detriments have been reported

Best Budget

Coleman 28 Can Backpack Soft Cooler 

We get it—even a smaller-sized cooler can be a very pricy item. As necessary as this type of cooler is to prevent spoilage and ensure you can stay hydrated and nourished on a hike, camping trip, or outdoor adventure day, you still can’t break the bank when purchasing one.

When it comes to finding the best small cooler on a budget, you want something that is practical, manageable, and that checks all the boxes for cold item storage without a hefty price tag. Even a low-cost cooler should be high-capacity, well insulated, and easy to use.

Coleman Chiller Series Insulated Portable Soft Cooler Backpack, Leak-Proof 28 Can Capacity Backpack Cooler with Adjustable Straps and Ice Retention

For that reason, we recommend the Coleman 28 Can Backpack Soft Cooler as the best small cooler on a budget. This backpack cooler can fit up to 28 beverage cans and has an insulated pocket for food storage as well. It’s waterproof, durable, and has an easy, comfortable fit just like a standard backpack.

Even without a ton of bells and whistles, this is a fantastic little cooler and one of the best picks out there for its capacity as well as its low cost.


  • Highly affordable, particularly in comparison to other standard small coolers
  • Can be carried like a regular backpack
  • Has a waterproof exterior design
  • Has a good carrying capacity


  • Several customers have reported leakage after a few uses
  • Should only be filled with frozen water bottles or icepacks rather than loose ice

Best Hard Design

Stanley Adventure Leakproof Outdoor Cooler

Although many of the most beloved little coolers out there are made of a softer material such as foam, sometimes that isn’t what you’re looking for. Sometimes, you want a traditional cooler that’s still on the smaller side, but with a hard exterior design!

Stanley Adventure Leakproof Outdoor 16qt Cooler - Double Wall Foam Travel Insulated BPA Free Chest Cooler - Heavy Duty Camping Cooler with Flat Top Doubles as Seat

These kinds of coolers can be particularly attractive for some folks because they tend to be more durable, better resistant to leaking and damage, and they can double as a seat on a long hike or at your campsite. To meet all these needs and more, we recommend the Stanley Adventure Leakproof Outdoor Cooler as the best small cooler with a hard design.

This stainless-steel cooler is sturdy and reliable, easy to seal, and fantastic for camping excursions where there may be foraging animals present. It keeps contents cold for more than a full day, has a lightweight, portable design, and comes with a lifetime limited warranty.


  • Has a sturdy and durable design
  • Great for camping and outdoor adventures, but also a great small cooler for daily lunches, picnics, etc.
  • Wonderful value for a middle-of-the-road price
  • Has bungie cords on top for carrying additional water bottles


  • Some customers have reported manufacturing issues with their Stanley coolers
  • May prove hard to snap closed

RTIC Soft Cooler Insulated Bag

Whether you are taking a cross-country roadtrip, traveling just a few hours to a campground by car, or enjoying some classic car camping, a small cooler can really come in handy. You want something lightweight and durable that does not take up a lot of the limited space inside your vehicle.

Finding the best small cooler for your car can involve selecting one with a good carrying capacity but plenty of flexibility, which makes it ideal for easy packing among the other items in your car. You also don’t want to sacrifice on duration of cooling!

RTIC Soft Cooler 30 Can, Insulated Bag Portable Ice Chest Box for Lunch, Beach, Drink, Beverage, Travel, Camping, Picnic, Car, Trips, Floating Cooler Leak-Proof with Zipper, Seafoam Green

Checking off all of those necessities, we recommend the RTIC Soft Cooler Insulated Bag as the best small cooler for car use. This little cooler has a high storage capacity of up to 30 beverage cans. It’s lightweight and flexible design makes it ideal for use in the car without taking up a ton of space.

Customers have reported finding this to be one of the easiest small coolers for food storage, as well as one of the best in terms of material quality. If you are looking for a well-designed, high-capacity cooler that keeps things cold for a full day and can be taken on any car adventure, this might be the perfect pick for you!


  • This cooler ranks highly as a well-built, sturdy, easy-to-use product
  • The dimensionality makes it easy for use in the car, packing in among other items, and carrying to campsites and on hikes
  • This cooler is waterproof and floating, making it also ideal for beach trips and pool days


  • Some customers have found the size to be too large and therefore off-putting for their particular camping gear needs

Coleman Rolling Cooler

For the most part, small coolers are praised for their easy carrying ability and transportability as a backpack, handheld, or strapped gear item. But for some, carrying a cooler simply is not feasible; this can be due to gear capacity, personal preference, medical conditions, and more.

For those who prefer a small cooler than can be pulled rather than carried, we recommend the Coleman Rolling Cooler as the best small cooler on wheels. Though larger than your average carry size small cooler, this is still a compact option that gets the job done!

Coleman Rolling Cooler | 50 Quart Xtreme 5 Day Cooler with Wheels | Wheeled Hard Cooler Keeps Ice Up to 5 Days, Black

This is a heavy-duty, hard-designed cooler with a telescoping handle that makes it ideal for pulling across bumpy terrain to campsites and even over unpaved paths. Boasting a capacity of up to 50 quarts, and a locking lid that doubles as a seat, this cooler brings plenty of practical use to the table.

The Coleman Rolling Cooler is a fantastic option all around for folks who are on the hunt for a practical, rolling small cooler that will make a great addition to their assortment of camping gear.


  • The heavy-duty wheels and telescoping handle make for easy navigation on even the toughest terrain
  • The large storage capacity makes it easy to keep all your cold items stored in one place
  • The heavily insulated lid and sides can keep contents cold for up to 5 days in temperatures as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit


  • Some customers have reported the handle not telescoping properly on their item
  • Cooling capacity and longevity may be significantly reduced in extreme, prolonged temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, or with frequent opening and closing of the cooler

Considerations for Choosing the Best Small Cooler for 2023

Small Cooler Use

Not every small cooler is made equal in terms of its durability and effectiveness. While most can accurately boast of long cooling times and a sturdy build, their ability to perform to these claims will depend on how you use and store them.

For example, certain smaller coolers do better in direct sunlight than others. A 24-hour cooling capacity or longer may be reduced significantly if a small cooler is left in a hot car in direct sunlight for the vast majority of the day.

If you plan to subject your cooler to extreme heat for long periods of time, you might consider one with higher insulation and longer cooling capacity.

Similarly, if your cooler is going to see a lot of wear and tear—such as while hiking, carrying in treacherous conditions, or opening and closing at a high frequency—you may want to go for a cooler that is particularly well built over one that is less expensive or better looking.

The conditions you subject your cooler to will ultimately help determine its effectiveness. So be sure to take all different factors into consideration before selecting the best small cooler for your particular lifestyle and needs.

Small Cooler Transportability

Different small coolers have varying degrees of transportability. Some can be attached to hiking backpacks or worn as a backpack themselves, while others will need to be carried by hand. Some types of coolers will simply be impractical for certain people, based on their intended use.

When selecting the best small cooler for your needs, always consider how transportable you need it to be. Even the cooler with the best cooling capacity or best materials will not be the best for you if it isn’t easy to carry and transport.

Small Cooler Capacity

The carrying capacity of small coolers varies quite a bit. Often they are measured by how many cans they can hold, some holding as few as ten or as many as 30 or more. But often, folks are measuring capacity for carrying meals, sandwiches, water bottles, and more.

Small Cooler

Before selecting the best-sized cooler for your needs, be sure to review the dimensions of each cooler and ensure your particular selection has the capacity to carry what you need to pack in it. You will want to make sure to factor in the size of any ice packs or frozen water bottles you will include to help keep things cool.

After all, there is nothing worse than finding a great cooler but discovering after that fact that it doesn’t have the appropriate space to pack your necessary items after all.

Small Cooler Chill Time

We covered briefly that different coolers can keep things cold for various lengths of time. This is really one of the most important factors to bear in mind when selecting the best small cooler for your specific needs.

Some of these smaller coolers can keep their contents cold for as much as a few days. Others only have a maximum average cooling time of 24 hours or less.

In addition, environmental factors, including the heat of the day, exposure to direct sunlight, and even how often you plan to open the cooler, can all affect how long things are kept cold. It’s important to take all these factors into consideration when choosing the best small cooler for you.

If need be, you may want to adjust your purchase based on the capacity for cooling, the necessity for keeping certain items cold, and even the customer reviews that share their experiences on how long a cooler truly keeps things cold.

Small Cooler FAQ

What kind of ice should I use in my small cooler?

There are many small coolers that are rated for the use of loose ice. This feature can be particularly convenient when camping at a state park or other campground that provides bagged ice on site, as you can pour the ice cubes directly into your cooler and then place your cold items inside.

However, even some coolers that boast to be leakproof can have leakage issues over time when too much loose ice is placed inside. And there are some of these coolers that should not be filled with loose ice at all!

Ice for Small Coolers

Your best bet is to use frozen, plastic cold packs with the coolant contained inside, or frozen water bottles, to keep the contents of your small cooler cold. This is the lowest risk option and doesn’t require learning the hard way just how leakproof your cooler might actually be.

What are the advantages of a small cooler?

There are a few big bonuses to using a small cooler, or even multiple small coolers, as opposed to larger ones.


On average, even a bulkier, blockier small cooler will be easier to transport than a large cooler. Especially when you consider the sort of circumstances where a cooler is most often used—such as camping, picnicking, hiking, and other outdoor events.

Whereas larger coolers can often require multiple people to transport effectively, carrying a smaller cooler is usually a one-person job. In fact, if you invest in a backpack cooler, you can even keep your hands free for carrying other items!

A larger cooler will also typically require more cooling agents—whether that’s loose ice or ice packs—which will increase the cooler’s weight and decrease its transportability even more. In contrast, smaller coolers will usually require less of these agents, keeping them easy to move around without sacrificing on the cold.

Cooling Capability

Because of the more compact dimensions of a small cooler, you will often find that they are able to keep things much cooler for much longer. Whereas the greater size and circulation of a larger cooler can lead to quicker warming, a smaller cooler keeps everything close together and colder.

Cost Effectiveness

Though it is certainly true that you can fit more items in a larger cooler, the advantage of a small cooler comes when you factor in the additional costs of using that cooler effectively.

To make a large cooler work at its best, you will need more ice or ice packs. This can really add up in cost over time. In contrast, smaller coolers require fewer cooling agents, so the additional costs are fewer, making it overall the more cost-efficient option.

Wrapping up the Best Small Cooler for 2023

Choosing the best small cooler is just one of the important items to check off on your camping gear list! Check out our Camping Gear page for insights and ideas on other items to make sure you have on hand before you set out on a camping adventure.