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Expert Shopper Camping & Outdoors

Best cooler

Which cooler is best?

Whether you're going on a picnic, doing some tailgating, or heading on a multi-day camping trip, a cooler is your best friend if you want access to cold drinks and fresh food.

There are many different coolers on the market, some of which are best for a 12-pack of cans, and others that can keep all manner of fresh foods safe to eat for days.

We've researched the latest innovations to bring you the best coolers. A couple of these are returning favorites that still stand up to our rigorous standards, but we also have a newcomer to our ranks.

Best coolers 

The following coolers are our tried-and-true favorites. Find more details about each one at the end of this article.

    1.  YETI’s Tundra 65 Cooler
It’s an old favorite of ours, but you can't go wrong with three inches of permafrost insulation and heavy-duty bear-proof construction.

    2.  Under Armour’s Soft-Sided Cooler
This inexpensive choice is great for picnics and similar outings. Thanks to its durability and reliability, it's a new addition to our top three.

    3.  Coleman’s Steel-Belted Cooler
Under the right conditions, this heavy-duty and highly effective model can hold ice for up to 4 days, so it was clear that this model should return to one of our top spots.

What to know before you buy a cooler

Perhaps your first decision to make when choosing a cooler is whether to opt for a hard-sided or soft-sided model. Hard-sided coolers are more durable than their soft-sided counterparts and tend to keep their contents cooler for longer, but they can be bulky and expensive. Soft-sided coolers might not rival hard-sided models in terms of performance, but they're lightweight, convenient, and often inexpensive.

Check what type and amount of insulation is found in any coolers you're considering. While other factors play a part, generally more insulation equals better performance. The capacity is important, too, since a model with a 12-can capacity won't cut it for a three-day camping trip. That said, your chosen cooler shouldn't be so large that you're unable to carry it when full. Quality handles and straps make transporting your cooler from place to place much easier.

When buying a hard-sided cooler, you may appreciate a drain in the base to more easily drain off water from melted ice. If you camp in spots where bears live, your cooler should also ideally be bear-proof.

Coolers can range in price from less than $10 for small soft-sided ones to $500 and more for large, high-performing hard-sided models.

Best coolers FAQ

Q. Are coolers easy to clean?

A. Most coolers have a conveniently smooth interior that can be wiped clean with slightly soapy water. Always make sure to thoroughly dry your cooler before storing it to avoid mold and mildew.

Q. How long will a cooler keep my food and drink chilled?

A. This depends on a number of factors, which is why most cooler manufacturers don't make promises about how long their coolers will keep food fresh and chilled. For instance, a high-quality hard-sided cooler could keep food fresh for several days if you pack it with ice, replenish the ice every day, and keep the cooler out of direct sunlight. By comparison, the same cooler might only keep your food fresh for 12 hours if you don't bother with cool packs and leave it out in the sun.

What are the best coolers to buy?

Top best cooler

YETI’s Tundra 65 Cooler

What you'll love: Large size fits up to 52 cans or equivalent. Three inches of insulation to keep contents cooler for longer. Rotomolded and has thick walls, so it's super sturdy and even bear-proof. 

What you should consider: It's pricey, but worthwhile for serious campers or anyone else who gets a lot of use from their cooler.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top cooler for the money

Under Armour’s Soft-Sided Cooler

What you'll love: The soft-sided design means it’s light enough to carry around with you on a day out. It's available in a 12-can size and can be used for food as well as drink. It has premium foam insulation and a crush-proof lining. It comes in a  wide range of color options.

What you should consider: The shoulder strap is a little short and has insufficient padding.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Coleman’s Steel-Belted Cooler

What you'll love: This well-built cooler has a huge capacity and can hold ice for as long as 4 days if the exterior temperature is 90°F or below. Excellent value for money.

What you should consider: Some users report this cooler holds ice for far less time than advertised.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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