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Best tailgate cooler

Which tailgate cooler is best?

Whether you’re planning to tailgate with your friends before the big game, outside of a concert, at a music festival or during a weekend campout, the most important item to bring along is undoubtedly the cooler. A quality cooler will keep all of your food and drinks ice cold even on the hottest summer days. 

With seemingly endless cooler designs, sizes, brands and features to choose from, picking the right cooler for your next tailgate takes a little time. However, by knowing how many people will be attending, the location of your tailgate party as well as a few key cooler features, you’ll be able to choose the best cooler for your next event. 

What to consider before buying a tailgate cooler

Hard vs. soft coolers

The two main types of coolers are hard- and soft-sided. Hard coolers are the most durable option and are usually made from rigid plastic surrounding interior foam insulation. Hard coolers often sport the longest ice retention but can get heavy when filled with ice and other contents. 

On the other hand, soft coolers tend to be smaller and more portable, made from sturdy fabric or vinyl materials. While they may not be as durable as hard models, they are easier to carry and store when not in use. 


The overall size of your cooler can play into your final decision. People that don’t have a ton of storage space at home may want to select a smaller or more compact model that can aid in space-saving. Though if space isn’t an issue, you can find extra-large coolers with the ability to store enough food and drinks for several people over multiple days. 


With sizes ranging from personal 5-quart options up to multi-day 400-quart models, you can find a cooler that suits your specific needs. Depending on the size of your tailgating party, you’ll want to select a cooler with an appropriate capacity. 


Having an easy way to drain any excess water from your cooler will make your life easier. For example, some hard coolers will sport a bottom or side drainage plug, so you can empty the water formed from melting ice. 


When coolers are packed with ice, food and drinks, it can be challenging to transport them from place to place. The best tailgating coolers are the ones that feature sturdy handles, straps, wheels or other methods of easy transportation. 

Extra features 

Many coolers will be equipped with convenient features. In particular, those designed with built-in cup holders are great for keeping your drinks secure while tailgating and can serve as portable tables. Depending on the strength of your cooler, some hard models can even be used as makeshift seating or footrest. You’ll also find coolers with removable interior shelves, dividers and some with built-in bottle openers. 

The 13 best tailgating coolers 

Listed in order from largest to smallest capacity, these coolers will come in handy at any tailgating party. 

Best hard-sided coolers 

Igloo Polar Cooler

With options ranging from 100-150 quarts, this classic cooler features durable flip-up handles, a drainage plug and is constructed using UV-resistant materials to minimize sun damage. 

Sold by Amazon 

Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler

This affordable 70-quart Coleman cooler is a reliable outdoor companion that can keep its contents chilled for up to 5 days. In addition, the built-in cup holders are perfect for groups and large gatherings where surface space is limited. 

Sold by Amazon

Igloo Ice Cube 60

The 60-quart capacity, along with side handles, a reinforced locking pull handle and convenient wheels, make this Igloo model a budget-friendly option for casual tailgating. 

Sold by Amazon

YETI Tundra Haul

Those searching for a heavy-duty wheeled cooler should look no further than the YETI Tundra Haul. This cooler can hold up to 45 cans of soda, beer or other refreshing drinks, while the solid-piece tires are puncture-resistant. 

Sold by Amazon 

Coleman Portable Cooler

A classic tailgating cooler, this 50-quart Coleman model is easy to transport over blacktop, grass, dirt or sand. The telescoping handle collapses for easy storage. A 100-quart option is also available. 

Sold by Amazon

Pelican 50 Quart Elite Cooler

Besides its impressive design and premium durability, the Pelican Elite Cooler also has a built-in bottle opener, self-draining cup holders and sports an eight-day ice retention rating, making it great for extended outings.

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

YETI Tundra 35

Smaller than the Tundra 65, this YETI cooler still packs in all of the same impressive features, from T-Rex lid latches to an insulating FatWall design. 

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Igloo 25 Qt BMX Cooler

Though it may be the smallest hard cooler on our list, its lightweight and ergonomic handles make it simple and easy to carry. 

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Best soft-sided coolers 

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze

Stain-resistant, leakproof and easy to clean, the Titan Deep Freeze cooler can retain ice for up to 3 days and has an interior shelf to help organize your food and drinks. 

Sold by Amazon 

Coleman 30 Can Cooler

The heat-welded seams create a reliable leakproof design, while the multiple zip pockets make it easy to bring along other essentials like silverware, napkins, bottle openers and more. 

Sold by Amazon 

YETI Hopper 30

You can choose to carry this cooler to your tailgating party using the reinforced double handles or throw it over your shoulder using the padded strap. The magnetic closure helps keep up to 20 cans ice cold. 

Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods, Amazon and Backcountry 

Coleman Soft Cooler Backpack

For anyone walking, riding public transportation or arriving at the tailgating party by means other than their own car, a backpack cooler is a practical and smart solution. This Coleman model has comfortable padded straps and features a 28-can capacity. 

Sold by Amazon

YETI Hopper Backflip 24

Waterproof and leakproof, the YETI Backflip cooler is perfect for those who want to easily carry their food and drinks to tailgating parties no matter the location. Weighing just 5.3 pounds when empty, this pack won’t put too much of a strain on your back. 

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods


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

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