Menu
Updated June 2022
Header Image
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

56
Models
Considered
60
Consumers
Consulted
26
Hours
Researched
Category cover

Buying guide for best marine coolers

From camping to cookouts, the traditional cooler serves a worthy purpose in a variety of outdoor activities. One area where it does fall short, however, is boating. A day on a boat can impose some unique challenges on the average cooler, including high temperatures from the sun’s beating rays, saltwater exposure, and wave-generated impacts.

Enter the marine cooler. More durable than a traditional cooler, a marine cooler offers a variety of features that assist with boating challenges, from UV protection to tie-down aides. A marine cooler is versatile enough to use in any situation where you need to keep beverages and other foods cool for extended periods.

marine coolers1
In general, larger marine coolers retain ice for longer periods than smaller coolers.

Key considerations

Capacity

Marine coolers range in size, so you’ll want to find out the capacity before you buy one. Capacity is measured in quarts with some products, but for others, it is measured in cans — as in, “How many cans does this cooler hold?” The number can range from several dozen to several hundred, depending on the cooler. Note that can capacity does not usually factor in ice, so the number of cans you can store in ice will actually be less than stated.

Size

The larger the cooler, the more beverages, food, and other items it can hold. If you boat with numerous family and friends, a larger cooler may be more appropriate. Of course, a larger cooler also takes up more space, which could be an issue on a small boat. It’s a good idea to measure your boat deck with a tape measure before choosing a cooler so you know exactly how much space you have.

Weight

Unfilled, marine coolers range from a few pounds to 40 pounds or more. If you choose a cooler without wheels, a heavy weight could become problematic when you must drag it out to your boat.

Durability

A marine cooler can take a pounding on the open sea (or lake), so it should be up to the task. High-end coolers often have a roto-molded shell. This special manufacturing method results in a more durable cooler body and a higher price tag. Anti-rust stainless steel hardware is more durable than plastic hardware.

UV protection

Another feature we like that enhances durability in a marine cooler is UV protection. The sun can do a number on a boat cooler where it’s all sun all the time. To cut down on cracking, discoloration, and warping, select a marine cooler coated with a UV inhibitor. This will not only protect the cooler from the sun’s damaging rays, but it will also help prevent its contents from heating up.

Insulation

Keeping items cool is a cooler’s primary job. While a lid gasket can help to keep cold in and heat out, a thicker layer of insulation often makes the difference between a cooler that is effective for two to three days and one that still has ice after a week. Cooler insulation often comes in the form of urethane or foam that is pressure-injected into the lid and walls of the cooler.

For difficult-to-remove odors, try this tip. Wipe down the cooler with vanilla extract. Soak a paper towel in the vanilla extract, and place it in the cooler overnight with the lid shut.

STAFF
BestReviews

Features

Hardware

Holding a cooler together is its hardware: latches and hinges and such. The hardware should create a tight seal to enhance insulation. Often, the hardware connection points are the weakest points of a cooler.

For a marine cooler, it is paramount that all hardware be rugged and heavy-duty. While latches are usually made from plastic or a composite material, the best marine cooler hinges are often crafted of rust-resistant stainless steel.

Handles

When you start filling it up with ice and beverages, a marine cooler quickly becomes heavy. To lug it around, you need durable and comfortable handles. These can range from rope handles to telescoping pull handles to molded side handles.

Wheels and feet

Some marine coolers have wheels. For large, heavy coolers, these are very handy. Larger wheels are best if you will be pulling the cooler over rugged terrain.

While wheels will help your cooler glide across the ground, a decent set of rubber nonslip feet will help keep it in place. In heavy waves, this can be a big plus.

Tie-down aides

Available on some coolers, tie-down aides usually come in the form of holes, rings, and other features you can use to secure your cooler to the boat deck.

Drain plug

A drain plug is standard on most marine coolers. It allows you to easily remove melted ice, lightening your load when it’s time to transport the cooler at the end of your trip or outing. The best drain plugs fit securely to avoid leaks and are attached to the cooler so as not to become lost.

Extras

Additional features that may increase the versatility of a cooler include the following:

  • Internal cooler shelves or trays
  • Cup holders
  • Cutting boards
  • Fishing rod holders
  • Built-in bottle openers
marine coolers2
DID YOU KNOW?
Some marine coolers have an antimicrobial inner liner to cut down on bacteria growth.
STAFF
BestReviews

Marine cooler prices

Inexpensive: Marine coolers under $50 tend to be small with a light capacity. Although they have few bells and whistles, coolers in this range are still effective at keeping beverages and other items cool for small groups and short trips.

Mid-range: As the price rises, so do size and capacity. Marine coolers in the $50 to $130 price bracket are usually sized for small and medium-size groups of people. Moderate insulation will usually keep the ice from melting for several days.

Expensive: Marine coolers with a price tag north of $130 tend to offer the best in durability; roto-molded bodies are common. They also offer greater capacities. Wheels and cup holders are standard, and the insulation is often thick enough to keep ice solid for a week or more.

If your marine cooler has taken on a grungy appearance, bring back its shine with a mixture of bleach with warm water (1:6 ratio). Clean the cooler thoroughly with the mixture, let it air dry, and hose it off.

STAFF
BestReviews

Tips

  • Use it as a seat. In addition to its use to keep beverages, snacks, bait, and fish cool and fresh, many marine coolers are rugged enough to be used as extra seating on a boat.
  • Go light to reflect sunlight. While some marine coolers come in a variety of colors, simple white may be your best option because a white reflects more sunlight and stays cooler than a darker cooler.
  • Look for a warranty. Marine coolers are somewhat costly, so it makes sense to choose one with a good warranty. One to five years is common, though some top-end manufacturers offer lifetime warranties.
marine coolers3
A large insulated marine cooler is ideal for fishing trips that stretch over a week or more.

FAQ

Q. What is the best way to clean a marine cooler?

A. Your marine cooler will be exposed to a variety of conditions that can wear down its appearance and affect its smell. As such, it is important to keep it clean. This can be easily managed by following these steps:

  • Rinse the cooler inside and out with a hose.
  • Wipe it down with a mixture of mild dish soap, baking soda, and warm water. Use a soft cloth or scrubby for ground-in dirt.
  • Rinse thoroughly, and let the cooler dry before sealing it up.

Q. What type of cooler handle is best?

A. Marine coolers have a variety of handle types.

Single handles: These are often found on lightweight coolers that you can carry with one hand.

Rope handles: Attached to the sides of a cooler, military-grade rope handles are strong, comfortable, and attractive.

Plastic side handles: Some of these fold down when not in use, limiting their overall footprint. Rigid/molded handles take up more space but are often more durable. These handles are best if you have two people to carry the cooler.

Telescoping handles: These adjustable handles are used to pull marine coolers with wheels.

Q. How can I keep my ice from melting?

A. Marine coolers retain ice for different lengths of time due to a number of factors. You can help any cooler increase its “iced” period by following a few simple steps:

  • Load the cooler only with beverages and food that are already cold.
  • Keep your cooler out of the sun.
  • If you have extra ice, consider icing the cooler down the night before you load it.
  • Use frozen blocks of ice instead of ice cubes.

 

Our Top Picks