Coolers are among the handiest and most versatile pieces of equipment you can have in your gear collection. After all, having a portable cooling system allows you to take food, drinks and other perishable goods practically anywhere. They come in a huge array of shapes and sizes to meet practically any need you may have for them. Some are designed after the classic coolers of years gone by while others have become much more specialized to meet the demands of unique uses, conditions, and locations. This itemized list examines the best cooler options in numerous categories and will help simplify your search.
Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Cooler
Yeti Roadie 24 Cooler
Lifetime 28 Quart High Performance Cooler
Pure Outdoor Emperor Cooler by Monoprice
Engel 13 Quart Dry Box Cooler
Coleman FlipLid 6 Personal Cooler
Coleman 42-Can Wheeled Soft Cooler With Hard Liner
Koolatron P-27 29-Quart Voyager Thermoelectric Cooler
Polar Bear 48-pack Cooler
The Steel Belted Cooler is a fun yet functional blast from the past, considering the original appeared in the 1950s (the look hasn't changed much). It can hold up to 85 twelve-ounce cans, and includes a drainage channel as well as a steel latch to secure the contents of the cooler. This steel behemoth weighs over 20 pounds, and keeps items cool for a matter of hours rather than days, so it is best suited for car camping trips or backyard barbeques.
This cooler is built like a tank - so much so that it may very well be the last cooler you ever have to buy. It's definitely pricey, but perhaps less expensive than constantly replacing other inexpensive coolers due to broken parts or decreased functionality. The Roadie will keep ice for several days, and offers many keen attention-to-detail amenities such as padlock ports (to bear-proof the cooler), rubber feet to keep cooler elevated and in place, and an interlocking lid that virtually seals your cooler contents from the outside environment.
The Lifetime 28 QT cooler is one of the best values within the cooler industry. Although it is not rotomolded like the premium-priced Yeti or Pure Outdoor options, it performed better than some that are. Lifetime also offers a 55 and 77 QT size, but we selected the 28 QT for a few key reasons. The main disadvantage of the 55 QT is that the freezer-grade seal is located on the bottom of the cooler as opposed to on the lid as with the 28 QT, which helps create a better seal and prevents water leakage. The 28 QT advertises 5 days of ice retention - perfect for a weekend road trip or day at the beach. The construction of the cooler is very sturdy and is even certified by the IGBC (Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee) to withstand a bear attempting to break into your cooler for 1 hour with padlocks put on - not bad at all. On testing the cooler, the 28 QT seemed to be leak-proof even when turning the cooler upside down. You can even stand on the lid without it indenting. Lifetime backs up its product with a 5-year limited warranty.
The best value in the rotomolded category goes to Pure Outdoor by Monoprice. Monoprice is typically known for their speaker/TV cables and other electronic accessories but they do make one great cooler. The Emperor is offered in 4 sizes ranging from 25, 50, 80, and 160L and different colors from grey, tan, blue, and white. The Pure Outdoor Emperor cooler features tough-as-nails rotomolded construction, a drain plug, steel-reinforced padlock holes, tie-down slots, and a bottle opener so you never have to remember to bring one along with you. All coolers are priced below their Yeti counterparts; the icing on top is that the Emperor comes with a lifetime limited warranty while Yeti only offers 5 years.
If your trips involve more rigorous land and sea adventures, this cooler is worthy of consideration. For starters, it just so happens to be air- and water-tight. If it tips over or falls into water up to three feet deep, nothing will go in or come out. This cooler also floats - a handy feature if it accidentally topples out of a boat. Stainless steel latches secure the lid, and the overall weight is only 3.5 pounds.
The FlipLid 6 is compact, portable, inexpensive, and will keep your items cool for several hours. It also offers several convenient options such as beverage holders in the lid (which can also double as a serving tray) and a hard exterior to protect the items inside the cooler. The large handle is easy to grip, making this cooler simple to transport to and fro. Since the FlipLid 6 has a hard exterior, it is more bulky than its soft-sided counterparts and takes up more room during storage, but many users don't see this as a disadvantage.
This cooler is a great option if you are looking for a multipurpose, versatile cooler. It hauls just like a piece of carry-on luggage, telescoping handle and all. In fact, most users rave about the convenience this cooler offers while traveling. The inner plastic liner is removable, so you can choose to use the hard interior or opt for a soft-sided cooler to store your items (be sure to use ice substitutes if you chose not to use the hard liner). Side handles provide extra carrying options while the roomy zippered front pocket, mesh pockets, and bungees provide additional space to stow items.
The Koolatron Voyager Cooler earns top marks for its exceptional versatility and functionality. The unit plugs right into your vehicle's cigarette lighter, and a simple switch allows you to use it as either a heater or a cooler. It can stand vertically like a refrigerator or horizontally like a traditional cooler. Many users appreciate the large amount of space this cooler offers (enough to fit 48 twelve-ounce cans) and the sturdy, durable design. You can also purchase an AC adapter and use this cooler at home or in a hotel while traveling.
Polar Bear coolers offer excellent cooling performance in easily portable packages. These coolers are available in 6-pack, 12-pack, 24-pack, and 48-pack sizes (they even offer backpack coolers!). The nylon outer shell is durable, leak proof, and even sweat proof thanks to the highly efficient Dura-Temp liner. This liner does its job very well when it comes to keeping items hot or cold (not at the same time, of course) and is removable for easy cleaning. The main access zipper is extremely sturdy and even includes a handy dandy bottle opener. Use the side pocket for items that you want to keep separate, dry, and easily accessible.