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Camping

Best Cooler

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.

Koolatron P-27 29-Quart Voyager Thermoelectric Cooler

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.

Igloo Cool Chill 40 with 110V Converter

Igloo is a perennial favorite in the cooler realm, and the 40 Quart Cool Chill does not disappoint. When plugged in (whether in your vehicle's cigarette lighter or at home with the aid of a converter), this unit will keep your items around 40°F cooler than the surrounding air. The height of this cooler is tall enough to fit upright 2-liter bottles, and the moveable shelves are handy when your cooler space needs to be adjusted to fit your specific contents. Use it upright as a refrigerator or horizontal as an ice chest.

Sunforce Thermoelectric Cooler/Warmer

This cooler is a standout favorite due to its adjustable temperature control, meaning you get to pick the temperature you want for your goodies. The interior can accommodate up to 30 twelve-ounce cans, and can act as both a cooler and a warmer (up to 140°F). The unit as a whole is extremely portable and easily adaptable to both home and vehicle use (12V adapter included).

Koolatron Compact Kooler

The Compact Kooler is an extremely car-friendly thermoelectric cooler - it fits snugly into tight spaces behind and around seats, and can easily be opened with one hand. The unit weighs only 9 pounds, and is super portable due to its compact size. Fill this little gem with snacks for a long drive, or use the AC adapter (sold separately) to utilize this cooler at home. A simple flip of a switch will convert the unit into a portable heater for keeping hot foods hot.

Igloo Iceless 28 Thermoelectric Cooler

The Iceless 28 is another excellent thermoelectric cooling option when you need to keep cold things cold during long drives or hotel stays. Since the cooling mechanism is in the lid, it leaves the interior free to be filled with food, drinks, and whatever else you want to keep cold. The 8’ power cord offers plenty of flexibility when deciding where to place your cooler. Don’t forget to purchase the optional AC converter if you plan on using this cooler at home, work, or anywhere else with a wall outlet. The interior is quite spacious and can hold up to 32 twelve-ounce cans. Many users love the practicality of this cooler and really appreciate its enduring reliability.

Yeti Roadie 20 Cooler

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.

Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted 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.

Igloo Island Breeze 28 Qt. Roller Cooler

The Island Breeze Roller Cooler is an excellent option for packing up your fridge and heading out for an adventure. The height of this cooler allows your taller items like 2-liter soda bottles to stand upright. In fact, this tall design is less bulky and easier to maneuver than comparable coolers. The sporty wheels are surprisingly durable and handle multiple forms of terrain with ease, while the collapsible telescoping handle helps ensure more customized comfort while pulling the cooler.

Coleman 82 Quart Xtreme 6 Wheeled Cooler

The Xtreme is aptly named, considering it is advertised to maintain ice for as long as 6 days in 90° F weather. Numerous users have reported their ice lasting closer to 4 or 5 days, but even that is pretty impressive (remember, ice retention depends on how much ice you pack in the cooler, how you pack it, and how often the cooler is accessed). Not only do your items remain cool, but you don't have to keep making trips to replenish the ice supply. The wheels are large and tough, so no need to be timid when carting this cooler around. The pull handle is huge and easy to grip. Note that the Xtreme also comes in smaller sizes if 82 quarts is more than you would ever need.

Polar Bear Back Pack Cooler

The concept of a backpack cooler is just plain awesome in and of itself. This extremely portable cooler is a handy choice for a weekend camping trip or any adventures where cold items need to be easily transported to and fro. The backpack straps and top handles offer useful carrying options, while the side pockets and front mesh pocket are great for keeping things like keys and phones accessible and dry. Just like all Polar Bear coolers, this backpack version offers a top notch insulation system (five layers!) and the inside contents won’t leak or sweat through the outer shell thanks to the high quality liner.

Yeti Roadie 15 Cooler

Albeit an expensive and heavy option, Yeti coolers are widely considered to be the best coolers available. The Roadie 15 is the smallest cooler in the Roadie series, and won't let you down in terms of keeping your drinks and perishable goods cold for an unfathomably long time. Its polystyrene insulation layer is a whopping 5 cm thick - twice as thick as that of most coolers on the market. The lid design clasps shut and effectively seals items inside the cooler from outdoor heat. It is built extremely tough and sturdy enough to sit on or use as a little table during mealtime.

Coleman FlipLid 6 Personal Cooler

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.

Engel UC13 13 Quart Dry Box Cooler

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.

California Innovations 9-can Zipperless Hardbody Cooler

The Zipperless HardBody Cooler is fairly unique among canvas coolers in that it features a hard plastic interior and a zipperless lid. That liner is tough, easy to clean (pop it in the dishwasher), and very efficient at keeping the inside of the cooler cold. A zipperless lid on a canvas cooler is a nice bonus and simplifies getting things out and putting things in. This small cooler is great for picnics, day hikes, bike rides, concerts, work, and trips to the beach. The exterior pockets are great for organizing additional items and the shoulder strap allows for more comfortable hauling.

Igloo Island Breeze 28 Qt. Roller Cooler

The Island Breeze Roller Cooler is an excellent option for packing up your fridge and heading out for an adventure. The height of this cooler allows your taller items like 2-liter soda bottles to stand upright. In fact, this tall design is less bulky and easier to maneuver than comparable coolers. The sporty wheels are surprisingly durable and handle multiple forms of terrain with ease, while the collapsible telescoping handle helps ensure more customized comfort while pulling the cooler.

Rubbermaid 75 Qt DuraChill Wheeled 6-Day Cooler

If packed with enough ice, this cooler will keep your items cool for up to six days at 90° F. One downside to that convenience is that when you pack that much ice into the cooler, it is heavy to pull and cuts down on the amount of room left for food and drinks. With less ice, this cooler will easily keep items cool for a day (or even several) depending on how the cooler is packed and how often it is used. The hard plastic interior is very easy to clean, and has the added bonus of being treated with Microban to help protect your cooler contents from harmful microorganisms. A split lid design helps minimize the exposure of your cooler contents to outside air without limiting access to your goodies. The wheels are tough, and are built to carry a large load over varied surfaces.

Igloo Island Breeze 28 Qt. Roller Cooler

The Island Breeze Roller Cooler is an excellent option for packing up your fridge and heading out for an adventure. The height of this cooler allows your taller items like 2-liter soda bottles to stand upright. In fact, this tall design is less bulky and easier to maneuver than comparable coolers. The sporty wheels are surprisingly durable and handle multiple forms of terrain with ease, while the collapsible telescoping handle helps ensure more customized comfort while pulling the cooler.

Coleman 82 Quart Xtreme 6 Wheeled Cooler

The Xtreme is aptly named, considering it is advertised to maintain ice for as long as 6 days in 90° F weather. Numerous users have reported their ice lasting closer to 4 or 5 days, but even that is pretty impressive (remember, ice retention depends on how much ice you pack in the cooler, how you pack it, and how often the cooler is accessed). Not only do your items remain cool, but you don't have to keep making trips to replenish the ice supply. The wheels are large and tough, so no need to be timid when carting this cooler around. The pull handle is huge and easy to grip. Note that the Xtreme also comes in smaller sizes if 82 quarts is more than you would ever need.

T-Rex Large 62-70 Can Collapsible Rolling Cooler

T-Rex Large 62-70 Can Collapsible Rolling Cooler

If you need enough cooler space for 4 to 6 people, the T-Rex has you covered. This cooler is quite spacious, and can fit up to 72 12-ounce cans. An easy-access flap on top allows you to quickly grab items without unzipping the whole cooler, and several pockets on the front of the cooler are handy for storing small and frequently needed items. The air-insulated design efficiently keeps items cool or hot for up to 8 hours. Note that ice or hot packs are strongly recommended for this cooler rather than loose ice. The wheels are super sturdy, and the telescoping handle is adjustable and locks into place.

Coleman 42-Can Wheeled Soft Cooler With Hard Liner

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.

Yeti Tundra Cooler

Yeti coolers tend to come with a side order of sticker shock after seeing the price tag, but they are arguably the best of the best coolers available. The Tundra Camping Cooler is an outstanding option for camping trips and excursions, especially those that are relatively lengthy and involve diverse terrain and weather conditions. The extra-thick insulation keeps perishable foods and beverages cold for days, and the lid gasket virtually seals everything inside the cooler from the external environment. This cooler is extremely tough, bear proof, and compatible with dry ice. With ten different sizes to choose from, there's bound to be a Tundra to meet your individual camping needs.

Engel 35 DeepBlue Performance Cooler

With the capability to retain ice for as long as 8 to 10 days, the DeepBlue cooler is an exceptionally reliable camping accessory - and a virtual necessity if you don't have the resources to replenish ice supplies during your extended adventure. The construction is ridiculously solid, and the lid is textured to minimize skidding and slipping, meaning you can sit or stand on it as you please. Draw-down latches, tie-down options, molded carry grips, and rope handles make it easy to secure and carry. The freezer gasket creates an airtight seal, and the interior can be divided into different compartments if need be.

Coleman 82 Quart Xtreme 6 Wheeled Cooler

The Xtreme is aptly named, considering it is advertised to maintain ice for as long as 6 days in 90° F weather. Numerous users have reported their ice lasting closer to 4 or 5 days, but even that is pretty impressive (remember, ice retention depends on how much ice you pack in the cooler, how you pack it, and how often the cooler is accessed). Not only do your items remain cool, but you don't have to keep making trips to replenish the ice supply. The wheels are large and tough, so no need to be timid when carting this cooler around. The pull handle is huge and easy to grip. Note that the Xtreme also comes in smaller sizes if 82 quarts is more than you would ever need.

Igloo Ice Cube MaxCold 70 Quart Roller

The shape and design of the Ice Cube MaxCold Roller earn it high marks for convenience, practicality, and portability. The deep lid allows you to overfill the cooler and still be able to close the lid - a welcome convenience after all your hard work in packing the cooler. It can keep ice for up to 5 days, but plan on a much shorter ice retention time if you pack a lot of food and drinks. The cooler's height can accommodate upright 2-liter bottles, and there is room for up to 114 twelve-ounce cans. The handle telescopes out decently far for easy pushing or pulling, and the overall cube shape of the cooler makes it less bulky and easier to maneuver.

Polar Bear 48-pack Cooler

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.

Cindy J.
Eat. Sleep. Backpack. This creed may as well hang over every window and doorway in our home. The coffee table is laden with the latest editions of Backpacker magazine. My email is overflowing with daily updates on the latest and greatest gear. Having a room or space large enough to fit all of our backpacking equipment is a requirement when deciding on a place to live. If you're ready to talk backpacking, let's talk backpacking.

My husband and I have backpacked through diverse terrains ranging from the rugged wilderness areas of Yosemite and King's Canyon to the more beginner friendly paths of Lake Tahoe. Next year we are even planning to undertake the glorious 200+ miles of the John Muir Trail. We have hiked 12,000 foot passes, traversed rushing rivers, set up impromptu camps on everything from solid snow to granite outcroppings, and seen the wonders of hidden pristine lakes and patches of snow that remain year-round. Our experiences with wildlife including bears, deer, rattlesnakes, and bugs that we didn't even know existed have helped us refine our gear list to be as prepared as possible in the most light-weight, compact way. We have near perfected the art of campsite setup and teardown and can literally create a home away from home in mere minutes and pack it back up in the same amount of time. My husband's insatiable need to be in possession of the latest technological backpacking advancements has allowed us to experiment with many different types of equipment and even varying editions of the same piece of equipment. Even our honeymoon was a 55-mile backpacking adventure. Let's just say it's an obsession.

I look forward to helping you sift through the many options in the backpacking world to find the gear that will help make your trip (and many more to come!) unforgettable. Happy trails!
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