If you’re into overnight camping or longer camping trips, then one of the most important things you need to take with you is a cooler. Be it summer or winter; not many edibles will survive being exposed to natural temperatures unless you put them in coolers. Therefore, outdoor coolers are essential for your trip – how else will you make sure the drinks and food will stay cool throughout your trip? Outdoor coolers are designed to be tough enough that even if you accidentally drop them or are on a particularly beaten-up path, it won’t bring any damage to them. Camping coolers might have specific requirements you need to keep in mind compared to coolers made for simple cookouts or fishing. Here is a definitive guide to getting the best coolers for camping!
Before we get started, you might be interested in my articles about the 15 camping essentials!
Important Factors To Consider
Before getting into the recommendations, you need to take some important aspects of the cooler into account. The cooler you choose will depend on your specific requirements for utilization and features, so keep these in mind as you browse through them.
Naturally, the first thing to check for in a good cooler is its capacity. The details of the coolers generally list such specs down in terms of quarts or even cans. Don’t just purchase a cooler over its exterior – make sure you carefully look into the interior as well. Keep in mind that at least a quarter of the space may be taken up by ice packs to keep your items cold, and consider how much extra space you’ll need.
Here, it is essential to consider why you’re buying the cooler. If you’re planning on keeping your camping trips for big groups and lots of perishable items, then you might need a bigger cooler. However, note the weight – if the cooler is too big, it will not only be hard to carry, but it might not fit into your vehicle of choice either. Instead of looking into the biggest cooler, you can find, it is much better to buy smaller ones instead. People can easily carry lighter coolers, but it will be difficult to divide the burden over a larger one.
Handles And Wheels
Different types of coolers will have different handles. While hard coolers have heavy-duty handles for maximum durability despite any weight, soft coolers might have more breakable handles depending on the weight of items within. Plus, hard coolers tend to have wheels to make them easy to transport from place to place, but it might be a hassle to tug them behind you at every turn.
Another major factor you need to consider is the cooling time. The last thing you need is to open your cooler and find all the ice melted and your drinks warm. Hard-shell coolers generally have a longer cooling time – some even reach up to seven days! A regular camping cooler might give you up to a couple of days, though.
Look for coolers with air-tight seals. The best coolers will have good quality air-tight rubber seals to prevent cold air from escaping and warm air from entering the cooler. Good seals will let the ice last for more days than a poor-quality one. A good rubber seal should also allow no water to escape from it, so it doesn’t matter where you store it – you won’t have to worry about it creating extra puddles.
Besides the factors stated above, consider the following features as well. What you want in your cooler may vary, but it’s a good idea to keep all of them in mind as you check off your priorities.
- Latches: stainless steel latches will protect your food from stray animals, while plastic might be more vulnerable. Oversized latches make the cooler much more convenient to use.
- Dividers: if you’re an organizer at heart, then you’ll likely want your food and beverages to be as neat and orderly as possible. Some coolers have removable dividers you can shift around here and there to create the sections you need.
- Waterproof fabric: this feature is for soft coolers – it protects your gear and space from additional condensation.
The Best Coolers For Camping
With those factors in mind, here are some of the recommendations for the best coolers for camping in 2021!
Best Overall Camping Cooler
- Weight: 11.4 lbs.
- Dimensions: 29.5 x 15.88 x 16.5 inches
- Capacity: 66 Liters
- Pros: affordable
- Cons: no latch
The first item on this list is a classic for camping. At the same time, it’s a budget option as well. If you’re unsure about spending hundreds of dollars on a top-notch cooler, then this is a great option for you. The Igloo MaxCold Cooler can hold up to a whopping 70 quarts. Its ultratherm insulated lid allows for additional cold retention no matter the weather. It is much lighter than other coolers you might find on this list so that you can carry it from campsite to campsite with ease. Despite its low weight, you get a lot of holding capacity as well. There is a small problem you might encounter, though – the cooler doesn’t have a latch to keep it locked down, so it might not retain the coolness for long. Make sure you don’t take it out on a bumpy road – the lid might not hold all the items in!Get Igloo Max Cold Now!
A Close Second Place
- Weight: 26.37 lbs.
- Dimensions: 19.3 x 11.67 x 13.3 inches (top), 18.1 x 10.6 x 13.3 inches (bottom)
- Capacity: 45 quarts
- Pros: long coolness retention and durable
- Cons: expensive
The OtterBox Venture 45 Cooler is one of the most technologically advanced coolers on the list – who knew you could technologically upgrade a simple camping cooler? The injection-molding and high-grade cooling tech allow the cooler to retain both coolness and ice up to two full weeks, the coolness for even longer, perhaps. That makes it one of the best camping coolers on the market. Besides the tech incorporation, the hard material of the cooler is also practically unbreakable, whether you bang it this way or that. Additional features include cupholders, dry boxes, bottle openers, and much more! It’s no surprise why it is such a favorite among campers. With that kind of technology and features, it is only fitting that it is expensive, but that might deter some newer customers.Get OtterBox Venture 45 Now!
Additional Recommended Cooler For Camping
- Weight: 37 lbs.
- Dimensions: 19 x 13.6 x 11.25 inches
- Capacity: 42+ quarts
- Pros: well reputed brand
- Cons: expensive
Yeti coolers have made a name for themselves in the industry as some of the best coolers ever. At the core of their reputation is a simple fact: they work perfectly. Hard coolers are often not as effective as one might hope, but the Yeti Tundra Haul cooler is an exception. For one thing, they are more durable than most coolers out there. Don’t worry about it getting banged up on your way to the campsite! The lid is top-notch, so you can rest assured your items won’t pop up at the slightest bump. The wheels are simply a plus: they don’t affect the interior space, and they are sleek enough that you won’t need to go out of your way to avoid bumps. All those features do come at a cost, though – the Yeti coolers are on the expensive side of things, the point stands: every penny is worth it!Get Yeti Tundra Haul Now!
- Weight: 18 lbs.
- Dimensions: 13.43 x 9 x 9.87 inches
- Capacity: 20 quarts
- Pros: durable
- Cons: none
Many customers have compared the Orca coolers to Yeti in terms of quality, and they’re not wrong. Despite being a somewhat cheaper alternative, Orca coolers do not compromise on quality. If you can’t find Yeti coolers in your local markets, then the Orca coolers perform just as well. The shatterproof rubber latches and seal make it practically impossible to pop open on accident. The Orca 20 Quart cooler is known for being as durable as they come. Another basic but unique feature is the massive carrying handle which allows you to carry it from one spot to the other with ease – you won’t need more than a single person to lug it over. On top of all that, the brand offers a whopping total of seven designs you can choose from if plain old white isn’t your preference!Get Orca 20 Quart Now!
- Weight: 29 lbs.
- Dimensions: 26.5 x 16.5 x 16 inches
- Capacity: 45 quarts
- Pros: stores ice up to 10 days
- Cons: does not retain temperature too well
Another excellent alternative for Yeti coolers (or even Orca coolers) is the RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler. Many coolers are practically the same when it comes to construction and coolness retention, and they often end up differentiating in price and brand image. With the RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler, however, you don’t give up any of the good quality for the lower price compared to the premium coolers. The brand’s main claim to fame is the long period of ice retention, up to almost ten days! However, reports from customers have revealed that the cooler isn’t the best at retaining the temperature for too long. That said, it should work reasonably well for a short week-long trip out camping!Get RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler Now!
- Weight: 24 Pounds
- Dimensions: 15.5 x 25.5 x 16 inches
- Capacity: 40 Quarts
- Pros: large capacity
- Cons: heavy
This is another cooler for the buyers that are concerned with the aesthetics as much as the quality! The Grizzly 40 Cooler is available in 8 different colors so that you can choose any according to your preference. Grizzly makes a bold guarantee that this cooler is basically indestructible and will remain so for life. The braided straps make it much easier to carry around. The drain plug is also bigger than what you might find in other coolers, so you can drain the water quicker than usual whenever you need it. You also get extra trays to keep your food cool but safe from the melting ice below. The only problem this cooler will bring you is that it is a bit on the heavy side, so you can’t lug it around you everywhere.Get Grizzly 40 Cooler Now!
- Weight: 37.25
- Dimensions: 19.00 x 12.00 x 12.00 inches
- Capacity: 45 quarts
- Pros: tough and durable
- Cons: expensive
If you’re worried about having to carry a cooler in your hands the whole time, then check out the Pelican Products ProGear Elite Wheeled Cooler! As is mentioned in the name, it comes with built-in wheels for portability and convenience. The hard material is tough and long-lasting, and it has a bunch of additional features such as bottle openers, cup holders, and threaded plugs. The wheels aren’t just for show, though – the cooler weighs a good thirty pounds even when empty, so you wouldn’t want to take it out on too hilly or rocky an area. Another problem is the price, but if you don’t hesitate to break your bank over a worthwhile purchase, then the Pelican Products ProGear Elite Wheeled Cooler is the best camping cooler for you!Get Pelican Elite Cooler Now!
- Weight: 34.8 Pounds
- Dimensions: 36 x 17 x 21 inches
- Capacity: 70 quarts
- Pros: huge capacity
- Cons: heavy
Last but not least, another Igloo cooler! The Igloo Yukon Cold Locker Cooler is a great option for the fishers out there. Besides being made of extra-tough material, the lid also has a padlock, so you don’t need to worry about it opening unprompted. The molded hinges allow the seal to be shatterproof and long-lasting. On top of that, the handles are molded into the cooler itself, so it’s much easier to carry. Be warned, though: the handles do stick out, so they might take up extra space. It’s also heavier than the average cooler so keep that in mind!Get Igloo Yukon Cold Locker Now!