Last Updated on March 6, 2022 by Res Marty
No matter if you’re into overnight camping or longer camping trips, one of the most important things you need to take with you is a camping 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 outdoor gear for your trip – how else will you make sure to keep your food cold? Camping coolers are designed to be tough enough, so even if you accidentally drop them or are on a particularly beaten-up path, it won’t bring any damage to them.
Camping coolers 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!
Best Coolers For Camping: Important Factors To Consider
Before getting into the recommendations, you need to consider some crucial aspects your camping cooler needs to fulfill. Which camping cooler is best for you depends on your specific requirements for utilization and features, so keep these in mind as you browse through them. Below are some important factors I recommend you consider before buying a camping cooler.
Naturally, the first thing to check for when looking for a new cooler is the capacity. The details of the coolers generally list such specs down in terms of quarts or even cans. It is well worth the time to ask yourself how you will mainly use your camping cooler. While multiple-day camping trips naturally increase the capacity requirement of your cooler it makes it also heavier. If you use it only for day-hikes, I recommend reducing capacity but in exchange, you will have more flexibility. Remember that ice packs may take up at least a quarter of the space to keep your items cold and consider how much extra space you’ll need.
Small camping coolers range from about 7-20 quarts. They carry up to 8 cans and 5 pounds of ice and are therefore especially suitable for short overnight or a day hike. For couples or parties of two people, I usually recommend the size of a cooler between 20 and 40 quarts. To put 40 quarts into perspective, you can store 40 cans and 25 pounds of ice. Big camping coolers can feed a family of four people for around one week. Coolers of this size range from 45 and 65 quarts, just be aware, that these larger capacity coolers can weigh close to 30 pounds.
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 large 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.
Below is a quick summary of average capacity and weight:
Handles And Wheels
Different types of coolers will have other handles. For example, while hard coolers have heavy-duty handles for maximum durability despite any weight, soft coolers might have more breakable handles depending on the items’ importance. Plus, hard coolers tend to have wheels (and are also called rolling coolers) 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 your ice or cold packs melted and your drinks are warm. Hard-shell coolers generally have a longer cooling time to keep your food cold – some even reach up to seven days! A regular camping cooler might give you up to a couple of days, though. To optimize the cooling time, it is essential to pack the strategically, read this article on how to properly pack a cooler.
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.
Video Summary Of Best Coolers For Camping
For those of you, who prefer a video summary of the best cooler options for campers I have prepared this video below. It will give you a summary of our favorite coolers for camping. However, in the detailed guide below, you will get more detailed information on each product.
11 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: 18 lbs.
- Dimensions: 13.43 x 9 x 9.87 inches
- Capacity: 20 quarts
- Pros: extremely 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 cooler, Orca coolers do not compromise on quality and are a great option to keep your drinks cool on your camping trips. If you can’t find Yeti coolers in your local markets, then the Orca coolers perform just as well, and especially the 20 quarts orca cooler is definitely among the best camping coolers. The shatterproof rubber latches and seal make it practically impossible to pop open on accident. In addition, the Orca 20 Quart cooler is known for its excellent durability. Another primary 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!
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, durable and integrated bottle opener
- 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 more remarkable to retain both coolness and ice up to two full weeks, the coldness 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 more! It’s no surprise why this large cooler 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. A cooler of this size can store food for a family of four for up to one week. Due to its weight, it is suitable, if you are camping in a car or RV.
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. The core of their reputation is a simple fact: they work perfectly. Hard coolers are often not as effective you might hope, but the Yeti Tundra Haul cooler is an exception. It is among the biggest strengths, that Yeti Tundra Haul is 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 – this Yeti cooler is on the expensive side of things, but: every penny is worth it!
- 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 camping coolers are practically the same when it comes to construction and coolness retention, and they often end up differentiating in price and brand image. However, with the RTIC 45 QT Hard Cooler, you don’t give up any excellent quality for the lower cost than the premium coolers. The brand’s main claim to fame is the long ice retention period, 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!
- 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 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 more extensive 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 drinks cold 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.
- 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! It is definitely another considerable option for your next camping trip and has well deserved its place on this list of the best camping coolers. As is mentioned in the name, it comes with built-in wheels for portability and convenience. The rigid material is rugged 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!
- Weight: 34.8 Pounds
- Dimensions: 36 x 17 x 21 inches
- Capacity: 70 quarts
- Pros: huge capacity and very durable
- Cons: heavy and expensive
Next on our list of the best camping coolers is the Igloo Yukon cold lockerer! Although it is not a soft cooler, the Igloo Yukon Cold Locker Cooler is a perfect cooler for all anglers 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. In addition, 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 that they might take up extra space. It’s also heavier than the average cooler so keep that in mind!
- Weight: 11.4 lbs.
- Dimensions: 29.5 x 15.88 x 16.5 inches
- Capacity: 66 Liters
- Pros: affordable
- Cons: no latch
This durable cooler is a classic for camping and our favorite budget cooler. 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 an excellent 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 relatively low weight, you get an extremely good amount 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!