8 Of The Best Coolers for Camping – Top 8 Cooler Reviews

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The season is almost upon us when the outdoors become bearable and we take to our favorite parks, lakes, and secluded wilderness spots to recuperate from our busy lives.

While many people love the austere conditions of taking nothing but dried foods and a water filter, the rest of us need a little more leisure.

For that, you need a nice cold beverage and some fresher foods and that means we need the best cooler for camping.

With cooler ranging in size from shoulder backs to chests you could fit a side of beef in, what do we pick? You can get a cheap cooler for under 20 bucks at your local big box store or you can invest in a purchase that will last for years and keep your supplies cold for days. This is what we are interested in!

So What Makes the Best Camping Cooler?

Best Coolers for Camping

1. Portability

If the sky is the limit, you can get a cooler the size of a truck bed but for camping we need something a little more portable. This doesn’t mean it has to be a tiny thing that can only hold a 6-pack but it does mean you should be able to move it without a dolly.

You also need to get it to your campsite. If you drive a pick-up, you can haul pretty much anything but with smaller cards becoming ever more popular you need to pick something that will fit your transportation needs as well as your lifestyle.

There are no hard and fast rules on what kind of portability you will need out of a camping cooler but you do need to consider how you will transport it and get it to your site. With ice and everything, a 40-quart cooler can weigh well over 200 pounds. Don’t make the mistake of getting something like that if you have to pack it a mile into the woods.

2. Capacity

The portability of a cooler will directly affect its capacity and you are probably looking at something on the smaller side if you are planning on camping. Generally the 20-quart range which will hold a full case of your favorite drinks.

Of course, the more people you have the more capacity you will need and 20 quarts may not be enough. Once you move into the 30-quart range, portability will drop significantly. You will likely need 2 people to carry it if it is fully loaded. At 40 quarts, two strong men may struggle to move it far and above that, your cooler will probably have to stay where you loaded it.

It is important to note that with modern coolers, size and capacity are not as clear cut as they used to be. With today’s roto molded, injected insulation coolers, the walls have to be thicker. This means that a cheap cooler in 20 quarts may be smaller on the outside than one that is more expensive. This trade of external size for ice retention is often worthwhile. It doesn’t change the internal dimensions after all.

3. Ice Retention

The elephant in the room is always how long it will keep your drink icy cold. The best way to test this is by looking at its ice retention. There are a lot of criteria that go into properly testing how long ice will remain solid and most companies disregard this.

To get an accurate gauge, outside temperatures and sun exposure have to be the same. The proportion of ice to food and drinks must be similar. And opening the cooler needs to be minimal. If you do all of this right, you will get a fairly consistent rating but most companies fail to even try to meet his criteria and just throw out numbers.

Luckily independent test data is easy to find and is a much more realistic gauge of how long ice will last.

So, with all of that out of the way… What are the very best camping coolers on the market today:

8 Best Coolers for Camping

1. Siberian Alpha Pro 22 – Best of the Best

Siberian Coolers 22 Quart Alpha Pro Series in White Includes Accessories

Siberian Alpha’s coolers were already renown for their quality but with this new Alpha Pro series, they have gone above and beyond to produce what is probably the best cooler ever made by anyone. This is the smaller version for camping but you can get these amazing coolers in a variety of sizes.

When it comes down to it, 22 quarts isn’t a ton of space but with the right shape, you can manage to get a lot in a little space. The Alpha Pro does this by having nearly vertical walls. Despite the small size you can fit in your favorite drinks and a full days’ worth of food with room to spare.

The construction is top of the line with nylon and aluminum reinforcements to a single piece rotomolded shell. It has flush mounted aluminum latches and an aluminum carry handle. There are hidden locking points, a steel wire basket, and every other feature they could think of to keep this cooler going.

As a matter of fact, they have so much faith in this cooler it is certified bear safe and has a lifetime warranty. For camping, there is no better option to keep your food safe and cool all day long. And for several day trips, this cooler has been known to hold ice for up to 5 days!

Pros

  • Tough and Rated Bear Safe
  • Decent Capacity
  • Great Ice Retention

Cons

  • Costly
  • Heavy

Check Price and Rating on Amazon

2. ORCA 26 – Toughest Cooler

Orca ORCT026 26qt Tan Cooler

Though they may not be as well known as some of the other brands out there, Orca produces some of the best coolers and has been doing it for years longer than some of the better-known brands. When it comes to keeping your drinks and food cool and fresh, this is a name you can easily trust.

This 26 quart made in the U.S.A cooler maximizes space while minimizing overall size. It is about the perfect capacity for any camping trip, not being too big to carry or too small to hold what you need. For a day trip, this can hold everything your family needs. For longer trips, one person can go for several days with this cooler.

Like most other high-end coolers, this a rotomolded design with some reinforcements to ensure a perfect seal. This is probably the most robust cooler on the market and holds ice longer than any of the competition. The downside of that is this cooler weighs 19 pounds empty. The weight is a negative mark for sure.

If you can get past the weight, this cooler should keep your ice frozen for 3 to 5 days with no problem. Some even report solid ice after a week in optimal conditions. Regardless, for as long as you have ice you can bet this cooler will keep a whole case of soda chilled to perfection.

Pros

  • Great Capacity
  • Great Ice Retention
  • Very Tough

Cons

  • Very Heavy
  • Very Costly

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3. Yeti Roadie 20 – Consumers Choice Cooler

YETI Roadie 20 Cooler White

There is no doubt that Yeti is the current champ when it comes to sales and popularity. They likely sell more coolers in a year than all of their closest competitors combined. They couldn’t maintain this if there wasn’t some truth behind their reputation and they couldn’t back up their claims with a superior product.

While Yeti is good, very good, in fact, they are likely not the best out there. They have made the rotomolded cooler a mainstream option and keyed people in on how good the coolers are. While this particular cooler is only 20 quarts, the narrower and taller design allows quite a bit of storage.

Yeti is on point when it comes to construction. They have obviously taken some cues from customer feedback to produce what is easily one of the most rugged and long lasting coolers on the market. With a perfect seal and near indestructible exterior with their patented closure system, this is a cooler for life.

While still a bit heavy at 16 pounds, this isn’t the beast of a cooler that many rotomolded coolers are. It can still fit nearly a whole case of soda and keep it cold for at least 3 days if done right. Some have seen ice up to 5 days in this cooler even in warmer temps. If you want something a little more mainstream and proven, this is a great cooler for you.

Pros

  • Well Designed
  • Very Durable
  • Good Ice Retention

Cons

  • Very Expensive

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4. Grizzly 20 – Best Cooler for Ice Retention

Grizzly 20 Cooler, Red, G20, 20 QT

Before there was Yeti, there was Grizzly. They may have never reached the popularity of Yeti but that wasn’t because of the construction. These are a finely made and well-built cooler that deserves far more recognition than they got. Often, these were the chosen coolers of the hardcore outdoorsman.

At 20 quarts and a very similar shape to the Yeti Roadie, this is a great cooler that can save you a few bucks over they more popular brand. It can do essentially everything a Yeti can do and do it just about as well. It can still hold a full case of beverages and enough ice to keep them cold.

With more steel in the construction than most other brands, this cooler may not be the best in saltwater environments but is even more durable anywhere else. It weighs the exact same as the similar Yeti product at 16 pounds empty. This is a beefy cooler that can take the abuse and keep on going.

With reports showing ice after more than 5 days, you should be good for your camping trip. 3 days is a more realistic option in most temperatures but you can get a little more with care and luck. If you are out to save yourself a few dollars, this cooler will satisfy most users even if they have experience with some of the more costly coolers.

Pros

  • Great Ice Retention
  • Very Durable

Cons

  • Not great for saltwater
  • Lower Capacity

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5. Engel Deep Blue High Performance – Best Cooler for the Beach

Engel ENG25 High Performance Cooler - White

Engel is another company that was well respected in the past for their amazing ice chests. Their loss of popularity comes down more to a popularity contest than overall quality. In truth, Engel may have a few features that could use some work but overall this cooler will last for years to come and perform admirably.

At 25 quarts, this is one of the larger camping coolers on this list. It may not be huge but it has a good capacity and makes great use of its design to allow you to fit just a little bit more in. If you want a few days of food or a case of soda packed away for your trip, this will hold either and then some.

When it comes to construction, ruggedness was never an issue with Engle. When locked they are certified bear safe and can take a ton of abuse without ever giving in. The latches may lack a little but only when placed against some of the higher end models. They are very strong and easy to use.

Like some of the older designed rotomolded coolers, the Engel Deep Blue has been known to hold ice for more than a week. This is in optimum settings but you should still be able to squeeze 4 to 6 days without a lot of trouble. It even comes with a 10-year warranty to make sure you have no issues.

Pros

  • Great Capacity
  • Great Ice Retention
  • Good Warranty
  • Bear Safe

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Poor Latch Design

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6. Canyon Scout – Best Lightweight Cooler

Canyon Coolers Scout 22 Rotomolded Premium Day Cooler Sandstone

As we begin to move down the price scale into some of the more budget-friendly coolers, you are going to lose a little quality overall. With the right choice you can minimize the amount of quality lost and still save a good chunk of money. A great way to do this is with the Scout by Canyon.

At 22 quarts, this is a decent size cooler that has a good capacity. The walls are more sloped than with some models which can cost you a can or two of soda but not enough to trouble most people. It should still be plenty of space to store what you need for a couple of days out with the family.

Construction is definitely not one of the weak points of the Canyon. With a combination of rotomolded exterior and aluminum reinforcement this cooler can take a beating and never show a mark. This is easily one of the strongest coolers out there even if the latching system lacks a little to be desired. It may be strong but it is a little harder to use.

Throw in some beverages, ice, and a few comfort foods and this 16 pounds cooler will keep you going for a few days at the least. It is lower rated at only about 3 days of maximum ice retention. Still, for most shorter trips, this more budget-friendly cooler will do you very well and last you for years to come.

Pros

  • Somewhat Lighter
  • Good Ice Retention
  • Very Durable

Cons

  • Poor Latch Design
  • Lower Capacity

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7. Pelican Elite 20 – Best Bang for your Buck

Pelican 20QT Elite Cooler (Tan/Orange) | 15 Can or 4 Wine Bottle Capacity with Ice | 2 Day Ice Retention | Guaranteed for Life

Pelican is a brand that has been around for decades. Long enough that most everyone has owned a Pelican cooler at some point in their lives. While they were always good coolers, good isn’t enough anymore. You cooler needs to be great and that is what the Elite series aims to do.

At just 20 quarts this may seem to be on the small end but the narrower, taller design is much more efficient when it comes to space. There may be some downsides to that shape but not when it comes to holding drinks. You can easily fit all your favorites in enough quantity to keep you going for several days.

The true weak point of this cooler is the latches. They just aren’t as strong as the options on Yeti or similar coolers. That aside, this is a lockable cooler that has a very tough exterior. The handle is a little weaker than desired but the body is a different matter.

One of the downfalls of the shape of this cooler is that it is not as efficient at holding ice. You can get a couple days for sure and maybe as many as three with some effort. For the price, this is still good performance even if it falls shorter than many of the more costly brands.

Pros

  • Great Design
  • More Affordable
  • Durable

Cons

  • Poor Latches
  • Less Ice Retention

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8. Igloo BMX 25 – Best Budget Cooler

Igloo BMX 25 Quart Cooler with Cool Riser Technology, Fish Ruler, and Tie-Down Points - 11.29 Pounds - Carbonite Gray and Blue

If you are looking for a great cooler on a budget, Igloo is the obvious choice. They have made some of the best selling coolers for decades and earned quite a reputation. To the point where there are many people who go with Igloo first and trust them to perform as they should every time. In this case, the BMX just represents the next evolution of Igloo.

The design of this 25-quart cooler is fairly standard being quite similar to the more costly coolers. Developing a better option was what the company had to do to keep relevant in a growing market. This may be a step away from their classic ice chests but it is a step in the right direction.

With a lot of steel in this roto-molded design, it is undoubtedly strong but quite lightweight. This means that it has a little less insulation and that hurts ice retention but you should still be able to keep things going for at least a couple of days. You can go longer with proper use and care.

For the price, this is the best value in camping coolers today. There may be more affordable options but they lack the performance of the Igloo BMX. There are better brands that hold ice longer but they cost a fortune. This is simply one of the best dollar for dollar values out there that can compete on some level with more expensive brands.

Pros

  • Great Storage Capacity
  • Very Affordable
  • Quite Tough & Light Weight

Cons

  • Less Ice Retention
  • Poor Latch Design

Check Price and Rating on Amazon

Tips and Tricks on Using Coolers for Camping

If you want to keep your drinks cold and your food fresh for longer, here are a few pointers that can help you out.

  • Don’t put your drinks and foodstuffs in warm. Always pre-chill everything in your fridge before putting in the cooler the first time. If you are topping it off in the field as you go, keep your drinks out of the sun and where they will stay as cool as possible.
  • Most coolers recommend an ice to contents ration of 2:1. If you want to get the most out of your cooler, follow this rule. It may mean you get less in your cooler but you will get more time out of your ice.
  • Just like any enclosed space, a cooler’s internal temperature will warm in the sun. Keep it in the shade whenever possible. The same holds true for keeping it too close to a campfire.
  • Keeping the internal temperature of your cooler as cool as possible is vital to preserving your ice and keeping your drinks chilled. Keep your contents organized so you can keep the lid closed as much as possible.
  • Don’t wait till your cooler is nearly empty of your favorite beverage before you replace them. Putting in several warm cans is much worse than putting in a single can every time you take one out. Replace them as you go to get the best life out of your ice.

Conclusion

No camping trip will ever be complete without cool beverages to keep you going through the heat of the day.

If you are looking to spend some time in an out of the way place, don’t forget one of the best camping coolers. You can bring all of your favorites along and make your whole trip just a little bit better.

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