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When the warmer months approach, everyone starts planning their outdoor travels. Whether that looks like camping, beach time, park picnics, pool days, or even just hanging in the yard, a cooler is essential for spring and summer hangouts. Coolers also come in handy when entertaining year-round or on long road trips. From lightweight options great for hiking to large rolling models designed to hold beverages for large gatherings, there are coolers of every shape, size, and design to fit your budget and lifestyle.
Here, the best coolers to keep things chill no matter where you are.
Best Overall: Yeti Tundra 75 Hard Cooler
Perishables will stay cold for days
Easy drainage system
Need something that can go from a backyard party to a weekend away? The YETI Tundra 75 Hard Cooler isn’t too large, but isn’t too small to hold everything from party-time cans and bottles to more substantial hauls. Made with a rotomolded construction (what YETI describes as "armored to the core"), this cooler boasts heavy-duty latches that are designed to stay on for all your adventures, non-slip feet that allow it to stay perfectly in place on a boat or in a truck bed, and handles that stay out of the way. Not only that, but between its Permafrost insulation, Fatwall design, and cold-lock gasket, your perishables will stay cold for days.
If you’re looking to make an investment in a cooler and plan to use it beyond the summer season, this is a great option. With all the bells and whistles—including a convenient drainage system—as well as its versatile size, this cooler will be with you for years to come.
Best for Long Trips: Coleman Steel Belted Cooler
Well-insulated, sturdy build
Includes a locking latch
Small gap between lid and body of cooler
A classic, the Coleman Steel Belted Cooler is perfect for trips. With a 54-quart capacity (that’s about 85 cans), this cooler can keep things cool for up to four days. Solid and well-insulated is just the beginning, too, as this steel-belted cooler’s construction is extremely durable. It has rust-resistant hardware and an ergonomic handle. The body is made from stainless steel, which is easy to clean and won’t contaminate your food. And, to reflect your personality, it’s available in a variety of colors.
The Coleman Steel Belted Cooler features good quality at a reasonable price. It can fit enough drinks and food for a comfortable, multi-day road trip and you won’t have to worry about leakage, either.
Best Wheeled: YETI Tundra Haul Hard Cooler
Keeps contents cold for days
Easy to roll
Heavy for its size
If you’re looking for a cooler that has everything on wheels, YETI’s Tundra is it. Wheels make trudging through sand for a beach day or grass for a picnic so much easier, and the YETI’s benefits just go up from there. It’s rotomolded (a fancy word for virtually indestructible), the wheels are designed to resist puncturing and going flat, and the handle is designed from a durable welded aluminum arm with comfortable grips.
The curved design tracks left or right for heel-friendly towing. Our tester found it stood up to whatever terrain she rolled it on without a ton of pulling effort. And, this doesn’t sacrifice on quality, either: This cooler is made with the same Permafrost insulation, Fatwall design, and cold-lock gasket as the rest of the Tundra line.
"We loved that the wheels don’t have grooves where rocks or gravel can get lodged in." – Deanna McCormack, Product Tester
Best Budget: Coleman Xtreme Portable Cooler with Wheels
The handle makes it easy to wheel
Lid features drink holders
Wheels aren't the most secure
Seal isn’t strong
Melting does occur in extreme heat
A 50-quart cooler for around $50? We’ll take it. This Coleman Portable Cooler is a great choice for tailgating parties, beach days, and picnics. With an insulated wall and lid, ice won’t melt until it gets above 90 degrees—and even then, the cooler is designed so that it won’t melt for several days. Another plus? There are cup holders on the lid, so once your drink is out, you won’t have to worry about finding a place to put it down.
If you’re looking for a cooler that’s not going to be a throwaway but isn’t needed for a lot of heavy-duty outdoor work, this is a pretty great buy. And, it can keep items cold for five days in 90-degree heat.
Best Portable: Kula 2.5 Cooler
Why have a regular compact cooler when you can have a stylish compact cooler? The KULA 2.5 Cooler is shaped like a bucket and comes in several bright, eye-catching colors. Lightweight for easy transport to the beach or pool, KULA has also worked with the Gator Proof Alliance to ensure these babies are also gator-proof. Made with food-grade plastic, this cooler also has a drain plug on the bottom, a one-handed hatch, sticky feet to keep it from sliding around, a tote handle, and, oh, did we mention that it can also be used as a seat? This cooler is small but mighty.
Besides a stylish design, it also keeps everything chilled. The KULA 2.5 Cooler is something that stands out from the crowd, and also makes traveling with food and drinks easier—if your budget allows.
Best Soft: Otterbox Trooper LT 30 Cooler
Offering your perishables the same protection it offers expensive electronics, Otterbox is an easy brand to trust with your cans, bottles, and bags. This soft cooler has a food-grade interior liner so you won’t have to worry about contamination, and with a 30-quart capacity, you have plenty of room, too. A bottle opener for sips on-the-go and water-resistant exterior pockets to help store prep items are two added benefits. Its coated nylon exterior is water-, puncture-, UV-, and chemical-resistant.
While this cooler may not be ideal for hikes or other outside activities, the customization aspect may help you look beyond that. If you’re one who likes to be able to take what’s needed for different occasions, the Otterbox is a great choice. And, it’s durable so it will outlast its investment.
Best for Camping and Outdoors: Engel 65 High Performance Hard Cooler
UV-resistant so color won't fade
Recessed marine-grade compression latches
No wheels for transport
If you’re looking for a camping companion, the Engel 65 High Performance Hard Cooler is it. This offering can hold ice for up to 10 days and has 2 inches of insulation. And, what’s a camping cooler without bear resistance? Not an Engel 65, that’s what. This cooler has adjustable recessed marine-grade compression latches and a 10-year warranty. Available in several colors, it’s also UV-resistant so the color won’t fade away.
For a longer camping or fishing trip, this cooler is definitely a win. With the marine-grade latches and the bear resistance, you may still have to worry about some big burly animals coming to your campsite, but you won’t have to worry about them getting their paws on your food.
Best for Quick Meals: Rockland Guard Insulated Meal Prep Bag Cooler
Separate food compartments
Side pockets for phone or wallet
Easy carrying options
Only comes in three colors
Containers aren't included
This meal cooler has made it so that you won’t have to worry about fitting everything you want to eat in your extra-large, bulky bag ever again. The Rockland Guard Insulated Meal Prep Bag Cooler is insulated but has separate compartments so that food can stay at the correct temperature. Enough space for three containers, two bottles, and extra snacks, you’ll be able to have multiple meals out of this cooler. Additionally, there are storage compartments on the side for your phone or wallet, making it convenient to carry around with you. It also has a shoulder strap and a handle for easy carrying.
This is a great quick meal cooler for those trying to eat healthier on-the-go, or for those hours-long road trips. It’s also a great size and not so bulky, so rolling it up to store when it's not in use doesn’t take up too much space.
Best Backpack: RTIC Soft Sided Cooler Backpack
Water bottle holders can become worn and rip
Taking your things with you when you go? RTIC has a backpack for that. The company’s soft-sided cooler backpack can hold 30 cans and a bag of ice. Designed to keep your perishables cold for days, it’s designed with an easy-access zipper on the front, allowing you to grab a drink or snack without having to stop and dig around. Additionally, it floats, so pool and lake days just got a lot more fun.
If you’re someone who loves the outdoors, then this cooler backpack is pretty much right up your alley. You can take it with you from the mountains to the lake—hands-free, at that—and it will keep your drinks and food as cold as the day you took them out of the freezer.
Best for Wine: Vinglacé Wine Bottle Chiller
Available in lots of styles and colors
Beautiful packaging for a gift
May not fit all bottles
Taking your vino with you when you go? We don’t blame you. But, we do recommend taking this Vinglacé portable wine chiller along for the ride. This chiller can keep wine, champagne, and sparkling water bottles cold with the use of its adjustable top, which screws up and down to create the perfect size. Its stainless steel, double-walled, and vacuum-insulated construction is designed to keep the chill for hours without having to be refrigerated first.
Not only is this bottle wonderful for on-the-go and gifting, but it’s also a great way to transport wine, too. No longer will you have to worry about how to bring a perfectly chilled host gift when this can do the work for you.
Best for Slim Cans: BrüMate Hopsulator Slim Insulated Can Cooler
Available in an array of styles and colors
While your drink may have just come out of the fridge or an actual cooler, you may still need to keep it cool. And, with the hard seltzer craze still in full swing—and the slim style of cans that come with it—there aren’t many things out there that can keep the coolness in. Enter BrüMate’s Hopsulator Slim, a triple-insulated, stainless steel can-cooler that is designed to keep those special-sized cans as cool as a cucumber. With zero condensation, you won’t have to worry about it slipping out of your hands and spilling, either!
If you’re a hard seltzer or craft beer fan, this is the perfect addition to your cooler collection.
What to Look for in a Cooler
Construction and Insulation
Coolers have either hard (metal or plastic) or soft (fabric or vinyl) shells containing insulation. Look for closed-cell foam insulation, as it’s more efficient than open-cell foam, and check that the lid is sufficiently insulated and that it seals tightly when shut.
Hard-shell coolers are typically better insulated, more durable, and keep food colder longer than soft-shell ones. Some are even built certified bear-proof, meaning they are designed to protect your food or hunting-trip hauls from bears and other animals you might encounter in the wilderness. However, hard-shell coolers don't collapse, so they’re harder to store (but sometimes get recruited to serve as extra seating).
Soft-shell coolers are more lightweight. They often feature non-insulated storage on the exterior and can collapse. They usually don't retain cold as long as hard-shell coolers.
Size and Capacity
You'll want to take two things into account: storage capacity and the footprint of the cooler itself. If you're going on a quick day trip or to the grocery store, a capacity of 25 quarts or less will likely suffice—and for soft coolers, that’s about all you’ll be able to comfortably carry. But if you're embarking on a seven-day hiking journey, a hunting trip, or even a tailgating party, a hard-sided option that can hold 50 to 100 quarts or more is a better bet.
In terms of footprint, consider the following questions: Is the cooler able to fit in your vehicle? And when you're not using it, can you stow it in the garage or the trunk of your car? If soft, does it collapse for easy storage?
A metal cooler might suffice for a large backyard barbecue, but it could take a beating bouncing around the back of your truck or getting lugged around to various campsites. Think about how you’ll transport your cooler. Look for design elements such as wheels, handles, and shoulder straps.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Emily Cappiello has been a housewares journalist since 2006. She was an editorial assistant and then a senior editor at trusted housewares trade magazine HomeWorld Business, and she was the executive editor of Gourmet Insider Magazine, a trade publication that focused on the independent housewares audience. She has spent her career testing products, hosting panels, aiding in product development and marketing, and in sales-focused training courses by housewares vendors.