The Best Coolers to Keep Things Chill on the Go

The Yeti Tundra 75 is our winner

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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.

The Spruce Eats Top Picks

We chose the Yeti Tundra 75 Cooler as our top pick because it's certified bear-proof, leakproof with a great drainage system, and will keep perishable cold for days. For an all-star budget pick, we recommend the Coleman Xtreme Portable Cooler With Wheels.

Here, the best coolers to keep things chill no matter where you are.

Best Overall: Yeti Tundra 75 Hard Cooler

yeti-tundra-75-hard-cooler

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Certified bear-proof

  • Perishables will stay cold for days

  • Leakproof

  • Easy drainage system

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy

  • Expensive

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.

Overall Dimensions: 33.5 x 17.5 x 18 inches | Carrying Capacity: About 74.8 quarts, 70 pounds of ice, or 57 cans with a 2:1 ice-to-can ratio | Material: Polyurethane foam insulation, UV-resistant polyethylene exterior

Best Budget: Coleman Xtreme Portable Cooler with Wheels

coleman-xtreme-portable-cooler

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • The handle makes it easy to wheel

  • Lid features drink holders

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Overall Dimensions: 22.44 x 17.32 x 17.32 inches | Carrying Capacity: 50 quarts, up to 84 cans without ice | Material: Plastic exterior

Best Wheeled: Yeti Tundra Haul Hard Cooler

4.6
yet-tundra-haul-cooler

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Certified bear-proof

  • Keeps contents cold for days

  • Easy to roll

  • Extremely durable

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy for its size

  • Expensive

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.

Overall Dimensions: 28.25 x 19.5 x 18.5 inches | Carrying Capacity: About 45 quarts, 55 pounds of ice, or 45 cans with a 2:1 ice-to-can ratio | Material: Polyurethane foam insulation, UV-resistant polyethylene exterior

What Our Testers Say

"We loved that the wheels don’t have grooves where rocks or gravel can get lodged in." – Deanna McCormack, Product Tester

Best Soft: RTIC Insulated Soft Cooler Bag

4.8
RTIC soft cooler bag

RTIC

What We Like
  • Excellent cold longevity

  • Leakproof

  • Durable

  • Floats in rivers, lakes

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy when full

The RTIC Insulated Soft Cooler Bag looks like a Yeti cooler, but comes at a lower price. We tested the 30-can version in our Lab (there are also options for 12, 20, and 40 cans), but to make more room for ice, we scaled down to 20 cans instead. Considering the contents, this cooler is fairly large and does get heavy, so it isn't the easiest to tote around. We just wouldn't suggest taking it on long excursions, as it comes with just two handle carrying straps and one shoulder strap. That said, there is a 20- and 30-can backpack version with a padded and ventilated back panel, shoulder straps, and waist straps that we also tested and rated highly.

As far as insulation goes, the RTIC features 2-inch closed-cell foam with a puncture- and tear-resistant liner to keep drinks nice and cold. After filling it with soda cans and ice, we left it to sit in our 70-degree Lab. After 24 hours, the temperature had only risen 11 degrees from our original temperature reading the day prior (compared to about 7 degrees for the similar Yeti we tested). About 20 percent of the ice remained, as well. And while you likely won't be getting rough and rowdy with this cooler, we did toss it off a tabletop to test its durability. Not only did it survive the fall with flying colors, but it also didn't leak a single drop.

Like most zippered coolers with excellent insulation and a leakproof design, the zipper on this cooler can be a little difficult to open and close at first, though it does come with lubricant. The super-tight seal and heavy-duty nylon shell even allow you to take this into water, such as lakes, rivers, and pools—every RTIC Soft Pack Cooler is designed to float. It's a wonderful option for boating, camping, beach days, backyard barbecues, and more.

Overall Dimensions: 12 x 10 x 8 inches | Carrying Capacity: 12, 20, 30, or 40 cans | Empty Weight: 4 pounds | Material: Nylon

RTIC soft insulated cooler

Tamara Staples / The Spruce Eats

Lab Test Takeaway

"This is a spacious and good-looking cooler with great insulation. There is one front compartment, though it's not very large. It could fit some small belongings, napkins, money and credit cards, keys, etc. Basically compact and/or flat things."

Best for Long Trips: Coleman Steel Belted Cooler

Coleman® Steel-Belted Cooler

Courtesy of L.L. Bean

What We Like
  • Well-insulated, sturdy build

  • Retro design

  • Includes a locking latch

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Overall Dimensions: 26 x 17 x 17 inches | Carrying Capacity: 54 quarts, or 85 cans without ice | Material: Steel exterior

Best for Camping and Outdoors: Engel 65 High Performance Hard Cooler

engel-65-high-performance-cooler

Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Bear-resistant

  • UV-resistant so color won't fade

  • Recessed marine-grade compression latches

What We Don't Like
  • No wheels for transport

  • Plastic construction

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. 

Overall Dimensions: 29.5 x 17 x 16.5 inches | Carrying Capacity: 58 quarts, or 70 cans with a 2:1 ratio of ice to cans | Material: Foam insulation, polyethylene shell

Best Backpack: RTIC Backpack Soft Cooler

4.8
RTIC-cooler-backpack

Amazon

What We Like
  • Large capacity

  • Floats

  • Durable

  • Leakproof

  • Amazing cold retention

What We Don't Like
  • Water bottle holders can become worn and rip

  • Expensive

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 features 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 you can take it along with you on pool and lake days.

In our Lab, we found that the zipper was hard to open (this is because of its top-notch insulation and leakproof design), but the included lubricant made the process slightly smoother. The zipper has a durable, T-shaped plastic piece instead of a traditional metal slider, which makes it easier for you to get a good grip and pull the teeth open and shut.

Although this bag can hold 30 cans and ice, we used 20 cans and ice. After filling and leaving it in the Lab for 24 hours, we were pleasantly surprised to find that just 50 percent of the ice had melted and the temperature had only dropped 11 degrees. Despite it's large size, it's also really comfortable to carry, as there is a lot of padding for your shoulders and back on both the straps and the actual cooler. There's also ventilation on the back panel to ward off moisture and a waist strap to help with weight distribution. You won't feel like you have a giant backpack on filled with ice and cans despite, well, having a giant backpack on filled with ice and cans.

There are multiple places where you can attach a carabiner, and the stretchy straps at the front offer additional real estate for storing soft items, such as a small tent, towel, rain jacket, or compact sleeping bag. 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.

Overall Dimensions: 20.25 x 15 x 10 inches | Carrying Capacity: 30 cans and a bag of ice | Material: 100 percent waterproof fabric shell

rtic soft insulated backpack cooler

Tamara Staples / The Spruce Eats

Lab Test Takeaway

"It's really comfortable to carry. When it's on your back, you don't feel like you have a giant backpack on filled with cans. It's very sturdy and can hold more than its capacity with and without ice."

Best Portable: Kula 2.5 Cooler

kula-2.5-cooler

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Stylish

  • Compact

  • Gator-proof

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

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 also ensures these babies are also gator-proof for Floridians. 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.

Overall Dimensions: 14.25 x 16.75 inches | Carrying Capacity: 5 gallons | Material: Stainless steel, plastic

Best for Quick Meals: Rockland Guard Insulated Meal Prep Bag Cooler

rockland-guard-insulated-meal-cooler

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Separate food compartments

  • Side pockets for phone or wallet

  • Easy carrying options

What We Don't Like
  • 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 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.

Overall Dimensions: 13 x 10 x 8 inches | Carrying Capacity: 3 containers, 2 bottles, extra snacks | Material: Fabric

Best for Wine: Vinglacé Wine Bottle Chiller

wine-bottle-chiller

Courtesy of Food52

What We Like
  • Available in lots of styles and colors

  • Lightweight

  • Beautiful packaging for a gift

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Overall Dimensions: 11.69 x 6.5 x 5.55 inches | Carrying Capacity: 1 wine bottle | Material: Stainless steel

Best for Slim Cans: BrüMate Hopsulator Slim Insulated Can Cooler

brumate-hopsulator-slim-insulated-can-cooler

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Available in an array of styles and colors

  • Affordable

  • Zero condensation

What We Don't Like
  • Not versatile 

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.

Overall Dimensions: 7.37 x 3.51 x 3.47 inches | Carrying Capacity: 1 slim 12-ounce can | Material: Stainless steel

Final Verdict

The Yeti Tundra 75 Cooler is our winner because it's leakproof, has an awesome drainage system, will keep food cold for days, and bears won't be able to get inside to steal your precious goods. On a budget? We recommend the Coleman Xtreme Portable Cooler With Wheels.

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?

Portability

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.

FAQs

Should you get a hard or soft-sided cooler?

It all comes down to how you're going to use the cooler. Soft-sided coolers work for those everyday events and are easy to store. Hard-sided coolers are better for camping and road trips, tailgating events, or large gatherings and parties.

How long do soft-sided coolers stay cold?

These lightweight coolers are great for day trips to the beach, hiking, or car trips. Some will keep food and drink items cold for as long as three days.

How long do coolers last?

Coolers can last five years or longer. It depends on how well they're taken care of and how much use they've had. 

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.

This roundup was updated by Taylor Rock, Commerce Editor for The Spruce Eats. She knows how important it is to keep food and drinks chilled for an extended period of time, especially at the beach on a hot summer day when refreshments are vital. Taylor and other staff members from The Spruce Eats, Simply Recipes, TripSavvy, and more, personally tested two soft coolers on this roundup at the Dotdash Meredith Lab in Brooklyn, New York.

Updated by
Sharon Lockley
Sharon Lockley
Sharon Lockley has over 20 years of experience as an editor and writer and has been contributing to The Spruce Eats since 2019.
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