Coolers are man’s best-ever camp-friendly invention, second only to campfires and hammocks. Whether car camping or overnighting in the backcountry with your best camping gear, nothing elevates your outdoor game like a cold beverage plucked from a perfectly packed cooler. If you’re in the market for a new top-notch cooler, here are our picks for the best coolers for camping.
Even when empty, the best coolers on the market are heavy. Add 20 pounds of ice and a few 12 packs, and they can be downright back-breaking to transport. RTIC’s 52 Quart Ultra-Light Cooler is an extreme cooler with the same 10-day ice retention as its more expensive competitors. But, what sets it apart is the unique injected-molded design that cuts 30% of the weight from traditional roto-molded coolers. The 52-quart capacity is plenty spacious while weighing just over 20 pounds empty.
We’ve long been fans of Icemule for its versatile, go-anywhere backpack coolers. The ability to throw an entire cooler on your back makes this one of the most adventure-friendly models on the market. Opting for the largest, 20-liter model provides enough room for five wine bottles or 18 standard 12-ounce cans of your favorite beverage with ice. Plus, it’s available in seven colors, so you can color-coordinate your camp-day loadout (if you’re into that sort of thing).
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For hardcore car camping (or tailgating the Super Bowl), you need a serious ice chest. Coleman delivers with the massive Marine Hard Ice Chest Cooler. The 150-quart capacity is designed for all-day fishing charters, but it works just as well as an ice chest for weekend camping. It’s roomy enough for 223 cans of beer, seltzer, Snapple — whatever you’re into. Plus, the beefy ThermoZone insulation helps keep ice cold for nearly a week.
For solo campers and those who demand the ultimate in cooler portability, there’s Nixon’s Wizard Stick. It’s a compact “beverage sling” with exactly enough room for a six-pack. The unique design allows for stacking cans end to end, so everything stays tightly packed with no slippage while out on the trail. This one’s best for quick outings where packability is paramount.
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For day hikes and quick overnighters, Otterbox’s Trooper 20 Cooler is an ideal solution. The compact design measures roughly 14 x 17 x 10-inches with a padded shoulder strap that makes for easy transporting, even into the backcountry. Premium thermal insulation and TPU-coated nylon promise up to three days of ice retention, and a built-in bottle opener makes quick work of your favorite summer beer after you make camp.
Not every weekend camp trip requires $200 worth of groceries and booze. REI Co-op’s Cool Haul 24 is an excellent soft-sided cooler alternative for shorter jaunts and overnight stays where a small stash of chilled food and beverages will do. At 28 liters, it’s large enough to keep 24 cans and ice chilled below 40 degrees F for almost three full days.
Coolers don’t always need to look like coolers. Herschel brings a dash of panache to traditional outdoor gear design with its Little America Backpack Pro. Billed as a “picnic in a bag,” it’s roomy enough for your most essential food and beverages. Fully packed, it’s capable of toting up to 32 standard cans. Plus, we appreciate the wide variety of modern colors and patterns available.
For the shortest trips — say,
Of course, buying a decent cooler shouldn’t mean shelling out more than $400. At less than $30, Tourit’s Cooler Backpack 30 is the most affordable on this list, but it doesn’t scrimp on key features. The insulated, leakproof liner keeps food hot or cold for up to 16 hours — more than enough for overnight
If your outdoor adventures are more water-centric, check out our top picks for the best floating coolers for kayaking, beachgoing, and beyond.
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