Years ago, we came to know about coolers as old-school plastic and steel containers that weighed a ton, sweated like crazy, and had terrible ice retention. A lot of us had experienced pouring out quarts of water after just a couple of hours on a hot, sunny day. Thankfully, times have changed and technology has progressed. Modern plastics and manufacturing methods like rotational molding have resulted in super-rugged cooler bodies that offer greatly improved insulation and ice retention that lasts for days rather than hours. On top of having better ice retention, there are also backpack coolers for beverages available now, which makes carrying your drinks a breeze.
Forget about passing down that dinky cooler you took on summer road trips and beach days. You should now be familiar with this superior and new breed of coolers. The best models from brands like Yeti, Coleman, Pelican, and others ensure you’re never without a chilled beverage on the lake, at the beach, or by the campfire. Which is the best cooler for you this summer? Keep reading to find out.
For many years, Pelican has been considered the world’s best (wheeled) coolers. They can oftentimes cost you a fortune, but their near-bulletproof durability and week-plus ice retention are the reason why the U.S. military relies on them. Pelican’s Elite collection is its flagship consumer cooler line with capacities ranging from 20 to 150 quarts. The 45QW Elite Wheeled Cooler is the perfect compromise. It’s small enough to be portable, especially with the integrated wheels. However, it’s large enough for a long weekend camping or at the beach house.
Thoughtful features like a built-in fish scale, bottle opener, molded-in tie-downs, and a sloped drain with a tethered threaded plug (for use with a garden hose) make it more functional than most coolers. It also works great as a portable beverage cooler for storing drinks.
Most really good coolers are pretty rugged, but if you’re the type of outdoorsman who is unusually rough on your things, then the Yeti Tundra might be the ultimate vessel for keeping your drinks, meat, fish, and whatever else ice-cold and protected. The Tundra’s rotomolded walls are several inches thick and filled with PermaFrost insulation for days’ worth of ice retention, and the lid bolts down with Yeti’s rubber T-Rex latches for a bear-proof, airtight seal. The 45-quart Yeti Tundra is a bit pricey at $300, but if you don’t mind the “buy once, cry once” price tag, this might be what you’re looking for.
If the premium price tag for a Yeti or Pelican cooler is too rich for your budget, Arctic Zone’s Titan Deep Freeze Ice Chest collection is a reliable alternative. The 55-quart model boasts enough capacity for just about any fishing,
IceMule has some of the most portable and best travel coolers on the market. The IceMule Pro cooler is no exception. With a capacity of 33 liters, the IceMule Pro X-Large is both a spacious and compact option that’s perfect for any outdoor adventure. It offers room enough for up to 24 cans, plus ice. Think about bringing
Although it’s best known for smartphone cases and accessories, OtterBox offers a solid line of outdoor gear as well. The Trooper LT 30 Cooler is a versatile, soft-sided cooler that quickly converts between shoulder carry and backpack carry. The wide mouth opens to reveal a 30-quart capacity with a leakproof, food-grade liner that’ll keep ice for more than three days. Plus, water-resistant external pockets and an integrated
Sometimes, you just can’t beat a classic, and the OG Coleman cooler combines modern materials and three-day ice retention with a no-nonsense design at an unbeatable price point. This model has a 48-quart capacity (with room for more than 60 cans) — the “Goldilocks” zone for a go-to day cooler that’s not too big or too small. It’s also tall enough for 2-liter soda bottles to stand up in. Another surprising (and very nice) thing to see with a budget option is that this Coleman cooler is made right here in America. For a mere $26, don’t even think about looking elsewhere for a cheap, no-frills cooler.
Most medium- to large-sized coolers are in the 40- to 65-quart range. For serious parties, however, that almost certainly won’t be enough. For big get-togethers like graduation parties or the next Fyre Fest, this unassuming white titan from Igloo is just the ticket. Along with a cavernous 120-quart capacity, the Igloo Polar cooler provides excellent insulation and ice retention, a locking lid, and an odor-resistant liner. In short, it’s everything you need a jumbo cooler to be, with no unnecessary (and expensive) bells and whistles. Since a huge cooler isn’t something most of us are likely to use often, it doesn’t make sense to pay hundreds for one, and the Igloo Polar cooler is pretty easy on the wallet despite its size.
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