These Are the 9 Best Coolers for Camping. Or for Hanging Out in Your Backyard.
It's time to upgrade your chilly bin
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Unless you’re the type to forage for nuts and berries as soon as you’ve heard the call of the wild, there’s a good chance you’ll need to pack some food to satiate your backcountry hunger.
You could stick to classic non-perishable options like peanut butter and canned beans, but most of us enjoy a blend of meats, veggies, fruits and the occasional frosty beer, all of which require cold storage. This means you need to find a cooler that’s not only spacious and insulated but one that’s built for the outdoors too.
Whether you’re camping in the wild or tailgating before the big game, keeping your goods cold is key. Thankfully, high-quality coolers are rugged, roomy and designed for everything from solo road trips to week-long episodes of wanderlust. Finding the perfect model that’s lightweight and easy to transport yet undeniably strong poses its own challenge, but never fear. Below we break down the best coolers for camping in 2021, from the budget-friendly Coleman to the sought-after Yeti.
Best Hard-Sided Camping Cooler: Yeti Tundra 45
Don’t act like you’re surprised to find Yeti at the top of our list. The Tundra boasts the most impressive all-around performance of any hard cooler we tested, and rightly so given it costs as much as a round-trip flight to Cancun. The rotomolded construction makes it virtually indestructible, yet the interior is roomy enough for 28 cans of your favorite sudsy beverage (using Yeti’s 2:1 ice-to-can ratio). Though it doesn’t feature a set of rolling wheels, the compact profile is manageable for one person hauling a loaded chest to and from the campsite. You’ll also receive a dry goods basket to keep sensitive items above the ice, and other Yeti accessories turn a traditional cooler into, well, more than a cooler.
Best Cooler That Isn’t Yeti: RTIC 45 Hard Cooler
If you’re lacking funds or you just want something a little different, RTIC’s 45-quart cooler is sure to please with its Yeti-like list of rugged features. The rotomolded design handles 36 cans of refreshment (or 40 pounds of ice), and RTIC claims it’ll keep ice in solid form for up to 10 days. Heavy-duty rope handles make it extremely easy to transport the cooler between campsites, and tie-down slots along the frame keep your precious cargo secure during transit. If curious wildlife should find your fully-stocked cooler in the middle of the night, never fear: RTIC built it to withstand bear attacks. Our testing suggests it won’t retain ice quite as long as the Yeti, but it still delivers nearly identical features for $100 less.
Best Camping Cooler On Wheels: RovR RollR 60
A cooler on wheels was a gimmick back in the day when plastic wheels were bound to seize up, tow handles were flimsy and insulation was downright embarrassing. Perhaps that’s why RovR launched in 2016 with a line of wheeled coolers like the RollR 60 to reset (and exceed) our expectations. Its spacious interior hauls up to 20 pounds of ice, or a little less if you install the included dry bin to organize your goods. The aluminum handle features dual motorcross-style grips for stress-free transport, or you can simply tow it from the back of your bike via RovR’s BikR Kit. The design is a little bigger and heavier than its competitors, but the fact that we can wheel this thing like a suitcase makes up for its considerable size. Grab the Essentials Pack to outfit your RovR with a cutting board, cup holders and a stash bag.
Best Budget Camping Cooler: Coleman 70-Quart Cooler
Strip away the premium insulation and the bear-proof construction, and what you’ve got is the Coleman 70-Quart Cooler. For just over $50, you get an insane amount of interior space, Coleman’s have-a-seat lid that supports up to 250 pounds and four cup holders to secure your drinks. It’ll keep ice for up to five days, and even the 120-quart model costs less than $70 if you need a little more room. We’ll admit Coleman isn’t winning any awards for style or build quality, but their offerings are still better for everyday use (and the environment) than a cheap styrofoam cooler that you bought at the gas station on your way out of town.
Best Backpack Cooler: Yeti Hopper Backflip 24
Not lifting a cooler with your hands or rolling it across the landscape? The only option left is to throw it on your back. We’ve always been skeptical of soft coolers due to their weakened ability to keep things cold, but to our surprise, the Hopper Backflip uses closed-cell foam that confidently locks in the chill as a hard cooler does. It’s surprisingly comfortable and easy to manage thanks to a chest strap and hip belt for a secure fit, and the wide-mouth zipper opening makes it easy to access food and beverage even when it’s on your back. Lashing points on each side complement Yeti accessories, but we secure bottle openers, portable speakers and even camping cookware when space isn’t available elsewhere.
Best Electric Camping Cooler: Dometic CFX3 75DZ
If you have your eyes set on a Dometic cooler, you’re either serious about the best coolers for camping or you’re building a dreamy vanlife setup. Most of us won’t need a Dometic in our lifetime, but that’s because most of us don’t have access to a regular power source in the backcountry to keep this thing humming. The CFX3 comes with fender frames to protect it outdoors, and heavy-duty alloy handles to deliver confident transport (it weighs a ton). To control the temperature on this behemoth, download the Dometic app for your smartphone or use the cooler’s weatherproof display. Oh, and the “DZ” designation stands for “Dual Zone,” meaning this puppy features two temperature-controlled zones for simultaneous cooling and freezing. We could easily write an entire review on this cooler alone, so we recommend heading to Dometic for more information.
Best Vintage Cooler: Coleman 54 Steel Belted Cooler
Moments around the campfire with friends and family remind us of a simpler time before bear-proof coolers and outlandish equipment. We stumble upon similar memories when we bring Coleman’s Steel Belted Cooler along for the adventure. It looks just like the original steel Coleman from 1954, but modern insulation now retains ice for up to four days, and a few inches of added height hold two-liter bottles upright to prevent spills. Drain the cooler via channel drain when your trip ends and don’t forget to slap your favorite stickers on the side as the years go by. If any cooler could tell a story, it would be this one.
Best Personal Camping Cooler: Orca 20 Quart Cooler
You don’t need a camping cooler that hauls 150 cans of beer if you’re the only one using it. For those traveling solo, we’re fond of the Orca 20’s nimble size and stainless steel handles, which make it easy to carry from one place to the next. Weighing a mere 25 pounds when empty, this chilly bin fits 18 cans of carbonated goodness or a combination of brews and grub. A cargo attachment keeps it secure as your vehicle passes over rough terrain, and Orca’s lineup of vibrant colors add a little style to the often mundane cooler market.
Best Disposable Cooler: Igloo Recool 16 Cooler
We’re begging you to stop using Styrofoam. It doesn’t degrade naturally, and it leaches chemicals into the air and soil when exposed to sunlight, not to mention polystyrene manufacturing greatly contributes to global warming. If you’re looking for a single-use cooler, pick up Igloo’s biodegradable Recool bin. The Texas-based company makes it with materials that return to the earth in a landfill, it holds plenty of goods for a family of four and it won’t squeak like a traditional foam cooler. Molded handles on the sides make it easy to grab and go, and it only costs $10. Mother Earth will thank you for your support.
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