When we pack up the RV or car to head out and tackle the wilderness with friends and family, you can bet the cooler will be included. If you’re lacking a cooler, then this is the point where you realize you’ve made a mistake.
For some, we have an old hand me down cooler that doesn’t keep our food cold, or we bought a cheap cooler at the local store. Luckily, today, there are better coolers at more reasonable prices.
To pick the best cooler, we need to understand what we’ll be using it for. Will it be for weekend trips to the campground? Are we taking food for 2 people or 12?
Some coolers even come with advanced features like integrated cup holders, fold out trays, or even auxiliary batteries for charging phones or powering the Bluetooth speaker for the party.
Quick Answer: The 5 Best Camping Coolers For 2017
- Pelican Products ProGear Elite Cooler
- Engel Coolers High Performance ENG65
- Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Cooler
- YETI Tundra 35 Cooler
- Coleman 40 Quart PowerChill Thermoelectric Cooler
Let’s take a look at the camping coolers and which ones are the best on the market today, then we’ll talk about how to choose a camping cooler in our guide.
Best Camping Coolers
Camping Cooler Reviews
This 65-quart cooler from Pelican features 2” polyurethane insulation for ice retention up to 10 days. Using molded handles, press and pull latches for a air-tight seal and a molded outer body, this rugged and durable case is a serious contender for your consideration.
Large press-and-pull latches are designed to be used with gloves on and operate with a two-stage locking mechanism. There’s even a combination lock attachment point on the cooler if you really want to keep the pesky neighbors out of your beer.
Pelican Cooler will protect your beer from unwanted guests:
With a sloped flood drain and a threaded attachment that can be attached to a garden hose, you’ll be able to really rinse out any nasty gunk that builds up inside this cooler.
Despite the relatively heavy weight, I think you’ll like the longevity and performance of this high-end cooler. Definitely a tool for car or truck camping as the weight and bulk make it impossible to carry over distances. With a lifetim warranty I think this is the best camping cooler for the money.
With a steep jump in performance over most other camping cooler models, the Engel ENG65 can hold ice for up to 10-days at a time! This is a serious cooler for those looking to keep food fresh for more than a week in rugged backcountry conditions.
With a silicone gasket and marine grade compression latches, there will be absolutely zero air transfer to the outside world. Just be certain to clean off the silicone gasket thoroughly after each use when you get home.
Engle has managed this high degree of insulation by using a solid two inches of polyurethane foam around the entire cooler! The Anvil Hinge keeps the lid upright when opened, very handy when trying to get a beverage out of the cooler when you have something in your hands or need both hands to search for buried items.
I really like that the cooler is a IBSC certified bear resistant container. This is great touch for camping in animal friendly areas to make sure that you keep yourself and the animals safe! The Engel 65 is a great choice for when you go camping, hunting, or fishing.
If retro design or timeless style is your jam, then this cooler will be your top pick! First designed by Coleman in 1954, the 54-quart cooler looks like it belongs right in the times. While it’s big, heavy, and nearly bombproof you’ll be able to fit just about anything inside.
With exterior dimensions of 14”x22” it’s not a behemoth, but neither is it compact. You can fit up to 85 cans of your favorite beverage or hold several two liter bottles upright. Rustproof stainless steel and each cleaning design leave no room for bacteria to take hold in nooks and crannies.
Remember when we talked about durable handles? Coleman’s steel handles and metal brackets are sturdy and durable.
The Have-A-Seat lid will ensure you always have a place to sit at the campsite, tailgate party or BBQ.This cooler has been loved for decades and for good reason!
The Yeti is not ranked #4 because its not as good as the other coolers, its just you really pay a premium price for YETI coolers. They are the best, but the difference between YETI, Engel and Pelican is not that much. This smaller cooler is a size down from the others on our list which makes it a great personal cooler choice or a short day at the parade, air show, or beach.
With a capacity of about 20 cans of brew, you can be sure there’s enough for a few friends on a long hot day. If your in need of a larger size, here is a link to the 65 quart size.
Despite the small size, it still weighs in at a hefty 20lbs. but that’s the tradeoff for serious insulation. This cooler features up to 3” of insulation, a rubber sealing gasket, and two rubberized latches to keep the lid on tight.
It’s built to be bear resistant for thwarting the attempts of those tenacious buggers but we don’t recommend testing it out.
All YETI Tundra model coolers come standard with one dry-goods basket to help separate the ice and water from any goodies you might want to keep crispy.
This is a solid choice from a solid manufacturer for those looking to carry a more moderate number of cold goodies. When you want the best cooler there is, YETI has no substitute.
If you’re heading off the grid, then this is not the cooler for you! If, however, you’re spending the weekend at the campground and you’ve got access to a 110V outlet, you’ll be able to keep your items fresh and cool in what amounts to a tiny fridge.
Coleman designed this cooler to be halfway between the college dorm room and the campground cooler. You can convert the door to open either left or right or you can simple set the cooler down horizontally to be used like a traditional cooler.
Its not a true refrigerator of course, but it will keep the interior of the cooler 40 degrees cooler than the surrounding air temperature. The fact that you do not need ice is major advantage in my book, you get a true 40 quarts of storage since there is no ice taking up room and soaking your food.
Internally a tray shelf can be used as a divider or a shelf depending on how you set up this cooler fridge. You’ll be able to hold about 44 cans of your favorite brew with the 40qt capacity. The motor that keeps the interior cold, takes up little weight so the cooler is about te same weight as a standard cooler of similar capacity.
Overall, this is a good choice for the tech savvy campground visitor.
Try making a camping trip work on a hot July weekend without a good cooler and you’ll be sorry. It’s critical to have the tools on hand to cook the way you want.
While it’s totally possible to enjoy camping without a cooler, most people prefer to take the luxuries of home with them into the outdoors. Picking out a cooler with ample insulation and internal space for your needs is important to finding the right tool for your needs.
How to Choose the Best Camping Cooler
Great camping coolers are more than just a place to keep some ice frozen. They’re able to keep cold items chilled for days at a time and feature modern inclusions that tip the cooler above a food storage device and into a multi-function party saver.
Most coolers utilize a foam insulation. While there are different types of foam insulation, one of the biggest factors in how long your ice will stay frozen is the sheer amount of insulation used. The thicker the outer insulation on any cooler, the longer it will keep your food cold.
The most advanced coolers or ice chests are using polyethylene foam of 1.5” or more on all sides. You may also run in to polyurethane insulation or extruded polystyrene insulation. All of these options are minutely different when it comes to making a camping cooler and ultimately the most important factor is simply the thickness of foam included.
A decent cooler must seal perfectly. Any exchange of air between the inside and outside of the cooler will instantly ruin the insulation value of the cooler. Avoid coolers with poor sealing mechanisms or weak seals.
Look for coolers with robust locking mechanisms and rubber sealing gaskets around the lid. Rubber gaskets are a must-have if you want to keep stuff cold for days. Making sure the cooler latches and stays latched every time is the key to efficient cooling.
Every cooler will get wet inside – it’s just a fact of life for a cooler. When that happens, you’ll want to be able to drain the cooler. For convenience, you’ll want to be able to drain the cooler from the outside to remove water as your ice melts. You’ll also want to be able to drain the cooler after washing and cleaning.
When considering a drain option for your cooler, the most important factor is durability. Look for drain plugs which are receded inside the body of the case so they can’t be accidentally knocked loose or broken.
This might seem like a trivial consideration but coolers can get heavy with ice, food, and water. This means you’ll want comfortable, robust handles that can tolerate a lot of weight and use. Make sure your cooler handles tuck away seamlessly so that the cooler can be packed tight in the trunk or RV. Avoid cheap handles or handles that seem poorly made – they’ll leave you stranded if they break.
Considering the size of your cooler is important for two main reasons. First, you’ll need room in the car or truck for all your other camping gear so don’t get a cooler that takes up all your space. That being said, however, you’ll need enough space in the cooler to carry critical food items.
To save space, make sure you only pack food in the cooler that absolutely must stay cold. That will help save space for other items. Pack all of your dry or room temperature food outside of the cooler so that you can carry the smallest possible cooler for your trip.