If you’re in a rush, I’d recommend that you get the Tundra 65 from YETI.
One of the biggest headaches when it comes to camping is food. You can’t bring your fridge with you, so you’ve got to bring food that won’t spoil (like nuts or granola).
Instead, how about you bring a cooler? Pick up a cooler and throw some ice in it, and now you’ve got a cozy home for your perishable food. You can bring lunch meats, cheese, pizza, or even a few cold beers.
However, there are a ton of coolers on the market. It can take hours to dig through all the options that are available to you.
If you’ve got some spare time, this article will show you what options you can choose from. You’ll also learn the criteria that you should be considering when picking out a cooler.
Let’s get right into it!
The Best Coolers For Camping: Our Top 5 Picks
To make this short and sweet, I picked the top five coolers for camping. Choose between one of these coolers, and your food will stay fresh no matter what.
YETI – Tundra 65
First of all, I was very impressed by the variety of colors that this model came in. You could go for ice blue, river green, seafoam, white, or even desert tan if you want to feel like a Navy SEAL during your next camping trip.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a unit with insulation superior to the YETI Tundra 65. This baby is backed by three robust inches of PermaFrost, a unique material that keeps heat out. It also features a bear-resistant design to ensure that your supplies are secured from furry raiders.
One of the best things about this cooler is that it’s exceptionally durable. Most of my friends don’t believe me when I tell them this, but I actually bought a second unit just to see how hard it would be to destroy. Let’s just say that nothing short of a sledgehammer will put a dent in this thing.
Lastly, the latches on this beast are made of heavy-duty rubber, which ensures their longevity and resistance to weather.
- Enough color options to satisfy everyone
- Thick three-inch insulation keeps all your food crisp
- Bear-resistant latches make this safe to use overnight
- Durable, so you won’t have to buy another cooler ever again
- Rubber latches mean your cooler won’t break while you’re out and about
- Premium pricing, but well worth it in my opinion
Best for: campers who are looking for the best cooler. This one will last you a lifetime.
Coleman – Steel-Belted Cooler
This cooler is far cheaper than the Tundra 65, making it a prime choice for those who need to keep their supplies chilled without breaking the bank. Despite the lower price, you still get a ton of storage space with this model.
Much like the Tundra 65, this cooler from Coleman comes in quite a few different colors. Silver, green, red, and turquoise are the primary hues to choose from. You can also go for stainless steel for a modern look or matte black for that tactical aesthetic that’s popular these days.
The total capacity for this unit stands at 54 quarts. That means it can fit as many as 85 cans. If 85 cans of Voodoo Ranger aren’t enough to keep you satisfied during a camping trip, then you should cut down on the brewskies. In all seriousness, you won’t fall short on capacity here.
The level of insulation on this cooler is thick enough to keep your ice alive for four days in temperatures of up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
You’ll find that the construction on this Coleman cooler is top-notch. Its stainless steel, rust-resistant hardware, and ergonomic handle make this one durable cooler.
If you’re looking for a durable cooler that can fit in with most camping budgets, then this unit is definitely a top pick.
- Tons of colors available
- More affordable than a YETI, but (almost) as cool
- 54-quart capacity gives you tons of space
- Four-day ice lifespan is long enough for a weekend away
- Stainless steel construction is easy to clean and simple to use
- Ergonomic handle makes lugging your cooler painless
- Not as durable as the Tundra 65, since it is a bit more affordable.
Best for: campers who are looking for an affordable (yet sturdy) cooler for their next trip.
Grizzly – 20-Quart Rotomolded Cooler
Made in the USA, this cooler boasts the usual features such as a variety of colors and reliable insulation. That being said, there are some unique traits that you’ll find with this particular model.
First off, the handle is made out of stainless steel, meaning that it can take a beating during the wet season without rusting. The feet of the cooler are also made out of rubber, meaning that it won’t skid even if you place it on slippery surfaces.
Skidding coolers are a more common problem than you might think. I once packed this cooler full of meat and water to last us the whole camping trip. I was playing catch with one of my sons and missed the ball. It hit the cooler and sent it sliding down the hill…
Also, the drain is rather broad, with a diameter of two inches. This wide construction makes it easy to drain water quickly. That means you won’t be left waiting for an eternity as the water drips out the cooler as slow as molasses.
Its plastic tray is also removable making it easier to clean the cooler when you’re done using it. In this cooler, the lifespan of ice is akin to that of the Coleman model (at four days) in temperatures up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This cooler will serve you well, whether it’s hot or cold outside.
Speaking of heat, check out these heaters built for tents.
- Non-slip rubber feet help you avoid slippage
- Extensive insulation (keeps ice for four days)
- Stainless steel handle won’t rust or snap
- Tons of colors available
- Full drain for smooth water flow
- Removable tray makes for easy cleaning
- Pricier than the Coleman cooler, but similar in features.
- Smaller than some of the coolers on here
Best for: campers who want premium features like rubber feet, removable tray, and stainless steel handles.
Igloo – Super Tough Cooler
The 54-quart capacity on this cooler should be more than enough to accommodate all of your supplies. Both the hinges and latches on this unit are made out of stainless steel. They aren’t likely to rust even if most of your camping trips are under wet conditions.
Even the rope on the drain plug is made out of stainless steel. Beyond the rust-resistant construction on this product, I was very impressed by the handle. It was both durable and surprisingly comfortable to hold on to.
While this model only comes in one color, the white base with orange accents definitely brings a unique aesthetic to the table. It’s like a tactical ice cube if that makes any sense. The orange accents also make it easy to spot at night, ensuring you’ll never lose it.
The best part about this cooler is that it’s the most affordable on this list by a significant margin. Despite the low price point, this cooler still comes with a three-year warranty, which is a true testament to its durability.
- Most affordable on this list
- 54-quart capacity is plenty big for the whole family
- Stainless steel parts won’t rust or break
- Durable and ergonomic handle makes carrying a breeze
- The three-year warranty guarantees your purchase for many winters
- Only available in one color scheme
- Not the best cooling compared to the YETI or Coleman
Best for: budget campers who want a durable cooler that won’t fail them.
Orca – 20-Quart ORCG020 Cooler
While the two standard colors of this cooler come in the military hues of green and tan, it also comes in white or even pink if those shades better suit your taste. The lid gasket on this model ensures that the seal is nothing short of perfect.
The stainless steel handle has a flexible grip to ensure that it’s as comfortable as it is durable. I found that the single-handle design made it easier for me to bear the weight during my trek to the campsite.
This isn’t the most affordable cooler nor the biggest, but it definitely excels in certain areas. It’s worth noting that there’s also a 140-quart model for campers with more substantial needs, but that variant won’t come cheap.
- Lid gasket seal is one of the strongest on this list
- Four colors to choose from
- Stainless steel handle that’s thick and durable
- 140-quart variant available, for extra-large camping needs
- Cargo net attachment for added storage
- Smaller than other options, but a legitimate contender nonetheless.
Best for: solo campers who want a durable cooler but don’t need as much storage space.
Choosing The Right Cooler
There’s a lot more that goes into picking the right cooler than you might think. Everything from insulation, seals, and even drains can be factors that need to be considered when you’re choosing a unit for your next camping trip.
I’m going to go over all the criteria that you should look at before making your decision in this section.
The first thing that you should analyze when choosing between coolers is what type of insulation is used. There are various types of insulation across different units. Each one has its own level of effectiveness in keeping everything inside sufficiently chilled.
While there are different materials used to insulate the coolers, you should be more focused on the thickness of the foam.
This is because the thickness is the principal determiner of performance in this case, while the material only makes a marginal difference.
All the insulation in the world won’t do you any good if the sealing on your cooler isn’t up to par. If the warmer air outside can make its way into the cooler (due to poor sealing), then the cooler essentially becomes useless.
There’s simply no margin for error here, and thus, any cooler worth its cost should seal correctly. If you notice weak seals or faulty mechanisms, then swipe left on that unit and find a better one.
Lid gaskets are the best type of seal that you’d find in a camping cooler, but other varieties are okay too as long as they’re well-made.
If you’re really intent on checking the seal of your cooler, you can attach an air compressor to the drain of the cooler and checking for any escaping air. But, most of the time, you can eyeball it.
The drain of the cooler is another factor that you should be paying attention to if you hope to find the right unit. That’s because there’s really no avoiding wetness within your cooler.
After all, ice won’t remain a solid unless you’re camping in Antarctica – but then, you wouldn’t need a cooler to begin with. When the ice inside your cooler inevitably melts and fills your unit with water, a reliable drain is required to get rid of all that excess moisture.
Draining your cooler when it gets too full will help conserve the remaining ice. You should pick a cooler that has its drain fixed into the interior of the unit so that it won’t come off if something impacts it.
There was this particular cooler that I brought along on a camping trip with my boys. They were skipping rocks when they let a rock slip out of their hands and accidentally hit the cooler. Since the drain was fitted to the exterior of the unit, it immediately came off and was beyond repair.
You should also make sure the drain is reliable and sturdy. The last thing you want is a leaky drain that soaks the backseat of your car.
You might think that the handle of a cooler is nothing more than a trivial detail, but you’d be surprised how useful it can actually be. When your coolers are filled with ice cubes, meat, and bottles of water, you’ll be thankful that you have an ergonomic handle to hang onto.
Comfort is vital, but you should also ensure that the handle on your cooler is durable. You don’t want it to come off in the middle of a hike to your campsite. It’d be a tragedy if all your perishable supplies were sent rolling down the hill.
Lastly, you should look for a handle that tucks in flush so that you can easily store your cooler when you’re not using it.
Never forget the golden rule when testing out handles: if it feels cheap, it probably is.
When you cross-reference the criteria discussed with the options on this list, it’s clear that the YETI Tundra 65 is by far the best cooler of the five.
Its thick insulation, rubber latches, and bear-resistant design make it a top-level cooler. You’re free to pick any of the models on the list, but the Tundra is the clear winner in my book thanks to its supreme durability.
Stay tuned for upcoming articles on the latest and greatest camping gear!