We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

A well-built, long-lasting cooler for camping will keep your food and drinks cold for hours when you’re away from a power outlet, convenience store, or other modern luxuries. It needs to be rugged enough to get taken in and out of the back of a car, trekked to a campsite, and exposed to rain, snow, sunshine, bugs, and anything else you’ll find out in the wilderness. If your current camping cooler is looking a little long in the tooth, isn’t big enough for the length of your trip, it’s time for an upgrade. Here are some of the best coolers for camping in a wide range of styles for every budget.

How we chose the best coolers for camping

There are a glut of coolers available on the Internet, but the starting point for the recommendations below started with some of our other stories. The commerce team Popular Science has already covered the best coolers and cooler bags available for all uses. Many of the metrics—size, capacity, price—that went into determining the top picks in those stories were also important here. We paid attention to options from the top brands, and were able to conduct some in-person testing to supplement our research.

Coolers can get expensive very fast—we feel the price is worthwhile since this is a piece of gear that should literally last you decades—but we made sure our selections were relatively affordable. This mentality was a through-line throughout this entire story, not just something we cared about when choosing our budget pick. Overall, you’ll find camping coolers that provide the right mix of performance and value without sacrificing either.

The best coolers for camping: Reviews & Recommendations

Camping has experienced a mainstream renaissance lately, driven in part by the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and our collective desire to be out in the world but away from crowds. When outdoor trips were seen one of the few safe summertime activities, people began investing in camping gear, especially tents and water filters. People are still discovering (or rediscovering) the benefits of spending time outdoors, known in some circles as “nature therapy.” There are a lot of fancy camping gadgets, but a camping cooler is deliberately low tech—at least in most cases. Companies have put a lot of effort into creating materials that insulate your food and drinks for longer periods of time without adding too much weight or bulk. There’s always going to be a tradeoff between size and capacity vs. portability, so it’s important to strike the right balance for your specific needs. Many of the camping coolers you’ll see below are available in multiple sizes, which was done by design. We want to make sure everyone’s needs are met regardless of their situation.

Best overall: RTIC Ultra-Light Quart Hard Cooler




  • Size: 27.01 x 17.28 x 16.54 inches
  • Weight: 13.4 pounds
  • Capacity: 54 Qt.
  • Style: Hardshell
  • Materials: Closed-cell foam
  • Price: $219.99


  • Excellent weight to capacity ratio
  • Three inches of insulation
  • Price


  • No separate built-in compartments

If we could only recommend one camping cooler to suit everyone’s needs, RTIC’s Ultra-Light Quart Hard Cooler is far and away the best choice. The company considered every angle of this cooler, and engineered one of the best pieces of outdoor gear we’ve ever seen regardless of the category.

The cooler’s 52 quart capacity allows it to hold up to 60 pounds of ice or 70 cans with no ice according to RTIC, which is more than enough space to hold everything you’d need for a two day camping trip. This is one of the biggest camping coolers we’re recommending, but thanks to RTIC’s engineering, it’s also one of the lightest. Despite its three inches of closed-cell foam insulation, it weighs roughly half as much as its competition. This will make a huge difference when transporting the cooler to and from your house.

Little touches, like the T-latches that keep it securely closed, non-skid rubber feet, marine-grade nylon rope handles, and the ability to slip in an optional divider to separate food and drink make it even more appealing. We’re even happy to see RTIC offers this camping cooler in six colorways, so you’re not stuck with a plain white one. We wish RTIC included their divider with this cooler—it’s only $7 on their site—but beyond that we couldn’t find much fault with the Ultra-Light Quart Hard Cooler.

If you’re looking for a big, light, relatively inexpensive cooler for camping, boating, tailgating, or other all-day outdoor activities, don’t hesitate to pick one up.

Best electric: GOSun Chill Cooler




  • Size: 23.5 x 16 x 19 inches
  • Weight: 30 pounds
  • Capacity: 42 Qt.
  • Style: Hardshell
  • Materials: Close cell polyurethane foam
  • Price: $649


  • Built-in compressor keeps items cool without ice
  • Can be run off solar power
  • Separate compartments for fridge and freezer items


  • You have to remember to charge it
  • Price

GOsun’s Chill Cooler is the most high-tech option we’re recommending, and while its price is high, it’s arguably the most efficient choice. That’s because it has a built-in refrigeration system, which continually keeps its chamber at a pre-set temperature between -4 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This means you won’t have to dedicate any space to ice to keep its contents cool. The cooler’s temperature is managed by a touch panel on top, which is flanked by USB-A ports and a DC cigarette lighter, so you can charge your phone and other devices on-the-go.

The Chill Cooler’s greatest strength is the ability to keep its contents cool, but its high-tech design comes with one downside: the need to keep it charged. Yes, you’ll need to plug in your cooler, which would make the Chill Cooler a no-go for camping if not for GOsun’s ingenuity. You can connect this cooler to an external battery pack or go fully off the grid by plugging it into GOsun’s Outdoor Solar Table. If you’re camping during sunny summer days, and don’t use the Chill Cooler’s cooling features continuously, you shouldn’t have too many issues with it running out of juice.

There aren’t very many electric coolers available, but GOsun’s Chill Cooler stands out in this category because of its innovative design.

Best with wheels: YETI Roadie 60




  • Size: 23.7 x 19.9 x 20.5 inches
  • Weight: 29 pounds
  • Capacity: 63 Qt.
  • Style: Hardshell
  • Materials: Polyurethane
  • Price: $500


  • Ultra-durable
  • Highly portable given its size
  • Periscoping handle for easy manuverability


  • Price
  • Weight

YETI is arguably the best-known premium cooler brand, and it’s brought all the design chops that make its sedentary gear popular into a wheeled version. The $500 60 Quart cooler is one of the biggest—by capacity—camping coolers we’re recommending, and it’s the most expensive non-electric model, but you’re getting what you pay for.

The biggest benefit to getting a YETI cooler is its durability—they’re literally bear proof thanks to their insulation and well-made latches. If you make the investment, you should be able to keep this cooler for life. One of the biggest potential pain points for a wheeled cooler is, well, their wheels, which are going to come into contact with tough terrain very often. YETI says it uses single-piece tires, which should be able to handle prolonged exposure rocks and dirt just fine.

Portability is the main reason to get a wheeled cooler, and the Roadie 60 excels in this area. Its squat-but-deep design offers the same capacity as a traditional cooler in a more compact form. The Roadie 60’s telescoping handle will reach high enough at its maximum height to be comfortable to roll around, but will contract to the point where it’s out of sight when it’s not needed.

Yes, the YETI Roadie 60 is expensive, but if you want the highest quality rolling camping cooler around and are able to stretch your budget, you won’t find a better option.

Best large: Driftsun 75 Quart Insulated Cooler




  • Size: 33.5 x 18.5 x 18 inches
  • Weight: 32 pounds
  • Capacity: 75 Qt.
  • Style: Hardshell
  • Materials: Rotomolded thermoplastic
  • Price: $249.99


  • Excellent ice retention
  • High capacity
  • Built-in bottle opener


  • Large size comes with added weight

If a high-capacity camping cooler is what you crave, Driftsun has you covered with its ultra-large-but-relatively-inexpensive Insulated Cooler. Its 75 quart capacity will comfortably hold dozens of cans with room to spare ice. Driftsun is also confident in this cooler’s insulation, and says it can keep ice solid for up to 10 days—more than enough time for a week-long camping trip if you’re strategic about how long you keep it open. This level of performance is also possible because of the cooler’s locking latches, which will keep it firmly shut.

This may be the largest camping cooler we recommend, but it’s not the heaviest—even amongst non-electric models. We considered portability very strongly when selecting a camping cooler in this category because nobody want to carry it around if it’s too heavy. Many of the coolers in this guide have a capacity of between 50 and 60 quarts, and while a 75 quart option may not seem like a big difference, the ability to carry around the same number of cans with ice is a big deal for long trips. Some of Driftsun’s little extras, like a built-in bottle opener make it a little nicer to use, too.

If you need a big cooler for longer trips—or ones with a larger party—Driftsun’s 75 Quart Insulated Cooler is the way to go. There’s enough space to satisfy the thirst of a big crowd without being too unwieldy to use. This camping cooler’s affordable price is just icing on the cake.

Best soft cooler: Hydro Flask 26L Day Escape Soft Cooler

Hydro Flask



  • Size: 14.5 x 14.5 x 10.3 inches
  • Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Capacity: 27 Qt.
  • Style: Softshell
  • Materials: Polyester
  • Price: $179.95


  • Lightweight
  • Relatively high capacity
  • Features straps and handles


  • Can’t hold as much stuff as hard shell coolers

If your idea of a camping trip is a one night stay at a campsite for two or three people, there isn’t much of a reason to pack a big hardshell cooler—Hydro Flask’s 26L Day Escape Soft Cooler will more than satisfy your needs. The soft cooler is ultra light, but the insulation Hyrdro Flask uses can keep its contents cold for up to 27 hours according to the company.

Because of the cooler’s relatively small size, you’re likely going to fill it to the brim, and Hydro Flask has accounted for this by offering side handles in addition to a strap, which can make it easier to carry for two people. This seems like a little touch, but it can make a big difference. Additionally, the Day Escape’s strap can be removed and reattached in such a way that you can carry it as a cross-body strap.

We’ve tried some of Hydro Flask’s soft coolers in the past, and one of the features that’s always struck us is the quality of their zipper. This is essential for a soft cooler, because a faulty zipper will let warm air inside, or let liquid leak out. We’re happy to say this has never been an issue for us. If you’re confident that your next camping trips will be short and sweet, and you’d like to be as unencumbered as possible while you’re exploring nature, Hydro Flask 26L Day Escape is the ideal cooler.

Best budget: East Oak 45 Quart Cooler

Brandt Ranj



  • Size: 28.25 x 15.75 x 18.25 inches
  • Weight: 16.32 pounds
  • Capacity: 45 Qt.
  • Style: Hardshell
  • Materials: Polyurethane Foam
  • Price: $108.99


  • Round shape
  • Secure latches
  • Price


  • No wheels

East Oak’s cooler has more going for it than its unique, circular shape. In our tests, the cooler could keep beverages cold for a couple of days when its lid was securely fastened to its base using its two latches. This performance is due to the cooler’s insulation, which is three-inches thick at its thickest point. Our second-favorite feature of this cooler was its draining port, which was conveniently located toward the bottom of the cooler and pointed at an angle. The company promises “no-tilt draining” and actually delivered.

The immediate difference you’ll notice between East Oak’s cooler and our other recommendations is its shape. In our experience, this shape made the cooler easier to move around with one person—when empty—while its handles were comfortable enough to grip for two people to move around while full. It may have a slightly lower capacity than most of our recommendations, but we found East Oak’s cooler to have enough room to keep five or six people satisfied for an afternoon. Boaters, tailgaters, and frequent campers alike will find a lot to like about this cooler.

You won’t find a better cooler than East Oak’s at its price range, and frankly it should be considered right up there with fare from better-known companies.

What to consider when shopping for the best coolers for camping


A cooler’s physical size—including weight—is the first factor to think about when picking the right camping cooler. This isn’t a piece of gear you’re going to want to upgrade on a regular basis. Our recommendations run the gamut, but most of them are roughly two feet wise, and a food and a half wide and deep. A cooler in that size range will weigh roughly 15 pounds when empty. Also consider the amount of space you have in your car, which will likely be packed with a lot of other gear, and on the campsite.


A camping cooler’s capacity is measured in quarts, and determines how much space there is inside for your food and drinks. Many companies illustrate the capacity of their cooler by saying how much ice and how many cans it can hold. These rough metrics can be a big help in figuring out which cooler is right for you, so don’t disregard them even if you plan on packing liquid in bottles and dedicating part of its space to food.


Camping coolers come in all shapes and sizes, but we’ve broken them down into two styles: hardshell and softshell. We’ve elected to primarily focus on hardshell coolers in large part because this is the most traditional type. We also have an entire guide to insulated cooler bags—the official name for softshell coolers—so you’re covered if you prefer this style. Softshell coolers look like a tote bag and are a lot more portable, but they can’t hold as much stuff. The solution for multi-day camping trips with a lot of hiking to and from a central camping spot may be to get one of both.


When possible, we’ve called out the materials companies have used to make their coolers. This has the biggest impact on their ability to keep your perishables cold for extended periods of time. Naturally, coolers with thick insulation will be larger and weigh more, so keep that in mind if portability is your priority.


You can spend a lot of money on a camping cooler, but we’ve made sure most of our recommendations fall under $300, so they’re accessible to the highest number of people. That said, we didn’t shy away from more expensive models if they had a differentiating feature that justified the higher cost.


Q: How much does a cooler for camping cost?

This will depend on its size and extra features, but you should expect to pay under $300 for most camping coolers we recommend.

Q: How do I know what size cooler I need?

You can use the cooler’s size and capacity guide to help determine the size of cooler that works best for you. If you’re a frequent camper who plans on taking more people with you, opt for a larger option than you need today.

Q: Are soft or hard coolers better for camping?

This depends on the length of your trip. If you’re a single or two-person team going on a day trip, a soft cooler may work best for you thanks to its portability. If you’re part of a larger multi-person party who’s going to be away for several days, a hard cooler is the way to go.

Q: How long do camping coolers stay cold?

This depends on its materials, the amount of insulation used, and how much ice is inside. If you use a lot of ice, there’s no reason the cooler shouldn’t keep your food and drinks cool for a couple of days.

Q: Will a cooler keep things cold without ice?

This depends on the temperature of the perishables you put inside of it. The cooler’s insulation will reduce the amount of hot air that reaches your perishables, but it won’t be as effective as it would be with ice inside.

Q: Are camping coolers worth it?

Yes. If you’re going on a long outdoor trip, a camping cooler is essential for keeping beverages and perishable food from reaching unsafe temperatures.

Final thoughts on the best coolers for camping

The right camping cooler should last a lifetime, which is more than we can say for most gear produced these days regardless of the category. Advancements in materials and manufacturing, driven by demand, has allowed companies to make big investments in this space. Outdoor activities never go out of style, and the upside is you can use your camping cooler in your backyard, at a tailgate, or even extra fridge space if you’re hosting a party. These auxiliary purposes can help make larger, more expensive camping coolers a little easier to justify, especially if you live in a place where the climate is moderate or warm year-round.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.