The best coolers in 2024

No matter where your adventures take you, cool down with the best coolers.

Best overall

YETI Tundra 35 Cooler

YETI Tundra 35 Cooler

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Best for short adventures

blue IceMule Classic cooler bag

IceMule Classic Cooler

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Best for ice retention

Grey Grizzly 75-Quart Cooler

Grey Grizzly 75-Quart Cooler

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If you’ve ever found yourself stretched out on a seaside dune in the blistering August sun, pining for the cool rejuvenation of a fresh mint tea, you’ve understood the allure of a cooler. Whether your taste is sparkling waters or brewskies, sweltering deserts or music festivals, any prolonged occasion in the out-of-doors benefits from the power of a cold beverage, and with the best coolers, you’ll be sure to keep things ice-cold no matter where the adventure may take you. Available in different sizes and shapes, coolers are ready for extended camping trips, multiple-day fishing trips, and anywhere else you need easy portability. Hard-bodied coolers are usually made out of roto- or injection-molded plastics and feature thick, rigid sides containing layered insulation. Often latching and sometimes on wheels, some can retain ice for over a week. Soft-bodied coolers are designed to be lighter, usually using various polymer-constructed fabrics and often strapping to a user’s back or slinging over a shoulder. With these and other factors in mind, we’ve put together our suggestions for the best coolers for any and every occasion.

How we chose the best coolers

For this article I examined a wide range of coolers, looking for the best coolers from multiple manufacturers. I stacked the specs against one another and accumulated as much info on each model as possible. I also used my experience from multiple cross-country US road trips and camping trips when I lived out of a cooler for weeks. A few factors emerged as the most important in this search.

Ice retention varies dramatically from cooler to cooler. Some coolers will retain ice for an afternoon, and some boast ice retention of over a week. Great ice retention requires expensive components and heavier builds, so ice retention isn’t a be-all and end-all. However, if you’re looking for a cooler that can keep supplies cold in the back of your truck for a week, then it might be. Good ice retention was one of the most important factors I looked at.

Portability is an all-important metric for a good cooler (at least for most people). Even if you’re buying a cooler that will live in the back of your truck, it still needs to be mobile enough and have enough purchases to load it in and out. The most portable coolers are usually soft-bodied ones that will likely sacrifice some ice retention for a lightweight build. This list features a few highly portable coolers and a few that focus elsewhere.

Ruggedness can be an important factor. Loaded coolers can be very heavy. That’s why I looked for models that are rugged enough to survive a drop or two or repeat scraping against the sharp edges of a boat. For hard-bodied coolers, this often means roto-molded plastics rather than injection molds.

Price is always a factor with outdoor gear. Where coolers are concerned, long ice-retention times generally increase your cost dramatically. Thus, this list highlights a few coolers that make a low price the prerogative while simultaneously prioritizing expensive and impressive insulation in others.

The best coolers: Reviews & Recommendations

The best coolers can keep drinks and food cold for hours while you and your pals/loved ones romp around having a blast outdoors, and these are the best ones we found.

Best overall: YETI Tundra 35

Best overall

YETI Tundra 35

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Specs

  • Weight: 20 pounds
  • Outer Dimensions: 21.38 x 16.13 x 15.75 inches
  • Inner Dimensions: 13.88 x 10.63 x 9.38 inches
  • Materials: Roto-molded polyurethane

Pros

  • Keeps ice for long stretches
  • Gasket seals lid
  • Rugged construction that’s even bear-resistant
  • Comes in multiple sizes

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

YETI is such a well-known name in coolers that I specifically looked for a cooler that could outrank it for the “best overall” category in this article, but with its long ice retention and rugged build, the YETI Tundra 35 is simply the clear choice. YETI hard-body coolers are designed with a roto-molded frame that provides greater structural integrity, drop resistance, and insulation than lesser injection-molded coolers. The lid seals with an industrial gasket, so it’s guaranteed to keep contents at the desired temperature, and opens with easy-to-use rubber latches.

At 20 pounds, the YETI is heavy. However, this is addressed in its design. Rope handles are attached to both sides, making carrying easy. The cooler is also designed to be tied down and is easily secured to your boat or truck with ropes. A removable metal dry basket also ships with the product. Further, the Tundra meets the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) standards for grizzly bear (or black bear) resistance when locked with standard long-stem master locks (YETI sells these on their site). These are just some of the reasons we love YETI coolers for camping.

When it comes to coolers, YETI is one of the undisputed industry leaders, and the Tundra is no isolated golden child. YETI makes a great cooler called the Tundra Haul, which is equipped with wheels for greater portability. If you’re looking for a soft-body cooler or a hard-bodied water cooler, their offerings are also worth a look. If you like Yeti’s insulated water bottles, you will love the Tundra 35 cooler.

Best portable: Igloo 7-Quart Hardsided Playmate

Best budget

Igloo 7-Quart Hardsided Playmate

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Specs

  • Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Outer Dimensions: 10.63 x 8.27 x 11.81 inches
  • Inner Dimensions: Top: 9.06 x 6.31 x 8.38 inches
  • Materials: High-density polyethylene

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Keeps your drinks cold or your soup hot
  • Easy to carry

Cons

  • Some users have trouble with the latch breaking
  • Insulation doesn’t achieve long-term ice retention

Igloo’s 7-Quart Hardsided Playmate is one of those staples of job sites all over America. The design has stayed largely the same for over 30 years, and that’s because it does a great job as an affordable lunch-box cooler. Made out of high-density polyethylene, the Playmate features a high, tented design with a handle that swings open for access to the cooler space below. Igloo has capitalized on the Playmate’s fame by offering Playmates sporting splashes of color and featuring characters and logos, everything from the Grateful Dead to Rugrats.

Sadly, modern Playmates do have an issue with build quality. Playmates now latch from the handle, unlike their older counterparts from the ’80s and ’90s. This latch isn’t as strong as old Playmates’. Some products ship with latches that soon break. However, the company does offer a one-year limited warranty, so you can still buy with relative peace of mind—if your latch is faulty, it will most likely show in a year. That said, the Playmate is still a strong product that works well for the majority of users.

Igloo also offers an exciting line of coolers made of recycled plastics. The Ecocool Playmate is a great post-consumer recycled resin alternative to the standard Playmate line. It also notably retains the original side button from the old-school Playmates, which means it shouldn’t suffer from the same latch trouble that mars some contemporary Playmates. This means that not only is the Ecocool version better for environmental sustainability, but it also offers better build quality.

Best ice retention: Grizzly 75-Quart Cooler

Grizzly 75-Quart Cooler

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Specs

  • Weight: 33 pounds
  • Outer Dimensions: 33.13 x 17.75 x 18 inches
  • Inner Dimensions: 27.5 x 12.63 x 13.75 inches
  • Materials: Roto-molded linear low-density polyethylene plastic with Ecomate polyurethane foam insulation

Pros

  • Extreme ice retention can last five days to over a week
  • Sealing gasket
  • IGBC-certified bear-resistant and includes placements for locks

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

For those among us who are looking for a cooler that can go and go, the Grizzly 75 Quart Cooler is about as rugged as its namesake. Manufacturing rugged coolers in Iowa, Grizzly is an American company specializing in reliability. The Grizzly is a powerhouse with ice retention that can last for well over a week in moderate conditions and most of a week even in scorching desert settings. If you’re looking for an ice chest that will work for days angling on the Everglades, weeklong hunts in the mountains of Colorado, or months on the road in your van-life rig, this is the one.

Built of roto-molded plastic injected with a special non-VOC environmentally friendly polyurethane called Ecomate, the Grizzly is more sustainably minded and insulated than most of the competition. IGBC-certified grizzly resistant, the cooler is also remarkably rugged and closes with three latches; it also has padlock holes on each side (for real bear thwarting). A rubber gasket in the lid seals the deal.

Grizzly builds a cooler that really delivers longevity. It comes at an expensive price point, but it’s the best out there for those looking for a truly fortified cooling system that’s ready for weeks in the field.

Best for short adventures: IceMule Classic

Best for short adventures

IceMule Classic

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Specs

  • Weight: 1.93 pounds
  • Outer Dimensions: 16.5 x 6 x 7 inches
  • Inner Dimensions: 15 liters
  • Materials: Fiberglass

Pros

  • This cooler floats and can even be towed behind a boat
  • Slings over the back easily
  • Easy to stuff with whatever you need
  • Can keep food cold for over 24 hours

Cons

  • Not the best ice retention out there
  • Material isn’t the most rugged and may tear on sharp or rough surfaces like unfinished metal boat parts

At the most portable end of the spectrum, the IceMule Classic is a soft-body roll-closed cooler that looks like a dry bag and slings over your shoulder. It also floats. If water sports and agile adventuring are your prerogatives, the IceMule is ready.

While it doesn’t have the best ice retention of any cooler out there, the IceMule will still retain ice all day and keep your food and drinks cold for over 24 hours. Because of its roll-over design, a poor, not watertight seal is possible, so be mindful when closing it to avoid liquids getting out if the cooler is held upside down. This also means that water can get in if you take it floating in the water. It’s not a common enough issue to get in the way of most users, but it’s something to be aware of.

Another issue with the IceMule is that the fabric isn’t as rugged as it could be. With all-week use, your IceMule may crack or scratch, especially when used around rough or jagged materials, such as sharp metal edges on a boat.

Where the IceMule shines is on adventurous outdoor day trips in and out of water. The fact that it floats means you won’t have to worry about your lunch sinking if you take it out paddleboarding, and the shoulder strap makes it easy to pack fresh food or drinks on one- or two-night backpacking trips.

Best compact cooler with wheels: RovR Roll R 45 Wheeled Cooler 

Bear-Proof Strength

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Specs

  • Dimensions: 22.5 x 218.9 x 19.3 inches
  • Weight: 39 pounds with land bin, 34 pounds without
  • Capacity: 60 cans or 10 pounds of ice
  • Materials: Rotomolded High-Density Foam Insulation

Pros

  • Sporty, space-saving design
  • 8-day ice retention
  • All-terrain wheels
  • DeepFreeze dry bin
  • Bearproof design
  • Plenty of color choices

Cons

  • Handle is slightly flimsy when fully extended

The sporty-looking RovR Roll R 45 Wheeled Cooler resembles a miniature version of my mid-engine MR2 Spyder—which, admittedly, looks like a miniature version of a full-size vehicle. It also happens to make our list of the best coolers. The 45-quart cooler is the perfect size for my two-seater car and is also ideal when space is either limited or you don’t need a giant cooler. (Note: Rover does make 60-quart and 80-quart wheeled coolers, and in addition to glacier and chili pepper, other color choices include desert, magic hour, midnight, powder, moss, and Gobi.)

The deep freeze-dry bin is deep enough to hold wine bottles upright or can also be used to store clean ice for beverages. The wheeled cooler also offers compartments to store various types of items (meat, veggies, etc.) separately—but also below food-safe temperatures recommended by the FDA. The latches are tight enough that it takes a minute to open them, and the drain plug makes it easy to channel the water out. Also, the custom rubber gasket seals the cold air inside, which allows the cooler to provide up to eight days of ice retention. 

In addition, the telescopic handle lets me find the right height for comfortably wheeling the cooler around. When the handle is fully extended, it feels rather flimsy, but at lower heights, it’s fine. The 9-inch all-terrain wheels are puncture-resistant, making the cooler easy to navigate even over rough terrain, including deep sand.

There are also a lot of cool RovR Roll R 45 accessories that you can purchase separately and attach to the anchor points, like a prep board, double cup holder, umbrella/rod holder, collapsible bin, and bike trailer kit.

More coolers we love …

Best soft: Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack

Strong Liner

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Sturdiness is one of the greatest issues with soft coolers—but this is not even close to an issue with the Polar Bear Cooler. It features one of the toughest, puncture-resistant liners made of TPU double-coated nylon, which is consumer-safe for perishable storage. Plus, it has beautiful stitching with double hemmed seams, a heavy-duty and weatherproofed zipper, and a side zipper compartment that can be totally customized with your name or logo! 

Best backpack: TOURIT Cooler Backpack

Stylish and Functional

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This cooler bag comes in six colors, has a stylish design, and promises comfort on your back and shoulders with its padded and adjustable straps. This backpack keeps food and drinks chilled for up to 16 hours (freeze packs are needed, though). It is durable and leak-resistant, and its ventilated exterior ensures that your clothes won’t get wet by condensation during your adventure. It has multiple compartments perfect for organization: one main storage compartment for all your provisions, two front zipper pockets, two bottle holders, a mesh pocket on the strap, and even a bottle opener. 

Best budget: Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler

Classic u0026 Straightforward

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This Coleman cooler features Xtreme technology, including an insulated lid and extra wall insulation, and holds up to 100 cans. The closed lid features four slots to rest your drinks without spilling and is perfect to squat down on—it holds up to 250 pounds! Its EZ-clean lid and comfortable handles make this a perfect choice for a no-frills ice chest that will get the job done without breaking the bank.

Things to consider before buying the best coolers

When you’re shopping for a new cooler, the following factors are important to keep in mind:

Sustainability

Most coolers are made from plastics, but more environmentally friendly options are out there. Igloo makes a 100 percent biodegradable cooler called the Recool 16-Quart Cooler out of recycled paper and alkyl ketene dimer (a hydrophobic sizing agent). It’s an excellent budget alternative to the Styrofoam coolers of yesterday because it’s biodegradable. Igloo’s post-consumer recycled resin coolers are also worth a look, especially the Parks Project Playmate line, which donates a portion of proceeds to the National Parks Conservation Association.

When buying any product, it’s important to consider its effects. When shopping for coolers, remember that there are more sustainable options out there that might biodegrade or use plastics that won’t leach harmful chemicals.

Portability

Strategizing how you’ll use your cooler before you buy is important. If you need an ultraportable cooler to take in and out of the water, you’ll most likely want a soft-body cooler that can strap to your back. If you fish and like to head out for multiple-day excursions, you may want a cooler that will keep ice frozen (and fish fresh) for up to a week. Usually, the best ice retention requires more weight to achieve. So, ultimate portability and ultimate ice retention are mutually exclusive factors.

Performance

Unless you’re heading into the field for multiple-day camping trips or driving across the country in a modified van, you may not really need multiple days of ice retention. If you’re looking for a solid cooler that will keep your drinks cold all afternoon at the beach, many cheaper options could do the job fairly well.

FAQs

Q: What is the best cooler I can buy?

For most people, the YETI Tundra 35 delivers the best balance between ice retention and ruggedness for the price. It’s an excellent cooler that’s ready for most anything you throw at it. On the other hand, the expensive Grizzly 75-Quart Cooler is the most rugged cooler out there with the best ice retention. 

Q: How do coolers work? 

The best coolers generally use hard or soft plastic exteriors with dense insulators that block heat transfer. Sometimes, including a gasket that further insulates the seal on a lid, coolers are (usually) waterproof boxes that prevent heat transfer.

Q: Which cooler keeps ice the longest?

Most coolers with updated insulation technology can keep ice for up to a few days. Depending on the temperature and if the ice chest is located in direct sunlight or not, the maximum days will vary. That said, however, the Grizzly 75-Quart Cooler can hold ice for 5-7 days.

Q: What cooler is comparable to YETI?

The Grizzly 75-Quart Cooler surpasses the YETI in terms of ice retention and ruggedness. It also offers bear protection, roto-molded plastic, and rugged latches.

Final thoughts on the best coolers

Every family, group of friends, or individual can benefit from a trusty ice cooler to pull out for that next party or outdoor adventure. Especially as the summer months approach, it’s smart to ensure you’re ready for any situation by checking the best cooler off your to-buy list. There are so many options, but you certainly won’t go wrong with any of the best coolers we recommend. 

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.