No matter if you are on a family vacation, going fishing at your local lake, or headed to work at your construction job, there is always a need for a good cooler. Having a cooler that can keep your beverages and food cold is a must have in these situations.
Coolers come in many different sizes, and are made of different materials. Knowing which of these is the best for your use case will make purchasing your new cooler nice and easy.
We have chosen what we believe are the 10 best coolers of 2021. Below are our choices, and we believe that any of them would be fantastic choices to take on your next adventure.
1. Yeti Hopper Flip 18
In the high end cooler game, no name is more known than Yeti. The Hopper Flip 18 could easily be crowned the best personal cooler in the world.
Yeti makes everything from tumblers to coolers, and this cooler is the best of the best when it comes to a smaller, personal companion. Being the best does come with a downfall, price. This is a high end cooler, much like Yeti’s other products, but here you definitely get what you pay for.
For a soft cooler, this is an extremely durable one. With a waterproof zipper, and extreme resistance to mildew, punctures, and abrasions, this cooler is extremely resilient.
Weighing in at just over 5 pounds empty, this cooler is light and easy to carry. The strap and handles feel robust and make hauling this cooler around comfortable. The 18 quart capacity gives you plenty of space for a days worth of drinks.
If you are a brand loyalist, or simply looking for the best, the Yeti Hopper Flip 18 is the one.
2. Klein Tools Work Cooler
If you are looking for a good personal cooler to take on the job site with you, the Klein Tools Work Cooler is the best on the market. Whether you work out in the weather, as a painter, or any kind of construction work, this heavy duty cooler will keep your lunch and drinks cold all day long.
This cooler is made of an extremely durable plastic with stainless steel hinges to ensure there is no rust or water damage to the mechanism. These durable materials are what make this cooler one of the best on the market.
With these strong and durable materials, this coolers best feature is that it doubles as a seat. Taking a break from work? Have a seat on this cooler while you have a drink, it holds up to 300 pounds!
This is a 17-quart cooler, making it perfect to carry your lunch and enough drinks to last you an entire working day. We highly recommend it for that purpose.
3. Pelican Elite 20 Quart Cooler
You can’t say rugged without the name Pelican coming to mind. They are known for making some of the most durable and well-protected cases and coolers.
The Elite 20 is a 20-quart cooler that is guaranteed to keep your drinks and food safe and sound no matter the circumstances. This is one of the most safe and secure coolers on this list, so if durability and safety are your primary concern you should definitely give the Pelican a look.
With 4 cup holders on the top, non-skid rubber feet, and a convenient bottle opener give this cooler all the features you need. Add all of that with the aforementioned durability, and you have a safe, full featured cooler that can take a beating.
If you are in the market for a smaller cooler, it would be hard to pass up the Pelican Elite 20. It has everything you need to take on any excursion you could want.
4. Igloo BMX 25 Quart Cooler
The name Igloo is synonymous with coolers, with most being extremely affordable. The BMX cooler is no exception, being on the more affordable side of the spectrum.
This cooler, while not extremely expensive, still is impressively rugged. The heavy duty construction includes rubberized latches and stainless steel accessories.
This is an extremely well insulated cooler for the price point, giving you a strong 4-5 days worth of ice retention. That is great, even rivaling some much more expensive products.
If you are a fisherman you will love the addition of the fish ruler and tie downs on top of this cooler. This makes the Igloo BMX an easy recommendation for a fishing companion cooler.
You not only get the great name in Igloo, but you get the performance to back it up. This is a fantastic looking cooler that will keep your drinks cold for days on end.
5. RTIC Soft Pack 30
RTIC coolers have been on the rise, with people comparing them to the mighty Yeti brand. This is high praise, but does the RTIC Soft Pack 30 live up to the hype?
This cooler features a 30 quart capacity, giving you plenty of room for food and drinks on the inside. The zipper that holds all that stuff inside is a fantastic leak proof design that is extremely robust.
Another great feature of this cooler is the exterior does not sweat. This is a huge plus, as it will save you a mess around the bottom of the cooler caused by the water that forms on the outside. Less mess = less stress!
This cooler is nice and lightweight, made with a tough laminated material and welded seams. This makes it rugged enough for any situation without adding any unneeded weight.
If you are in the market for a nice mid sized soft cooler, you will likely love the RTIC Soft Pack 30. It has enough room for all of your drink needs, and the performance to keep them cold for a long time.
6. IceMule Pro Insulated Backpack Cooler
So what do you do if you don’t want to carry around a cooler, or you need to use your hands to carry other things while bringing a cooler as well? How about if you are hiking, and can’t lug a huge cooler up the side of a mountain? That is where the IceMule Pro Insulated Backpack Cooler comes in.
This backpack holds 23 liters (~24 quarts), giving you plenty of space to hike with your favorite drinks and snacks. Whether you pack it full of bottles of water or your favorite snacks, this backpack cooler can tote them all.
This cooler is designed without zippers and is waterproof. This makes it a great companion if you plan on going kayaking to other campsites. It also floats, so no worries about it falling off in the river.
If you want to buck the trend of a traditional cooler due to your active lifestyle, the IceMule Pro Insulated Backpack Cooler is a great option. Just strap it on your back and take off, it is durable enough to go with you anywhere.
7. ORCA 40 Cooler
When you breach the 40 quart size for a cooler, you want a high quality and durable build. The ORCA 40 has both of those things, and so much more.
With a roto-molded construction that is premium and super durable, you won’t have to worry about this thing taking much damage. It would take a tank driving over it to even make a dent.
If the 40 quart size of the interior wasn’t enough, ORCA was nice enough to add a cargo net side to expand your storage even further. So anything you don’t need to stay icy cold you can throw in the net and take with you.
Another huge plus for the ORCA 40 is the inclusion of a lifetime warranty. This means you don’t have to worry about any damage that comes to it, ORCA will help you get a replacement for your high end cooler as quickly as possible.
This cooler is extremely premium looking and feeling, and definitely worthy of consideration if you have the budget and are looking for a large cooler. There isn’t much that this cooler doesn’t offer.
8. Coleman Steel-Belted Portable Cooler
Coleman has been a brand campers have trusted for decades, and the retro design of this cooler is sure to take you back. If you are a Coleman fan, or are looking for a trustworthy brand, this cooler comes with all the nostalgia and brand loyalty you can handle.
This cooler is 54 quarts in capacity, and can hold all of your families beverages on your camping trip. Combine the large capacity with 4-day ice retention and you have a cooler made for camping.
There are no wheels on this cooler, which we think would have made it a bit better. The handles are thin and not the most comfortable, making moving this thing when it’s not empty a bit of a hassle.
The good news is that it is made of top quality materials, and is rugged enough to be dragged around on any of your excursions. The stainless steel hinges and accessories make the important components resistant to rust which should mean years of use for you.
Overall, this is a really good cooler for the size. It may not rival some of its more expensive competition in features, but it certainly gets the job done.
9. Yeti Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Cooler
Yeti is back on the list, and in a big way with the Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Cooler. This big wheeled cooler is perfect for your next vacation or party.
If you are looking for a high quality, large capacity cooler, you will be hard pressed to find a better cooler than the Tundra Haul on the market. Yeti makes an even bigger cooler, the 350, but the thing that sets the Tundra Haul apart is the inclusion of the wheels.
It can’t be overstated, when you have a cooler this big the inclusion of wheels to roll it around is imperative. This makes what would be a two person job carrying this massive cooler around into a one person undertaking.
You get everything you expect in a Yeti cooler here: the rotomolded construction, the insane insulation, and the never flat tires. It is really a marvel of a cooler.
As long as you have the budget, you will be 100% satisfied with the Yeti Tundra Haul. It is a large, bulky cooler but has all the features and ruggedness you could ever want in a cooler.
10. RovR RollR 60 Quart Wheeled Camping Cooler
The last cooler we are going to look at is one that is very similar to the Yeti Tundra Haul we just looked at, it is the RovR RollR. A large capacity cooler on wheels, much like the Yeti, but does it compete?
Feature wise, it destroys the Yeti Tundra Haul. The RovR RollR has cupholders, a prepping board, a pop up bin that sits on top, and the ability to hook it to your bicycle and carry it along.
So not only can you roll this cooler around with the premium tires and large, easy to use handle, but it can be transported by bicycle as well. Simply lock it onto your bike and pop up the bin on top to carry your things, and you are good to go.
The real kicker with this cooler though is the 7-10 day rated ice retention. While in real world use you may not get that much, that is still an impressive number.
Overall, the RovR RollR is, in our opinion, the best cooler on the market. If you want a nice big cooler that has all the bells and whistles, this is the one for you.
One of the biggest considerations when buying a new cooler is how much are you willing to spend? There are coolers in all price ranges, and that comes with a lot of different pluses and minuses.
If you are just headed out to the lake and want a cooler to keep your beverages and sandwich meat cool, then a cheaper cooler will do the trick fine. However, if you are looking for a keeper, spending more will get you a cooler that has all the bells and whistles.
You can spend anywhere from $10 to well over $500 for a top-of-the-line rig. The real question is what you can afford compared to the features that you need.
We provided detailed breakdowns of the best coolers above, so find a few you like and see if they fit your budget. We did our best to make sure you had a big variety to choose from.
Coolers are made out of all sorts of materials, but plastics and polymers (1) are generally the main components. While you can run to your nearest grocery store and buy a styrofoam cheap cooler, that is definitely not going to be the best solution, especially when it comes to durability.
Above the styrofoam cooler sits the insulated fabric coolers. While these can be very durable in their fabric material and overall quality, they are generally flimsy and prone to crushing whatever is inside if there is too much pressure applied.
A nice hard plastic cooler is a great step up from the styrofoam or insulated fabric, and you can find many of those extremely cheap. They are prone to cracking and bending, but will provide much more stability than their cheaper counterparts.
Once you get past there, you have the premium coolers. These are the cream of the crop, made from the strongest, most high quality polymers on the market.
While your use case will often determine which is durable enough for you, it is a good idea to buy a high quality cooler if you plan on using it on multiple trips or occasions.
Now it’s time to flip the script on the last section and talk about portability. The ability to easily carry or move your cooler is paramount, no matter the use case.
The most portable coolers are going to be the fabric variety, be it in backpack or handled form. They are more lightweight and easy to carry than their larger plastic brethren.
That doesn’t mean that the larger variety can not be easy to transport. Many of the mid sized coolers have easy grip handles that make carrying them much less stressful.
Once you get to the big coolers, you will find many of them are wheeled so you can roll your cooler to it’s spot and set it down. This means you can load it full of whatever you need and simply pull it like luggage, easy peasy.
Again, your use case is going to out rule everything here. However, if you get a large cooler we highly suggest you make sure it has wheels, as many backs have been injured trying to carry too much beer or beverages in a giant cooler.
Most coolers are insulated with either polyethylene (2) or polystyrene (3), both of which exhibit fantastic insulation abilities. Both of which are extremely common materials, but when used as an insulation are extremely effective.
While either of these materials are good options in a cooler, you will generally find the higher priced models use polyethylene as it is a higher quality and more expensive material. This doesn’t mean polystyrene is not good, it simply means polyethylene is a bit more effective as an insulator.
Yeti is known for their ability to keep things cool for long periods of time, and they use a high quality polyethylene insulation in their coolers for that very reason. But remember, it certainly comes with a high price tag.
If you don’t need that amount of cooling power, you can grab a polystyrene insulated cooler and have a great time. It is cheap, effective, and can keep ice frozen for quite a while.
This rolls back into the value proposition. If your budget allows it, going with a high quality polyethylene is the best option available.
The last big consideration when buying a cooler is what sort of features do you need? Do you need a huge cooler with wheels to make it portable? Do you need something smaller and more rugged? These are all things to consider.
In a softshell cooler, a great feature to look out for is resistance to mildew. If the cooler doesn’t have this, you run the risk of ruining the outside with nasty mold and mildew.
Another feature you want to look for in a softshell cooler is its resistance to punctures. Getting a nice big rip or hole in your cooler is the last thing you need when trying to keep your things cool.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What features are most important for a cooler?
A: As long as the cooler keeps ice for a long enough duration for your use, the features are the icing on the cake. Using the cooler as a seat is great, so making sure you can sit on the one you choose is a good idea. Also, cup holders are a great addition to any cooler!
Q: How long will ice last in a cooler?
A: In a high end cooler you can safely get almost 4 days (4). If you go with a cheaper option you can still get a solid full day or two use out of it. Make sure you check the product information for each cooler for more information.
Q: What size cooler should I buy?
A: For a personal cooler (or up to 2 people), you can go with anything from 10-20 quarts in size. If you are looking for a cooler to take on your family vacation, you want to get a large cooler, in the 40-60 quart internal size.
Q: Should I spend more on a cooler or buy a less expensive one?
A: That is completely up to your budget. If you have the money for a more expensive cooler, you will get a more lasting and feature rich product. However, if you don’t want to fork out hundreds of dollars, you can still get plenty of use out of a less expensive option.
Q: Do hard shelled coolers work better than soft ones?
A: Generally, yes. Hard shelled coolers have the thermal advantage due to their solid build. While technology has closed the gap with high quality and performing zippers on portable soft coolers, they still can not match the cooling ability of their hard shelled counterparts.
If you are looking to go fishing or use a cooler at your workplace, the ability to sit on the cooler is a big deal. This means your cooler can become a nice place to take a break, so make sure you know what the weight load of the cooler is for sitting.
If you don’t want to sit on your cooler, maybe you would like some cupholders on the lid? They do make nice small tables when closed, so why not make sure it has a cup holder for your beverage?
There are tons more features on coolers, but these are all great things to look for. Make sure you read our reviews of each cooler above to know what makes each one great!