Few things hit the spot quite like an ice-cold beverage on a hot, sunny day.
Whether you’re chilling with friends at the beach, having a romantic picnic in the park, hiking your favorite trails, or simply camping, there’s no better way to enjoy a dose of refreshment than with an ice-cold beverage.
However, when sleeping under the stars you won’t have access to a refrigerator, which is why a decent, dependable camping cooler and ice chest makes for a worthy splurge.
Camping coolers and ice chests are practical alternatives to your household refrigerator when you are on the move. They don’t have masses to offer in terms of space and cooling performance, but they are perfect for keeping your meals and drinks refrigerated to maintain freshness and avoid lukewarm drinks.
For campers, a cooler or ice chest keeps food and drinks chilled and safe for your whole trip, especially when the nearest fridge is a three-day hike back out of the woods. To a fisherman, a reliable cooler makes the difference between bringing home fresh fillet or wasting the catch as it spoils in the heat. And for a tailgate party a good cooler means the difference between a cold beer or soda and warm euchhh.
Of course, there’s no denying that coolers and ice chests present a significant design challenge, and finding an effective, practical, and durable option can be demanding.
Fortunately, we’ve done the hard work for you and compiled a comprehensive review of the best five camping coolers and ice chests.
Table of Contents
The Best Camping Coolers and Ice Chests For The Money
#1 RTIC 65 COOLER - EDITOR'S CHOICE
The go-to brand for camping coolers and chests has been Yeti for a long time. Deservedlly so, as their quality is fantastic and their performance is through the roof.
However, things were changed up a little when RTIC started their business in 2014. It seems RTIC’s business mission is to compete with Yeti, as RTIC products closely resemble Yeti’s but are sold at a much lower price.
One such product is the RTIC 65 Cooler; a 65-quart cooler belonging to the second generation of ice chest coolers. Other products within the line include RTIC 20, RTIC 45, RTIC 110, and RTIC 145.
Features and Benefits
The RTIC 65 applies Rotomolded construction, a technology known for its superb ice retention.
Rotomolded construction employs thermoplastic materials to create a solid shape for the cooler, designed to enhance the overall durability and ice retention period.
The folks at RTIC advertise that RTIC 65 can hold an ice-temperature for up to ten days.
In reality, however, the cooler is suitable for keeping your food and drinks at a refreshing temperature of 50 degrees for up to six-days, which we still find impressive.
Sturdiness and reliability is the second area in which RTIC 5 shines.
Though it’s not certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, it’s as tough as it gets, easily withstanding pulling, pushing, yanking, falling, and even exposure to the elements.
All the components, including the subtle latches and hinges, are built for resistance and can take regular punishment.
Aptly named the RTIC 65, this cooler offers 65 quarts of storage space; more specifically, it can hold 64 cans, 70 pounds of ice, or an equivalent of 17 gallons of liquid.
It’s a mid-sized option; the perfect cooler for an average family or small crowd.
RTIC uses molten plastic which has undergone “rotational molding” to produce thick and uniform walls free of seals.
With a thickness of up to three inches, this cooler is super-practical for insulation and will last for a long time.
The RTIC 65 weighs less than 40 pounds, and while it’s still fairly hefty, the double-carry handles help with portability.
However, the handles aren’t convenient for carrying it for long distances, and this is one negative we found with this cooler.
Ease of use
The ease of use of coolers covers many factors, but in this option, the presence of drain plugs makes it super easy to drain and clean the cooler after use.
The handles are also a cinch to operate, and it’s easy to open and close the cooler with the built-in latches.
Generally, using the RTIC 65 is a breeze, especially considering the quality of the solid seal formed once the cooler is closed.
#2 Yeti Tundra 65 Cooler - Best Value
Yeti has long been an established brand in the cooler world, and they continue to prove their prowess and be worthy of the hype with the Tundra 65.
This cooler has proven itself with everything we can throw at it.
It has some of the best-performing insulation, and its durability is unquestionable.
It is also full of bells and whistles, and we love that it includes a dry bin for holding sensitive items.
Features and Benefits
The biggest advantage of this Yeti cooler is the insulation properties.
Employing the patented Permafrost Insulation, the folks at Yeti pressure inject polyurethane foam into the walls of the Yeti cooler to allow the interior to remain cool, regardless of the temperatures outside.
Both the side walls have two inches of insulation, while the lid has three inches to keep all your items refreshingly cool, even in the height of summer.
It’s great that they added extra insulation to the lid, since that’s where most of the heat is lost from, and is also directed to when the sun is beating down.
With such solid insulation, the ice-retention shelf-life is excellent. According to many users, the Yeti can hold up strong for up to six-and-a-half days, which is an impressive feat.
Another winning feature of the Tundra 65 is the rotomolded construction, guaranteeing a solid and sturdy structure.
Rotomodling makes the Tundra 65 robust and virtually indestructible; a critical aspect in an outdoor setting due to the harsh punishment mother nature, not to mention people, can dish out.
Aptly named the Tundra 65, this Yeti cooler has a generous capacity of 65 quarts.
However, according to some users, the storage space runs a little shorter than advertised, offering 57 quarts.
This difference is not insignificant, but still, it’s a voluminous capacity, suitable for holding enough refreshment for a large group of people.
Portability is key with any camping cooler or chest, and the Tundra doesn’t fail in this department.
The cooler weighs 29 pounds, much lighter than the RTIC, and when combined with the conveniently-placed handles you’ll realize how easy it is to carry this cooler wherever you want to go.
Ease of use
Though it takes a few rounds of practice, the Tundra is easy to operate, even single-handedly.
It features a simple shape which makes it easy to load and unload your items.
Another critical component for this cooler is a separate dry item pocket for storing small and fragile items.
It also comes with an efficient drainage system to sluice away any melted ice and to clean it with ease.
Finally, the Yeti proprietary Bearfoot Non-Slip Feet offer a slippage-free experience, letting the cooler stay in place without the risk of shifting and spilling your contents.
#3 Coleman Xtreme Series Portable Cooler - Budget Option
The 7-Quart Xtreme Series Cooler from Coleman is a low-budget, traditional chest cooler, perfect for camping or even the occasional weekend trips.
It’s a heavy-duty option, and though it doesn’t feature any bells or whistles, it’s fantastic at keeping your food and beverages refreshingly cold.
Features and Benefits
The Coleman Extreme is an excellent option for keeping your food and beverages cold, with the insulated lid and extra walls helping with this goal.
According to the manufacturer, this portable cooler’s insulation system can retain ice for up to five days in temperatures as high as 90 degrees.
So, yes, regardless of how hot it is outside, the Xtreme will help to keep your camping essentials cold.
The Xtreme Cooler from Coleman is very long-lasting, especially compared with other makes of conventional coolers.
The plastic on the Coleman cooler is heavy-duty which can easily shrug off any abuse in the wild.
The lid itself is so robust it can easily withstand a weight capacity of 250 pounds, roughly the weight of an average adult.
The hinges are plastic, and though they appear flimsy, they are, in fact, sturdier than they seem and will easily withstand numerous opening and closing actions without compromising their functionality.
Apart from the low price, the other biggest attraction of the Xtreme Cooler is the capacity.
So far, it has the largest capacity on our list, with a 70-quart capacity effectively offering a large storage space for your cooling needs.
To put the storage size into perspective, the 70-quart capacity can hold as many as 100 cans of refreshing beverages, successfully satiating a large crowd’s needs.
Ease of use
The Xtreme Cooler is a doddle to use, and, notably, it features an easy-to-remove, flap-like drain for removing the melted ice water.
Compared with the screw-in drain plugs on other models, which can cause water to drip onto the chest’s base, the flap-like lugs offer a wetness-free experience.
It’s easy to move this cooler around, and when it comes to lifting, the no-pinch handle grips on either side make the process a lot easier.
The cooler is also lightweight, and you’ll hardly feel its weight.
However, the lid takes some prying with both hands to open, especially when it’s empty.
#4 Grizzly Cooler - Best Bear Resistant Cooler
The Grizzly Cooler is a heavy-duty cooler offering fantastic insulation and ice retention.
Uniquely, however, the Grizzly takes its toughness to a new, unmatched level.
It’s the perfect option if you’re looking for a cooler that will take, head-on, what mother nature or any human throws at it.
Features and Benefits
The Grizzly is built to maximize ice lifespan. The thick, injected insulation ensures little to no temperature changes occur across the walls.
The two inch walls are also thick enough, ensuring no air can escape from or enter the cooling compartment.
We also love the well-fitted gaskets securing the latches to help avoid cold air escaping through the lid.
Finally, the raised legs minimize the amount of temperature exchange through the ground.
With all the aforementioned insulation properties, expect the Grizzly to keep your items cold for anywhere from seven to ten days.
Grizzly has taken durability to a whole new level, which is evident through the bear-resistant certification by the IGBC.
The rotomolded design helps with this cooler’s sturdiness, ensuring the LLDPE plastic will withstand the toughest conditions the elements can throw at it.
Durability is also delivered in terms of longevity, with the quality build offering years of service without breaking down. The folks at Grizzly further back this up with a lifetime guarantee, making it a super reliable, long-term purchase.
The Grizzly’s 24 pounds are reasonable to handle, but the rope handles and rubber clasps enhance portability the most. This way, you’re less likely to be prone to any back problem or injury.
The Bearclaw latch, a user-friendly, replaceable device also enhances the overall portability as they give a bear-like grip, so handling is much more convenient.
Ease of use
The larger drain valve, two inches in diameter, offers a convenient and practical way to drain melted water from the cooler and aids a hassle-free cleaning experience.
#5 REYLEO Cooler - Portable Option
If you’re looking for something that’s the very best for camping, then REYLEO has just the product for you.
The REYELO Cooler is among the lightest coolers on the market, and along with the compact dimensions, you get an ultra-portable system.
But, is it the right option for you?
Features and Benefits
We’ve already mentioned the Reyleo cooler is among the lightest options on the market, and you’ll hardly feel its weight or get tired from carrying it.
It’s also easy to put it in your car or RV when heading for some adventurous activities.
Another significant benefit underlining the portability is you don’t need both of your arms to carry it. You can single-handedly carry the entire cooler wherever you go.
Like most camping coolers and chests on our list, this option is built with strength in mind.
The stainless steel handles, along with the sturdy construction, guarantee a reliable and strong cooler that can take any punishment from mother nature, a family, or a bunch of young party-goers
The highly durable Rotomolded materials are hardy and can withstand up to a pressure of 700 pounds.
The cooling performance for this cooler is fantastic. In particular, ice retention is impressive since food and beverages can remain cold for quite a long period without going bad or warming up.
According to the manufacturer, the coldness inside the cooler can last for over three days, at a stretch.
Even better, this cooler features an exquisite sealing technology, similar to what we see on domestic refrigerators. This means you don’t have to worry about your food or beverages going bad.
Reyeleo offers a 20-quart capacity. It’s not huge, but sufficient to hold over 30 cans of drink.
Ease of use
For ease of use, Reyelo features some handy features, which many coolers within its class lack.
For instance, the soft pad offers a comfortable grip while holding it, while the locking system is automatic for a hassle-free operation.
The latches are also durable, with the elasticized plastic offering longevity and an easy way to lock the cooler down.
Other wonderful features on this cooler include a built-in bottle opener, bottle holder, and an on-top ruler.
Best Camping Coolers and Ice Chests Buying Guide
With plenty of options on the market, choosing the best camping cooler or ice chest can feel perplexing.
But it doesn’t need to be so; in the text below, we will share everything you need to know about choosing a camping cooler or ice chest for your needs.
But first, let’s look at the different types of coolers on the market.
Types of coolers
There are many different types of coolers, but here we shall look at only the three most common types;
Soft coolers are the simplest form of coolers, resembling a stiff, insulated bag.
They’re also lightweight and extremely portable, thus a perfect option for backpackers.
However, due to their smaller size and lower insulating power, they’re only suitable for day use.
Hard coolers are often referred to as the camping coolers’ original style and are still the most popular option.
But, unlike the soft coolers, these coolers are a tad heavy but have the best ice retention and durability.
Powered coolers are mini versions of a domestic household refrigerator.
Normally, powered coolers source their energy from a portable power station, your RV’s DC outlet, or even a portable solar panel.
How to choose the best camping coolers and chest; factors to consider
Size of the cooler
The first thing to consider with a camping cooler is the size.
You don’t want to pick one that is too big, or too small either.
For instance, if you’re looking for a cooler to carry your lunch during a one-day outing, you can probably do with a 5-quarts capacity or smaller cooler.
However, if you’re a family of five, you might need to buy a larger cooler, maybe 28 or 54-quarts, depending on your needs.
If you’re planning on camping for several days, or need a cooler for a larger family or group, then you might need an even larger cooler.
Today, coolers are made in many different sizes, some even offering an incredibly high capacity of over 100 quarts.
A cooler’s purpose is to keep food and beverages as cold as possible, so the cooling ability should never be compromised.
Generally, insulation level and quality determine how long a camping cooler keeps your food and drinks cold.
You must understand when a cooler is touted to keep ice solid for five days, or food frozen for six days, it’s only possible with some unrealistic preparations. This includes pre-chilling the cooler and food, and maybe freezing the food beforehand.
Also, no cooler relies entirely on insulation to keep the food cold. It’s usually from several features, including insulation, seals, locks, and even the construction material. So, it will help if you consider the performance of each element both individually and collectively as a whole.
Either way, the more expensive coolers tend to offer better insulation than the cheaper coolers.
Inevitably, the ice in the cooler will eventually melt, so you need a way to get rid of the melted water.
Normally, coolers have a drain hole at the lowest point of the ice chest for a fast and complete drain.
However, the draining plug can also be the weakest link in the cooler’s overall insulation design, so it would help to choose a cooler with a plug that closes tight.
Other coolers use a hose to empty the melted water, while still others require you to turn the whole container upside down.
Either way, we recommend that you go for a chest cooler with a convenient draining mechanism that’s effective and practical for the cooler’s type and size.
Most coolers are either plastic or metal.
Both materials can be good, though it depends on a few other variables.
Most high-end plastic coolers employ rotomolding, a manufacturing process producing higher quality and durable plastics. Rotomolding is a contrast from the injection-molded plastics, which produce cheaper and less durable plastics.
On the other hand, metal is generally high-quality, but can easily become dented after extensive use. They’re also a bit bulky.
Ease of use
It’s hard to believe that ease of use would be a concern when considering purchasing a camping cooler or chest.
However, with plenty of recent advancements in cooling technology, some coolers can be extremely challenging to operate.
So, it would help if you picked an option that is easy to use.
Consider how easy it is to load your items, the ease of draining melted ice, adjustability of the handles, portability, cleaning, and much more.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
Our comprehensive list of the best camping coolers and ice chests consists of some fabulous options.
That said, we would recommend the RTIC 65 COOLER over the rest.
Not that it’s particularly superior in its overall performance, but it’s the minor things that give it a slight edge over others.
For instance, the rotomodled construction guarantees fantastic and extended ice retention to keep you going for six days.
The capacity is also decent, and though not the largest, it can hold up to 70 cans of drink to quench your thirst in the wild.
More importantly, the price point for this cooler is forgiving, especially considering the features and overall performance.