Best Camping Coolers: A Complete Guide To Picking The Right One For YOU - Well Traveled Nebraskan

Best Camping Coolers: A Complete Guide To Picking The Right One For YOU

Top Rated Coolers and Ice Chests

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A really great cooler is just one of those items that you don’t really know you need until you really needed it. For my family, coolers are a must for outdoor BBQs, 4th of July parades and, of course CAMPING.

But sadly, I’ve also gone through my fair share of coolers, mostly because I always used to tend to buy the cheapest one I can find. Whether it was the first 100 quart cooler that never kept ANYTHING cold longer than a few hours or those dinky little soft sided coolers that leak immediately, I’ve made a few bad cooler mistakes in my life.

I should have learned a LONG time ago that coolers are actually a lot like shoes. Buy QUALITY, durable shoes from the get-go (that will probably cost more) to be more comfortable and long lasting in the long run, which eventually completely makes up for the cost (since you are not constantly having to replace them!)

So, if you are on the market for your next cooler, specifically for your outdoor and camping needs, look no further.  Here is your ultimate guide to navigating through the surprisingly complex world of buying a cooler!

 

Best Camping Cooler

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Best Camping Coolers of 2018: A Quick Visual Comparison

CoolerImageIce RetentionSizes AvailableFeaturesPrice
Yeti Tundra Up to 10 days20-160 quarthigh durability and ice retention, strong hinges, certified bear resistant $$$
Engel 65Up to 10 days13-80waterproof, bearproof $$$
Igloo PRO GlideUp to 5 days110horizontal telescoping handle, durable wheels$$
Elkton OutdoorsUp to 5 Days (3 in warmer temps)50-75bottle opener, fish ruler and bear resistant $$$
Wagan Plug InNo Ice Needed! 24 Liter110v Car Plug, can warm or cool, power adapter available for electric plugin $$
Coleman Xtreme5 days70 quartcup holders, 12.3 pounds$

What To Look For When Buying the Best Ice Chest

Size and Storage Capacity

Size really DOES matter when it comes to coolers. Not because bigger is always better, but instead, size really determines a lot of the below criteria as well. The bigger the cooler, the harder to keep things cold or even frozen. The bigger the cooler, the harder to lug around. However, the smaller the cooler, the less food you can bring (meaning more grocery runs or warm beer…neither of which we want!)

It can almost be like playing Goldilocks in determining which size of cooler fits you and your needs JUUUUUST right.

Things to consider for size:

  • How many people are in your group? If it’s just you or you and a partner, you can get by with a smaller one. If you have a family, you still need room in your car for all your other gear, but will need a middle to larger size cooler to fit all that grub in.
  • Do you camp near town (aka stores)? If you typically camp in major campgrounds, finding a store might not be terribly difficult. However, if you find yourself enjoying off the grid camping or even just more secluded campgrounds, needing to go to a store can quickly become a hassle. A larger cooler (that stays insulated) can mean less errands while on your relaxing camping trip.
  • Do you like to go camping in bear country?  You need to seriously consider what coolers are appropriate for camping in locations that have bears because those fellas are SMART and WILL get into anything they suspect of having food.  The Engal 65 is the perfect choice for this, as it is actually certified with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee to comply with food storage regulations.

 

Insulation

The whole point of getting a cooler is to keep it’s contents inside cold, am I right? But there is a huge difference in a semi-chilled beer to a frosty cold one. And let’s be real here, if you are looking into insulation, then you most likely aren’t just keeping beverages cool.

It’s absolutely essential to keep foods at proper temperatures if keeping them in a cooler for several days. And we all know that that slushy ice water isn’t REALLY doing the job by day two. Here are a few things to consider when looking into insulation for your best camping cooler.

1) What is your intended use for the cooler?

  • Are you fishing or hunting? If yes, quality insulation is ABSOLUTELY integral. The ice will be melting quickly from the body heat of the fish or meat, meaning the temperature will go up quickly if not properly insulated.  You’ll want a much better insulated cooler, Elkton.
  • Are you just keeping your beer and hot dogs cold for a few hours? Then just a regular ‘ol cooler should do.  A Coleman Xtreme cooler is a decent budget cooler, just don’t expect a true 5 days worth of ice staying frozen or something real heavy duty .
  • Are you packing food? Start considering more than just an “off the shelf” type of cooler.  Maybe a super expensive one isn’t needed, but you’ll still want one that keeps your food at proper health safety standards.  A good one that doesn’t sacrifice quality for price is the Igloo Quick and Cool

2) How many days do you intend on keeping the contents cold?

This kind of plays into the size factor above, but if you are wanting to keep food at a safe handling temperature for more than a day or two, investing in a properly insulated cooler is a must.

How To Tell If a Cooler is Well Insulated

1) Reviews. This is ALWAYS my go-to advice for figuring out the best product for anything. By looking over the best camping cooler reviews on Amazon, you can quickly weed out the ones that will have your ice melting in no time.  Keep reading for a compilation of the best rated coolers and their top reviews.

2) Knock Three Times (cue song). Ok, you don’t need to knock 3 times, but do knock on the outside of the cooler. Does it sound hollow? It probably is (aka not very well insulated)

3) What Materials are Used? Foam, particularly polyurethane, is one of the most used materials when creating really well constructed and insulated camping coolers.  If yours doesn’t have it, chances are that it isn’t top of the line.

 

Portability

Ok great, you have an amazing cooler that will last forever and keep what’s inside cold for as long as you need, but if it’s difficult to tote around, then it’s really not practical. We have a GIANT cooler (300 quart!) that we inherited from my husband’s outdoors-lovin’ Grandpa and we haven’t even used it once because it’s so damn big and cumbersome!

While finding the best wheeled coolers on the market is a top priority for portability for many people, it doesn’t need to be a necessity if it is lightweight enough and has good handles or even ropes.

Click here for the top rated best wheeled coolers right now since they are so popular for portability

For day trips, backpack coolers can be a great way to be hands free. If you have kids who like to complain about walking (no? Only mine does this!?), one with a telescopic handle is great because I actually sit my toddler on the cooler and he things it’s the best ride ever!

Here is our top pick for a leak-proof and lightweight backpack cooler

 

Diversity

Some people will buy one cooler specifically for camping, and that is just fine.

Me, on the other hand, I like to double dip! There is no point in having 3 different coolers in my basement all for separate occasions. Therefore, when choosing your best CAMPING cooler, consider why else you use a cooler and can this one fulfill those needs as well or would you have to buy several?

  • Will your camping cooler be too big and cumbersome for backyard BBQs? Maybe consider meeting in the middle on size, like this, not too big, but not too small Coleman.
  • Is the cooler that is ideal for camping too heavy to lug around to your kiddo’s summer sports? Maybe look for one that is super easy to transport and still meets all your required criteria.  Click here to see our favorite pick for a cooler that is really easy to move.

 

Types and Brands of Coolers To Consider

High End Coolers

There are a few kinds “high end coolers” on the market. First, there are the name brands that receive a lot of accolade on their performance. For example, the Yeti and “Yeti style coolers are often a favorite among campers because they say it can keep ice cold for 5-7 days…impressive!

Other top rated coolers in this genre are brands that often get similar reviews to the Yeti are Orca, RTIC, Pelican Elite Cooler.

Or maybe you are looking for coolers like Yeti but cheaper.  The nICE Coolers are a really great option.

Other Yeti Style Coolers That Are Cheaper

All of the following products will take Yeti for a run for it’s money (literally!) They can all compete right up there in terms of quality, durability and longevity of ice retention…all for a lot cheaper!

Click on any of the following links to see current prices as well as reviews.

 

Then, there are the fancy schmancy coolers. C’mon, you know the ones! I’m talking about the coolers that make margaritas, play music, like this high-tech bluetooth speaker cooler.  

Plug In Coolers

My whole cooler world was changed when we discovered portable plug in coolers, like this cold (and hot!) cooler!

Seriously ya’ll these things ROCK!!!

We bought one that had both a car plug in to keep our food cold during long car rides but then could switch it to electricity power once we arrived at the destination! This obviously negates the need for ice and even a ton of insulation research, since your car and electricity will be doing all the heavy work on the cooling side. While they do come in a wide array of sizes, I honestly would recommend one on the smaller sized ones simply because it would take A LOT of car power to keep a large one cool. Even with a smaller sized cooler, we were often able to keep a few drinks and about 24 hours worth of food cold.

Click Here To See Amazon’s Best Rated Plug In Cooler

Waterproof Coolers

(Boat, beach, and lake coolers)

Whether you are planning on fishing and need the best boat coolers on the market, are heading to the lake, want the best beach cooler, or if you are just caught in a rainstorm, then depending on what is inside your cooler, having a good waterproof cooler is something to consider.  I highly recommend the Coleman Coastal Series Marine Cooler

Wheeled Coolers

A wheeled cooler can be absolute necessity for some.  They make portability and lugging a breeze if the telescopic handle is easy enough to navigate with.  The Igloo Glide is a great option for this.

Click here to see current prices on the Igloo Glide.

 

Best Camping Cooler Reviews: What are people saying?

Narrowing it down to just 5 coolers is TOUGH! But, we took into consideration things like price, durability and longevity of ice and came up with the top 3 outdoor coolers we think you should consider for your future camping trips.

 

Igloo Pro Glider

If you are looking for an all around cooler, this just might be it.  Great price point yet doesn’t sacrifice on quality.  If you want wheels, this has got it.  If you want a cooler that keeps items cold for a good amount of time, this can be it.

It is quite large, but with heavy duty wheels that can handle most terrains, it’s easy to handle

Click here to see current prices on the Igloo Glider

 

Yeti

When people say things like “Best cooler I’ve ever owned” or “super efficient” and “worth every penny” then you start to look further into a product.  While a yeti cooler is not cheap, one could argue that it is one of the best on the market, especially for rugged outdoors-men, long trips, or those camping in warmer temperatures that ice to stay colder longer (Up to 7 days!) Besides a fantastic longevity life of ice, you can expect heavy duty hinges that won’t bust and an incredibly durable shell that can take a good beating.

Click here to read other raving reviews of the Yeti Cooler

 

Coleman Xtreme

Coleman is a household name for reason.  While this cooler may not keep ice frozen for up to a week, it is still a great option for those looking for a cheap cooler that still has decent construction and performance.  If you aren’t looking to spend much and just are heading out for weekend camping trips, this is the perfect option.

Click here to see more information and the latest pricing for the Coleman Xtreme

 

Recap

WHEW!!!

Bet you didn’t realize there was so much to consider when picking the best cooler for camping, did you!? At first glance, it may seem overwhelming to pick a camping cooler that fits your needs.  But, as long as you know what you are looking for and why you need certain features to meet your certain style of camping, then it’s easy to weed out the less than ideal options.

So, what do you think, which camping cooler are you going to pick and why?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

The Best Camping Coolers on the market

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