It would seem that a cooler is a cooler and that the greatest consideration in purchasing one might be simply making sure it’s large enough to meet its intended need. This approach is fine when choosing a cooler for a family picnic or one that can be kept in a car for a road trip or simply to transport groceries in a hot climate.
Needs are different when the intended use is going to be for camping, however. Of course there are varying degrees of camping, ranging from parking a large RV at a campground to hiking into a remote location with a tent. When ice is plentiful and convenient to replenish, keeping qualities may be of less importance in making a purchase decision. When destinations are more remote, keeping ability becomes greatly more important.
Camping coolers typically are larger so they can hold several days’ worth of food that needs to be refrigerated. Even if the camping destination has stores and services nearby, it’s still more convenient to stock the cooler once and have the luxury of enjoying the trip rather than tending the cooler. It’s important to decide how much internal cooler space you need and how you’ll likely be using a camping cooler most of the time. Knowing how you’ll use the product you ultimately choose will make your purchase decision much easier. Our Buyer’s Guide section can help you make your final choice.
It can be difficult to keep track of sizes, keeping time averages, how those keeping time averages are determined, how much insulation each camping cooler has, and associated information that can be important depending on circumstances and how you plan to use a new camping cooler. The Comparison Table 2018 helps with keeping track of these and other points specific to each of the coolers reviewed below.
- 1 7 Best Camping Cooler Reviews
- 2 Coleman 100 Quart Xtreme 5 Wheeled Cooler – Best Wheeled Camping Cooler
- 3 Igloo Sportsman Cooler – Very Good “Keep Cold” Cooler
- 4 YETI Tundra 65 Cooler – Best for Holding Ice Long Term
- 5 Coleman Performance Cooler, 48-Quart – Great 3 Day Cooler
- 6 Pelican Elite Cooler – The Best High Performance Small Camping Cooler
- 7 Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler – Good General Use Camping Cooler
- 8 Igloo Polar Cooler – Acceptable Camping Cooler
- 9 Buyer’s Guide
- 10 Conclusion
7 Best Camping Cooler Reviews
|Coleman 100 Quart Xtreme 5|
|Igloo Sportsman Cooler||A+|
|YETI Tundra 65||A+|
|Coleman Performance Cooler||A|
|Pelican Elite Cooler||A|
|Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler||A+|
|Igloo Polar Cooler||A+|
Coleman 100 Quart Xtreme 5 Wheeled Cooler – Best Wheeled Camping Cooler
This is a larger version of the standard classic Coleman wheeled cooler that many use for picnics or outings to the lake. At 36.5 x 16.75 x 18.25 inches and weighing only 18 pounds, this cooler is very light weight and easy to maneuver, even when it is full. Two people may need to lift it in and out of vehicles when it’s full, but its two-way handles assist with that when it’s necessary. Once on the ground, one person easily can move the cooler with its solid handle and large wheels that function well even on uneven ground. Its large internal capacity can hold 160 cans, which is more than six cases.
This cooler absolutely deserves a recommendation. As one purchaser notes, its ability to keep ice is second only to other brands that cost very much more.
Igloo Sportsman Cooler – Very Good “Keep Cold” Cooler
This is a 100 quart cooler with a polyethylene exterior and an interior that is lined with a refrigerator quality material that resists staining and won’t absorb odors. It also features a patented type of insulation in the body and lid to help retain the cold. It has a handle on each side, but it is not on wheels. Though the cooler itself is light weight, it probably will require two adults to move it when fully loaded.
YETI Tundra 65 Cooler – Best for Holding Ice Long Term
When money is no object and your need includes keeping ice for five to seven full days – or longer – even in 100 degree temperatures, this is the camping cooler for you. It measures 16 x 17.5 x 30.5 inches and weighs 35 pounds empty. Its heavier empty weight reflects the much greater and denser insulation than is in any other non-Yeti cooler. There are no wheels on this cooler so it can be difficult to maneuver when filled, but everything inside is guaranteed to be very cold, indeed.
Coleman Performance Cooler, 48-Quart – Great 3 Day Cooler
At 14 W x 14.5 H x 26 L in Inches and with a capacity of 48 quarts, this cooler is smaller and more easily maneuverable than its 100 quart counterparts that are much larger. This one holds 63 cans instead of the 160 cans that larger camping coolers can accommodate. This is a great cooler for shorter camping trips or for use where there is easy access to more ice. Though it is rated to hold ice for three days, anyone using this cooler should plan to replenish ice more frequently than that. It does have a leak resistant drain to make draining very easy.
This is a great cooler for what it’s good for. Though it’s less useful for extended camping trips than some other models, it’s still a good cooler for general use.
Pelican Elite Cooler – The Best High Performance Small Camping Cooler
If there is such a thing as the perfect camping cooler, this must be it. It has a 30 quart capacity and measures 9.2 x 19.6 x 25.9 inches. At only 25 pounds empty weight, this great camping cooler is easy to manage. The best feature is its ability to hold ice, however. It has much dense insulation and a freezer-grade gasket that ensures tight closure for maximum cold retention. This cooler can retain ice for up to ten days! It also has a lifetime guarantee. The US manufacturer promises to replace it for any reason.
This absolutely is a recommended camping cooler. It does indeed cost more than most others its size, but it is a good buy even so.
Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler – Good General Use Camping Cooler
This is a good general duty camping cooler that can provide short term cooling for a variety of supplies. Measuring 26 x 14 x 14 inches and weighing only four pounds, it is highly maneuverable even when fully loaded. It will not keep ice forever, however. It is unlikely to hold ice even for a full day in direct sun. Even so, it is a great drink cooler or repository for mostly nonperishable items. Designed for marine use, it is solid white so it doesn’t heat up quickly in the sun. Its lid also includes an integrated fish measuring ruler to keep your catch legal.
As a camping cooler, this likely is one of the worst choices available. Though it is a good general use cooler, there are better choices for camping.
Igloo Polar Cooler – Acceptable Camping Cooler
With its 120 quart capacity and its measurements of 38.2 x 17.3 x 17.7 inches, this is a large cooler. It weighs only 18 pounds, however. Though its light weight is attractive, it also is a detriment that reflects this cooler’s general lack of solid insulation. The manufacturer says the cooler will hold ice for five days in 90 degree temperatures, but users’ experiences generally don’t support those claims. It does hold ice for an acceptable period of time, however. Its large size means it has an internal capacity of 188 cans.
Except for the issue with the hinges, this appears to be a very good choice as a camping cooler. It is large and unwieldy, so it isn’t one you’d want to be carrying deep into the woods. It’s fine for camping adventures that involve less distance from civilization.
As we said at the outset, the best camping cooler for you is the one that best meets your needs. If you’re trekking off deep into the woods where there’s no campground store near, then you’ll need a cooler that can keep ice for several days. Any Yeti or Pelican cooler can fill that bill without hesitation.
If you’re heading to a KOA or other commercial campground where there’s a supply store onsite or even nearby, then ice keeping capacity is of much less importance. If your cooler won’t hold ice for more than a day or two but you have the ability to replenish it with ease, then ice-holding ability is of much less importance.
Capacity also is an issue. Do you need to keep several days’ food cold for an extended period of time? If so, then ice-keeping ability becomes a real issue. Generally, cooler capacity is stated in terms of the number of cans any specific cooler can accommodate because soda cans come in a universal size. The larger the internal capacity of any cooler, the larger the size, of course, which leads to greater weight when fully loaded. That’s a real issue if you’re heading deep into the woods but is of much less consideration if you’re enjoying some relaxing time at a campground that has niceties such as a bath house or supply store.
Budget is a consideration for most. The camping coolers reviewed here range in price from $26 to $399 (yes, that’s for the Yeti). Though you may want to buy a $400 cooler, it may be that a $50 cooler fits better into your budget. You’ll have to weigh the benefits of each cooler against the funds you have available. If you’re looking for a large cooler with great ice keeping ability but without the Yeti price, then the Coleman 100 Quart Xtreme is worth your attention.
Finally, what about size? How far will you need to carry it? If you’re heading off deep into the woods, then the smaller Yeti or Pelican cooler that can keep ice for amazing lengths of time will be your best bets. If you’re parking at a commercial campground with a supply store nearby and you likely won’t move your cooler during your stay, then a large cooler such as the giant Igloo 120-quart or smaller Igloo or Coleman styles can serve you well without decimating your budget.
Clearly, there are many choices available when considering the purchase of a great camping cooler. The fact that a Yeti or Pelican cooler can keep ice for more than a week may be valuable to you. If your camping trips extend only a few days or don’t stray far from accessible services, however, a more mainstream product may serve you well.