Best Camping Coolers

A good camping cooler is an essential piece of equipment for your family adventures. Without it, you simply cannot go camping unless you stock up on MREs and due to sodium content, we do not recommend that. In this article, we are going to detail all the important features to look for and our list of the 10 best camping coolers.

Hard-Shell Cooler vs. Soft-Shell Cooler

First, there are two types of coolers: hard shells and soft shells. As you can probably guess, one is made of rigid plastic, and the other is made of fabric. We will quickly compare and contrast the two in the following table.

Hard-Shell Coolers Soft-Shell Coolers
All-weather use Suitable for cooler climates
Ice retention for up to one week Ice retention up to three days
More expensive Cheaper
Larger capacity, heavy Smaller capacity, lightweight
Some have wheels for moving Must carry
No external wetness Condensation, leakage possible

As you can see, there are quite a few differences in the two. Your preference will be determined by how you camp. If you prefer long weeks in the wilderness, a hard-shell cooler will be most beneficial. However, if you only take short camping trips, a soft-shell cooler might be convenient.

What to Look for in a Camping Cooler

When shopping for your camping cooler, consider the following features to narrow down what is most important to you.

Cooler Capacity

Obviously, you need to pick a cooler that has room for the amount of food you need to take. Capacity is often listed in quarts, liters, and sometimes cans (of the 12 ounce variety). It is important to remember, that you will need room for ice packs or cubes along with your food and beverages.

The cooler’s weight is closely related to its capacity. Larger capacity coolers are often heavier. This is also true of coolers with extra insulation or convenience features that we will discuss later. You will want a cooler you can maneuver into and out of your vehicle when loaded with sustenance.

Portability

Many larger hard-shell coolers come with a handle and wheels, so you can easily pull it around instead of carrying it. Depending on the terrain at your campsite, you may need rugged wheels on your cooler. Most soft-shell coolers do not feature wheels and must be carried in and out of the site by a shoulder strap.

Durability

If you camp with your family often, you obviously want a cooler that will last. Hard-shell coolers definitely win in this category. Most are made with durable plastic and some feature plastics that help deflect the sun’s rays and hinder the breakdown of the materials.

You will also want to stay away from plastic hinges and opt instead for stainless steel or integrated hinges. Plastic hinges are easier to break. If you choose a locking cooler, make sure the locking mechanism is durable, as well.

Cooling Time

As you saw in the table, hard-shell coolers can boast a much longer cooling time (ice retention). This is often due to thicker insulation, which equates to a heavier, bulkier cooler. However, if you plan long camping trips, you will want your cooler to stay cool as long as possible.

By pre-cooling your cooler with ice packs or bags of ice, you can extend the cooling time of your cooler. Loading a room temperature (or warmer) cooler will use up your ice quicker than if you’ve already pre-cooled to close to the intended temperature. Simply, put ice or packs inside the cooler the night before you intend to pack it, but be sure to empty out this “sacrificial” ice prior to packing.

Convenience Features

This category includes features that aren’t necessary for a great camping cooler, but sure do help out at the campsite. This can include built-in drink holders on the cooler’s lid, the ability to use the cooler as a stool or seat, and the ability to lock the cooler. Some coolers are equipped with dividers so you can keep different types of food separated.

The Best Camping Coolers

As promised, here is our list of the best camping coolers out there. Remember that the best cooler for you may be different than ours depending on how you camp. However, we feel this is a solid list, and most family campers can find an ideal cooler in it.

OtterBox Venture Cooler

OtterBox Venture Cooler, 45 Quart

Capacity: 45 qt.
Empty Weight: 26 lbs.
Cooling Time: Up to 14 days
Portability: Integrated handles
Price Point: $$$$

We really like the Otterbox Venture Cooler. This is a very well-built cooler with lots of extra features. On top of the solid construction, this cooler offers extra features like the ability to divide the inside of the cooler, an attachable bottle opener, and a dry storage tray. Additionally, there are multiple attachments that can be added to the outside of the cooler to customize it to your liking.

The insulation is on par with the best in the market. Otterbox states that it can keep items cool inside the cooler for up to 14 days. In comparison tests, the Venture Cooler often ranks among the highest for the number of days before ice will completely melt inside the cooler.

PROS

  • Latches attached to the bottom of the chest ensuring they do not get in the way when closing the lid
  • Keeps ice frozen with proper pre-cooling
  • Air-tight seal

CONS

  • Integrated handles make the overall size larger, requiring more space when transporting
  • Very heavy to carry when full
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RTIC Hard Cooler

Best camping coolers, RTIC Hard Cooler 65 Quart

Capacity: 65 qt.
Empty Weight: 25 lbs.
Cooling Time: Up to 5 days
Portability: Reinforced rope handles
Price Point: $$$$

This RTIC hard-shell cooler is a solid camping cooler with three inches of insulation to keep everything icy cold. It has rubber latches to lock the cooler and a thick rubber seal that keeps food odors, and therefore wildlife, at bay. The integrated hinges on metal pins are durable and difficult to break or crack.

RTIC’s mission is to provide campers with high-quality gear without breaking the bank, and this cooler embodies that vision. We found it to be a sturdy, no-frills, all the chills cooler that keeps food cold for long camping trips.

PROS

  • Lower price point than comparable competing models
  • Keeps ice frozen with proper pre-cooling
  • Air-tight seal

CONS

  • Tight seal makes it difficult to open when empty
  • Very heavy to carry when full
  • Hinge pins move with regular use
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RTIC Hard Cooler 65 qt, Grey, Ice Chest with Heavy Duty Rubber Latches, 3 Inch Insulated Walls Keeping Ice Cold for Days, Great for The Beach, Boat, Fishing, Barbecue or Camping
  • Unlimited Potential: This cooler has a 65 can capacity so you can embrace the outdoor life while still channeling the comfort of your own home.
  • Temperature Retentive: The 3-inch foam insulated walls plus the cool-lift design feature will make worrying about your ice melting a thing of the past.

Igloo BMX

Igloo BMX 52 Qt

Capacity: 52 qt.
Empty Weight: 16lbs.
Cooling Time: Up to 5 days
Portability: Rubberized T-grip latches
Price Point: $$

This RTIC hard-shell cooler is a solid camping cooler with three inches of insulation to keep everything icy cold. It has rubber latches to lock the cooler and a thick rubber seal that keeps food odors, and therefore wildlife, at bay. The integrated hinges on metal pins are durable and difficult to break or crack.

RTIC’s mission is to provide campers with high-quality gear without breaking the bank, and this cooler embodies that vision. We found it to be a sturdy, no-frills, all the chills cooler that keeps food cold for long camping trips.

PROS

  • Lower price point than comparable competing models
  • Lighter weight making it easier to carry
  • Air-tight seal

CONS

  • Tight seal makes it difficult to open when empty
  • Very heavy to carry when full
  • Hinge pins move with regular use
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Coleman Steel-Belted Cooler

Coleman Steel-Belted Cooler, 54 Quart

Capacity: 57 qt.
Empty Weight: 20 lbs.
Cooling Time: Up to 4 days
Portability: Comfort grip stainless-steel handles
Price Point: $$$

You simply cannot say “they don’t make them like they used to” when it comes to this cooler. If this vintage-style Coleman Steel-belted cooler wasn’t a part of your childhood, did you really even have one? In all seriousness, this classic Coleman is made of rust-resistant stainless steel.

The hinges and latches are also made of stainless steel for added durability. The built-in locking mechanism is handy when camping amongst thieving wildlife.

PROS

  • Locking mechanism attached
  • Retro, vintage style
  • Stainless steel construction

CONS

  • Uncomfortable carrying handles
  • Heavy to carry
  • Seal can break when sat upon
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Pelican Elite Cooler

Best camping coolers, Pelican Elite Cooler, 45 Quart

Capacity: 80 qt.
Empty Weight: 52 lbs.
Cooling Time: Up to 10 days
Portability: Integrated pull handle, wheels
Price Point: $$$$$

This Pelican Elite cooler is made of polypropylene and insulated with two inches of polyurethane. It offers integrated anti-shear hinges with three lockable latches and built-in tie-down grooves. The rubber pads on the bottom ensure your cooler will stay put wherever it goes.

Additional convenience features of this Pelican cooler include a built-in bottle opener and drink holder. It features a measuring board on the lid to make sizing your fish extremely simple. You will also find a 360° gasket that provides the ultimate ice retention.

PROS

  • Longest ice retention
  • Heavy-duty, sturdy
  • Lots of convenience features

CONS

  • One of the most expensive
  • Heavy, even when empty
  • Sloped interior (for easy draining) makes stacking cans difficult
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Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze

Capacity: 60 cans
Empty Weight: 7 lbs.
Cooling Time: Up to 3 days
Portability: Shoulder straps or included all-terrain cart
Price Point: $$

This soft-shell Arctic Zone Titan cooler is ideal for both long and short camping trips because you can carry it or roll it with the included all-terrain cart. It offers three layers of radiant heat barrier called Thermaflect to keep ground heat at bay.

The interior lining is both water- and stain-resistant and covered with Microban to keep bacteria out. It includes a detachable bottle opener and features lots of exterior pockets for packing all your extras.

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Lots of exterior storage spaces
  • Included all-terrain cart

CONS

  • Pull-handle does not lock into place
  • One strap attaches to cart, sometimes slides around on rough terrain
  • Can leak from seams and zippers
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Orca Hard Sided Classic Cooler

Orca Hard Sided Classic Cooler

Capacity: 58 qt.
Empty Weight: 36 lbs.
Cooling Time: Up to 10 days
Portability: Extendable flex-grip handles
Price Point: $$$

The ORCA 58-quart cooler is another roto-molded construction with integrated insulation for the ultimate durability and ice retention. The gasket on the lid provides an air-tight seal keeping everything inside cool and fresh.

It features integrated hinges and an easy-flow drain spout. Additionally, it comes with a cargo net attachment for extra external carrying space.

PROS

  • Durable
  • Extra cargo pouch included
  • Ability to padlock

CONS

  • Heavy
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ORCA BW058ORCORCA Cooler, White, 58-Quart
  • Product Type: Ice Chest
  • Package Dimensions: 71.12 L x 53.34 W x 53.34 H (cm)

Coleman Xtreme with Wheels

Coleman Xtreme with Wheels

Capacity: 62 qt.
Empty Weight: 15 lbs.
Cooling Time: Up to 5 days
Portability: Retractable pull-arm, wheels
Price Point: $

This Coleman Xtreme has an insulated lid and extra insulation in the walls while also remaining relatively lightweight while empty. The wheels are located on one end, so when you tow it, you will also be carrying some of the weight of the cooler. The lid can double as a seat for up to 250 lbs., and it has four cupholders.

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Built-in wheels

CONS

  • Must push forcefully on lid to close, or it stays ajar
  • Can be heavy to pull
  • Handles and lid can break off
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Sale
Coleman Rolling Cooler | 62 Quart Xtreme 5 Day Cooler with Wheels | Wheeled Hard Cooler Keeps Ice Up to 5 Days, Blue
  • XTREME TECHNOLOGY: Insulated lid and extra wall insulation keep ice up to 5 days in temperatures as high as 90°F
  • HIGH CAPACITY: Holds up to 95 cans

Cascade Mountain Tech Rotomolded Cooler

Cascade Mountain Tech Rotomolded Cooler

Capacity: 60 qt.
Empty Weight: 33 lbs.
Cooling Time: Up to 7 days
Portability: Nylon rope handles
Price Point: $$$

The Cascade Mountain Cooler is roto-molded for the utmost durability. Integrated hinges on a steel bar ensure the lid will stay attached for years to come. It has a built-in bottle opener and you can use it as a seat or tabletop. The heavy-duty rubber latches and rubber seal ensure an air-tight closure.

PROS

  • Solid, durable
  • Can be used as a seat or table
  • More affordable than comparable models

CONS

  • Latches can break
  • Heavy
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Columbia PFG High Performance Roto Cooler

Columbia PFG High Performance Roto Cooler

Capacity: 50 qt.
Empty Weight: 21 lbs.
Cooling Time: Up to 4 days
Portability: Rope handles with rubber grips
Price Point: $$$

This Columbia camping cooler is also roto-molded providing top-of-the-line durability and insulation. It also features Microban to reduce bacterial odors and stains. It has stainless steel cam latches and integrated hinges on a steel bar. The latches qualify as bear-resistant. Additional convenience features include a dry-goods basket, fish ruler, line cutter, and freezer-grade rubber gaskets.

PROS

  • Solid, durable
  • Included dry-good accessory basket
  • Wildlife resistant latching system

CONS

  • Rubber handles can wear down
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The Best of the Best

The moment has arrived to reveal the best camping cooler out there. Our top pick for the best camping cooler is the Otterbox Venture Cooler. A close runner-up was the RTIC Cooler, but the Venture Cooler took the top spot because of its added convenience features. Both were similarly priced and had similar ice retention, but we liked the dry-goods basket, bottle opener, dividing slots, and the multitude of available addons.

The Otterbox cooler is not the cheapest on the market, but we felt that it was much more affordable than some of the most expensive brands. Additionally, we simply prefer a hard-shell cooler on camping trips, which ruled out the Arctic Zone Titan cooler.

Ultimately, the best cooler for you is one that meets your family’s specific needs. We keep our cooler in or close to our vehicle so having wheels like the Igloo Roller or Coleman Xtreme was not a huge issue for us.

We hope you found this guide helpful in choosing your camping cooler. What features are most important to you and your family? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. As always, happy camping!