The Best Coolers for Camping in 2021

We may receive commissions when you buy through links on our site. Learn more.

Need a camping cooler to keep your food and drinks cold while outside?

We’re here to help.

Camping coolers can be hard to purchase because there are many options available, each with its own unique advantages and disadvantages.

So, here are 3 key features to look out for as you shop:

  • Well-insulated. Camping coolers should have a thick layer of insulation to keep your food cold at all times.
  • Durable. A quality camping cooler should be made from tough plastic or soft-shell materials so it won’t break while you’re outside.
  • Portable. For camping, a cooler that’s either lightweight has wheels, or comes with a trolley handle is critical.

Read More : 7 Things to Know Before Buying Camping Coolers

We understand how difficult it can be to find the perfect camping cooler, which is why we created a list of the 10 best options available today. To make the shopping process even easier for you, we’ve also crafted a detailed buyer’s guide, complete with everything you need to know about camping coolers.

Here are the 10 best camping coolers for your upcoming trip.

Cooler ModelTypeCapacityWeight
YETI Tundra HaulHard sided 45 cans 37.0lbs / 16.8kg
Coleman 120-Quart CoolerHard sided 204 cans 25.0lbs / 11.3kg
Igloo Marine Cooler Hard sided 76 cans8.8lbs / 4.0kg
RovR RollR 80 Cooler Hard sided 120 cans 61.0lbs / 28.0kg
Kelty 45L Folding Cooler Soft sided 70 cans 4.1lbs / 1.9kg
YETI Hopper Flip 18 Soft sided 20 cans 5.1lbs / 2.3kg
Igloo Mission Cooler Hard sided 124 quarts / 117L 22.0lbs / 10.0kg
Pelican 70QT Elite Cooler Hard sided 53 cans 33.3lbs / 15.1kg
YETI Tundra 65 Hard sided 42 cans 29.0lbs / 13.2kg
RTIC Ice Chest Hard Cooler Hard sided 36 cans 25.0lbs / 11.3kg

YETI Tundra 45 Haul Cooler

YETI Tundra Haul Coolers
Photo Credit : YYETIti
  • Capacity : 45 Cans
  • Weight : 37.0lbs / 16.8kg

With the YETI Tundra 45 Haul Cooler, one of the best ice chests design got a whole lot better.

One of the issues that sometimes arise with durable rotomolded coolers like this one is that they’re heavy, especially when filled with food and ice. Thankfully, with this model, a set of nifty NeverFlat Wheels and a StrongArm welded aluminum haul handle make transporting your cooler to and from the car a walk in the park.

The YETI Tundra 45 Haul Cooler also doesn’t skimp when it comes to insulation, thanks to its 2” (5.1cm) of pressure-injected commercial-grade insulation and its Coldlock Gasket. Plus, this model has a set of T-Rex heavy-duty rubber latches to provide a perfect seal so your food stays cold at all times.

What We Like

  • Wheeled cooler design. Allows for easier transport when full.
  • Commercial-grade gasket. Seals in the cold.
  • Rubber latches. Prevents breaks and ensures the perfect seal.

What We Don't Like

  • Pricey. One of the most expensive options available.

Coleman 120-Quart Cooler

Coleman 120-Quart Coolers
Photo Credit : Coleman
  • Capacity : 204 Cans
  • Weight : 25.0lbs / 11.3kg

Affordable, yet functional, the Coleman 120-Quart Cooler is a great option for campers that need a durable cooler that doesn’t skimp on quality.

This model is built from Coleman’s proprietary UVGuard plastic material, which protects it from getting damaged after long-term sun exposure. It also has all stainless steel hardware fixtures, as well as a Have-A-Seat Lid that’s strong enough to support up to 250lbs (113kg).

When it comes to keeping your food cool, this cooler is packed with plenty of foam insulation in the walls and lid so your food can stay cold for up to 6 days.

Finally, the Coleman 120-Quart Cooler has a drainage plug and a leak-resistant channel that allows you to clean out your cooler quickly and without the need to tilt it up off the ground.

What We Like

  • UV resistant materials are designed to last for years.
  • Easy cleanup thanks to the drain plug system.
  • Durable. The lid can withstand up to 250lbs (113kg) of weight.

What We Don't Like

  • No gasket to seal in the cold.

Igloo Marine Cooler

Igloo Marine Ultra Coolers
Photo Credit : Igloo
  • Capacity : 76 Cans
  • Weight : 8.8lbs / 4.0kg

Simple, convenient, and very budget-friendly, the Igloo Marine Cooler is a solid choice if you need a cooler that gets the job done but doesn’t break the bank.

Featuring a plastic construction with UV protection technology, this cooler is designed to withstand the rigors of the outdoor environment. Thanks to its rust-resistant stainless steel screws, it’s also a nice option for use on boat trips or in wet environments.

It has a layer of Ultratherm insulation in the walls and the lid to help keep ice cool. For added convenience, this cooler boasts a fish-measurement ruler right on the lid so you can quickly determine the size of your catch.

Wrapping up the Igloo Marine Cooler’s list of great features is its lightweight and non-slip comfort-grip handles. Combined, these two assets make it easy to carry the cooler from the car to your campsite.

What We Like

  • Fish ruler makes it easy to measure your catch.
  • Lightweight. Allows for simplified transport to and from the car.
  • UV protection. Added durability in sunny environments.

What We Don't Like

  • Foam insulation is not as effective in keeping food cold.

RovR RollR 80 Cooler

RovR RollR 80 Coolers
Photo Credit : RovR
  • Capacity : 120 Cans
  • Weight : 61.0lbs / 28.0kg

When keeping food cold is a top priority, the RovR RollR 80 Cooler is a great contender.

Made with rotationally molded plastic that’s certified grizzly bear-resistant, this rolling cooler provides ample durability for a lifetime of camping. Thanks to this rotomolded design, it also has an even layer of high-density foam insulation which, when combined with the airtight gasket, can keep food cold for days on end.

Although it’s quite heavy for a cooler, this model does come with rubber non-skid feet and an easy-to-use pull handle for transport.

Inside the RovR RollR 80 cooler, there is even a uniquely shaped chamber that’s optimized to fit a Deepfreze dry storage bin. That way, you can keep food, ice, and beverages at their optimal temperatures, all at the same time.

What We Like

  • Rotomolded construction allows for superior durability.
  • Spacious interior can keep food, ice, and cold beverages.
  • Bear-resistant certification for use in grizzly habitat.

What We Don't Like

  • Very heavy. Weighs up to 100lbs (45.4kg) when full.

Kelty 45L Folding Cooler

Kelty 45L Folding Coolers
Photo Credit : Kelty
  • Capacity : 70 Cans
  • Weight : 4.1lbs / 1.9kg

Combining portability and affordability into one unique package, the Kelty 45L Folding Cooler is a revolutionary new soft-sided cooler.

Perhaps the most innovative part of this cooler is its folding design, which allows it to collapse to a height of just 4” (10.2cm) for easier transport in your car at the end of your trip. This collapsibility is made possible by the cooler’s 300D polyester wall fabric, which is lined with 12mm PE Foam for insulation.

Meanwhile, the foam lid on this cooler has built-in beverage holders for convenience. It also opens up to reveal a large central storage area, which is designed to keep ice or up to 70 cans cold for about 36 hours.

The Kelty 45L Folding cooler is also fully waterproof, thanks to its built-in liner. So, it won’t leak all over your car or your campsite and is easier to clean up at the end of your trip.

What We Like

  • Lightweight and portable thanks to the collapsible design.
  • Waterproof liner prevents spills and makes clean up easy.

What We Don't Like

  • Insulation concerns. Not designed for longer road trips in hot weather.

YETI Hopper Flip 18 Cooler

YETI Hopper Flip 18 Coolers
Photo Credit : YETI
  • Capacity : 20 Cans
  • Weight : 5.1lbs / 2.3kg

Offering a great mix of portability and insulation, the YETI Hopper Flip 18 Cooler is designed for campers that want to have their cake and to eat it, too.

Featuring YETI’s proprietary DryHide Shell, which is a high-density UV-resistant, mildew-resistant, and waterproof fabric, this cooler is crafted for durability. It also has a HydroLok zipper, which is fully waterproof to prevent leaks and other messes while you camp.

While many soft coolers lag behind in terms of insulating ability, this model is made with ColdCell Insulation, which offers premium cold-retaining capabilities for use in very hot environments.

The YETI Hopper Flip 18 Cooler also has two side handles, one top handle, a shoulder strap, and a MOLLE-compatible Hitchpoint Grid to make transportation a breeze.

What We Like

  • Waterproof, thanks to DryHide shell and HydroLok zipper.
  • Well-Insulated. ColdCell Insulation can keep ice cold for days.
  • Portable. Multiple carry points and a MOLLE-compatible grid system.

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive for a soft cooler.

Igloo Mission Cooler

Igloo Mission Coolers
Photo Credit : Igloo
  • Capacity : 124 quarts / 117L
  • Weight : 22.0lbs / 10.0kg

Boasting an extra-large carrying capacity, the Igloo Mission Cooler is an ideal companion on longer family-style camping trips.

It’s made with a durable plastic construction that’s filled with Ultratherm insulation to help keep ice-cold for up to 8 days. Plus, Igloo designed this cooler with a food-grade silicone rubber gasket around the lid to seal out heat and to keep cold temperatures trapped inside.

Molded straight into the lid of this cooler is a fish ruler for measuring your catch as soon as you take it out of the water.

The Igloo Mission Cooler also comes with a set of heavy-duty grab handles for hauling to and from camp, as well as tie-down brackets for transporting it on the bed of a truck.

What We Like

  • Well insulated. Includes rubber gasket to trap in the cold.
  • Fish ruler located on the lid for ease of use.
  • Burly handles allow for easier transportation.

What We Don't Like

  • Durability concern due to flimsy plastic latches.

Pelican 70QT Elite Cooler

Pelican 70QT Elite Coolers
Photo Credit : Pelican
  • Capacity : 53 Cans
  • Weight : 33.3lbs / 15.1kg

Pelican is known for its high-end carry cases, so it’s no surprise that the Pelican 70QT Elite Cooler is one of the best in its class.

Made with Pelican’s extra-thick plastic shell and Extreme Ice Retention technology, this cooler is engineered to help keep your food cold for days on end. It also has a freezer-grade gasket and rugged latches to help seal cold in and keep the hot air out.

While it isn’t necessarily the lightest cooler on the market, it does come with burly handles on either end for transportation.

On the top of the lid, the Pelican 70QT Elite Cooler also has four built-in cup holders so you can quickly set your drink down as you tend to the grill while in camp.

What We Like

  • Cup holders molded into the lid.
  • Robust handles are extremely durable and great for transport.
  • Gasket-sealed lid. Designed to keep ice cold for days.

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive for a 53 can cooler.

YETI Tundra 65 Cooler

YETI Tundra 65 Coolers
Photo Credit : YETI
  • Capacity : 42 Cans
  • Weight : 29.0lbs / 13.2kg

Versatile to the core, the YETI Tundra 65 Cooler is a multi-functional food storage solution for camping trips in hot environments.

Featuring YETI’s standard rotomolded construction and FatWall design, this cooler can hold up to 2” (5.1cm) of premium pressure-injected PermaFrost Insulation in its walls and lid. When combined with its ColdLock freezer-quality gasket and InterLock lid system, this model is designed to keep food cold throughout an extended camping trip.

Although it’s a bit on the heavy side for a cooler this size, the YETI Tundra 65 Cooler comes with molded LipGrip handles and DoubleHaul military-grade polyester rope handles for transport. 

It also has multiple AnchorPoint tie-down slots so you can quickly mount it to your truck bed, boat, or trailer while out and about.

What We Like

  • Portable. Multiple carry options for transport.
  • Well-insulated. 2” of pressure-injected insulation.
  • Gasket sSealed. Can keep ice cold for days.

What We Don't Like

  • Limited capacity for a cooler this size.

RTIC Ice Chest Hard Cooler

RTIC Ice Chest Hard Coolers
Photo Credit : RTIC
  • Capacity : 36 Cans
  • Weight : 25.0lbs / 11.3kg

Built with the most rugged of conditions in mind, the RTIC Ice Chest Hard Cooler is a veritable portable freezer for extended camping trips in bear country.

Thanks to its durable rotomolded construction, this cooler is IGBC certified for bear resistance, so it can be used in certain areas to keep your food protected from hungry woodland creatures.

This rotomolded construction also allows this cooler to be packed with 3” of insulation to keep ice-cold for up to 10 days while outside. It also has a built-in Rapid V-Drain System, which allows for very quick clean up at the end of your trip.

Rounding off the RTIC Ice Chest Hard Cooler’s list of great features is a set of heavy-duty rope handles for easier transport to and from camp.

What We Like

  • Bear-resistant. Certified by IGBC for bear resistance.
  • Portable. Large handles for easier transportation.
  • Highly insulated. Up to 10 days of ice retention.

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive for a cooler with a relatively low storage capacity.

Camping Coolers Buying Guide

Choosing the right cooler for your needs is no walk in the park because there are so many fantastic options available.

Here are 7 key things about camping coolers to keep in mind as you shop.

Foam insulation vs rotomolded construction

There are two main construction types found in camping coolers. Here’s how they perform in the real world.

Foam Insulation

Foam insulation coolers, such as the Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler are made with traditional closed cell foam which provides a cost-effective way to keep food cold. However, while this type of cooler is more affordable, it generally is not as effective at trapping cold air because it’s not as evenly distributed around the cooler itself.

So, they’re best for budget-conscious campers that are heading out on short outdoor trips.

Rotomolded Construction

Rotomolded construction refers to a stringent manufacturing process that creates a durable plastic shell. This plastic shell is then filled with pressure-injected foam that has a higher insulative value than closed-cell foam.

As a result of this process, rotomolded coolers, such as the YETI Tundra 65 Cooler, are more durable and are better at insulating than their foam counterparts.

That being said, they’re also substantially heavier and more expensive.

Rubber gasket sealing

A rubber gasket is essential for maintaining insulation for long periods of time in a hot environment.

Effectively, a rubber gasket helps stop cold air from escaping the cooler and prevents hot air from making its way inside, allowing food to stay colder for longer.

When looking at coolers that have gaskets, it’s important to look for options like the ones found on the RovR RollR 80 Cooler or the Igloo Mission Cooler, which are made from food-grade rubber or silicone rubber.

That’s because these freezer-quality gaskets will provide the best seal and insulation.

Cooler capacity

The capacity of the cooler you buy is perhaps the biggest decision you make during the shopping process.

Since cooler capacity directly impacts your ability to transport and store food, drink, and ice in the outdoors, it’s imperative that you have a model that’s appropriately sized for your needs.

Here are some general cooler capacity guidelines for different sized groups going on a weekend camping trip :

Additionally, some manufacturers choose to define capacity in terms of the number of 12oz cans or the total amount of cubed ice that you can fit inside rather than stating volume in liters or quarts.

For many campers, a total can capacity is easier to visualize than liters or quarts.

But it’s important to keep in mind that bulkier items, like steaks or egg cartons, can be tricky to fit inside a cooler.

Therefore, the overall volume of a cooler does not necessarily determine its functionality when it comes to food storage. In fact, the layout of the cooler also affects how easy it is to pack with larger food items.

Some models, such as the RovR RollR 80 Cooler actually come with integrated dry food baskets so you can keep your produce separate from your drink cans, frozen meats, or block ice. 

These innovative layouts can make a big difference when it comes to efficiently packing all your food into your cooler before your camping trip.

Bear proof durability

These days, some coolers, such as the RTIC Ice Chest Hard Cooler are marketed as bear-proof. Technically speaking, these bear-proof coolers must be certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) as a bear-resistant container.

This means that they’ve undergone rigorous testing (with a real bear!) to ensure that they’re strong enough to withstand the rigors of a hungry grizzly looking to eat your snacks.

However, these coolers are not completely foolproof, and that they must be locked shut to ensure that a bear can’t get inside.

The vast majority of bear-proof coolers have rotomolded constructions, which provide thick enough plastic walls to stop a bear in its tracks. They’ll also have strategically placed holes around the lid so you can bolt the lid down using a steel padlock.

Another thing to keep in mind when using bear-proof coolers, however, is that they’re not always legal for use as your sole means of bear deterrence on public lands.

If you’re unsure whether or not you can use your cooler at your favorite campground, it’s best to call your local land manager or campground host directly for specific guidance before you leave home.

Read More : Bear Spray Myths Debunked

A well designed drainage

If you plan to use block or cubed ice, instead of ice packs, for keeping your food cold, having a cooler with a quality drainage system makes a big difference.

At a minimum, a single large drain valve, like what’s found on the RTIC Ice Chest Hard Cooler is a must. The caps for these valves should also have a leash to prevent you from accidentally losing them at your campsite.

Another useful feature to look for in a drainage system is a set of channels running along the bottom of the cooler that direct water toward the valve opening. These channels, which are found on models like the Coleman 120-Quart Cooler, make it easier for you to get all the water out of the cooler without needing to completely flip your cooler over.

Easily portable (soft vs hard sided)

Camping coolers are designed to be portable, though some are certainly heavier and bulkier than others.

Soft-sided cooler models like the YETI Hopper Flip 18 Cooler are generally going to be your lightest options as they are usually under 10lbs (4.5kg). Models like the Kelty 45L Folding Cooler, are also particularly portable because they collapse into a small size for easier transport when not filled with food.

Hard-sided rotomolded coolers, such as the YETI Tundra Haul Cooler, can often weigh upward of 60lbs (27.2kg) when empty, simply by virtue of their extra thick shell and ample insulation. Foam insulated coolers, such as the Igloo Marine Cooler, tend to be much lighter and more portable.

That being said, manufacturers also build their coolers with various features to increase their portability. Handles on either side of the cooler are a must, while tie-down straps are helpful if you plan to transport your cooler on the bed of a pickup truck.

Some models, including the RovR RollR 80 Cooler, also have wheels and pull handles for added mobility. Wheels are particularly helpful for coolers over 50lbs (23kg) in empty weight because they can easily reach or exceed 100lbs (45kg) in weight when not filled with food.

Extra features

To make your camping experience even better, some coolers come with extra features. Popular features include :

  • Built-in beverage holders. Coolers, such as the Pelican 70QT Elite Cooler, have cup holders on the lid so you can securely place your can, glass, or bottle down without worrying that it will spill onto the ground.
  • Dry baskets. Dry baskets, such as those found in the RovR RollR 80 Cooler, provide you with a separate space to store produce and other items you don’t want to come in direct contact with ice inside your cooler.
  • Fish ruler. Some coolers, including the Igloo Marine Cooler, include fish rulers on the lid so you can quickly measure your catch and determine if it’s large enough for you to keep or if you need to place it back in the water.

FAQ

How do I keep the cooler cold while camping?

To keep your cooler cold, keep it in a cool place out of the sun at all times. Also, use block ice or reusable ice packs to keep your food cold because they last longer than cubed ice.

How long can my food stay fresh in the cooler?

You can expect your food to stay fresh for 2-6 days, depending on your cooler. In a cool environment and if you frequently add more ice to your cooler, your food can stay fresh for up to 10 days.

Gaby Pilson

Gaby is a professional mountain guide with a master’s degree in outdoor education. She works primarily in the polar regions as an expedition guide, though she can be found hiking, climbing, skiing, sailing, or paddling in some of the world’s most amazing places when not at work.