Best Coolers for Camping

A great cooler is a camping essential. Investing in a quality cooler is a smart move if you intend to camp, especially if you’d like to do so on an ongoing basis. Unfortunately, a lot of people pinch pennies and aren’t willing to invest in one of the best coolers for camping. It’s a shame, too, because a great cooler can make a camping trip better. And a cooler that doesn’t do what you need it to do? It can ruin an otherwise perfect camping trip.

Here’s what you need to know about choosing the best coolers for camping.

What’s available in the cooler world is far more extensive now than it was a few years ago. This is due in part to the innovations of the Yeti company, but they aren’t the only game in town when it comes to high-quality coolers for camping.

How do you make the right choice?

It can be stressful. Coolers range in price from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars, and it can be tough to figure out exactly what you need and what’s worth the investment. It helps to understand the difference between high-end and low-end coolers and know what you’ll be doing so you can determine which route to take. Remember, a lower-end inexpensive cooler isn’t necessarily bad, but you don’t want to use the price tag as your only factor in making a decision.

The primary differences in coolers boil down to durability and insulation. The better each of these factors is the better your cooler.

How does cooler insulation work?

Best Coolers for Camping

Your cooler needs to keep things cold. It’s the primary reason you bring it along. But how good a cooler is at doing this depends on what is going on in the environment around the cooler. A cooler that needs to keep ice frozen and food fresh in the middle of the desert in July will need to work a lot harder than a cooler in late November in the Northeastern part of the country.

It’s also important to consider what you’re packing. If you’re bringing eggs, meat, poultry, fish and milk, and perishable precooked food along on your camping trip, you need to store it all at under or close to 40/F. Otherwise, you’re putting you and your fellow campers at risk of getting sick. This is also true if you are catching your meals while camping and want to keep fish or game fresh until you get back home.

Traditional coolers are typically able to reliably hold ice and stay below 40˚F for two to three days, which accommodates weekend adventures perfectly. But this isn’t long enough for all outdoor adventurers. You can add dry ice, which can turn a cooler into a freezer, but dry ice tends to be hard on lower-end coolers not equipped for such cold temps.

The main thing to consider here? What foods you’re bringing and what temperature is required to keep them safe and how long you’re planning to camp for.

Durability

How does cooler insulation work

Next,  you’ll want to consider the durability of your cooler, and again, you’ll want to consider the environment and how you intend to use the cooler.

The higher-end models come equipped with pin-style hinges, tough lids and bodies, and heavy-duty latch mechanisms. They’re able to stand up to frigid cold temps, so the use of dry ice won’t be a problem, and they can take a lot of bumps and bruises during their travels.

Lower end coolers tend to not be as tough, but some are fairly durable and will work for the average weekend family camping trip. If you’re looking for something middle-of-the-road, find a cooler that is durable enough to serve as a sitting and food prep surface, but that wouldn’t stand up to a tumble down a mountainside.

Other Considerations

Once you’ve narrowed down whether you want to go high-end, low-end, or somewhere in between, you should think about size and portability. The total size of your cooler should be large enough to accommodate food and drinks and anything else that needs a refrigerator for the average length of time you camp, plus a little extra space, but that’s small enough to fit in the vehicle you intend to take on your camping trips.

As a general guideline:

  • 25 quarts carry food for one camper for a single night or beverages and snacks for a few people
  • 40-quart size can store food for one person for a whole weekend or two people for two nights
  • 70-quart coolers carry food for an entire family for an entire weekend or week-long trips for couples and solo travelers

Finally, think about how portable you need the cooler to be. If you’re driving to your campsite and parking right beside your cooking area, your cooler wouldn’t even need to leave your vehicle. But if you’re hiking to your site, you probably don’t want to be lugging a 70-quart cooler filled with food and drinks.

Choosing the Best Cooler for Camping

Now that you have a general idea of how to decide what you need in a cooler, let’s take a look at the ones we think are the best around.

Canyon Coolers Outfitter Series 35-qt. SANDSTONE – Bear proof cooler

Canyon Coolers Outfitter Series 35-qt. SANDSTONE - Bear proof coolerThis cooler features:

  • Two handles for easy
  • IGBC Bear Resistant Certification #3769 – it’s tough enough to make bears give up on stealing your food
  • Ice Retention for 5 to 14 Days
  • 35 quarts of storage space

Con:

  • Lacks wheels
  • On the smaller side

Check it out on AMAZON.

YETI Tundra 35 Cooler

YETI Tundra 35 CoolerThis cooler features:

  • Roto-molded construction is considered the strongest in the industry
  • Features a dry goods rack for sandwiches and other fragile foods that shouldn’t get soggy
  • The freezer-quality gasket prevents food odors from reaching the noses of forest creatures

Con:

  • Two padlocks are needed to truly make this cooler bear-resistant
  • Heavy

Check it out on AMAZON.

Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Cooler

Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted CoolerThis cooler features:

  • Keeps ice frozen up for to three full days in temperatures up to 100 degrees F
  • Comes with a full 6-year warranty
  • Features a stainless steel lid, handles, screws, and hinges

Cons

  • No trays or inserts to elevate food
  • Drain plug tends to dislodge

Check it out on AMAZON.

Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler

Igloo Marine Ultra CoolerThis cooler features:

  • Features UV protection and can stand up to constant sun
  • The non-slip, comfort-grip handles make it easy to haul
  • Marine-grade, extended-life hinges can handle exposure to water

Cons

  • The lid is not insulated

Check it out on AMAZON.

Five-day ice protection is just average among modern coolers.

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