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May 29, 2017

The best cooler you can buy (and five alternatives)

by John_A

A cooler is something most people will eventually purchase for an amalgam of reasons. From a casual weekend tailgate to an extended hunting trip, there are many situations where an ice chest certainly comes in handy. While individuals who only need a little extra insulation for quick day trips may prefer an affordable softpack, someone who needs a cooler with longer ice retention capacity needs a heftier model. The market covers a broad spectrum of needs and — as one could imagine — there are thousands of options to choose from. Without further ado, here are our picks for the choicest coolers you can buy.

Our pick

Igloo Trailmate Journey Cooler

Why you should buy this cooler: The Trailmate is the most functional cooler on the market.

The best

Igloo Trailmate Journey Cooler

The Igloo Trailmate Journey cooler can haul all of your supplies and chew up some terrain with ease.

$199.99 from Amazon

Who it’s for? Those who often take their cooler away from base camp.

How much will it cost? $200

Why we chose the Igloo Trailmate Journey cooler:

A traditional stationary base camp cooler is fine for most individuals, however, those who prefer to take their cooler with them to the beach or further down the trailhead know how frustrating it can be to tow a heavier or basic wheeled model. On more rugged terrain or sloppy sand, you’re more than likely dragging the cooler, rather than efficiently utilizing the stubby plastic wheels.

The Igloo Trailmate Journey cooler, on the other hand, has 10-inches of ground clearance and oversized, furrowed wheels to ensure traction on even the most stubborn soil. The Trailmate also touts a rather impressive 70-quarts of cooler space to boot, meaning you could theoretically cool up to 112 12-ounce brews inside.

Water-resistant storage pockets keep your items stowed and dry, and a series of tie-down loops along the top allow you to pack plenty of larger items such as chairs and towels. Dual bottle openers ensure quaffing no matter which side of the unit your closest to. After 111 beers, pivoting to the other side of the cooler can be quite the tall order.

The best cooler for glamping

Coolest Cooler

Why you should buy this cooler: Because there’s no cooler like the Coolest.

The best cooler for glamping

Coolest Cooler

Brimming with bells and whistles, the Coolest Cooler is a solid ice chest and then some.

$448.95 from Amazon

$417.09 from Home Depot

Who it’s for? Individuals who want a cooler that can do it all.

How much will it cost? $400

Why we chose the Coolest Cooler:

While many individuals enjoy a rugged weekend getaway under the stars, some prefer a more glamorous camping trip. For these casual glampers, we highly recommend the Coolest Cooler. This particular idea started as a Kickstarter campaign and — although the project notoriously hit a few snags along the way — the Coolest Cooler eventually became the most funded Kickstarter of all time.

The Coolest is loaded with completely unnecessary, albeit useful, features. The unit comes with a built-in, rechargeable blender for cocktails and smoothies on the fly, and a pair of waterproof USB ports allow you to keep all of your compatible devices charged. There’s even a removable, splash-proof Bluetooth speaker for up to eight hours of continuous music.

With 55-quarts of storage space, the cooler itself isn’t too shabby either, and the thick insulated build keeps your beverages cold long after you’ve exhausted the speaker. There are plenty of functional design touches as well. There are four plates and a ceramic knife built into the lid. Similarly, the removable plastic divider doubles as a cutting board for meal preps. A bottle opener on the side has been designed with a magnetic bin to catch and store all of your bottle caps. Watch our full video interview with the Coolest Cooler founder here.

The best rugged cooler

Yeti Tundra 105

Why you should buy this cooler: Individuals looking for a cooler that will last a lifetime.

The best rugged cooler

Yeti Tundra 105

Utilizing Yeti’s bear-resistant construction, the Tundra 105 is as durable as it gets.

$479.99 from Amazon

$479.99 from Back Country

Who it’s for? Hunters and fishermen.

How much will it cost? $450

Why we chose the Yeti Tundra 105:

While glampers and casual campers will certainly prefer the more versatile coolers on this list, hunters and fishermen require larger models with extended ice retention capacity. For these individuals, we recommend the sturdy Yeti Tundra 105. This model has three inches of PermaFrost insulation for optimal cooling capacity on longer trips.

The entire Tundra series utilizes a Rotomold construction, with a durable T-Rex lid to meet Yeti’s bear-resistant standards. Yeti suggest using an ice-to-storage ratio of 2:1; nonetheless, the Tundra 105 still holds up to 59 cans or 92 pounds of ice.

Rubberized latches and an interlocking lid system ensure a tight seal to extend the ice retention capacity. Unlike other models on the market, the Yeti Tundra 105 is dry ice compatible, allowing you to keep foods and beverages frozen even longer. At nearly 34-inches in length and 18-inches in height, the Tundra 105 is certainly one of the bulkier options on the market, but near indestructibility certainly does come at a cost.

The Yeti Tundra 105 may not be able to charge your electronic devices or help you if the frozen margarita mood suddenly strikes but if you’re in the market for a no-frills cooler with plenty of storage space on extended weekend trips, look no further.

The best softpack cooler

Poler Mega Camera Cooler Bag

Why you should buy this cooler: You’re seeking a multi-purpose cooler.

The best softpack cooler

Poler Mega Camera Cooler Bag

Lightweight and compact, the Poler Mega Camera Cooler Bag is one of the best looking coolers we’ve seen.

$75.39 from

Who it’s for? The dabbling day-trippers, or run-of-the-mill hipsters.

How much will it cost? $110

Why we chose the Poler Mega Camera Cooler Bag:

For a casual day trip or a quick picnic, there’s really no need for a colossal cooler. Smaller softpacks are a solid, lightweight option to stow a few drinks and some snacks for a casual outing, and the Poler Mega Camera Cooler is one of our favorites. With a clean design and a pair of leather pockets on the side, the Cooler Bag looks like more of a casual accessory than a utilitarian cooler. For quick jaunts around town, a pair of retention straps along the bottom conveniently hold the model in place on your bike rack.

With an available padded, customizable camera insert, this cooler easily doubles as a camera bag, making it especially useful for individuals who want a cooler they can get some use out of in between irregular outings. As long as you know the storage limitations going in, this versatile softpack — just two pounds and exceptionally compact — is one of the best you’ll find.

The best electric option cooler

Igloo Iceless 28

Why you should buy this cooler: It’s a great way to keep foods and beverages stored in your vehicle during games or road trips.

The best electric option cooler

Igloo Iceless 28

The Igloo Iceless 28 is an efficient cooler that is perfect for families.

$57.57 from

Who it’s for? Anyone looking for an efficient, compact cooler.

How much will it cost? $64

Why we chose the Igloo Iceless 28:

Models requiring ice certainly dominate the cooler market, however, there are plenty of electric options to help you save cash in the long run. The Igloo Iceless 28, for example, easily plugs into a cigarette lighter for a continuous chill. Without the need to lug around ice, you can store more perishables in a smaller area, saving you money and precious cargo space.

As the name suggests, the Iceless 28 delivers up to 28-quarts of storage space in a slim design that fits comfortably anywhere in most automobiles. This model also incorporates an appreciated ergonomic curve, designed to fit against your side while being carried. With more than eight feet of cord to work with, this cooler can stow and cool virtually anywhere in or around your vehicle. The Iceless 28 is capable of cooling items down to 36 degrees Fahrenheit less than the temperature outside of the unit, making this model ideal for use in your vehicle.

The best budget cooler

Kelty folding cooler

Why you should buy this cooler: It’s an affordable, well-rounded option with plenty of storage space.

The best budget cooler

Kelty folding cooler

The Kelty folding cooler saves you plenty of cash and cargo space.

$47.95 from

Who it’s for? Those seeking a reliable, budget cooler.

How much will it cost? $65

Why we chose the Kelty folding cooler:

The Kelty folding cooler is one of the more practical options on the market. At just four pounds and with room for up to 36 beers, this model delivers all of the storage space of clunkier models in a durable, lightweight semi-softpack. However, the real selling point is the collapsable design. In between trips, this cooler easily folds down and stows as a briefcase.

Reinforced feet, an abrasion-resistant base, and a ripstop polyester exterior add a layer of overall durability. Unlike many other options, the inside cooler lining is removable, making cleaning and disinfecting a breeze. If you want a sleek and sturdy cooler for under $70 dollars, this Kelty model is a sound bet. Oh, and just in case you’re still on the fence, the Kelty folding cooler comes with a pair of complimentary drink koozies. We’re just saying.

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