If you’re planning on spending a little time out in the wilderness, you need to invest in the best cooler for camping you can. With one, you can store vital food, drink, and ice to stop everything getting too warm or spoiling. Depending on how long you’re out for, you need a cooler than can keep you sufficiently satiated day and night, but also not be too cumbersome to lug around should you need to switch campsites because of bears, angry locals, or spooky lights and happenings you can’t always explain… (Cue X-Files theme tune).
Coolers are not just great for camping, either. You can also use them on days out fishing, boating, picnicking, or even at sport events as you cheer on your team and feel all the elated highs and crushing lows that come with being a sports fan.
The best coolers are much more than what you may remember using growing up. Instead of the simple plastic cases with a handful of ice cubes thrown in, they’re more reliable, insulated, and durable than before, and the most effective products can keep everything cool for as long as 6 days, and some special models can even run on off-the-grid electricity so you can live out your Mountain Man dreams with nobody bothering you.
With this in mind why not chill with us for a hot minute or two and look at which cooler is best for your next big day out.
The Best Coolers For Camping
Our top choice for the best cooler for camping is the Coleman Xtreme Series Portable Cooler which boasts a substantial 70-quart capacity, capable of holding up to 100 cans of your favorite beer, or most refreshing soft drink. This is ideal for anyone frequently tasked with supplying the refreshments at parties and those always-bearable family reunions, and ensuring you’ve always got a cool stash of something when you’re at home right next to your favorite chair in front of the TV.
Both the lid and walls are insulated, ensuring you can keep whatever you store in there cold for up to 5 whole days. For real camping enthusiasts who love to delve deep into the woods, this is ideal, and should give you ample provisions – but that also depends on how hungry (or bored) you get. On the lid are 4 molded cup holders, so there’ll be no risk of spillage, while this same lid can also double as a seat for one lucky camper (although, we’re sure your group will take it in turns sitting on something that isn’t grass). Just make sure you don’t leave the cooler out in the sun too long, or you could end up with burned thighs from heat absorption.
Well-insulated lid and walls for up to 5 days of ice retention
70-quart capacity holds up to 100 cans
Cup holders molded into the lid
No-crush handle grips ensure comfortable and controlled lifting
- Weight12.3 pounds
Durable, robust construction
Easy clean surface
Lid doubles as a comfortable seat
Ideal for both food and drink
No wheels for easy transportation
Dark color absorbs heat
The RTIC 20 Cooler provides you with heavy duty and wholly reliable features that are sure to make any camping trip a resounding success. From the strong, roto-molded construction to the t-latches and freezer grade gasket, there’s little to no chance of the warmth of the outside penetrating this bad boy of a cooler. This is assured by 3-inch walls, so anything you take with you on your next trip will stay cool as a cucumber (or your pre-cut T-Bone steak) for as long as possible.
RTIC also included non-slip feet, which holds the cooler in place while in transit and prevents and damage to its precious contents – alcoholic or otherwise – while the Rapid V-Drain system saves you tipping out gallons of water. Anyone who enjoys going way, way, way off the beaten track will be happy to know it uses a bear-resistant design, which is a welcome relief when you’re packing delicious food that could attract some of the most curious animals in the wilderness.
Heavy-duty freezer grade gaskets and t-latches
3 inches of insulated walls
Non-slip feet and bear resistant design
Rapid V-Drain system
- Weight20.6 pounds
Holds up to 24 cans plus ice
Integrated locking system for food and beverage security
Cool lift design ensures easy carrying
Keeps ice frozen longer than other coolers
Heavy even when empty
Capacity not as large as other, cheaper models
A large cooler for big days out and perfect for those of you who are lucky enough to have more than a couple of close friends to celebrate with, the Coleman Coastal Xtreme Series Marine Portable Cooler conjures up fond memories of chilled days basking in the sun, listening to the waves crash against the shore, and dancing on white sand to music you never knew you liked, all with a calm ocean breeze to keep you cool. Yes, beach parties (and parties in general: in the woods, in the yard, on Mars) are where this cooler truly shines.
It provides a massive 120-quart capacity, capable of holding 200 cans of your favored brewskies, and the insulated lid keeps ice for up to six days, so the party never has to end if you’re still able to go that hard for that long now you’re older. Speaking of going hard, the solid stainless steel and UVGuard sun protection feature prevents yellowing and ensure longevity, transforming this from a simple cooler into something that could become the stuff of legend you can pass down to your party-going grandchildren. For convenience, the leak resistant threaded drain means you empty it on day 7 with no need to waste what little energy you have left tilting.
120-quart capacity holds over 200 cans
Insulated lid for up to 6 days of ice retention
Stainless steel and UVGuard sun protection ensures longevity
Leak-resistant threaded drain ensures easy emptying without tilting
- Weight25 pounds
Durable body and chamber construction
Easy to clean
Have-a-Seat lid design
Side handles don’t feel as sturdy as the rest of the cooler
Too big for casual outings
The Coleman Xtreme Wheeled Cooler is something to think about if you’re looking for the best cooler for camping while also trying to get the most out of your money. This cooler with wheels offers robust and durable transportation options and eliminates typical carrying problems like they’re nothing at all. These wheels can handle any kind of internal weight and are suited to managing across many different terrains whether its uneven grassland or asphalt as you join your buddies at a tailgating party.
The 50-quart capacity boasts enough internal space for up to 84 cans, and you can also use it to carry big slabs of the finest beef cuts, chicken breasts, and ice to ensure everything stays cool on your journey. The insulated walls ensure up to 5 days of ice retention, which might not be necessary for some, but is always good to have, and can cope with temperatures reaching as high as 90 Fahrenheit. The hinged lid makes it easy to retrieve food and drink quickly so you won’t feel parched on hot summer days.
50-quart capacity holds up to 84 cans
Heavy-duty wheeled design for easy transport regardless of internal weight or terrain
Insulated walls provide up to 5 days of ice retention
Hinged lid for quick food and drink retrieval
- Weight17.1 pounds
Small enough for casual days out
Easy to maneuver
Handle doesn’t feel as reliable as others
Color absorbs heat instead of reflecting it
With a 30-can capacity, the Coleman Soft Cooler is the smallest option on our list, but is still an effective product perfect for a quick day out with your friends or family. Unlike our other selections, it’s a little more versatile, with the hard plastic liner capable of being removed for increased flexibility, allowing you to store different food and drink with ease. This versatility also makes it easier to transport from home to car to picnic table and back again, all without bashing your knee on solid corners and sending birds flying into the air with a mad, confused flap.
For the germaphobes among you, the antimicrobial material will (or should) put your mind at ease, and you can forget about the chance of mold or mildew, and that peculiar picnic smell that can linger in more cheaply made product. With this, you’re guaranteed safety, with the soft PEVA liner ideal for protecting food from spoiling. These features are useful for solving lunch storage problems, and can even help you out on road trips, particularly with kids in the back.
Removable hard plastic liner allows for packing flexibility
Adjustable shoulder strap for carrying comfort
Two-sided mesh pockets increases storage space
- Weight2.2 pounds
Antimicrobial lining resists mold and mildew
Leak proof design
Easy to clean, flexible, soft PEVA liner
Ideal for short days out
Zipper could be more heavy-duty
Ice retention isn’t as long as other coolers
Our final cooler for camping comes in the mammoth form of the Dometic 12-volt Electric Powered Portable Cooler. Unlike the other selections we’ve found for you so far, this baby runs entirely on pure power, eliminating the need for ice, while still keeping everything at a crisp, refreshing temperature for as long as you need. It can hold 72 cans, and by not needing ice, means you can fit more food and drink in that you could with other, similarly sized coolers.
It can cool and freeze to temperatures as low as -7℉, which you can also control via wifi to adapt to the surrounding environment and the insulated lid ensures a consistent and satisfactory temperature. For the environmentally conscious among you (which we hope is everybody) you’ll be pleased to hear it’s not just energy efficient (using AC and DC power) but also much quieter than you might imagine. It’s not as quiet as a non-electric cooler, sure, but there’s only so much you can do about that. Despite these benefits, it is on the heavy side, which doesn’t make it majorly ideal for long-term camping trips, especially if you don’t have wheels, but for a couple of days with your car or truck, there’s probably nothing better.
Use for either refrigeration of freezing as low as -7℉ (-21℃)
Heavy-duty body with robust closing mechanism
Control and monitor cooling temperature via WiFi
Holds up to 72 cans
- Weight45 pounds
Electronic cooling eliminates the need for ice
Energy efficient operation
Insulated lid ensures consistent temperature
Heavier than other products
Temperature controlled by freezer settings and could affect regular cooling
Cooler For Camping Buying Guide & FAQ
Things To Consider When Purchasing A Camping Cooler
When looking for high performance coolers to serve you on many camping, fishing, and boating trips or sporting events, you must consider these factors the get the most from them.
Size - Coolers come in all shapes and sizes. Okay, they come in all sizes; the shape is predictable (you don’t fix what’s not broken and all that), so you have plenty of options to choose from when selecting your new camping cooler. You may be tempted to go for the biggest one available, but this could end up being a regretful purchase if you never make the most of the size.
Larger coolers also mean heavier coolers, which may not seem like a massive issue but you may change your mind once they’re packed full of food. Conversely, coolers that are too small won’t provide you the same amount of options for storage and insulation, and could cause food spoiling and your drinks getting too warm to enjoy after a long day exploring.
If you know what kind of camper you are and what kind of cooler you need, then you shouldn’t have a problem finding the right size for you, but if this is the first cooler you’re purchasing, you will need to consider how often you’ll use it and what you’ll use it for.
Ice Retention - The best coolers will provide you with enough ice retention to last you at least three days, and often it will be even longer. Cooler like this allow you to keep your food and drink fresh and cool for as long as possible and this can be a huge factor in helping you decide which cooler you should buy.
If you’re someone who loves to get away from all the hassle and stress of the world for a week, then finding a cooler with the highest ice retention is a must. However, if you prefer just taking a quick trip into the woods for a day or two, you won’t need as much ice retention, but it’s always helpful to have a little buffer, just in case.
You also must consider how you will drain the ice once it melts (so we guess we could have just said water, but whatever). Some coolers come with spouts near the base to make it easy to remove water, but this isn’t true for all of them. These spouts save you needing to lift and tip over your cooler and saves you energy after your adventure into the bush.
Durability - No doubt you all remember the retro cooler your parents always brought along on family vacations, never changing, never deteriorating, and always feeling like part of the family. There’s a reason that mom and dad never upgraded, and that’s because coolers are durable.
Like any product you buy, you want to make sure that this cooler lasts as long as possible, so look at the construction, materials, design, and components like handles, latches, hinges, and wheels to make sure it’s a product that will last until you and your spouse take your own kids on memorable (good or bad, well, that’s a whole different story) trips all over the country.
Durability is also essential for ensuring your food and drink stays cool and safe as any damage to the exterior could affect the reliability of the insulation. If you venture out along particularly bumpy, hazardous roads, you also risk damaging the cooler while in transit, which aside from generally sucking can also ruin your trip before it’s even begun.
Portability - While big coolers are great for large events and ensuring you’ll have enough space to store all your food and drink they also come with problems for portability. A cooler that is too big can hinder movement, momentum, and comfort when walking to your campsite or transporting it from place to place, and may cause it to become more of a burden than it is worth.
Coolers such as the Dometic Electric could suffer from these portability issues. While such coolers are great to have around the house and are immensely reliable for short days, they will become nothing more than $800 camping chairs should you have nowhere to power it from.
If you’re looking for just a quick day out, then there’s no need for a large cooler that will only end up causing aches and pains unless you have a vehicle to move it from your house to your destination. In cases like this, a lightweight, easy to carry cooler is your best bet.
Cooler For Camping FAQ
Q: What is a camping cooler?
A: A camping cooler is an insulated box taken camping, to sporting events, or used in the garden to keep your beer on a hot summer’s day. They come in many varieties, but typically you can expect them to have an airtight lid for sealing and insulated walls to ensure the heat does not penetrate the cooler.
Coolers range from the basic to the complex, and depending on your budget, you’ll find a host of different features to choose from.
Q: What are bear proof coolers?
A: As the name suggest, bear proof coolers are coolers designed to stop bears getting into them. If you live in a decidedly bear-free part of the world, this may sound a little melodramatic, but in certain parts of the US and Canada are rife with curious bears who would just love to find out what’s inside your cooler. By investing in a bear proof camping cooler, you eliminate the risk of waking up to find food and drink strewn across your campsite, along with a satiated, if a little tipsy, bear taking a snooze under the nearest tree.
Q: What do you plan on using the cooler for?
A: You can use the cooler for pretty much anything. You can take it camping, you can take it fishing, you can take it on a boat, you can take it to your kids' soccer game (or any sports game, really), and you can take it on road trips. You don’t even need to take it out of the house, and they can come in handy to keep your drinks cool on the sweltering summer days with your feet dipped in the kiddie pool.
Q: How do I keep the inside the cooler colder for longer?
A: The best way to keep the inside of your cooler cold is to fill it with ice. You have two types of ice to choose from: crushed and block. Both have their benefits, and crushed ice will cool your food and drink quicker, but blocks of ice last longer.
Your choice will depend on the length of your journey. If you want to cool things quickly on a day trip, then crushed ice is your go-to, but if you’re taking longer trips (over 2 or 3 days), you’re better off using blocks of ice.