Short on time? Our pick for the best camping cooler is the Bison Coolers 75-quart Double Insulated Ice Chest.
Never run out of cold beverages again with one of these best coolers for camping!
The best way to keep food cold while camping is with a good quality cooler.
A cooler is an essential piece of camping equipment. They keep your drinks cold, your burger patties fresh, and they can even provide a helpful seat around the campfire.
On top of all that, coolers protect your food from hungry critters, such as squirrels, chipmunks, and raccoons.
Some coolers are even bear-resistant, which is an important safety feature when camping in bear country.
Coolers come in all shapes and sizes. They can be massive, hard-sided ice chests or small, soft-sided coolers – and everything in between. And cooler prices are about as disparate as the many categories they come in.
With so many choices, choosing the best coolers for camping might be overwhelming.
To help take the stress out of the process, I’ve rounded up the best camping coolers on the market right now. Read on to find the perfect cooler for your next trip in the great outdoors!
Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.
Short on Time? Here’s a Quick Look at Our Recommendations
- Best Small Camping Cooler – Yeti Roadie Cooler
- Best Medium-Sized Camping Cooler – Coleman Steel-Belted Cooler
- Best Large Camping Cooler – Bison Coolers 75-quart Double Insulated Ice Chest
- Best Electric Cooler for Camping – Dometic CFX3 35 Powered Cooler
- Best Hard Cooler for Camping – Yeti Tundra 65
- Best Lightweight Cooler for Camping – CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag
- Best Budget Cooler for Camping – Coleman 48 Quart Cooler
- Best Cooler for Camping in Hot Weather – Orca 26-Quart Cooler
- Best Camping Cooler with Wheels – Igloo ECOCOOL Roller Cooler
- Best Camping Cooler for Long Trips – RTIC Hard Cooler
- Best Cooler for Hiking and Picnics – IceMule Pro Cooler – 23 Liters
- Most Durable Cooler for Camping – Pelican 70-Quart Elite Cooler
- Best Cooler for Car Camping – KENAI 45 Cooler
- Best Cooler for Fishing and Boating – Engel 30-Quart Hard Drybox Cooler
#1 Yeti Roadie Cooler
Best Small Camping Cooler
Star rating: 4.6/5
Capacity: 24 quarts
Best for: Quick excursions and keeping snacks in the car on road trips.
The Yeti Roadie is a small camping cooler that packs a punch.
Yeti is one of the leaders in the cooler industry. Their high-quality, rotomolded coolers are durable and can keep ice frozen for an extended period, thanks to thicker insulation than your average ice chest.
Rotomolding is a manufacturing practice where they cast melted plastic in a mold that rotates as the plastic cools. It results in a super-strong and seamless plastic shell that does a premium job of preventing ice melt and is virtually indestructible.
The Roadie model, so named because it’s a perfect companion on road trips, has a compounded resin body with polyurethane foam insulation.
Its unique dimensions fit perfectly in a passenger’s seat. And with an interior height of 13 inches, it’s just the right size for an upright wine bottle, making it an excellent picnic basket.
The Roadie also has sturdy rubber latches, interlocking integrated hinges, and non-slip feet. It comes in five colors, including a fun hot pink and a more subdued khaki.
One thing to note is that Yeti coolers are high-end products, so they’re not cheap. With that said, the company has a loyal and enthusiastic following who swears by Yeti coolers, and there’s a reason for that.
- Made from durable materials
- The correct dimensions for an upright wine bottle
- Ice retention is top notch
- No way to lock it against bears
#2 Coleman Steel-Belted Cooler
Best Medium-Sized Camping Cooler
Star rating: 4.6/5
Capacity: 57 quarts
Best for: Long weekends in the woods.
Whether you’re an occasional or an avid camper, chances are good that you own at least one Coleman product.
Their name is almost synonymous with camping and outdoor gear, and they make everything from tents to stoves to coolers.
And the Coleman Steel-Belted Cooler isn’t just your average Coleman cooler.
It has a heavy-duty, stainless steel outer shell that offers extra durability. It also has a rust-proof and leak-proof drain that doesn’t require any tilting and an attractive, retro-inspired design.
This cooler is more than just an ice chest – its lid can support up to 250 pounds of weight, making it an excellent camping seat if you’re short on camp chairs.
Relatively thick insulation gives this cooler the ability to keep ice frozen for up to four days in 90-degree heat.
While that’s still not as long as competing, ultra-pricey rotomolded coolers, it’s still a decent length of time that will get you through a long weekend.
It’s also significantly less expensive than those high-end coolers, making it the best ice chest for camping trips that don’t last more than a few days.
Why spend a fortune on a cooler with 10-day ice retention when you’re more of a weekend warrior for camping?
- Retro design
- Reasonable price
- Four-day ice retention
- Not bear-resistant or lockable
- Can’t keep ice for longer trips
#3 Bison Coolers 75-quart Double Insulated Ice Chest
Best Large Camping Cooler
Star rating: 4.9/5
Capacity: 75 quarts
Best for: Longer outdoor adventures with big groups.
Bison is a leading brand for high-end, long-wearing coolers. Like Yeti, Bison makes rotomolded coolers, aka the best coolers for ice retention.
Not only that, but rotomolding makes coolers extremely durable. Bison boasts that their coolers can survive being run over by a truck!
The Bison Coolers 75-quart Double Insulated Ice Chest is an excellent large-capacity cooler.
In addition to a rotomolded outer, it has pressure-injected insulation and two different drainage holes for faster draining.
Rubber latches, which are are tear-resistant up to 170 pounds, combined with a locking system, means that this is a bear-proof cooler as well.
Considering how hefty this cooler is, frequently loading it back into your car would be a drag. Luckily, it can stay outside and bears won’t be able to break into it.
The 75-quart Bison Cooler is available in five colors and has an integrated ruler for measuring fish, which is a unique touch that sets it apart from other coolers.
Like all rotomolded coolers, this large cooler is quite pricey and, at 39 pounds, it’s also quite heavy.
But Bison, who manufacturers all their products in the USA, offers a 30-day trial and five-year warranty. So, you can take the plunge on this purchase without worrying too much.
- Long-term ice retention
- 30-day trial period and five-year warranty
#4 Dometic CFX3 35 Powered Cooler
Best Electric Cooler for Camping
Star rating: 4.5/5
Capacity: 38 quarts
Best for: A weekend camping trip in the car.
Are you tired of bags of ice taking up real estate in your cooler? Do you find draining off melted ice to be a major pain? Well, electric camping coolers eliminate the need for ice.
The Dometic CFX3 35 Powered Cooler is a high-tech solution to your camping refrigeration needs.
Constructed out of plastic, metal, and polyurethane, this portable electric cooler runs on your car’s battery.
But don’t worry – it has a very low amp draw and has built-in mechanisms that prevent it from draining your car’s battery completely.
Essentially a portable mini fridge, the Dometic Cooler can refrigerate and deep freeze down to an arctic -7 degrees Fahrenheit.
It connects to an app on your phone that allows you to control the temperature. And a 38-quart capacity means it can hold up to fifty cans and keep your food cool without any ice.
All of these high-tech features lead to two downsides, however. First, electric coolers naturally come at a steeper price than traditional and even rotomolded varieties.
Second, with electrical gadgets, you run more risk of malfunction and a percentage of any electric cooler brand will inevitably stop working.
However, if you’re going the electric ice chest route, Dometic is a quality brand and a safe bet.
- No need for ice
- It won’t kill your car battery
- It connects to an app for optimal temperature control
- Not bear-proof
#5 Yeti Tundra 65
Best Hard Cooler for Camping
Star rating: 4.8/5
Capacity: 61 quarts
Best for: Dedicated and frequent campers.
Yeti makes some of the best-rated coolers available, and the Yeti Tundra 65 Cooler is a prime example of everything a hard cooler should be.
The Yeti Tundra has it all. It’s rotomolded and has extra-thick walls containing pressure-injected “PermaFrost” insulation.
It can keep ice frozen for up to 10 days and its durable construction means it will last for many years.
And if regular ice doesn’t cut it for you, the Yeti Tundra can accommodate dry ice for a deeper freeze that won’t produce water.
The Yeti Tundra’s design includes many details that boost its performance. This cooler provides an example that other hard coolers try to emulate.
It has a freezer-quality lid gasket and rubber latches in integrated, molded grooves. Plus, tie-down points mean you can secure it to your car or truck.
While no rotomolded cooler is lightweight, the Tundra 65 is only 27 pounds, which isn’t overly heavy for its size and rugged construction.
Lastly, this Yeti cooler is certified bear-resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. This means you can feel confident that it will keep your food fresh and protect it (and you!) from hungry bears on your next camping trip.
- Bear-resistant cooler
- Premium design
- Long-lasting ice retention
- Limited color options
#6 CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag
Best Lightweight Cooler for Camping
Star rating: 4.6/5
Capacity: 32 quarts
Best for: Campers with limited space and budgets.
One significant advantage of a soft-sided cooler is that it will be lighter than a hardshell cooler.
But most soft coolers tend to be on the small side, so they’re better for picnics, hikes, and shorter trips.
The CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag is a different kind of soft cooler with an impressive holding capacity – it can fit 32 quarts, which means 50 cans plus ice.
It has a flat board base and an internal wireframe, so it stands up like a hard cooler without all that added weight.
Also, this cooler is only two pounds, a stark contrast to what a hard cooler of similar capacity would weigh.
And when you’re not using it, the CleverMade collapses flat – perfect for campers who live in small apartments with limited storage space!
Of course, this soft cooler doesn’t have nearly as much ice-retention ability as a hard cooler, and it certainly isn’t bear-proof.
Still, it’s incredibly lightweight and it costs almost nothing compared to rotomolded hard coolers.
- High holding capacity for a soft cooler
- Won’t keep ice frozen for long periods
- Not extremely durable
#7 Coleman 48 Quart Cooler
Best Budget Cooler for Camping
Star rating: 4.6/5
Capacity: 48 quarts
Best for: Family camping on a budget.
Sometimes you just want something basic to get the job done.
Fancy, rotomolded ice chests will keep ice or cold packs frozen for longer and electric ice chests eliminate the need for ice. But both of these will run you hundreds of dollars.
When you need something to keep food and drink cold throughout a weekend, Coleman makes some of the best coolers for under $100. And this classic, no-frills Coleman 48 Quart Cooler is the perfect example.
I’m pretty sure this is the exact cooler my parents had when I was growing up, and it costs about 10% of what a Yeti, Orca, or Bison retails for.
No, it won’t keep ice frozen for 10 days, but I can say from experience that it will get a family through hundreds of long weekends and thousands of dinners cooked over a fire.
This hardshell cooler is tall enough to fit two-liter beverage bottles in an upright position, and there’s plenty of room for groceries and other beverages.
It uses insulation called ”Therm ozone insulation,” which doesn’t contain CFCs, HFCs, or HCFCs, so it’s safe for the ozone layer and your wallet.
There’s a time and a place for fancy, expensive coolers, but when it comes to cheaper coolers, Coleman is always a solid bet.
- Very affordable
- Tall enough for two-liter bottles
- Ozone-safe insulation
- No fancy extra features
- Not bear-proof
#8 Orca 26-Quart Cooler
Best Cooler for Camping in Hot Weather
Star rating: 4.7/5
Capacity: 26 quarts
Best for: Summer camping trips in extra-hot weather.
In the realm of high-end coolers, Orca is a top contender. And when high temperatures threaten to melt your ice and spoil your food, a premium cooler is not a bad idea.
The Orca 26-Quart Cooler can stand up to warmer air thanks to a rotomolded construction, thick insulation, a well-designed drainage spout, and sturdy rubber latches. And, naturally, it’s certified bear-resistant as well.
A few things set this Orca cooler apart from its competitors. Orca makes all their products in the USA and they offer a lifetime warranty on them.
This model also comes with a convenient side storage net for packing other essentials you’d want to have close at hand.
Like many rotomolded coolers, this one is both heavy and pricey. However, if you’re looking for something that will stand up to scorching summer days, then springing for an Orca is a good move.
- Good ice retention
- Made in the USA
#9 Igloo ECOCOOL Roller Cooler
Best Camping Cooler with Wheels
Star rating: 4.7/5
Capacity: 90 quarts
Best for: Family camping at the lakeside.
Have you ever tried to carry a fully-packed, high-capacity cooler? It’s more like dragging. Rolling coolers make it SO much easier to transport larger ice chests when filled.
The Igloo EcoCooler Roller Cooler is a wheeled cooler that holds a whopping 90 quarts. While it’s not rotomolded, it’s still a significant cut above a basic ice chest.
Made with recycled resin and multiple types of patented foam insulation, this rolling cooler keeps ice for up to five days and holds its extensive contents at cool temperatures all weekend long.
And this Igloo cooler comes with a multitude of unique features. It has a slot for propping up your phone and self-draining, built-in cup-holders.
One side of the cooler has a small handle, while the other has a more oversized tow handle for wheeling it along (although the different sized handles can make it a bit awkward to lift).
The lid also has a molded-in ruler so that on fishing trips you can easily measure the size of your catch.
Because this isn’t a rotomolded cooler, it’s available at a much lower price. And while that means its ice retention is about half that of a rotomolded one, it still offers considerable chilling time.
It’s also not a certified bear-proof cooler, but sturdy latches offer at least some protection against smaller animals like raccoons.
- It’s made with recycled materials
- It offers five days of ice retention
- Wheeled coolers are easier to transport
- Not bear-proof
- Different-sized handles can make it awkward to lift
#10 RTIC Hard Cooler
Best Camping Cooler for Long Trips
Star rating: 4.7/5
Capacity: 45 quarts
Best for: Long-haul wilderness adventures and road trips.
For short weekend trips, a heavy-duty cooler may not be necessary, but what about a week-long camping trip? Or an even more extended road trip?
It makes sense to spend a little more on a camping cooler that can keep your food cold over more extended periods for these longer outdoor adventures.
If you’re ready to spring for a rotomolded cooler but the price point is still making you cringe, then RTIC may be the brand for you.
The RTIC Hard Cooler is rotomolded and offers many of the same enticing details as competing brands. This makes it ideal for longer excursions, but at a price that’s about 25% lower.
This camping cooler has three inches of foam insulation, molded rubber t-latches, a freezer-style gasket lid, non-slip feet, multiple tie-down points, and rope handles that make it easy to lift.
It’s also certified bear-resistant, so you can rest easy when camping in bear country.
- 10-day ice retention
- Lower price than other rotomolded coolers
- It doesn’t have special features such as cup holders or a built-in bottle opener.
#11 IceMule Pro Cooler – 23 Liters
Best Cooler for Hiking and Picnics
Heavy, hard-sided ice chests are all well and good for car camping, but if you’re backpacking or need a cooler to bring with you on a hike or picnic, a hard cooler just isn’t practical. A soft-sided backpack cooler is the way to go for these types of applications.
IceMule makes some of the best soft coolers and the IceMule Pro Cooler is a solid choice.
This soft-sided cooler has a 1,000-denier ripstop outer and polar-layer insulation and it can hold up to 18 cans plus ice and keep ice frozen for up to 24 hours.
The tri-fold closure closely resembles what you would find on a dry bag. In this case, the closure works to seal in cold air, but it also works to keep any melted ice inside.
This backpack cooler is fully waterproof with welded seams. And, just like a dry bag, it will float if it ends up in a body of water. So, it’s also an excellent choice for keeping drinks cold on paddling trips.
- It has a decent capacity and ice retention as far as soft coolers go
- Waterproof and floats in water
- No storage pockets
- No added special features
#12 Pelican 70-Quart Elite Cooler
Most Durable Cooler for Camping
Star rating: 4.7/5
Capacity: 70 quarts
Best for: Campers looking for a cooler that will be in it for the long haul.
If you’re looking for advanced durability, look to Pelican products.
First, let’s do a quick rundown on the company. Pelican initially began manufacturing indestructible gearboxes and has since branched out to other products such as phone cases and coolers.
The Pelican 70-quart Elite Cooler is the best ice cooler if you want something super large, rugged, and long-wearing.
This camping cooler uses a manufacturing process called injection molding, which is similar to rotomolding but is slightly less costly and produces a lighter-weight product.
Yes, this cooler is durable, but what gives it an edge over other brands is that Pelican offers a lifetime guarantee, meaning if it breaks, they’ll replace it – forever.
Some companies offer “lifetime warranties” that only cover the product’s projected lifetime, which is just several years. But that’s not the case with Pelican’s lifetime guarantee.
The Pelican Elite is also bear-resistant (naturally) and it has some unique features.
Most notably, it has built-in self-draining cup-holders, a fish ruler molded into the lid, and a stainless steel bottle opener. Plus, a tethered drain plug means you’ll never misplace the cap.
- Lifetime guarantee
- Built-in cup holders and bottle opener
- Long-term ice retention
#13 KENAI 45 Cooler
Best Cooler for Car Camping
Star rating: 4.8/5
Capacity: 45 quarts
Best for: Campers looking to save a little money on a premium cooler.
The best coolers for car camping need to provide excellent cooling capacity without taking up too much real estate in your vehicle. Weight is less important because you’re unlikely to carry it very far.
The Kenai 45 Cooler is an excellent choice for car campers. It’s a relatively lower-cost rotomolded cooler, comparable in price to RTIC.
And it uses EcoMate insulation, an environmentally-friendly material that doesn’t contribute to global warming.
One feature the Kenai Cooler lacks is padlock holes. So, while it has easy-open rubber latches, it can’t be completely bear-proof. However, this won’t be a problem if you keep the cooler in a vehicle while you’re car camping.
Kenai also offers their coolers in 10 bright colors, so you have plenty of options to choose something fun!
- Affordable for a rotomolded cooler
- Eco-friendly insulation material
- Wide range of colors to choose from
- Not bear-proof
- No special features such as bottle openers
#14 Engel 30-Quart Hard Drybox Cooler
Best Cooler for Fishing and Boating
Star rating: 4.7/5
Capacity: 30 quarts
Best for: Bringing cold drinks and snacks onto a boat.
Engel coolers are injection-molded, so they’re durable and high-quality but noticeably cheaper than rotomolded varieties. But more than that, they double as dry boxes.
Not only can they keep your food and beverages cold, but they can also keep their contents dry, making them perfect for taking with you on boating trips.
The Engel 30-Quart Hard Drybox Cooler is a compact camping cooler with impressive holding capacity.
And at just 8.8 pounds, it’s quite a bit lighter than most hard coolers of comparable size, so it won’t add too much extra weight to your boat.
Aesthetics shouldn’t dictate which cooler you choose, as looks are secondary to performance. However, if you need an extra reason to choose an Engel cooler, they feature an attractive retro design and are available in five unique colors.
- Doubles as a dry box
- Very affordable
- It doesn’t have the same ice retention as rotomolded varieties
- No special features such as cup holders or bottle openers
Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Cooler for Camping
What to Look for in Camping Coolers
There’s a vast range in ice retention amongst coolers, which corresponds to the construction technique and, therefore, the price.
Some coolers can keep ice for up to 10 days, while other, less expensive coolers might need their ice drained and replaced after only a day or two.
Size and Weight
Coolers vary widely in terms of their size and weight. You can get coolers as small as just a few quarts and up to 90 or more quarts.
The size of your family, your vehicle, and the length of your typical camping trip will determine whether you need a small or a large cooler.
Standard, conventional coolers generally are not bear-resistant and won’t have latches on the lid.
Higher-end coolers can receive certification by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee that verifies they’ll be bear-proof. A bear-resistant cooler is a wise extra precaution if you frequently camp in bear country.
Everybody loves a unique feature. Some coolers for camping come with built-in cup-holders, bottle openers, or even a molded-in ruler for measuring freshly-caught fish.
Price is always an essential determining factor whenever you shop, and I mention it specifically here because there’s such a wide price range for coolers.
You can get a conventional cooler for as little as $30, while top camping coolers – such as a Yeti cooler and other similar alternatives – can retail for hundreds of dollars.
So, you should pay attention to the cost of a cooler in relation to its materials and construction.
Types of Camping Coolers
Rotomolded and Injection-Molded Hard Coolers
The best coolers for camping are rotomolded and injection molded hard-sided coolers.
These two manufacturing processes are relatively similar, with rotomolding producing a slightly more uniform and heavy-duty product and injection molding producing a more economical and lightweight product.
These types of coolers offer long-term ice retention and bear resistance and are best for serious, hardcore campers.
Conventional Hard Coolers
A non-rotomolded hard-sided cooler is still a great option, especially if you’re a less frequent camper or have a tighter budget.
These coolers cost considerably less and generally don’t provide more than five days of ice retention, and they usually don’t latch so that they won’t be bear-resistant.
Soft coolers are insulated waterproof bags, and these are best for hikes and day trips.
They can’t offer the same ice retention or capacity as hard-sided coolers, but they’re much lighter and easily portable.
Electric coolers allow you to take modern convenience to the great outdoors. These coolers don’t require any ice and function as portable mini-fridges.
They’re also considerably more expensive even than rotomolded coolers, but they’re great if you have a nomadic lifestyle and often find yourself on the road.
Looking for a tent to go with your camping cooler? Check out our guides to the best 4-person tents, 6-person tents, 8-person tents, 10-person tents, 12-person tents, large camping tents, 3-room tents, instant tents, pop-up tents, inflatable tents, canvas tents, waterproof tents, insulated tents, winter tents, tents with stove jacks, tunnel tents, and cabin tents.
FAQs About Coolers for Camping
What’s the best sized cooler for camping?
The size of your group and the length of your trips will determine what makes for a good-sized cooler for camping, but as a general rule, think 20 quarts per person for a weekend trip. A 50-quart cooler is an ideal standard starting size.
How many coolers should I take camping?
Again, the length of your camping trip and the size of your group will determine how many coolers you need.
Most people don’t have room in their vehicle for multiple coolers, and one good-sized cooler should suffice. But if you have a huge group, you may need numerous coolers.
Are soft coolers or hard coolers better for camping?
Hard-sided coolers are your best bet for keeping food and drinks cold at a campsite. Soft coolers make the best portable coolers for hikes and other shorter excursions, like kayaking.
How long does ice last in a cooler?
Ice can last in a cooler anywhere between a single day to 10 days, depending on what type of cooler it is.
Who makes the best camping coolers?
If you’re looking for high-end camping coolers, a few of the best companies are Yeti, Bison, Orca, and RTIC.
For conventional or budget-friendly options, Coleman and Igloo reign supreme. Coleman is the go-to brand for reasonably-priced outdoor gear and Igloo has long been a leader in the ice chest industry.
Conclusion: Our Pick for the Best Cooler for Camping
Taking into account all the considerations I mentioned above, my pick for the best camping cooler is the Bison Coolers 75-quart Double Insulated Ice Chest.
This top-quality rotomolded cooler has all the features of the best coolers for camping.
It offers long-lasting ice retention thanks to sturdy insulation and a silicone gasket around the lid that provides a tight seal.
It also has two oversized drain plugs to pour off excess water quickly and hefty rubber latches. Plus, it’s certified to be bear-proof.
On top of all that, this cooler has a fish ruler molded into the lid, giving you a little extra bang for your buck. And with six colors to choose from, you can pick out a cooler that complements your personality.
Rotomolded ice chests are usually quite heavy, and the Bison’s weight is comparable to its competitors, but it has large, ergonomic handles that make this a more portable cooler.
And not only is this a USA-manufactured cooler, but Bison also offers a 30-day trial and a five-year warranty.
Lastly, the Bison cooler has two inches of thickness in its walls, which is less than competing brands.
However, it still performs remarkably well and the slightly thinner walls provide more interior space. This 75-quart cooler could keep a large group fed with their thirst quenched all weekend long.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elina Ansary is a writer, visual artist, and avid traveler. She grew up in San Francisco, CA, and spent her childhood camping up and down Northern California. These days, she visits artist residencies around the world and has lived in Amsterdam, Australia, and now Brooklyn, NY.
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