Camping is one of the most loved outdoor activities, and it’s easy to see why. There really is nothing better than disconnecting, getting back to basics, and spending time appreciating Mother Nature, and if you’re going with other people, re-connecting with your nearest and dearest without all of the distractions of everyday life.
Of course, in order for a camping trip to be successful, you need to be prepared and have the right gear. Whether you’re tent camping, hammock camping, car camping, or you’re doing the ultra-post “glamping”, there’s one piece of gear that you’re definitely going to need: a cooler.
You likely won’t have access to a fridge, so you’ll need a spot to keep perishables and beverages cold, which is exactly what a cooler is intended for. Of course, you can also use a camping cooler for any other occasion where you need a cold spot to store food and drinks; the beach, poolside, a backyard BBQ, a neighborhood block party, tailgating, etc.
While there are tons of coolers on the market to choose from, if you’re primary use is for camping, certain models are better-suited for this outdoor activity than others. There are also some key factors that you’re going to want to take into consideration before you decide which model to choose.
To help you on your quest for finding the best cooler for camping, we’ve put together this guide. In it, you’ll find our top picks for the best camping coolers, which we determined after conducting extensive research and reading through countless reviews, as well as a buyer’s guide that highlights important factors that you should consider before you buy a cooler.
We also provide answers to some of the most common questions consumers have about camping coolers. So, without further ado, let’s dive in and take a look at the best coolers for camping.
Top 3 Picks
For readers who want to skim through and find out which camping coolers are the “cream of the crop” so to speak, below, you’ll find an overview of our top three picks for the best, premium, and budget coolers.
Best Pick: Coleman 100 Quart Xtreme 5-Day Heavy-Duty Cooler with Wheels
- Keeps ice up to 5 days at temps up to 90°F thanks to an insulated lid and extra insulation in walls
- Heavy-Duty Wheels for Easy, Reliable Transport
- Holds 160 cans and has molded cup holders on top of lid to keep drinks close and prevent spilling
- Have-a-Seat Lid Supports Up to 250 Pounds so You Have a Place to Sit and Rest
- Leak-resistant channel drain lets you remove excess water without tilting the cooler
In our opinion, this the Xtreme 5-Day Heavy-Duty Cooler from Coleman is the best option overall. With a 100 quart capacity, you’ll have plenty of room to keep you and your crew well-fed and hydrated; it can hold up to 160 cans! It’s super-insulated and can keep ice for up to 5 days in 90 degree temperatures, so if you’re camping for an extended period of time, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your beverages and perishables will be safe.
Premium Pick: Legacy High Performance Cooler
- 🧊 52 QUART CAPACITY - High Performance Cooler - Ice retention of 120 to 168 Hours - Capacity of up to 75 cans of beer or soda, or 40 cans with recommended 2:1 ice-to-contents ratio - Removable Top & Side Handles - Perfect for camping, fishing, hunting, tailgating, picnic, bbq & anything outdoors
- 🧊 ROTOMOLDED DURABILITY - Heavy Duty, Tough Foam Insulated Thick Wall Construction - Virtually indestructible and incredibly strong all the way to the core - Non-slip rubber feet ensure your cooler stays in place, even when wet
- 🧊 LATCH, HINGE & DRAIN - Interlocking, Durable Smart Hinge Design - Reinforced TPE Simple Latch System... no busted latches - Molded lock holes to protect from bears or to keep kids out of your beer supply (locks not included) - Leakproof Drain Plug
- 🧊 BONUS FEATURES - 4 Cup Holders, Bottle Opener, and Fish Ruler all built into the lid - Freezer Grade Gasket keeps cold in, heat out - Tie Down Slots molded into the cooler lid for easy tie down to boats, truck beds, ATVs, and more
- 🧊 DIMENSIONS - Weighs approx. 28 lbs when empty - Outer Dimensions - 28.7" x 17.71" x 16.93" - Inner Dimensions - 22.64" x 11.81" x 11.22", holds up to 75 cans of beer without ice
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line camping cooler, than this option from Legacy might be just what you’re looking for. Available in three different sizes – 21 quarts (30 can capacity), 52 quarts (75 can capacity), and 73 quarts (100 can capacity) – you can choose the option that will work best for your needs.
Budget Pick: Igloo Quart MaxCold Cooler
- Igloo max cold cooler offer the ultimate in cold retention with ultratherm insulated lid and body
- Durable wheels and tow handle for easy transport to and from the event
- Ultratherm insulation in body and lid helps keep things cold
- Reinforced swing-up handles with tie-down loop
- 40 qt. Capacity and can hold up to 56 cans
For shoppers who don’t want to break the budget, but don’t want to sacrifice quality for price, the Igloo Quart MaxCold Cooler is a great option to consider. This camping cooler has a 40 quart capacity and can hold up to 56 cans.
Coolers for Camping Reviews
Now that you’ve had a sneak peek at our top picks for the best, premium, and budget camping coolers, let’s dive in a little deeper and explore each one in greater detail. To give you even more options, we’ve also included four different high-quality coolers, in addition to our top picks.
Coleman 100 Quart Extreme 5 Day Heavy Duty Cooler
Founded in 1900, Coleman has been one of the most trusted manufacturers in the camping supply industry for more than 120 years, and their Extreme 5 Day Heavy Duty Cooler perfectly illustrates why the company is so highly regarded. With a 100 quart capacity, you’ll have enough room to hold up to 160 cans or a combination of cans, bottles, food, and anything else you want to keep cold.
Not only does it offer plenty of space, but this cooler will also keep things cold for up to five days in up to 90 degree heat, thanks to the thick construction and insulated lid and walls, which contain low CO2 insulation, so you can have peace of mind knowing that your food and drinks will be safe and you won’t be harming the environment.
While it may be large, you won’t have any problem toting it around. That’s because it features two never-flat wheels that can easily glide over any surface, and it has an oversized tow handle that makes pulling it a breeze. Dual two-way handles are also attached to the sides of the cooler, so you can easily lift it.
A leak-resistant channel drain means allows you to get rid of any accumulated water without having to tip the cooler. This cooler doubles as an extra seat and a cup holder, too; the lid can accommodate up to 250 pounds and features 4 molded cup holders, so you’ll be able to keep your beverages up off of the ground.
All of these features, and the Coleman 100 Quart Xtreme 5 Day Heavy-Duty Cooler is affordably priced, as well, which is why we choice is as our pick for the best camping cooler.
- 100 quart, or 160 can capacity
- Keeps ice for up to five days in 90 degree heat
- Thick walls and durable construction
- Low CO2 foam insulation
- Have-a-Seat Lid can support up to 250 pounds
- The lid features four molded cup holders
- Dual heavy-duty never flat wheels, large tow handle, and dual two-way side handles for easy transport
- Leak-proof channel drain allows for easy drainage of excess water
- Affordably priced
- The lid lacks a lock
- Some users complained that it was heavy and bulky, but it is a 100 quart capacity cooler, so that is to be expected
Legacy High Performance CoolerThe High Performance line of coolers from Legacy is our premium pick for the best camping cooler. That’s because it not only keeps things cold for a prolonged period of time, but also because it’s ruggedly built, exceptionally durable, and is equipped with a variety of features.
This cooler is available in three different sizes, so you can choose the right option for your specific needs. The smallest cooler has a 21 quart capacity, or 30 can capacity, the mid-size has a 52 quart or a 40 can capacity, and the largest has a 73 quart or 100 can capacity. Whichever size you choose, all of the Legacy High Performance Coolers can retain ice for up to seven days, so you won’t have to worry about your food spoiling or your drinks getting warm.
The long ice retention is thanks to the heavy-duty, tough foam insulation in the lids and walls, as well as the thick construction of the walls. All sizes are virtually indestructible and can withstand the toughest conditions with ease. The interlocking, Double Smart Hinge design and a reinforced TPE simple latch system means keep the cooler securely closed and easy to open.
There are molded lock holes, too, so you can lock up the cooler and keep it safe from bears or other wildlife (or anyone else you want to keep out of your stash of goodies); the locks do have to be purchased separately, however. With a leak-proof drain plug, removing water is a cinch and you won’t have to worry about any leaks.
This line of coolers even features molded tie down slots, so you can tie down it, which is perfect for securing it in a boat. Non-slip rubber feet prevent the cooler from moving, even when it’s wet. Other key features include a fish ruler and cup holders, which are built right into the lid, and a bottle opener, too.
Do note, however, that all of these awesome features do come at a price, as all sizes of the Legacy High Performance line of coolers are rather costly.
- Available in three different sizes
- Thick wall construction, heavy-duty tough foam insulation, and a freezer-grade gasket lock cold in and keep heat out
- Can retain ice for up to 7 days
- Interlocking Smart Hinge Design and a reinforced TPW Simple Latch System keep the lid securely closed and make it easy to open and closed
- Built-in lock holes, tie down slots, fish ruler, cup holders, and bottle opener
- The high price may be cost-prohibitive for some shoppers
- Some users said that their ice melted faster than the expected; however, that could be due to inappropriate use
Igloo Quart MaxCold Cooler
For shoppers who are looking for a budget-friendly camping cooler that they can rely on to keep their food and drinks cold, the Igloo Quart MaxCold Cooler is a good choice. While it doesn’t offer as many bells and whistles as some of the other models, it will certainly do the job.
The 40 quart capacity can accommodate up to 56 cans, and the thick, insulated walls and lid lock cold in and keep heat out.
While the maximum ice retention time is, on average, 60 hours, which is less time than our best and premium pick camping coolers, if you’re going on a short, two-day excursion or you’re only going to be out on a boat or in the yard for a few hours, your food and beverages will definitely stay nice and cold.
Two heavy-duty never-flat wheels and an oversized tow handle and dual swing-up handles will allow you to transport this cooler pretty much anywhere you’re going. There’s a threaded drain plug, too, so you can easily drain out any accumulated water, and while it isn’t advertised that it can be used as a seat, according to many reviews, users report that the lid is durable enough to sit on (however, do be cautious, as we aren’t sure about the maximum weight it can hold).
- 40 quart or 56 can capacity
- Thick walls and lid combined with Ultratherm insulation traps in cold and locks out heat
- Threaded drain plug allows for easy drainage
- Dual reinforced swing-up handles, two heavy-duty wheels, and an oversized tow handle allow for easy transport
- Built-in tie-down loop can be used to secure the cooler on a boat, an RV, etc.
- Affordably priced
- While it does feature Ultratherm insulation and thick walls, it doesn’t retain ice for a prolonged period of time; max is about 60 hours
- Some buyers said that it wasn’t as durable as they expected
Lifewit Collapsible Cooler Bag
If you’re looking for a soft-sided camping cooler, consider this model from Lifewit. The advantage of soft-sided coolers is that they are collapsible, which allows for easy storage.
This model offers up to 23 liters (6 gallons or 32 cans) of capacity, so you’ll have plenty of room to stow your goodies for overnight trips or outdoor excursions. Inside, there are two separate insulated sections, so you can pack your liquids on one side and your dry goods on the other.
The exterior of the cooler is made of high-density, water-resistant, dirt-proof, and durable oxford fabric, so there’s no need to worry about condensation buildup on the outside or moisture seeping in. The combination of the oxford fabric (210D) and the EPE foam traps in cold and locks out heat for up to 12 hours.
With a large top pocket, two side pockets, and two front pockets, you’ll have plenty of storage space and keep your drinks and food neat and organized; you can also tuck other items in, such as napkins, plates, and utensils. A comfort-grip handle and adjustable shoulder strap make it easy to transport, too. And the two-way heavy-duty zippers make it easy to open and close.
- Soft-sided and collapsible for easy storage
- 210D oxford fabric and EPE foam lock in cold for up to 12 hours
- Leak-proof lining prevents moisture from seeping out and in
- Two compartments inside and several pockets outside provide plenty of storage options
- Comfort-grip handle and adjustable should strap allow for easy portability
- Lightweight, yet durable design
- 6 gallon capacity, which is pretty large for a soft-sided cooler
- Affordably priced
- Some users said that it didn’t retain cold as long as they expected
- Others said that they had issues with leakage
IceMule Classic CoolersThe IceMule Classic Cooler is a unique design, to say the least. Instead of the traditional chest or bag design that most coolers offer, this one is designed like a backpack, which makes it really easy to transport; an ideal option if you want to keep your food and beverages cold while you’re hiking to your destination.
This cooler uses four different features to provide top-quality insulation: a TriFold DriTop system with a foolproof seal that keeps air out and locks ice in; the interior and exterior layers are made of MuleSkinEV, which is two times as thick as most soft-sided coolers; PolarLayer Insuation, and an IM AirValve. All of these features combined give the IceMule Classic Cooler the ability to keep things cold for up to 24 hours.
It measures 12 inches in diameter and 16 inches tall and offers enough space to hold up to 18 cans and ice, or six bottles of wine and ice. With dual adjustable straps, you can easily take this cooler wherever you’re going.
- Unique backpack design
- Soft-sided for easy storage
- Offers four unique features to ensure insulation and locks in the cold for up to 24 hours
- Easy to transport
- 20 liter size can hold up to 18 cans or 6 bottles of wine
- Considering the size and the fact that it’s soft-sided, it is pretty high priced
- It isn’t suitable for extended periods of time
Coleman 40 Quart Iceless Electric Cooler
If you don’t want to bother with the hassle of filling up your cooler with ice, draining out the water, and worrying about your food getting wet, consider the Coleman 40 Quart Iceless Electric Cooler.
This is perhaps the most unique cooler featured on our list. That’s because it’s like a portable mini fridge! This cold thermoelectric cooler doesn’t need any ice because it’s outfitted with advanced technologies that keeps the interior up to 40 degrees colder than the exterior air temperature; for example, if the outside temp is 80 degrees, the temp inside the cooler will be 40 degrees. That’s pretty smart technology!
Do note, however, that you will need to have access to a car or boat power adapter, as it features 12 volt plug with an 8 foot cord. With a 40 quart capacity, this cooler offers enough space to hold 44 cans or a combination of drinks and food.
It also boasts a front door, similar to a fridge, which can be opened from either the left or the right for added versatility. The cooler is compact and can easily fit into most cars with ease because you can lay it flat, like an ice chest, or you can stand it upright like a fridge, and it takes about 3 hours after plugging it in to reach maximum coldness.
- No need for ice with this cooler, thanks to the thermoelectric technology, which keeps the interior of the cooler the optimal temperature; 30 degrees lower than the exterior air temp
- Powered by a 12 volt adapter with an 8 foot cord; just plug it into a car or boat 12 volt outlet
- 40 quart capacity that can accommodate up to 44 cans
- Door opens from the left and right
- Can be positioned as an ice chest or upright, like a fridge
- Durably constructed
- You do need to have access to an outlet in order to operate the cooler
- It’s a bit pricey; however, considering the advanced technology and the fact that it doesn’t require ice, the price does seem to be fair
YETI Tundra 45 Cooler
YETI is one of the most popular camping cooler manufacturers, and that’s because their coolers are made of the highest quality materials and are so thoughtfully designed.
Made of Rotomolded Construction is exceptionally durable and this cooler can withstand all types of wear and tear. A patented T-Rex Lid Latch made of heavy-duty rubber ensures that the latch won’t break.
The “Fatwall”, extra-thick walls, hold up to two inches of Permafrost Insulation, which is pressure-injected into both the walls, as well as the lid. The YETI Tundra 45 can hold up to 26 cans, with a 2:1 ice to content ratio.
The lid is sealed with a ColdLock Gasket, which is a freezer-quality gasket, and it successfully locks in cold and blocks out heat. LipGrip Handles allows for easy and comfortable transport, and BearFoot Non-Slip Feet prevent the cooler from sliding, even in wet conditions. It also features a Vortex Drain System, which is leak-proof and highly durable, allows for fast and easy drainage of excess liquid.
- Rotolmolded construction makes this cooler virtually indestructible
- T-Red Lid Latches prevent the latches from breaking and ensure that the cooler stays closed
- ColdLock Gasket locks in cold and blocks out heat
- Pressure-injected Permafrost Insulation in the walls and lid
- Can accommodate up to 26 cans
- Like most YETI coolers, it is pretty pricy
- Some users say that it is bulky and difficult to transport
Other Best Selling Options
- Xtreme Technology; Insulated lid and extra wall insulation keep ice up to 5 days in temperatures as high as 90°F
- High Capacity: Holds Up to 100 Cans
- HAVE-A-SEAT LID: Closed lid supports up to 250 lb.
- Cup Holders: Molded Into the Lid to Keep Drinks Close and Prevent Spilling
- COMFORT-GRIP HANDLES: No-crush design with positive stop for pinch-free carrying
- Xtreme Technology; Insulated lid and extra wall insulation keep ice up to 5 days in temperatures as high as 90°F
- HIGH CAPACITY: Holds up to 84 cans
- HEAVY-DUTY WHEELS: Effortless rolling over any terrain
- Have-a-Seat Lid: Closed Lid Supports Up to 250 Lb.
- CUP HOLDERS: Molded into the lid to keep drinks close and prevent spilling
- STURDY LATCHES & ERGONOMIC HANDLE: The BMX cooler comes with a unique t-grip latch system.
- HEAVY-DUTY CONSTRUCTION: This insulated cooler was blow-molded for added durability.
- LIGHTWEIGHT & KEEPS ICE FROZEN: Externally, the cooler measures 32. 2 x 17. 3 x 16. 8 inches. On its own, the BMX 72 QT Cooler weighs about 18. 70 lbs. , which is about half the weight of other brands.
- THE PERFECT GIFT: This cutting-edge ice chest makes the ideal gift for individuals that like camping, fishing, tailgating, beach trips, and other outdoor activities
- ABOUT IGLOO: Born from a modest metalworking shop back in 1947, Igloo has been instrumental in redefining how we live, work, and play.
- Keeps the ice 5 day ice retention at temperatures up to 90 Degree
- Leak Resistant Drain Lets You Remove Water Without Turning the Cooler Upside Down
- Low Co2 insulation for reduced carbon emissions from foam manufacturing
- Extreme Technology Uses an Insulated Lid and Extra Insulation in the Walls for Longer Ice Retention
- Holds 95 cans; Made in the USA
- Ultratherm insulated body and lid keep ice for 5 days at 90 degrees Fahrenheit
- Reinforced swing-up handles with tie-down loop feature
- Dual snap-fit latches secure lid closure
- Threaded drain plug for hose hook up and easy draining
- 188-can capacity, Exterior Dimensions 38.31" L x 17.38" W x 17.75" D. Top - 34.69 x 14.88 x 13.25 inches. Bottom - 33 x 13.25 x 13.25 inches
Coolers for Camping Buyer’s Guide
Just like any other product you purchase, you want to make sure that you’re purchasing a camping cooler that will meet your specific needs. There are so many different coolers on the market, however, which can make it hard to choose the right one.
By considering the following key factors, you’ll be able to choose the right camping cooler that will work best for you.
First and foremost, you want to be sure that you are choosing a cooler that can accommodate all of your food and drink. Obviously, the larger the cooler, the more it can hold. Consider what you plan on packing and choose a cooler that can accommodate that amount.
Generally, there are two different types of coolers: hard-sided and soft-sided. Hard-sided coolers are more rugged and protect the items stored inside, but they’re more difficult to store; however, soft-sided coolers can be folded down, which allows for easier storage, but they don’t provide as much protection for the items packed inside.
In terms of the materials that hard- and soft-sided coolers are made of, it depends, as there are several types of materials that can be used for both. Regardless, you’ll want to make sure that construction is as durable as possible so that it can withstand wear and tear well.
You’re also going to want to consider how long a cooler will retain its cold. If you’re going to be camping for several days, for example, you’ll want a cooler that can retain ice for as long as possible; some models offer ice retention of up to 7 days, while others only offer a few hours.
The construction of the cooler has a direct effect on cold retention. Generally, hard-sided coolers stay colder longer, but with that said, some hard-sided coolers only retain their cold for a few hours.
The insulation that is used in the cooler, as well as the sealing of the lid, impacts the cold retention, as well. If you want a cooler that will stay cold for several days, look for something that features thick walls and high-quality foam insulation in the walls and lid.
Portability is important to, as it will determine how easy transporting the cooler will be. If you’re purchasing a larger, hard-sided cooler, something that features wheels and a towing handle will certainly make it easier to transport.
In regard to carrying handles, look for something that has 2-way handles, meaning that they can be flipped up or down, which will make lifting the cooler easy. If you’re on the market for a soft-sided cooler, look for something that offers a comfortable handle and perhaps an adjustable shoulder strap.
Lastly, you’ll want to consider how much you want to spend. Camping coolers vary widely in price. Generally, the larger and the more advanced features it offers, the pricier it will be. Determine how much you want to spend before you start shopping so you can look for coolers in your price range.
Camping Cooler FAQs
Have questions? We’ve got answers! In this section, we provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions consumers have about camping coolers.
Are there any tips that would make packing a cooler easier and more successful?
Sure! To ensure your food and drinks remain as cold as possible, pre-chill the cooler before you load it up. Also, don’t store anything at room-temperature that you want to have cold; for example, cool cans of soda in the fridge before putting them in the cooler so they’ll stay colder longer.
For perishable goods, wait until right before you depart to pack them. Additionally, if you are packing food, consider storing food in water-tight, zip-top bags to prevent them from getting wet.
Can I something other than ice?
If you aren’t keen on the idea of melted ice swishing around the inside of your cooler, consider using ice packs instead; however, do make sure that you pack an adequate amount into the cooler.
Alternatively, you could use bottles of frozen water as a substitute for ice; Not only will they keep the cooler cold, but as they melt, you’ll have fresh cold water to drink; plus, you won’t have to deal with melted ice getting everywhere.
Any tips to increase ice retention?
Open the cooler is little as possible; like a fridge, each time you open it, cold air exits and hot air enters. Store the cooler in a shady location and preferably up off the ground. Packing the cooler tight will also help increase ice retention, as there will be less air circulation inside.
How can I prevent wildlife from entering a cooler?
Wildlife, such as bears and raccoons, can be a problem for coolers. For this very reason, a lot of models are outfitted with molded lid locks, where you can attach a lock to the lid to keep critters out. If your cooler doesn’t offer this feature, you could secure the lid by wrapping durable bungee cords around the top and bottom of the cooler.
Whether you’re spending time in the Great Outdoors or you’re planning any event where you need to keep food and drinks cold, a cooler is an absolute must.
The camping coolers we highlighted are all great options, but if you decide to opt for something else, keeping the considerations mentioned above while you’re shopping will help you make the right choice.