Best Coolers for Camping

Camping is a quintessential activity for individuals and families. Along with camping season, there comes a preparation season. Choosing a reliable cooler is a vital part of preparing for an extended camping experience. Knowing what extra features you need for where you’re going is a vital first step in the selection process.

Below, you’ll find some of our favorite picks, as well as a few tips and tricks to make sure you’ve chosen the best cooler for your needs.

Quick Summary

  • If you’re taking the whole family or with a big group, check out the Coleman Extreme Heavy-Duty Cooler:
    • 100 quarts (160 cans) of storage
    • 5 days of ice
    • Handle and wheels
  • If you’re after an extended vacation, the SuperHandy Rotomolded Ice Chest may be the way to go:
    • 20 quarts (23 cans) of storage
    • Up to 10 days of ice
    • Super-insulated design and T-clasp latches
  • If bells and whistles are what you’re after, the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze has you covered:
    • 20-quart or 55-quart options
    • 4 days of ice
    • Rotomolded design
  • If you just want the best overall recommendation, take a look at the Igloo BMX Cooler:
    • 25 quarts (40 cans) of storage
    • 4-5 days of ice
    • Lightweight, durable design and reinforced base

Who Should Get This?

If you’re going for a hike in the woods or a single night on the gravel bar, a camping cooler may not be the best choice for you. You can use a simple foam cooler for a quick and casual trip.

For those who plan on going camping for more than two nights, especially those who will be gone more than a week, a camping cooler may be a better bet. Camping coolers are built of sturdy materials for easy mobility while withstanding the elements. They also keep ice cold for up to 10 days, depending on the model and specific use.

Best Coolers for Camping: What to Look For

The Life of Your Ice

Ice life is one of the most important factors in selecting a camping cooler, as it determines how long your food can be safely kept. When selecting a cooling for an extended trip, it would be wise to buy a model that provides two days more cooling power than your plan. Just in case of unforeseen events.

Construction

Premium camping coolers will be made through a technique called rotomolding, where a single piece of material is shaped into a cooler. This technique cuts the potential for weak points, increases the insulation capabilities, and makes for a longer-lasting, better-performing product. The materials of camping coolers are also thicker and sturdier than day-use coolers. It helps them tackle the rough conditions of the great outdoors without sustaining a dent.

Storage Size

Camping for extended periods begets a need for more storage. This includes both the supplies you’ll need and the ice it takes to keep the cooler cold. One recommended calculation is 1 person needs 12-15 quarts of space per day of camping.

Mobility

For those camping at a drive-in site, mobility may not be a big concern. However, those who prefer to camp off the path will want to choose an easily transported cooler. Most quality camping coolers will have multiple methods of transport, including side or front handles, as well as wheels. Their shape will have been designed with mobility in mind.

Best Coolers for Camping: Our Picks

1. Best For Large Groups: Coleman Xtreme Heavy-Duty Cooler

The Coleman Xtreme Heavy Duty 100-quart cooler is an affordable choice for large groups and extended stays. The chest can keep ice cold for up to 5 days in 90*F weather and comes with wheels and handles for easy transport. The lid can support up to 250lbs to double as a bench and comes with four cup holders. You can drain any melted ice through a channel drain. The drain is located low on the cooler’s side so you don’t have to tip over heavy loads.

What We Like:

  • Large storage space
  • 5 days of ice
  • Heavy-duty design and materials

What We Don’t Like:

  • The size makes traveling long distances difficult

2. Best for Long Trips: SuperHandy Rotomolded Ice Chest

The SuperHandy Rotomolded Ice Chest is durable and can keep ice long. It’s a great choice for those taking a break from society. It can hold up to 23 cans with no ice. The rotomolded design is food grade safe and dry ice compatible. It also comes with 3” insulated walls and a UV protected shell. For the ice that does melt, there is a low set drain plug for the easy draining. The lid snaps shut on two T-clasps to keep it airtight for both animal safety and food safety.

What We Like:

  • Dry ice compatible
  • Locks with two metal T-clasps
  • Rotomolded design with 3” insulated walls

What We Don’t Like:

  • Empty weight is almost 17 pounds

3. Best Extra Features: Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze

The Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze is built to offer more amenities than some of the other coolers available to long-term campers. Ice lasts up to four days in either the 20-quart or 55-quart options. The rotomolded construction includes anti-skid feet, T-latches and optional bear-resistant locks, a built-in fish ruler, and an oversized drain. Microban product protection design can keep bacterial odors from forming on the surface of the cooler.

What We Like:

  • Two size options
  • Up to 4 days of ice
  • Rotomolded design includes T-latches and bear-resistant locks

What We Don’t Like:

  • Limited space once ice is added

4. Best Overall: Igloo BMX Cooler

The Igloo BMX Cooler is an all-around safe choice for those going on shorter trips, who have smaller groups, or who bring multiple coolers. It has a lightweight design capable of holding up to 40 cans, with rubber-coated T-grip latches for easy locking. The blow-molded construction ensures high strength and an ice life of up to 5 days. The BMX Cooler comes with built-in loops to secure the cooler during travel and a 3-point-grip handle to allow for one-handed carrying.

What We Like:

  • Included ruler on the lid lets you measure any game caught
  • Decent size in a lightweight construction
  • Ice life of up to 5 days

What We Don’t Like:

  • Less usable space due to thick wall construction

Useful Tips and Resources

When looking for a camping cooler, there are many styles to choose from. If you want a more in-depth look at the differences among each style, check out this handy how-to-choose guide.

If you’re going camping in grizzly country, you have another concern: bear-proofing your food containers. While no cooler is going to be truly bear-proof, you can select for models that are sturdier and have extra locks to do your part in keeping the wildlife wild. For those who want more information, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) has put together a list of food storage regulations to protect yourself and your munchies in bear country.

What’s Inside Your Cooler? The Internal Difference in Expense. For those who want a visual on the difference the quality of your cooler makes, check out this video. This is a comparison video in which two coolers are dissected to show you the inside scoop.

Final Words

Camping coolers are becoming a must-have in the world of long-term camping. Innovations in design, technology, and cold-keeping capabilities are making them more relevant and useful than ever.

Questions or thoughts on our choices? Suggestions on camping coolers, coolers in general, or other aspects of choosing the right gear? Let us know!

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