Best Cooler for Camping of 2020 | Expert Advice

If you quickly want to find out which is the best cooler for camping, I’d recommend the RTIC Cooler.

Buying a cooler used to be an easy task back then. But with the market getting updated with fancier looking coolers, electric ones, extended ice retention promises, choosing the right one for your needs can become a little challenging.

Not to worry, we have put together some solid buying advice for the best coolers for camping, and 5 coolers we have found to be the best.

Our Top 5 Coolers for Camping in 2020

Product

Capacity

Features

Price

#1 Coleman Steel-Belted Portable Cooler

85 cans

- Relatively Low Priced
- Has a leak resistant channel drain that cleans up in a snap
- Also functions as a camp seat

- Fairly priced  

#2  RTIC Cooler

35 cans

- Keeps Ice Up To 10 Days
- Made of strong Rotomolded Construction
- Has Heavy Duty Rubber T-Latches & Rope Handles
- Bear Proof Cooler

#3  YETI Roadie 20 Cooler

14 cans

- Top Insulation
- Excellent ice retention
- Super durable
- Leakproof water draining system

#4  Homitt Soft Cooler 30 Can Soft Pack Cooler

30 cans

- Comparatively low cost
- Fully opening lip for easy access
- Provides excellent insulation
- Best for backpackers

#5  Thermik High Performance Roto-Molded Cooler

16 cans

- Retains ice for 5+ days
- Made of heavy duty roto molded construction
- Comes with an internal carrying basket and a cutting board
- Has a stainless steel bottle opener 

How to choose the best cooler for camping

Insulation Abilities

Are you looking for a cooler to retain ice for a day? Or are you looking for one that would retain ice for more than a couple of days? The choice of your cooler should be based on that.

Soft coolers are easily portable, designed mainly for backpackers and the ice retention lasts from a few hours to a day’s time. They are the least in insulation, because they are built so.

Hard coolers are great when it comes to insulation. Since weight is not a consideration, they are constructed with high quality materials and layers of insulation to make sure the ice retention is excellent. Various coolers come with varying levels of insulation capabilities. Make sure to check the specifications and details of the cooler, before buying one.

Cooler Size & Storage Capacity

Images of the various best coolers for camping

This entirely depends on the number of days you are planning to camp, and the number of people who are accompanying you. Choose a cooler that would fit in your car and that would hold enough cans for the trip.

Ease of Use

This factor makes your work so much easier. You would want a cooler that is easy to open, take out your contents and close in a snap.. Wait, you don’t want it to be too easy it rattles and lets air get through in.

Latches come into play here. The lower end models have plastic latches that are easier to operate by both children and adults but eventually break with time because of their flimsiness. Heavy duty latches are generally made with Rubbers, that seal effectively and are not easily torn. As compared to the plastic latches, they require a little more labour while opening and closing it.

Some coolers come with no latches, they just close and open like refrigerators. Though they might be easy to use, they are not as effective as the above two in ice retention.

Also make sure to check if the drain plug seals properly, since leakage is not tolerable.

Portability

Many high end coolers are built with rotomolded construction and 3 layers of insulation. Though they work great in retaining ice for days on end, portability becomes an issue because they are heavy.

Some of the latest models have wheels on them to make them more portable, but at the end it is a compromise between weight and price. Even if not wheels, you can make sure that the handles are sturdy and can be easily carried by two people at the most. If you are going to be backpacking instead of car camping, choose a light weighted soft cooler, with shoulder straps easy to carry.

The coolers we have recommended in this article, do not have wheels but we have researched on coolers with a good set of handles for easy portability. In general, soft coolers are more portable than hard coolers and electric ones.

Type of Coolers

Electric Coolers

They do not require ice, they just require electricity to cool your stuff just like refrigerators at home.

Electric coolers are new to the market, and are slightly expensive as compared to non electric coolers. Make sure to check with your campsite if a power socket is available.

Non Electric Coolers

A cooler taken in a camping atmosphere

Non electric coolers cool stuff with ice and fall into two categories – soft and hard coolers. Soft coolers come in the shape of bags and are built for a single day of use. Hard coolers, on the other hand are rugged ones that you invest for the ice to last for more than a couple of days.

How to pack a cooler

Tips for maximising Cooler efficiency

Pre Cool

Pre-chilling your cooler the night before your trip has proven to be very effective. You could keep the cooler inside your fridge at home and leave it for the night. If your fridge isn’t big enough to hold the cooler, keeping it immersed in a bag of ice will work too.

Pre Cooling food

If you are planning to camp multiple days, make sure you pre cool the camping food for an ample amount of time, preferably overnight. All the frozen food that you would be using in the camp needs to stay unspoilt till the last day, so freezing them for a night before the camp is essential for ice retention.

Using the right ice

Ice cubes are the most common choice but they are inefficient as compared to ice blocks. You could also use dry ice, which is the most effective but not all coolers are built for dry ice, so make sure you check that before going for it. Reusable freezer packs are also another alternatives for ice.

Keeping the Cooler open for long

While in the camp, make sure you don’t open the cooler more than when it’s needed, and also that the lids are not left partially closed or open. Coolers, when left open for long quickly lose all the chillness they have been retaining.

Keeping it under shade

Coolers kept under shade

This is another obvious tip, yet as the sunlight comes from different angles depending on the time of the day, leaving it at a particular shade spot in the morning will not do until dusk.

Make sure the cooler is kept in adequate shade and away from direct sunlight, preferably on grass (to ensure that it doesn’t melt down the ice from the bottom).

Top 5 Best Camping Coolers

1. Coleman Steel-Belted Portable Cooler

Short Review

The Coleman Steel-Belted Portable Cooler is a relatively inexpensive cooler, but nonetheless excels in performance. This 54 quart box holds up to 85 cans, and can retain ice for 4 days straight, as per the manufacturers.

The cooler is built with durable materials such as rust-resistant stainless steel and constructed strong. It has steel handles on either sides that makes it easily portable. Once in place, and you have your drinks at hand, the cooler could also be used as a camp seat. When the party’s over, the water inside the cooler can be drained out through the channel drain at the bottom of the cooler, without having to tilt it.

However, some users feel that the plastic latch is a little flimsy. Accessories such as the bottle opener, cooler wheels, and serving tray could have added additional value to the cooler.

Overall, for the price it comes at, the performance of the cooler is exceptional.

Pros

  • Relatively Low Priced
  • Holds up to 85 cans
  • Has a leak resistant channel drain that cleans up in a snap
  • Also functions as a camp seat

Cons

  • The plastic latch seems to be a bit flimsy
  • Doesn’t come with wheels

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2. RTIC Cooler

Short Review

The RTIC Cooler is close to a portable freezer that’s of 45 quart and holds up to 36 cans. The cooler is the perfect choice for rugged multi-day camping and for extensive ice retention, as per the makers claim, the ice can last upto 10 days.

It has a rotomolded construction, and heavy duty rubber T-latches that not only provides a tight seal to food and drinks stored inside, it also ensures smooth and trouble free closure. The Rapid V drain system is quick to discharge water when needed. There are two rope handles on either sides for carrying the cooler around. All of these make it a very strong and durable product.

It is also a bear proof cooler which is very important if you are camping in bear country such as Grand Teton National Park. In addition to this, it comes with an excellent set of features such as non-slip feet, integrated locking system for keeping the contents safe, freezer style lid gasket, and as a multipurpose tool for cutting vegetables, using it as a camp table, and as a step-stool.

If you are looking at investing in a heavy duty product for years of rugged usage, this could be your pick.

This is our pick for the best cooler for camping in this article.

Pros

  • Keeps Ice Up To 10 Days
  • Made of strong Rotomolded Construction
  • Has Heavy Duty Rubber T-Latches & Rope Handles
  • Rapid V-Drain System
  • Perfect for rugged use
  • Bear Resistant

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Ice chest is a tad heavy for its size

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3. YETI Roadie 20 Cooler

Short Review

The YETI Roadie 20 Cooler has a capacity of holding up to 14 cans and has fatwall design that has extra thick walls for ice retention. It also has rotomolded construction that is super strong, or rather as in the words of the makers, virtually indestructible.

The cooler, altogether represents top notch workmanship. Some of these are heavy duty rubber latches and interlocking lid system for locking the cooler, double haul handles for easy portability, a leakproof vortex draining system, tie-down slots and non slip feet to keep your cooler at one place.

Given all of these features, it is a little on the pricey end, as is the case with YETI coolers. The cooler is also heavy and is deemed best for car camping. Some users have also found the interior space to be a little smaller than expected.

Overall, the YETI cooler could be a close-to-permanent addition to your car trunk if you are willing to invest in a heavy duty product.

Pros

  • Top Insulation
  • Excellent ice retention
  • Super durable
  • Leakproof water draining system
  • Strong handles and interlocking lid system

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Heavy to carry

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4. Homitt Soft Cooler 30 Can Soft Pack Cooler

Short Review

The Homitt Soft Coolers holds up to 30 cans, and is perfect for backpackers.

It has 3 layers that provide excellent insulation and make it leak-proof. It has an easy open lid with zippers that opens entirely for easy access and closure. The zippers are also heavy duty adding on to the insulation and ice retention. It also comes with a front zippered pocket and mesh pockets at the back for additional storage.

It’s very easy to carry and comes with 3 different ways to carry it that makes portability of the cooler a breeze. You could either carry it on your shoulders with the shoulder straps, or carry it using the handles on either side. The overhead carrying straps can also be used to carry it like a suitcase.

However, some users have found this to not be leakproof and the zippers to be snapping at times. Overall, if you are looking for portable/soft coolers at a reasonable price, the Homitt Soft Coolers might be your perfect choice.

Pros

  • Comparatively low cost
  • Fully opening lip for easy access
  • Provides excellent insulation
  • Best for backpackers
  • Not tipsy

Cons

  • Zipper snaps at times - might need a zipper lubricant

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5. Thermik High Performance Roto-Molded Cooler

Short Review

The Thermik Cooler comes in three squart specifications – 25, 45 and 75 quarts and the thick urethane insulation it comes with keeps ice for 5+ days.

It is made of thick roto molded construction that speaks for the durability and strength of the outer shell of the cooler. The hinge, durable rubber feet and tie down holes are other high quality features of the cooler.

One interesting feature of the Thermik Cooler is the vacuum release valve. It allows air from the outside to enter the cooler and normalise the pressure. This comes into use when the ice melts inside the cooler, the change in volume affects the pressure causing the lid to get stuck when you open the next time. Now, all you need to do is press that button when the ice melts, to ensure continued smooth opening and closing of the lid.

Along with the cooler, you also get a cutting board separator, drink holder and a dry keeper basket as additional accessories. Bottle openers on the corner of the cooler is a thoughtful addition.

Pros

  • Retains ice for 5+ days
  • Made of heavy duty roto molded construction
  • Comes with an internal carrying basket and a cutting board
  • Has a stainless steel bottle opener at the corner of the cooler
  • Comes with a vacuum release valve for normalizing pressure outside & inside
  • Comfortable fully padded aluminium handles

Cons

  • Lack of other color options
  • Slightly expensive

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Conclusion

So, that’s it guys! We hope this article helped you choose the best cooler for camping.

Our pick from the lot for the best camping cooler would be the RTIC Cooler. It is a solid investment since the cooler is built with the best materials. One thing that stands out for us is the thoughtful features it comes with. Be it the bottle opener or the freezer style lid gasket, the cooler has had us impressed.

Did you find the guide helpful? Do let us know in the comments of your thoughts on it, and the cooler you picked!

Mark Bennett
 

I have a serious thing for travel, outdoors and wilderness. I grew up in Oregon and camping outdoors with my father was one of the fondest memories of childhood. I enjoy camping and hiking and love to share what I've learnt over these years.