6 Best Coolers for Camping: Reviews and Buying Guide for 2020

Think about this: You're camping in a state or national park or the wilderness, and you realize your cooler is too small. Or maybe it didn't stay cold for long enough, and now you've got spoiled food.

You need a good cooler; that's a given. But how do you choose the best coolers for camping that work with your needs and budget? You have a lot of things to consider before you even think about buying one.

Choosing the Right Camping Cooler

You should know what kind of cooler you need before you start looking for the best camping cooler, and you need to consider things like your budget and how much space you need before you buy one.

But that's not all. The best coolers for camping have certain features, and without them, you might discover your new cooler is more trouble than it’s worth.

What Should You Look for in a Camping Cooler?

When you're out shopping, look for coolers with drain plugs, insulation all the way through (including top and bottom), lids with tight fits, predicted life of your ice, and durability.

You also want one with enough space for your needs. You might find that's the hardest part of deciding what you need, mainly because coolers use quarts for measurement. However, you can look at how many cans of drinks a cooler will hold to get an idea of how much food and ice you can put in it.

Finally, think about what you're doing. Soft-sided coolers work best for single-day hiking trips and short road trips. Hard-sided coolers are the best coolers for camping because they're better insulated and far more durable. They also keep food colder for longer than soft-sided coolers.

Your Budget

Some campers have strict budgets, while others don't. The good news is that the phrase "you get what you pay for" isn't a universal truth.

Regardless of whether you're on a tight budget or can spend whatever you want, we've found coolers in different price ranges that you can check out for yourself to see how well they'll work for you.

Best Coolers for Camping Under $100

You don't have to skimp on quality and features to find a great cooler on a tight budget. In fact, some of the best coolers out there will fit your tight budget, even if you need one that will keep your food cold for a weeklong camping trip.

Coleman 62-Quart Xtreme 5 Wheeled Cooler

If you're looking for a mid-sized cooler that will still keep your food cold for several days, you might like this particular cooler. 

My favorite feature of this cooler is its drain plug. I don't have to turn the cooler upside-down to drain it. This feature stood out for me since I don't like lifting my coolers and flipping them over to drain them after I get home.

Pros:

  • Wheels for easy transport
  • Large enough for 95 cans of drinks, so you know it holds a good amount of food and drink
  • Dual handles allow you to lift it with ease
  • The lid is strong enough to double as a seat
  • Very lightweight when empty

Cons:

  • Wheels collect dirt and sand easily
  • The lid doesn't always stay open, making packing and unpacking difficult
  • The seal on the top can make the cooler difficult to open

Igloo Polar Cooler 120 Quart

Igloo's Polar Cooler's large size means you can store a lot of food for long and short camping trips. It's a hard-sided cooler, so you don't want to go hiking with it, but this may serve you well if you're camping in one place for several days.

I like this type of cooler for canoe trips down lazy rivers. I'm out on my own in the wilderness for those trips. I need a cooler that will keep my food cold for days, even out in the sun.

Pros:

  • Snap latches on the lid secure the cooler shut while you're on the go
  • You can use it as a seat
  • Regular dish soap will clean it out before you store it
  • You can replace the plastic hinges on the lid with stainless steel ones
  • Large enough to store large chunks of meat and bone from hunting trips

Cons:

  • No wheels, so it's awkward to move
  • May require up to seven bags of ice to ensure contents stay cold
  • The lid has no finger-holds, making it difficult to open

Best Coolers for Camping Under $200

If you're looking for a high-quality cooler but still want to keep your spending down, then you might like a cooler between $100 and $200. You'll find more choices for quality coolers in this price range, but you still won't drain your bank account.

Igloo BMX 72 Quart Cooler

Do you like to take fishing trips or river trips like I do? Igloo's BMX cooler is large, durable, and has skid pads on the bottom to help it stay in one place. To me, it's like Igloo designed this cooler specifically for my needs.

In addition to the skid pads, I especially like the rubberized T-latches on the lid. They provide a better seal and won't break like plastic latches might.

Pros:

  • Tie-down loops make it perfect for boat trips
  • Fish-measuring tool further adds to its usefulness on the water
  • UV inhibitors work with insulation to keep contents cold for days
  • Rubberized T-latches also work to lock in the cold
  • Blow-molded construction adds to its durability

Cons:

  • Lack of wheels makes it harder to move around
  • Works best with block ice or dry ice, rather than bags of ice
  • Takes up the entire trunk of standard sedans

Yeti Roadie Cooler, 20 Quart

Yet's Rodie is a small cooler, which makes it more suitable for beach parties and overnight trips than long camping trips. However, I like small coolers like this for storing drinks on longer camping trips, especially those where I need more than one cooler.

I also like the thick walls, because thick walls mean more insulation. That means anything I put in it stays colder for longer.

Pros:

  • Patented latch technology makes the latches more durable than comparable coolers
  • It has a lid gasket to help seal in the cold
  • It has armored construction, making it unusually durable
  • Hinge design helps prevent hinges from breaking
  • Handle stays out of the way when you're not carrying it

Cons:

  • Thick walls also mean it's bigger and heavier than comparably-sized coolers
  • If you're careless with the handle, it pinches you
  • Plastic feet are prone to breaking

Best Camping Coolers in Class

These coolers give you the best of everything. They have excellent insulation, come in many sizes, and work well in a wide variety of environments.

To get the absolute best cooler for camping, you'll shell out more money for one. It'll be worth it when your food is still cold six days after you left the house, even if it's hot where you are.

Yeti Tundra 45

If you're looking for a high-quality cooler for short, family camping trips, you might enjoy this cooler. Like its smaller counterpart, you can use it as a supplemental cooler for things like drinks on long trips in addition to using it on short trips.

When I'm camping with my family, and we have more than one cooler, we like a cooler this size for our cold snacks. It stays cold for three to five days with regular ice, but we prefer using ice blocks to guarantee that our drinks stay colder for longer.

Pros:

  • Three inches of insulation in the walls and lid ensure ice remains ice even if you don't pre-cool it
  • Simple design makes packing and transporting easy
  • Non-slip feet help keep it in place on the road or in a boat
  • With a pad on top, you can use it as a table
  • Molded tie-down slots make it easy to secure on anything that moves

Cons:

  • Might be prone to unsightly staining
  • No wheels, so it's heavy and ungainly to move
  • Handles aren't as sturdy as they should be for a cooler this size

Yeti Tundra Haul

When you want the best of the best and money is no object, this cooler could be your best bet. The Yeti Tundra Haul is Yeti's first wheeled cooler, which means you get all the durability of a Yeti cooler without the corresponding problems moving it.

Not only do I like the wheels, meaning I can move it around flat areas, but it also comes with a handle in case I have to carry it up a riverbank to a campsite. Depending on the terrain of the path I'm using, I can haul it up a hill like a suitcase if I need to. Its design makes it versatile when it comes to moving it, and versatility is never a bad thing.

Pros:

  • Carrying handle is sturdy aluminum with rubber grips
  • Wheels are single, solid pieces, so they won't fill with dirt or sand easily
  • Lid cut-outs ensure it stays in place after you strap it down
  • So well-insulated you can keep ice cream in it
  • Fits well in cars and boats, including ski and small fishing boats

Cons:

  • Very heavy, even with wheels
  • Polymer wheels don't give you enough traction on certain surfaces
  • Is not compatible with Yeti's dry-goods basket

Happy Camping!

If you enjoy camping, you will need a cooler, but the cooler you buy ultimately depends on your needs and budget. Depending on what kind of camping you do and how long you plan to be gone, you may want more than one cooler.

We have our favorites here. However, every camping trip is different, and every cooler on this list has excellent features and annoying drawbacks. Some of them may work better for one person than another, so keep your personal needs and uses in mind when you choose your cooler.