14 Coolers Perfect for Any Outdoor Adventure

14 Coolers Perfect for Any Outdoor Adventure

by Sue Jones
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When you’re camping, storing your food and drink for the duration of your trip is essential. That is where the best coolers for camping come along. Aside from having protected shelter with a good camping tent, keeping your hearty camping meals and drinks ice-cold can make or break your camping trip. This is why a high-quality cooler should be at the top of your camping gear list. It’ll help you power through long days of hiking and keep you hydrated and fueled throughout the day. No one likes returning to their campsite to find lukewarm bubbly water and soggy food submerged in melted ice.

How do I choose a cooler for camping?

If you’re looking for a cooler for your next camping trip, you’ll find a lot of great options on the market—from high-end coolers with tons of features to budget-friendly Coleman options. Here are a few considerations before you buy your next cooler:

  • Intended Use: When buying a cooler, it’s important to ask yourself how you intend to use it. Then, you can decide the quality you need and your budget. For example, if you’re packing drinks for a casual camping trip, you probably don’t need as much ice retention as if you’re going on a week-long fishing trip. Additionally, if you love to cook on camping trips and want to keep food cool, you may want to invest more money and buy a high-performance cooler from brands like Yeti or RTIC.
  • Size: You should also consider the cooler’s capacity—and the size of your vehicle. Coolers come with a listed quart capacity, and then brands usually break down that number into the number of cans the cooler can hold. If you’re only bringing a few basics for the weekend, a 26-quart cooler might be fine. But if you’re loading up on tents, camping chairs, and a great deal of drinks and food, you should opt for a 65-quart or bigger. Remember that you’ll need to leave plenty of room for ice or ice packs (a 2:1 ice to food ratio is standard), so your cooler will fill up more quickly than you may expect! Tip: If you’re often strapped for space on your camping trips, you may be better off bringing both a small hard-sided cooler for food and a soft cooler for drinks. Bonus tip: Freeze some of your water bottles to save space.
  • Material: Coolers come in two basic varieties: hard-sided vs soft-sided. Hard-sided coolers are more durable and prevent ice melt more efficiently, but they’re also heavier and more expensive. Most high-end, hard-sided coolers are rotomolded, which is a style of plastic construction that is known for its durability and optimal insulation. Soft-sided coolers are less efficient but much more portable. Overall they’re better for packing beverages and snacks for a day excursion while hard-sided coolers are a stronger, all-around option for car camping.
  • Bear-Resistance: If you’re traveling in bear country like Yellowstone or Yosemite, it’s important to have a cooler that is certified bear-resistant. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee has established specific criteria that products must meet to qualify. Most bear-resistant coolers include leak proof gaskets, effective rubber latches, and offer the ability to lock. They rigorously test all products before granting certification, so you can camp with confidence that your food is secure. However, you should still follow bear safety protocol at camp!

This list of the best camping coolers features products that you can find at outdoor stores like REI and Backcountry, or from retailers like Amazon, Target, and Walmart. Whether you’re looking for a Yeti, Coleman, Igloo, ORCA, or another brand, we’ve rounded up some of the best products available to keep ice, drinks, and food cold for days or weeks.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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