The Best Coolers of 2022: What's Cooler than Cool?

men sharing a drink with a cooler


What is better than a cold drink on a summit? Or at the campsite? Or on the beach? No matter where you're headed, one of our best cooler picks will get that cold drink there with you. The range of cooler size, capability, price, and functionality is immense, so we've broken it down by type and use to provide some great options for your next season of adventure. Cool new features and technologies have brought cold beverages a long way since the early days of family camping in the National Parks.

For more information on what to look for in a cooler, we've got you covered. Everything from size, shape, and material can be a deciding factor based on your specific needs. Make sure to get the right cooler for the job and avoid a disappointing lunch of soggy sandwiches.

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The Best Coolers - Our Top Picks

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Best Overall - Yeti Tundra 45 Hard Cooler

Yeti Tundra 45 Hard Cooler

SPECS

  • Volume: 32.9L
  • External dimensions: 25.8"W x 16.1"D x 15.4"H
  • Internal dimensions: 18.4"W x 9.4"D x 10.6"H
  • Weight: 23 lbs.
  • Hard or soft: Hard
  • Wheels: No
  • Insulation: PermaFrost Insulation—pressure injected polyurethane, and Interlock Lid System with Coldlock Gasket
  • Drain: Vortex Drain system
  • Additional features: Dry goods basket, T-REX lid latches, NeverFail Hinge System, bear-proof design, AnchorPoint Tie-Down Slots, LipGrip and DoubleHaul Handles
  • Warranty: 5-year warranty

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When shopping for a cooler there are two main considerations: "How long will it hold ice?" and "How long will this thing last?" The Yeti Tundra 45 Hard Cooler is our pick for all-around best because it answers both of those questions with "longer than the competition." Yeti combines FatWall Design with tons of their signature PermaFrost Insulation to keep things cool, while the InterLock Lid System with ColdLock Gasket lock batten down the hatches. Nothing is escaping from the Tundra. And with the BearProof Design, approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, nothing is getting in, either.

The small details aren't given small consideration by Yeti. The T-Rex Lid Latches are designed for heavy use and durability and the NeverFail Hinge System has it right there in the name. The Yeti Tundra is designed with extreme use in mind—picture packing that swordfish or elk and getting it home still fresh. But for those of us with less rugged intentions, that commitment to performance goes a long way. For backyard, campsite, or worksite, the Yeti Tundra (available in three sizes) doesn't disappoint.

What We Like

  • Combination of features for impressive ice retention: FatWall Design, PermaFrost Insulation, InterLock Lid System and ColdLock Gasket
  • Engineered durable details: T-Rex Lid Latches and Neverfail Hinge System
  • Bear-proof design has been tested and approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee when used with Master Lock Padlocks (sold separately)

What We Don't Like

  • Insulation features add weight and size to cooler, so less interior space compared to exterior
  • Very heavy when fully loaded

BUY: Yeti Tundra 45 Hard Cooler

Best Cooler for Camping - Dometic CFX3 95 Dual Zone Powered Cooler

Dometic CFX3 95 Dual Zone Powered Cooler

SPECS

  • Volume: 94L
  • External dimensions: 37.9"W x 20.9"D x 18.6"H
  • Internal dimensions: Left compartment - 14.41"W x 16.38"D x 13.98"H; Right compartment - same as left minus 7.6"W x 16.38"D x 7.37"H (corner where compressor is located)
  • Weight: 66 lbs.
  • Hard or soft: Hard
  • Wheels: No
  • Insulation: VMSO3 compressor refrigerates or freezes to -7F
  • Drain: No—not intended for use with ice
  • Additional features: Electric, dual storage compartments with independent temp control, connect and control through phone app
  • Warranty: N/A

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The Dometic CFX3 is a game changer for front-country camping. If you're kicking it at an established campground with access to power outlets, you can just plug this bad boy in and enjoy the luxury of refrigerator AND freezer compartments in the woods. Did somebody say ice cream by the campfire? It's also solar compatible or can be run from a generator or battery bank. The dual compartments can be controlled through an app on your phone or a simple button display on the cooler. Set both to the same or different temperatures, or to conserve energy, turn one compartment on and the other off. The Dometic is designed to power down before fully draining a battery bank and will protect itself from overdrawing the electrical system. This is ideal in the long run, but a bummer if the cooler shuts off unexpectedly.

Dometic has a line of accessories available to upgrade your setup, especially if the cooler will be installed in an RV, van build, or even the back of your SUV. A roller slide shelf allows for easy access, but out-of-the-way storage. Depending on your use case, the investment in this portable, energy-efficient electric cooler replacement could save money in the long run—but it will surely save time and food from the constant cycle of melting ice.

What We Like

  • Dual compartments which can be run at different temps
  • Remote monitoring and control through the app
  • No ice!

What We Don't Like

  • Can only be used with access to outlet or power source
  • Very pricey, when compared to coolers or many refrigerators

BUY: Dometic CFX3 95 Dual Zone Powered Cooler

Best Cooler with Wheels - Igloo Ecocool Trailmate Cooler

Igloo Ecocool Trailmate Cooler

SPECS

  • Volume: 66.2L
  • Exterior dimensions: 34.6"L x 19.7"W x 23.6"H
  • Interior dimensions: 23"L x 14"W x 11.5"H
  • Weight: 34 lbs. 11.2 oz.
  • Hard or soft: Hard
  • Wheels: Yes
  • Insulation: THERMECOOL Foam and Cool Riser Technology
  • Drain: Yes
  • Additional features: Horizontal dual-trigger steel glide handle with locking and telescoping functions, tie down points to consolidate items for travel, lockable water-resistant storage compartment with anti-leak gasket, removable tray and suspended food basket, pole slots for beach umbrellas or fishing rods, cup holders, built in bottle opener
  • Warranty: 1-year warranty

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The rugged Igloo Ecocool Trailmate Cooler is the go-anywhere cooler you've been looking for. The cooler's "never-flat" wheels can take on sandy beaches and bumpy trails without pause. With its huge carrying capacity, you can fit a weekend getaway in one trip. The Trailmate is loaded down with lots of nifty features, including a dry basket for the inside, built-in cup holders and bottle opener, and an integrated tray that fits over the telescoping handle to create a small table to keep your lunch out of the sand.

We love the ECOCOOL line from Igloo because it's made with post-consumer recycled resin and THERMECOOL eco-friendly insulating foam. When you go out to enjoy nature, it's nice to know you're using environmentally responsible products. The only drawback of this adventure mobile is the lid, which could use a little more R&D—adding a seal and a latch might prolong ice retention and reduce the likelihood of spilling its guts on the way to lunch.

What We Like

  • Rugged "never-flat" wheels for all-terrain mobility
  • Built-in tie-down points to increase carrying capacity
  • Lots of thoughtful additions: built-in bottle opener, inner basket, meal tray set-up
  • Made with post-consumer recycled plastic

What We Don't Like

  • Lid does not seal well, reducing insulation
  • Lid does not latch, making it easy to bump open while pulling the cooler

BUY: Igloo Ecocool Trailmate Cooler

Best Soft Cooler - Yeti Hopper Flip 12

Yeti Hopper Flip 12

SPECS

  • Volume: 11.7L
  • Exterior dimensions: 12.6"L x 10.0"W x 11.5"H
  • Interior dimensions: 11.0"L x 8.3"W x 9.0"H
  • Weight: 3.1 lbs.
  • Hard or soft: Soft
  • Wheels: No
  • Insulation: Coldcell closed-cell rubber foam
  • Drain: No
  • Additional features: Waterproof DryHide shell, leakproof HydroLok zipper, and HitchPoint grid to attach items to outside
  • Warranty: 3-year warranty

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The Yeti Hopper Flip 12 is the best soft cooler for packing lunches, picnics, or just for a day out and about. The comfortable padded shoulder strap frees up your hands and the HitchPoint grid allows for a few extras to tag along effortlessly. The durable DryHide shell comes in several fun colors (Alpine Yellow is my personal fave) and keeps water in while blocking UV rays and keeping sharp, poky objects out. The leakproof HydroLok zipper can be a little more challenging to manage than a standard zipper, but it's got a lot of work to do, so we cut it some slack.

We think the Hopper 12 is the perfect size to share lunch and some drinks with a friend, but the range includes the smaller Hopper 8 size—a great daily carry for work lunches—and the larger Hopper 18 could be the best fit for a family picnic or meals and snacks for an all-day adventure. At the end of the day, just dump, rinse, and wipe down the food-grade inner lining and you're good to go.

What We Like

  • Durable DryHide shell in fun color range
  • HitchPoint grid for easy attachment of small items or accessories
  • FDA-approved food-grade inner liner is easy to clean and mildew resistant

What We Don't Like

  • Quite expensive for the size
  • Waterproof zipper can be difficult to use, not great for single-handed use

BUY: Yeti Hopper Flip 12

Best Hard Cooler - Yeti V-Series Stainless Steel Cooler

Yeti V-Series Stainless Steel Cooler

SPECS

  • Volume: 55 qt.
  • Exterior dimensions: 24.8"W x 16.6"D x 17.4"H
  • Interior dimensions: 18.5"W x 10.9"D x 13.3"H
  • Weight: 35 lbs.
  • Hard or soft: Hard
  • Wheels: No
  • Insulation: Vacuum-insulated panels on every side and the lid
  • Drain: Deep Seal drain plug
  • Additional features: Cast aluminum hinges and stainless-steel latch and handles, Bearfoot non-slip feet
  • Warranty: 5-year warranty

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The Yeti V-Series Stainless Steel Cooler is a happy marriage between the Yeti Tundra Cooler and the insulating power of the Rambler Drinkware series. The innovative tech is matched beautifully with sleek silver design and simple, thoughtful details. Everything from the smooth gliding latch and hinges to the handles and feet on this cooler leave us wondering "what will they think of next?"

The vacuum-insulated panels provide longer-lasting cold in a much smaller exterior footprint than coolers with similar internal capacity. The kitchen-grade stainless steel is designed with durability and long life in mind. This cooler isn't just putting in the work, it's showing off to your friends about it.

What We Like

  • Vacuum-insulated panels on every side and the lid
  • Durable kitchen-grade stainless steel body
  • 5-year warranty

What We Don't Like

  • Innovative design comes with a hefty price tag
  • Empty cooler is quite heavy, wheels would make it more easily portable

BUY: Yeti V-Series Stainless Steel Cooler

Best Backpack Cooler - Yeti Hopper M20 Backpack Soft Cooler

Yeti Hopper M20 Backpack Soft Cooler

SPECS

  • Volume: 20 qt.
  • External dimensions: 18.5"W x 9.5"D x 18.8"H
  • Internal dimensions: 17.5"W x 8.0"D x 17.3"H
  • Weight: 4.8 lbs.
  • Hard or soft: Soft
  • Wheels: No
  • Insulation: ColdCell closed-cell foam insulation
  • Drain: No
  • Additional features: MagShield Access magnetic closure with ultra leak-resistant shield, DryHide Shell fabric made to withstand punctures and UV rays
  • Warranty: 3-year warranty

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The Yeti Hopper M20 Backpack Soft Cooler takes Yeti cool to new places. The best backpack cooler makes it possible to enjoy your favorite beverages or fresh fruit and veggies on the mountain top, at the crag, or in the backcountry. Ergonomic design has taken comfort and functionality into consideration. Use the daisy chain exterior design to attach small items to the outside of the cooler, and all you'll need is a friend to carry the big stuff.

The innovative MagShield Access design makes for an easy and secure closure that won't let the cold or moisture out. It can be tricky to load and unload, but Yeti offers an instructional video on its website with some great tips to simplify your experience.

What We Like

  • High-density DryHide Shell fabric is super durable, leakproof, and mildew resistant
  • Thoughtful ergonomic design for comfort while carrying
  • Lots of fun color choices

What We Don't Like

  • Soft-side insulation is not as effective as Yeti's hard-side products
  • MagShield Access can be tricky for loading and unloading

BUY: Yeti Hopper M20 Backpack Soft Cooler

Best Cooler for the Money - Igloo Ecocool Roller Cooler, 60 qts

Igloo Ecocool Roller cooler

SPECS

  • Volume: 56L
  • External dimensions: 21.7"W x 19.75"D x 18.3"H
  • Internal dimensions: N/A
  • Weight: 14 lbs.
  • Hard or soft: Hard
  • Wheels: Yes
  • Insulation: MaxCold foam-insulated lid and body, THERMECOOL foam and Cool Riser Technology
  • Drain: Yes—triple-snap, leak-resistant drain plug
  • Additional features: Cup holders, telescoping handle, and molded side handles
  • Warranty: 1-year warranty

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The Igloo ECOCOOL Roller Cooler is everything you need and nothing you don't. On the budget end of the cooler market, this cooler hasn't skimped on features. The locking telescoping handle and rugged wheels can be pushed or pulled to camp on almost any terrain, but the molded side handles offer the option to carry it old-school. Park it next to your fave camp chair or hammock and utilize those incut cup holders.

A combination of MaxCold and THERMECOOL foam insulations provides lightweight, eco-conscious ice retention. When shopping for products made mostly or entirely of plastic, the ECOCOOL post-consumer recycled resin outside the body and lid is a differentiating factor from other low-cost competitors.

What We Like

  • Lightweight with all the features
  • More interior space than comparable size coolers
  • Oversize wheels for all-terrain use
  • Made with post-consumer recycled resin and eco-friendly THERMECOOL foam

What We Don't Like

  • Lightweight plastic handles are not designed for heavy lifting—an overloaded cooler can be difficult to maneuver or cause the handle to break
  • No locks on the wheels to prevent tipping or movement when transporting in vehicle

BUY: Igloo Ecocool Roller Cooler, 60 qts

Best Beach Cooler - REI Co-Op Pack-Away 12 Soft Cooler

REI Co-op Pack-Away 12 Soft Cooler

SPECS

  • Volume: 17L
  • External Dimensions: 12"L x 9.5"D x 9"H
  • Internal Dimensions: 11.5"L x 9"D x 8.5"H
  • Weight: 1 lb. 3 oz.
  • Hard or Soft: Soft
  • Wheels: No
  • Insulation: PEVA insulating liner
  • Drain: No
  • Additional features: Clips to transition between cube shape and tote bag functionality
  • Warranty: N/A

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Load the REI Co-op Pack-Away Soft Cooler with snacks and drinks for a day at the beach, or your next road trip. Its lightweight, soft-sided design and small size are perfect for getting there with just the essentials. It can be used in "cube" form or as a tote bag, but either way, the comfy padded strap can be slung over one shoulder, leaving your hands free for beach balls and boogie boards. The wide-mouth zip opening makes for easy loading and unloading—and a quick rinse of the leak-proof liner will keep things fresh between uses.

Daisy chain detailed straps and a slim outer pocket store your phone, wallet, keys, and any imaginable thing you can hang from a carabiner. We love throwing this cooler down in the sand, but it also doubles as an insulated grocery bag for getting frozen treats home from the grocery store intact. It won't get much rest in the summer season!

What We Like

  • Folds flat for storage to 20" x 17" x 1"
  • Adjustable, padded shoulder strap for comfortable carrying
  • Made with recycled materials and bluesign-approved materials

What We Don't Like

  • Gets leaky when a lot of ice melts
  • Insulation is quite thin—trade lightweight for shorter ice retention

BUY: REI Co-Op Pack-Away 12 Soft Cooler

Best Small Cooler - Igloo X Parks Project Playmate Cooler

Igloo X Parks Project Playmate Cooler, 16qts

SPECS

  • Volume: 15L
  • External dimensions: 15.8"L x 10.1"W x 14.8"H
  • Internal dimensions: 12.75-13.375"L x 8-8.5"W x 8.63"H
  • Weight: 4 lbs. 3.2 oz.
  • Hard or soft: Hard
  • Wheels: No
  • Insulation: THERMECOOL foam
  • Drain: No
  • Additional features: Locking lid opens both directions
  • Warranty: 1-year warranty

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This limited-edition Igloo and Parks Project collab doesn't just show off your love of the National Parks, it's doing something about it. Made in the USA with recycled post-consumer resin, the Igloo X Parks Project Playmate Cooler includes Igloo's signature THERMECOOL foam for eco-friendly insulation. A percentage of every purchase goes to the National Parks Conservation Association to support the Parks Project mission.

The 15-liter capacity is perfect for a picnic for two in the meadows of Yosemite National Park or along the Shenandoah River. The molded handle allows for easy one-handed carrying, while the push-button lid opens both ways for easy accessibility. This cooler isn't meant for days of camping or long car rides, but it's the perfect tool for cool transport.

What We Like

  • Easy carry handle with locking lid
  • National Park-inspired design and donations made to National Parks Conservation Association with every purchase
  • Made of and packaged with post-consumer recycled materials in the USA

What We Don't Like

  • The lid is not insulated, so not ideal for long-term ice storage
  • Moisture sweats on the outside of the cooler in prolonged use

BUY: Igloo X Parks Project Playmate Cooler

How Coolers Work

Most coolers on the market utilize foam or plastic to insulate your food, drinks, and ice from the warmer air outside the cooler. The combination of insulation and ice slows the processes of convection (heat traveling through air) and conduction (heat moving from warmer objects into cooler ones). Design features like airtight seals and risers can boost the powers of insulation as well.

Cooler Size

When selecting a cooler size, you'll want to keep the 2:1 ratio in mind. To maximize the effectiveness of the insulation in a cooler, the items you want to keep cold should only be filling about one-third of the empty cooler. The other two-thirds should be filled with ice. Many brands offer "ice substitutes" in the form of large freezer packs that take quite a bit longer to defrost than regular ice takes to melt. Check out the measurements for those as well, to see how they may fit in alongside your cans, bottles, and snacks. Then you can get an idea of how big of a cooler you really need to keep everything cold.

Hard vs. Soft Cooler

A hard-sided cooler generally offers superior insulation and protection for your precious cargo if things get rough in transit. For a weekend camping trip, setting up a spacious hard cooler somewhere in the shade with drinks and snacks is a great solution. However, those hard sides add a lot of weight. If you're using a cooler to carry food and drinks farther from the car, a soft-sided option might better suit your needs. They're often much easier to carry with shoulder straps or even a backpack set-up. For one-day trips, such as picnics, lounging on the beach, or a short hike, the superior insulation of a hard-sided cooler just isn't necessary.

Coolers with Wheels vs. Without

The bigger the cooler, the more likely that wheels are going to become non-negotiable. Check the weight of your hard-sided cooler empty and then consider how many pounds of ice and food you're thinking about packing, and that box of goodies could quickly tip 50-60 pounds. If you're always going to have two strong people to carry, wheels may be an unnecessary expense. But even if you think you won't need them, the option to drag rather than carry can be a great convenience. And if you don't have the option to carry, those wheels can make a bigger cooler with lots of supplies possible.

FAQs About Coolers


What brand of cooler is best?

While you can purchase good coolers from a number of brands, we've suggested several coolers from only a few companies in this best-of list for a reason; Yeti is a leader in the industry with superior insulating capabilities over most other brands on the market. Of course, that quality comes with a hefty price tag and isn't necessary or practical for all uses. Igloo has been making hardy, reliable coolers at more budget-friendly price points for almost 80 years.

What can you do to keep cold longer?

Start by only packing foods and beverages that are cold from the refrigerator and add the ice in last. Keep the cooler as full as possible, without lots of empty space at the top. To make that possible, don't drain water as the ice melts, unless you have more ice to add to the cooler. Use the largest pieces of ice available—this can mean large blocks of ice, frozen water bottles, or freezer packs specifically designed for use in coolers. Store the cooler out of the sun when in use and pack items you will need most often at the top so you can keep the lid closed as much as possible.

Can you put ice in a soft cooler?

Many soft coolers are designed with waterproof liners, sealed seams, and even fancy leak-proof zippers. While some cheaper models may not perform well with melting ice, that won't be the case for all. Using sealed freezer packs is a less messy alternative when using a soft cooler, but not always a necessity.

What color of cooler keeps ice the longest?

While it may seem that purchasing a white, or light-colored cooler may help with ice retention, that will likely only be of any significance if the cooler is going to be in direct sunlight. Unless that's the case, you would probably be better off checking the tips above for how to keep cold longer than worrying too much about whether choosing a stylish blue cooler is going to be an issue.

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