Outdoor coolers have the same adventurous spirit as those who carry them. They’re designed to be dropped, beaten, submerged and even attacked by wild animals, all while keeping their contents intact and cold for days. Whether you’re planning on taking one deep-sea fishing, big game hunting, paddling down some Class-5 rapids or simply going to a tailgate, one of these coolers is worthy of the adventure.
Without ice, a cooler won’t stop your perishable from perishing. The makers of these coolers suggest pre-chilling them, which entails putting ice in them the day before or storing them in a cool, dark place — or both. This way, when you’re actually looking to use your cooler, the new ice won’t melt as quickly, allowing the cooler to maintain its cold for longer. It’s also important to evenly distribute ice to ensure everything in the cooler is the same temperature.
Orca 40 Qt Cooler
Best Hunting Cooler: The two founders of the “Outdoor Recreation Company of America” wanted a cooler to take fishing and hunting — and that’s what they created. Their coolers are all American-made, sourced with 100 percent American materials, and can literally withstand a bear mauling. Their 40-quart cooler weighs 24 pounds, is roto-molded and boasts a lid gasket to prevent ice melting, and anything from spoiling, for days. All Orca coolers have a lifetime warranty — plus, a portion of each purchase gets donated to several American conservation groups and charitable organizations.
Yeti Tundra 75 Cooler
Best Marine Cooler: The Yeti Tundra 75 is the perfect cooler for your next fishing trip. The 75’s non-slip feet have the same molding as popular boat coolers, so it’ll easily slot aboard your current boat. It has enough space to house two cases of beer and the keepers you reeled in. But the Tundra 75 isn’t limited to the waters; it’s small enough for one person to carry, roto-molded and has several layers of pressure-injected insulation to hold ice for several days.
25 Quart Bison Cooler
Best Mid-Size Cooler: The 25 is the smallest cooler Bison makes, yet it maintains the toughness and cold-retaining ability of the company’s larger coolers. Designed with heavy-duty rubber latches, a tight-sealing rubber gasket and nearly two inches of insulation, this waterproof and leakproof cooler will preserve anything for five days. It’s also tough, so dropping this Bison won’t damage it. But remember: even though it’s smaller, it’ll still weigh twice as much as a well-stocked daypack. So carry it over short distances or with another person.
Pelican ProGear 65 Qt Elite Cooler
Best Camping Cooler: With two inches of insulation and a freezer-grade gasket, the ProGear 65 promises a beastly 10 days of ice retention. Its polyurethane body is watertight, leakproof and certified bear-resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. Also, it has a lifetime guarantee. But at nearly 50 pounds unfilled, this cooler may be too heavy for one person to handle. We recommend filling after loading it into your pickup. Otherwise it could be a nightmare trying to lift it, even with its molded-in and hinged handles.
Coleman Steel Belted Coolers 54 Qt
Best Day Cooler: Admittedly, this Coleman Steel Cooler isn’t tough enough to fend off massive wild animals. But for casual day trips, it doesn’t have to. The 54-quart cooler is made of solid steel and has easy-to-carry rubber-gripped handles. It won’t leak or rust, and it has room to house up to 85 cans of beer.
Koolatron W75 Kool Wheeler
Best Thermoelectric Cooler: Don’t want to buy ice? The Koolatron W75 utilizes the cigarette lighter in your truck or boat to stay cold. There’s no ice involved, and it’s still capable of staying 45 to 50 degrees below the outside temperature. Although relatively small, the cooler can fit up to 57 canned drinks. Also, this cooler can switch to “Heating” mode to keep that chili or brisket steaming.
Esky Series 85 Quart Cooler
Editor’s Pick: The Esky line is Coleman’s answer for a cooler specifically geared to handle the outdoors. The 85-quart cooler has an antimicrobial liner that protects against odor, mold and mildew; over two inches of all-around insulation; and a scratch-resistant outer shell with UV-inhibiting technology for prolonged cold retention. This American-made cooler is tough and large enough to store fish or fresh game, and it comes with a 6-year warranty.
Yeti Hopper 30 Softside Cooler
Best Softside Cooler: No other soft-side cooler holds a candle to Yeti’s Hopper 30. Along with being the first completely leakproof softside travel cooler, it’s also completely waterproof; it’s made with the same material as high-performance whitewater rafts and features a Hydrolok zipper, the best-performing zipper in the world. The Hopper 30 can handle 18 canned beers and 26 pounds of ice.
Bison Softpak 24 Cooler
Best Alternative Softside: Honestly, it’s understandable to not want to drop $350 on small cooler, like the above Hopper 30 — so here’s an alternative that’s a fraction of the cost. Bison’s Softpak has a 1000-denier vinyl shell and is tear-resistant up to 375 pounds. It has room to hold 10 pounds of ice and 24 cans of beer. It’s a tough day cooler that can hold ice for just that: a day.