7 Best Coolers for Camping That Keep Drinks Fresh All Weekend Long
These are the best coolers for camping for any size group and any type of campsite.
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Camping is made better by camp cooking, and you can’t do any camp cooking without bringing along some food. And of course, a night by the campfire is more fun when an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage of choice is ice-cold. The best coolers for camping make it easy to bring along your favorite fireside meals and drinks, and we’ve rounded up seven top picks from the best brands.
Best coolers for camping
Rtic 45 Quart Hard Cooler
The Rtic 45 QT Hard Cooler is the best hard cooler and our overall pick for the best coolers for camping. Rtic is known for providing high-quality, durable ice chests at reasonable prices, and the 45-quart hard-side cooler is the best value for someone who’s tried a ton of coolers in various camping environments.
Reader’s Digest Senior Shopping Editor Megan Mowery says her Rtic cooler has seriously changed her camping game. “With the bargain cooler I previously used, I was lucky to have ice last longer than a day, let alone an entire weekend,” she says.
“The Rtic keeps cool thanks to its secure rubber latch closure and thick insulated walls. My cooler came with a divider and basket, which you can currently purchase separately—and I highly recommend doing so, because the lifted basket makes grabbing essentials quick and easy, so you don’t have to dig through pounds of ice looking for what you need.”
The double rubber latch closure and thick insulated walls keep food and drinks cold for up to 10 days. Of course, how long the ice really lasts depends on the weather, as well as how many items are packed compared to the amount of ice. The Rtic hard cooler is bear-resistant thanks to the rotomolded construction, which is a must-have feature for campers who enjoy going into the backcountry—or any campsite that lies in bear territory.
Durable rope handles make the cooler easy for one person to carry. In addition, it has an excellent dry weight of 29 pounds, considering the ruggedness and durability of the design.
- Bear-resistant design
- Lid seals with rubber gasket rim
- Rope handles are flexible but durable
- Comes in several colors
- Holds ice for up to 10 days
- Dry weight of 29 pounds
- Over 1,400 Amazon ratings with a 4.7-star average
Can be somewhat difficult to carry as a solo person
Igloo BMX 52 Quart Cooler
Every chance I get, I’ll sing praises of the Igloo BMX 52-quart cooler. This hard-sided cooler was my primary (and by primary, I mean only) storage for cold food when I road-tripped for three months through the American Southwest in the middle of summer. The Igloo BMX cooler sat outside my vehicle on a hitch cargo tray, receiving blindingly direct sunlight for most of the day, every day, for weeks on end.
I am not going to tell you that this cooler is magical and it held ice in those conditions for 10 days. It didn’t. But once I learned to pack it correctly, it did hold ice for three to four days. Once I got to the cooler Pacific Northwest, it easily kept ice for up to five days. And it cost me less than $200, compared to some of the best hard-sided camping coolers that cost nearly $500.
Plus, the Igloo BMX has many of the same features as higher-end coolers, including a double rubber latch closure, rust-resistant aluminum handles with rubberized grips, rust-proof stainless steel hinges and a super easy drainage system. The 52-quart version holds up to 83 standard 12-ounce cans. Chock-full, it’s pretty heavy. I wouldn’t call it easy to move as a solo camper, but it’s certainly doable, largely thanks to the grippy flip-up handles.
- Over 8,300 Amazon ratings with a 4.6-star average
- Blow-molded design
- Double rubber latch closure
- Easy drainage system
Ice retention is only three to five days
Yeti Tundra Haul
Yeti has earned its reputation as the king of coolers. Good branding aside, the company really does make quality products, and the Yeti Tundra Haul is the perfect example. It’s just like the flagship Yeti cooler, the now-famous Tundra hard cooler, but with wheels and a handle to pull the cooler like a wagon. It’s the best of both worlds.
Additionally, this versatile and durable ice chest easily takes you from a front-country scenic campsite to an overnighter on the beach to a backcountry car camping trip; its features make it ideal for any camping occasion. Features worth calling out include the seamless rotomolded construction, bear-resistant design that’s certified bear-proof when used with Master Lock padlocks, welded aluminum handle and solid, non-marring, all-terrain tires.
- Easy to move around
- Solid, puncture-proof tires
- Roll on virtually any terrain
- Bear-resistant design
- Holds up to 64 pounds of ice and 82 cans
- Expensive, with a $450 list price
- Hard to carry by yourself
Best with wheels
RovR RollR 60 Cooler
Toting around an ice chest, especially a heavy-duty one packed down with ice and beverages, is not the best experience—especially if you’re alone and have to lug it more than a couple hundred feet. Enter the RovR RollR 60: our pick for the best coolers for camping with wheels. It rolls like a kiddie wagon but fits all of your favorite adult beverages, snacks and, sure, hydration too. Better yet, this rugged cooler is bear-proof to safely take it on backcountry adventures in addition to formal campsites.
Depending on how it’s packed and what’s put in it, the RollR 60 holds ice for up to 10 days. And don’t worry about things getting waterlogged when the ice does start to melt: There’s a DeepFreeze dry compartment for items you don’t want to get wet but need to keep cold (like resealable bags of, say, cheese).
As the name suggests, the RollR 60 fits up to 60 cans so it’s suitable for large groups, and the dual spout system makes for easy drainage when ice melt gets too high. Fully kit out the cooler with accessories like external cup holders and a separate dry bin that latches onto the top.
- Rugged wheels make it easy to roll across any terrain
- Ideal for large groups
- Suitable for backcountry adventures and organized campgrounds
- Easy drainage system
- Keeps ice for up to 10 days
Heavy, at 45 pounds empty
Best soft cooler
Rtic Soft Insulated Cooler
Soft coolers typically don’t have the cooling power or capacity of hard coolers, especially rotomolded ones. However, the Rtic Soft Cooler is a soft-sided ice chest with specs that easily rival some of the best hard-sided coolers available. Specifically, the Rtic Soft Cooler features a thick nylon shell that’s durable enough to withstand the elements of nature, and it’s easily wipeable for cleaning purposes.
It is, of course, water-resistant as well. And, although it’s a soft cooler, it stands upright even when empty and is structurally very similar to a hard cooler. However, it’s much easier to carry thanks to the wide, adjustable shoulder strap, which is padded for comfort. The zippered closure is kind of a double-edged sword because it may be tough to open and close it, but it does seal tightly to keep things cold and prevent leaks.
Moreover, I toted this cooler around as my dedicated drink cooler on a three-month road trip and I had absolutely zero issues with it; it doesn’t hold ice for long (up to 24 hours), but the ice melt stays cold for days, which is perfect for a drink cooler. I’d buy it again if mine ever failed me for any reason.
- Durable nylon shell
- Closure zips tightly to prevent leaks and keep interior cold
- Fits up to 40 cans
- Comes with zipper lubricant
- Available in several colors
- Over 11,000 Amazon ratings with a 4.6-star average
- Takes some elbow grease to open and close the zipper
- Only holds ice for up to 24 hours
CamelBak ChillBak 30L Backpack Cooler
Looking for something to easily sling onto your shoulders and carry far distances without constantly stopping to readjust? You’ll probably want the CamelBak ChillBak 30-liter backpack cooler. This backpack cooler features a roll-top buckle closure, padded straps and insulation that keeps food and drinks cold for up to 72 hours.
The ChillBak not only boasts superb ice chest specs, but it is actually a hydration pack too. Furthermore, there’s an almost-secret zipper pocket for a water bladder and a route for the hose and mouthpiece to save room in the main pocket for things that are more fun than water, like canned wine and watermelon. Best yet, this backpack cooler features pockets for a phone, keys and other small personal items outside of the main pocket to keep valuables dry.
- Roll-down closure for easy access to inside
- Hidden pocket for water bladder/hydration pack
- Outside pockets for personal items
- Holds up to 24 cans
- 30-liter total capacity
- Keeps things cold for up to 72 hours
- Padded straps
A full hydration pack against the back might feel uncomfortable
Yeti Roadie 24
Camping solo this weekend? You needn’t lug around a massive, heavy cooler just to feed yourself for a couple of days. A small personal camping cooler will easily get the job done (especially if you’re also getting some of your much-needed calories through shelf-stable dry items like tuna packets, trail mix, granola bars and freeze-dried backpacking meals).
The Yeti Roadie 24 is the perfect size for keeping the essentials cool and crispy, whether “essentials” to you means beer or fruit. The 24-quart capacity is capable of stashing 33 cans or 26 pounds of ice alone, which realistically means it fits about 5 to 10 pounds of ice depending on the loot. Like all Yeti coolers, the Roadie 24 features rotomolded seamless construction, a locking lid and thick insulation. Lastly, it sports a hefty carrying handle and rubberized feet to keep it from slipping on wet or uneven terrain.
- Perfect for solo weekend camping
- Rotomolded construction
- Insulated interior
- Quick-latch lid
- Keep items cold or hot, depending on needs
- Easy-carry handle
- Expensive for the size
- No wheels (but it is a personal size, so it’s easier to carry)
What to consider when buying the best coolers for camping
As you continue to search for the best camping coolers, consider these factors to help you choose the best option for your adventures and excursions.
Capacity: Cooler capacity is generally stated in terms of how many 12-ounce cans or how many pounds of ice the unit holds. Keep in mind, a rating of “60 cans” means that the cooler holds 60 cans not including the ice.
Construction: Is it a rotomolded hard-sided cooler? A nylon soft-shell cooler? While either option gets the job done for most campers, it’s worth investigating how the construction can impact the overall experience.
Ice retention rating: Most manufacturers list an explicit ice retention rating, which refers to how long the cooler keeps ice. This ranges from as little as 12 hours up to 10 days depending on the cooler. But, keep in mind that these ratings often are the result of perfect (unrealistic) settings, such as packing the cooler with only ice and leaving it in a 70-degree environment.
Closure style: These days, a rubber latch closure is most common on hard-sided coolers. Zippers are most common on soft-sided coolers, and roll-down buckle closures are becoming increasingly present on backpack coolers.
Transportation: How will you carry the cooler? If you plan to lug it quite a ways, it’s worth getting a cooler with wheels. For short camping trips by yourself, a personal cooler or a backpack cooler will be easy enough to carry.
Accessories: Often an afterthought, accessories make a big difference in your experience. Things like external cup holders and internal dry bins make your camping cooler much more functional.
Price: As with all product categories, the best coolers for camping will be more expensive, but there’s nothing wrong with buying a budget option.
How we found the best coolers for camping
As shopping experts, our only job is to help you find a winning product. We start with the research and reporting basics—what products are made of, what they look like and how much they cost—to ensure that we’re only recommending the buys that are worth your time and money. Then, we research the features that speak to the product’s quality, taking advice from industry insiders and subject matter experts on what makes a product a smart value (or worthy of a splurge). Finally, we do the work of combing through user reviews to see how real people interact with the product, and if it stands up to the test.
What is the best brand of cooler for camping?
There are several brands that make fantastic coolers for camping. Our favorite brands include Yeti, Rtic, Igloo, Camelbak and RovR.
Which cooler holds ice the longest?
Our top cooler picks hold ice for impressive durations with the longest length being up to 10 days for the Rtic 45 QT Hard Cooler and RovR RollR 60 Cooler.
Is Yeti really worth the money?
Yeti has a well-earned reputation, particularly for the Tundra line of coolers. If you can afford it, a Yeti cooler is worth it. That said, if you’re on a tighter budget, there are other options out there that are likely more than suitable for you at a lower price.
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