I just wanted to see how two coolers I already owned stacked up against each other under normal usage conditions. After the 6th day, the Yeti joined the Coleman Xtreme and was all out of ice as well. This combination of shade and sun is typical of what you might run into if you have a cooler with you out camping. For this test, I placed each cooler in direct sunlight for approximately half of each day and then in shade for the other half.
On the flip side, those products with large handles and awkward shapes that are difficult to Tetris into the back of the minivan, along with everything else you need for the party in the park, don’t score as well. Of course, the internal dimensions and capacity also make a big difference in what you can bring with you in your icebox and how many extra bags and boxes you’ll need to bring along. And the proportion of these dimensions to one another also makes a big difference. A low and long model is easy to find things in but harder for one person to carry. On the flip side, one that’s too narrow and tall is easier to carry but harder to locate items that have wormed their way to the bottom. The Xspec strikes a very happy medium, narrow enough for simple solo carrying, tall enough to fit an upright bottle of wine, yet shallow enough to find whatever you’re looking for easily.
If you’re interested in a smaller capacity option, we’re big fans of the exceptionally useful 40-quart volume and compact shape of the Orca 40. Chest Coolers are available in metal or plastic, and are insulated to help keep food and drinks cool and protected. They are available in various sizes and capacities, and include models capable of retaining ice between 1 to 7 days.
Though our scoring system of each contender’s performance does not include the cost of the unit, we recognize that this is a crucial aspect influencing the decision of which one to purchase. This particular market includes a huge range of prices that make one wonder if a plastic box could be worth that much money. In some cases, that extra cash coleman sundome does bring excellent insulation performance, greater utility, and convenience. In other cases, you can spend far less without a substantial drop in overall performance. It’s also helpful to consider how often you find yourself needing the cooling and insulating services these ice chests provide and how burly and rugged you need your gear to be.
In the world of coolers, YETI pioneered the high-end concept, and the Tundra is its best-selling and most versatile model. This popular line features premium cooling and ice-retention capabilities with a thick, rotomolded build that’s more durable and less prone to cracking than injection-molded options like the RTIC above. Further, you get a handy basket for dry goods, secure closures, and multiple tie-down slots to easily secure it on a boat or truck bed. What’s more, the Tundra coleman ice chest is certified as bear-resistant (locks are sold separately for $30), which is great for those who plan to spend time in bear country. This model is the heaviest of all non-wheeled coolers we tested, but we appreciate that it has one of the largest storage spaces (67 quarts, measured by us), so at least the extra weight gets you more internal room. We also wish there were leashes for the drain plugs, and there isn’t a dry bin included (it’s sold separately at a low price).
The Roadie 24 has plastic and rubber latches similar to the Xspec, but they’re both exceptionally easy to use, requiring less finagling and feeling much stronger overall. The small, personal-sized models can’t keep up with their larger brethren regarding insulation. The Yeti Roadie 24 impresses us, though, and is the best personal-sized model we tested.
This makes it more comfortable to carry but also frequently positions the handle in a way where it inhibits opening the lid. It also lacks a drainage port, and this version doesn’t boast the IGBC certification of larger Yeti hard coolers. Yet, because it’s so small (relatively speaking), we hardly miss those extra features. The Roadie is not airtight or leakproof — there is a sizeable gap where the ends of the rubber seals meet that’s only covered by a piece of fabric tape. Sometimes you don’t need that much space, but you do need excellent performance. The rugged Roadie has a beefy, integrated hinge, and the sturdy rotomolded exterior protects contents from the trials of all your outdoor adventures.
Still, for bringing some cool refreshments and a chilled lunch for a few friends on a longer walking journey, this comfortable backpack cooler is our top choice. For a more packable cooler, check out our comparison of the best soft coolers. We’ve also tested the top powered coolers for those who have access to a power source and prefer an iceless approach.
It also comes with a removable dry basket inside the top to keep sensitive items out of melty ice water and can be outfitted with loads more accessories for all kinds of activities. The Tundra 65 is a reasonable weight for its size, and its low profile makes the last beverage easy to find. Even after regular use over several years, the Tundra 65 performs just as well as the day we bought it. Yeti also continues to diversify the colors and personalization options available for this cooler, providing more choices to match your style better. We tend to steer clear of most bargain-basement coolers—they may work well for a day or two but often lack the impressive ice retention of premium models and won’t stand up as well to regular outdoor use.
Whether you’re planning on a relaxing beach day or a weekend camping trip at your favorite spot, we’ve done the hard work to help you find the best camping gear. We’ve got your outdoor needs covered, from the top-ranked camping chairs to get comfy in at the end of the day and our favorite camping tents for when it’s time to hit the hay. We’ve tested Polar Bear coolers for seven years now, buying them or receiving test units from Polar Bear. Recently, however, we’ve been let down by the lifespan of its soft coolers (though not this backpack in particular). But with care, you can extend the lifespan of any soft cooler—the number one rule seems to be not to leave it out in the sun. Most major brands have their own designs that work well in their coolers, and the best part is that you can use them repeatedly without ever having to drain melted ice.