While more and more competitors now automatically include an internal dry basket, Orca continues to offer it as an extra accessory, subbing in the external mesh pocket instead. Despite these few minor gripes, we love the all-around size, feel, and performance of the Orca 40 as the best mid-sized option on the market today. Most cooler manufacturers provide a “claimed ice retention” spec in their product listings (YETI is one major brand who does not).
That said, ice packs are fairly expensive (YETI’s range from $15 to $30 depending on size) and require refreezing once they lose their coldness, which limits practicality for longer trips. Simply put, coolers are unlike most other categories of outdoor gear that may last for just for a couple seasons before needing to be replaced. This means that when you’re making the calculation of whether spending $300 or $400 on a cooler is worth it, you are getting a product that literally should last for decades. That said, if you don’t need multi-day ice retention, even a cheaper hard-sided cooler should be around for many years as well. These coolers are simply made by inserting hot plastic into a defined mold, given time to cool, and then removed. The process is simpler and cheaper than rotomolding and allows for greater precision because of the molded shapes.
The Xspec and Roadie 24 are also notable for innovative and fairly effortless latch experiences. They combine a rubber latch for tightness and security with a plastic locking mechanism that makes them a breeze to use and requires much less brute strength than any of the 100% rubber latches demand. The Kenai coleman sundome 65 features mostly rubber, stretchy latches, but swaps out the rubber T-grip section for short metal posts that grip grooves underneath the rim of the body. Though they’re comfortable and easy to use, they proved to be less secure when jostled or dropped, and occasionally popped open during our testing.
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 coleman sundome 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.
I expected the Yeti to go at least one more day, but I wasn’t really disappointed as I know that their claim of 7 days is with a pre-cooled cooler that is full to the top with ice, so 6 days was pretty good all things said. After the 4th day, the Coleman was about 90% water and 10% ice but still very cold. The paper pulp of the Recool composts easily in the backyard, and it performs basically as well as any cheap single-use cooler. This cooler feels like you can roll it across anything without the handle straining or bending, or the wheels breaking. If you’re an angler, you might appreciate a model with an integrated ruler across the top to measure your catch. Many of the options we tested have this feature, including the Pelican Wheeled, Arctic Titan, Xspec, and Igloo IMX.
This lower-priced (yet over-performing) model has been accompanying our team for years of adventures now, handily getting the job done for weekends full of summer fun. If you don’t need such a beefy box or a lengthy time frame for storing delicate food items like raw meat, the Coleman Xtreme 70 is another good choice, saving you both money and weight. On the other hand, if you’re the type of explorer heading off the grid for extended periods and pushing your gear to the limits, the extra cash you’ll drop on the Yeti Tundra 65 is well worth the investment. This bear-resistant box provides top-notch insulation and superb usability that’s become our team’s go-to companion for longer trips. The market for ice chests continues to grow over the years, resulting in some extremely close competition and hard-fought rivalries.
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.
Tack on a price that undercuts the similarly sized Tundra 65 above by a considerable $135, and the Xspec stands out as a very well-rounded design at a great value. The RovR’s dry storage goes above and beyond since it has a large dry bin that extends to the bottom of the interior. It also attaches to the side of the interior with a simple hand screw, which means it won’t move during transit like all the other baskets are wont to do. The Coleman Xtreme and Pelican coolers have leashes attaching their drain plugs to the body of the chest. Both Pelican models, the Igloo IMX 70qt, the Engel, and the Xspec also all have built-in bottle openers hidden in various spots. Helpfully, many of the units we tested are rated to hold dry ice, so feel inspired to take that long midsummer canoe trip with your Xspec, Tundra, Engel, or RTIC ice chest.
It’s built rugged and tough enough to withstand those questionably-maintained roads you may find yourself driving down. And it is practically bursting at the seams with ridiculously convenient features and well-thought-out usability. Two internal baskets make loading and locating things that much easier, as you can lift out the basket to find what you need. An internal light assists in finding that last beer in the dark, and a tall interior easily accommodates your celebratory champagne. A free app on your phone lets you easily control and monitor your powered cooler without having to get out of your sleeping bag or camping chair. When it comes to high durability and above-average insulation and usability, the RTIC 65 is a fantastic example of a high-value item.
If portability is a priority, we recommend looking at options with wheels, such as RovR’s RollR 45 or Igloo’s Trailmate Journey. Although these units still are decidedly hefty (the RovR is around 37 lbs. while the Igloo is just under 35), the wheels make them much coleman instant tent easier and less cumbersome to transport for extended periods, even just for one person. If you are looking for maximum cooling power, premium rotomolded coolers from brands like YETI, RTIC, and ORCA are the clear leaders in keeping ice cold for long stretches.