Home > Food / Hydration

The Best Coolers of 2024

Tis' the season for family gatherings and you'll need plenty of extra space to keep drinks cold. Or maybe you're preparing for a summer full camping trips. Either way, you'll need a solid cooler, so we've tested the best of the best.
7 testing coolers(Photo/Miya Tsudome)
Support us! GearJunkie may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

Whether you’re packing for a midday family picnic or a multiday camping trip, finding the best cooler for your needs will make your trip that much more enjoyable. Lucky for you, we tested dozens of coolers to help you find the right pick.

If you’re looking for a new cooler but feel overwhelmed by the selection out there these days, and wish you knew how well they performed in real-life applications, then you’ve come to the right place. Our expert gear testers have researched and reviewed dozens of the leading coolers on the market over the years, and bring you a fresh look at a selection of eight coolers in our latest update.

These coolers went out on overnight camping trips, on day trips to local swimming holes, were stowed in hot cars all day, and were all subjected to an ice retention test to see how well they stacked up to one another. Features such as cooling performance, materials, durability, maintenance, and accessories are all thoroughly investigated.

Scroll through to see all of our recommendations. At the end of our list, be sure to check out our buyer’s guide, along with our comparison chart for a quick look at prices and features.

Editor’s note: Updated April 3, 2024, for spring, our guide to the best coolers now includes the feature-laden Xspec Pro and the tiny-but-mighty YETI Roadie 24, our favorite small cooler thanks to its superior ice retention abilities.

The Best Coolers of 2024


Best Overall Cooler

YETI Tundra 45

Specs

  • Capacity 37 qts.
  • Materials Rotomolded polyethylene/urethane foam insulation
  • Dimensions 25.75" x 16.125" x 15.4"
  • Weight 23 lbs.
Product Badge The Best Coolers of 2024

Pros

  • Rotomolded design
  • Retained ice for the full 10 days of testing
  • Dry goods basket included
  • IGBC-certified

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy
Best Budget Cooler

Igloo ECOCOOL

Specs

  • Capacity 52 quarts
  • Materials Recycled post-consumer resin
  • Dimensions 24.95" x 14.58" x 15.21”
  • Weight 9.84 lbs
The Best Coolers of 2024

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Ultra lightweight
  • Made with post-consumer plastic

Cons

  • Lower quality insulation
  • No drain plug
  • Low durability
Runner-Up Best Cooler

RTIC 45-Quart

Specs

  • Capacity 45 qts.
  • Materials Rotomolded polyethylene/urethane foam insulation
  • Dimensions 27" x 16.5" x 17.5”
  • Weight 29 lbs.
The Best Coolers of 2024

Pros

  • Affordable premium cooler
  • Rotomolded
  • Durable materials
  • Two drain plugs

Cons

  • Lasted 8 days compared to YETI’s 10 in ice retention test
  • Not certified by the IGBC
  • Heavy
Best Cooler on Wheels

RovR RollR 45 Wheeled Cooler

Specs

  • Capacity 45 quarts
  • Materials Plastic/polyeurethane foam
  • Dimensions 22.5” x 21” x 20.5”
  • Weight 37 lbs.
The Best Coolers of 2024

Pros

  • Big, sturdy wheels for easy transport
  • Comes with removable dry bin
  • Compact but still has decent capacity

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Very heavy
  • Ice doesn’t last as long because there is less room for ice
Best Lightweight Cooler

RTIC Ultra-Light Hard Cooler

Specs

  • Capacity 52 quarts
  • Materials Injection-molded plastic
  • Dimensions 27.01” x 17.28” x 16.54”
  • Weight 31 lbs
The Best Coolers of 2024

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Two drain plugs
  • Good ice retention

Cons

  • Still less ice retention than the rotomolded Yeti or Orca
  • Injection-molded therefore less durable than rotomolded models
Best Small Cooler

YETI Roadie 24

Specs

  • Capacity 24 qts.
  • Materials Pressure-injected polyurethane
  • Dimensions 17.4" x 16.6" x 14"
  • Weight 13 lbs., 1.6 oz.
The Best Coolers of 2024

Pros

  • Great insulation
  • Retained ice for the full 10 days of testing
  • Comfortable handle for easy carrying

Cons

  • Pricey
  • No drain plug
Best of the Rest

Xspec Pro 60 Quart Cooler

Specs

  • Capacity 60 qts.
  • Materials Rotomolded body and polyurethane insulation
  • Dimensions 28.2" x 17.9" x 18.2"
  • Weight 31 lbs.
The Best Coolers of 2024

Pros

  • Lots of features
  • Drain plug with tether
  • Rotomolded design

Cons

  • Not IGBC-rated
  • Heavy
  • Latches not as airtight as other brands

Orca 40-Quart Cooler

Specs

  • Capacity 37 qts.
  • Materials Rotomolded plastic
  • Dimensions 36” x 19” x 17”
  • Weight 27 lbs.
The Best Coolers of 2024

Pros

  • Rotomolded, durable design
  • Top-of-its-class ice retention
  • Exterior cargo net organized pocket

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not as readily available as YETI coolers

Coleman 316 Series Chest Cooler

Specs

  • Capacity 120 quarts
  • Materials Injection-molded plastic
  • Dimensions 37.9” x 19” x 17.95”
  • Weight 20.7 lbs.
The Best Coolers of 2024

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Large capacity
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • No wheels
  • Requires two people to carry when loaded
  • Cheap materials

YETI Tundra Haul Wheeled Cooler

Specs

  • Capacity 45 qts.
  • Materials Rotomolded polyethylene/urethane foam insulation
  • Dimensions 28.1 x 19.6 x 18.6 inches
  • Weight 37 lbs.
The Best Coolers of 2024

Pros

  • Easy to transport
  • Cool closure system

Cons

  • Expensive

Igloo 25-Quart Picnic Cooler

Specs

  • Capacity 25 qts.
  • Materials Injection-molded plastic
  • Dimensions 13" x 20" x 13"
  • Weight 5.5 lbs.
The Best Coolers of 2024

Pros

  • Super-portable
  • Budget-friendly

Cons

  • Short ice retention due to small size

Cooler Comparison Chart

CoolerPriceCapacity WeightMaterials
YETI Tundra 45$32537 quarts23 lbs.Rotomolded polyethylene/urethane foam insulation
Igloo ECOCOOL$6052 quarts9.8 lbs.Recycled post-consumer resin
RTIC 45-Quart$25045 quarts29 lbs.Rotomolded polyethylene/urethane foam insulation
RovR RollR 45 Wheeled Cooler$34945 quarts37 lbs.Plastic/polyurethane foam
RTIC Ultra-Light Hard Cooler$21952 quarts31 lbs.Injection-molded plastic
Yeti Roadie 24$25024 quarts13 lbs. 1.6 ozPressure injected polyurethane
Xspec Pro 60 Quart Cooler$23060 quarts31 lbs.Rotomolded body and polyurethane insulation
Orca 40-Quart Cooler$32537 quarts27 lbs.Rotomolded plastic
Coleman 316 Series Chest Cooler$110120 quarts5.5 lbs.Injection-molded plastic
YETI Tundra Haul Wheeled Cooler
$45045 quarts37 lbs.Rotomolded polyethylene/urethane foam insulation
Igloo 25-Quart Picnic Cooler$5525 quarts5.5 lbs.Injection-molded plastic
7 hardsided coolers from different brands that we put through rigorous testing outside
The YETI Tundra came on top after our ice retention test; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

How We Tested Coolers

Our expert gear testers have been reviewing coolers since 2014, meticulously researching dozens of the best coolers on the market to continuously update this review. This is an extensive look at seven of the best coolers you can find today. Miya Tsudome brings over 3 years of gear reviewing experience combined with over a decade of being a serious outdoor enthusiast to help bring this current review to life. Having spent many months living out of her car in pursuit of rock climbing adventures all over the country, she knows that having a good cooler. During the hot summer months, can make a world of difference. 

Each product was tested over several weeks, and taken out on different occasions for real-world applications — overnight camping trips, backyard barbecues, and day trips to the local swimming hole. The most recent lineup of coolers was tested in October in the high desert of Bishop, Calif. The average temperature was in the high 70s to low 80s for the majority of the month.

Each cooler was rated based on its performance in our ice retention test, its insulation and materials, durability, extra features, weight, ease of transport, and ease of maintenance and cleaning. The coolers that ranked the highest in specific categories were assigned an award in our top picks. 

Also, we did not include soft coolers, backpack coolers, or electric coolers in this test.

Ice retention test
The ice in the RTIC 45 (left) and YETI Tundra 45 (right) after the 10-day ice retention test; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

Ice Retention Test

For our ice retention test, we filled each cooler up 85% of the way with the same type of bagged, cubed ice. Each cooler stayed indoors before the test, to ensure that their starting temperatures were all about the same. It’s recommended to pre-chill a cooler for the best ice retention, we did not pre-chill any of the coolers to best mimic how we would actually use them.

For the actual test, we stored the coolers outside in an area that was mostly shaded during the day, with a few hours of direct sun exposure and temperatures that varied from 35 degrees overnight to 100 degrees in direct sun. This was also our idea of the best imitation of how these coolers would typically be stored outdoors. 

Variables that can affect ice retention include the ice quantity, outside environment and temp, exposure and amount of sunlight, type of ice (crushed, block, cube, dry), airspace, and more. In order to find the best of the best coolers, it was crucial for us to do a direct comparison. 

We checked each cooler’s ice retention/melt rate once a day and recorded the time and temp for each one. We also noted the time once each cooler’s ice was fully melted. The YETI Tundra 45 and Orca 40 tied for first place, retaining ice for the full 10 days, and having the coolest interior temperature 48 hours in at 27.3 degrees F and 27.8 degrees F, respectively. The RTIC 45 and RTIC Ultra-Light came in next, retaining useable ice for 8 days with interior temperatures 48 hours in at 29.2 degrees F and 31.2 degrees F.

While the Igloo ECOCOOL had an interior temperature of 34.6 degrees F at the 48-hour mark, it surprisingly still had some ice left inside after 10 days. The RovR RollR 45 only lasted 6 days with useable ice, but it also had the least amount of ice inside out of all the coolers due to the useable space. In contrast, the Coleman 316 still held a large quantity of ice after 10 days. This is more so due to the amount of ice that it holds in its 120-quart interior rather than due to its insulation properties. More ice = more ice retention. 

ice retention test
Ice left in the Coleman 316 after 10 days; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

This test was not meant to be purely scientific, but rather to reflect the realistic use of a cooler outdoors and accurately compare cooler performance. To keep it fair, we made that all coolers were subjected to the same variables and criteria as much as possible. It is worth mentioning that this test was not performed in the height of summer, but rather during a time when overnight temperatures dipped fairly low, causing the ice to melt much slower than if this test was done in July.

Buyers Guide: How to Choose the Best Cooler

Cooling Performance

Insulation and Materials

Coolers have a long and storied history. From a humble beginning as a wooden box with an interior tin chamber invented by Thomas Moore Jr. in 1802, to the decently insulating styrofoam boxes that came from the World War II era, to the plastic exterior coolers we know today pioneered by the Coleman company, coolers have come a long way.

Historically, coolers have been made with interior and exterior shells of plastic, with hard foam in between. Many basic coolers are still made this way today, such as the Igloo ECOCOOL and the Coleman 316

In 2006, two brothers named Roy and Ryan Seiders revolutionized the cooler market with their rotational molding or “rotomolding” design. This involves a heated plastic mold that is rotated continuously while powdered polyethylene is added to it to create a uniform thickness. They also pioneered the use of polyurethane instead of styrofoam as insulation, which created superior ice retention.

YETI was the company born from its design and is considered the gold standard in coolers today. Many companies have since adopted the rotomolding technique for their coolers. Now a majority of premium coolers, like the Orca 40, RTIC 45, and of course, the YETI Tundra 45 are rotomolded.

RTIC 45 cooler
Rotomolded coolers typically have thick, rounded edges which is a product of how they are rotated to be evenly molded, as seen here on the RTIC 45; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

Coolers use a few different sorts of foam or petroleum-based insulation, typically double-walled. YETI employs its pressure-injected polyurethane foam, while Igloo uses its proprietary THERMECOOL insulating foam. While rotomolded coolers offer the best ice retention and durability by far, they are also considerably more heavy and expensive. The trade-off for lighter, less expensive coolers, however, will be in their performance and durability. 

Seals

The highest-performing coolers in our lineup all have heavy-duty rubber gaskets that work to seal their lids airtight. In order to keep your cooler as consistently cold as possible, you need to be able to trap that cold air inside and keep it closed.

The best coolers will implement the same materials and mechanisms as deep freezers will, with rubber gaskets that create airtight seals, and sturdy, thick latches that pull the lids tight. The Igloo ECOCOOL and the Coleman 316 are the only coolers in our lineup that do not implement this feature.

Other Features

Another thing to consider if you want the absolute best-performing cooler you can buy, is the color you choose. When measuring the outside temperature of each cooler during our ice retention test, the lighter-colored coolers consistently had lower exterior temperatures. So although that dark grey cooler might be more your style, the white one might be the better choice.

The RovR with wheels
The white colored top of the RovR RollR 45 will reflect sunlight, making it less likely to overheat than darker-colored coolers; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

Size and Volume

The sweet spot volume of all the coolers we tested was a 40- to 45-quart cooler. This medium size is the most convenient, providing enough space for 3-5 days’ worth of food for one or two people, plenty of room for a few six-packs of cold drinks for a backyard barbecue.

In terms of the different sizes that each brand offers, 30- and 60-quart capacities are also popular. The largest cooler we tested was the Coleman 316. It can serve a purpose for large events or gatherings and is a good value for its size.

The interior of the YETI Tundra
The Tundra 45 actually only has a 37-quart capacity. But this is enough for 1-3 days’ of food and a few drinks for two people; (photo/ Miya Tsudome)

You’ll want to consider not only how much cooler space you may want for different adventures, but also consider a cooler’s dimensions. You don’t want to buy the perfect cooler only to find out that it doesn’t fit in your car when packed, or in a spot on your storage shelf. Most coolers are rectangular in shape, and can be easy to slide into car trunks and stack other things on top of.

Some coolers have wheels, like the RovR RollR 45 which while making transport easier, can take up more room in a trunk or on a shelf. It’s also a good idea to think about the items you’ll be keeping cool, and make sure those (maybe wine bottles or a coffee press for camping) fit the internal dimensions as well.

Weight

Weight is also an important consideration when choosing a cooler. Rotomolded coolers with their thick, 2 inches of insulation and durable outer plastic layer will be the heaviest cooler you can buy. Coolers like the YETI Tundra 45, RTIC 45, and Orca 40 all weigh between 23 and 30 pounds alone. The RovR RollR 45 weighs a whopping 37 pounds. Granted it has wheels, which means transportation won’t be as difficult an affair. 

The RTIC Ultra-Light Hard Cooler is a great innovation from RTIC that uses injection molding to create a lighter, midsized cooler. At 31 pounds, the 52-quart model is around the same weight as its 45-quart, rotomolded counterpart, resulting in a higher capacity for less weight.

A light weight cooler
The RTIC Ultra-Light Hard Cooler is a lightweight and high-performing cooler; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

The Igloo ECOCOOL weighs in at only 9.84 lbs, making it the lightest cooler in our lineup. However, its lightness is attributed to its injection molding, thin walls, and non-insulated lid. Though lightweight, the ECOCOOL is not a premium cooler for the serious consumer but is a great budget pick or option for someone who has more trouble carrying heavier loads.

Ease of Transport

Handles or Wheels?

Some would say this is personal preference, but in our opinion, it all comes down to your cooler volume and what you’re hauling. So, if you are leaning toward a 20- to 40-quart cooler, you probably don’t need wheels.

These coolers aren’t so wide that it’s difficult to carry them on your own, and typically come with molded indentations as well as sturdy rope handles on either side. Our testers loved the YETI Tundra 45 with its military-grade nylon rope handles and comfortable, rubber grips.

If you are going to invest in a cooler with a capacity of 60, 70, or 100+ quarts, definitely consider one with wheels, or at least one with a few different carry options (tow handles, grips, two-person carry, etc). This is a flaw in the Coleman 316 we tested, which at a 120-quart capacity and 37.9-inch width does not come with wheels and pretty much requires two people to carry it fully loaded.

The RovR RollR 45, however, comes with beefy, 9-inch, all-terrain tires that can be inflated with a bike pump, and handle sand, gravel, and rough terrain with ease, making it the best of its class for ease of transport.

A wheeled cooler
The RovR is heavy, but its huge wheels make it easy to move over uneven terrain; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

If you are frequently loading up on ice and filling that bad boy with cans, you may want something with wheels. Or maybe not, if you plan on rolling that cooler over rugged terrain. But, if you know you’ll be hauling your cooler around with family or friends, a two-handled one may work just fine.

Durability and Build Quality

It’s also worth considering the durability and build quality of a cooler, especially when you start shelling out some more cash. A cooler can be an expensive investment, and if you are planning on using one a lot it’s nice to know that it will hold up to years of use.

Rotomolded Coolers

Rotomolded coolers take the cake in this category again, with their continuous molding design creating a noticeably thick and robust exterior. This method creates a uniform thickness all around. These coolers have superior ice retention and can be a seat or footstool, not to mention withstand attempts at forced entry by grizzly bears. 

Yes, you read that correctly, coolers such as the YETI Tundra 45, Orca 40, and RovR RollR 45 hold certifications from the International Grizzly Bear Committee that state that they successfully withstood attempts at entry from actual grizzly bears.

Not only is this a testament to their durability, but it also allows you to have peace of mind if you do any camping in areas where bears might be of concern. The RTIC 45 also claims to be bear-resistant, yet does not hold the actual certification from the IGBC.

A rotomolded cooler
YETI coolers don’t just look good, they also perform exceptionally well; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

Injection-Molded Coolers

Injection-molded coolers create two separate shells, fused together by insulated foam. They are lighter than their rotomolded counterparts. Yet they are more likely to crack or separate, causing their durability to be called more into question over time. While you can sit on the lids of the Igloo ECOCOOL and the Coleman 316, the noticeable flex of their plastic will make you want to be more careful handling these coolers.

An injection molded cooler
The affordable Igloo ECOCOOL won’t hold ice as long as a YETI, and its plastic components are more likely to break if mishandled, but it’s still a great budget pick; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

Maintenance and Cleaning

After purchasing a new cooler, it’s important to keep up with some basic cleaning and maintenance to ensure its lifespan is as long as it can be. After use, you’ll always want to leave the lid open to let the cooler air dry. This ensures no moisture gets trapped inside, causing mildew or bacterial growth. It’s a great idea to wash the interior with some warm, soapy water, and then let air dry.

You do not want to leave a cooler with food and water in it for days, as this will ensure bacterial growth. All of the coolers in our lineup are relatively easy to clean. The lighter coolers such as the Igloo ECOCOOL and the Coleman 316 can tip over easily when empty and the lid is open. This makes them a little more cumbersome as the lid can flop close on you while giving the scrub down.

Additional Features

Some coolers will have additional features that make them stand out from the pack. Our testers appreciated the cargo net on the back of the Orca 40 more than they initially realized they would, often using it to store knives, utensils, and a small cutting board. The YETI Tundra 45 has a dry rack to keep some items up and away from the ice.

The RovR RollR 45 has the most impressive amount of features and add-ons you can purchase such as an attachment to wheel the cooler around with your bike, a deep dry goods bin that is tall enough for a bottle of wine, or a collapsible fabric bin that rests on top for easy transport of other items for your picnic.

Cup holders
Additional features make some coolers stand out from the rest. Although the Igloo ECOCOOL is a no-frills cooler, it has cup holders on the top which is a nice addition; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

FAQ

What is the best hard cooler?

There is no single best cooler. Really, what’s most important is what you’ll be using the cooler for and how often. If you plan on taking it out every week, a more durable cooler is probably the best pick.

We’ve listed the best cooler (based on our feedback and testing) but also the best budget, the best wheeled cooler, and a few others for you to choose from.

What is the most durable cooler?

The most durable cooler in our testing was a tie between the YETI and the RTIC 45-Quart.

What is the best cooler for the money?

Out of the coolers we tested, you really can’t go wrong with Igloo or Coleman coolers. Both are great quality for the price.

Conversely, most people wonder if YETI is worth that high price tag. The answer is yes, but it’s also overkill for many people — do you really need a cooler to keep ice cold for 10 days? Are you beating up a cooler enough that you need rotomolded construction? Most of us aren’t off the grid in rugged environments for that long or very often.

What is the best type of cooler to buy?

If you’re looking for the best cooler to keep contents cold, a hardside cooler is much better than a softside one. They are also more durable.

But really, the answer to this question is personal. What’s the best type of cooler for you? If you need help answering that question or narrowing down your choices, we’d recommend comparing our best picks.

Are hard coolers better than soft coolers?

Hard coolers usually offer more insulation and much more protection (both inside the cooler and on the exterior). They also offer features that soft coolers can’t, like drainage plugs and wheels for easy transport. Many employ bear-resistant latches and locks so you don’t have to worry about leaving them outside at camp.

If you need a cooler that will live in your garage or vehicle — and that you can also take to the field, beach, or camp — a hard cooler is better. But if you’re concerned about carrying it longer distances or care about weight, a soft cooler might be better. The best option: Get one of each!

Subscribe Now

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!

Join Our GearJunkie Newsletter

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!