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Published Feb 2, 2022 3:00 PM

The best coolers for camping are supposed to improve your trips and make your experience more enjoyable. Yet, we’ve all opened the cooler only to find our food bobbing around like apples at the local fair. It’s the worst feeling knowing your trip will be cut short because your ice melted and your food spoiled.

Choosing the right cooler for camping is a crucial part of avoiding this disaster and relaxing in the woods. A good camping cooler must be sized right for your trip, be sturdy enough to hold up to what camp throws at it, and above all, hold ice for days on end.

The coolers I chose are designed to help make your time away from the chaos of everyday life more enjoyable no matter the style of camping you choose. Here are some of the best camping coolers for 2022.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Camping Cooler

Many people are apprehensive when it comes to buying a quality camping cooler and rightfully so, it’s a lot of money to spend especially if you’re not quite sure what you want. What style of camping do you enjoy? Is weight a major concern? How long do you plan to be out there? A good camping cooler should fit all these criteria and more. Figuring out these simple things can put you on the right path to make a good investment in the best coolers for camping that are worthy of every penny you spend.

Size

When it comes time to buy a cooler think about how big you need it to be. The larger 65-quart coolers might be appealing, but what if you drive a small sedan? A cooler this size will take up all your space leaving you little room to pack the rest of your gear. For others, size might not be an issue, but you still have to consider size and weight. If you’re a weekend warrior, smaller coolers like a 40 quart might be perfect while a week-long trip needs to be a larger model. Matching the cooler size to your needs is a crucial first step in finding the right cooler.

Camping Style

Take into account the type of camping trip you plan to embark on. For most, a standard hard cooler will be great for a family retreat into the woods. They are excellent at keeping ice and can serve multiple purposes in camp. However, some prefer to truly get out and explore which can require hiking miles into the woods away from crowds. A soft backpack cooler is a great alternative, allowing you to hike into the backcountry while avoiding those dreaded freeze-dried meals. If you plan on doing more than just camping, certain coolers may be better than others. A small cooler can be great for keeping food and drinks around camp and can double as a casting platform or seat on a boat. Look for a cooler that fits your preferred method of camping to get the most out of your purchase.

Durability

Not all coolers are created equal. A durable cooler should have rubber latches or a heavy-duty alternative. Look for coolers that are roto-molded or injection molded with thick material. These may be heavier but when it comes down to it, they outlast any cheaply made models. If you find yourself camping in bear country there are also several coolers approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) to withstand a hungry Grizzly. While these options come with an added price tag, it’s certainly worth the investment when you don’t have to keep buying new coolers every few years.

Ice Time

This one should go without saying but can easily be overlooked if you aren’t careful. Not all coolers use the same technology to keep ice and that results in some coolers performing better than others. The amount of insulation in a cooler is a big factor influencing how long they keep ice for. Thicker walled coolers are better insulated and tend to hold ice longer than thin-walled counterparts. With this, an important lesson for any cooler owner is to learn how to properly prepare your cooler for a trip. Coolers aren’t necessarily designed to keep things cold; they are designed to insulate. If you keep your cooler in a hot garage and throw in a few bags of ice before you go it will all melt as the heat stored in the cooler transfers to the ice. Bringing the cooler inside the house the night before or sacrificing a bag of ice to prechill your cooler will help keep ice for days on end.

Best Cooler for Camping Overall: OtterBox Venture 65

Best Overall

Key Features

  • Weight: 32.95 lbs
  • Dimensions: 40.01” L x 18.76” W x 18.83” H
  • Volume: Holds exactly 65 quarts

Why it Made the Cut?

OtterBox’s Venture 65 is a well-constructed addition to any camping trip with versatile accessories to make your trip more enjoyable making it our choice for the best cooler for camping overall.

Pros:

  • Lightweight for its size
  • Strong latch system for keeping food cold
  • Accessories that are perfect for camping trips

Cons:

  • Carry handles are slightly bulky

The OtterBox Venture 65 cooler is one of those unusual pieces of gear that excels at multitasking. As a cooler, I was immediately impressed with its ability to hold ice for up to 16 days. I’ve spent countless days with a UV index in the double digits chasing fish in Florida’s shallow water bays and never had an issue keeping my food and drinks ice cold. But what sets this cooler apart in the camping world are several well-thought-out accessories. The side table is my favorite. Complete with three cup holders and a removable cutting board, this turns the cooler into a table. On a recent fishing trip in the backcountry of the Florida Everglades, this feature saved me the hassle of lugging around extra camp furniture on a small skiff with limited space. Having a table attached to a cooler keeps everything right in front of you. I can pull out an onion from my cooler dice it on the cutting board and throw it in the pan just us as easily as I can fillet a fish on the water.

Best Soft Cooler: Hydroflask 20L Day Escape Soft Cooler Pack

Best Soft-Sided

Key Features:

  • Weight: 3 lbs
  • Dimensions: 17.70″ H x 13.00″ W x 7.80″ D
  • Volume: 20 L

Why it Made the Cut?

The lightweight and portable design make this ideal for backpacking and overnight camping trips.

Pros:

  • Comfortable for long hikes
  • Fully Waterproof
  • The waterproof zipper is easy to open

Cons:

  • Space is limited to shorter camping trips

Recently several soft cooler backpacks have flooded the market and the Hydroflask Day Escape Soft Cooler Pack stands out among them as the best soft cooler. It’s lightweight with plenty of space for short backpacking trips and will keep food cold and fresh. On a recent two-day trip with a friend, this cooler performed flawlessly and saved us from eating those dreaded freeze-dried meals. I carried the cooler backpack loaded with food, water, and some basic camping supplies in the accessory pocket while the other carried a pack with the remaining necessities. After several miles of hiking to a remote campsite I was surprised how comfortable this cooler was, it felt no different from a small day pack I’d usually carry. Another great feature is the waterproof design. With this pack weather is no worry, it is fully waterproof inside and out, so you can stuff your valuables inside in case a surprise storm pops up.

Best Small Cooler: Orca 40-Quart

Best Small

Key Features:

  • Weight: 27 lbs
  • Dimensions: 36” L x 19” W x 17” H
  • Volume: 40 quarts

Why it Made the Cut:

This American-made and rugged cooler is extremely versatile.

Pros:

  • Wide and sturdy base
  • Mesh Pocket for extra storage
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Rubber hatches take a little bit to break-in

Any cooler should be able to hold ice and keep things cold, but a multifaceted piece of gear like the Orca 40-Quart sets it apart from others. On a recent trip, I saw first-hand all the things you can do with it. With 40 quarts of storage, it has plenty of room for several days away from civilization. Unlike other coolers this size, it is shorter and wider which creates a low center of gravity, which makes it easy to stand on. I discovered this on a recent fishing trip when I used it as a casting platform to spot hard-to-see Redfish cruising the flats.

In camp, the size is perfect to fit in just about any vehicle you plan to bring and light enough to carry it around by yourself. It also has a unique feature among coolers with a built-in accessory pouch on the back of the cooler. Little things I use frequently like a camp knife, fire starter, or bug spray stay secure and close by at all times.

Best Cooler for the Money: RTIC 52-QT Ultra-Light Cooler

Best for the Money

Key Features:

  • Weight: 21 lbs
  • Dimensions: 27” L x 18” W x 18” H
  • Volume: 52 quarts

Why it Made the Cut:

An amazing volume-to-weight ratio with a price tag affordable for all.

Pros:

  • The lightest hard cooler I tested
  • Includes a divider and basket
  • A great budget-friendly option

Cons:

  • The ultra-light model is only available in the 52 qt size

RTIC coolers are known for making the best cooler for the money and the RTIC 52-QT Ultra-Light Cooler is no exception. Coming in at just 21 pounds it was the lightest hard cooler I tested which says something since it is considerably larger than other models of similar weight. This is my go-to if I know I’ll be in the woods for a while and plan to go solo. Even loaded full of ice and food it is light enough that I can carry it by myself. The lightweight construction allows me to pack more stuff than I typically would while still being manageable. In my day-to-day life, I find myself using this cooler a lot as it holds ice well and is easy enough to throw in the bed of my truck for when I need it most.

Best Cooler for Ice Retention: Yeti Tundra 65

Best for Ice Retention

Key Features:

  • Weight: 29 lbs
  • Dimensions: 30 5/8” L x 17 1/4” W x 16” H
  • Volume: 65 quarts

Why it Made the Cut:

A bear-proof cooler built for the toughest conditions you can throw at it.

Pros:

  • Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) approved
  • Plenty of accessory options
  • Available in a wide variety of colors including signature seasonal colors

Cons:

  • Higher priced than most

Yeti burst on the cooler scene fifteen years ago with the original roto-molded coolers and has been producing an amazing product ever since. The Yeti Tundra 65 is the perfect size cooler to go anywhere and do anything making it the best cooler for ice retention. When it comes to camping it’s a bulletproof option that holds ice for days on end. I put this cooler through the wringer on a recent fishing expedition. There is no shortage of nature in the Everglades but there is a shortage of ice. Once you pass a certain point, civilization can be hours away and I knew I needed my food and catch to stay cold for the days ahead. The Tundra performed flawlessly, keeping ice for the entire week-long trip, and is built tough to withstand the abuse a camping fisherman will throw at it.

Rated to withstand Alaska’s toughest Grizzly Bears, I had no worries being around countless raccoons and curious black bears that are too plentiful in Florida. What many don’t realize about Yeti coolers is their versatility. As a camp cooler, it works great, but it also shines for anyone trying to keep things warm. It is built on the principle of insulation and that means keeping things hot or cold. This comes in handy when smoking a brisket or other cuts of meat. I simply place the finished product in the empty cooler and slowly bring it down to a resting temperature while sealing in moisture for the perfect barbecue.

Methodology

As an avid angler, I find myself traveling to remote places, setting up camp, and roughing it for days in search of the next fish of a lifetime. This means bringing food and water in tough-to-reach places far from civilization. I depend on my coolers to keep my ice frozen and my food fresh even on the hottest days of summer. When it came time to test the best coolers on the market, I knew what I was looking for. To find the best coolers for camping, I meticulously tested each cooler in the harshest conditions I come across to make sure they’d be up to the task of anyone out there.

I based my selections on the following criteria:

  • Durability: What materials go into the cooler and how well do they insulate them?
  • Weight: How heavy are they and how does this affect the design?
  • Size: How much ice does it hold and is it better for a weekend trip or multiple days?
  • Design: What key features are built into the cooler like pockets or bottle openers?
  • Accessories: Are there a decent number of accessories available like rod holders or tie downs?
  • Value: Does the price of the cooler match its performance?

Read Next: How to Choose the Best YETI Cooler for You

FAQs


Q: How big of a cooler do you need for 3 days camping

?

Anywhere from a 40-quart to a 65-quart cooler is good for a 3-day camping trip. With that said, there are several other factors that go into sizing your cooler correctly. Think about how many people are going on the trip, how much food or drink you may need, and then size correctly. Camping in the heat of summer requires extra water and you need extra space. It never hurts to slightly oversize in case you need more space for whatever your trip throws at you.

Q: How much does a cooler cost

?

A good camping cooler should cost between $200 and $400 but there are countless great options available at any price point. In this range, you will get a cooler that will hold ice for days and is built to withstand whatever you throw at it. This may seem steep for something that holds ice but it’s a worthy investment if you plan on camping a lot. You’ll be surprised how often a good cooler comes in handy.

Q: Which cooler should I buy for camping?

Finding the best coolers for camping can be tricky but take into account your preferred style of camping. This will help you decide on what cooler is best for you. Think about size, weight, and how it fits into your budget and you’ll find the perfect match. While it’s always nice to buy the most popular brand cooler it might not always be the best fit for you. There are countless options on the market so do some research and you’ll be happy with the choice you make.

Final Thoughts on the Best Cooler for Camping

Finding the best coolers for camping can make the difference between an enjoyable trip or a short-lived one when your ice runs out. The perfect cooler holds ice for multiple days, is rugged and reliable, and doubles as more than just a cooler. My top picks cover a wide variety of camping coolers from hard-sided to soft backpack styles. There is something for just about any situation you’ll find yourself in. Do some research and look for a cooler that will serve you best and you’ll be happy with the investment.