The Best Coolers of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

I've spent the last two years field testing over 30 coolers. Here are my top picks across a range of categories
Seven coolers stacked on a dock.

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Whether you are planning an outing to the beach or a week-long camping trip, having a great cooler in your arsenal is a must. But the cooler category is also surprisingly crowded, with everything from small lunchbox style coolers to 82-quart behemoths. I’ve been testing a wide range of coolers over the last two years, pitting models head to head in a variety of tests ranging from ice retention to portability to waterproofness. Here’s what I’ve found to be the best coolers available today.

Best Overall: Magellan Outdoors Pro Explore Icebox 45-QT
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Best Upgrade: Yeti Roadie 48
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Best Wheels: RovR RollR
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Best Small: ORCA Wanderer Tote
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Best Backpack: Hydro Flask Day Escape
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Most Packable: Monti Shasta
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RTIC Ultra-Light Cooler
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Stanley Adventure Cold for Days
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Yeti Hopper M20
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How I Tested the Best Coolers

Over the last two years I’ve tested 30 coolers across a range of criteria. I’ve tested ice retention by filling a half dozen coolers with a bag of ice each and then seeing how long it took to melt.

Day two of the ice retention test revealed some important performance distinctions between the soft-sided coolers and the hard-sided coolers.
Checking the ice retention of a number of small coolers in a side-by-side experiment. Laura Lancaster

I tested waterproofness by filling them with water and then tipping them upside down. Portability has been tested in a number of ways, including wheeling coolers across sandy beach or hauling full-size models up and down stairs.

The Brutank sits in the sand.
Rolling the Brumate Brutank down a set of stairs and onto the beach during portability testing of the best wheeled coolers. 

Laura Lancaster

And I’ll be continuing to test coolers in new and existing categories as time goes on. Read more about the testing protocol and other products tested in the following stories:

Best Coolers: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Magellan Outdoors Pro Explore Icebox 45-QT

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Key Features

  • Weight: 30 pounds
  • Capacity: 45 quarts
  • Warranty: One year

Pros

  • Second longest ice retention in my test
  • Excellent haul handles
  • Easy to use latches that open on both sides
  • Affordably priced

Cons

  • The least comfortable to drag across the testing terrain

The Magellan Outdoors Pro Explore Icebox 45-QT is a great cooler, affordably priced. It held a single bag of ice for over three days. It had excellent haul handles — the only ones in my test that made it comfortable to carry the cooler down stairs or haul it up into my SUV. The latching mechanisms were easy to use and, unusually, were on both sides of the cooler so you could open it from either direction. And it’s half the price of coolers from higher-end brand names. What’s not to love?

The latches on the Magellan cooler.
In addition to having secure, easy-to-use latches, the Magellan cooler also has a handy bottle opener.

Laura Lancaster

The only thing I didn’t love about this cooler were the wheels. In my test of the best coolers with wheels, this one was a real bear to drag across sand, and was less steady pulling down a short series of steps than anything else I looked at.

Author drags Magellan by handle.
In the end, the non-telescoping haul handle on the Magellan Outdoors Pro was too short, which made it surprisingly difficult to haul across everything from muddy fields to sandy beaches. 

Laura Lancaster

The haul handle was also shorter than I would have liked, to the point that I was forced into an awkward stance to pull it. But most people aren’t planning to lug the cooler the length of a football field, and the wheels work just fine to get you from the car to the picnic table.

Best Upgrade: Yeti Roadie 48

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Key Features

  • Weight: 28 pounds
  • Capacity: 76 cans
  • Warranty: Five years

Pros

  • Easy to maneuver over all manner of terrain
  • Latching and telescoping handle work seamlessly
  • Good warranty

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Didn’t hold ice as long as other coolers that I tested

The Yeti Roadie 48 is the cooler that has stayed in my gear closet after years of testing. That’s because it ticks all the boxes: good ice retention, easy to use, and very portable. The interior has plenty of space for all my perishables (and a few beers), and mush-able items like butter and cheese slide into the tray on top. I’ve even found that it fits in the back seat of my adventure vehicle (a Toyota 4runner), even when my kid’s car seat is strapped into the middle of the bench.

Read Next: RTIC vs Yeti: Is a More Expensive Cooler Actually Worth It? 

In my test of wheeled coolers it came in second for portability only to the RovR RollR, while still being easier to use as an actual cooler (simple latching mechanisms help here). While I wish it had done a little better on the ice retention test, its actual capacity relative to its performance was impressive. More insulation would have meant either a bulkier cooler or less interior space. 

A close-up of Yeti's latches.
The latches on the Yeti were secure and easy to use. 

Laura Lancaster

The downside to this Yeti is the same downside with just about everything Yeti makes: It’s really expensive. If this one is too rich for your blood, go with my best overall pick, which was also a standout performer. 

Best Wheels: RovR RollR

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Key Features

  • Weight: 37 pounds
  • Capacity: 45 quarts
  • Warranty: One year

Pros

  • Best in class wheels that can handle anything
  • Good ice retention

Cons

  • Difficult to use latching mechanism
  • Shorter warranty despite higher price point

If you’re planning to wheel your cooler a quarter mile across a rocky beach there’s no question which one you need: the RovR RollR. These are serious wheels, more akin to what you’d see on your fat-tire bike than the typical plastic pieces. And the telescoping handle was the longest in my test, which both improved my posture and my leverage. This cooler practically bounced down the steps in my testing circuit for the best wheeled coolers and was equally smooth pulling across both sand and mud. 

The Rovr RollR has actual wheels.
The heavy-duty wheels on the RovR RollR were the best in my test of the best wheeled coolers. 

Laura Lancaster

While this cooler with wheels did well on the ice retention test, it’s worth noting that it had less capacity (relative to its overall size) and weighed more than other coolers I looked at. If you’re packing up the family car for a long weekend of camping, this one may not have the space efficiency that you need.

ROVR RollR cooler sits open on a dock.
The RovR RollR 60 had less interior space than I expected for a cooler of its size. Laura Lancaster

I was also a little frustrated by its latching mechanism. While very secure (it was closest to being waterproof of the other wheeled coolers tested), the latch was annoyingly difficult to get on. Young children will not be able to open and close this cooler on their own. 

Read our full best wheeled coolers test to see more options.

Best Small Cooler: ORCA Wanderer Tote

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Key Features

  • Capacity: 15 liters
  • Weight: 6.3 pounds
  • Ice Melt Test: 60 hours
  • Warranty: Three years

Pros

  • Great ice retention
  • Easy to use latch
  • Waterproof
  • Fun color options

Cons

  • Doesn’t pack down
  • Slightly less capacity than other models I looked at

The Orca Wanderer Tote was easily top of the field in my test of the best small coolers. It had excellent ice retention, coming in a close second to the Brumate MagPack. It took 60 hours for 7 pounds of ice to completely melt at room temperature (68 to 72 degrees). That kind of performance tells me that not only is this cooler going to keep everything cold for your day at the beach, it’s also equipped for a weekend car camping getaway. That’s impressive for a soft cooler.

But the ice retention wasn’t the only thing I loved about the Orca Wanderer Tote. I was very impressed by the latching system. Along with the Yeti Hopper M20, these were the easiest latches to use in my test, which is important when you’ve got other people going in and out of your cooler all day. The easier the latch, the more likely people will use it. Even better, when latched, this cooler was fully waterproof. While this cooler doesn’t pack down at all, and wasn’t as comfortable to carry as other soft coolers I looked at, it’s still miles better than a traditional hard-sided cooler. If you’re looking for a soft-sided cooler to round out your hot-weather arsenal, the Orca Wanderer Tote should go to the top of your list. 

Best Backpack: Hydro Flask Day Escape

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Key Features

  • Capacity: 20 liters
  • Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Insulation Test: 48 hours
  • Warranty: Five years

Pros

  • Very comfortable to carry
  • Waterproof
  • Mesh pocket 

Cons

  • Not the best ice retention

The Hydro Flask Day Escape has one of the most comfortable carries I’ve tested. This is what I would choose if I had to carry a few six packs more than 50 yards. This is in large part due to its shape: It has a wider frame, with less depth, which holds the weight closer to your body than models that were free form or structured like a traditional cooler. 

While the backpack had (just) enough structure to support a heavier load, the lack of hip belt means that you should resist the urge to fully load this one up before heading out on a longer hike. One feature common to backpacks but not to backpack coolers that the Day Escape included was a haul handle, which is handy for at-home storage. 

The extra padding and wide frame made the Hydroflask Day Escape the most comfortable backpack cooler to carry.
The extra padding and wide frame made the Hydro Flask Day Escape the most comfortable backpack cooler to carry. Laura Lancaster

In addition to being comfortable, the Hydro Flask Day Escape is fully waterproof and holding ice for 37 hours during my insulation test — not the longest in my test, but plenty for a picnic or day hike. I also liked that it had an outside mesh pocket — useful for stashing small items or needing somewhere to stick your trail beer on the go. 

Most Packable: Monti Shasta 

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Key Features

  • Capacity: 23 liters
  • Weight: .9 pound
  • Ice Melt Test: 55 hours

Pros

  • Packs down very small
  • Great ice retention
  • Affordably priced

Cons

  • Prone to condensation (although otherwise waterproof)
  • Lack of structure means it’s easier to tip over and can have knobby bits when fully packed
  • Sling style strap is less comfortable for long distances than traditional backpack straps

If you’re looking for a small cooler to save on space, then the Monti Shasta is the one for you. The exterior pocket doubles as a stuff sack for the rest of the cooler, which reduces the size down to 9 by 8 inches. Prior to testing I guessed this would negatively impact its performance in the ice retention test, not so. It was tied with the Yeti Hopper M20, taking 55 hours for 7 pounds of ice to melt. Even better: You have the option to use the rolltop to squeeze the excess air out of the small cooler when in transit, which should up its performance even more. This is a great, space-saving cooler with a unique design at a good price. 

The Monti Cooler, next to a power bank for scale, squishes down to a surprisingly small size. 
The Monti Cooler, next to a power bank for scale, squishes down to a surprisingly small size. 

Laura Lancaster

After the first day of testing, I noticed some moisture on the exterior of the Monti Shasta. At first I thought it was leaking, but the limited amount of wetness over the course of two and a half days of testing suggests this was something else: condensation, a lot of condensation. Once you figure out what’s going on, it’s not a problem, but expect there to be a small wet spot wherever this cooler is sitting. Though, during testing, the zip and roll-top closure proved to be completely waterproof. It’s also worth noting that due to its design, this small cooler doesn’t have the structure of the other options in this story. It sits upright just fine, but will be more prone to tipping. 

RTIC 52-QT Ultra-Light Cooler

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Key Features

  • Weight: 21 pounds
  • Capacity: 52 quarts
  • Warranty: Three years

Pros

  • Affordably priced
  • Very lightweight for its size and performance

Cons

  • Not as good ice retention as other things I looked at

Test enough rotomolded coolers and one thing becomes clear: These suckers are heavy. So I was pleasantly surprised when I first lifted the RTIC Ultralight. Despite a fairly large capacity for a camping cooler, it was surprisingly light. (At least when empty.)

The Rtic has mesh on the underside of the lid.
A mesh pouch under the lid was a nice touch on the Rtic 52-QT Ultralight.

Laura Lancaster

While the RTIC Ultralight Cooler was easier to pull across my wheeled-cooler testing circuit than the Magellan Outdoors Pro Explore (which also has a haul handle) it, unfortunately, did not do as well in the ice retention test. If you need to keep your items cool for a long period of time, this could mean that you need more ice than with other coolers.

Stanley Adventure Cold for Days

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Key Features

  • Weight: 13.6 pounds
  • Capacity: 30 quarts 
  • Warranty: Three years

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Streamlined design works well for smaller cars

Cons

  • May not have enough storage space for longer adventures

For campers that have a sedan as their primary vehicle (that was me for years), a 3-foot long cooler capable of storing enough of the best camping meals for a family of six for a week is frankly overkill. A family of four would find the Stanley Adventure Cold for Days is the perfect size for a weekend trip with plenty of room to stash snacks for the kids and adult beverages for the parents. Two people would have plenty of room for a longer getaway. 

This cooler held its own during the ice retention test. Impressive as the Stanley Adventure for Days Cooler is, it was one of the few in my test that isn’t rotomolded (considered by many to be an industry standard in the best camping coolers). But it also had several features that I appreciated, including a fairly simple click latching system (no difficulty in managing the rubber latches here). I also liked that the drainage port cap was connected to the rest of the cooler, making it harder for forgetful campers (i.e., me) to lose it over the long haul. 

But perhaps the biggest draw of this camping cooler is its significantly lower price point, a third the cost of the highest-priced cooler in my test of the best camping coolers. If you’re just getting started camping with your friends or significant other, then this is an excellent choice that will last you for years. 

Yeti Hopper M20

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Key Features

  • Capacity: 20 liters
  • Weight: 4.5 pounds
  • Ice Melt Test: 55 hours
  • Warranty: Three years

Pros

  • Great ice retention
  • Excellent latch
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Shoulder straps are a little stiff to start

Like with so many of their products, Yeti nailed nearly all the details on their Hopper M20 Backpack cooler, but at a cost. This one was over three times the price of my best value pick for the best backpack coolers. 

Ice retention was excellent with the Yeti Hopper M20 backpack, tying for third in my test with the Monti Shasta. It also has an unusually excellent latching system. There are two buckles to tie down the roll-top opening for waterproof transport. But when you’re at the beach and your friends are going in and out of the cooler for brews, you won’t have to worry that they forgot to close the cooler, because there is a magnetic closure that is super effective, closing securely with the slightest effort. Check and check. The only real ding (besides price) are the straps, which are a little stiff out of the box, but I expect them to soften up over time.  

Things to Consider When Purchasing the Best Cooler

Ice Retention of the Best Coolers

I’ve seen a wide range of ice retention capability in my years of testing coolers, and one thing has become clear: You get what you pay for. In almost all scenarios, the coolers that have the best ice retention have been the most expensive. However, how much ice retention you need personally will vary. If you’re only planning to head out for the day or overnight, you can get away with a less capable cooler than if you need three bags of ice to last for a week or more. Consider your needs before making a final purchase.

Size of the Best Coolers

There are two dimensions you should be concerned with when it comes to coolers: external size and internal size. The external size will need to fit your available storage, both in your home and in your car. The internal size will need to hold sufficient food, beverages, and ice to meet your needs. Consider both dimensions before making a final purchase.

Portability of the Best Coolers

In testing coolers, which typically involves hauling them up and down several flights of stairs and into my car before I even get to a testing site, the details that make for a portable cooler really start to pop. For large, non-wheeled coolers, comfortable haul handles are everything. For wheeled ones, a short handle can make for a miserable experience. Some small coolers sit comfortable against your body when you’re carrying them. Others are awkward and dig into your legs. And, as someone who has tested a number of the best backpacks, I’m still waiting for a backpack cooler that I’d actually want to take on a longer hike.

Latching Mechanism of the Best Coolers

You can maximize the ice retention of your cooler by keeping it closed. That sounds like an obvious point, but how easy the latches are to use can really impact how this plays out in practice, especially when children are involved. If you expect a variety of people to go in and out of your cooler all day, look for latches that are simple and secure, and don’t require a lot of torque.

FAQs

Q: What cooler is better than Yeti?

In my testing, only one cooler brand approached the performance level of Yeti: RovR. In fact, I think that cooler has significantly better wheels and is generally more portable than Yeti.

Q: What cooler stays cold the longest?

In my years of testing over 30 coolers, the Brumate Brutank held a 7-pound bag of ice the longest: It took over three days for it to fully melt. However, it’s worth noting that this cooler has a similar packed size to coolers with 10 quarts more interior space.

Q: How much do coolers cost?

Coolers can cost anywhere from $50 to $500.

Final Thoughts on the Best Coolers

One of the best cooler can really elevate your outdoor experience. The options here are my favorite picks after years of testing dozens of models.

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Laura Lancaster

Staff Writer

Laura Lancaster is Outdoor Life's gear staff writer where she focuses on in-depth testing of backpacking and camping gear, with a particular interest in lightweight and ultralight gear. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter.

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