Hard-sided coolers make for rugged and durable ice chests. They’re typically made with hard-plastic walls, but some feature aluminum or stainless steel construction. A hard-sided cooler is a great choice for any outdoorsman who wants serious cooling power for the food and beverages you’d like to have your next hunting, fishing, or camping trip, not to mention a neighborhood cookout. And you can use a hard-sided cooler as a seat, a table, or a place to put a lantern. Hard coolers aren’t as easily transported as soft coolers, but they boast better ice retention, will last longer, and can take abuse without effect. Here are three tips for choosing the best hard-sided cooler for you.

Cooler size is measured in volume, which is generally given in quarts. Keep in mind that 30 to 50% of your cooler’s capacity will be taken up by ice. 15- to 30-quart coolers are good for personal use, while 40- to 50- quart coolers are good for small gatherings or longer expeditions with a couple of friends. A 60-plus quart cooler will suffice for large groups or multi-day boat trips.

Packing a cooler correctly is important. Excess air inside of a cooler allows ice to melt more rapidly, which reduces the cooler’s effectiveness. When you’re packing a cooler, limit the amount of excess air as much as possible, either by adding more ice or previously chilled food and drinks.

When you’re shopping for a cooler, keep in mind the product’s dimensions as well as its storage capacity, especially if you are hoping to store it in a specific spot in your boat or vehicle. Hard-sided coolers won’t compress like soft coolers will, which means that you can’t fit it into a space smaller than the cooler’s dimensions. Measure your car trunk or other storage area before you buy.