The perfect coolers of 2021

Now that many pandemic-related restrictions are lastly lifting, tenting journeys and backyard get-togethers have by no means sounded extra interesting. That is why an honest, reliable cooler makes for a very worthy splurge. However with numerous coolers available in shops and on-line, which one must you get?

The listing of choices has grown steadily lately. Chief amongst them are a rising variety of heavy-duty, rotomolded coolers that ship dense, thick insulation superior to conventional coolers (and carry out higher than a cooler bag or gentle cooler by leaps and bounds). They may additionally price tons of of {dollars} greater than you could be used to paying for a cooler. Maintain buying and you will find coolers with energy, coolers on wheels, even a cooler backpack or two — really coolers so far as the attention can see. If that sounds a tad overwhelming, do not fret. Your entire level of this listing is to make discovering a premium cooler simpler for you.

Over the previous 4 years, we have examined dozens of coolers, 25 of that are nonetheless commercially accessible as of this writing. I’ve damaged them down into three dimension classes. The small or private sized coolers promote inner volumes of lower than 45 quarts (that is 11.25 gallons or 42.6 liters). Midsized coolers, the place most of your high choices appear to land, vary between 45 and 59 quarts. The biggest “occasion” coolers boast volumes over 60 quarts (15 gallons or 56.8 liters).


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Is greater at all times higher? Are the dearer coolers truly price their asking costs? And may any of the cheaper fashions sustain?

That is what I wished to know, so I grabbed the standard suspects — RubbermaidIglooColemanOrcaRovrYetiPelicanRTICCabela’s and extra — and lugged their hottest fashions into the CNET Residence check lab. My mission? Discover the most effective coolers of the bunch, and categorize them in a method that can make it simple so that you can discover the right cooler in your wants. 

After a number of weeks of hands-on testing and numerous ambient temperature readings (after all issues just like the inclusion of a cup holder or bottle opener is essential, however essentially the most crucial factor a top quality cooler does is maintain your chilly drinks chilly), I’ve separated the winners from the also-rans. This is every thing I realized, beginning with the coolers I believe it’s best to rush out and purchase earlier than your subsequent tenting journey or huge household gathering. I will replace this listing periodically.

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Taking the crown of finest cooler general is the Xspec 60qt Rotomolded Excessive Efficiency cooler. Obtained colder sooner than its rivals? Test. Coldest temp reached in our lab exams at 43.8 levels Fahrenheit? Test. Simple to shut and open latches? Test. Metallic bolstered lock space, nonslip toes, etched rulers, inbuilt compass for if you get misplaced? All at a $235 price ticket? Checkity examine examine. 

Chart-topping efficiency with a median price ticket on a fairly sized cooler will get the highlight. This cooler would additionally get the nod as finest rotomolded worth, coming in because the least costly rotomolded cooler we have examined so far. 

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The efficiency knowledge between this newcomer and the earlier titleholder, the Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler, was almost equivalent. The Yeti obtained a little colder, and the Magellan held its temp a little longer. The true deciding issue right here is the worth. At $120, the Magellan Outdoor unit is lower than half the price of the Yeti. 

Except for efficiency, this cooler gives loads of different extras, together with fairly probably my favourite lid design: dual-side latches that may double as hinges, permitting you to open the cooler from both facet. Genius. Whilst you’re at it, Magellan tosses in a few bottle openers, a steel bolstered lock space and a drain plug.

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Our rotomolded cooler decide from earlier years, this Orca cooler is simply flat-out powerful to beat in terms of efficiency. The Bison Gen 2 cooler got here shut, and even reached a minimal temp that was one tenth of a level colder than the Orca’s low, and a bit prior to the Orca did, too — however general, the Orca is ready to maintain these low temperatures for longer. 

It does carry a $340 price ticket, so it stands as some of the costly choices we have examined so far. However generally you do get what you pay for.

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Together with the aforementioned Orca, Cabela’s Polar Cap Equalizer is one other rotomolded winner from earlier years that continues to be on our listing of high picks. The Polar Cap obtained a few diploma colder than the Orca did, it has about 3 quarts extra inner quantity, and it prices about 10 bucks extra at $350. Once more, you are going to pay for this stage of efficiency (and the intelligent built-in bottle openers within the latches), but when top-of-the-line efficiency is what you are after, the place to begin.

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Let me begin by saying this: The sheer quantity of options and equipment makes this cooler really feel extra like a “mates or household to the lake” cooler than one you take in your subsequent prolonged tenting journey. There is no lid latch on this one, and all the extras eat into the inside quantity, lowering its claimed 70-quart storage by about 15% to 60.3 quarts. 

That being mentioned, listed below are among the included goodies: Outsized, never-flat wheels, a steel telescoping locking deal with that pulls double obligation as a mounting level for the included serving tray, a dry/meals basket, padded glove field, two accent/bottle holders, 4 cup holders on the lid, and a built-in cell gadget stand, two bottle openers, 4 tie-down factors, an out of doors pocket, and a detachable serving tray securely saved on the underside of the lid. Oh, and the drain plug, cannot overlook that. 

The Igloo Trailmate did not carry out poorly — it truly outperformed all the coolers exterior of the opposite high suggestions listed right here. And that is no small feat for a cooler with no latching or pressurized lid to assist comprise that chilly air. 

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It is onerous to go flawed at this value if you take a look at the temperature graph. The truth is, the Coleman Occasion Stacker completed with the third coldest temperature in its dimension class. It does not maintain that temp so long as the opposite coolers, however in the event you’re planning to load up, get busy and be finished inside a 12-hour window, you should have no issues. 

The opposite distinctive function about this line of Colemans is that they’ve a number of shapes and sizes of Stacker coolers, and so they’re all designed to be, properly, stackable and interlocking. Combine and match, stack and go.

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You’ve got obtained numerous choices in order for you a wheeled cooler, but when it had been me, I might save up and plunk down $450 for the Rovr Rollr 60. Although it wasn’t fairly as robust of a performer as Cabela’s or Xspec, it nonetheless completed our exams with above-average cooling capabilities, and it was, by far, the simplest and most comfy cooler to move from level A to level B. That is good, as a result of this cooler can be a ache to hold. With 9-inch wheels and a body constructed from chrome steel and aluminum, the Rollr is kind of heavy even earlier than you begin loading cans, water bottles and different drinks into it. 

On high of that, I just like the included detachable material wagon bin and the plastic dry bin that helps you retain your meals and drinks separate from moist ice. When you’re keen to pay slightly further, you possibly can customise your cooler with extras like a built-in prep board for campsite cooking, stainless-steel bottle holders or perhaps a $54 Bikr Kit that makes it simple to tow the Rollr behind a motorcycle (although, at $450 for the cooler, I want at the very least one or two of those kits got here included). 

What we have examined

These coolers are at the moment commercially accessible from the handfuls which have been examined over the previous couple of years. This is a linked listing with transient insights:

How we examined them

Ice retention

The massive differentiator that you will hear loads about as you store for a cooler is ice retention — particularly, how lengthy a cooler can maintain a full load of ice frozen (melted ice, a.ok.a water, is not nearly as good at protecting drinks chilly). The brand new, costly choices all grasp their hat on this check, with rotomolded coolers particularly designed to ace it (and in doing so, justify their value tags).

That is all properly and good, however I apprehensive that a regular ice retention check by itself would not inform us the entire story. Positive, some coolers would in all probability maintain the ice frozen for lots longer than others, however utilizing the melting level as your metric appears to ignore every thing that comes earlier than. I wished to get sense of efficiency not simply days in, however hours in, earlier than any of the ice had even melted in any respect.

To do this, I began with a modified model of the ice retention check. As a substitute of a full load of ice in every cooler, I went with simply 3 kilos — not even half of a small bag from the gasoline station. Much less ice meant extra of a problem for the coolers, which might hopefully give us a extra granular take a look at how properly they carry out relative to 1 one other. 

Particularly, I wished to trace the ambient temperature in every cooler, so I unfold the ice in every one I examined beneath an elevated jar of propylene glycol answer (watered-down antifreeze) with a temperature probe in it. Why elevated? The temperature down within the ice would have been roughly the identical in all the coolers, leaving retention as the one actual variable. Monitoring the ambient temperature up above it was way more telling, and it gave us some extra variables to contemplate.

Oh, and I did all of this in one among our equipment lab’s climate-controlled check chambers, and I made certain to let every cooler sit opened within the room for a number of hours beforehand as a way to make sure that all of them began at room temperature (about 70 levels F).

Ultimately, it turned out to be a fruitful check. After 48 hours, I had a nifty graph exhibiting me the temperature inside every cooler on a minute-by-minute foundation — and the distinction from cooler to cooler was hanging. To assist put this knowledge in perspective, I did break down the coolers into separate dimension classes for the reason that impact of three kilos of ice on a 20-quart cooler would look completely different than on a 70-quart cooler. That left me with small coolers (lower than 45 quarts), midsize coolers (45-59 quarts), and enormous coolers (60 quarts or extra). 

Capability concerns

If we will discuss efficiency, we’ve got to speak about capability, too. Although some sizes are extra widespread than others (50-quart, as an illustration), there actually is not a lot uniformity amongst coolers so far as dimension and form are involved. Aside from figuring out what number of cans of beer every one will maintain, dimension and form will clearly have an effect on efficiency, too. In any case, with the amount of ice being equal, a 70-quart cooler just like the Coleman Xtreme Marine Cooler has an even bigger job on its fingers than the 48-quart Igloo Island Breeze.

I did my finest to account for these dimension variations as I evaluated every cooler’s relative efficiency, however first, I wanted to ensure that I had correct measurements. That meant placing these producer capability claims to the check, and I wished a greater, extra common metric than simply counting what number of cans I might cram into every one.


I used to be capable of fill the Lifetime Excessive Efficiency Cooler with 62.4 quarts of water with out inflicting it to overflow after I shut the lid. That is 13.5 % larger than marketed.

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To that finish, I rigorously crammed every cooler with water, measuring out the precise variety of quarts every one might maintain earlier than I used to be now not capable of shut the lid with out overflowing, essential data to have if you’re coping with massive portions of melted ice. If something, the cheaper fashions had been largely conservative of their estimates, with ones just like the Coleman Xtreme and Igloo Latitude wheeled coolers coming in a number of quarts extra sizable than marketed.

The costly guys? Not fairly a lot. Rovr pegs the capability of its $400 Rollr wheeled cooler at 60 quarts, however I might solely match 52.8 quarts of water inside after I measured for myself. The $300 Yeti Tundra 45 wasn’t as spacious as anticipated, both, holding simply 38 quarts of water earlier than overflowing with the lid closed. That is a number of quarts lower than the 45 quarts implied by the product identify (good strive, Yeti).

That could be partially as a result of the Yeti’s partitions are significantly thicker than the opposite coolers’ — which, in flip, might be a giant motive why the factor carried out so properly. You are getting thick insulation, however on the expense of capability. I believe that is an affordable commerce in a tough shell cooler, however I want Yeti had been extra clear about it.

In the meantime, for a similar value, the 58-quart Orca Classic Cooler got here in proper on the cash at 58.1 quarts measured — and whereas it did not maintain its ice so long as the Yeti did, it nonetheless completed as one among our high performers. Yeti’s Hopper Backflip 24, a soft-sided backpack cooler, had essentially the most understated quantity of all coolers we have examined to this point. Claiming house for 20 12-ounce cans at a 2:1 ice-to-can ratio for a complete of twenty-two.5 quarts, I discovered the inner quantity to really be 26.42 quarts, which is 117.4 % of the acknowledged quantity (about one further six-pack in comparison with different 20-quart coolers). The worst offender, providing solely 86.1 % of its claimed 70-quart capability, was the Igloo Journey Trailmate.

Bison gives numerous optionally available extras for its rotomolded coolers, together with nonslip mats for the lid so you possibly can stand on the cooler to solid a fishing line.

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Mobility and sturdiness

I additionally took every cooler’s design and options into consideration as I examined, and stored an eye fixed out for sturdiness considerations. I wasn’t impressed with the lid on the Igloo Latitude wheeled cooler, as an illustration. It does not lock shut, and the plastic nub hinges are a complete joke. Give it a modest yank, and the entire lid comes proper off — and a budget plastic wheels did not go away me impressed, both. Not nice in the event you’re searching for a tenting cooler. 

The Rovr Rollr wheeled cooler fared significantly better, because of a rugged design that options heavy-duty wheels, a sturdy metal handlebar and an optionally available $50 accent that allows you to tow it behind your bike. I additionally appreciated that the inside comes with a divider that makes it simple to maintain objects you don’t need getting moist separate from the ice, and that you may customise it with completely different inside liner designs. My solely qualm — that T-shaped handlebar consists of comfortable rubber grips on the perimeters, however not within the center, the spot you may truly need to maintain as you lug it round one-handed.


Strive as I’d, I can not fairly catch all the Igloo Trailmate’s snazzy options in a single picture. 

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On the subject of wheeled coolers, the Igloo Journey Trailmate 70qt All-Terrain cooler additionally got here with a dizzying quantity of extras and options (scope the total listing above below “Greatest cooler options”). Total, it wasn’t fairly as sturdy because the Rovr, however I believe they’re largely designed for various functions. If I am trekking into the woods for a weekend with a few buddies, I will take the Rovr, no query. But when I am headed to the seaside with the household for a day, I am in all probability going to go for the Igloo. 

Oh, and in the event you’ll be spending numerous time tenting in a spot the place bears are a priority, you then’ll in all probability need to spend money on a bear-resistant cooler. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee retains a running list of certified options, which incorporates quite a few coolers from this rundown. A number of fashions I’ve examined from Cabela’s, Orca, Rovr, Magellan and Yeti all make the lower.

It is also price contemplating whether or not or not your cooler is sturdy sufficient to take a seat on, one thing that turns out to be useful if you’re out tenting. Many of the coolers that I examined had been, however some took issues even additional. As an illustration, the Bison Gen 2 Cooler goes as far as to promote itself as a great casting platform to face on throughout your subsequent fishing journey, and even sells nonslip traction mats for the lid in quite a lot of designs. 

Between the hinges, the lid, the drain plug and the lid latches, the Bison cooler felt essentially the most like a premium product to the contact — nevertheless it did not maintain chilly air as properly or so long as different rotomolded fashions, and it prices about $150 greater than our most reasonably priced rotomolded decide, the Xspec 60qt Excessive Efficiency cooler.

Latches and lids


The Magellan Outdoor mannequin options 4 hinge latches, two on both facet, so you possibly can open the cooler from both facet, or take away the lid fully!

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Let’s take a pause to dive into hinges and latches a bit extra. Some are good, some are unhealthy and a few are simply nonexistent. Coolers with detachable lids are typically cheaper coolers that are not going to carry out within the high percentile — with one exception I’ve discovered to this point. Magellan Outdoor has a double-latching, double-hinged detachable lid, and occurs to have gained our decide for finest small cooler. The straightforward-to-use, double-latched design means you possibly can open the cooler from both facet, and in the event you’d want, you possibly can disengage the latches on each side to take away the lid altogether. 

Now let’s evaluate that to, say, the Everbilt 73qt Excessive-Efficiency cooler. That one has rubber T-shaped handles you must stretch to seat and safe the lid. They’re tough to drag down, at the same time as a full-grown grownup. I requested three different adults to safe these handles and out of the 4 of us, two had been profitable, one unsuccessful and the final profitable solely after an extreme quantity of struggling. Efficiency is essential, however design issues, too — and generally, it is a deal breaker.

The Xspec 60qt cooler is an effective compromise between these two approaches, and it is my decide for finest general cooler. It has the rubber straps to safe the lid, however on the finish of every strap lies a plastic deal with which you’ll leverage towards the mounting level to simply obtain the tensioned match. That is loads higher than Everbilt, however make no mistake, Magellan Outdoor nonetheless will get my vote for finest latching mechanism.


Our first soft-sided and backpack cooler did not carry out the most effective, however it’s sturdy and an important possibility for hikers and campers alike.

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The Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 is the primary backpack-style cooler that we have examined, and though its general efficiency wasn’t stellar, there have been issues I did like. First off, it’s a backpack. I do like that. Whether or not you are trekking gear to the beachfront or headed out for a mountaineering day, having free fingers is at all times a bonus. The backpack has numerous straps and hitching factors, too — I think about the goal demographic is extra hiking-oriented than day-at-the-beach, however in both case, you can safe further stuff. 

There aren’t any latches since this can be a soft-sided cooler, only a zipper. The zipper boasts claims of being each water- and leakproof. We put that to the check throughout our capability evaluations, the place your entire cooler is crammed to the highest with water, then closed. In its closed state, filled with water, I sloshed it round with out spilling a drop, so it is protected to imagine that leaks will not be a problem. 

Last ideas

The one different factor I will say right here is that I am nonetheless stunned to not see extra of the high-end choices attempt to separate themselves from the pack with intelligent bonus options like a built-in battery for charging your gadgets whilst you camp open air (or higher but, a photo voltaic panel).

If that is what you are hoping for, your finest guess could be to show to Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the place costly, gadgety mega-coolers just like the Coolest Cooler and the Infinite Cooler reside in infamy. I say infamy as a result of each of these cash-grabs have a historical past of production delays and decidedly unhappy customers. Go on, learn via the comments on the Infinite Cooler’s Indiegogo campaign, which blew via a March 2019 ship date with nothing to point out for it. It ain’t fairly.  

It is all greater than sufficient for me to advocate the healthiest attainable dose of skepticism in the event you ever end up tempted to again a marketing campaign like that together with your chilly onerous money. I imply, come on — the literal last item you need out of your cooler is to get burned by it. Follow an old style cooler like those I like to recommend above, and that is not one thing you may want to fret about.

Did we miss a cooler that you just’re keen on? Need us to check extra soft-sided coolers? Tell us within the feedback!

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