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16 Best Coolers for the Money in 2021 (on Every Budget)

For those who enjoy the great outdoors, a durable cooler capable of keeping food and beverages cold for days on end is a necessity, not a luxury.

The best coolers on the market retain ice for up to a week and keep contents at refrigerator temperature even longer. They’re made for multiday camping trips, overnight fishing voyages, rugged road trips – whatever long-duration outdoor adventure tickles your fancy. If you plan to use your cooler regularly, it’s worth spending more on a quality product.

The ideal cooler offers the optimal combination of cooling power, durability, ease of use, weight and weight distribution, and aesthetic appeal. Each of the following coolers has its own unique selling points, such as uncommonly durable construction, easy carrying, or light weight. Whatever your needs, you’re sure the find the cooler that’s best for you.

Best Hard-Sided Coolers

Coleman Hardside Cooler Wheels

These are the top hard-sided coolers on the market today. Some are high-end, with bells and whistles like built-in bottle openers and cup holders, while others are economical and budget-friendly.

1. Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme 5-Day Heavy-Duty Cooler

The Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme 5-Day Heavy-Duty Cooler weighs just over 12 pounds can hold up to 100 cans. That’s more than enough to pull your weight on your next camping trip with friends or supply a moderately sized backyard gathering with hours of refreshment.

Coleman’s proprietary Xtreme insulation technology keeps ice solid for up to five days in 90-degree heat, provided you’re on your lid-closing game.

The 70-Quart Xtreme’s ample frame and ergonomic “Have-a-Seat” lid make it an ideal camp seat. Easy-clean surfaces speed clean-up, and a leak-resistant drain allows for easy water release without tilting or shaking. Low-carbon foam construction mitigates environmental impact, as does the product’s inherent durability, which lengthens the replacement cycle.

Despite its near-inexhaustible cooling power, the 70-Quart Xtreme is among the lowest-priced coolers on this list. If you’re looking for a plus-sized value buy, it’s hard to beat.

2. Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Portable Cooler

Although the Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Portable Cooler costs about twice as much as the 70-Quart Xtreme, it’s still a value compared with some of the other hard-sided options on this list.

The Steel-Belted Portable Cooler’s metallic construction makes it on the heavier side. Despite a carrying capacity that falls short of the 70-Quart Xtreme’s by 15 cans, the Steel-Belted Portable Cooler weighs nearly 20 pounds. The steel siding is nearly as good at insulating as foam competitors, though, with the power to keep ice solid for four days in 90-degree heat.

If the Steel-Belted Portable Cooler has a key differentiator, it’s durability. Barring truly abusive treatment, this cooler should hold up for years without rusting or compromise. Grippy steel handles offer comfortable carrying for the duration.

3. YETI Tundra 65 Cooler

The YETI Tundra 65 Cooler is in a league by itself. It’s a portable ice chest among the priciest coolers on this list, but buyers are willing to pay a premium for the YETI brand and its all-but-indestructible roto-molded construction process, which offers uncommon strength and resilience under extreme heat, cold, and force.

How uncommon and resilient is the YETI Tundra 65 Cooler? For starters, it’s certified bear-resistant by the USDA’s Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, thanks in part to YETI’s T-Rex lid technology, a super-strong rubber seal that should last as long as the cooler itself. And it offers multiple days of ice retention for overnight trips that demand ice-cold consumables day after day.

So you can leave the bear barrel at home on your next wilderness adventure. Though, to be safe, you should still string up your YETI cooler out of reach.

The YETI Tundra 65’s heavy-duty power comes at a price. Three-inch walls significantly reduce internal carrying capacity and add to the cooler’s empty weight. At 29 pounds, it’s one of the heaviest on this list.

On the bright side, the Tundra and all YETI coolers come standard with a dry goods basket that’s perfect for keeping delicate contents separate from the wet, slimy stuff.

4. Ozark Trail 52-Quart High-Performance Cooler

The Ozark Trail 52-Quart High-Performance Cooler is basically a budget-friendly version of the YETI Tundra 65 with a smaller carrying capacity and slightly lighter construction. The rotomolded sides and sturdy lid are certified bear-resistant, and the insulated sides keep ice solid for up to seven days.

Like the YETI Tundra 65, the Ozark Trail 52-Quart High-Performance Cooler comes with an internal wire basket that keeps edibles suspended over whatever’s occupying or pooling at the bottom at any given time.

A built-in fish ruler makes this product an ideal choice for fishing trips, and antiskid feet keep it firmly planted on rough ground. Four lid-top beverage holders mean there’s a place for your Ozark Trail cooler at the center of the campsite or pier.

5. RTIC 65

Price-wise, the RTIC 65 occupies a middle ground between the YETI Tundra 65 and the Ozark Trail 52-Quart coolers. Form- and function-wise, it bears a resemblance to the YETI Tundra 65.

The RTIC 65 ticks all the high-performance cooler boxes: virtually indestructible roto-molding, 3-inch insulated sides capable of keeping ice solid for a full week, an ultra-durable latch, nonslip feet, a condensation-resistant interior, and certified bear resistance. But the RTIC 65 weighs even more than the YETI Tundra 65, eliminating it from contention for most types of primitive wilderness use. You’ll find options suitable for long-distance hikes, for instance, further down this list. For fishing road trips, the weight disadvantage disappears.

6. Cabela’s Polar Cap® Equalizer Coolers

Cabela’s Polar Cap® Equalizer Cooler line features five distinct coolers with capacities ranging from 25 to 100 quarts. Quart for quart, they’re priced more competitively than YETI’s products. You’ll pay just a touch more for the 100-quart product than for the YETI Tundra 65, which has considerably less internal storage.

Polar Cap Equalizers compete with YETI’s legendary durability and resilience. All Equalizers are certified bear-resistant, boast freezer-grade gaskets and raised legs for reduced heat transfer, and have nonskid feet that stick to the most challenging surfaces.

The four largest models also have optional wheel attachments (wheels sold separately). All five are rated to retain ice for up to 12 days, longer than any of the hard-sided models above.

7. RovR Rollr 60

The ultra-mobile RovR Rollr 60 is a wheeled cooler that’s excellent for car and day-hike camping (and tailgating, come to think of it). Although the carrying capacity can’t quite match the 65- and 70-quart beasts above, the rugged wheels and optional bike attachment allow it to go places you probably wouldn’t want to lug your YETI or RTIC.

The RovR Rollr 60 is certified bear-resistant and rated to retain ice up to 10 days, though a lot depends on the weather and opening frequency. It’s 54 pounds empty, so you’ll need the rollers, and bike towing will change the character of your ride.

On the bright side, the deep freeze compartment should keep perishable food at food-safe temps for longer than a week.

8. Igloo Maxcold 70 Cooler

The Igloo Maxcold 70 Cooler is not certified bear-resistant or made of rotomolded material, but it costs just a fraction of the price of the YETI Tundra 65. A threaded drain plug makes it a snap to hook up a garden hose segment or drain extender, and the flip-up handles make carrying a breeze.

Despite an internal capacity approaching 100 cans, the Igloo Maxcold 70 Cooler clocks in at under 12 pounds empty – one of the lighter high-capacity coolers on this list. The tradeoff: just five days’ ice retention time, a few days less than the best performers here.

Best Soft-Sided Coolers

Soft Cooler Cold Glass Bottles Beach Ball

These are the best soft-sided coolers on the market right now. Like their hard-sided counterparts, they range from basic chill packs to fancy high-end coolers (though, unfortunately, without pragmatic additions like cup holders).

9. YETI Hopper TWO 30 Portable Cooler

YETI’s signature soft-sided cooler is the 30-quart YETI Hopper TWO 30 Portable Cooler. It costs even more than its 65-quart hard-sided cooler, an impressive feat given that product’s near-military-grade construction. You get what you pay for, though.

The Hopper TWO boasts super-durable straps and a tapered frame, making for easy carrying on the trail or across the park. The rugged, waterproof DryHide shell and heavy-duty zipper – the same design used in HazMat suits – eliminate leaks and preserve ice for days. Trust this one for your toughest outdoor tasks.

10. OtterBox Trooper LT 20 Cooler

The OtterBox Trooper LT 20 Cooler is another pricey soft-sided entrant renowned for quality and durability. With an empty weight of around 5 pounds and a carrying capacity approaching 20 liters, the Trooper is a workhorse cooler great for rugged, weight-sensitive uses, such as backpacking and canoeing. At least three days of ice retention doesn’t hurt, either.

An IP-65 rating means it’s built to stand up to serious river action too. It’s an ideal choice for whitewater rafters and sea kayakers.

The OtterBox Trooper LT 20’s ruggedness is matched only by its user-friendliness. A wide-mouth opening allows for quick loading and unloading, while a leak-proof zipper – not HazMat-rated, but close enough – minimizes heat transfer.

The latch is designed to be opened with one hand, so there’s no need to let go of your fishing rod. And the 2-inch padded carrying strap makes transporting it a snap.

11. Pelican Elite Soft Cooler

The Pelican Elite Soft Cooler comes in three sizes: 12-, 24-, and 48-can capacities. Prices are roughly equivalent to OtterBox’s and slightly cheaper than YETI’s, and thanks to proprietary high-density foam construction, ice retention is similar to both.

Double-coated exterior fabric seals in moisture and seals out heat, while a stainless steel tie-down provides added durability and resilience in tough environments.

With a shape that echoes conventional hard-sided coolers, the Pelican Elite Soft Cooler’s design may give some users pause. It’s likely not ideal for serious backpacking trips where ergonomic carriage is a serious concern.

On the plus side, it has an FDA-approved food-grade inner liner and a three-year warranty that offers ample time to sort out any early performance issues.

12. Engel HD30 Waterproof Soft-Sided Cooler Bag

The Engel HD30 Waterproof Soft-Sided Cooler Bag is another reasonably priced entrant rated to preserve ice for up to four days. The leak-proof zipper with zipper lube – a clutch inclusion for multiday trips – and the patent-pending vacuum valve minimize heat transfer.

A second external zipper reveals an accessory pocket for small items that don’t need to be bone-chillingly cold. A wide-mouth main compartment expedites loading and unloading.

Even for a soft-sided cooler weighing in under 6 pounds, the Engel HD30 is unusually portable. It boasts three distinct carrying options – an ergonomic shoulder strap, top grab handles, and side handles – and compresses without crushing to fit in tight spaces. It also has a three-year manufacturer’s warranty.

13. Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler With Removable Liner

The lowest-priced soft-sided cooler on this list, the Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner is a great value for those who don’t need tons of cargo capacity. Of course, “you get what you pay for” cuts both ways.

The Coleman 16-Can won’t win any awards for ruggedness, cold retention, or ergonomic design. It’s on this list because it’s a solid value, not because it’ll survive a weeklong whitewater rafting trip unscathed. (It probably won’t.)

Still, the antimicrobial interior and two mesh side pockets are nice touches. On a day hike that doesn’t require any scrambling or technical equipment, this cooler could potentially stand in for a heavy-duty backpack.

14. Cabela’s 30-Can Soft-Sided Cooler

Cabela’s 30-Can Soft-Sided Cooler is another serviceable value option. It has roughly twice the Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler’s carrying capacity, a PVC-suffused outer covering to minimize heat transfer, and a high-strength polyester bottom, making it good for overnight use but still not rugged enough for high-intensity uses. Choose between a padded shoulder strap and a webbed carrying handle.


The ICEMULE Pro comes in three sizes: Large (23 liters), X-Large (33 liters), and XX-Large (40 liters). The XX-Large is rated to carry up to 36 cans plus enough ice to keep everything cold, enough for a decent-sized overnight party. But the real headline is its empty weight; the XX-Large weighs in under 4 pounds.

This lightness is crucial since the ICEMULE Pro wears like a hiking backpack, complete with sternum strap and back vents. This hands-free construction is ideal for hikers and paddlers, but portability has one key drawback: faster heat transfer. According to ICEMULE, the Pro retains ice for over 24 hours, compared with the leading soft-sided coolers, which keep ice solid for four days.

Final Word

My wife and I finally said goodbye to our ancient hard-sided Coleman cooler after it sprang a leak and became unsuitable for anything other than brief backyard gatherings. It was older than both of us and weighed a ton, but it gave two generations – my wife’s parents and then us – countless hours of cold refreshment.

With proper care, most of the hard-sided coolers on this list should last every bit as long as our trusty Coleman did. The costlier soft-sided coolers should live to celebrate double-digit birthdays too, provided you keep them safe from sharp-clawed wildlife.

If you don’t plan to use your cooler often enough to justify a three-digit price tag, or you’re not planning to test the outer limits of its durability on a weekslong bike ride or canoe trip, then you may be better served by a budget-friendly product you’re willing to treat with kid gloves. The choice comes down to your priorities and what you’re willing and able to spend.

Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

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