This time of year, the proper cooler can be just as important as the right bathing suit, beach chair, or pair of shades. It can make or break a summer gathering. After all, no one likes a sweaty beverage. But one cooler most definitely does not fit all.
Luckily, coolers come in different shapes, sizes, and colors; some even include their own special accoutrements. No matter what style you pick, keep in mind that how you pack that cooler and what you pack it with is just as important. (Keep it cold and tight!)
Ready to start stocking? Here are six coolers in order of increasing seriousness (and thirstiness).
1. Picnic at Ascot Collapsible Insulated Picnic Basket, $90 from Amazon: While you look for that perfect picnic spot, this insulated bag can keep food and drinks cold for hours. Designed specifically for sharing, the basket also packs in plates, glasses, flatware, and napkins for up to four people.
2. AO Canvas Series 24-Pack Soft Cooler, $52 from Amazon: Perfect for a day at the beach, this soft-sided cooler can hold 24 cans and 14 pounds of ice for up to 24 hours in 120°F heat. Available in a variety of colors, it also has a side pocket for your phone, sunscreen, and other seaside essentials.
3. Igloo MaxCold Picnic Tote 40, $30 from IglooCoolers.com: This compact cooler holds up to 40 cans and can go here, there, and everywhere. With a nautical print and drawstring combo that's cuter than most beach bags, it's also made to be seen.
4. Coleman 50-Quart Cooler, $33 from Coleman.com: This cooler doesn't have bells and whistles, but it's extremely affordable and made to keep 71 cans cold for up to four days. Designed for everything from an overnight adventure to an afternoon in the backyard, it also has four cup holders and a leak-resistant channel drain for easy cleaning.
5. Pelican 65-Quart Elite Cooler, $300 from Adorama: If you're planning to become one with nature or your backyard, this heavy-duty model is worth the extra cost. It has press-and-pull latches to keep critters out, and polyurethane insulation to keep coolness in — for up to 10 days. It even has optional baskets for keeping certain foods separate.
6. Igloo Party Bar, $200 from Target: This stylish model features the LiddUp LED light system, so party guests won't be rooting around in the dark looking for the cooler (or tripping over it). With the ability to hold a whopping 212 cans, it's like a party on wheels, complete with a bottle opener, drink dividers, and a removable lid for inviting access.