The Best List

The Very Best Coolers You Can Buy Right Now

updated Jul 7, 2023
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different brands of coolers
Credit: From Left to Right Top to Bottom: Courtesy of Orca, YETI, Amazon, YETI, REI

There are certain situations when a (good!) cooler is a must-have. Like, when you’re camping and need to keep food cold, when you’re headed to the beach and want to bring sandwich supplies and drinks for the day, and when you’re on a road trip and require sustenance and seltzers to make it through the long drive (just me?). Yup, you need a cooler for that, that, and that. 

But, of course, you can’t have a cooler that doesn’t work. You want a cooler that keeps things cold, is easy to pick up and transport, and is durable. And for that, you need me. Because I’m here to tell you what cooler to get. 

To find the best of the best, I rounded up enough coolers to fill up half of my garage and set to work: seeing how long they could hold ice, loading them with groceries and ice packs and carrying them around, and pushing the coolers out of the back of a car to test their durability. Here are my top picks — with more detail of what separated the good from the bad below. 

Credit: Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
Some of the coolers I tested!

The Best Coolers

The Tests 

  • Load large coolers with 30 pounds of ice and small coolers with 15 pounds of ice, leaving them outside in full sun and draining the water from them (recording the amount) each day to gauge cold retention. 
  • For the large coolers, load the coolers with ice packs and two days’ worth of groceries for four people and attempt to carry or wheel them around.
  • For the smaller coolers, load the coolers with ice packs, an 8-pack of seltzer, and ingredients for sandwiches (as if going to the beach or the park) and carry them around.
  • Load the coolers with ice packs and push them out of the back of a car, to see if the lids pop open or anything becomes damaged.
Credit: Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
On day six, only three coolers (YETI, ORCA, and RovR) still had ice in them.

What to Consider When Buying a Cooler

How Well Does It Work? 

Simply put: If a cooler doesn’t keep things cold, it’s not worth it. To test the ice retention abilities of the coolers, I loaded the large coolers with 30 pounds of ice and the small ones with 15 pounds of ice and set them outside in full sun on my back patio. Each day I drained water from the coolers, recording the amount. (Note: I tested the coolers when it was pretty hot outside, with highs between 80 and 90 degrees each day.)

Credit: Riddley Schirm
The best overall cooler (right) versus the best budget pick (left) on day 5 of ice retention.

The best coolers retained ice for five to seven days, while the worst had very little ice in them after about two-and-a-half days. Coincidently, the top models are also much heavier, which means they have thick insulation all-around — including their lids — and tight seals.

Another factor that impacts performance is interior space. Good, large coolers should be able to hold a lot and not have big wheel wells or other factors that cut down on usable room. The best models are spacious and easy to pack full of groceries. 

How Easy Is It to Carry and Use? 

A heavier cooler, I find, is a trade-off for a better-performing one. The top non-wheeled coolers weigh between 20 to 30 pounds while empty, which makes them pretty tough for just one person to lift (I asked my sister to help me out). I prefer models with padded handles that are comfortable to hold. Flimsy, plastic handles dig into my palms, making them a recipe for discomfort. 

But for those who require wheels on their coolers, I get it! My favorite wheeled cooler weighs 40 pounds empty (so you’ll probably have to recruit someone to help lift it in and out of the car), but it has a secure, telescopic handle with comfortable, grippy handle bars. Its rugged wheels easily glide across a variety of surfaces (gravel, pavement, grass, sand). And, even when full of food, it feels easy to pull.

Credit: Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
The long, telescopic handle of the RovR is both helpful and compact.

The coolers’ latches and drainage systems also affect usability. Most of the coolers have heavy-duty rubber latches. Some are stiffer, thicker, and harder to use than others. And I don’t know about you, but I prefer to not have to wrestle to open and close a cooler! Their drainage spouts should also be easily accessible and efficient.

Is It Durable? 

Those latches were all key, though, when it came to durability. Coolers without latches popped right open, spilling their contents when they fell out of the car. For something as rugged as a cooler that’s meant to go camping, in cars, and to the beach, you want it to be durable — because accidents happen. 

This cooler's lid lacked latches to secure it, so it popped open upon impact.

How Big Is It?  

I focused mostly on coolers that are around 45 quarts, which is big enough to hold supplies for four people for a couple of days or two people for a longer period of time. Below you can find which coolers come in smaller and larger sizes.

What We Look for in a Cooler

I judged all of the coolers on the following criteria, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the worst and 5 being the best): 

  • Performance: How effective is the cold retention of the cooler? Does it have a roomy interior?  
  • Ease of use: How easy is it to pick the cooler up and carry it or wheel around? How easy is it to open and close the cooler? Does it drain easily?
  • Durability: Can the cooler withstand being pushed out of the back of a car?

Best Overall: YETI Tundra 45 Cooler

The hype is justified with the YETI coolers. There was still a significant amount of ice left in this cooler after seven days in the blazing-hot sun. It’s easy to use, with YETI’s patented heavy-duty, rubber “T-REX lid latches” that are a cinch to pull out and put in and don’t budge even when pushed out of a car. It has a spacious capacity, grippy feet on the bottom to keep it from budging, an efficient drain system, and long, polyester rope handles with comfortable grips. It is heavy, at 23 pounds when empty, and, on my own, I cannot lift it easily and for very long when full. However, if you want a rugged cooler that works unbelievably well, the YETI Tundra is for you. 


  • Weight (empty): 23 pounds 
  • Capacity: 45 quarts
  • Interior space: 9 3/8 in w x 18 3/8 in l
  • Handle material: Polyester rope

Rating Criteria

  • Performance: 5
  • Ease of Use: 4
  • Durability:  5

Who it’s best for: Anyone in need of a cooler to keep things cold for days and days. Looking at you, campers, boaters, backyard partiers!
Good to know: All YETI Tundra models come with a dry goods basket and a five-year warranty. This cooler is available in many different sizes, including the 35, the 65, and the 75. There’s also a wheeled version of this cooler. When paired with these locks, the coolers are certified bear-resistant from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC)

Best Budget: Igloo BMX

I am seriously impressed with this cooler, which costs a bit more than $100 and offers a huge bang for your buck. It easily retained ice for four days. On day five, there was a little ice left in the cooler, but keep in mind it costs hundreds of dollars less than the ones that out-performed it. With a 52-quart capacity, it has a spacious interior. It also has rugged T-shaped latches that prevent the cooler from opening when pushed out of the car and a threaded drain plug and efficient drainage, and it’s much lighter than other top-performing coolers, making it easier to lift. While the cooler’s handles are made from plastic and feel flimsier than the YETI’s, they are padded and very comfortable to hold. If you want a budget-friendly cooler that still delivers on cold retention and durability, the Igloo BMX can’t be beat. 


  • Weight (empty): About 16 pounds
  • Capacity: 52 quarts
  • Interior space: 11.75 in w x 20 in l 

Rating Criteria 

  • Performance: 4
  • Ease of Use: 4
  • Durability:  5

Who it’s best for: Anyone who wants an excellent cooler at a budget-friendly price point. Again, it doesn’t have the best cold retention, so keep that in mind if you’re a serious camper or want a cooler for an extended trip. That being said, it’s still excellent!  
Good to know: This cooler also comes in 25-quart and 72-quart sizes.

Best Wheeled: RovR Products RollR 45 Cooler

This brand made both the best and coolest wheeled cooler I’ve ever tried. Truly! It has rugged wheels that easily glide across all sorts of terrain (be it gravel, concrete, sand, grass, dirt), incredible cold retention (seven days!), an efficient drainage system, and a telescopic handle that has comfortable handlebars that make wheeling the cooler around a cinch. It has a few cons: Its latches have to be pulled down to be secured and opened, which require a little finesse, and it weighs nearly 40 pounds empty. And while the cooler’s interior space is smaller than others, it comes with a sizable, removable dry bin so you can keep food on one side and drinks and ice on the other. It’s also bear-resistant (although RovR sells these locks for further bear proofing). And you can buy fun accessories that attach onto the cooler like cup holders, a prep board, an umbrella holder, and a BikR Kit that allows you to pull the cooler behind you on a bike. 


  • Weight (empty): About 37 pounds
  • Capacity: 45 quarts
  • Interior space: 12.8 in w x 14.6 in l

Rating Criteria 

  • Performance: 4
  • Ease of Use: 4.5 
  • Durability: 5

Who it’s best for: Anyone who wants a wheeled cooler or a cooler with tons of extra useful accessories.
Good to know: This cooler is also available in 60-quart and 80-quart sizes.

Most Spacious: ORCA 40-Quart Cooler

This cooler from ORCA was another top-performer. It has a roomier interior than the YETI, but is equal in terms of ice retention, with ice lasting seven days. The cooler has an efficient drainage spout, super comfortable handles, and fun-looking latches shaped like whale tails. The latches are a bit stiff and require a little tugging to remove, and the cooler was the heaviest of the non-wheeled models I tried. However, it’s incredibly durable and comes in tons of fun colors. You can also buy a fishing rod holder that attaches onto the cooler.


  • Weight (empty): 30 pounds
  • Capacity: 40 quarts
  • Interior space: 11 7/8 in w x 18 15/16 in l

Rating Criteria 

  • Performance: 5
  • Ease of Use: 3
  • Durability:  5

Who it’s best for: Anyone who wants top-notch cold retention and a little extra interior space. Ideally, you’re strong because it’s heavy and the latches require some finesse.
Good to know: This cooler is also available in several other sizes, including 20, 26, 58, and 75 quarts.

Best Small: YETI Roadie 24 Hard Cooler

If you want a cooler for day trips, road trips, and beach days, the YETI Roadie is a top-notch option. Because it’s smaller and therefore has less insulation, it only holds ice for about four days, but that’s still really impressive — especially when compared to other small coolers! It’s super portable, with a lengthy carrying strap, and has easy-to-use latches that can be operated with one hand. It’s also durable and didn’t show any damage when I pushed it out of a car. And while it is smaller, it can fit most wine bottles (upright!), which is a very fun bonus.


  • Weight (empty): About 13 pounds
  • Capacity: 24 quarts
  • Interior space: 9 1/2  in w x 12 1/2 in l

Rating Criteria 

  • Performance: 4
  • Ease of Use: 5
  • Durability:  5

Who it’s best for: Anyone who wants a portable cooler that offers incredible performance.
Good to know: The compatible dry goods basket and seat cushion are sold separately.

The Kitchn’s Best List Promise

We will do our homework, going wildly in depth with our testing. But we’ll condense the info into easy, breezy summaries so that you can see what we picked and why, and then move on your life. Because we know you’re busy!

Do you have a question about coolers? Ask us in the comments!