Choosing the perfect cooler can be overwhelming. You need to think about how long you’re going for, what you’re bringing, how much ice you’ll need for your fave drinks, insulation, weight, security… well, the list goes on and on. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best camping coolers in 2023.
Here’s what it boils down to: Picking the right cooler isn’t about choosing the most expensive one—it’s about choosing the one that meets your needs. Going away for a camping weekend with the boys? Glamping with a loved one? Camping with the family at a caravan park? Hiking and mountaineering with your best mate or going solo? More than one of the above?
The very best camping coolers keep food and drinks cold for two to three days. High-end coolers keep ice frozen for up to 10 days. Because insulated coolers tend to be quite large, cumbersome, and heavy when full, you need to consider how far your camping site will be from your parking spot. If it’s more than a handful of metres away, opt for one with handles, wheels and straps.
Ready to learn more? Read on to find out which camping cooler is right for your next camping trip!
Best Coolers Reviewed
Best Overall Cooler
The Yeti Roader 24 Cooler is our winner for the best camping cooler in 2023. It performed well in each category we tested and is a versatile option for those looking to use it across a variety of situations.
What sets the Roader 24 Cooler apart from its beloved predecessor is that, despite its rigid and durable construction, it is 10% lighter, holds 20% more, and performs 30% better. It’s spacious, too: With a 2:1 ice-to-can ratio, you can easily fit 18 cold ones inside.
In terms of features, the 13” interior height is wine-friendly to all standard bottles. Meanwhile, Quicklatch handles enable effortless one-hand access and Yeti’s patented Neverfail hinge system resists snapping and breakage. No doubt, the Roadie 24 is a small investment. But, for a camping cooler you can depend on for years to come, the price point is quite reasonable.
- Built sturdy
- Light for its size
- Holds bottles of wine upright
- Easy to carry
- One-handed quick latch
Best Budget Cooler
The Coleman Chiller Wheeled 42-Can Soft Portable Cooler is our pick for best budget camping cooler. As the name proudly implies, this spacious camping cooler can keep up to 42 cans of beer cold for 12 hours or more. Meanwhile, welded seams eliminate the chance of leaks.
This budget cooler for camping is extremely portable thanks to its telescoping handle, durable wheels, and soft, reinforced side handles. Because of its soft shell exterior, it’s also easy to store in the overflowing trunk of your car. Whether you’re looking for a cooler to bring to a party in the park or on camping trips, the Chiller won’t break the bank.
- 12+ hours of insulation
- Telescoping handle
- Does not insulate as well as other options
Best Cooler for Car Camping
The Pelican Elite Cooler (30Qt) is tough, durable, and boasts a lifetime guarantee. None of this should come as a surprise: Since 1976, Pelican products have survived some of the harshest conditions on earth and the Elite is no different.
This Pelican camping cooler holds 23 cans and features a sloped fall drain plug and built-in bottle opener. Moulded-in handles make it easier to carry to the car despite its weight and heft. That said, it is heavier than most camping coolers on our list, coming in at a whopping 21.6lbs (9.8kg).
- Extreme ice retention
- Lifetime warranty
- Built-in bottle opener
- Moulded in handles
- Drain plug
- Big and bulky
- Heavy to carry at 9.8kg
Best Backcountry Adventure Cooler
Sometimes there’s no better way to admire a view than with a cold one. When hiking or mountaineering, the Cotopaxi Hielo 24L Cooler Backpack is the way to go. The spacious, bucket-style opening is perfect for carrying a 12-pack of your favourite beer and then some (munchies, anyone?).
A top accessory pocket adds some extra functionality to the Hielo, while generous padding along the shoulder straps and back panel make it especially comfortable to haul over long distances.
- Bucket-style opening
- Comfortable, padded shoulder straps and back panel
- Carry handles on all sides
- Not as durable as hard body options
Best Beach Cooler
For lazy days at the beach or at a concert, the Corkcicle Eola Cooler Bucket Bag is a playful companion. This pseudo camping cooler is lightweight and features padded shoulder straps for extra comfort, making it an effortless option to take along.
Meanwhile, the eye-popping colourway means you’ll never lose sight of it back on shore. While it isn’t the most spacious option, it is exceptionally portable. Plus, you’ll have no trouble fitting 12 cans, or 8 cans and 2 bottles of wine. What more could you ask for on a beautiful, sunny day?
- High visibility
Colour may not float everyone’s boat
BEST COOLER FOR DAY TRIPS
The Hydro Flask Day Escape is a super light cooler that delivers 36 hours of cold insulation for a day hike or picnic. Removable crossbody straps and tote bag handles allow for super easy carry. Meanwhile, the Watertight zipper and leakproof build ensures no water gets in and no water gets out.
- Keeps contents cold for 36 hours
- Dual-carry options
- Watertight zipper
- Cosmetic design is not for everyone
BEST HEAVY DUTY COOLER
For camping coolers that are basically bombproof, trust the Onata Everest series. For this entry, we chose the Onata Everest 50 Portable Cooler, but you can also opt for its smaller cousin, the 25.
Because of its heft, the Everest Cooler is an especially good option for extended frontcountry stays. It will effortlessly keep ice cold for up to three days, and boasts a impressive 50 litres of internal storage space. The Quick Lock closing system makes it dependable to close and easy to open.
- Very spacious
- Durable and sturdy construction
- Up to 3 days ice retention
- Bulky and heavy
BEST LUNCHBOX STYLE
For the perfect daily carry, look no further than the Hydro Flask Insulated Lunch Bag 8L. While not exactly a cooler for camping, this insulated lunch bag is the right choice for your 9-5 grind. Sandwiches and snacks, fruits and beverages all fit nicely into this bag’s spacious interior.
Pair with an ice pack and your lunch will stay chilled from morning to night. Plus, the water-resistant face fabric and welded seams mean no water will come in and no heat will get out. Top and side handles make it easy to carry. A large, external pocket and interior stash pocket are useful for storing other accessories and flatware.
- Reasonable price
- Handles all over the place
- Additional pockets
- Not as sturdy as a hard case
BEST FOR WATER SPORTS
The Pelican Day-Venture Sling Cooler sheds water while you're out for a little more active beach time and want to frolic in the water. The leak-resistant zipper and waterproof seal combine with puncture-resistant material to make the backpack as tough as nails. The dry haul straps are as durable as the bag.
- Holds 4 wine bottles
- Puncture and abrasion-resistant
- 1 exterior pocket
BUYING GUIDE: WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN COOLERS
When shopping for the best cooler for camping, you’ll encounter a lot of jargon and it could sound like a foreign language. But don’t worry: Once you know what kind of camping trips you’ll be doing, pay attention to the following key factors that we explain in detail below.
TYPES OF COOLERS
It depends on how many days you’re camping for, but let’s say it’s for a weekend away. Most campers will lean towards a hard cooler that’s over 30 litres, hence the reason they’re known to be big and durable.
Focus on ice retention which means the product’s level of cooling is measured in how many days it can retain ice. The durability of hard coolers lets them double as chairs and tables and it’s one less camping item you’ll need to pack.
COOLER BAGS & TOTES
Cooler bags are ideal for day trips like hiking, picnics, grills, or going to a family or friend’s house for a meal. Look for a 15-20 litre cooler bag that can fit anywhere from six to 12 cans.
When there’s not much walking or hiking involved, look for a tote with strong carry handles. Make sure the bag features waterproof seams and zippers, since the tote will often be carried on an angle.
A backpack probably isn’t big enough to take along on camping trips, but it is sufficient for a day hike or small mountain climb. Keep in mind that, with backpack coolers, you’ll need at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water packed away from the food.
When looking for a lunchbox-style cooler, make sure there’s enough room for a six or 12 pack of cans. Or a slab of meat to take to a friend’s grill. A waterproof seamed lining bag is another feature to focus on when looking.
A sling will carry about four to six cans and it’s the ultimate man bag, even though slings are unisex. Slings are great for fishing or day hikes so look for something that can easily carry up to two litres.
SIZE AND PORTABILITY
Some may live by the old adage, “bigger is better.” But this mantra shouldn’t apply to coolers. You need to factor in how big your vehicle is and the duration of your camping trip. Think about the amount of alcohol you’ll drink and the amount of food that needs to stay frozen or cold.
In regards to portability, the same applies to the above. However, some coolers are “built like a tank,” hence the need for wheels and a trolley handle. In most cases, the cooler needs to be portable enough to carry from the trunk to the campsite—without slipping a disk.
The Cooler capacity is in quarts (Qt) and one quart equals 75% of your average can, so a 20-quart cooler holds 15 cans. It’s important to also weigh the space that ice will take up.
Look for decent-sized side handles on the bigger coolers as they’re the most common type of carrying tool. Some have built-in cavities, others are hefty hauler handles or swing up handles.
Generally, the shoulder strap is available with the smaller and day pack coolers. A strap allows you to carry other items in both hands, when carrying camping equipment from the car to the campsite.
Draining the water in your camping cooler is debatable, especially when items are left in the cooler. If you have meat, the water should be drained to prevent the meat from going off. If there are only drinks in the cooler, leave the water in. Keep in mind, only big coolers have a drain nozzle in them.
Having a cup holder is like having an extra arm. The bigger coolers that have them are Yeti, Coleman, and Pelican. The only small coolers that have a cup holder are the sling-type camping coolers.
SubmersibilityThere are not many submersible products on the market. There’s the Yeti Panga Submersible Backpack 28L and the Yeti Panga Submersible Duffel 50. If you have a passport that needs to be 100% waterproof during a water safari, the Yeti Submersible Backpack is your best bet.
Are expensive coolers worth it?
A high-end cooler might alarm you when you first notice the price tag. But you should take into account the technology and new designs over the past 10-20 years. Critics might say they’re simply status symbols and lifestyle brands. But high-end coolers have better quality insulation and thicker walls for keeping ice frozen.
If you are on a budget, there’s nothing wrong with a Coleman cooler. A Coleman cooler is durable and dependable, though has a shorter ice retention. In this case, consider taking along some ice packs.
Do coolers have locks on them to stop thieves or wildlife from getting in the cooler?
There is no product on the market that has a lock on the cooler. The best option is to buy a Master Lock Python Adjustable Locking Cable and secure it to the trunk. Metal and rubber latches, however, are usually enough to confuse and deter wildlife from breaking in.
Which cooler keeps ice the longest?
After reviewing the 10 Best Coolers for Camping in 2023, we found that the Pelican Elite Cooler - 30Qt has up to 3 days of ice retention.
There you have it, the best coolers for camping in 2023. Focus on choosing a cooler that meets most of your personal and leisure needs. For us at Altitude Sports, the Yeti Roadie 24 Cooler performed exceptionally well in every category that we tested. Cheers to your new camping cooler!