Best Coolers Guide: Top Picks for Summer 2021 Leave a comment


It doesn’t matter if you’re on a boat, at the beach, in a backyard, or at a campsite, a great cooler is the MVP of summer hangouts. There’s a broad range of options to choose from, so finding the best coolers to meet your needs can be tricky. And let’s be honest, nobody is satisfied with having just one cooler.

 

 

While heavy-duty rotomolded options are great for cookouts and car camping, you’ll want something more portable—like a backpack cooler—for small picnics, post-surf cervezas, or hiking trips. To ensure cold brews and food on those sweltering summer days, we’ve rounded up nine top-notch coolers from brands like YETI, Pelican, and Igloo that’ll work for nearly any scenario. Grab one (or multiple) and you’ll be set for a season’s worth of outdoor gatherings.

Pelican 80QT Elite Wheeled Cooler best coolers
Pelican 80QT Elite Wheeled Cooler Courtesy Image

Pelican 80QT Elite Wheeled Cooler

Pelican is known for making some of the most durable storage gear on the market. The company’s Wheeled Elite Cooler follows that tradition with burly construction and two-inch insulation that Pelican claims will keep cubes intact for up to 10 days.

Molded tie-down points make it easy to secure the cooler in a truck bed or on a boat, while its heavy-duty wheels and trolley handle ensures easy transport once back on the ground. Fishermen will appreciate the built-in fish scale on the lid (although it’ll make it hard to lie about how big your catch was).

[$515; pelican.com]

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Igloo Trailmate Journey 70-Quart Cooler best coolers
Igloo Trailmate Journey 70-Quart Cooler Courtesy Image

Igloo Trailmate Journey 70-Quart Cooler

The oversized wheels on the Trailmate Journey are built to plow through deep sand and rocky trails alike, and the cooler is rated to retain ice for up to four days—ideal for weekend adventures.

But this cooler really stands out thanks to its thoughtful extras, including side pockets, two fishing pole holders, four cup holders, an internal food basket, two bottle openers, and even a serving tray that attaches to the handle. With all that functionality, the Trailmate Journey will become command central for your campsite.

[$280; igloocoolers.com]

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YETI Tundra 45 Cooler
YETI Tundra 45 Cooler Courtesy Image

YETI Tundra 45 Cooler

There are a lot of great rotomolded coolers out there, but YETI still reigns supreme in this category. The Tundra 45 is purposely over-built with polyethylene construction—the same material used in whitewater kayaks—to survive the abuse of outdoor adventures. It fits up to 28 cans and keeps them frosty cold for days with three inches of insulation.

Additionally, the heavy-duty rubber latches are easy to open (even while wearing gloves) and they create a tight seal to lock in cold air. You’ll have to pay the YETI premium, but you’ll get a quality cooler that’ll last for years.

[$300; rei.com]

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Coleman 24-Can Party Stacker Cooler best coolers
Coleman 24-Can Party Stacker Cooler Courtesy Image

Coleman 24-Can Party Stacker Cooler

Don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a cooler? You’ll have plenty of beer money left over if you opt for the no-nonsense Party Stacker from Coleman.

With molded handles and a stackable design, the Party Stacker is one of the most space-efficient options you can buy. And while it won’t maintain ice for several days like high-end coolers do, your beers will still come out ice cold for hours—plenty of time for backyard hangs and beach gatherings.

[$22; amazon.com]

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Dometic CFX3 95DZ Powered Cooler best coolers
Dometic CFX3 95DZ Powered Cooler Courtesy Image

Dometic CFX3 95DZ Powered Cooler

The Dometic CFX3 sits at the other end of the cooler spectrum. This high-tech electric cooler generates its own cold air (down to –7 degrees Fahrenheit). It features a large storage capacity (133 cans), dual compartments for simultaneous cooling and freezing, and durable construction to prevent damage. Plus, you can control the temperature settings on an accompanying app.

While it does require a power source (like a wall plug or a portable battery), not having to use ice means less cleanup and more space for food and drinks. That’s a win-win, especially for van-lifers.

[$1,500; dometic.com]

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United by Blue Cooler Backpack best coolers
United by Blue Cooler Backpack Courtesy Image

United by Blue Cooler Backpack

When you only need to chill a six-pack and a few snacks, a cavernous cooler is way more trouble than it’s worth. In these scenarios, a smaller option works better—like this compact and functional Cooler Backpack from United by Blue. Its throwback aesthetic earns some style points, but the highly functional design is what really sets it apart.

It’s built with two separate insulated compartments for easy access, adjustable straps for maximum comfort, two expandable side pockets, and a bottle opener, too. Grab it for your next picnic.

[$128; unitedbyblue.com]

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AO Coolers Ballistic 36 Pack
AO Coolers Ballistic 36 Pack Courtesy Image

AO Coolers Ballistic 36 Pack

If you want a straightforward portable cooler that can carry a party’s worth of drinks and won’t rip or tear, the Ballistic 36 Pack from AO Coolers is the right move. The heavy-duty fabric exterior can withstand abuse, the leak-proof liner with three-quarter-inch thick insulation will keep your beverages icy for hours, and an outer pocket adds dry storage, too. It’s simple, dependable and affordable––the cooler trifecta.

[$100; aocoolers.com]

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YETI V Series Hard Cooler
YETI V Series Hard Cooler Courtesy Image

YETI V Series Hard Cooler

The V Series from YETI is a serious upgrade from your average hunk of plastic. The “Airstream of Coolers,” as we called it when we tested it out last year, is a stainless steel-clad cooler that delivers big on style. But it doesn’t cut corners on performance, either: Underneath the sleek exterior, YETI used vacuum and rotomolded plastic insulation for excellent cold retention (we found it retained ice for nearly 60 hours) with less bulk. The only downside: At 35 pounds empty, it’s a hefty beast.

[$800; yeti.com]

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ICEMULE Boss best coolers
ICEMULE Boss Courtesy Image

ICEMULE Boss

The Boss has been on the market for years, and with its excellent insulation, comfortable fit, and large capacity, it’s a top-shelf pick for backpacking. We gave it high marks for its excellent ice retention (it features a unique valve system that lets you add air to the insulation for prolonged cooling), and the company’s MuleSkin exterior fabric is especially tough—no need to worry about tearing this pack on wayward branches and rocks on the trail.

Multiple storage compartments make it easy to access your food and drinks, and it can carry up to 60 pounds of grub. Thanks to its well-designed backpack suspension system, including a padded hip strap and sternum strap, you won’t regret hauling that much on your back.

[$350; icemulecoolers.com]

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