An excellent ice chest is part of the dream of the great outdoors: sitting around a campfire together and reaching behind for an ice-cold beer or a fresh snack.
50 & 70 Quart
They’re useful at the beach, in off-the-grid cabins and for those bracing, life-affirming ice-fishing trips.
In my ice chest reviews below, I'll walk you through my top five picks of the coolers available online. With so many ice chests on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start, but chill out: I've got you!
I'll look at design, ice-retention, safety, durability and value to make sure you're in the know about the best coolers out there!
Ready to get right to it? Skip down to the below section that says Top 5 Ice Chests if you want to see our Top 5 Recommendations
Different Types of Ice Chests
There are a few different options and aspects to look at when choosing an ice chest. Let’s take a look.
Don't be caught out when you're in the wilderness by having a poorly sealed cooler.
This could result in sickness, spoiled food or even a bear attack. Some containers are bear-proof certified. If you’ll be camping in areas known for bears, then this certification is a must.
For the more adventurous or off-the-beaten-track adventurers, an investment in an expensive ice chest from a reputable company will save you money in the long run.
However, if you only need a cooler for a weekend hike or beach trip, then a cheaper, off-brand model will be just fine. There is a broad range of coolers from $50-$200 to chose from.
Some smaller coolers are just fine for a weekend away or a trip to a national park.
However, if you are planning longer trips, you’ll want to bank for a larger size to ensure you have enough space for all your necessities.
Best Ice Chest Brands
My top ice chests come from the best 5 cooler brands on the market. Let’s take a closer look.
YETI is the go-to model for a lot of outdoor enthusiasts when choosing an ice cooler.
Conceived by two trail-blazing brothers when they were frustrated with the products available on the market, YETI has grown rapidly since the company began in 2006.
Often, other ice coolers will be held against YETI for comparison as they have achieved the mark of a well-respected and innovative outdoors company.
On the expensive side, their products are durable and should save you money in the long run.
Want to here more about Yeti's unique beginning? Check out the 5 minute video below talking about how and where they got started because their need was so great
Pelican is perhaps the most authoritative manufacturer on my list.
It's now in its 40th year of production, but this California based company shows no signs of slowing down.
Started in a garage by an enterprising scuba diver, Pelican now dominates the ice chest market and makes exceedingly durable and well-loved products that should stay with you for a long time.
Their lifetime warranty says as much about their confidence in their products.
Want to see Pelican coolers truly put to the test? Check out this video below to see the bears going after it.
As sturdy and robust as the animal after which they're named, Grizzly Coolers are the tough guys of the ice chest manufacturers.
They put their coolers through strict IGBC bear resistant testing to make sure you're safe in the wild with one of their products.
As well as keeping you safe from bears, they also keep your precious stores safe from the sun and elements.
Well-sealed, durable and great value for a long term investment, Grizzly Coolers are a big competitor on the market.
Coleman is the oldest company on my list and with perhaps the broadest range of goods under its belt.
Beginning first as a flashlight company, Coleman later grew to produce tents, stoves, ice chests and more.
The versatility of its portfolio means that it speaks with a little less authority than some of the other manufacturers on this list, but its products are great value for money.
Perfect for the casual hiker or for shorter trips.
The final brand I will look at is Igloo.
Another well-known cooler manufacturer, Igloo began life providing fresh water to worksites.
They have an impressive timeline of products, always placing an easier pursuit of happiness for people at the core of their design.
Based out of Katy Texas, Igloo reaches the more value conscious shoppers with an array of budget coolers.
Traditionally, there coolers have been hit or miss and have found there coolers to be of lesser quality then Yeti or Pelican mentioned above.
That being said, they fill an important market for those looking for cheap and simple.
Top 5 Ice Chests
Now that I've introduced you to the brands we'll be considering, let's take a closer look at the models themselves.
I've chosen my favorite coolers, some of which are on the higher end of the cost spectrum, but there's a value model in there too for anyone on a budget or having less ambitious trips in mind.
As its name suggests, the YETI Tundra cooler is a monster at keeping your perishables cool.
The roto-molded polyethylene construction and thick walls make this cooler almost indestructible. The rope handles are made from marine-grade nylon, further proof of this cooler's tough make-up.
The YETI Tundra seals beautifully with T-Rex lid latches, making it safe from outdoor threats big and small; no grizzlies or unwanted microscopic guests here!
One of the best coolers available online and at a considerable price point, the YETI Tundra is a considerable luxury. So if you're a less fanatic adventurer, then perhaps a cheaper model is right for you towards the bottom.
However, the durability, tight seals, and smart design make this cooler my top choice!
Want to see a video of the cooler in action along with the latest and greatest features? Check it out below and I assure you, you will leave in awe of their high quality materials.
With firm handles, 10 days ice-retention, and impressive space inside, the Pelican Pro-gear Elite cooler easily makes it onto my ice chest review list.
It is slightly cheaper than the YETI, but still provides premium level durability and materials.
The design is very well thought out, with broad handles, and press and pull latches for carrying and using the chest while wearing gloves.
The interior when well-packed is closer to the 65 quarts as advertised over some other coolers. Due to its construction and size, you're going to need help when transporting it.
This cooler is a beast!
With a lifetime warranty the Pro-Gear Elite is a great investment with serious durability and ice-retention.
It seems a contradiction that the Grizzly 60 quart cooler should have a bear-proof certification, but that's exactly what you should expect from one of the best coolers on the market.
Safety should be one of your top concerns when buying a cooler, so keeping your food sealed from hungry, furry forest dwellers is important.
Large mold-in handles mean the cooler is quickly sealed while the smooth services make it very easy to clean so you can be packed up and on your adventuring way in a flash.
Although also serving the quality, luxury market, the Grizzly 60-Quart cooler is made in the USA and has a lifetime warranty.
With UV guard material and a lid that can support up to 250lbs, not only will the Coleman Xtreme 5 Marina cooler keep your food cool, it can double up as a seat under the stars, or be packed under other heavy gear.
Coleman labels it as a marine cooler to bring attention to the fact that it has sturdy, durable materials that keep your ice cool for the entirety of your next fishing and boating trip.
With the cheaper price-tag, you won't be offered a lifetime warranty and the design is less sophisticated than some of the other models on my best coolers list, but it's a great choice if you're on a budget.
The final ice chest on my list of top rated coolers is the Igloo Yukon Cold Locker.
Like the slogan of the stunning area it's named after, the Yukon is 'Larger than Life' on design and durability.
This cooler is made from rotational molded polythelyne and has dual lock lids for extra security against any wildlife.
It's very well insulated and will have no problem keeping your goods cool on longer trips. Some nice touches are the integrated fish scale on the lid and 360-degree gasket seals.
For this reason we gave it our "Best Value" pick.
Ice Chest Buying Guide
- Safety should always come first when you consider making a purchase involving the outdoors. Ensure that the ice chest will keep your food free from unwanted bacterial guests and dangerous wildlife such as bears.
- Durability should be considered when spending money on an ice chest, especially if it’s an expensive choice. Some of the top rated coolers on my list have a lifetime warranty. Not a bad investment!
- Ice Retention is of course important when looking at ice coolers. For shorter trips, like a weekend jaunt to the beach, this is less crucial. But for longer excursions you want an ice box that’s going to stay well iced. Some of the best coolers on my list have ice retention of ten days or so. Impressive and safe if you are storing perishables.
- Size is a vital factor when making your choice. If you are interested in shorter adventures, then you don’t want an ice cooler you can barely carry. Some of the best soft coolers are smaller at 40 or 50 Quarts and can be carried by one person. Others will definitely require a partner.
- Value for money can’t be overlooked. If you are a hard-core outdoor enthusiast, then it’s worth investing in a more expensive but long-lasting model like the Yeti Tundra. If your pursuit of the outdoors is casual, then bank for a cheaper alternative.
Still not sure what cooler to go with? Check out this short, but fun Yeti vs. Pelican coolers video below which puts the durability to the test in an extreme way.
Wrapping It Up
With safety, durability, size, ice-retention, and value in mind, it's clear that choosing the right ice chest for your needs isn't as simple as grabbing the first cooler off the shelf.
However, by breaking down your requirements and taking a closer look at the specifications of each model, picking the right ice chest doesn't have to feel like scaling Mount Everest.
While my top pick is the YETI Tundra Cooler at the higher end of the price range, there is a host of excellent products available at cheaper prices like the Igloo Yukon Cold Locker which fulfills the needs of the mid-range buyer.
After you think about your personal requirements, making your selection should be a breeze.
Now which cooler will you choose?