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The Best Coolers for Camping in 2023

Published: 2022-04-18T22:05:40+0000 Updated: 2023-06-06T21:00:26+0000 Author: Abby Helgeson

Planning your next camping trip but can’t decide on the right cooler for your needs? We have done all of the research for you! In this guide to coolers for camping, we will cover everything from the different types of coolers to choose from, to features that make a difference when buying custom coolers, and the factors to consider before making your purchase.

101002  GEM 
1 Colors
Sidekick Cooler
12 min

  • Lifetime Warranty
  • USA Made
  • Portable
Hard Shell
BC7301  SWEDA 
2 Colors
Basecamp Ice Block 20L Cooler
5 min

  • Hard Shell
  • Bear Resistant
  • Portable
For Camping
1 Colors
Pelican 20QT Cooler COLOR
6 min

  • Hard Shell
  • Made in USA
  • Lifetime Guarantee
1 Colors
Pelican 45QT Cooler COLOR
6 min

  • Made in USA
  • Hard Shell
Long Trips
PL2002  LMRK 
4 Colors
Pelican 50qt Elite Cooler
1 min

  • Made in USA
  • Hard Shell
  • Lifetime Guarantee
Budget Cooler
CB158  STAR 
1 Colors
Urban Peak Waterproof 48 Can Hinge Cooler
6 min

  • Waterproof
  • Soft Shell
  • Portable

Types of Coolers to Consider

There are many different types of coolers, which is why it is best to know the difference before purchasing your own.

Soft Coolers

Soft coolers are the most portable compared to other types of coolers, but the only con is it is less insulated and durable. These types of coolers are best for day trips or picnics, times where you won’t need long term insulation.

Hard Coolers

The most popular type of coolers are hard coolers. These coolers are usually more expensive, but worth the price because they offer maximum insulation and durability, making them perfect for camping!

Electric Coolers

Electric coolers are definitely the most expensive type of coolers you can buy, strictly because you do not need ice for them and they cool beverages for long periods of time when plugged into a power source. You can power them through your car’s DC outlet, solar panels, or portable power stations, depending on which one you buy.

Styrofoam Coolers

If you are looking for a very inexpensive cooling system that still offers insulation, styrofoam coolers are where it’s at. These coolers won’t keep your drinks cool as long as hard coolers will, but they should give you about 12-24 hours of cooling time, making them best for short trips.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Perfect Cooler

To further narrow down your options, it best to first think about these factors before coming to a final decision on your camping cooler.

Type of Camping

Family camping trips require a larger cooler that offers more storage space, whereas in solo camping, you won’t want to use one that is too big. Electric coolers are best for car camping so you don’t have to worry about getting ice since you can easily plug it into your car’s DC outlet.

Number of People

If you are going on a camping trip with a larger group of people, you’ll want to make sure that the cooler you end up bringing has enough room for food and drinks for everyone. But if you are going with a small group of people, using a cooler that is too large will more than likely be less effective at keeping your food/drinks cold.

Types of Food

If you are planning on cooking meat over the fire or are bringing dairy products, you’ll want to ensure that you have a cooler that will not spoil the meat and will keep them the same temperature throughout your trip, while fruits and vegetables do not require as much cooling.

Trip Duration

Longer trips require a larger cooler that has a good insulation system since you will more than likely not be able to stock up on ice during the trip. If you will be going on a short road trip, you won’t have to worry much about getting a cooler that has tons of insulation since you will easily be able to stock up on ice throughout the trip.

Weather Considerations

Even the best insulated coolers can’t withstand super high temperatures which is why it is best to check the weather beforehand. If you have no way of avoiding the hot weather, it is recommended to not set the cooler directly in sunlight and to get a model that has thicker insulation and an airtight lid.

Our Picks, Based on Your Camping Style

Best Eco-Friendly Cooler

Sidekick Cooler

Made from recycled polyester, this portable cooler is our favorite eco-friendly option. This cooler has plenty of room for food and snacks, has an added can carrier for camping mugs, and a pouch for additional storage. Though this is not a great option for long camping trips, it's great for hiking trips or for just bringing for our own personal food/drinks.

Best Hard Cooler

Basecamp Ice Block 20L Cooler

Our best hard cooler has to be this Basecamp cooler. It was designed to be bear resistant if that doesn’t tell you how durable it is! This cooler is water tight, can hold ice for days, features a cup-holder lid for four, and has a handle for easy transportation.

Best Soft Cooler

Igloo® Seadrift™ Coast Cooler

This Igloo cooler has everything you need for a successful day on the beach, picnics, or even short camping trips. Featuring MaxCold® insulation with 25% more foam to keep drinks cooler longer, rubberized top handles for transportation, a front pocket for additional storage, side pockets for water bottles and a large main compartment to store food and drinks, this cooler is definitely worth the money.

Best for Camping

Pelican™ 20qt Elite Cooler

Pelican brand is known for their top of the line coolers, which is why we chose this cooler as our best camping cooler. This cooler offers 20 quarts of storage space for food and drinks, an integrated bottle opener, four molden-in can holders, a handle for easy transportation and is super durable. This cooler will change your camping experience!

Best Durable Cooler

Otterbox® Venture® 25 Qt Cooler

Our most durable cooler by far is the Otterbox Venture cooler. With an ultra durable exterior you’ll never have to worry about it breaking or cracking.

Best Insulated Cooler

Pelican™ 45QT Cooler

This Pelican cooler is built with thick polyurethane walls for maximum insulation wherever you go! It keeps ice cold for days on end which is why we choose this as our best insulated cooler.

Best for Long Trips

Pelican™ 50qt Elite Cooler

Pack everything you could possibly need for a long camping trip in this Pelican brand cooler. With a durable, hard shell exterior, an integrated bottle opener, 50 quarts of storage capacity, and a fishing scale for any fishing you do along the way, you’re sure keep this cooler for years to come.

Best for Short Trips

iCOOL® Xtreme Whitewater Waterproof Cooler Backpack

If you are thinking of getting away for a weekend trip, this cooler backpack will give you plenty of storage space to pack your food and drinks in, while still allowing you to transport it comfortably. 

Best Budget Cooler

Urban Peak® Waterproof 48 Can Hinge Cooler

If you are looking for an inexpensive cooler that still offers ample storage space this Urban Peak cooler bag is for you! With a waterproof exterior, thick foam insulation and room for 48 cans, this cooler will get the job done, while staying within your budget.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Cooler

Using a cooler properly plays a major part in how well the cooler performs. Here are some tips and tricks to help you make the most of your cooler!

  • Don’t Empty Water: Though it may seem like the obvious choice, emptying the cold water from your cooler will actually make the leftover ice melt faster, ultimately making your food/drinks not last as long. Keeping the cold water in your cooler until the end of your trip is what we recommend.
  • Limit Use: Limit the amount of times you open your cooler and try not to leave it open for a long period of time so that you don’t melt any ice that is keeping your food cold.
  • Consider Other Cooling Options: If using ice is too much of a hassle for you, you can always use dry ice or reusable freezer packs instead!
  • Shade: As we mentioned earlier, shade is your friend, keeping your cooler in the hot sun will only limit the cooling power.
  • Prep for the Trip: Keeping the food that you are planning to bring on your trip refrigerated beforehand will ensure that your food stays cold for even longer.

We hope you have come closer to finding the perfect camping cooler for your next adventure! Want to learn more about the different types of coolers? Take a look at our ultimate guide to custom coolers!


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