(This site is reader-supported. When you buy something using retail links on our articles, we may earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Holiday time is an ideal opportunity to spend time with family and friends. So, it is obvious for you to plan for an outing or picnic, which may be just to get kids out into the fresh air and spot some real animals that they have only seen in their storybooks or be a get together at a campsite under shining stars.
For such trips, taking food and beverages is indispensable. However, if this trip is during summer, you simply cannot afford to keep beverages or any other drinks hot. This is where a cooler come in for keeping beverages ice cold by using and retaining ice. The FDA says safe storage temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
An outdoor cooler, if chosen smartly, is likely to reflect the same adventurous spirit as you who carries it. It is tough enough to endure all the abuses and harsh contacts such as while being beaten, dropped, sealed tight, seated upon, plunged or even being hit by a wild animal.
Despite these attacks, it continues to keep the inside contents cold for many days. Further, the best outdoor cooler is versatile enough to be used at campsites, tailgate parties, cookouts, and get-togethers.
With summer approaching near, regardless of whether you will be camping, kayaking, or just chilling at the beach, the best cooler will be your refreshing pal on your outing site. The best cooler is the that looks not only sturdy but also performs strongly by withstanding the outdoors while keeping the beverages and food cold.
To help you choose the best ice cooler for keeping ice at freezing temperature and food at a safe storage temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit as indicated by the FDA, this guide shares fair reviews of 5 best coolers for keeping ice and a buying guide.
2021’s 5 Best Coolers for Keeping Ice Reviews
Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Zipperless Hardbody Cooler
If you have started researching on coolers, then you must have come across popular and premium models such as Yeti and Pelican. Well, this one is not one of these premium hard-sided coolers but its functionality is premium for those who plan to use it for a day or two.
You can rely on this cooler if you are working for full time and want to keep all three meals and an ice pack cool throughout the day. You can even rely on it for a beach trip or one-day outing with five people, as it can keep that many food packets and beverages cool throughout the day.
Although the cooler stays cool only for three days in hot temperatures, the appealing reason why most people use it is the plenty of storage areas inside its outer nylon body. Thus, you can easily organize and all sorts of stuff.
This deep freeze cooler is much like a soft cooler or an insulated lunch pack. It features the main innovation of zipper-free design with a flip-up lid. Such a design ensures an improved sealing mechanism than of a zipper.
This is because the recessed lid fits into the cooler body with pressure. While this sealing mechanism is not as ideal as those of high-end rotomolds, it is superior to zippers being infamous for air leakage. The innovated design also facilitates swifter access to cooler items through just a flip-up mechanism.
The cooler is not that soft, as the body is of hard polyethylene that is thinner than a costly rotomolded model. In this sense, it will hold ice longer than a conventional soft cooler but shorter than a rotomolded one.
The shoulder strap is comfortable and adjustable and has a tough Rhino-Tech® exterior that is resistant to stains and water. The cooler also has a safe leakproof lining that keeps bacterial odors and stains away.
The cooler features high-performance insulation, Deep Freeze, along with a radiant heat barrier that does not absorb heat but reflects it to retain cold inside.
It also features a removable HardBody liner that is FDA-compliant as well as SmartShelf. The latter separates soft and hard stuff for storage. For using the full liner, just remove SmartShelf and store everything in a single large compartment.
- Good look
- Sturdy with resistance to stains, cracks, and water
- No leakage
- Big enough for daily use
- The opener on the side
- FDA-complaint liner
- Easy to grab due to handles on sides
- Comfortable shoulder strap
- Easy to clean
- Available in different colors
- Highly affordable
- Thin plastic liner
Polar Bear Coolers Original PERFORMANCE (24-pack)
This soft cooler from Polar Bear earns the respect of being a sturdier, more affordable, and offering better insulation than the Yeti’s soft coolers. In the world of soft coolers, it is regarded as the sturdiest and leakproof cooler.
This cooler comes with open-cell foam insulation that keeps everything cold inside for a bit more than 24 hours when the temperature outside is almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This is pretty impressive. The nylon body features high-density insulation of foam that is an inch thick.
The superior nylon material reflects superior craftsmanship with seams stitched and double hemmed. The interior liner is actually bullet-proof due to robust TDU anti-microbial double-coated nylon. The bottom saddle provides enough support to stay strong after packing the cooler.
The liner is endorsed by the FDA, which means it does not matter whether it touches your food or not. You can easily pull it inside for a quick wipe. The cooler also comes with a heavy-duty, weatherized zipper that can tackle the force you put on them and does not rust at all.
Unlike other coolers, this one is customizable. To the side pocket, you can add your logo either as a text or via an embroidery. The cooler comes with eight tie downs of hard plastic, four on each side for securing it to any surface without wobbling.
Another striking point is that the cooler is shaped like a triangular bag with only one zipper atop. This allows you to use it at its full capacity. It can accommodate 12 oz 24 cans or 18 bottles of same capacity along with 10lbs ice.
The cooler has a distinct fold downwards having big openings so that you can access the inside items swiftly and easily when it is stationary. While on the move, you can also buckle them for security.
- Waterproof and sweatproof
- Superior insulation to other soft models
- No shaking on the move
- FDA-approved liner that is the most durable and easy to clean
- Reliable hardware
- Lifetime warranty
- Heavy when packed
- A bit awkward access to contents inside
Engel 65 Deep Blue Hard Cooler (Haze Gray)
Did you know that Engel is the pioneer of high-performance rotomolded models? Well, this deep blue hard cooler is yet another gift from it. Been rotationally molded, this cooler is strong and durable with insulation of high-density closed-cell polyurethane spanning across two inches covering the lid, on the sides, and at the bottom.
Coupled with the knack of bear resistance, this cooler is actually indestructible. Proving its ability to resist bears, it has obtained the IGBC certification. The closed-cell insulation is responsible for ice retention until 7-10 days depending on the temperature.
The gasket is made up of silicone and ensures an airtight seal due to which heat does not penetrate inside. It also retains its shape for years to come. In case of any issue, just open the drain valve. Doing so will relieve the cooler from the unwanted pressure.
The extended rope handles dangling over the drain plug leaving it unhindered. The handles are of hard plastic and look ergonomic due to the way it is affixed to a rope.
One of the coolest aspects of this cooler is the opener with which you can open bottles. Some more salient features include solid hinges even in rough water, little legs for maintaining the cooler off the ground, and the tie-down points for securing the cooler to a boat.
- Longer time ice retention than many other popular coolers
- Good insulation
- Anti-slippery feet
- Compatible with dry ice
- Color options
- 10-year warranty
- A bit costly
RTIC Cooler 65 Quarts
Consider this hard cooler if you are looking for a high-end, high-performing cooler that is highly durable but less burdensome on your wallet. In terms of insulation, it is perhaps among the most appealing hard coolers with 3-inch insulated walls accompanied by gasket lid of freezer style.
This combination keeps ice and other things cold for up to 10 days. The traction lid makes the ice chest versatile by allowing it to act as a casting stand or a step up to be inside your vehicle. Confidently sit on the traction lid or use it as a tabletop, bench, a step-stool, or a cutting board.
The lid is rough and tough and is resistant to bears due to rubber latches of heavy-duty nature and an integrated locking mechanism. The cooler is also resistant to scraping and bumps.
The rotomolded build, freezer-like gasket, and rubber T-handles of heavy-duty nature make this cooler leakproof. Further, the molded tie-down slots and the bottom that does not slip make this cooler ideal to have while on any adventurous outing.
There is a drainage mechanism to drain the melted ice water. This is the rapid v-drain system that features efficient drain spouts. The hinges will never break your trust, while the exterior will never sweat or condense.
Unlike other coolers, this one does not have any divider or shelf and weighs almost 25 lbs. being a hard-shell cooler. If you need compartments, you can buy its compatible shelves and dividers.
The total capacity of the cooler is to accommodate up to 64 cans and 70 lbs. of ice. This multi-purpose cooler comes with a top handle of stainless steel that a single person can hold and carry.
- Sturdy construction (bear-proof)
- Heavy-duty build
- Good insulation
- Non-slippery feet
- Comfortable grip
- Highly durable
- Reliable hardware
- Less expensive
- Lacks leash for plug
- Somewhat heavy
YETI Tundra 65 Cooler
Consider this popular Yeti cooler if you are looking for the best mix of insulation and durability. This plain but highly effective hard cooler is strong and capable of keeping ice and food cold for at least seven days.
While its size is likely to give a heavy feel, the PermaFrost technology of insulation spanning across three inches can maintain ice without melting. At the same time, it is capable of retaining a safe food temperature for five consecutive days.
Using ice packs of good quality also enhances the overall frozen effect further. In terms of durability, the Tundra is capable of withstanding powerful impacts due to which it is a top performer. The additional thick FatWall design is endorsed as bearproof.
Further, the integrated powerful T-Rex lid ensures that the lid is totally sealed so that the cold temperature is maintained well inside. The latches of T-Rex lid are made using heavy-duty rubber, which keeps busting at bay.
This Tundra model also comes with the original keeper technology. In addition, the ColdLock gasket minimizes the penetration of unwanted air inside.
The rotomolded build makes the model powerful and totally unbreakable. So, no matter where you take it, the robust build of this portable cooler stands up to the harshness of your journey.
With 65-quarts of capacity, there is plenty of room inside for foods and drinks. Further, the interior has a tray to keep drinks and food items separate and consequently organized. The cooler also has a drainage system inside to take out all the melted ice.
The ability to upkeep the right temperature for a long time makes this model ideal for a long trip. Do not consider it if you need a cooler to remain cool only for a few hours.
- Good aesthetics
- Sturdy build; bearproof
- Great insulation
- Big size
- Highly durable
- Available in different colors
How to Choose the Best Cooler for Keeping Ice
In other words, if a cooler is suitable for your neighbor or friend or is simply popular amongst many, it is not necessarily an ideal model for you too. This is because each one of us has different needs as well as budget.
So, for buying the best cooler for keeping ice cold for a few or several hours, it is essential to know your requirements and then match them with the features of the most promising coolers. These features are simply the buying factors that you need to consider and analyze. So, let’s check out these features or factors in terms of answers to most commonly asked questions.
Which type of ice cooler is considered as the best?
Broadly, there are two types of coolers namely, hard and soft. As the name indicates, hard coolers are designed exclusively for heavy-duty use in which toughness is vital. Unlike soft coolers, these coolers come with more capacities including that of retaining ice for a longer time.
Hard coolers are usually classic models made using steel or hard plastic. They are suitable for camping, boating, or hiking. They are also heavier than soft coolers due to which many come with side handles or wheels.
On the other hand, soft coolers are designed mainly for lighter uses. They are likely to be more visually appealing than hard coolers. They are ideal for those who do not want to retain ice for more than a day or two.
Go for a soft cooler for short trips or on-the-go adventures such as kayaking where portability is more essential than ice retention. Usually, these models come with a comfortable shoulder strap so that any one person on the trip can easily carry it and then collapse it after chilling down your contents.
Coolers are also categorized into standard or rotomolded groups. The latter models are perhaps believed to be the best ones in the world of coolers. In most models, the hard plastic is molded into a single piece, removing the risk of faults or seams.
This design insulates better so that ice remains for a longer time. These models are also more durable than the standard ones. However, they are more expensive.
What should be the cooler size?
Well, the exact answer to this question depends on your usage as well as requirements. Are you going to use the cooler or someone else? Will you be packing it with many food packets or drinks for the full family? Would you need to pack for several days or a week? You need to answer these questions to choose the right size.
The size depends on the purpose of investing in a cooler and the travel duration. You should also consider ease of use, portability, and mobility. If you are tempted to buy a truly large cooler, just remember that it shall be a bit harder to carry than a smaller one. If a large cooler is what you need, the one with wheels can prevent compromising mobility.
A cooler is measured in quarts. One quart is around a liter, precisely coming to 946 milliliters. For brevity sake, let’s take one quart as one liter. Cooler sizes start usually from 20 quarts and go up to over 400 quarts that apply to largest coolers.
While the shape affects the capacity, there are a few observations. In the world of hard coolers, a 70-quart cooler is considered as the most family-friendly. Again, this depends on how much you pack, how long you want things to remain cold, and how long is your trip. Similarly, smaller versions are ideal for small-group drinks or parties.
A larger cooler will become heavier, particularly when packed with drinks and food items. Most brands design coolers with the capacity having a ratio of 2:1, meaning two ice parts to one can. However, it is not the standard measurement.
Nevertheless, here are the general guidelines. In that case, 20 quarts can accommodate around 16 cans or 20 pounds of ice, 50 quarts can hold 35 cans or 43 pounds of ice that is fine for some days and for two people, and 75 quarts grabbing 57 cans or 70 pounds of ice great for a week’s trip for two people or a weekend trip with family.
For soft coolers, it is fine to have the capacity in the range of 20 to 24 cans. This can accommodate ample ice, food items, and drinks for a group of three. In short, here is the breakup:
- Small cooler of 20-25 quarts for one day use
- Medium cooler of 25-45 quarts for not more than three days and short trips
- Large cooler of 40-75 quarts for a week use
How do I measure the ice retention ability of a cooler?
Ice retention is perhaps the primary factor to consider while selecting a cooler for keeping ice frozen for a long time. It is typically expressed in days, which helps you determine whether that cooler can retain cold ice until the time you want it to.
The more the number of days, the longer the unit can keep ice. Nevertheless, it is true that the makers can exaggerate this duration solely for marketing. Thus, it is highly advisable to go through the reviews of that cooler to know the correct or exact ice retention time.
If you want to measure the retention time, there are a few factors to consider. This is because they tend to influence this time, which include the insulation material, wall’s thickness, cooler making process such as rotomolded, size, gasket quality, frequent opening of the lid, dark or shaded storage place, and pre-chilled time before use.
Due to so many factors, there is no universal way of measuring the exact time of ice retention. Whatever number you see is the best possible time or an approximate idea. In general, hard-sided or hard coolers shall have a longer retention time than soft-sided coolers. Further, rotomolded coolers have better retention ability due to better insulation than the standard coolers.
Frankly, it is difficult to determine exactly which cooler has an ideal ice retention time. So, there is hardly a cooler that has the longest retention time. However, there are less popular brands such as Kysek known for superb retention time. Other reliable brands are Yeti and Pelican.
Which is the best insulation material for coolers?
Most coolers are made using hard plastics for giving better insulation. However, it is worth investing into non-toxic or BPA-free plastic, as it is both healthy and environment-friendly. The chosen plastic should also be durable so that the cooler lasts for years to come. So, check out the customer reviews on this aspect before buying the promising cooler.
What should be the insulation quality of my cooler?
The insulation quality should be truly good, as it directly affects the duration of ice retention. Thus, you need to choose a brand that guarantees the best insulation quality. As insulation should keep food edible and drinks cold, the best cooler should have a tight sealing mechanism and thick insulating walls.
This indicates to have a big cooler for better performance. Even if you go with two coolers with an inside capacity of 40 quarts, the unit with thicker insulation will consume more storage space in your vehicle. In general, the best insulators are the ones with more insulation space.
Should I buy a portable cooler?
A portable cooler is ideal for those who need to carry or move it often during the trip. If portability is on priority for you, a soft cooler is what you should consider. Only one person is required to carry and move one such cooler, as it is lightweight and typically has shoulder straps. If you need a large cooler, then consider buying one with wheels to ensure portability.
You should also keep an eye on handles apart from weight to ensure portability. Handles can be fixed or swinging. They can be made using plastic, metal, or thick fabric. Well, it is easier to carry with swinging handles.
How should I choose the right handles on my cooler?
Well, the answer again boils down to your requirements. Would you need softer or wider grips? Who will be using moving or carrying the cooler? How far would you carry? Or is there a backpack? Finding an exact answer will help you choose the right handles.
Do I need cooler on wheels?
If you have to travel a long distance to move your cooler or walk on a tough surface, it is wise to choose a cooler on wheels and made up of sturdy materials, both of which can facilitate easy movement. Think about how and where you will be using the unit to find out whether you need cooler on wheels.
How do I assess the durability or the weight enduring capacity of a cooler?
Would you like to sit on your cooler? Would you be putting other things atop it? Will you prefer a cooler resistant to wild animals, water, heat, and condensation? If your answer is positive, then you will have to go through the customer reviews to find out whether these expectations are fulfilled or not. A few coolers are built using sturdy material and have stronger hinges to increase the overall lifespan.
Should I choose a cooler with a drainage mechanism?
Yes! It is useful to have a drainage mechanism, especially if you are on a longer trip. This is because it will allow you to remove melted ice. If the use of your cooler is just a bit more than a day, there is no need to replace melted ice. This is because the cold water is still functioning to keep your perishable food safe.
You only need to replace that melted ice water when it becomes warmer than 40 °F. Until then, it is keeping your cooler safe by keeping bacteria away. It does so by absorbing heat once the lid is open.
How rotomolded technology works in coolers?
The rotomolded technology in the world of coolers means rotationally molded coolers. These units are famous for their high insulation performance. In other words, they keep beverages, drinks, and food items ice cold for a longer duration than other normally manufactured coolers.
Usually, hard plastic is rotationally molded and rubber is evenly distributed inside around the cooler while making it. This results in a thick wall. Such coolers are able to keep away wild animals and endure tough beatings. However, they are expensive too. This is evident when we see coolers of Yeti, Engel, Pelican, and Igloo.
Is it fine to store dry ice?
Yes, but the cooler should allow it. Not all coolers are compatible. Further, it is actually harmful to handle dry ice if not done with care. We strongly advise reading help manuals that come with the cooler prior to handling or keeping dry ice in it.
It is fine to get tempted to pick up just any cooler but it is not right to allow that temptation to turn you blind. In other words, being tempted is not an issue but succumbing to it without research and analysis is!
Each cooler has its own pros and cons. Similarly, each buyer has distinct requirements including the budget range and usage. Thus, it is irrational to think that only an expensive or popular cooler is ideal for you.
You should actually take a closer look at all features each promising cooler has to offer and find out how well that cooler fit into your budget and meet your requirements or expectations.
Of all, the major requirement is to keep the ice and other items cold. Still, you should look at specific functions, which is where your attentiveness will come into play. Do not select just for the sake of picking; ask the right questions to yourself and then choose the most suitable one.
We would highly recommend the RTIC cooler, as it has all the features to chill you down by taking away all your worries regarding food and drinks. It perhaps has the maximum ice retention time, a durable build that is bearproof.