With summer fast approaching, whether you are going to spend it fishing, kayaking, camping or just chilling at the beach, you’re going to need the best coolers to go with you – one that looks good, can withstand the outdoors, and most importantly keep your food and drinks ice cold.
The Best Coolers for 2018
We’ve reviewed the most popular brands of coolers here at ShedHeads and narrowed it down to these 12, the best coolers of 2018. Whether you want to go for a premium brand like YETI, a cheaper alternative like RTIC, or a classic Coleman, this guide will help you find the best option for your needs.
Best Cooler For The Beach – RTIC 45
Although RTICs are considered by some to be knock-offs of YETI, they actually hold their own in terms of quality and performance. A lawsuit was even pursued by YETI which was settled (supposedly) amicably. When you compare the two brands side by side it’s easy to see why, as they look almost identical. There are a few quality deficiencies, but they also come at a cheaper price. In general, we’ve actually found that RTICs have slightly better ice retention than YETIs making them great coolers for the beach. Even uncovered and in direct sunlight, you’ll have lots of ice for the entire weekend. You can get past 7 days of ice if you’re careful. 45 quarts is a great versatile size, but a 65qt might be better for larger groups or families. RTIC is in the midst of redesigning their roto-molded coolers though, so you should think about getting one of these while you can. If you want a more in-depth look at this popular option, read our full RTIC review to get the lowdown.
Best Cooler for Camping – ORCA 40qt
ORCA coolers are among the best premium cooler brands, and unlike other brands like YETI that have outsourced to China and other countries, ORCAs are still manufactured in the USA. We absolutely love this line, but you might be wondering why we’ve made it our pick for camping? This thick roto-molded cooler is made with quality materials and is extremely heavy-duty and durable. Your ice can last for 5+ days easily. It’s also so rugged, that as long as you use a lock to close the lid, it can stand up to grizzly bears. One of the best features that other coolers on the list don’t have is the nifty pouch bolted on the back, which you can use to store small accessories like your phone, keys or pocket knife. The ORCA 40qt is a great camping size for most folks, but there are larger sizes if you think you’ll need the extra storage. Plus ORCA offers a lifetime warranty, so you can be confident it will last you years. See how they stack up against YETI here.
Best Kayaking Cooler – Orion 25qt
Orion coolers have somewhat flown under the radar of the roto-molded cooler movement. But, they are some of the best-made coolers you can get. Orions are actually made by Jackson Kayak, a major producer of kayaks and canoes. They use their expertise in manufacturing to make impressively durable and quality coolers. Their insulation is at least 2″ thick in every wall and the lid of the cooler – unlike other brands whose lids are often thinner than the walls which is where the heat can seep in. As a result, ice will last you up to 7 days if you’re diligent with keeping the lid closed throughout. It’s got so many features that make it great for kayaking, fishing and other activities. The non-stick rubber lid pad, built-in bottle openers, low-profile aluminum latches, included divider/cutting board are just a few. Plus, it has a built-in aluminum track system, which can be used to mount YakAttack kayak fishing accessories. The sonly downside is that they are a little on the pricey side. BUT, Orion also provides a lifetime warranty, are made in the USA. There is also a 65qt and 85qt model available if the 25qt won’t suit your needs, but it’s the best size for most kayaks. See our full Orion cooler review
Best Soft Cooler – Polar Bear 24
In this age of big, heavy-duty ice chests, sometimes a lightweight, soft cooler is what you need. Polar Bear’s soft coolers are the absolute best you can get your hands on (in our opinion). Many people are hesitant to purchase a soft cooler because they aren’t as durable, but Polar Bear makes theirs with a tear-proof 1000-denier nylon exterior and a durable inner lining. Both are extremely tough, and they protect a very hi-tech and impressive open-cell foam insulation. Having a flexible soft container is awesome to shove into a packed car or fold up when it’s empty, a feature often overlooked when purchasing a larger traditional cooler. Polar Bears are all backed by a lifetime warranty as well – excluding normal wear and tear. Because they are thinner, You can get about 24-36 hours of ice so it’s not more than weekend warrior. It fits 24 cans, and there is also a smaller 12 or larger 48 model if you need it. The built-in bottle opener has you covered if you opt for bottles over cans as well. A Polar Bear soft cooler is a great companion for so many occasions. Read our full Polar Bear Review
Best Cooler with Wheels – Pelican 45qt
Although newer roto-molded coolers are extremely durable and great at keeping ice, they are extremely heavy. Thankfully you can grab a wheeled cooler like this Pelican, which lets you it around rather than carry all 35lbs of it (not including your bounty) in your arms. The 2″ thick high density foam insulation can give you 7+ days of ice which is one of the best we’ve seen. Pelican offers a lifetime limited warranty as well should there be any manufacturing issues. The wheels are surprisingly heavy duty, and will have you tearing up any terrain – even if you take it to a sandy beach. The lid has four cup holders, and the lid can be locked to protect your things from wildlife, or other campers (yeah, it happens unfortunately). A great tip to improve the organization of your cooler is to get one or two of these kitchen pans to sit inside the lip of the cooler like this. Pelican also makes an 80qt wheeled cooler if you want something larger, but keep in mind it’s much heavier. Read Our Full Review
Best Hunting Cooler – Grizzly 75qt
Grizzly coolers have all the features that you need in a hunting cooler: a heavy-duty and rugged design, a large capacity, bear-proof design, and up to 7 days of ice retention thanks to their roto-molded design. Their non-slip rubber feet will stay put in the back of your truck even on dirt roads, the a dry goods tray keeps your goods organized, and a embossed ruler on the lid is extremely handy for cleaning and prepping. Grizzlies are made in the USA, and offer a lifetime warranty protecting their products. Even if you’re out in the bush for several days, your ice will stay frozen, for up to 7 days and maybe more. So if you are having trouble finding quarry you don’t have to worry about running out of ice – or food, since 75qt gives you lots of space. Plus, when you finally bag your doe (or whatever you’re hunting) there’s lots of space to fit meat. There are a ton more sizes available too, so if you think 75qt is too big or too small, you’ve got options. Read Our Full Review
Best Marine Cooler – YETI 75qt
Although YETIs have a reputation for being unnecessarily expensive, they’re arguably the most reputed, and still are cemented among the best brands of roto-molded coolers. Their trademarked rubber feet prevent any slipping around in your boat, and the thick insulated lid is sturdy enough to sit on. If someone loses their sea-legs and falls on it, or if you just want a better vantage point while using your fishing rod the lid is solid enough to sustain. A wire frame basket is included with YETIs which helps keep some of your smaller goods dry and above the ice, or you can use to separate your bait from your catches. 75qt is a great versatile size, small enough for a single person to carry, but large enough for all your fish you just caught. There are several smaller and larger available if you need too. You can also get the optional divider which also functions as a cutting board – nifty! Your ice should last you at least 5-6 days in this YETI and although you are paying a little extra for the brand name, you’re getting a high quality and reputable product in return. Read Our Full Review
Cheapest Cooler – Coleman Xtreme 70qt
By now you’ve likely noticed that many of these premium coolers are pretty expensive. Thankfully, there is a much cheaper alternative that can still provide ice for several days. The Coleman Xtreme is the best cooler for the money, for the simple fact that it can hold ice for up to 2 days, at a fraction of the cost of a more expensive cooler. Just don’t expect it to last nearly as long as the others on this list. The plastic is thin, the hinges are very flimsy, and the handles aren’t the best either. But if you just need a cheap cooler that holds ice for a couple days, you can’t beat the price. Read Our Full Review
Best Small Cooler – K2 20qt
Sometimes you don’t need a big huge cooler, and just want something smaller for personal use for a day trip, beaching or ATVing. The K2 20qt is perfect for personal use. Although it is a little heavy, the insulation is thick enough to have ice last you 3+ days and it has an awesome padded shoulder strap that you just don’t see from other brands. The strap leaves your hands free for whatever else you’re bringing along: surfboard, folding chair or fishing rod. It can also fit about 18 cans, plus some ice packs, so there’s plenty of room if you end up doing something with a friend. Read Our Full Review
Best Day Cooler – Igloo STX 54qt
If you don’t need a cooler that will hold ice for up to a week, then there’s no point paying for it! If all you need is a cooler that can keep your lunch and beverages cold for the day (maybe 2 if you really push it) this Igloo is a great choice. Although the majority of the cooler is plastic, it’s quite thick and surprisingly rugged. The stainless steel hinges are a huge bonus since those are typically the first things to break on cheaper models. The lid is sturdy enough to sit on, and with a capacity that fits more than 80 cans in there, you’ll have space for everyone’s lunch and drinks. This is an awesome choice for BBQs, parties and day trips to the beach. Read Our Full Review
Best Lunch Cooler – Polar Bear 12
While some folks traditionally use tent-top hard coolers like classic Igloos, we prefer a soft-sided cooler like Polar Bear for a few reasons – most notably though their ability to be folded up and squished when empty. Polar Bears are extremely rugged, and are almost impossible tear the exterior. They hold ice extremely well for 24 hours at least, and have a handy shoulder strap, your lunch will stay cold and it can even be a great beach cooler as well. The zippers are durable and tight to keep in the cold and keep out dust and sand. When you’re finished with your lunch you can squish it up and fold it to make it smaller and save space in your locker or car. Be careful if you’re packing a fork and knife with your lunch though, they’re not that tear-proof. Read Our Full Review
Best Cooler for the Money – ORCA 58qt
While YETIs have a great reputation, and Orions have some great features, when it comes down to it, ORCA comes out on top as the best cooler for the money. They’ve just done such a great job of balancing versatility, quality, performance and price. The pouch on the back is great for putting your keys or phone. The rugged design and materials make it bear-proof and the thick insulation can last more than 6 days. The 58qt is a nice versatile size , but there are lots of sizes available. To top it all of, ORCAs are still made in the USA, have a lifetime warranty, and a portion of all profits is donated to wildlife conservation and Wounded Warrior programs. Doing it right. Read Our Full Review
Want More Cooler Reviews?
At ShedHeads, we’ve reviewed dozens of different makes and models from plenty of different manufacturers. This guide was written as a summary for all of our other cooler reviews. If you want a more in-depth review of a model we mentioned in this guide, or to see a review of a specific model we didn’t cover here, you’ll find everything you need here. You can see a quick link to each model on the right sidebar, or you can check out a list of all of our reviews here.
Have a cooler you love, but we haven’t mentioned? Own something on our list, and have something to add? Our reviews are based on our own experience, and we love updating our reviews to include our readers thoughts. Drop us a line in the comments, and leave our email if you want us to reach out to you. We’d love to hear from you!