Igloo coolers have been around for ages. You may even have one in your garage that you use often. But with all the progress that has been made with cooler technology these days, you may not realize what you’re missing. Roto-molded coolers like YETI and Pelican are starting to take over because they can offer such impressive ice retention – up to 7 days. As a result, Igloo has stepped up their game and now offer roto-molded models of their own.
Are there Igloo’s that can hold their own in the roto-molded movement? We took a shortlist of Igloo coolers best sellers, both classic styles and their newer roto-molded chests, and rigorously reviewed them to see which ones are actually worth your money.
We’re going to evaluate these ice chests in the following categories, so keep these things in of what to look for in mind while you check out each cooler on the list:
What do you need the cooler for? Beach days? Weekend or week-long camping trips? A fishing boat? You may not need a large, 5-day cooler if you just need it for a beach day. Similarly, you won’t be able to keep your fish cold with a $20 day-use cooler.
Size & Weight:
Once you know what you’ll be using your cooler for most, keep in mind the size you want. Larger coolers are more versatile, sure, but they can be a pain to store and transport. The larger the cooler, the more you can fit in it and the heavier it gets.
Similar to to usage – you may not need a more expensive 7-day ice retaining model if you will never use it more than overnight. It’s always better to have peace of mind knowing your ice chest will last a weekend, but some folks will never need more than a day’s worth of performance. We’ll outline what amount of time of ice retention you can expect to get each ice chest.
The quality of materials and features transform a good product to a great one. For example, two features we like to see in a great cooler are: solid hinges and latches (preferably metal or thick plastic, and well-attached) and a rubber lid gasket to seal in cold air. Another feature many people like to have is wheels, since it makes transporting the cooler much easier. We’ll outline each cooler’s key features for you.
At ShedHeads, we’re not endorsed by any specific manufacturer, so we aren’t going to bias our reviews to influence you one way or the other, and we’re not going to hide any negatives from you either. We want you to know everything about what you may buy: the good, bad and sometimes the ugly.
Quality & Price:
The great debate: how much do you spend? Sometimes it’s not necessary to spend $300+ like many do on a YETI, but often better performing products are more expensive. We’ll do our best to determine whether or not what you’ll be paying is fair or inflated.
Finally, we will try and outline what each cooler is best used for, and what we would recommend. We’ve researched countless brands of coolers and individual models, so we know what look for.
Now that you know what to look for, let’s dive into our list!
The list is ordered from smallest to largest for your convenience
Igloo Playmate Pal 7 Quart Personal Sized Cooler
- Size: 7 quarts, fits 12 cans
- Weight: 2.2 lbs
- Ice Retention: Poor. This little pal isn’t intended for long term ice storage. If you pack up your lunch, snacks and beverages with a few ice packs, they should stay cool all day, but ice will melt in a few hours.
- Key Features: Unique tent-top design, easy to carry, buttons on side of cooler are easy to press and open even with one hand, affordable.
- Good For: lunch for one, maybe two, beach days, sports games, work lunch etc.
- Negatives: Fairly small, poor ice retention, buttons are so easy to open something bumping against it can open it, like when transporting with other boxes.
- Price: It usually goes for around $30, which is a great price considering the usefulness of it. Click here to check the latest price online.
- Recommendation: This little portable Igloo cooler is best suited for lunches or beverages for day outings. Don’t expect it to hold ice for more than a few hours. That said, for such an affordable cooler, it will keep your lunch at a cool temperature, keep your beers cold for the game, or your snacks cool at the beach.
- Size: 14.8 quarts, 14 x 13 x 14 inches, fits several lunches, large water bottles, and ice packs.
- Weight: 3.7 lbs
- Ice Retention: Poor. The “Playmate Boss” is a substantial step up from the previous Playmate cooler in a lot of ways, but this just isn’t a cooler designed for long-term ice storage. It will definitely keep your lunch and beverages cold with ice packs, but ice won’t last you more than a day.
- Key Features: Tent-top lid design provides extra storage and makes it easy to carry, easy-open buttons, very large.
- Good For: fits lunch for two-three people, good for the beach, sports games, etc.
- Negatives: Not intended for long-term ice retention, but with ice packs it works great and keeping your things cool, but not ice-cold. Filling it with ice could cause leaks out of the lid once the ice melts.
- Price: You can usually find these for under $50 which is an awesome price considering the size and versatility. Click here to check the latest price online.
- Recommendation: This is a great portable lunch-box style ice chest that has enough size to fit lunch for multiple people, plus snacks and beverages. It has a plenty of space, but it’s not great for ice retention. We recommend using a couple ice packs rather than straight ice since it can melt and leak. For the price, it’s a great daily use cooler.
Igloo Sportsman 20
- Size: 20 quarts,
- Weight: 16 lbs
- Ice Retention: Great. The thick insulation and roto-molded design of the Sportsman 20 provides great ice retention, and you can expect around 3-4 days of ice – depending on how often you open the lid, how much ice you put in, and if you pre-cool it.
- Key Features: This little guy is almost identical to the YETI Roadie 20. It’s got the same design, but thicker rubber latches, a massive 2″ wide drainhole, non-slip rubber feet. It’s also got 2 cupholders molded into the lid. It has a rubber gasket on the lid which helps seal the cooler when closed and is bearproof, with a hole on the lid and tub that can be used to lock it up. It also comes in tan which may be easier to keep clean.
- Good For: Fishing, kayaking, day-trips, beach days,
- Negatives: The aluminum/rubber handle pictured is often not what it sent to consumers. Instead, Igloo sends these out with a plastic handle which is much less durable (and not what is advertised). Not the biggest issue, but still.
- Price: You can typically find these for around $150, much cheaper than YETIS. Click here to check the latest price online.
- Recommendation: While the Sportsman 20 has impressive ice life, its small size may limit its usefulness. It’s great for day trips to the beach or park, or for day trips fishing and kayaking – but only if you’re catching small fish! Although ice may last more than a weekend, it’s possible it may be a bit small to count on it that long, unless you can manage to pack light, if it’s just you or one other person. Despite some minor quality issues like the plastic handle, it’s basically a cheaper YETI with slightly less quality materials and manufacturing. Either you pay for the quality and brand name, or you save and maybe don’t get quite the same quality – it’s up to you.
Igloo Super Tough STX Cooler
- Size: 54 quarts, 22 x 12 x 12 inches, fits several lunches, large water bottles, and ice packs.
- Weight: 10 lbs
- Ice Retention: Good. The Super Tough isn’t a YETI-class cooler in that you can get ice for 5-6 days, but it will definitely keep ice for 2-3 days, and maybe 4 under optimal conditions. Good, not great.
- Key Features: Stainless steel hinges, available in brown colour which will be easier to keep clean, has well attached and sturdy handles, good ice retention, metal cables to hold lid open, durable manufacturing, affordable.
- Good For: Camping trips, weekend use, fishing, entertaining, catering.
- Negatives: Ice retention is good, but not amazing. Expect 2-3 days of ice, depending on the conditions. When it’s full, it can be a bit heavy. There is no rubber lid gasket, so it’s not as sealed and insulated as it could be.
- Price: Considering the quality features like stainless steel hinges, sturdy plastics and quality of the insulation, the price is good. You can usually expect the price of the 54qt model to be about $80-100. Click here to check the latest price online.
- Recommendation: The Super Tough Igloo cooler is a surprisingly good ice chest for the price. It’s not a YETI by any means, but it really is built tough, and with some great features and at a fraction of the cost. It’s durable, and keeps ice for at least 2.5 days, so it’s great for weekend trips. You will have some melting along the way though, so make sure you drain it and top up if necessary. For the price, it’s a great icebox, but if you need something that keeps for 4+ days, it may not be for you.
The Best Coolers
This particular model made our list of the best coolers for 2018. If you want to see what makes it so great, and see how it compares to the competition, check out our guide here:
Igloo 55 Quart Sportsman Cooler
- Size: 55 quarts, 18 x 17 x 31 inches
- Weight: 26.8 lbs
- Ice Retention: Great. Compared to its younger brother, the Super Tough which can give you about 203 days of ice, the Igloo Sportsman has improved on that time. You can expect to get around 5-6 days of ice (potentially 7) with the Sportsman. Ice retention depends on several factors, but you can expect this icebox to hold its own against a similarly sized YETI or other roto-molded model.
- Key Features: Huge 2″ drain hole drains very fast, rubber lid gasket, thick rubber latches, larger than YETI, latch hook for tiedowns, has a hole that connects lid and tub for bear-proof locking, thick insulation, virtually indestructible roto-molded design, also available in tan.
- Good For: Week-long trips, fishing, hunting, camping, day trips, entertaining etc. very versatile.
- Negatives: Plastic handles aren’t as durable as rope (could be subject to cracking), very heavy
- Price: The Igloo Sportsman (55qt) Usually goes for around $250, which considering the superior design and construction, is a great price. A 50qt YETI usually costs around $380, so you’re getting very similar ice retention and quality, at a fraction of the cost. Click here to check the latest price online.
- Recommendation: Igloo has really stepped up their game with their Sportsman cooler. It’s got extremely similar features and performance to a YETI, at a much cheaper price. There are a few differences in quality, such as the plastic handles which could degrade more quickly than rope. And you may get ~1 day less ice than you would with a YETI. That being said, you can expect at least 5 days of ice retention and a lot of other great features. Though the cooler may be of slightly lower quality, you’re saving some big bucks – so it just depends if you prefer paying for quality or saving some money.
- Size: 72 quarts (The size we we reviewed more are available).
- Weight: 11 lbs
- Ice Retention: Good. Unfortunately this ice chest isn’t designed for long-term (5-6 days) ice storage. You can certainly count on it to hold ice for 2-3 (maybe 4) days, depending on how much ice you put in and how often you open it, but it’s not going to hold ice like the Sportsman would.
- Key Features: Ruler on lid for fishing, several sizes available, up to 162 quarts and as small as 25 quarts, stain and odor resistant interior (will still need to be washed with bleach once in a while),
- Good For: Fishing, camping, day trips, BBQs, parties, etc.
- Negatives: Because it is not a roto-molded design, you do lose some durability since the walls are thinner and there are seals which moisture could seep into. The lid is also not insulated, rather it is just filled with air, which doesn’t insulate the cooler as well as it could. It also doesn’t provide a sturdy seat if you’re going to be using it on the boat. If you find you have an issue with this you can always buy a can of spray-on foam insulation and take matters into your own hands. The lid hinges aren’t as sturdy as they could be, also.
- Price: Usually we see the 72qt model of this Igloo marine cooler for ~$130, which is pretty good considering the size of the ice chest. However, you shouldn’t be willing to pay much more than that given the few features that are lacking. Click here to check the latest price online.
- Recommendation: We were disappointed at a few features that are missing in this Igloo marine cooler. The lid not being insulated is the most major, since it won’t hold a lot of weight, and it loses some ice retention as a result. That being said, this model is available in sizes up to 162 quarts, and is lightweight making it a perfect companion for a boat and for filling it with freshly caught fish. Of course, these marine ice chests are also great for other scenarios like camping and entertaining. It’s not the best quality materials, but it’s a very affordable option.
Did this review article help you choose your own Igloo cooler? Let us know your questions or comments below! We love hearing from our readers.