What Is The Best Cooler For The Money?

In this article, we're giving you a buying guide that will help you look for the right features for the right occasions. It will give you the right questions to ask, so you won’t end up with something less or too much. We will also give a list of five of our best picks to help you even further.

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What are the types of coolers available?

There are 3 basic types of coolers: traditional coolers, high-end coolers, and soft coolers.

  • Traditional ones are what you commonly see in grocery and hardware stores. They’re usually box-shaped or like a chest. They have a hard interior and exterior.
  • Soft coolers are like bags but with insulation purpose.
  • High-end coolers are advanced models that have way better insulation than coolers. These are sold at a much higher price than traditional coolers.

How do I choose between a soft, traditional, or high-end cooler?

Consider what you will store in the cooler, how long you plan to keep it in, and how often you will use it.​

  • Soft coolers are commonly used for short day trips, ball games or other sports and beach trips. You can also use it to store baby needs that require insulation.
  • Traditional coolers are common in every household for picnics, beach trips, and short camping trips. You can also use it to store game or fish.
  • High-end coolers are recommended for frequent campers, hunters, and fishermen. They are more durable and have better insulation performance, so it is the better long-term choice.
best cooler for the money

How often and how long will you use it for?

When choosing a cooler, it’s important to consider what you will be using it for and for how long. Is it for a multi-day camping trip, a day trip, or backyard barbecue? A day trip to the beach will only need a soft or regular cooler, while multi-day trip will need something with better insulation.

You also have to consider how often you’ll be using it. If you frequently go on multi-day camping trips in a year, then a high-end cooler is probably worth the investment. If you go camping occasionally, then a traditional cooler might do the trick. With short excursions, like a ball game or a sports event, then a soft or traditional cooler will do just fine.

What are you putting inside the cooler?

Perishable goods like meat, eggs, and milk, need to be stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for them not spoil. Beer and some other drinks are better enjoyed when they're cold. You need to consider these things when you pick your cooler so you can get one with the best insulation for your needs. What are you planning to store and how long do you plan on keeping them there?

What size do you need?

The size mainly depends on how much you need or want to store in the cooler. How many days are you packing for and for how many people? If you’re a fisher or a hunter, it may depend on how large your usual catch is.

With that in mind, you should take note that size also affects insulation performance and portability. Small coolers are obviously easier to carry around than larger ones. Some sizes will require two people to carry it. As for size and insulation performance, coolers work better when there is less empty airspace. That’s why a fully loaded small cooler can hold ice longer than a half-empty large cooler.

Therefore, you should choose a size that you will most likely fill up at the beginning of a trip so you can have the best insulating performance.

Do you need wheels on your cooler?

Your cooler is probably one of the heaviest things you’ll have on a trip. While wheels lessen the amount of work you put in moving it, the surface the cooler will move in must be considered, as well. If it’s flat and solid, the wheels will be a good idea.

How much should I be spending on a cooler?

The costs of coolers vary widely, and it depends on the size and quality. Coolers can cost as low as 20 dollars and as high as 600 dollars, depending on the kind, the brand, and the quality. While better quality is usually more expensive, not all are worth it. If you do your research, you can save a couple of bucks without compromising quality.

What’s the best cooler for the money?

Again, it depends on what you’re using it for. Here are our top five picks for heavy duty activities, that are worth your money.​

#1 RTIC Roto-molded Cooler​

RTIC is leading brand in coolers that offer great quality at reasonable prices. They only sell direct to consumers to cut on costs and they take pre-orders on a first-come, first-served basis. Unlike other brands, they don’t accept sponsors or marketing offers. Social media and word of mouth are two ways they spread the word out about their product.

They Roto-Molded coolers use the same material many kayaks use to make it able to handle strong outdoor conditions. They come in three different sizes and colors. The RTIC comes in 22, 45, and 60 quarts. The RTIC 60 is a great choice for a multipurpose cooler. You can use it for multi-day camping, storing your catch or your game and more.

Pros:
Cons:
  • The price is just right, considering the qualities it offers. It can keep ice cold for around 10 days, and it can store around 35 cans and a little over 11 gallons, and it’s durable.
  • It is very strong that you can use the cooler as a stepping stool and as a casting platform.
  • Opening the lid, cleaning the cooler and carrying it are all easy. The lid has an easy open access. On the sides, there are two options for carrying it; either with the rope handle or the built-in grips.
  • Draining it is quite easy and fast. The spout prevents ice from going out, and the V-drain system helps drain it completely.
  • A little bit heavier than some other brands.
  • Not as accessible as other brands. You have to pre-order it and it's on a first-come, first served basis.

#2 Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Cooler

Via Amazon.com

Coleman is a classic cooler brand that you can find in many retail stores. They offer a wide variety of coolers, from soft to hard, with wheels and more. As a brand, they’ve already made a name for themselves, so it’s hard to go wrong with them. Just make sure you know what features you want.

The 54 Quart Steel Belted Cooler is one of their best sellers because it is something that works well with short outdoor activities like camping or fishing. While it can't hold ice as long as a YETI, RTIC or other "die-hard" pursuit coolers, it's cheaper and more portable. It’s also something you can use for more casual and less demanding activities like a football game, beach trip or cookouts. It's common for many households in the country.

Pros:
Cons:
  • It’s tall enough to fit a two-liter bottle upright.
  • You can fit about 85 cans inside
  • I love the classic cooler look. It brings me back to camping days as a child.
  • The lid and build itself are strong enough for a person to sit or stand on.
  • You can choose from many colors to suit your personality.
  • It’s easy to clean because the surface is smooth and doesn’t hold dirt.
  • Coleman offers a six-year limited warranty.
  • Doesn’t insulate as long as the other options on this list.
  • I would say that the drainage system is average.
  • Carrying it when it’s full can be painful on hands.

#3 Yeti Tundra Cooler

Via Amazon.com

Yeti coolers are built with toughness in mind. The roto-molded construction makes the cooler so strong and indestructible. The walls are extra-thick and are pressure-injected commercial-grade polyurethane foam in the whole box for the best ice retention. A standard YETI cooler is also very strong and durable that it is bear resistant.

The YETI Tundra 50 is a great size, but you can choose from other sizes if you like. The Tundra 50 outside is a little over 18 inches tall and almost 22.75 inches long and over 17 inches wide. The inside, however, is a little over 12 inches tall, about 10 inches wide and 16 inches long. This can fit about 32 cans of beer or other drinks.

The package comes with bear proof locks, dividers, wall mount bottle openers and a security cable lock and bracket.

Pros:
Cons:
  • Yeti’s insulation performance is one of the best. It can keep ice frozen for almost 10 days.
  • It’s great for extreme multi-day campers, fishermen, and huntersYou can use it as a stepping stool, a seat, and a casting platform.
  • It seals well and drains well.
  • It is very expensive.Between 250-600 USD.
  • Looks bulky and while you can take it to beach outings and such, it may look to much.
  • The opening latch can be annoying

#4 ENGEL USA Cooler/Dry Box, 19 Quart

Aside from keeping things cold, Engel coolers are great for heavy duty activities because it's very strong and durable. It's popular among fishermen and hunters because they can rely on the insulation performance to keep their catch and game from spoiling. Many campers also love Engel Coolers because it’s tough and can be used for multi-day trips.

The cooler/dry box is not for storing things to keep them cold. You can use it to keep things warm, as well as dry. It has an airtight gasket to keep warm air out and the coldness in or vice versa. You can also use it to store things you don’t want to get wet, such as cameras, electrical wiring, etc. It comes in 13, 19, and 30 quarts in either tan, white, or grassland color.

Pros:
Cons:
  • You know it’s very durable and can take the rough outdoors
  • It functions as a cooler and a dry box. You can also use it to keep things warm or hot.
  • You can use it as a ditch bag because it can float.
  • It keeps things cold, but the ice retention is just average compared to other coolers on this list. Not ideal for multi-day camping trips, unless you change or add ice often.
  • The handles are not very comfortable.

#5 Pelican Products ProGear Elite Cooler, 45 Quart

Another high-end cooler is the Pelican Elite Cooler. Even by the looks of it, you can tell it can take the rough outdoors. It's popular for fishing, hunting, and multi-day camping, as well as other multi-day adventures like boating or sailing.

Pelican offers a lot of sizes and some features such as wheels. The pulls and latches can endure pressure. A standard Pelican cooler has 2-inch thick for solid insulation.

Pros:
Cons:
  • Draining melted water is easy.
  • The handles are quite easy on the hands.
  • Offers great insulation and durability.
  • It's bulky and is heavier than most coolers.
  • The cost is expensive.
  • It can be difficult to clean the exterior.

Conclusion

Looking for the perfect cooler takes a lot of thought and consideration. The important factors to consider are insulation, size, portability, purpose, price, and whatever you plan on putting in it.

Overall, I would choose the RTIC cooler over the others because it has all the qualities I need and it fits my budget just right. It’s cheaper than most of the other coolers on the list but not because it’s any less. In fact, it held ice longer than the YETI cooler.

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