Best Ice Chest: Top 11 Picks
The best ice chest is an insulated, portable container that will keep items cold for lengthy periods. There are many uses for a portable cooler. They keep food at safe temperatures while also keeping beverages cold and satisfying. They allow you to preserve items, such as fish, while you are out on the lake, too. Anyone can enjoy an ice chest as long as it does a great job of keeping food, drinks, and other items cold.
Common Questions About the Best Ice Chest
1. What makes for the best ice chest?
An ice chest is an insulated container capable of keeping items cold as long as you need them to be kept cold. Usually, the best ones are well insulated, but some boost the cooling power with the addition of compartments designed to be packed with ice, dry ice, or ice packs with gel. (Note: Always wear safety gloves if you use dry ice.)
The best chest or cooler is the one that suits your planned uses and specific needs. Whether you need a soft, foldable cooler for your sandwiches or a larger cooler to preserve your catch of the day while fishing, you'll find that the best one allows you the freedom to use in a variety of ways to meet your needs on any given day.
2. What should I look for when buying a chest?
Of course, the number-one requirement of a cooler is that it must keep items cold. That means it must have ample insulation and an outer-shell that provides additional insulating properties. The outer shell can make all the difference in keeping things cool up to a few days as opposed to just a few hours. With some high-end models on the market today, you won’t even need to add much ice. Instead, the insulation does most of the work.
A cooler's construction and the materials should be top considerations when trying to decide which one to buy. Plastic is the favored material for manufacturing ice chests, but you should be careful because not all plastics are created equal. In your selection of a plastic ice chest, you will want to focus on those with roto-molded construction, meaning the plastic framework is created in a single piece. This provides strength and durability in the build while preventing any weak points.
Another consideration when you are shopping for an ice chest is to check whether it has metal or plastic hardware. Plastic hinges will deteriorate or break faster than metal hinges. While metal is nice, an all-metal ice chest is a little hard to find because roto-molded plastic has been proven superior. You will find metal still used for top-of-the-line coolers' hardware, hinges, handles, and zippers, though.
Rubber is another key material used in the manufacturing of some of the best ice chest models. It is used sparingly but is often a key component in such areas as the seal. Rubber helps create a more air-tight barrier between the lid and the box.
3. Where can I buy a cooler?
Fortunately, there are many places you can buy one. Sporting goods stores are a good source as are online retailers, such as Amazon. For your convenience, each of our recommendations in our best ice chest list is accompanied by a link to more information and a purchase option.
4. What are the best features?
Aside from what materials the ice chest is made of, we found that the number-one feature consumers were most concerned with was its method of transport. We discovered in our research that side handles are the most desired option for larger chests. Smaller ones have a single handle on the cooler lid for single-person carrying. This is a handy feature for simple, compact coolers, like the kind you'll use to carry your lunch or snacks. These smaller coolers, which are often made of fabric, also typically come with a shoulder strap.
Another feature of larger coolers favored by consumers is the inclusion of wheels. Attached wheels make transporting a heavily loaded chest so much easier. No one has to break their back or struggle because it's possible to pull up the handle and roll it where you need it to go.
How We Reviewed
Our review team evaluated some of the most popular and best ice chest options on the market. We reviewed them based on their features, such as good latches, strong hinges, handle positions, and the inclusion of wheels. We also looked at the performance of each cooler. By comparing those features, along with prices and warranties, we came up with a list of 11 that we feel comfortable recommending to you.
Overall Price Range
The coolers we reviewed on our list came in such a wide range of prices that there's surely something to suit every budget. The products reviewed below range in price from about $25 to almost $800.
Top 11 Best Ice Chest Options
- High-capacity, heavy-duty cooler features a charming retro design
- 54-quart capacity accommodates up to 85 cans
- Keeps the Ice! insulation offers 4-day ice retention in temperatures as high as 90 degrees...
- Built to deliver years of performance with rust-resistant stainless steel hardware
- Comfort-grip steel handles allow for easy, controlled lifting and carrying
This Coleman cooler is retro in design and comes in a variety of colors to suit your style. It has a fantastic capacity that can accommodate up to 85 cans. It's built to keep items cool for up to four days, even in 90-degree weather. It has rust-resistant, stainless-steel hardware and comfort-grip handles.
Coleman offers a six-year limited warranty on all its products.
- 35-quart, 42-can capacity cooler perfect for keeping food and drinks cold while camping,...
- Constructed with quality rotationally-molded plastic
- Airtight silicone gasket seal keeps the cold inside the cooler
- Compact and lightweight feel makes transporting this cooler easy
- Equipped with 2 carry handles for easy transportation
This Engel cooler has an awesome ice retention level. It's rated to keep ice solid for up to 10 days. If you love the outdoors, then you will love this cooler. It's certified bear-resistant and includes two locks. One ideal way to secure an airtight seal is to use silicone, and that is exactly what Engel did here, adding UV-resistant construction as well.
Engel Coolers offers a 10-year warranty on this product.
- Igloo max cold cooler offer the ultimate in cold retention with ultratherm insulated lid...
- Durable wheels and tow handle for easy transport to and from the event
- Ultratherm insulation in body and lid helps keep things cold
- Reinforced swing-up handles with tie-down loop
- 40 qt. Capacity and can hold up to 56 cans
This Igloo cooler has a unique way to insulate your precious cold items. The maker calls its technology Ultratherm. This special method of construction ensures the chest will offer great-quality cold retention. The wheels were our favorite feature.
Igloo manufacturer offers a one-year limited warranty from the original purchase date.
- Portable enough for 1 person to haul
- 3 inch of permafrost insulation & fat wall design
- Built to be bear resistant
- The YETI Tundra 35 is portable enough for one person to haul while still having an...
- The Rotomolded Construction makes the Tundra armored to the core and virtually...
The YETI Tundra 35 is a great chest for one person who needs to tote a nice load of cans and food to any outing. The roto-molded construction makes this Yeti product virtually indestructible. The lid has special construction, too, with heavy-duty rubber latches that withstand wear and tear. Each cooler also comes with a handy dry-goods basket.
YETI offers a five-year warranty.
- 58 quart storage capacity
- Durable, roto-molded construction
- Lid gasket to ensure a perfect seal
- Extendable flex-grip handles for comfortable SOLO or Tandem portage
- Cargo net attachment for added storage
The Orca ORCG line offers a variety of cooler sizes for your specific needs. The 40-quart storage capacity cooler is durable because it is made with the roto-molded construction method. The integrated insulation makes it easy for you to maintain cold temperatures and keep your items fresh. The extra effort put into this cooler's perfect seal is greatly appreciated. We love the handy cargo net attachment for added storage, too.
ORCA provides a five-year warranty against manufacturers defects in material or workmanship under normal use and service for the stainless steel body. ORCA Coolers shall either repair the product or component or provide you with a replacement product or component if it provides defective under the terms of this warranty.
- Unique horizontal Slide-and-Lock telescoping handle provides maximum leverage and lightens...
- Ultratherm insulated body and lid keep ice for 5 days at 90 degrees Fahrenheit
- Virtually indestructible zinc-plated metal hinges
- Oversized sport rally wheels. Material : Plastic
- Attractive, yet rugged styling
The Igloo Glide Pro cooler offers one feature our team of reviewers loved: a slide-and-lock telescoping handle. That beautiful handle and the over-sized wheels really helped ease our loads as we moved this cooler from the truck to the campsite. It keeps items cold for up to five days even when temperatures are hot outside.
The manufacturer provides a one-year limited warranty from the original purchase date.
- Guaranteed for life
- Up to 10 days ice retention, freezer grade gasket, 2-Inch polyurethane insulation
- Dual Handle System (Molded-in & Hinged Handles)
- Non-Skid & Non-Marking Raised Feet
- Corrosion Resistant Stainless Steel Hardware
This cooler keeps your items cool and fresh on long trips because it has a 10-day ice retention rating. That rating is due, in part, to its freezer-grade gasket.
Pelican Products, Inc., guarantees that its coolers will be free of defects in materials and workmanship for one year from the date of invoice. This warranty applies only to the original purchaser and is not transferable.
This Grizzly 40-quart cooler has a large, convenient two-inch drain that makes cleaning it a breeze. We also appreciated the rubber gasket lid.
Grizzly cooler come with a lifetime warranty, which really sets this apart from the others on our list.
- One piece roto-molded polyethylene construction for extreme durability
- Extra thick insulation for maximum ice retention
- Premium features such as ICE vault lid gasket, POSITRAC latches
- 7 Year Warranty
- Professional Grade - Engineered to make the outdoors great!
The K2 Cooler Summit 50 made our list of the best ice chests in part because it is built with our preferred method of construction: roto-molded polyethylene. As a direct result, it offers outstanding cold retention.
K2 Coolers are backed by a seven-year warranty.
- This rolling cooler has extra thick insulation that keeps ice frozen up to 5 days even in...
- Large size accommodates up to 130 cans plus ice; The rugged wheels make maneuvering this...
- Portable cooler is great for camping, picnics, tailgating, or any party
- Durable metal and plastic extended tow handle, drain for easy draining of liquids; Side...
- Built-in cup holders fit both 12-ounce cans and 20-ounce bottles
This Rubbermaid cooler comes with some great, extra-thick insulation that allows you to keep ice up to five days, even in 90-degree weather conditions.
Rubbermaid does not offer a warranty for this product.
- 1 selling cooler in its category
- Patented tent shaped locking lid helps prevent spills
- Diamond plate exterior is constructed of impact-resistant plastic with a rugged texture...
- Lid swings open to either side for easy access
- Sure grip molded in easy carry handle
This is the number-one seller in this size range for Igloo, a leader in this category. We found that its superb construction and an ingenious lid that swings open are two strong reasons for its favored status among consumers.
Igloo offers a one-year limited manufacturer's warranty from original purchase date.
The Final Word on Choosing an Ice Chest
Our top pick among the best ice chests on today's market is the Rubbermaid DuraChill wheeled five-day cooler. We love its affordable price, which gets you excellent durability and great features, like the split-top lid. This one tops our list of best cooler recommendations for shorter excursions.
If you can afford to spend a little more, then we think the Engel Coolers ENG35 is an excellent choice. It keeps your items cold for up to 10 days, which is as long as the Pelican Product Progear Elite unit, but for a fraction of the cost.