Ahh, summer. Beach, lake, river—anywhere you can find water is the place. But when you’re beating the heat floating in an inner tube or stand up paddleboard, your drinks and food are not. They’re baking in the midday sun, because this morning’s shady spot has already evaporated along with your snow.
When cooler companies claim ice lasts for days, be skeptical. They aren’t necessarily lying, but they are testing under idealized conditions that would never exist in the real world. We’ve been testing coolers for over two years, and we’ve stored them in the sun, in bike trailers, and in cars, all while trying to keep food and drinks cold and edible. Below, you’ll find our top picks for each category (hard-sided, soft-sided, backpack-style, expensive, inexpensive, even disposable), as well as some alternatives, plus general shopping tips if any of these No one captures your imagination.
For your other outdoor needs, be sure to check out our other buying guides, like the best portable grills, best camping gear, best camping cookware, best tents, and best binoculars.
Updated May 2023: We’ve added several new Yeti Coolers, Airskirt Inflatable Coolers, and Oyster Iceless Coolers, and we’ve updated the prices.
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