Best Camping Cooler – Our Top Choices For 2018 Compared

Camping is a great way to relax and enjoy time away from work or other responsibilities. It should be fun, easy going and relaxing. While there are many tools and products that can make camping all of those things, one of the most important is choosing a good cooler. The best coolers on the market will keep food fresh, drinks cold and they can act as an extra seat around a campfire.

To help you get the best cooler in 2018, we have reviewed 10 different options to help you decide what works for you.

10 Best Camping Cooler Reviews 

1. Pelican Products Progear Elite 65 Quart Cooler

Pelican Products Progear Elite 65 Quart Cooler

Pelican has been well known for making some of the strongest, most durable containers for years. The military grade construction of their products can’t be missed, and when it comes to their cooler options, that quality truly stands out.

This cooler has one of the best freezer gaskets built into that is available on the market. It creates an extreme water tightness and helps with keeping your ice from melting for up to 10 days. With two inches of polyethene insulation, this cooler is seriously built to hold cold temperatures inside for the long haul.

The latches for the cooler are the type you see on other Pelican cases, with a button that is pressed and then pulling the latch itself to release it. These latches ensure that even if the cooler tips, it won’t accidentally pop open.

Along with the molded in handles, the cooler also has extended hinged handles attached. These handles came in very useful, as the cooler is quite heavy all on its own. When the cooler is fully loaded, expect to need two adults to be able to lift it, or make sure it’s easily accessible without having to pull it from your vehicle.

We also noticed that this cooler comes with a lifetime guarantee from Pelican, so expect this to be with you for a long time when you buy it.

What we liked

  • Long Lasting Ice Retention
  • Military Grade Materials
  • Freezer Grade Gasket
  • Press and Pull Latches
  • Lifetime Guarantee

What we didn't like

  • Very Heavy
  • Drain and Seal Not Molded into Chest, Some May Leak

2. Yeti Tundra 35 Cooler

One of the smaller entries into our cooler submissions, the Yeti Tundra 35 is in the 35 quart class. Though the exterior dimensions would meet being able to hold 35 quarts, the interior dimensions actually only hold about 28 quarts. One of the questions when people are purchasing a new cooler is will it hold what I want to put in it? For some coolers, storing a long neck bottle upright may be impossible because they are too short. The Yeti Tundra line ensures that all long neck bottles can be stored comfortable in their natural position - upright.

These coolers are built with the same type of construction process and materials as white water kayaks. Polyethylene exterior construction, PermaFrost insulation that has been pressure injected and compatible with dry ice usage. The lid has a freezer grade seal to keep it airtight when the rubber T-latches are stretched into place.

The handles and grips are made from marine-grade nylon rope, making the handles strong yet very flexible. This made the cooler much easier to carry with two people as the added flexibility made it easier to walk with. There are also molded in handgrips as well, if being carried solo and a more firm grip is desired.

Certified to be grizzly bear resistant, meaning that if used with sturdy padlocks on the front corners, that even a grizzly couldn’t break this cooler open. Just note that the padlocks are not included when purchasing.

What we didn't like

  • Extreme Durability
  • Freezer Grade Seal
  • Solid Construction
  • Built to Hold Long-Neck Bottles Upright
  • Dry Ice Compatible

What we liked

  • Undersized Capacity for Class
  • Weighs Around 17 Pounds Empty - Can be Very Heavy When Filled

3. Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler

This Yeti cooler is the big brother of the above mentioned Tundra 35. The coolers feature much of the same features; rotomolded polyethylene construction, pressure injected PermaFrost insulation, grizzly bear resistant and freezer grade seal.

Both Tundra coolers have nearly 3 inches of insulation, the same rubber T-latches that secure to the molded body of the cooler and they are dry ice compatible. The handles were the same as well, with one set being molded into the body for when you’re carrying the cooler by yourself, and with the set of marine-grade nylon rope handles for two person carrying.

The obvious difference between this cooler and the 35, is the capacity. Where the 35 only fit about 28 quarts inside, this model carries up to about 38 quarts. While that is still less than the class this cooler fits in with its competitors, that added capacity can make all the difference depending on where you’re taking it camping.

Being a bigger cooler also means being a heavier cooler. The Tundra 45 weighs around 22 pounds when it’s empty, so it can be a struggle to move around after it’s been filled with ice, food and drinks.

What we liked

  • Highly Durable Construction
  • Easy to Use Handles
  • Freezer Grade Seal
  • Snug Rubber T-Latches
  • Three Inches of Insulation
  • Dry Ice Compatible

What we didn't like

  • Heavy Body
  • Undersized Capacity for Class

4. RTIC SoftPack 30

This is a soft sided entry into our best coolers of 2018. If the above models are a bit too bulky and heavy, then going for a soft sided version may be more your style. The walls hold two inches of closed-cell foam insulation, meaning it’s the same type of insulation found in many wetsuits for diving. That means this cooler can keep temperatures maintained inside, and provides a solid barrier against moisture getting in or escaping.

The exterior is a nylon shell that is both puncture resistant and tear resistant. Being flexible is one of the most key points to having a soft shelled cooler, as this can fit into almost any space you need it to. The flexibility also makes it easier to carry and move around with compared to its rigid brothers.

These coolers also offer a surprisingly long ice retention time… 5 days is the manufacturer’s claim, but of course results may vary. We had no problem with ice lasting until late into day 3, or early day 4, so with less opening and closing then 5 days is certainly achievable.

The carrying capacity of the SoftPack 30 is similar to how the Yeti competitors above rate in their classes as well. While this RTIC cooler sits in the 30 quart class, it actually only fits about 22 quarts when fully loaded. However, the lightweight of this cooler truly helps out with being able to carry everything you fit inside as the cooler itself only weighs about four pounds.

What we liked

  • Lightweight
  • Tear and Puncture Resistant
  • Flexible to Fit Tight Spaces
  • Wetsuit Style Insulation Keeps Temps Cold with Waterproof Technology
  • Waterproof Zipper Holds Lid Closed

What we didn't like

  • Can’t be Used as Chair
  • Less Durable Then Hardshell Cases
  • Undersized Capacity for Class

5. Outdoor Recreational Company of America (ORCA) 20 Quart

The ORCA line is similar to the entries by Yeti. They are rotomolded the same way, and feature a T-latch form of closing. These coolers are also certified bear resistant, showing they are just as strong as their competitors. Something that really sets all ORCA coolers apart is that they are all made in the USA where some of their competitors may manufacture a few products here, with others being made overseas. ORCA is a true American company.

ORCA coolers including the rope handles, rubber non-skid feet, the latches and the body itself. This is by far one of the best warranties available on a cooler, and it’s greatly appreciated to have such a strong guarantee for workmanship.

One of the cool aspects of this great cooler is that the rubber T-latches are designed to look like whale tails. Adding character and charm to the appearance that a regular T-latch just can’t provide.

An additional item of note for ORCA coolers is that they have a cargo net attached to the exterior to help carry additional dry goods that don’t need to be stored on ice. This is especially useful for storing car keys, cell phones, dry food or snacks that you don’t want to place in the cooler or leave behind.

What we liked

  • Durable, Bear-Proof Construction
  • Rubber Non-Slip Feet
  • Whale Tail Latches
  • Made in America
  • Exterior Cargo Net

What we didn't like

  • Heavy Cooler that is Hard to Move
  • Handles not as Strong as Competitors

6. Engel Coolers High Performance ENG35

This hard shelled, rotomolded 35 quart entry stands out as being one of the best at keeping food cold for an extended trip. Built with silicone airtight gaskets, and marine grade compression latches, this cooler certainly stands out.

The lid has I-beam inserts that help make it more sturdy and less likely to warp or be damaged by stacking on top of it. Along with that, the unique full-length, self stopping anvil hinge is a great way to ensure the lid doesn’t become damaged by extending it too far while opening. The latches are solidly built into the lid, and the latch keeper can act as a bottle opener as well.

Being a rotomolded model, that means it has all the durability you’d expect in similar model. This cooler as been certified as bear resistant as well, and can truly take a beating. Even with that, the ice retention can easily reach up to 10 days due to the great seal and tight hold from the compression latches.

One of the most plain looking coolers of the ones we reviewed, but the lack of pretty details doesn’t detract from the usefulness of this cooler at all. While it may not be pretty, it gets the job done just as expected, and is a great addition to any camping trip.

What we liked

  • 10 Day Ice Retention
  • Silicone Food Grade Seal
  • I-Beams in Lid for Extra Support
  • Self Stopping Anvil Hinge
  • Certified Bear Resistant

What we didn't like

  • Lid May not Seat Well
  • Heavier than Other 35 Quart models
  • Plain Design

7. Igloo 40375 Iceless 40 Quart Cooler

This is the first thermoelectric cooler we reviewed, and we were surprised at just how well it performed. This cooler is considered ice less because it can be plugged in to any 12V source of power. Whether you find a wall outlet to use, or plug it into a vehicle power receptacle, this cooler will bring the temperature way down without needing any ice.

A cooling convection fan move the air around inside the cooler, surrounding your food and beverages, and bringing them down 38 degrees below the surrounding outside temperature. It can be positioned like a normal cooler, or set more upright to open like your home refrigerator. Along with being able to be repositioned, the cooler also comes with a shelf that can be adjusted so that while it’s upright items can be better organized, and provide more room for the air flow to better circulate.

There is one glaring downside to this model that must be pointed out, and that is the lack of a reasonable carrying handle. For a cooler of this size, it can become very heavy when it’s loaded, and if you are taking this unit camping, then being able to move it about is a key necessity. While this is certainly a great cooler, it works best when it can be given a semi-permanent space to maintain.

What we liked

  • No Need For Ice
  • Convection Cooling System
  • Adjustable Shelf
  • Dual Orientation; Horizontal or Upright

What we didn't like

  • Keeps Running if Plugged in; Can Drain Car Battery While Car is Off
  • Ice Should not be Used or Stored Within; Water can Damage Electronic Components

8. Engel Coolers High Performance ENG65

This cooler is for the serious outdoorsman. The long lasting ice retention of a rotomolded cooler like this, plus the large 65 quart class (actual being closer to 58 quarts) capacity make it perfect for spending as much time outdoors as possible. To be honest, Engel was the first company to use rotomold technology to design and make coolers for sale in the US market.

Just as durable as their smaller models, this version also carries the bear resistant certification, adding it to the long list of superiorly strong coolers. Along with that strength, the ENG65 is built with the same compression latches as their other models, and the same food grade seals built into the lid.

As with other models, the ENG65 is fully compatible with dry ice as well. Dry ice is the best way to keep the inside of your cooler as cold as possible, and knowing that your cooler can be safely used with dry ice is a big help.

As many people are searching for the Made in USA label, they’ll discover that Engel primarily manufactures their coolers overseas. While this doesn’t impact the quality of the product, it is a key point for many American purchasers. If you’re looking for an American made product, unfortunately you’ll be forced to look into other options as this cooler will likely be coming from Thailand.

What we liked

  • Certified Bear Resistant
  • Up to 10 Day Ice Resistance
  • Dry Ice Compatible
  • Durable Construction

What we didn't like

  • Not American Made

9. ORCA ORCW026 Cooler

This ORCA model is a 26 quart entry. It follows along with the other entries from ORCA’s line of products, being a rotomolded cooler made exclusively in the USA. This is a smaller cooler than many of the entries we looked at, but it’s perfect for those shorter adventures that don’t take you too far from home.

This cooler truly holds the 26 quarts in its name, which puts it closer to the 35 quart class that other brands would fall into. WIth some of the thickest insulation on the market, this ORCA cooler will likely keep ice for an extra day or two compared to their competitors. Ultimately that is one of the biggest measures of quality for these high end coolers, the longer it can hold ice, the better.

A common theme among rotomolded coolers is the fact that they are the strongest coolers on the market. This entry is no exception, and has earned bear resistant certification as well. Along with that aspect, the sturdy pin system for attaching the hinges on the ORCA is certainly as strong and reliable as the body itself

What we liked

  • Thickest Insulation in Class; Easily Maintains Ice for 1 or 2 days longer than Competitors
  • Hinge Pin System
  • Certified Bear Resistant
  • Capacity Matches Product Name and Claims
  • Cargo Net Attachment for External Goods
  • Made in USA

What we didn't like

  • Feet can be Slippery on Wet Surfaces
  • Handles not as Strong as Competitors

10. Elkton Outdoors 50 Quart Hunting and Fishing Cooler

A rotomolded cooler with double wall insulation and industrial foam that keeps the interior nice and frosty. While the company claims that this cooler has an ice retention of 5 days, the reality is the construction really matches that of the other rotomolded entries here, and the ice resistance is on par with them as well. If ice is used in the recommended amount and the proper tips are followed, then ice can last up to the 10 day mark like others.

Complete with self stopping hinges, non-slip feet, strong rubber T-latches, a lid top ruler for measuring fish and a bottle opener to help crack open frosty beverages. This cooler is designed with the outdoor sportsman in mind, but that certainly doesn’t exclude anyone else that would use this cooler for camping or travel.

This cooler also has a true 50 quart capacity, keeping the interior measurements inline with what the product name says it can hold. The only drawback to the interior design of the cooler is that it does not have a dry goods basket or shelf like some of the other coolers. It’s not designed to fit one either, so adding one on your own could be less effective than you’d like.

What we liked

  • True 50 Quart Capacity
  • Bottle Opener Built In
  • Fish Ruler on Top of Lid
  • Non-slip Feet
  • Self Stopping Hinges
  • Double Wall Insulation

What we didn't like

  • No Dry Goods Basket/Shelf
  • Was Unable to Find Warranty Information

Final Verdict

No camping trip would be complete without having plenty of good food and drinks and that means keeping those items protected from the heat and light that could damage them. It’s clear that bringing along the right cooler is important, so what is the right cooler for you? Honestly, all of the above coolers have great points and meet the needs of almost everyone. The key things you need to ask are how big of a cooler do you need, and how will you be using it when you get to where you’re going. 

If you’re taking shorter trips then the smaller capacity models will likely be best for you. If you will be near your vehicle as you camp then the heavier coolers will be a great addition, but if you plan to make camp away from your ride then choosing the smaller and lighter versions will be better.

We didn’t find many reasons to avoid any of the coolers above, and all of the pros for each product greatly outweigh their cons. Take a second look through each one and decide what matters most to you, then when you’re ready to start heading out on your own camping adventures in 2018 be sure you take that perfect matching cooler with you.

David Valle

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!