Five of the Best Coolers for the Great Outdoors



When Yeti hit the scene with their roto-molded, extreme coolers, everybody wanted one. That led to a bunch of companies bringing coolers to the market. How can you tell if the cooler you’re looking at is the right one for you? Here of five of the best coolers for the great outdoors. There are plenty of coolers on the market today, but not all are created equal. You wouldn’t want to have your week’s worth of food spoil on your camping trip, or your wild game meat spoil on the trip back home.

1. Yeti Tundra 45 – Classic Choice

Starting off with the original, the Yeti Tundra 45 is a durable cooler that keeps your stuff cold and can withstand the rough and tumble life we live as outdoor enthusiasts. It is rotomolded, meaning it is made with the same materials and methods used to make serious kayaks. The outer shell is a plastic composite that is molded extra thick, surrounding an insulating core that is up to two inches thick. This helps with durability and ice retention. This 45-quart model can hold up to 26 cans of beverages, with a 2:1 ice to contents ratio. Rubber t-handles keep the lid on tight and the top is textured so you can stand on the Yeti, and your big feet won’t slip off.

Pros/The standard by which all premium coolers are measured

Cons/One of the higher price tags

Bottom Line/The original and still one of the best

2. Igloo IMX Ice Box – Best Buy

Many don’t associate Igloo with higher end coolers, and I’ll admit, I too fell into that trap. Then I got my hands on one, and let me tell you, I was wrong! Igloo’s roto-molded coolers are every bit as good as the competition, just without the extreme price. This cooler is a whopping 70 quart capacity beast that will retain ice for 6-7 days. The price will astound you, as well. You can grab one up for around $200, which makes this cooler the best buy going.

Pros/A lot of features for the price. Very affordable.

Cons/None – Get one.

Bottom Line/Best product for the money

3. Pelican Elite Cooler – Editor’s Pick

Most of you know Pelican from their amazing hard cases, backpacks and phone cases. Their coolers are everything you’d expect from the company as well. This model has true 50-quart internal volume and serious ice retention – like leading the category retention. The exterior and latches unbelievably durable, too. Pelican molds their carry handles right into the cooler, so they are easy to use and very durable. The Pelican Elite has four molded cup holders on the lid along with a ruler in both standard and metric, just in case the CO asking about your fish just happens to be Canadian. If you need serious ice retention, this is the cooler for you.

Pros/Extremely well engineered cooler. Holds ice longer than any other cooler.

Cons/A little higher priced than some.

Bottom Line/Best cooler for serious excursions.

4. Cordova 50

The Cordova 50 is a sweet cooler and one of our favorites. The outside of the cooler has a smooth feel unlike anything else on the market. It has the same rotomolded construction of other coolers, however they use what they call EcoFoam for the insulation, which provides similar cold retention, but at a lighter weight. That’s not all that Cordova does differently. The rubber T-handles pull up that fold in when not in use, meaning you won’t get your fingers smashed by a falling lid. The Cordova handles are our favorite as well. Instead of rope, the Cordova handles are machined aluminum with built in bottle openers. The handles are extremely durable and make tying the cooler down very easy.

Pros/Best cooler handles.

Cons/Smooth surface makes it less than perfect for standing on.

Bottom Line/Really good cooler with amazing handles.

5. Grizzly 40

TheGrizzly 40 is another great, rotomolded cooler that has a 40-quart capacity. What sets the Grizzly apart from other similar coolers are the latches. The Bear Claw latch creates a very solid and secure seal. Most rotomolded coolers have been tested using bears to see if they can find their way into the cooler. The Griz was developed to meet those same standards with a latch that is harder to knock loose.

Pros/Really strong latches. Works very well.

Cons/Very simple cooler for the price.

Bottom Line/If the dimensions fit your needs, get one.

Picking a new cooler

There are a lot of premium coolers on the market these days. Yeti started a rush to have the best cooler with the best ice retention and the market exploded from there. Not all of them are created equal. The exterior needs to be a nice, even layer of the same material they use for kayaks. This material allows the cooler to withstand impacts and still retain its shape and insulating properties. The insulation should be a super dense foam that fills every amount of space within the cooler walls.

What sets the true premium coolers apart from some cheaper alternatives come in the details. The hinges must hold up to the same abuse as the cooler itself. A friend went against my suggestions and showed up on a camping trip with a cooler he bragged as being every bit as good as the Pelican one I was using. That is, until the hinge fell apart and his ice melted.

What makes a Yeti Cooler worth that much money?

Fill one full of your food for a weeklong camping trip, or the meat from a trophy animal you shot, and rest assured that it will keep everything good. You’re paying for quality and peace of mind.

What do they mean by “Bear Proof?”

No joke, they literally test the coolers using a captive bear. Bears have a habit of destroying coolers in camp sites to get to the food. It gives you an idea of how much damage these coolers will take.

About the Author

The OutdoorHub Reporters are a team of talented journalists and outdoorsmen and women who work around the clock to follow and report on the biggest stories in the outdoors.

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