Cooler Wars: What Cooler Is Best for Your Outdoor Adventures


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What cooler should you buy for your best adventure yet? With the summer heating up, coolers are one of the most important pieces of gear for staying cool, nourished, and hydrated during any outdoor activity.

How do you know which cooler is right for you and the activities you enjoy most?

Coolers have become a serious big ticket item. Since Yeti became a market leader it seems like coolers have become a brand based gear purchase. Coolers are now capable of a lot more than they used to be. That doesn’t mean that the best cooler for you is always the most expensive option. Paddling Life is going to help you sort out what type of cooler you need, what you should be spending, and which brands are worth spending on. Whether you need something lightweight and portable, or something more heavy duty that will keep all your food and beverages cold for days on end at base camp. We’ve got the guide to help you choose the right cooler for you. 

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Cooler Style and Function Factors:

As far as coolers are concerned there are six main factors most adventurers will consider: size, weight, ice retention, portability, durability, and price. We will help you determine which cooler you need based on each of these factors.

Size –  Naturally this is important depending on what kinds of activities this cooler is going to be used for you may have different needs. For example a weekend car camping with friends and a favorite camp spot is highly different from what you might need for a 4 day river trip, or even a day trip to the beach. 

Weight: This is also massively important right? Because if you have to carry this cooler any sort of distance, or on and off of a boat, the last thing you need is for it to be heavy on its own. 

Ice Retention: No matter what your adventure, your coolers ability to keep cold is important. If you’re going deep into the wilderness for several days, hours from gas stations or grocery stores, the last thing you want and need is a cooler that can’t hold your ice. With today’s science we know exactly how long coolers can maintain temperature for allowing you to plan your adventure to a T. 

Portability: Weight and size are always going to factor into portability. If you need a big cooler, but you aren’t taking it very far, wheels might do the job. Alternatively, if you’re planning a day trek but you’re planning to bring some food and beverages for the destination, something with backpack strap functionality might serve you better. 

Durability: Durability gets oddly specific when it comes to coolers. However, it is still extremely important! Particularly if you’re planning on investing in a higher-end cooler. If we can keep ice frozen for 4 days rather than having to replace it every 24 hrs… there’s value there. But we don’t wanna get caught up in buying some sweet high-end cooler if it doesn’t stand the test of time. Particularly because many coolers are made from plastics that are sensitive to scratching, puncture, and even UV exposure.

Price: Clearly, price is going to be affected by size, brand, durability, accessories, etc. That being said, for most of us, price is also a factor in the buying process. Many of us may want the most high end fancy cooler, but we will ultimately buy based on cost effectiveness. 

Top Cooler Picks for Your Next Adventure

Coleman 62-Quart Xtreme 5-Day Heavy-Duty Cooler with Wheels

Coleman 62-Quart Xtreme 5-Day Heavy-Duty Cooler with Wheels

MSRP $69.99

  • Keeps ice for 5 days in up to 90 degree weather
  • Drain spout for excess water removal
  • Double lined insulated walls
  • Insulated lid for extended ice retention
  • >Heavy duty for easy transportation on rough terrain
  • Long tow handle
  • Low Carbon Dioxide emissions from foam production
  • Holds up for 95 cans boasting 62 quarts of storage space

This Cooler: Large Size, Lightweight, Good Ice Retention, Moderate Portability, Low Durability, Low Price

Buy Now


Canyon Cooler Prospector 103

Canyon Coolers Prospector 103 Cooler

MSRP $369.99

The Prospector 103 is designed specifically for rafting. So you know that’s hit a soft spot here at Paddling Life. Touted as “A premium expedition sized cooler for rafting & demanding adventures” and field tested by the PL staff, we can say it is one of our favorites.

    • Easy access front and side drain plugs
    • Accepts 4 organization trays on two levels in the cooler ( sold separately)
    • Keeps ice 7-12+ days depending on the environment and use.
    • Bombproof construction for a lifetime of use.
    • Built-in Lip for raft frame integration (18.5″ wide under the lip)
    • Eco-Friendly Foam Insulation
    • AirTight Seal
    • Covered by Canyon’s unconditional, no-hassle, lifetime warranty.

This Cooler: Large Size, Heavy Weight, Outstanding Ice Retention, Low Portability, Extreme Durability, High Price

Available at CKS Online


YETI Tundra 45 Cooler

MSRP $299.99

This Yeti is a seriously badass cooler. It is a great size and has some serious ice retention, keeping things cold for days on end. This cooler is pretty heavy without anything in it, weighing in at about 23 lbs. However, it is extremely durable. Great for any boat/river trip, and of course any overlanding or car camping trips.

  • 3 Inches of Permafrost Insulation
  • FatWall technology is certified bear resistant
  • Rotomolded rendering the Tundra nearly indestructible
  • T-Rex Lid Latch keeps this cooler firmly shut
  • Comes with a dry goods basket to keep your dry food dry
  • Weight of the cooler is 23 lbs when empty
  • Yeti recommends a 2:1 ice ratio (the cooler holds 26 cans with this given ice ratio)

This Cooler: Large Size, Heavy Weight, Outstanding Ice Retention, Low Portability, Extreme Durability, High Price

Buy Now


Igloo BMX 25 Quart Cooler with Cool Riser Technology

Igloo BMX 25 Quart Cooler with Cool Riser Technology

MSRP $85.99

  • Proven 4-5 Day ice retention
  • UV Inhibitors to protect the cooler against sun damage
  • Reinforced plastics for high levels of strength and durability
  • Rubberized T-Grip latches
  • Advancing insulation and reinforced insulated lid to ensure longer lasting cold
  • Cooleriser technology on bottom to keep prevent warming from hot surfaces
  • Lightweight for easy carrying
  • Comfort grip for one handed carrying

This Cooler: Small Size, Moderate Weight, High Ice-Retention, Good Portability, High Durability, Low Price

Buy Now


Coleman Cooler | Steel-Belted Cooler Keeps Ice Up to 4 Days | 54-Quart Cooler for Camping, BBQs, Tailgating & Outdoor Activities

MSRP $99.78

  • Retro Design
  • Heavy duty rust resistant steel exterior
  • 54 Quart space holds up to 85 cans
  • 4 day ice retention in up to 90 degree weather
  • Based on an original Coleman design this cooler is built to last for years of top performance
  • Have-a-seat Lid holds up to 250lbs and offers an always needed extra seat for any gathering

This Cooler: Large Size, Low to Moderate Weight, Outstanding Ice Retention, Low Portability, High Durability, Low Price

Buy Now


Seavilis Cooler (Milee) (Blue w, 35QT +Accessories)

MSRP $208.95

  • Indestructible Rotomolded Thermoplastic – intended as a more affordable competitor to more expensive Rotomolded Coolers
  • Commercial grade insulation
  • Includes cutting board divider, and dry goods basket
  • Built in bottle opener
  • Pressure release button – allows you to open the cooler more easily, but keeping your cooler sealed when necessary
  • Easy Cam Latch boasts its easier to open the T-Latch’s used by other similar brands
  • Side strap handles for easy carrying

This Cooler: Moderate Size, Heavy Weight, High Ice Retention, Low to Moderate Portability, High Durability, Moderate to High Price

Buy Now


KULA Cooler 2.5 | Lightweight Cooler with Strong Insulation & Heavy Duty Construction, 2.5 Gallon, White

MSRP $190.85

  • Rotomolded Plastic construction that is certified “gator proof”
  • Keeps provisions cold for a full-day on the water
  • Integrated tap converts this cooler into a giant thermos for big time beverages
  • Serves as the perfect seat for on-the-go adventures
  • Builtin bottle opener
  • Tub drain makes this adaptable cooler easy to clean
  • Fits 2.5 Gallons
  • Weights 11 lbs when empty
  • Comfortable easy to carry tote handle
  • Great for Parties

This Cooler: Smaller Size, Moderate Eight, Good Ice Retention, Good Portability, High Durability, Moderate to High Price

Buy Now


30 Cans Soft Cooler Bag,20L Leak-Proof Soft Side Cooler Bag Waterproof Insulated Soft Sided Cooler

MSRP $139.99

  • Ice retention for 72 hrs
  • High-quality waterproof soft sided exterior
  • This powerful portable cooler only weight 5.5 lbs when empty
  • Rubber sealed zippers retain interior temperatures
  • 20L of packing space when using recommended 2:1 ice ratio
  • Wide top opening allows easy viewing of coolers contents
  • Leak proof exterior to ensure no wet car seats or unexpected puddles
  • Great option for a day hiking cooler due to its lightweight and versatile carrying options

This Cooler: Small Size, Lightweight, Good Ice Retention, High Portability, Moderate Durability, Moderate Price

Buy Now


OtterBox Trooper Cooler 30 Quart

MSRP $299.99

  • Designed for high levels of portability this cooler is shaped like a backpack
  • Heavy duty base protects the bottom from typical abrasions
  • UV and chemical resistant for durability
  • Easy to open latch
  • Built in bottle opener
  • Smart+ insulation that keeps ice for up to 3 days
  • With multiple carrying options including backpack straps this cooler is perfect for long treks into the backcountry

This Cooler: Small-Moderate Size, Lightweight, High Ice Retention, Outstanding Portability, High Durability, High Price

Buy Now


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