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The Best Hard Cooler

Last updated on May 22, 2023
Best Hard Cooler

Our Review Process

Don't Waste Your Money is focused on helping you make the best purchasing decision. Our team of experts spends hundreds of hours analyzing, testing, and researching products so you don't have to. Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in a category.

Our Picks For The Top Hard Coolers

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Product Overview
Key Takeaway
 Top Pick

Arctic Zone Easy Clean Slip-Open Hard Cooler

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Arctic Zone

Easy Clean Slip-Open Hard Cooler

Available in blue, pine, moss and citrus, this hard cooler is designed to impress. The inner compartment keeps up to 48 soda or beer cans ice cold, while the many outer pockets provide storage for eating utensils, snacks, keys and cellphones. Use the adjustable anti-slip shoulder strap to easily transport your food and drinks.

Overall Take

Budget-Friendly PickThanks to the affordable price tag on this hard cooler, you'll have more money to spend on your trip.

 Runner Up

Igloo BMX Ice Retention Hard Cooler


BMX Ice Retention Hard Cooler

This hard cooler comes with almost every component reinforced and calculated for wear-and-tear and maximum temperature retention. This cooler has a steel kickplate, UV inhibitors and rust-resistant hardware. With four-day ice retention, this cooler is perfect for long trips and keeping cool on-the-go.

Overall Take

Heavy Duty and DurableIf you're anticipating hard use during truly rugged adventuring, this cooler is a great choice.

 Strong Contender

Klein Tools Hinged Lid Work Small Hard Cooler

Klein Tools

Hinged Lid Work Small Hard Cooler

This hard cooler is designed to work as a lunchbox and includes a strap for easy carrying. The lid can handle up to 300 pounds, so you can set it down and use it as a seat wherever you are. It can keep items cool for up to 30 hours, even in 90-degree temperatures.

Overall Take

Best for Job SitesFor those who take lunch to job sites, this hard cooler provides a lid that doubles as a seat, giving you a handy place to eat.

 We Also Like

Engel Waterproof Non-Absorbent Hard Cooler


Waterproof Non-Absorbent Hard Cooler

You'll be hard pressed to find a more durable hard cooler than this model. It features stainless steel latches and a heavy-duty TPU body. The high-performance insulation is also a huge draw, as it is capable of keeping ice cold for up to 2 full days.

Overall Take

Multiple Color OptionsYou'll find this 19-quart hard cooler comes in a choice of 10 colors, including yellow, silver, coral and tan.

Buying Guide

Coolers are an essential item for trips to the beach, camping, fishing, sporting events, tailgates and other excursions. There are a wide variety of hard coolers on the market, so choosing one comes down to identifying your specific needs as well as taking into account some general considerations.

First, you’ll want to think about the size or capacity and insulation abilities of the cooler. With size, it’s important to look at both internal and external size, as well as what part of that volume is insulated. Insulation commonly takes up a fair amount of room between the external and internal walls of the cooler, so a cooler that’s medium-sized on the outside (making it easier to store and transport) might not have sufficient capacity on the inside for your needs.

The insulation itself needs to be evaluated on how long it will keep items cool and is usually measured in the number of days it can protect ice. This can be essential for longer trips, but maybe less important for tailgating or making sure your child’s sports team has cold drinks at the end of the game.

In addition, consider how heavy the cooler is, how it will be transported and additional features, such as dry storage or cupholders. To get the cooler where you need it to go, will you carry it with handles on either side, a central lid handle or shoulder strap? Does the cooler also have wheels?

Many coolers feature cupholders or can double as seating. There are even some coolers that have a built-in ruler for measuring fish.

What to Look For

  • When considering cooler size and capacity, don’t forget to take into account the shape or how it’s distributed. While a 6-quart cooler may sound sufficient for a bottle of wine, if it’s cube-shaped rather than rectangular or tall, it might not be able to accommodate a long object, either horizontally or vertically.
  • Materials that make up coolers can often be less than eco-friendly. However, more and more coolers on the market are being made from greener materials. If this is a priority for you, look for this to be called out in the cooler description.
  • Surprisingly, not all hard coolers are waterproof. Pay attention to the lid seals and drainage features, which are also helpful for cleaning your cooler.

More to Explore

The need for coolers — to preserve and transport perishable goods — has existed for much longer than the technology behind modern coolers.

The origin of coolers can be traced back to barrels used throughout history, then to an early prototype that caught the attention of Thomas Jefferson. Modern cooler technology originated around World War II, when Styrofoam was invented.

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