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The Best Hard Cooler - 2021

Last updated on July 14, 2021
Best Hard Cooler

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Our Picks For The Top Hard Coolers

Show Contents
Our Take
  1

Igloo BMX Ice Retention Hard Cooler

Don't Waste Your Money Seal of Approval

Igloo

BMX Ice Retention Hard Cooler

Overall Take

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

  2

Coleman Xtreme HIgh Capacity Hard Cooler

Coleman

Xtreme HIgh Capacity Hard Cooler

Overall Take

Large CapacityThis cooler is perfect for trips that include a large number of people sitting around the campfire or on the beach.

  3

Thermik Roto-Molded Hard Cooler

Thermik

Roto-Molded Hard Cooler

Overall Take

Great FeaturesFor the ultimate in convenience, this small but feature-rich cooler truly delivers.

  4

Pelican Elite Portable Hard Cooler

Pelican

Elite Portable Hard Cooler

Overall Take

Has a Bottle OpenerWhen you prefer a convenient smaller size and want your purchase to last, this hard cooler is a smart buy.

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Guide written by Danielle Smyth
Last updated on July 14, 2021

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.

The Best Hard Coolers

1
  1

Igloo BMX Ice Retention Hard Cooler

This 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.

Features


Specifications

Brand
Igloo
Model
2
  2

Coleman Xtreme HIgh Capacity Hard Cooler

This cooler is a whopping 70 quarts, and it is able to fit up to 100 cans. It features cupholders to keep drinks close. The rugged lid also doubles as a seat that's rated for up to 250 pounds.

Features


Specifications

Brand
Coleman
Model
3
  3

Thermik Roto-Molded Hard Cooler

This rugged cooler uses single-piece rotationally molded construction. It has the same footprint as a convenient 20-quart cooler with extra height to accommodate 5 additional quarts. It's also packed with features such as a bottle opener, dry-keeper basket, drink holder and cutting-board separator.

Features


Specifications

Brand
Thermik
Model
4
  4

Pelican Elite Portable Hard Cooler

Featuring thoughtful reinforced construction, this cooler includes an anti-shear hinge system, molded tie-down slots, a reinforced lockable clasp, non-skid rubber feet and an over-molded carry handle. At an easily portable 20-quart capacity, this cooler can hold 15 cans or three wine bottles.

Features


Specifications

Brand
Pelican
Model
5
  5

Grizzly G15 Hard Cooler

Made from eco-friendly materials, this cooler features great temperature retention. Extra security is provided by two locks to keep your contents safe.

Features


Specifications

Brand
Grizzly
Model

Our Hard Cooler 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.

DWYM Fun Fact

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.

The Hard Cooler Tips and Advice

  • 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.