The best cooler of 2020
Whether you're going on a picnic, doing some tailgating, or heading on a multi-day camping trip, a cooler is your best friend if you want access to cold drinks and fresh food.
There are many different coolers on the market, some of which are best for a 12-pack of cans, and others that can keep all manner of fresh foods safe to eat for days.
We've researched the latest innovations to bring you the best coolers of 2020. A couple of these are returning favorites that still stand up to our rigorous standards, but we also have a newcomer to our ranks.
Best coolers of 2020
The following coolers are our tried-and-true favorites. Find more details about each one at the end of this article.
1. YETI's Tundra 65 Cooler
It's an old favorite of ours, but you can't go wrong with three inches of permafrost insulation and heavy-duty bear-proof construction.
2. Under Armour's Soft-Sided Cooler
This inexpensive choice is great for picnics and similar outings. Thanks to its durability and reliability, it's a new addition to our top three.
3. Coleman's Steel-Belted Cooler
Under the right conditions, this heavy-duty and highly effective model can hold ice for up to 4 days, so it was clear that this model should return to one of our top spots.
What you need to know before buying a cooler
Perhaps your first decision to make when choosing a cooler is whether to opt for a hard-sided or soft-sided model. Hard-sided coolers are more durable than their soft-sided counterparts and tend to keep their contents cooler for longer, but they can be bulky and expensive. Soft-sided coolers might not rival hard-sided models in terms of performance, but they're lightweight, convenient, and often inexpensive.
Check what type and amount of insulation is found in any coolers you're considering. While other factors play a part, generally more insulation equals better performance. The capacity is important, too, since a model with a 12-can capacity won't cut it for a three-day camping trip. That said, your chosen cooler shouldn't be so large that you're unable to carry it when full. Quality handles and straps make transporting your cooler from place to place much easier.
When buying a hard-sided cooler, you may appreciate a drain in the base to more easily drain off water from melted ice. If you camp in spots where bears live, your cooler should also ideally be bear-proof.
Coolers can range in price from less than $10 for small soft-sided ones to $500 and more for large, high-performing hard-sided models.
Q. Are coolers easy to clean?
A. Most coolers have a conveniently smooth interior that can be wiped clean with slightly soapy water. Always make sure to thoroughly dry your cooler before storing it to avoid mold and mildew.
Q. How long will a cooler keep my food and drink chilled?
A. This depends on a number of factors, which is why most cooler manufacturers don't make promises about how long their coolers will keep food fresh and chilled. For instance, a high-quality hard-sided cooler could keep food fresh for several days if you pack it with ice, replenish the ice every day, and keep the cooler out of direct sunlight. By comparison, the same cooler might only keep your food fresh for 12 hours if you don't bother with cool packs and leave it out in the sun.
In-depth recommendations for best coolers
Best of the best: YETI's Tundra 65 Cooler
What we like: Large size fits up to 52 cans or equivalent. Three inches of insulation to keep contents cooler for longer. Rotomolded and has thick walls, so it's super sturdy and even bear-proof.
What we dislike: It's pricey but worthwhile for serious campers or anyone else who gets a lot of use from their cooler.
Best bang for your buck: Under Armour's Soft-Sided Cooler
What we like: The soft-sided design means it's light enough to carry around with you on a day out. It's available in 12-can and 24-can sizes, but it can be used for food as well as drink.
Premium foam insulation and crush-proof lining. Wide range of color options.
What we dislike: Shoulder strap is a little short and has insufficient padding.
Choice 3: Coleman's Steel-Belted Cooler
What we like: This well-built cooler has a huge capacity and can hold ice for as long as 4 days if the exterior temperature is 90°F or below. Excellent value for money.
What we dislike: Some users report this cooler holds ice for far less time than advertised.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.