What’s the Best Cooler of 2017?
If you want the short answer without considering other possibilities, then the absolute best cooler for ice retention is the Orca Cooler.
To get to this answer, we meticulously compiled data from several top review authorities online. Although most of these authorities disagreed on the best cooler to recommend, their recommendations did make a few things clear.
Before we get caught up in the details, here’s a short breakdown of what we found:
- When price is not considered, most authorities believe either the Orca or Yeti Tundra Coolers are the best overall pick.
- As far as value and best bang for the buck goes, the top pick was either the Igloo Yukon or Rtic Cooler.
- For the cheap end of the market, the best contender was the Coleman Xtreme Cooler.
These short answers don’t tell the full story. Once user preferences are considered, answers could drastically change. Keep reading to find out which cooler is the best suited for your individual needs.
Best Cooler Reviews
After considering over a hundred of the world’s top rated coolers, we have narrowed down the list to 8 unique models. Each selection was assessed based upon their suitability for a respective category. If you are looking for a specific type of cooler, check out our more specific cooler reviews. Otherwise, here are the top 8 coolers of 2016.
Best Cooler for Ice Retention: Orca Heavy Duty Cooler
If you are looking to buy a cooler for your boat or maybe something a little more rugged than the average cooler, then Orca’s Extra Heavy Duty Cooler may be the one for you. We believe it’s the best high end cooler designed for use in rough outdoor conditions – like the ones faced on a boat in the open ocean.
Whether you are looking to keep your catch fresh or store extra food for the journey, this cooler will enable you to keep anything ice cold for up to a week at a time. Its All-American made build is thick, rigid, and similar in style to other premium coolers like the Pelican and Yeti.
Even at a big discount when compared to the Yeti, the Orca stands its ground like no other when it comes to quality and performance. Upon opening the package, it becomes immediately apparent that this cooler is made with precision and care – something you can expect from an American manufactured product.
If you are looking for a rugged cooler like the Yeti to accompany you on trips into the great outdoors, then consider looking at the Orca. It is built with the same heavy duty construction and performs nearly identically – all at a significantly lower price. In fact, we even believe it to be the best cooler overall.
It has even beaten the Yeti in a head-to-head comparison with an ice test. That can be found on our article, Yeti vs Orca
The name Rtic is little known in the big world of retail coolers and is not as easily recognized as major brands like Yeti or Igloo, but this difference holds the key to it’s success.
As a company whose marketing efforts are entirely online, Rtic eliminates the costs associated with running a brick and mortar business. To you, the consumer, this ultimately leads to a cheaper product.
In fact, their business slogan directly states “over built – not over priced”, and unlike other companies, they stay true to their word.
Although their coolers are limited to three different sizes – 20 Qt, 45 Qt, and 60 Qt – the coolers that they make are second to none when price is considered. At a fraction of the cost of a Yeti, this cooler manages to pack a ton of premium features like a rotomolded body, 3 inches of insulation, a convenient drain spout, and much more. They even managed to get it certified bear proof.
With one Amazon review even stating, “Did ton of research and can’t say enough about this cooler. If you are buying a YETI you are NUTS and have all sorts of money to throw away just because of a sticker that says YETI instead of RTIC.”
Their direct marketing efforts against Yeti have even landed them in patent lawsuit trouble for many of their products, but it seems that they’re high sales numbers are keeping them afloat. One such product they were sued for is the Rtic Tumbler – a very similar product and direct competitor to the Yeti tumbler. These two products are so similar in fact that we did a direct comparison of the Rtic vs Yeti Tumbler.
Best Budget Cooler (tied with Rtic): Igloo Yukon Cold Locker
Compared to all the other coolers on the list – minus the Coleman Xtreme – the Yukon comes in at a reasonable price. Although it’s probably still much more expensive than the average Wal-Mart cooler that you grew up with, the Yukon is definitely worth the extra investment.
Like all the other premium coolers, it is rotationally molded – meaning it is constructed of a solid piece of plastic. This is important for keeping contents airtight and insulated to the utmost degree. In fact, most other high-end coolers list this as the number one reason for being high-end.
It also comes with a thicker layer of foam insulation within the body than the notorious Yeti cooler. Yes, you read that correctly. At a fraction of the cost, this cooler contains 3-inches of foam insulation in the lid and 2 whole inches of insulation within the body.
Although the Yukon is admittedly less durable than coolers like the Yeti or Orca, it is still an absolute beast at keeping ice. Sure you won’t be able to brag about it being bear-proof, but if you don’t plan on bringing it into bear country, who cares?
2nd Best Ice Chest: Yeti Tundra Cooler
Yeti has built a reputation in the industry for being the absolute best in terms of quality and their popularity is unquestionable. Although top brands are often times over hyped and marketed, the Yeti Tundra upholds their reputation with consistently fantastic performance and quality control.
As one of the first commercial rotomolded coolers, the Tundra’s release was viewed as a new beginning for the cooler market. Features like the thick plastic walls and solid metal latches made it one of the most durable coolers ever, and its performance was seen as even better.
Although it has been several years since its initial release, the Yeti remains unchanged and still at the top of its game. It is still seen as the benchmark for high-performance coolers everywhere and all other coolers are ranked in relativity to its greatness.
Even as one of the most expensive coolers available, it is a great purchase for the money considering its ruggedness and durability. People claim to have even dropped the cooler from several stories up with no compromise in its structural integrity.
It should go without saying that the Tundra will keep ice for a longer time than nearly every other cooler available. Although it may be beaten by some specialty models, it is undoubtedly the king of commercial ice chests everywhere.
Not only are they top dog in coolers, Yeti as a brand has expanded into the insulated tumbler and bottle game as well which they have begun to dominate. Even brands entirely focused on making such products are having a tough time keeping up. Read our comparison of the Yeti vs. Hydro Flask for more information.
3rd Best Cooler for Keeping Ice: Pelican ProGear Elite Cooler
If you are looking for some of the best ice retention that can compete with models like the Yeti Tundra, the Pelican ProGear Elite Cooler is the one for you. It is a high performance ice chest designed with a minimal yet premium look, and it compromises nothing in terms of quality.
Coming from one of the biggest names in the industry, this model is protected with a lifetime warranty under Pelican. It is likely that you will never use the warranty however as the cooler is built to be nearly indestructible. On the off chance that you do manage to break a piece, it will be repaired or replaced free of charge.
This heavy duty cooler has a steep price tag that can be justified by its rugged performance. It is meant to withstand even the harshest conditions with its thick polyethylene plastic walls and stainless steel reinforcements. These features combine to make one of the most durable coolers ever, and it is sure to last for as long as you need.
Features including an airtight, freezer-grade gasket and 2” thick polyurethane insulation make this the top ice retaining cooler available on the market today. It has won multiple competitions and deservingly so. If you are an outdoorsman looking for a cooler that can retain ice for your week long expeditions, this cooler is the one for you.
Best Cheap Cooler: Coleman Xtreme Cooler
If you have a restrictive budget, the Coleman Extreme Ice Chest will be the best bang for your buck. Although it has several weak points when compared to more premium models, it is built better than most cheap coolers.
The manufacturer – Coleman – is an American brand that produces many household items outside of coolers, and it is known for selling quality products at a low cost. They are neither a premium or discount brand, but rather a middle-market company with aggressive pricing.
This specific model is made for use in most environments outside of the extreme conditions faced during camping and boating. We do not recommend it to be handled roughly as it features mostly plastic components including the handles and wheels.
It is perfectly sized for carrying large quantities of food to outdoor gatherings at the beach or park, and Coleman claims that it will retain ice for up to 5 days. While this may be true when the cooler is mostly filled with ice, we recommend a heavier insulated cooler for extended trips where food must be kept cold.
Not to mention, it’s lid has the signature cup holders which have made the cooler infamous in the tailgating community.
Want to see more coolers in this price range? Check out our review of the best budget coolers available today.
What Features Make the Best High End Ice Chest?
You’re probably wondering:
With so many options to choose from, how do I know the cooler I choose is the right one for me?
Well, that question is definitely hard to answer with absolute certainty, but luckily we have compiled a list of the top factors you should consider in your purchasing decision. Please consider the following features: (click on a feature to expand)
Honorable Mention: Engel High Performance Cooler
Insulated coolers work much like a blanket by trapping and isolating air within a confined space. When they are filled with ice, the insulation allows air within the cooler to stay at a low temperature without interacting with the hot, external air. This in turn leaves the ice frozen and the refreshments cold.
The Engel DeepBlue is a prime example of what a top-notch insulated cooler should look like. Its unibody container is injected with 2” of polyurethane all the way around from corner to corner, and its lid seals the body with solid silicone gaskets and marine grade latches.
As a strong testament to its durability, the entire cooler has been certified to be bear-resistant through the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. This should be ample enough evidence to prove that you never have to be gentle with this cooler. It is built to last a lifetime and then some more.
While it may be more expensive than your typical, cheap Wal-Mart cooler, the two types should not even be compared. The DeepBlue should be seen as more than just an accessory object and more like an investment that is made to last as a companion.
Honorable Mention: Grizzly Cooler
If you plan on camping or hunting for extended periods of time without access to refrigeration, the Grizzly Hunting Cooler is your best bet for keeping food cold and fresh. It can hold ice for over a week at a time under proper conditions and has been tested to be among the best in terms of performance.
As an adventurer and lover of the outdoors, you should not be limited by the expiry date of your food, and with the proper procedures, this cooler will enable you to keep ice for up to 10 days. This leaves you with the ability to trek, hike, or ride to wherever your heart desires without any concern over spoiling food.
Don’t worry about being gentle with this cooler either as it has been known to withstand even the strongest of bear attacks. Seriously, with its thick plastic walls, metal hinges, built-in handles, and reinforced lid nothing will be able to break in.
This cooler is built to be abused, and owners can be proud of the harsh conditions that theirs has endured. When you look back at all the times that your Grizzly cooler has been their for you, make sure to hold your memories like a trophy because that’s exactly what it was meant for.
If you still need more help finding the perfect cooler for you, drop a comment down below or check out Ebay’s guide on finding the right cooler.