Best Coolers of 2024 – CNET

A big differentiator you often hear about when purchasing a cooler is ice retention. Specifically, how long can you keep a cooler full of ice frozen (melted ice, aka water, doesn't hold water very well). The newer, more expensive options all have rotomolded coolers specifically designed to pass this test, justifying their price.

That's all well and good, but I was worried that a standard ice retention test wouldn't tell the whole story. Sure, some coolers will probably keep ice frozen much longer than others, but using melting point as an indicator seems to ignore everything that came before it. I wanted to know how well it was performing not only after a few days, but even after a few hours when the ice had not melted at all.

To do that, I started with a modified version of the ice retention test. Rather than filling each cooler with ice, we filled each cooler with an amount of ice equal to 10% of its total volume. (The capacity test mentioned above accurately measures the total volume of each cooler.) Less ice means a bigger challenge for the cooler. This is expected to give us a more detailed picture of how well coolers perform against each other.

Specifically, I wanted to track the ambient temperature of each cooler, so I spread the ice from each cooler I tested under a tall jar of propylene glycol solution (antifreeze diluted in water) with a temperature probe in it. Why is it so expensive? The temperature inside the ice will be approximately the same in all coolers, making retention the only real variable. Tracking ambient temperature at higher temperatures provided more accurate information and gave us some additional variables to consider.

Oh, and I did all of this in one of the appliance lab's temperature-controlled test chambers. And I made sure to leave each cooler open for a few hours in the room beforehand to make sure they all started at room temperature (about 80 degrees), which is a good outdoor temperature in the summer. Fahrenheit).

In the end, it turned out to be a fruitful test. After 48 hours (72 hours for the largest coolers), I had a nifty graph showing the temperature inside each cooler minute by minute. The differences between coolers were noticeable. To help you understand this data objectively, we separated the soft-sided coolers into their own categories, and then separated the coolers into individual size categories. That left us with small coolers (less than 40 quarts), medium coolers (40-59 quarts), and large coolers (60 quarts or more). Below you'll find graphed data for each of these categories, as well as performance data for soft coolers (again, you shouldn't expect much from such coolers).

Steve Conaway/CNET
Steve Conaway/CNET
Steve Conaway/CNET
Steve Conaway/CNET

Mobility and durability

We also considered each cooler's design and features and paid attention to durability concerns when conducting our tests.Not impressed with the lid Igloo Latitude Wheeled Cooler, for example. It doesn't close properly and the plastic nub hinge is a complete joke. With a gentle tug, the entire lid will come off in no time. And I wasn't impressed with the cheap plastic wheels either. Not the best option if you are looking for a cooler for camping.

of Rovr Rollr Wheel Cooler It fared much better thanks to its rugged design with solid wheels, solid steel handlebars, and an optional $50 accessory that allows it to be towed behind the bike. The interior has partitions, so it's easy to store things you don't want to get wet from the ice, and I also like that you can customize the design of the interior liner. My only concern is that the T-shaped handlebar has a comfortable rubber grip on the side, but it's not in the center where you'd actually want to hold it when carrying it with one hand.

igloo cooler open

No matter how hard I try, it's impossible very Capture all the cool features of Igloo Trailmate in one photo.

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On the topic of wheeled coolers, the Igloo Journey Trailmate 70qt All-Terrain cooler also comes with a surprising amount of extras and features. Overall, it wasn't as durable as the Rovr, but I think it's primarily designed for a different purpose. If I were trekking into the woods with a few friends for the weekend, I would definitely take the Rovr with me. But if you're going to the beach for a day with your family, you'll probably choose an igloo.

Oh, and if you spend a lot of time camping in areas where bears are a concern, you'll probably want to invest in a bear-proof cooler. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee maintains an up-to-date list of certification options. This includes a number of coolers from this overview. The several models I tested from Cabela's, Orca, Rovr, Magellan Outdoors, and Yeti all passed.

It's also worth considering whether the cooler is sturdy enough to sit on, which is handy when camping. Most of the coolers I tested did that, but some went even further. for example, Bison Gen 2 Cooler even touts it as the ideal casting platform to stand on during your next fishing trip, and also sells non-slip traction mats for lids in a variety of designs.

Between the hinge, lid, drain plug, and lid latch, the Bison cooler felt like the most premium product to the touch, but it didn't hold in cold air as well or as long as other rotomolded models. The price is about $150 more than our most affordable rotomolded pick, the Xspec 60qt Performance Cooler.

latch and lid

cooler latch cooler latch

Magellan Outdoors models have four hinged latches, two on each side, so you can open the cooler or remove the lid completely from either side.

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Let's take a closer look at hinges and latches. Some are good, some are bad, and some don't exist at all. Coolers with removable lids tend to be cheaper coolers that don't perform in the top percentile, but there is one exception he's found so far. Magellan Outdoors has a double-latching, double-hinged, removable lid and was named Best Small and Large Cooler. The easy-to-use double latch design allows you to open the cooler from either side, and you can also unlatch the latches on both sides to completely remove the lid if needed.

Now let's compare it to most newer cooler designs, such as Yeti, RTIC, Orca, Cabela's, and Frosted Frog, models with rubber T-handles that must be extended to secure the lid. . It's hard to pull them down, even as a grown adult. I asked three other adults to help secure these handles. And out of the four of us his two succeeded, one failed, and the last one succeeded after undue hardship. Performance is important, but so is design. In some cases, that can be a deal breaker.

For manufacturers, I think a rubber bungee style latching mechanism is probably very efficient from a cost and maintenance standpoint. There are fewer moving parts and rubber, so it will bend. But the latching mechanism I've seen is probably a good middle ground between a rubber latch and something like the ones found on Magellan Outdoors products. We've seen this with products like the Xspec 60qt cooler, Amazon's Commercial 20qt cooler, and the Lifetime 55qt high-performance cooler. These latches have rubber straps to secure the lid, but each strap has a plastic handle on the end that can be used against the attachment point to easily hold the lid in place. You can make it fit. This is much better than his T-handle, which is made of rubber, but without a doubt, Magellan Outdoors gets my vote as the best latching mechanism.

blue backpack cooler blue backpack cooler

While our first soft-sided cooler and backpack cooler didn't have the best performance, they are durable and are a great choice for hikers and campers as well.

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The Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 was the first backpack-style cooler we tested. Its overall performance wasn't great, but there were things I liked about it. First up is the backpack. I like that. Whether you're taking your trekking gear to the beachfront or heading out on a hike, having both hands free is always an advantage. The backpack also has plenty of straps and hitch points. I think the target audience is more hiking-oriented than beach-going, but you'll be able to secure something extra in either case.

This is a soft-sided cooler so there are no latches, just a zipper. The zipper is both waterproof and leakproof. We tested this during a capacity evaluation, filling the entire cooler to the top with water and then closing it. Even when I filled it up with water in the closed position and moved it around, it didn't spill a single drop, so it's safe to assume that leaks aren't a problem. Our recent Magellan Outdoors Soft-Side Cooler (title holder for Best Soft-Side Cooler) features the same zipper setup.

final thoughts

I'm not sure if it's surprising, but brand matters. Everyone expects Yeti coolers to perform well. But they also expect it to cost more than its competitors. We also recommend keeping an eye out for other more affordable brands that we've come to respect. From what I've seen, Magellan Outdoors, Frosted Frog, RTIC, and even Amazon's commercial coolers are worth looking at in their entire product lineup.

One other thing here: I'm surprised we haven't seen higher-end options cut out of the pack yet with clever bonus features like built-in batteries to charge your devices while camping That means outdoor (or even better, solar panels).

If that's what you're after, your best bet may be to turn to Kickstarter or Indiegogo. coolest cooler And that Infinite Cooler” target=”_blank Living with a bad name. I say infamous because both of these cash heists have a history. Production delays and obvious customer dissatisfaction. Then read what Infinite Cooler has to say about his Indiegogo campaign. This campaign passed its March 2019 shipping date with nothing to show for it. It's not pretty.

If you're tempted to back such a campaign with cold hard cash, all I have to do is recommend as healthy a dose of skepticism as possible. So literally the last thing you want is to get burned by your cooler. Use an older style cooler like the one recommended above.

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