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we chose the best beach coolers for 2023 for all sizes and shapes to suit your needs.

Beach coolers come in many different shapes and sizes. Photo: Steve Andrews//The Inertia

The Inertia

The right beach cooler will increase your time in the sand exponentially. Without one, you’re stuck with warm beverages that will only get warmer as the day goes on. At the end of the day, the best beach cooler is the one you own (and doesn’t leak). But if you want a major upgrade, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve been testing all types of beach coolers — from soft coolers and backpack coolers, to wheeled coolers and hard-sided options — for the past few years, and there is no shortage of amazing options using the latest tech to give you the most bang for your buck.

We’ve collected the best beach coolers for both personal use and for big days out with friends and family, ensuring that no matter the occasion, food and drinks will be cold and ready to go. For more detailed information, check out our Comparison Table and Buyer’s Guide, below.

The Best Beach Coolers of 2024

Best Overall Beach Cooler: RTIC 52 QT Ultra-Light Wheeled Cooler
Best Backpack Cooler: YETI Hopper M20
Best Budget Beach Cooler:
Maelstrom Backpack Cooler
Runner-Up Best Overall Beach Cooler: Yeti Roadie 48 Wheeled Cooler

Best Overall Beach Cooler

RTIC 52 QT Ultra-Light Wheeled Cooler ($249)

rtic ultralight wheeled cooler

Insulation: Closed-cell foam
Capacity: 52 qt
Weight: 30 lbs
Pros: Premium quality with a great price point
Cons: Handles/Wheels make wasted space when packing

Coolers come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s hard to narrow down one cooler to rule them all. However, the RTIC 52 QT Ultra-Light Wheeled Cooler has enough of what we need (as well as a few bonuses) that helped us crown this our best beach cooler of 2024. It’s not too big that one person can’t move it, and thanks to the tough, easy-rolling wheels, that one person can take it over anything from a rocky trail to dry sand. It’s also big enough to store enough beverages, ice, and food for a whole group, so you don’t have to leave the beach prematurely.

With a host of bonus features like a metal bottle opener, fold-away handles, and a basket on the lid to keep dry goods dry, the cooler is made for long days at the beach (and maybe long nights, too!). It clocks in at only 30 pounds (empty, of course). That weight isn’t too shabby considering we still had ice inside after 5 days of testing, even after opening and closing during that period. Last but not least, the price point comes in at far less than comparable coolers with similar durability and insulation. If you only own one cooler, the RTIC Ultralight 52 should be the one.

For more information on the RTIC Ultra-Light Wheeled Cooler, read our full review


Best Backpack Cooler

YETI Hopper M20 ($325)

the Yeti m20 backpack cooler

Insulation: Closed-cell foam
Capacity: 25 qt
Weight: 7.7 lbs

Pros: Magnets instead of zippers, durable
Cons: Pricey

It’s no secret that YETI coolers don’t come cheap. But it’s also well known that YETI makes some of the best coolers in the game. The M20 Soft Backpack Cooler is no exception.

One of the downsides of most soft coolers is the challenge of the zipper. YETI sought to remove this problem by creating a magnetized seal, along with a couple of buckles for added security. If you had a prior version of one of YETI’s backpack coolers then you know that the magnet was kind of terrifying. YETI has toned it down a bit with the M20, offering a reliable seal without the risk of your fingers getting chopped off (that may be a bit dramatic but those magnets were strong).

The M20 is comfortable to carry and has lots of attachment points for securing gear, so you can stay hands free if you wish. The M20 will keep your drinks cold for days – if you prefer something reusable instead of ice the YETI Thin Ice is an awesome option. While the price is a bit steep, YETI makes coolers you can rely on and the M20 is a great backpack option.

For more information on the Yeti Hopper M20, check out our full review here. For more backpack coolers, check out our guide to The Best Backpack Coolers.

CHECK PRICE ON REI Check Price on Yeti

Best Budget Beach Cooler

Maelstrom Backpack Cooler ($36)

our pick for best budget cooler was the maelstrom backpack cooler

Insulation: Polyester
Capacity: 35 cans (32 L) + front pocket for cutlery + dishes
Weight: .95 lbs
Pros: Leakproof, large capacity for a backpack
Cons: Ice doesn’t last longer than an afternoon, materials aren’t ultra-durable

There are a bunch of different coolers in the lower budget range, but we found the Maelstrom Backpack Cooler to have a solid combination of features that you need to have a good day on the beach. It keeps drinks cold (as it should) for a solid afternoon, and claims 7 hours without ice. Keep in mind that’s if you don’t open it! But add a bit of ice and this backpack cooler served us for a full afternoon at the beach.

The extra pockets are well thought out — the front pocket has space for dishes and cutlery for a perfect beach date. While nothing on this cooler stood out as premium, the overall build quality is solid, and for less than $40 at the time of publishing, we can highly recommend this as a budget beach cooler. The Maelstrom is sturdy, functional, and will last you a while if treated properly.


Runner-Up Best Overall Beach Cooler

Yeti Roadie 48 ($400)

our most maneuverable beach cooler was the yeti roady 48

Insulation: Rotomolded plastic
Capacity: 48 qt
Weight: 28.3 lbs
Pros: Easy for one person to move on their own
Cons: Telescoping handle can get sand stuck inside and jam up

Yeti’s latest release is a bit of a game-changer when it comes to large coolers. Over the years the brand’s legion of fans gave feedback on what was missing in their line and what was important for a large-capacity cooler. The result is the Roadie 48 – a higher-profile wheeled cooler that uses the laws of physics to make life easier.

Leverage can do wonders, and by having a cooler that is roughly a cube shape is more balanced and easier to move around. Where other coolers require you to lift one end to move them, with this rig you simply tilt and the wheels carry the brunt of the weight. Add in the extra-long telescoping handle and it’s surprisingly easy to wheel around this cooler even fully-loaded. Having some height also allows for wine bottles to sit upright, and with additional dividers available, you can keep beverages and food separate with ease. Of course, all of this comes with YETI’s industry-leading reputation for quality and performance. With a 5-year warranty, you can feel safe that wherever you may want to bring this thing, you’ll be able to do so for a long time to come.

This finished just behind our best overall beach cooler due to two important points. One was that the telescoping handle would occasionally fill with sand, so if the beach is the primary destination for your cooler you might want something where the handle folds out, such as the RTIC or Pelican Elite. The other point was that the drain plug does not remain attached, so it’s prone to getting lost. This is true for all YETI coolers, and Pelican definitely gets a nod here where the drain plug has a leash to keep it attached at all times. Otherwise, the Roadie is the perfect large-scale mobile beach cooler.

We found the 48 qt to be in the sweet spot for size vs portability, but if you need something a bit bigger, fear not, as it also comes in a 60 qt version.


Best of the Rest

Best Electric Cooler

Anker EverFrost ($799)

The Anker EverFrost was our pick for the best powered cooler in our review of the best beach coolers. Here is a product shot showcasing it against a white background.

Insulation: Plastic
Capacity: 38 cans (33 L)
Weight: 49 lbs
Pros: Includes power bank for recharging devices, no ice needed
Cons: Heavy, needs a power source to recharge

When it comes to electric coolers, it seems like there are new ones popping up every day. But no option seems to check as many boxes as the new Everfrost cooler by Anker. Known for their power stations and mobile charging units, Anker has entered the cooler space by developing an electric cooler that can do much more than keep things chilled.

In fact you can even use it as a freezer, with a temperature setting as low as 4°F. Hook up a solar panel and you have virtually unlimited time to keep things cold. Plus, it’s durable: We’ve been testing it for 3 months including the sand and salt of a remote west coast beach with no issue.

The Everfrost has a removable 299Wh battery, so even when not using as a cooler you can use it to charge your devices while enjoying the sunshine and sea spray. The accessories are nothing to gloss over, either. The unit comes with durable wheels and a fold-out shelf to use as a cutting board or to prep food. It even has a built-in bottle opener for when you need it most. Although wheeled, the compressor makes it quite heavy, so we had to dock points on the portability score.


Longest Ice Retention

RTIC 110 QT Hard Cooler ($365)

110 qt beach cooler by RTICInsulation: 3 inch foam
Capacity: 110 qt
Weight: 48 lbs
Pros: Long lasting ice retention, lower price than comparable models
Cons: Super heavy when fully loaded

RTIC boasts longer ice retention than its competitors, and we had to test that out for ourselves. They’re right. Science says that the larger the insulator, the better it performs, so it’s no surprise that their 110 qt cooler would hold ice for a long time. If you follow the proper guidelines, this cooler can keep things chilled for almost a week.

With three-inch insulated walls, your ice will stay frozen for days, literally. Like the Yeti, it has rotomolded construction which is super tough. The cooler features heavy-duty T-latches and a freezer grade gasket, as well as no-fail hinges, no-sweat exterior, cool lift design, molded side handles, and tie-downs so your cooler is always where it needs to be. Bonus points for this cooler to double as a bench or step stool for camping and places where furnishings are a minimum. Be mindful, if you’re bringing this beast to the beach, you’ll likely want a wagon or strong buddy to help transport it.

RTIC also has smaller models in 65 qt and 45 qt if the 110 is too much to carry. But if long-lasting ice retention is your requirement, the 110 is a great value for larger groups or extended trips.


Awesome Extras

Igloo Trailmate Wheeled Cooler ($250)

Igloo CoolerInsulation: Foam
Capacity: 112 cans (without ice)
Weight: 34.7 lbs
Pros: Easy to maneuver, great for attaching extras such as a fishing rod
Cons: Size to capacity ratio isn’t great

Igloo has been in the cooler game forever. They know how to keep things cold. The Trailmate Wheeled Cooler does just that, but it has a few extra features that make it… well, extra. Oversized 10-inch wheels make it look like some kind of icy off-road vehicle. It has a glide handle, which according to Igloo, makes it 50 percent easier to pull your load “thanks to the comfort and leverage of the locking, telescoping, horizontal handle.”

The cooler retains ice for up to four days, has a butler tray that stores under the cooler’s lid and sits on the handle when you want to use it, and it even has a food tray to keep those hotdog buns cool, but not soggy. There’s also a place to hold a fishing rod, and, for some reason, the Trailmate is one of the only coolers we tested that has can holders on the top. Add in a bottle opener for those so inclined, and you’ve got a ton of features that other coolers don’t have.

It could have earned a top spot, but aside from wheeling around, it can be a bit awkward to carry, so we had to dock points on the size-to-capacity ratio. Plus, we weren’t a huge fan of its futuristic looks. Other than that, this cooler is well-built, will do the job, and helps you have a great day at the beach.


Excellent Value

ENGEL 60QT Ultralite ($199)

Engel ultralite beach cooler

Insulation: Closed-cell foam
Capacity: 60 qt
Weight: 21.5 lbs
Pros: Super light for the size
Cons: Handles are prone to wear

Engel has made a name for themselves in the hunting and fishing scene for durable, dependable coolers, and even powered coolers for those extended trips. What we really liked about their new Ultralite cooler is in its name: it’s far lighter than other coolers in its size category, without sacrificing ice retention. Sure, it may not have as long lasting effect as some burlier models, but for a day at the beach, it did perfectly. And let’s not overlook the price: At $200, it’s much more affordable than some of the other premium brand name models on this list. It also comes with a few included extras such as a wire basket for dry goods and a divider to separate drinks and food.

The only downside is that the rope on the handles aren’t as durable as some others, so if you abuse the cooler you might want something a bit more rugged. But with a far lighter weight than other larger coolers, the tradeoff might be worth it. Plus, it’s easy enough to change those out.


YETI Tundra Haul Wheeled Cooler ($425)

Yeti Cooler

Insulation: Rotomolded Plastic
Capacity: 82 cans (without ice)
Weight: 37.5 lbs
Pros: Legendary reputation, easy to maneuver
Cons: You’re paying a premium for the brand name

Yeti, as you’re probably aware, is the gold standard for coolers. Standard Yeti coolers, due to their rugged rotomolded design, have been a bit of a hassle to lug around. The Tundra Haul is Yeti’s first cooler on wheels, which you will appreciate after walking 25 minutes through the sand and burning sun because your friend decided he’d post up at the other end of the beach.

While the wheels and towing handle are great, the one downside is a lack of a handle on the other side in case you need to pick it up, which cost it a point in the “portability” category. The Haul has rotomolded construction, which makes the thing almost bomb-proof, and the wheels are solid, single-piece tire construction that is impact and puncture-resistant, so you know you’re getting to where you want to go, and that things will be cold when you get there.

We now prefer the Roadie above, because Yeti has improved on the portability design with a more balanced load and telescoping handle. While the Haul still makes a great option, the Roadie is slightly more versatile.


ICEMULE Boss ($375)

A waterproof cooler with plenty of extra room for storage is the icemule boss

Insulation: Foam
Capacity: 24 cans (with ice) + extra pockets = 30L
Weight: 6.6 lbs
Pros: Ergonomic, durable, great ice retention
Cons: Pricey, size to capacity ratio isn’t great

Even if you ignore the fact that the ICEMULE Boss is a fully-waterproof cooler with unbelievable ice retention, it’s just an awesome backpack that can carry a ton of stuff. The shoulder straps and back padding help ease the burden of a heavy load, so feel free to fill it to the brim with up to 24 cans (with ice) in the main compartment. You’re really only limited by back and shoulder strength for how much more you’d want to add to the backpack cooler. Two side compartments and a larger one on the back (all waterproof as well) give additional room for supplies such as a first aid kit, dry food storage, sunscreen, etc.

Even that would be enough to call it a day and make this one of our favorite backpack coolers. But add in the external storage options such as webbing for a rain jacket, clip loops on the bottom, and 16 loops on the side for clipping on whatever you can think of, and you’ve got a carrying solution for much more than just cold drinks. This thing is a beast, and blows the competition out of the water. That said, it might be overkill for shorter adventures at the beach.


ICEMULE Jaunt 15L ($110)

a great portable cooler and drybag is the icemule jaunt.

Insulation: Muleskin (proprietary to Icemule)
Capacity: 15 cans (with ice)
Weight: 2 lbs
Pros: Packs up for easy storage, waterproof, floats
Cons: Ice retention not great after 24 hours

This cooler could also win the “Most Unpretentious” if we were to make such a category. But to believe that this stylish and comfortable waterproof backpack can also keep drinks cold?  And also float should the need arise? That’s an enthusiastic yes!

ICEMULE has set themselves in a category of their own by creating some exceptionally high-performing cooler bags that are well-built, waterproof, and keep their cool for a long time. You can easily fit a 12-pack with ice in their 15L version of the Jaunt series, and even 4 wine bottles for those so inclined. With premium lining and an inflatable air pocket to add further insulation, this cooler rivals many hard coolers for ice retention.

Add in the fact that you can carry it on your back and roll it up and stash when not in use, and you’ve got yourself an ultra-portable unassuming cooler to take to the beach, on a boat, or on big hikes without ever worrying about leaking. It’s great for surf trips where space is an issue — just roll this up and stash it in your board bag, and you’re ready to go when you reach your destination. Plus, there’s bonus pocket in front to keep your keys, wallet and phone safe and dry.

They also have a smaller 9L version if you are looking for something even more portable, or a 20L version.  However we found the 15L to be right in the sweet spot for capacity and size.


Pelican Elite 65 Wheeled Cooler ($520)

our pick for best heavy duty large cooler was the pelican 65w wheeled cooler.Insulation: Injection-molded polyurethane
Capacity: 65 qt (64 cans + ice)
Weight: 53 lbs
Pros: Wildlife-proof closure, virtually indestructible
Cons: Pricey, heavy even with wheels due to its length

Pelican products go far beyond just coolers. The company started out as providing cases for scuba diving equipment in the 70s, and has steadily built a reputation for housing everything from camera gear to providing reliable storage for military and law enforcement. With well over 40 years of innovation in a variety of fields, they recently dove into the cooler market. We found Pelican Coolers to be some of the toughest options out there.

We tested the Elite 65 Wheeled Cooler and found that it lived up to the reputation, and then some. With 2″ polyethylene insulation this cooler will keep whatever is inside cold for days. So whether you’re bringing food and drink to a big beach party or heading on a deep-sea fishing mission, this is an excellent option. Featuring some of the most rugged wheels on the list, we found that despite the size the Pelican Elite rolled well through a variety of terrain. Sure, the price tag might be a tough pill to swallow, but rest assured that this cooler will last years on the beach or a boat, in the desert, or wherever else you may go.

Pelican also has a whole host of accessories where you can customize their coolers even more. It’s definitely worth taking a look.


Pelican Dayventure Backpack Cooler ($290)

the best cooler for dating winner was the pelican dayventure backpack cooler.Insulation: Closed-cell foam
Capacity: 19 qt
Weight: 3 lbs
Pros: Durable nylon exterior, able to keep drinks cold and food hot
Cons: Bottom compartment, although the most insulated, is also the smallest

When it comes to keeping food and drinks separate, the Pelican Dayventure has your back. In fact, it’s got your shoulders, too, padded to withstand a heavy load. The bottom compartment is designed to hold a six-pack (with ice), which we found worked great when we wanted to bring a picnic — dual storage kept our food and drink separate and organized. For some reason the top compartment doesn’t feature as much insulation as the bottom, which was a bit of a bummer. But if you’re just looking for a few simple beachside sodas and some food, with Pelican’s famous durability, this might be your new best friend.

At the beach, the practical design allowed us to grab drinks from the bottom without opening the top (and letting cold air escape). This is great if you want to keep your food at the appropriate temperature for a while before eating. The included straps and attachment points leave plenty of room to add on a beach blanket, perfect for sunset dates.


ORCA 26 qt Hard Cooler ($275)

orca 26 qt for our list of the best beach coolers

Insulation: Rotomolded plastic
Capacity: 26 qt
Weight: 25 lbs
Pros: Extremely durable, bonus cargo net for keys, phone, etc
Cons: Can’t quite fit a 24-pack

While not as well-known as many other hard coolers, ORCA is a standout that hopefully will gain more steam as people discover them. Their coolers are made in the USA with quality rotomolded construction, and have a few extra features that other small hard coolers are missing. One is the rubber feet that keep it in place on whatever surface. Another is a cargo net on the back where you can easily stash necessities like your keys, wallet, phone and other small items.

We found the Orca 26 to reliably keep ice and beverages cold. Sometimes smaller coolers struggle to keep things cold due to less insulation, but the Orca cooler strikes an ideal balance between size and insulation. Their coolers also come in a huge variety of colors that will suit any personality, or for those super-organized you can color code multiple coolers for easy access in a rush. We loved the 26 qt for its portability to and from the beach, but these coolers come in a variety of sizes from 20 qt all the way up to 140 qt ensuring that, whatever your needs, ORCA has you covered.


BOTE Kula ($270)

the bote kula for our list of the best beach coolers

Insulation: Rotomolded plastic
Capacity: 20 qt
Weight: 13 lbs
Pros: Unique design, bonus bottle opener and magnetic lid
Cons: Circular shape isn’t the most space-efficient

Winning points for most unique beach cooler design (even though it’s actually a design that most people are familiar with), the Kula by BOTE takes the 5-gallon bucket to a whole new level. This bucket, though, is not like the others. It keeps drinks cold and can double as a seat.

BOTE is known for its ultra-durable, inflatable SUPs and kayaks. Venturing into the cooler market may seem like an oddity, however when you think about it, both of these activities become exponentially better with some cold beverages on-hand. Thanks to BOTE’s proprietary Magnepod on the top, you can rest their custom drinkware, bluetooth speakers, and anything else magnetic on top with a smaller chance of it toppling over. Add in a bottle opener and a sturdy handle, and you can tell the BOTE folks are serious about drinking on the water, or anywhere else, really.

Whether or not you use their watercraft is irrelevant to the fact that this cooler is a great drink companion. Due to its shape it’s not as efficient for food or square-shaped containers, but if your main focus is cold drinks, this is a fun and unique option. It’s easy to carry to and from the beach and makes a great seat in a pinch. Plus, it works well on any boat.

The Kula comes in a variety of sizes and colors to suit whatever your situation or style may be.


The Pouch by Kanga Coolers ($70)

The Pouch by Kanga Coolers Iceless Cooler

Insulation: Neoprene
Capacity: 12 cans
Weight: 1 lb
Pros: Easy to move around, can slip a 12-pack straight into it
Cons: Won’t stay cold longer than an afternoon

Another favorite here at The Inertia is Kanga’s line of iceless cooler bags. Aside from doing a great job keeping things cold, they make a nice looking accessory if that type of thing is important to you. If you only need your drinks to stay cool for a few hours, and don’t want to deal with ice, this is the option for you. The Pouch is capable of keeping a six pack of bottles, or a 12-pack of cans cool for up to seven hours, an impressive feat without ice.

If you want your drinks to stay cold for longer, you can always add ice, of course. And if you want to carry around more than a 12-pack of cans, check out the Kase Mate, which can hold up to 30 cans. To top it all off, the coolers come in a variety of stylish colors, and a tree is planted for every purchase to help offset carbon emissions.


Best Beach Coolers Comparison Table

Model Price Capacity Empty Weight Features
RTIC 52 QT Ultra-Light Wheeled $249 52 qt 30 lbs Sturdy handle, bottle opener, tough wheels
YETI Hopper M20 $325 25 qt 7.7 lbs Magnetic closure, gear loops
Maelstrom Backpack Cooler  $36 34 qt .95 lb Front pocket for dishes/cutlery, gear loops
YETI Roadie 48 $400 48 qt 28.3 lbs Cube shape, long extending handle
Anker EverFrost $519 30L 49 lbs Removable battery, freezer capability
RTIC 110 Cooler $365 65 qt 48 lbs 3″ thick walls for long-lasting ice retention
Igloo Trailmate $280 70 qt 34.7 lbs Bottle opener, can/cup holders, fishing rod holder
Engel 60QT Ultralite $199 60qt 21.5 lbs Comes with wire basket and divider
YETI Tundra Haul  $425 62 qt 37.5 lbs Rotomolded construction
ICEMULE Boss $375 31.7 qt 6.6 lbs Waterproof, air insulation, 3 extra pockets, gear loops
ICEMULE Jaunt $110 15.8 qt 2 lbs Waterproof, air insulation
Pelican Elite 65  $520 65 qt 53 lbs Tough construction, built to last
Pelican Dayventure Backpack $290 19 qt 3 lbs Two separate insulating compartments, thick exterior
ORCA 26 $275 26 qt 25 lbs Cargo netting for small extras
BOTE Kula $270 20 qt 13 lbs Magnetic top, bottle opener
The Pouch by Kanga Coolers $70 10 qt 1 lb Can fit a whole 12-pack without taking out of the box

Five different beach coolers filled with ice as we test out the ice retention for our review of the best beach coolers.

24 hours into our ice test and most coolers are still holding strong. Photo: Steve Andrews//The Inertia

How We Tested The Best Beach Coolers

There are a ton of options for coolers out there out there, and there only seems to be more every year. People expect cold beverages not only at the beach, but when camping, tailgating, or on the lawn at the state fair catching the Doobie Brothers with the folks. So we did our best to rate the coolers on a few standards that we thought you’d find important when looking for a good beach cooler.

Features are awesome, but they don’t mean much if you can’t move the cooler around, so portability is a big consideration. We also compared the size of the cooler to capacity inside, simply by factoring each cooler’s volume on the inside vs. the outside. Ice retention is also an obvious factor, but instead of taking the companies’ word for it, we went out and actually filled the things with ice and drinks to see how long they could keep their chill.

Testing Ice Retention

The simplest way we figured to test the coolers was to fill it with ice. This of course isn’t a totally apples to apples comparison to a cooler full of food or drinks, but it was the best we could do to make it as variable-free of a study as possible. Then, we simply left the coolers to sit there and simmer in the summer heat. Since most coolers recommend shading, we covered them with a towel so as not to have direct sunlight be a factor.  However, we didn’t heed the advice that manufacturers make to “pre-cool” the coolers before adding anything because let’s be honest — most of us rarely do that in real life.

Other factors besides ice retention involved lugging it to and from the beach, and seeing just how easy or hard the whole process is. Are the handles going to slip out of sweaty hands? Is the shoulder strap going to leave a mark? Does sand affect the wheels’ ability to roll? All these questions helped us decide the good from the not-so-good, to help you choose the best beach cooler for your needs.

Editor’s Note: We first published this review in November of 2023. We updated it in May of 2024 with a couple new beach coolers, one of which became our new best overall (RTIC Ultralight 52 Wheeled Cooler).

the pelican dayventure backpack cooler full of tall cans

The bottom compartment of the Pelican Dayventure easily fits 7 tall cans, or a regular 6-pack with ice. Photo: Steve Andrews//The Inertia

Beach Coolers Buyer’s Guide

The best beach coolers come in various sizes, shapes, and designs — invariably, what’s best for you depends on your use. Choosing the right one can make or break your beach day. Here are some of the key factors to consider when purchasing a beach cooler.

Capacity and Size: The capacity of the cooler will determine how much food and drink you can carry with you to the beach. If you’re planning a day trip with family or friends, a larger cooler will be necessary. However, if you’re going alone, a smaller cooler will suffice. Consider how much space you have in your vehicle for the cooler and how far you’ll have to carry it from the car to the beach.

Insulation: The insulation is what keeps your drinks and snacks cold. Look for coolers with thick walls and lids to ensure maximum insulation. Some coolers also have additional insulation layers to keep the cold in and the heat out, such as air pockets in ICEMULE’s designs.

Portability: Beach coolers can be heavy and difficult to move around. Look for coolers with wheels or handles for easy transportation. A cooler with a shoulder strap or backpack-style straps can also make it easier to carry.

Durability: Beach coolers are often exposed to the sun, sand, and water. Look for coolers made of durable materials like high-density polyethylene, which can withstand the elements. Many coolers these days are also designed with rust-resistant hardware, which can help prolong their lifespan.

Ice Retention: The longer your cooler can keep ice frozen, the longer your drinks and snacks will stay cold, simple as that. Look for coolers with thick walls and lids, as well as a tight seal to keep the cold in.

Additional Features: Some coolers come with additional features like built-in bottle openers, cup holders, or even Bluetooth speakers. While these features can be convenient, they may also add to the price of the cooler. Consider which features are most important to you before making a purchase.

Price: As you have seen here, beach coolers can come in a wide range of prices, from the price of a couple movie tickets to the price of a plane ticket (or more!). Consider your budget and how often you plan to use the cooler before making a purchase.

Brand Reputation: Look for coolers from reputable brands with positive customer reviews. These brands are more likely to produce high-quality, durable coolers that will last for multiple beach trips.

Warranty: Some beach coolers come with a warranty, which can give you peace of mind if something goes wrong. We recommend beach coolers with at least a limited warranty that covers manufacturing defects and other issues.

we reviewed the best beach coolers and found the Icemule Jaunt to be a great packable backpack option.

Sometimes, you don’t need much. For those instances we found the Icemule Jaunt to be a great option. Photo: Steve Andrews//The Inertia

Caring For Your Beach Cooler

A good beach cooler is a worthwhile investment in freshness and reliable frosty beverages after a surf session or a long day in the sand. Making sure you take care of it will help prolong that investment for years to come. Here are a few tips to ensure your beach cooler has a long, happy life:

Clean the cooler after each use: After each use, clean your cooler thoroughly with soap and water. This will prevent any bacteria or mold from growing inside the cooler. If your cooler has any stubborn stains, you can use a mixture of baking soda and water to clean it. Be sure to avoid harsh chemicals which can shorten the lifespan of the cooler — plus you don’t want those by your food and drink.

Dry the cooler completely: Before storing your cooler, make sure it is completely dry. This will prevent any mold or mildew from growing inside the cooler. You can use a towel or air dry the cooler in a shaded area.

Store the cooler properly: When storing your cooler, keep it in a cool, dry place. This will prevent any damage to the insulation or other components of the cooler. Avoid storing the cooler in direct sunlight or in a damp area where mildew and mold might make it a party zone.

Don’t overload your cooler: Avoid overloading your cooler with too much weight, as this can damage the insulation or other components of the cooler. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for weight capacity. Your back will also thank you.

What Type of Ice Should I Use in my Cooler?

There are three main types of ice: Cubed, Block, and Artificial.

Cubed Ice: This option is by far the most commonly used. It’s usually found at any corner store for a few bucks, and will last an outing. It can also chill the contents of your cooler quite fast, but inevitably will result in a pool of water. So anything other than drinks will end up a soggy mess if left unattended for too long.

Block Ice: Block ice will stay frozen the longest. I like to use this on long camping trips when you need things to stay cold for multiple days. If you wrap the block in a garbage bag, it’ll last even longer and keep from flooding the rest of the cooler.

Artificial Ice: This is the best option if you’re regularly using the cooler, but for larger coolers the price can add up. Still, the fact that it’s reusable is a nice bonus and after a few times out there it’ll pay for itself. The catch is you’ll need extra freezer space to chill it out, and it can take a while to cool things that are at room temperature similar to cubes or blocks. The major brands all sell their own versions, but our favorites were from Yeti or Pelican.  If you just want something cheap and easy, most fishing shops will sell gel packs that work pretty darn well, and will last long enough if you treat them nicely. But when they break, it’s not the best thing to find inside a half-melted cooler.

Our Recommendation: Our go-to method for chilling our cooler is using a combo of cubed ice and either block or artificial ice. The block/artificial ice will last longer, and the cubes will fill in the gaps to make for better insulation/cold distribution.

When the ice starts to melt, Don’t drain the water. It’s a common mistake but that ice cold water actually helps keep the temperature down. The enemy to coolness is air, so the more volume you fill inside the cooler with ice/drinks/food, the longer it’ll stay cold.

Loading up a cooler at the beach

A backpack cooler like the Icemule Boss works great at the beach. Photo: Rebecca Parsons//The Inertia

How to Get the Best Ice Retention

There are a few steps you can do before heading to the beach to ensure that your cooler performs the best. If long ice retention is of utmost importance, here are a few tips:

Pre-cool the items: Before placing your food or drinks in the cooler, it’s a great step to get them cold beforehand. We even like to freeze certain things (like a couple water bottles) to help. This will ensure that the ice isn’t working too hard (and melting) to bring the temperature down.

Add food/drinks before ice: Having your items at the bottom and ice on top will ensure that the ice acts as an extra barrier of insulation. Be mindful that some coolers have a basket to help keep things dry, which we advise using for food if available.

Fill the cooler up completely: Air is the enemy of cold. You want as little of it in the cooler as possible. So make sure you get the cooler as full as possible and the ice will melt much more slowly as a result. That’s important to factor in when purchasing a cooler — don’t get one much larger than your typical needs (otherwise you’ll struggle to keep it cool).

Don’t drain the water: As stated earlier, water actually helps keep everything colder, longer. So resist the temptation to drain the water out. If you have things that get soggy, use a cooler with a basket that can help keep food elevated and out of water’s way. But draining the water is not advised if you are looking to keep the cool for days. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but trust us, it works. Try it for yourself and you’ll notice a huge difference.

Keep the lid closed: Get in and get out as soon as you can. When the cooler is open, the coldness escapes fast. The hotter the weather, the faster this happens. The less times you open the lid, the better.

Use separate coolers for food and drinks: If you have the space and budget, it’s a great idea to have two coolers: one for keeping your perishables cold, and another for grabbing drinks often. That way you are keeping the food cooler nice and airtight for as long as possible.

Keep your cooler out of the sun: Even if coolers boast incredibly amounts of insulation, it’s a good idea to keep your beach cooler shaded. Leave it under your beach umbrella or shade structure if possible. If not, then try to put a towel or shirt on top just to make sure that it’s not getting direct sunlight. Not only will the contents stay colder longer, it’ll also prolong the cooler’s lifespan.

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Editor’s Note: For something even more portable, don’t forget to check out our guides to Best Backpack Coolers and Best Soft Coolers. Need some shade for your beach day? Take a look at our Best Beach Umbrellas. For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

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