Contributing Gear Editor
Staff
Support our work! The Inertia may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn more about our gear review policy here.
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

If you, like all of us, have been plagued by beach days with warm drinks, you might want to do something about it. Nobody wants to hang with the person who’s handing out hot beers. Here are our favorite beach coolers on the market, just in time for you to be the the most popular friend or friend-to-be of summer. From that post-dawn patrol beer to sunset on the sand, we compiled a list of the best beach coolers on the market to help you have the best summer yet. For more detailed info, check out our Comparison Table and Buyer’s Guide.

The Best Beach Coolers of 2024

Best All-Around Beach Cooler: YETI Tundra Haul Wheeled Cooler
Best Backpack Cooler: YETI Hopper M20
Best Budget Beach Cooler:
Maelstrom Backpack Cooler
Best Powered Beach Cooler: Anker EverFrost


Best All-Around Beach Cooler

YETI Tundra Haul Wheeled Cooler ($450)

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. Until now, though, Yeti coolers have been a bit of a hassle to lug around. The Tundra Haul is the first Yeti 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.

CHECK PRICE ON REI CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

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 a well known fact 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 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. Read the full review here, and for more backpack coolers, check out our guide to The Best Backpack Coolers.

CHECK PRICE ON REI Check Price on Amazon


Best Powered 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 powered coolers, it seems like there are new ones popping up every day. But none seems to check as many boxes as the brand-new Everfrost cooler by Anker. Known for their power stations and mobile charging units, Anker has entered the cooler space by giving the people a product 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. 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 out in the wild. 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.

CHECK PRICE ON Anker

Best Budget Cooler

Maelstrom Backpack Cooler ($40)

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 low budget range, but we found this one to have a decent combo of what 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 you’ll have a good day out there. The extra pockets are well thought out—the front pocket has space for dishes and cutlery for that perfect beach date.  Nothing on this cooler could be considered “premium”, but what do you expect for the price? Still, it’s sturdy and will last you a while if treated properly.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Best of the Rest

Runner-Up Best All-Around

Yeti Roadie 48 ($450)

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 – 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 (give or take a few inches) it’s a bit easier to move around.  Where other coolers require you to lift one end to move, with this rig you simply tilt and the wheels carry the brunt of the weight. Add in the extra-long handle and it’s surprisingly easy to wheel around a fully-loaded rig. Having some height also allows for wine bottles to sit upright, and with additional inserts such as dividers 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 could have been in top standing for the best all-around, minus two important points. One was that the telescoping handle would 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 Tundra 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 unit.

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.

CHECK PRICE ON REI CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

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. But 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.

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.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON CHECK PRICE ON RTIC


Awesome Extras

Igloo Trailmate Wheeled Cooler ($250)

Igloo Cooler
Insulation: 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 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. Other than that, this cooler is well built, will do the job, and set yourself up for a great day at the beach.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON CHECK PRICE ON REI


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 fully waterproof and a cooler with an unbelievable scale of ice retention, it’s just an awesome backpack that can carry a ton of stuff. The shoulder straps and back padding helps 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. That would be great if that was all, but you’re really only limited by back and shoulder strength for how much more you’d want to add to the load. 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 still probably be our favorite backpack cooler. 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.

CHECK PRICE ON REI CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

ICEMULE Jaunt 15L ($63)

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 in your board bag, and you’re ready to go when you reach your destination.  Add in a bonus pocket in front to keep your keys, wallet and phone safe and dry, and this will satisfy your needs on the go.

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

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON CHECK PRICE ON ICEMULE


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 70’s, and has steadily built a reputation for housing everything from camera gear to providing reliable storage for military and law enforcement. With 40 years of innovation in a variety of fields, they recently dove into the cooler market. Customers of Pelican products are huge fans due to the reliability that whatever is inside will still be there at the end of their journey. Same goes with these coolers. They are some of the toughest coolers out there and are built to last through whatever you send its way.

We tested the Elite 65 Wheeled Cooler and found that it lived up to the reputation, and then some. With 2″ polyethelene insulation and some of the most rugged wheels, this cooler will keep whatever is inside cold for days. So whether its a massive beach party, a deep-sea fishing mission, or any other reason you’d need a large scale cooler, this is an excellent option. 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.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON CHECK PRICE ON PELICAN

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 is just enough lagers, seltzers, sparkling waters, or whatever else is your drink of choice on a sunny adventure outside. Take away the ice and you can fit 7 tall cans.

With high density closed cell foam surrounding, the drinks will stay cold until you reach your destination, and then some. A second, larger insulated pocket sits above, where you can either keep your burritos hot or sushi cold. The included straps and attachment points leave plenty of room to add on a beach blanket, perfect for sunset dates, or a filling up on food and drinks for a long day at the beach.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON CHECK PRICE ON PELICAN

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.

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, but these coolers come in a variety of sizes from 20 qt all the way up to 140 qt ensuring whatever your needs, ORCA has you covered.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

BOTE Kula ($230)

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 design but 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, as you may or may not know, makes 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 also comes in 10 gallon and 2.5 gallon versions if the 5 gallon doesn’t suit your needs.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON CHECK PRICE ON BOTE

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. 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.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Comparison Table

Model Price Capacity Empty Weight Features
YETI Tundra Haul  $450 62 qt 37.5 lbs Rotomolded construction
YETI Hopper M20 $325 25 qt 7.7 lbs Magnetic closure, gear loops
Anker EverFrost $519 30L 49 lbs Removable battery, freezer capability
Pelican Elite 65  $520 65 qt 53 lbs Tough construction, built to last
ICEMULE Boss $375 31.7 qt 6.6 lbs Waterproof, air insulation, 3 extra pockets, gear loops
ICEMULE Jaunt $63 15.8 qt 2 lbs Waterproof, air insulation
YETI Roadie 48 $450 48 qt 28.3 lbs Cube shape, long extending handle
Pelican Dayventure Backpack $290 19 qt 3 lbs Two separate insulating compartments, thick exterior
Igloo Trailmate $280 70 qt 34.7 lbs Bottle opener, can/cup holders, fishing rod holder
RTIC 110 Cooler $365 65 qt 48 lbs 3″ thick walls.
ORCA 26 $275 26 qt 25 lbs Cargo netting for small extras
BOTE Kula $230 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
Maelstrom Backpack Cooler  $40 34 qt .95 lb Front pocket for dishes/cutlery, gear loops

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 your 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 rated 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.

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 enjoy 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 — rarely do most of us actually 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 our 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.


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 Cooler Buyer’s Guide

Beach coolers come in various sizes, shapes, and designs. 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 to be rust-resistant, 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. 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. Look for coolers with a 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.

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 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 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 is the best option of 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.

The best option is for a combo of cubed ice and either a 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 water actually helps keep the temperature down. The enemy to coolness is air, so the more volume you have inside the cooler, the longer it’ll stay cold.

How to Get the Longest 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-lasting coolness 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. 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.

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.

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 tray that can help keep it 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 beers 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 being super great at insulation, it’s a good idea to keep it 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.

Return to Comparison Table | Return to Top Picks

Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

We reviewed a large number of hiking shoes to give you our favorite picks for trails and trail running.
The Best Men's and Women's Hiking Shoes of 2023
We tested the best men's and women's hiking shoes on the market to come up with this list of our top picks for comfort, technical stability, light weight, and more. Read more…
Surfboard Roof Racks
The Best Surfboard Roof Racks for Your Car
Surfboard car racks are a critical component for a successful surf trip. Secure your surfboard to your vehicle confidently with these five surf racks. Read more…

 
Newsletter

Only the best. We promise.

Contribute

Join our community of contributors.

Apply