The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Best Cooler of 2021

Where will you take your new cooler?
Photo: Jenna Ammerman
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Thursday February 4, 2021
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We've tested 30+ models over 7 years in search of the best cooler. This review covers 17 top ice chests available in 2021 we bought and tested side-by-side. We started in the lab with rigorous insulation testing and continued assessments through a wide range of real-world uses. From picnics in the park to beach BBQs, we carted these models everywhere we went to learn which models are most portable and enjoyable to use. We went through hundreds of pounds of ice and frosty cans for rigorous insulation tests, too. Whether you're setting out on a road trip or a hunting trip, we can help you choose your perfect icebox.

Related: Best Soft Cooler of 2021

Top 17 Product Ratings

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Pros Excellent insulation, super durable, easy to use, great sizeExcellent insulation, great drainage, durable, compact designVery durable, good insulation, comfortable handle gripsPretty good insulation, convenient size, comparatively lightweight, good priceThe best wheels, very durable, comfortable to pull, useful accessories
Cons Expensive, no leash for plug, smaller than claimedTall narrow shape is hard to dig through, expensive, not our favorite handlesA bit large for one person, no leash for plug, latches are scarily stretchyHandles uncomfortable, not our favorite latchesNot amazing insulation, awkward latches, expensive, on the heavy side
Bottom Line For the toughest, best insulated, and highest all-around performing cooler; the Tundra is where it’s atTop-notch insulation in a long-lasting, compact designGreat, long-lasting performance in a premium and functional coolerA less expensive option that still performs well in the face of some stiff competitionWheels that work and features you didn’t know you couldn’t live without
Rating Categories Yeti Tundra 65 ORCA 58 Quart RTIC 65 Engel 65 RovR RollR 60
Insulation (50%)
9
9
8
8
6
Durability (20%)
9
8
7
7
8
Ease Of Use (15%)
7
5
8
6
8
Portability (10%)
7
6
6
7
9
Features (5%)
7
6
5
7
9
Specs Yeti Tundra 65 ORCA 58 Quart RTIC 65 Engel 65 RovR RollR 60
Shelf Life of Food (Measured Days Below 40ºF) 6.5 days 6.5 days 6 days 5.6 days 4.7 days
Weight (lbs) 31.9 lb 30.6 lb 34.9 lb 25.5 lb 40.5 lb
Measured Capacity (quarts) 56 qt 56 qt 67 qt 54 qt 60 qt
Advertised Capacity (quarts) 65 qt 58 qt 65 qt 65 qt 60 qt
Days of Cold Beverages (Measured Days Below 50º F) 7.4 days 7.3 days 6.8 days 6 days 5.3 days
Internal Maximum Body Height (inches) 10.5" 13" 12" 10.75" 14.25"
Does it Fit a Wine or 2L Bottle Standing Upright? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Exterior Dimensions (L x W x H) 30.75" x 17.5" x 16" 26.75" x 20" x 19.4" 32" x 18.5" x 17" 29.5" x 17" x 16.6" 25.9"/40.25" x 20.75" x 20"
Construction Rotomolded polyethylene Rotomolded Rotomolded Rotomolded Rotomolded

Best Overall


Yeti Tundra 65


84
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Insulation - 50% 9
  • Durability - 20% 9
  • Ease of Use - 15% 7
  • Portability - 10% 7
  • Features - 5% 7
Capacity: 56 quarts | Days Below 40º F: 6.5
Top-notch insulation
Very durable
Simple to use
Expensive
No plug leash
Smaller than expected

Yeti is one of the most recognized names in the game for a good reason. The Tundra boasts the most impressive all-around performance out of any model we tested. In our intensive insulation testing, the Tundra outlasted all the rest when it comes to how long it can keep its contents at safe temperatures for consumption and refreshing temperatures for drinking. It's a straight-forward, rotomolded design that just works. The Tundra, one of many chests we tested with a bear-resistance rating from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), has sturdy latches that are easy to use and durable. It also comes with a removable dry basket inside the top to keep sensitive items above the ice and can be outfitted with loads more accessories for all kinds of activities. The Tundra is a reasonable weight for its size, and its shape has a low profile that makes the last beers easy to find while still being narrow enough for a single person to load into the truck. Even after regular use over several years, the Tundra works just as well as the day we bought it. Yeti also continues to diversify the colors and personalization options available for this cooler, providing more choices to match your style better.

We are a bit disappointed to have measured this large model with "65" in the name at just 56 quarts, but our testers ended up appreciating this surprisingly useful middling size more than the models that are actually 65 quarts. The Tundra line also offers a plethora of other sizes, from small, personal boxes to behemoths capable of holding hundreds of pounds of ice, all with numerical names reflecting their relative volumes. Like many of the models we tested, the Tundra still has a little lip on the inside the bottom of the drain, making it challenging to 100% empty without flipping the whole thing on its end. But with those minor complaints aside, we think the Yeti Tundra is a super handy option for just about any activity you would drive your car to.

Read review: Yeti Tundra 65

Best Bang for Your Buck


Xspec 60qt


Xspec 60qt
Best Buy Award

$199.99
at Amazon
See It

67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Insulation - 50% 6
  • Durability - 20% 7
  • Ease of Use - 15% 8
  • Portability - 10% 7
  • Features - 5% 8
Capacity: 61 quarts | Days Below 40˚F: 4.7
Solid insulation performance
Useful features
Great shape
Reasonable weight
(Relatively) inexpensive
Handles are a tad shallow
No included basket

In the realm of incredibly tough ice chests, the Xspec 60qt emerges as an impressive model with a price tag that offers some respite from the rest. Sure, it's not the cheapest option out there, but for less than half the price of so many others we tested, it offers thoughtful design features, more than adequate insulation, and a reliable structure. Rotomolded construction and an airtight seal lend ample insulation power to get through most weekend camping trips. Easy to use latches combine plastic clasps with rubber security for an easy opening and closing experience aided by a pressure release push-valve. This ice trunk is narrow enough for solo carry, tall enough to fit an upright bottle of chilled white wine, yet still shallow enough to find items that have migrated to the bottom. It has a slew of useful features, including bottle openers, easily removable handles, a fish ruler, and even a small compass.

With that said, it does fall short in some areas. Maintaining temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 4.7 days is probably sufficient for most uses. Still, it lags behind the best performers that achieved over six days of keeping food below that USDA safety threshold. And while the Xspec does have several features we love, it's missing a handy dry basket that now comes standard with so many others. It also only comes with a short 30-day warranty—not exactly awe-inspiring up against competitors' 5-year, 10-year, and even lifetime warranties. These minor shortcomings aside, we love what the Xspec has to offer for its price, and we think it's a wholly high-value piece of gear.

Read review: Xspec 60qt

Best on a Tight Budget


Coleman Xtreme 5-Day 70qt


Coleman Xtreme 5-Day 70qt
Best Buy Award

$48.00
(40% off)
at Amazon
See It

49
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Insulation - 50% 5
  • Durability - 20% 3
  • Ease of Use - 15% 7
  • Portability - 10% 5
  • Features - 5% 4
Capacity: 68 quarts | Days Below 40˚F: 4.1
Good insulation for the price
Lightweight
Inexpensive
Large capacity for its size
Not sealed
Not overly durable
Uncomfortable handles

We are quite impressed with the insulation performance of this rather inexpensive product. Up against models that are three or four times its price, the Coleman Xtreme 5-Day 70Qt holds its own. Though it can't match the premium models' rotomolded insulation prowess and rugged durability, the Coleman clearly shows its worth and value, considering the serious chunk of change you'll save. It's also much lighter in weight than the majority of the rest of the competition—even lighter even than several of the personal-sized models we tested. And to top it off, it has a deceptively large capacity for a relatively small overall size. With a simple pull-open lid and no latches to slow you down, the Coleman is one of the most natural-feeling chests to use — like opening your fridge at home. It's a simple design that does what it's meant to do.

That said, if longevity is something you want, the Coleman may not be the best choice. Its handles, hinges, and latches don't inspire confidence in their ability to last the years in the same way as the high-end, IGBC rated, and rotomolded models do. Every time we've used it over the past several years, it seems to pick up numerous extra scratches and dirt, though it still works the same. We also aren't in love with the comfort of its narrow, plastic handles in the shadow of some of the broader, more cushioned options utilized by its competitors. While we appreciate the simplicity of the pop-open drain, its small size can't offer the same rapid flow rate as the much wider drains found in the competition. It also lacks a rubber gasket around the top or lid, bringing up questions of its ability to remain sealed through the years. Still, you could purchase 3 or 4 of these coolers for the same price as some of the competition, which we think makes it a great value.

Read review: Coleman Xtreme 5-Day

Best Wheeled Option


RovR RollR 60


RovR RollR 60
Top Pick Award

$428.71
at Amazon
See It

72
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Insulation - 50% 6
  • Durability - 20% 8
  • Ease of Use - 15% 8
  • Portability - 10% 9
  • Features - 5% 9
Capacity: 60 quarts | Days Below 40º F: 4.7
Beefy wheels with pumpable rubber tires
Durable
Easy to pull
Useful included accessories
Bike attachment (sold separately) is seriously awesome
Not the best insulation
A tad heavy
Expensive

When it comes to rolling coolers, the Rovr is easily our favorite. It's the only model we tested that has actual pneumatic tires instead of cylindrical plastic chunks labeled as wheels. You can pump them up just like your car or bicycle tires, giving you the freedom to run over the same types of terrain. While other models often have tiny wheels, rigid wheels, low clearance, or narrow, uncomfortable handles, the Rovr is what a wheeled chest should be. It has a broad handle featuring comfortable and functional rubber grips on either end, making it a breeze to stroll down the sidewalk, through the grass, and across the beach with this box in tow. The Rovr also boasts solid, durable construction, hefty latches, and integrated hinges to help it last through countless picnics and get-togethers. If that's not enough, it also comes standard with some of the most useful features we've seen (no extra purchase required), including a large, removable dry bin and a giant dry storage box that attaches to the lid and literally doubles the amount of stuff you can haul. You can put everything you need for the barbecue in and on this cooler and wheel it to the park with one hand. Feeling fancy? You can also pick up the handy bike attachment and tow the Rovr behind your bicycle. It costs extra, but we bought it, tried it, and now we can't imagine life without it.

The most crucial aspect of any wheeled model is how easily it gets you there, which the Rovr does spectacularly. That said, it lags a little in the insulation department compared to some intense rivals, which is likely due to the imperfect seal between the top of the body and lid. It is important to remember that you're probably not interested in taking a wheeled chest on a ten-day rafting trip or a three-week road trip, but rather to the picnic down the road or a tailgating party. We think the latches are a bit stiff to manipulate but can become easy to learn with some practice. But honestly, this rolling icebox is like nothing we've ever experienced before and is the only one that our friends request to cart around.

Read review: Rovr RollR 60

Best Personal Model


Yeti Roadie 24


Yeti Roadie 24
Top Pick Award

$199.95
at Backcountry
See It

66
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Insulation - 50% 5
  • Durability - 20% 9
  • Ease of Use - 15% 7
  • Portability - 10% 9
  • Features - 5% 6
Capacity: 24 quarts | Days Below 40˚F: 2.6
Rugged construction
Super easy to use latches
Good insulation for a small model
Multiple handles for carrying
Top handle can get in the way of opening
Not completely airtight
No drainage spout

Sometimes you don't need that much space, but you do need excellent performance. That's where the Yeti Roadie 24 comes into play. Just as we've come to expect from Yeti products over the years, the ruggedness of the Roadie model doesn't disappoint. A beefy, integrated hinge in the sturdy rotomolded exterior protects contents from the trials of all your outdoor adventures. It's built to be a seat when you finally reach your destination (Yeti even sells a seat cushion to go with it). This latest version of the Roadie includes numerous upgrades we love, including redesigned latches that let you easily open the lid one-handed and a flexible, webbing top handle. The Roadie 24 is just over 13 inches tall inside, which allows most wine and 2L bottles to stand upright. The Roadie also outlasted all other personal-sized models in our insulation testing. Just as its name suggests, this little box has proved itself to be our go-to road trip companion.

It's our favorite personal model, but it's not perfect. The Roadie 24's webbing top handle is a bit short. This makes it more comfortable to carry but also leaves the handle in the way of opening the lid. It has to be specifically pushed out of the way each time. It also lacks a drainage port, and this version doesn't boast the IGBC certification of larger Yeti hard coolers. Because it's so small (relatively speaking), we hardly miss those extra features. Our biggest disappointment is that the Roadie is not airtight or leakproof—a minor letdown from an otherwise impressive model. It's also expensive compared to others. If you don't often need a small ice chest, we think the Igloo BMX 25 is a better value for your money, but if your cooler comes with you everywhere and needs to be the best and withstand the most, there's no other personal icebox we'd recommend more for the task than the Roadie 24.

Read review: Yeti Roadie 24


Field testing an impressive array of coolers.
Field testing an impressive array of coolers.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Why You Should Trust Us


This review is the brainchild of a team of testers, lead by Senior Review Editor, Maggie Brandenburg. Maggie has been playing and guiding in the outdoors for over fifteen years, from backpacking the Tahoe Rim Trail to kayaking the Caribbean. She is an avid camper and even lived in her teardrop trailer for a hot summer. She spent eight years at Iowa State University completing two science degrees and teaching numerous college science courses, so she has a comprehensive understanding of the importance of rigorous and scientific testing processes. Maggie doesn't underestimate a great cooler's value, whether it's for off-grid living, celebratory summit beers, road trips, or backyard barbecues. She ropes in friends and family to her testing to gain perspectives from all ages and abilities. Our testing team also includes Max Mutter and Steven Tata. Max spends most springs harvesting maple syrup at an off-the-grid tree farm and uses ice chests to keep that tempting amber elixir from spoiling. Steven has spent numerous months living and climbing in Yosemite National Park, where he stored all of his food in a cooler in lieu of a fridge and kept it safe from the hundreds of black bears that call the park home. Maggie, a trained scientist, put her head together with Steven, a mechanical engineer, to design our detailed, intensive insulation testing process.

This review represents over 540 combined hours spent using, abusing, and meticulously testing over 30 different ice chests over a span of seven years, on top of the time spent researching hundreds of models to find the ones worthy of inclusion. We ran and re-ran insulation tests under controlled but harsh laboratory conditions. We dragged our test subjects through the gravel, sand, mud, and grass while road tripping, tailgating, camping, and hanging out on the beach. We asked our friends and family, who span three generations, to help us dive into these coolers (sometimes literally) and identify the top performers. From being dropped from waist height, thrown into vehicles, jumped on by a 200-lb tester, dragged across hot surfaces, yanked on, jerked around, and otherwise abused, these chests have seen it all.

Related: How We Tested Coolers

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Analysis and Test Results


To help separate some hard-fought rivalries, we put to practice every test we could think of across five intensive and mutually exclusive metrics: insulation performance, durability, ease of use, portability, and included features. These five metrics are given a relative weight based on how important they are to each contender's overall usage. Each model's performance during testing determines its score for each metric (from 1 to 10). Combining all these scores with their weights gives an easily comparable, overall rating of 1-100 for each model. Below we dive into each metric to see which models stand out where, and why.

Related: Buying Advice for Coolers


Value


It's important to note that we do not factor the gear's price into its performance scores or overall score. However, we recognize that it's a critical component in the decision-making process for gear purchases. With a wide span of prices across the cooler market, it's helpful to know which ones are a great value and which ones are just expensive/cheap. Additionally, this category of equipment has practically exploded with options over the past several years. While it used to be true that spending more money on a mobile icebox got you an all-around better functioning unit, the relationship between price and performance is no longer so linear.

The Xspec 60qt is a great example of a high-value model, offering above-average insulation, rugged construction, and impressive usability for just over half the cost of some of the competition. If that style of a beefy rotomolded chest is more than you need, the Coleman Xtreme 70 is another great-value option. This simple, lightweight model performed just below average in our insulation testing and is also one of the least expensive models we tested. Yet sometimes the extra investment is worth it—such as in the case of the Yeti Tundra 65. It's one of the best insulators out there and outcompetes all the rest in overall performance. Though it's more expensive than many, it's far from the most expensive option we tested and is well-equipped to handle seriously demanding use.

Testing on hot summer days in the woods.
Testing on hot summer days in the woods.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Insulation


The most important metric for most of us is how well an ice chest keeps food cold and fresh. This metric is also the source of a lot of really extraordinary claims from manufacturers. From models with "5-Day" in the name to stickers boasting up to 16 days of ice retention (if you'll believe anything), it seems that just about every product out there will knock your socks off. That is until you read the fine print, which typically includes a litany of stipulations such as the entire chest has to be pre-chilled, its contents must also be pre-chilled or even frozen, you can only open it once a day when it's cool, or you'll need twice as much ice as food. The list goes on and on. While all these things will help extend the freshness of your ice and, therefore, your food, it's unlikely that you'll be able to do all those things while relaxing with your buddies on your annual fishing trip. So we tested a more practical usage. We bought some ice, filled them each around ⅓ full, and loaded cans into them. Then we simulated a hot summer trip by placing them in a room we heated during the day for ten consecutive days while recording each cooler's internal temperature using hidden electronic sensors buried deep within each chest.


There are two critical temperature thresholds we made a note of; 40º F, and 50º F. 40º F is the recommended maximum acceptable temperature by the FDA to ensure food safety, as it minimizes the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Put simply, keeping refrigerated food items below 40º F greatly reduces the chance of food spoiling and making you sick on your next trip.

The results from our rigorous insulation testing.
The results from our rigorous insulation testing.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

The 50ºF threshold we highlight represents the average maximum ideal temperature to serve beer. The American Homebrewers Association breaks down the optimal serving temperature range for different types of beer, which we based this threshold on. We chose 50ºF in part as an average maximum ideal beer serving temperature and also to easily see the rate at which each cooler gains degrees as its ice melts within by comparing how much time there is between when each model crosses the 40º and 50º lines.

Those same results of our insulation testing, expanded to more...
Those same results of our insulation testing, expanded to more clearly see the differences between individual performances.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

The Orca 58 and Yeti Tundra 65 are the winners of our demanding insulation testing. Both maintained a temperature of less than 40º F for 6.5 days. While the Orca outlasted the Yeti here by just shy of 30 minutes, the Yeti then hung out below 50º F for an hour and a half longer than the Orca, demonstrating that it has a slower warming rate. When all was said and done, the top-scoring Tundra provided a whopping 7.3 days of sub-50º F refreshments.

Those same results from our laboratory insulation testing...
Those same results from our laboratory insulation testing, represented numerically.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Additional close contenders include the Pelican Elite Wheeled and RTIC 65, which both maintained FDA safe temperatures of less than 40º F for about six days and acceptable beer temperatures for just shy of 7 days. These are impressive scores for a lineup with an average performance of maintaining sub-40º temperatures for just over 4.2 days, and sub-50º for just over 4.7 days.

Impressively, the Orca is one of the top performers in our rigorous...
Impressively, the Orca is one of the top performers in our rigorous insulation testing.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

We also want to point out that just because a cooler is rotomolded doesn't necessarily make it the best insulator. For example, the OtterBox Venture, one of several non-rotomolded chests we tested, lasted five days below that critical lower temperature threshold, a performance that bested numerous rotomolded models. The Coleman Xtreme is another great example. Though it lasted just 4.1 days under 40º F, it came in only 14 hours behind several burlier (and more expensive) rotomolded models, even outlasting the rotomolded Arctic Titan 55qt by several hours.

Though the OtterBox Venture isn&#039;t rotomolded, its insulation...
Though the OtterBox Venture isn't rotomolded, its insulation performance outstrips many coolers that are, proving that rotomolded construction isn't the only important factor when it comes to insulation prowess.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

As expected, the small, personal-sized models just can't keep up with their larger brethren with their increased surface area to volume ratios. The Yeti Roadie 24 impresses us, though, and is the best personal-sized model we tested. It lasted 2.8 days in keeping its contents under 40º F and just a few minutes shy of 3 full days under 50º F. Not far behind, the Igloo BMX 25 also scores well in this arena. It managed to maintain sub-40º F temperatures for 2.6 days, besting the similarly sized Stanley Adventure by several hours and leaving the Pelican Elite 20qt in the dust (which had a disappointing performance of just 1.4 days under 40º F).

The Yeti Roadie 24 is an impressive personal-sized model both in...
The Yeti Roadie 24 is an impressive personal-sized model both in long-lasting insulation power and rugged construction that make it a great solo beach day companion.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Of our test subjects with a manufacturer's claim for ice retention attached to them, not a single one lived up to it in our tests. As the market continues to grow, many manufacturers have stopped including specific number-of-day claims or have started adding asterisks to those claims that require limiting conditions to exist for them to be met. However, while the results from our insulation testing are in many cases far below some of the manufacturer claims, we went out of our way to push these competitors to their limits. There are many tips and tricks that can help you get even more from your ice, such as pre-chilling the cooler, keeping it in the shade, and packing a 2:1 ice to contents ratio.

Even with more options flooding the market, the Yeti Tundra...
Even with more options flooding the market, the Yeti Tundra continues to offer some of the best insulation available.
Photo: Max Mutter

Durability


Knowing your investment will last through years and years of adventures is important for any piece of gear you own, and these products are no exception. Though we didn't have ten years to spend testing each model, we spent months subjecting them to a lot of prolonged use and a fair amount of abuse to see how they stood up to the pressure. We overextended hinges, jumped on lids, yanked on latches and handles, and dropped full chests from a carrying height. We set accident-prone friends, young children, and hefty humans loose on them to see what they're made of by pushing them in ways more typically spread across many years of use. We filled each model with water to see how well their seals worked (or if they worked at all) and left them all out in the scorching midday desert sun for hours on end to see what would happen.


Several of the models we tested have IGBC certification - what does that mean, though? A certification from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee verifies that the product in question has been tested by said committee and meets minimum standards for design and structural standards that are considered "bear-resistant" by a team of grizzly bear experts. The IGBC specifically states that this does not mean the product in question can't be opened or destroyed by a bear, nor does it mean the product is leakproof. With that said, even the minimum construction standards required to deter a hungry 10 foot long, 900 lb grizzly lend a lot of credibility to the durability of a product. Models we reviewed that are IGBC certified include the Yeti Tundra 65, OtterBox Venture 65, Orca 58, Pelican Wheeled 80 and Elite 20, Engel 65, Arctic Zone Titan 55, and Rovr RollR 60. These products proved to be very durable, despite the fact our team was unable to find a grizzly bear willing to test each of them scientifically.

The official sticker showing IGBC certification of the Yeti Tundra.
The official sticker showing IGBC certification of the Yeti Tundra.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

This bear resistance is with the assumption that you use bear-resistant locks (sold separately) to secure the lid closed of each model. Don't expect the rubber latches alone to protect your food from bears. And depending on where you find yourself on your adventures, it might not even be a legally accepted way to store your food, so be sure to always check local regulations for your destination before you leave home.

We also tested Yeti&#039;s bear locks on the Tundra in Yosemite National...
We also tested Yeti's bear locks on the Tundra in Yosemite National Park. This is necessary to actually make IGBC certified coolers bear-resistant. However, many parks still require the use of bear lockers, regardless of what kind of gear you're using.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Additionally, several other aspects add to each one's overall durability, beyond just a sturdy hinge and a set of bearproof locks. The latches and handles don't factor into an IGBC rating, as they are entirely irrelevant to bear safety but extremely relevant to any model's longevity. Rubber T-grip latches are popular as a durable, easy to use solution for keeping your ice chest closed. The Yeti Tundra latches performed the best in our durability testing, with a combination of thickness and sturdiness mixed with the right amount of flexibility to stay tightly in place when needed and not give away to the incessant yanking of a bored four-year-old. Even after several years of use, the Tundra's latches are virtually the same as the first day we got it.

Often replicated, we greatly enjoy the usability of these simple...
Often replicated, we greatly enjoy the usability of these simple rubber T-grips.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

The RTIC has visually similar rubber latches that are much more flexible. While this comes in handy for its ease of use, it does concern us a bit that they might stretch out over time. The Igloo IMX 70 is in the same boat, with exceptionally easy to use latches that are so flexible and soft that we worry about how they'll hold up through years of UV and user exposure. For the time being, though, this is just a concern and not something we witnessed during our extensive testing. The Orca and Igloo BMX also have T-grip latches with slightly different shapes and thicknesses that both get the job done just fine. The Xspec, Engel, OtterBox Venture, and Yeti Roadie 24 are some that buck the trend of popular T-grip closure mechanisms on high-end coolers. The Engel has part-rubber-part-metal latches, and the Xspec mixes plastic clasps with rubber straps that ditch the brawn for a bit more finesse when securing them. The Roadie 24 and OtterBox Venture both have plastic and rubber latches similar to the Xspec, but they're both exceptionally easy to use, requiring less finagling and feeling much stronger overall.

The latches of the Xspec are secured with a rubber section to the...
The latches of the Xspec are secured with a rubber section to the lid and a plastic piece for a closure system, making them a bit easier to use.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

When it comes to handles, models with immobile handles have an additional advantage. Many models accomplish this by having two sets of handles—one indented in the sides of the chest for single-person lugging and a second set of mobile handles that extend above the top of the chest for two-person toting. The Engel, Tundra, Xspec, Titan, Orca, RTIC, and Igloo IMX all follow this model. The thick handles jutting out from the OtterBox sides also impressed us with their obvious strength. Overall, the contenders with the most durable combinations of design, construction, and features are the Roadie and Tundra, with the Orca and Rovr not far behind.

Thick foam-covered rope handles and a rubber gasket sealing the...
Thick foam-covered rope handles and a rubber gasket sealing the drain plug help make the RTIC one of our favorite models we tested.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Ease of Use


So your cooler works. And it's going to last a good long while. But is it a pain in the bum to use? Ease of use is a critical factor in your overall happiness with any given product. We tested each model's ease of use by, well, using them. A lot. We gauged how easy each one is to open and close - does the lid stay open while you load it? Are the latches easy to maneuver with full hands? We also observed how easy they are to load: is it a conducive configuration for oddly-shaped items? Is it tall enough for 2-liter soda bottles or celebratory champagne? Does it come with any handy features like a dry bin for items that shouldn't touch ice or soak in slushy water?


We gauged the ease of grabbing the handles without looking and took note if they require extra steps to slide them out into place or push them back down out of the way. We evaluated each drain (if there was one) to see how thorough a job it does and how simple it is to use. And for wheeled models, of course, we considered how that pair of spinning discs affects the chest's usage when you're not actively pulling it around.

Some coolers, like the Igloo IMX, can accommodate a standard bottle...
Some coolers, like the Igloo IMX, can accommodate a standard bottle of wine by incorporating an indented lid to add height to the body of the cooler.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Both Pelican models we tested - the Pelican Wheeled and the Pelican 20 stand out to our testers as having exceptionally easy to use latches. Unlike the rubber latches of many of their competitors that you stretch into place, Pelican's latches are a simple push design, featuring a release button in the middle that 'unlocks' the lid, allowing you to lift the latch away from the body and raise the top. When asked by a four-year-old which model she thinks is the easiest to open, she picked the Pelican latches, hands down.

The Yeti Roadie 24 is one of a growing number of ice chests with...
The Yeti Roadie 24 is one of a growing number of ice chests with easier to use latches that combine rigid latching components with rubbery stretching arms to secure the lid, all of which can be quickly maneuvered with a single hand.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

The Xspec, Roadie 24, and OtterBox Venture are also notable for innovative and fairly effortless latch experiences. Both of these big boxes combine a rubber latch for tightness and security with a plastic locking mechanism that makes them a breeze to use and requires much less brute strength than any of the 100% rubber latches demand. The Stanley Adventure also features plastic latches that are simple to use with one hand. They require just a minimal amount of pressure to seal your precious cargo or access its delicious contents, but the long-term durability of these plastic latches isn't confidence-inspiring.

We love the Pelican&#039;s  easy to use latches.
We love the Pelican's easy to use latches.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

As far as drains go, several products have dual-function drains, meaning there's a hole through the shaft of the drain plug the lets water run out without having to remove the entire drain cap. Of course, if you want a faster flow, a total plug removal is advised - but don't misplace that cap, as most models we tested don't come with a leash to keep it attached to the body of the box. The Tundra, RTIC, Engel, Arctic Titan, Orca, Xspec, Stanley, and Rovr all have this handy dual-drain ability.

A large, well-functioning drain is an important component of any...
A large, well-functioning drain is an important component of any good cooler.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

The drain plug isn't the only factor that makes emptying water easy or annoying. Most of the contenders we tested also have a sloping channel behind the drain to help gravity pull water out. Still, several have unfortunately paired this with a large lip or other obstruction that then stops your drainage progress before it's 100% complete. Models that we found the easiest and most thorough to drain include the Engel, Xspec, Orca, Titan, and Tundra, which all feature either a tiny lip or a sloped lip to make emptying your meltwater a breeze. The Arctic Titan has an oversized drain to decrease the time you spend emptying it. And if one drain isn't enough for you, the RTIC features two drains, one on either end.

The Arctic Titan has a dual-drainage cap on an oversized drain...
The Arctic Titan has a dual-drainage cap on an oversized drain, making it simple and efficient to use.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

We also considered the overall shape and size of each competitor as part of its usability score. Models featuring a compact, packable shape and handles that hideaway easily are easier to pack into a vehicle for your next adventure. On the flip side, those products with large handles and awkward shapes that are difficult to Tetris into the back of the minivan, along with everything else you need for the party in the park, don't score as well. Of course, the internal dimensions and capacity also make a big difference in what you can bring with you in your icebox and how many extra bags and boxes you'll need to bring along. And the proportion of these dimensions to one another also makes a big difference. A low and long model is easy to find things in but harder for one person to carry. On the flip side, one that's too narrow and tall is easier to carry but harder to locate items that have wormed their way to the bottom. The Xspec strikes a very happy medium, narrow enough for simple solo carrying, tall enough to fit an upright bottle of wine, yet shallow enough to find whatever you're looking for easily.

The Xspec&#039;s dimensions are right in the sweet spot of being shallow...
The Xspec's dimensions are right in the sweet spot of being shallow enough to find the last can of your favorite brew, tall enough to bring along a 2L of soda upright, and narrow enough to carry by yourself - while still boasting a 61 quart capacity!
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

The RTIC and Rovr RollR are two more of our favorites among the crowd for their ease of use. The Rovr has a sizeable dry bin and tall interior with nearly vertical walls, making it much more comfortable than most models to pack it exactly how you want it and keep it organized. This is a feat made even more impressive by all the bouncing you'll be doing with the enormous wheels over debris on your way to the party. It also boasts one of the tallest internal heights of any model we tested, so you can rest assured your chilled Pinot Grigio will stay that way all day. The RTIC offers a similarly simple interior that's spacious enough to bring a ton of food with you on your hunting trip or camping adventure. Its dual drains make cleaning it a breeze, and the flexibility of this model's rubber latches means it's easier to open and close with a single hand than other rubber-latched models.

The OtterBox Venture is one of several coolers boasting a dry...
The OtterBox Venture is one of several coolers boasting a dry storage bin included with your cooler.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Portability


At first glance, the matter of portability seems obvious: wheels? Portable. Small size? Portable. Large capacity? Not so portable. And while, in general, this is true, it's not the whole story. We not only considered these self-evident factors in our testing but also looked at them in more detail. We challenged every pair of wheels to roll not only over the smooth, paved driveway of your friend's house but also over the soft sand at the beach, the chunky construction debris that's strewn across the path to the park, and the lumpy uncut grass of your Saturday picnic spot. We scrutinized every handle's design, shape, location, and comfort while carrying a full load. And we considered not just the sheer weight of each chest, but what that weight gets you in terms of capacity - as in how worth it are the extra pounds? We filled them up and loaded them in and out of cars, slogged across beaches, and traipsed through neighborhoods to see which ones bash against your knees, bite the backs of your heels, or form blisters on your palms.


Much to no one's surprise, personal cool-boxes like the Pelican 20, Stanley Adventure, Yeti Roadie, and Igloo BMX are much more portable than larger models. A combination of low weight, small size, and large carrying handles help make this possible. But being small isn't enough. The Igloo BMX has a much broader, more comfortable to use plastic top handle and a smoother overall design that makes carrying this product full of heavy glass bottles of craft beer a much more pleasant experience. It also weighs less by a significant margin, which adds to its portability. The Roadie 24 has a flexible webbing strap that more comfortably facilitates an over-the-forearm carry. It also has a pair of indented handles hiding underneath both sides of the top for two-handed carry. The Stanley, as the largest of the small coolers, is the toughest to carry. It lacks a top handle and instead has just two hard plastic handles on each side, requiring a fairly uncomfortable and uncushioned two-handed carry. The Pelican 20 is also less enjoyable to carry, with a hard plastic top handle and a tall, gangly shape with too many rigid edges that smacked our legs and ankles as we walked.

The over-the-top handle of the Yeti Roadie 24 is made of flexible...
The over-the-top handle of the Yeti Roadie 24 is made of flexible webbing and is far more comfortable to carry on your forearm than a rigid handle.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Wheeled coolers may appear astoundingly portable, but we found that their actual usefulness in this metric is wildly dependent on their wheel design and clearance. We tested several rolling models: the Rovr RollR, Igloo Trailmate Marine, and Pelican Elite. The Rovr is the only one with actual rubber tires filled with air (aka pneumatic tires), the same as a vehicle or bicycle. While competitors may point to this as a downside (more maintenance, the potential for flats, etc.), it makes for a vastly better system of pulling. The juddering of pulling hard-wheeled models over even smooth surfaces, like city sidewalks, can quickly leave blisters on your hands from the vibration of the plastic wheels (this really happened to a tester). But pulling the Rovr with its air-filled wheels lets you glide over imperfections in the ground and keeps your hands happy.

Wheeled coolers we tested, from left to right: Rovr RollR, Igloo...
Wheeled coolers we tested, from left to right: Rovr RollR, Igloo Trailmate Marine, Pelican Wheeled 80.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Equally as important, the Rovr's handle swings out far enough from the chest's body to avoid painful heel smashing. And with motocross-style rubber handles located on the edges of the sides of the wide trolley handle, it's clear that this product is designed with the user in mind. Lastly, the bike attachment accessory is seriously impressive. Initially skeptical, we now use it all the time. Attachment is easy, and the flexible, pivoting arm allows for freedom of bike movement and no loss of turning radius or steering ability. We are so genuinely impressed by this rolling icebox's portability that we hardly even notice or mind its heavier initial weight.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

As for large, non-wheeled models, we still noticed many differences that lend themselves toward making specific units more portable than others. The Coleman Xtreme is just a few ounces heavier than the personal-sized Igloo BMX, which is astounding for its 68-quart capacity. The Engel and Tundra both are relatively portable as well; their combined overall shapes and mid-50-quart capacities make finding what you're looking for easier. They're big enough to bring everything you need without being so big that they require two people to lift them out of the car. The Xspec is slightly larger but maintains the same overall dimensions ratio (shorter length, taller height - but not too much to make it hard to find that last beer under all the ice), making it reasonably easy for a single person to carry a short distance. Interestingly, the RTIC is the only model we tested with straight-up foam handles for a two-person carry. You may not enjoy lugging its extra weight around, but at least it probably won't leave big red marks on your fingers.

The RTIC has a soft foam handle to help ease the pain of carrying...
The RTIC has a soft foam handle to help ease the pain of carrying this relatively large, fully-loaded cooler.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Features


Little things that make a product easier to use, more conducive to your lifestyle, or help you not have to carry so much stuff with you can make a difference in how excited you are to use it. But not all features, add-ons, and extras are created equal, and their value may depend on how and where you intend to use your gear. In general, we gave higher scores to more universally useful features, such as a leash for the drain plug (so you don't lose it), internal baskets or dividers to keep your food fresh the way you want it, and the ability to hold dry ice, which extends the cooling capacity. Other features that are still useful but are more specific to certain styles of use received lower scores. These include things like cup holders, bottle openers, and measurement notches. We also only ranked contenders based on the features they come with, and not on all the accessories you could choose to purchase for an additional charge. That said, many manufacturers offer some exceptionally handy add-ons that, should you choose to purchase them, can easily turn a product into your perfect hunting companion, tailgating buddy, or camping friend.


The OtterBox Venture, Rovr RollR, Arctic Titan, Yeti Tundra, Igloo IMX, and Igloo Trailmate all come with practical interior dry storage options, which is great for holding aside some clean ice for drinks or keeping sensitive food out of ice water. The Igloo IMX and Igloo Trailmate wire baskets are a tighter wire weave, making it much easier to keep small items contained than most other models. The Titan, Tundra, and both Igloos all feature a simple basket that sits across the top of the opening, while the OtterBox is a similar concept but is a solid plastic bin instead.

The Igloo Trailmate is one of several models we tested that comes...
The Igloo Trailmate is one of several models we tested that comes with an interior dry storage bin.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

The Rovr's dry storage goes above and beyond since it has a large dry bin that extends to the bottom of the interior. It also attaches to the side of the interior with a simple hand screw, which means it won't move during transit like all the other baskets are wont to do. The OtterBox, the Coleman Xtreme, Pelican, and both Igloos all have leashes attaching their drain plugs to the body of the chest. Both Pelican and larger Igloo models, the Engel, and the Xspec also all have built-in bottle openers hidden in various spots. Helpfully, many of the units we tested are rated to hold dry ice, so feel inspired to take that long midsummer canoe trip with your Xspec, Tundra, OtterBox, Engel, or RTIC ice chest.

Many of the models we tested, like the Xspec, pictured here, have an...
Many of the models we tested, like the Xspec, pictured here, have an integrated fish-measuring ruler across the lid to quickly let you know if your catch of the day meets local length regulations.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

If you're an angler, you might appreciate a model with an integrated ruler across the top to measure your catch. Many of the options we tested have this feature, including the Pelican Wheeled, Arctic Titan, Xspec, and all three Igloo models. Still, others have specific slots to tie them down in your boat, backseat, or truck bed.

Though we don&#039;t recommend delicate navigation with this compass, it...
Though we don't recommend delicate navigation with this compass, it does generally point north.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Two models stand out in this metric, though in slightly different ways. The Igloo Trailmate Marine comes with an almost absurd number of features, which includes a basket and a small box on the front, a butler tray that sits on the trolley handle, and two bottle openers on opposite sides of the chest. As excited as we were to try out all these gadgets and gizmos, we quickly became thoroughly underwhelmed by their durability and usefulness.

The Igloo Trailmate Marine has a long list of included features...
The Igloo Trailmate Marine has a long list of included features, though most of them fall far short of our expectations for both durability and usability.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

The Rovr RollR, on the other hand, does a bang-up job of living up to its claim as being "the most feature-packed 60-quart cooler ever." Beyond the ultra-useful internal dry bin, this compact roller features a 60 quart external dry bin that attaches right to the top of the lid, literally doubling the number of things you can cart with you. When it's time for storage, or you get to your destination, the dry bin folds down flat and can easily and securely be stored on the top of the lid. We found these two features to be very handy in countless situations. And if you are so inclined to make additional purchases, the Rovr can be mounted to the back of your bicycle like a tiny, ice-filled wagon.

Bring it all along with your handy dandy Rovr RollR.
Bring it all along with your handy dandy Rovr RollR.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Conclusion


We've been researching, testing, and retesting popular coolers for years to bring you the most competitive models out there, and this most recent round of contenders is no exception. After months of rigorous side-by-side testing by our experts and a veritable crowd of friends and family who also enjoy fresh food and cold drinks, we got to know these models quite literally inside and out.

Bring fresh food and cold beverages just about anywhere with the...
Bring fresh food and cold beverages just about anywhere with the right cooler.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Maggie Brandenburg