Yeti Tundra 65
: 56 quarts | Days Below 40º F
Simple to use
No plug leash
Smaller than advertised
Yeti is one of the most recognized names in the game, and there's a good reason for that. The Tundra boasts the most impressive all-around performance of any model we tested. In our intensive insulation testing, the Tundra outlasted all the rest for how long it can keep its contents both at safe temperatures for consumption and delicious temperatures for drinking. It's a straight-forward, rotomolded design that just works. One of many chests we tested with an IGBC rating, the Tundra has sturdy latches that are convenient and durable. It also comes with a removable basket inside to keep sensitive items dry and can be outfitted with loads more accessories for all kinds of activities. For its size, the Tundra is a reasonable weight and its shape has a low profile that makes bottom beers easy to find while still being narrow enough for a single person to load into the truck.
We are a bit disappointed to have measured this advertised 65-quart model at just 56 quarts, but our testers ended up appreciating this surprisingly useful size. And like many of the models we tested, the Tundra still has a little lip on the inside of the drain, making it challenging to empty it completely without turning the whole thing on its end. But with those minor complaints aside, we think the Yeti Tundra is a very handy cool-box for just about any activity to which you'd drive your car.
Read review: Yeti Tundra 65
Best Buy for a High-End Model
: 54 quarts | Days Below 40˚F
Inexpensive (for a high-end model)
Solid insulation performance
Rope handles less comfortable
Engel impresses us again with this cleverly designed cooler that merges high-end function with a more moderate price tag. Rotomolded construction, an airtight gasket, and an interlocking hinge help usher this cooler into the ranks of durable, grizzly-bear certified products and excellent insulators. With all the quality you've come to expect of a top-tier cooler, the Engel 65 breaks the mold slightly by including a different style of hinge than the rubber T-grip that requires less muscling and doubles as a bottle opener. It's also one of the lightest coolers we tested for its size and durability. Though it looks very similar to many of the others we tested, we love its convenient shape and size that make it easier for a single person to lift this 56-quart box from the tailgate to the table. Along with one of the most textured lids we tested, this chest practically oozes usability.
Though it missed the top-scoring insulation performance by just under a day, holding temperatures below 40˚F for 5.6 days, this cooler is not to be dismissed. While we love not having to force T-grip latches into place in the Engel, the part-rubber-part-metal latches it's equipped with allow a bit more motion than we'd like, trading brawn for concentration in closing this box. It also has some of our least favorite rope handles, with slick plastic grips that seem to have finger dents in all the wrong places. With those minor complaints aside, we think the Engel is a solid-performing cooler with a great value for its price.
Read review: Engel 65
Best Value on a Tight Budget
Coleman Xtreme 5-Day 70qt
: 68 quarts | Days Below 40˚F
Good insulation for the price
Large capacity for its size
Not overly durable
We are quite impressed with the insulation performance of this rather inexpensive product. Up against models more than three or four times the price, the Coleman Xtreme 5-Day 70Qt holds its own. Though it can't match the rotomolded prowess of the premium models, the Coleman clearly shows its worth and value considering all the money you'll save. It's also much lighter in weight than the rest of the competition - 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, the Coleman is one of the most natural chests to use. It's a simple design that does exactly as 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 as the high-end models do. We also aren't in love with the comfort of its narrow, plastic handles, compared to some of the broader, more cushy options from the competition. While we appreciate the simplicity of the pop-open drain, it's small size can't keep up with the much wider competition. It also lacks a rubber gasket around the top, bringing up questions of its ability to remain sealed through the years. But at the end of the day, you could purchase 3 or 4 of these pretty decent performing coolers for the price of some of the competition, which we think makes it a great value.
Read review: Coleman Xtreme 5-Day
Best Wheeled Option
RovR RollR 60
: 60 quarts | Days Below 40º F
Beefy wheels with rubber tires
Easy to pull
Useful included accessories
Not the best insulation
A tad heavy
As far as wheeling a big, bulky plastic box around, the Rovr is easily our favorite. It's the only model we tested that has actual tires instead of just cylindrical plastic chunks labeled as wheels. You can pump them up just as you would to your car or bicycle, giving you the freedom to run over all the same stuff. While other models may have tiny wheels, rigid wheels, low clearance, narrow uncomfortable handles (or often all of the above), the Rovr is what a wheeled chest should be. With a broad handle featuring a comfortable and functional rubber grip on either end, it's easy to stroll down the sidewalk, through the grass, and across the beach with this box in tow. The Rovr also boasts a solid, durable construction, hefty latches, and integrated hinges to help it last for years of picnics and get-togethers. If that's not enough, it also comes with some of the most useful features we've seen, including a large, removable dry bin and a giant dry storage box that attaches right on top! You can put everything you need for the barbecue in or on this cooler and wheel it to the part with one hand. Feeling fancy? You can also pick up a bike attachment and tow the Rovr behind your bicycle.
The most crucial aspect of any wheeled model is how easily it gets you there, which the Rovr does spectacularly. That said, it does lag behind a little in the insulation department compared to some stiff competition likely due to an imperfect seal between the top of the cooler and the lid. Though 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 the tailgating party. We do think the latches are a bit stiff and awkward to manipulate, but can easily be gotten used to with some practice. But honestly, this wheeled icebox is like nothing we've ever experienced before and was the only one that our friends actually requested to cart around.
Read review: Rovr RollR 60
Best Personal Model
Igloo BMX 25
: 25 quarts | Days Below 40˚F
Comfortable carry handle
No watertight seal
Hinges not very sturdy
No drainage hole
If you're here for the insulation, but don't always need the full chest, the Igloo BMX 25 is the perfect size for a personal icebox. It easily fits all your individual tailgating needs, road trip refreshments or beachside brews without requiring a two-handed carry. The BMX is a slightly larger capacity, lower weight model than the similar-sized Yeti Roadie, that's just over a third the cost. This little icebox performed better than the other personal-sized competitors we tested, keeping its contents cold for over 2.6 days - four hours longer than the Roadie! Its thick handle and lighter starting weight make for a more comfortable carrying experience, and a handy ruler across the top helps you easily measure your catch of the day.
We aren't impressed by the hinges of the BMX 25, which visibly complain when over-extending the lid, and we wish this model came with a drainage hole. The BMX doesn't boast the tank-like durability or longevity that the Roadie brings to the table, but it's still pretty solidly built and more comfortable to carry. And unless you need a grizzly bear approved food container, the BMX is an excellent insulation option for your refreshments — and your wallet will indeed thank you.
Read review: Igloo BMX 25
Field testing an impressive array of coolers.
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is the brainchild of a team of testers, including Maggie Brandenburg, Steven Tata, and Max Mutter. Our lead tester, Maggie, has been playing and guiding in the outdoors for over fifteen years, from backpacking to rafting and is an avid camper, even living out of a teardrop trailer for a hot summer. From off-grid living to celebratory summit beers, Maggie never underestimates the value of a great cooler. Max spends most springs harvesting maple syrup at an off-the-grid tree farm, using ice chests to keep that gorgeous amber elixir from turning. Steven has spent numerous months living and climbing in Yosemite National Park, storing all of his food in a cooler in lieu of a fridge. Maggie, with her background designing and running scientific experiments, put her head together with Steven, a mechanical engineer, to design our detailed insulation testing process.
This review represents over 450 hours spent using, abusing, and meticulously testing over 50 ice chests for more than four years in total, and more time researching hundreds of models to find the ones worthy of inclusion. We ran and re-ran in-depth insulation tests. We dragged our test subjects through the mud, sand, gravel, and grass while camping, road tripping, tailgating, and hanging out on the beach. Being thrown into vehicles, dropped from waist height, jumped on, yanked on, and otherwise abused, these chests saw it all.
Related: How We Tested Coolers
Analysis and Test Results
To help separate some close competition, we put to practice every test we could think of across five different metrics. Those five metrics are also given a weight based on how important they are to the overall usage of each piece. The performance of each model determines the score for each metric, and the combination of all these scores and their weight gives an easily comparable, overall rating of 1-100 for each model.
Related: Buying Advice for Coolers
Though we avoid factoring the price of a piece of gear into its score, we know it's a very critical component in your decision-making process. With a wide variety of price points for coolers on the market, it's helpful to know which ones are more worth your money. There are two major price ranges for this category - your basic models and the premium ones. As both are intended for different audiences with varying pros and cons, we have awarded two Best Buy Awards. The Engel holds an excellent value for a high-end model, while the Coleman Xtreme offers decent performance for a fraction of the price.
Just a sample of some of the models we've tested.
Obviously, the most important metric is how well an ice chest keeps your 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 is about to blow your socks off. And then you read the fine print, which typically includes a litany of stipulations such as — the entire cooler must be pre-chilled, its contents must also be prechilled or even frozen, you'll need twice as much ice as food, you can only open it once a day, and the list goes on and on. While all these things, of course, will help extend the life of your ice and therefore your food, it's unlikely that you'll be able to actually do all those things while hanging with your buddies on your annual fishing trip. So we tested a more realistic usage. We bought some ice, filling them each around ⅓ full, and loaded a bunch of cans into them. Some cans came from the refrigerated section (beer), and some came from the store shelf (soda). And then we simulated a hot summer trip with a superheated room for ten days and recorded the internal temperature of each via temperature sensors hidden inside 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. Aka, if you don't want to get sick from grilling those burgers, better keep them below 40º. And 50º is about the average temperature that most beers taste good. So if you're looking to get back to your campsite at the end of a hot day to crack a cold one, 50º is about the temperature you want. Obviously, the longer a chest can maintain cold temperatures, the better off you'll be! The Yeti Tundra 65 and Orca 58 are the winners in this category. Both maintained a temperature of less than 40º for 6.5 days. The Orca outlasted the Yeti by less than 30 minutes, though the Yeti then hung out below 50º for an hour and a half longer than the Orca. When all was said and done, the Tundra provided a whopping 7.3 days of chilled refreshments!
Results from our torturous insulation testing. You can see how close the Yeti and Orca were to each other.
Additional close contenders include the RTIC 65 and Pelican Elite Wheeled, which both maintained FDA safe temperatures of less than 40º for about six days, and acceptable beer temperatures for just shy of 7 days. We noticed a theme emerge from our testing, in which rotomolded coolers generally performed better in insulation testing than did their standard construction counterparts. However, this wasn't an absolute rule, as the non-rotomolded OtterBox Venture impressed us by keeping its contents cold for nearly six days!
Yeti essentially created the high-end cooler category.
As expected, the small, personal-sized models just couldn't keep up with their larger brethren. That being said, the Igloo BMX proved to be the best personal-sized insulator we tested. Though its time under 40º lasted just 2.6 days, it beat its competition of similar size, the Yeti Roadie and the Stanley Adventure, each by several hours.
We think it's interesting to note that not a single one of the test subjects lived up to its ice retention claims in our tests. Possibly, these claims are achievable under perfect laboratory conditions, but you're unlikely to get such impressive performance in the real world. That said, we definitely tortured these boxes in our tests and you don't have to push your ice chest as hard as we pushed ours.
Impressively, the Orca tied for first place in our insulation testing with the Yeti Tundra.
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 subjected them to a lot of extended use and a fair amount of abuse to see how they stood up to the pressure. We yanked on latches and handles, overextended hinges, jumped on lids and dropped full chests from a carrying height. We set young children and tall humans loose on them to see what they're made of by pushing them in ways more typically spread across years of use. We filled each model with water to see how well the seal works (or if it works) and even left them all sitting in the scorching desert sun for hours on end just to see what happened.
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 the 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. However, 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 and Roadie, Engel 65, OtterBox Venture 65, Orca 58, Pelican, and Rovr RollR. All of these products proved to be very durable, despite our team being unable to find a grizzly bear willing to test each of them scientifically.
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 to protect from bears alone!
The official sticker showing IGBC certification of the Yeti Tundra.
However, other aspects add to the overall durability of each one, 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 the longevity of any model. Rubber T-grip latches are popular, as a durable, easy to use solution for keeping your ice chest closed. The Yeti Tundra and Roadie latches performed the best in our durability testing, with a combination of thickness and sturdiness 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. The RTIC has visually similar rubber latches that are much more flexible. While this came in handy for its ease of use, it did concern us a bit that they may stretch out over time. For the time being though, this is just a concern and not something we saw happen during our testing. The Orca and Igloo BMX also have T-grip latches with slightly different shapes and thicknesses that both get the job done fine. The Engel is one of a few options that bucks the trend in high-end coolers by having part-rubber-part-metal latches that ditch the brawn for a bit more finesse in securing them.
Often replicated, we greatly enjoy the usability of these simple rubber T-grips.
When it comes to handles, we found that models with immobile handles have an advantage. Many models have two sets of handles - one indented in the sides of the chest for single-person toting, and a second set that extends above the chest to aid in partner slinging. The Tundra, Engel, Orca, and RTIC all follow this model. The thick handles jutting out from the sides of the OtterBox also impressed us with their obvious strength. Overall, the contenders with the most durable combinations of design, construction, and features are the Tundra and Roadie, with the Rovr and Orca not far behind.
Thick foam-covered rope handles and a rubber gasket sealing the drain plug help make the RTIC one of our favorite models we tested.
Ease of Use
So your cooler works. It lasts a good long while. But is it a pain 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 do with full hands? We also observed how easy they are to load: is it a conducive shape for oddly-shaped items? Is it tall enough for 2-liter soda bottles and 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 by feel and noted if they required 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 of a job it does as well as how simple it is to use. And for wheeled models, of course, we considered how the pair of spinning discs affects the usage when you're not actively pulling it around.
The Pelican stands out to our testers as having exceptionally easy to use latches. Unlike the rubber latches of many of its competitors that you stretch into place, the 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 lid. When asked by a four-year-old which model she thought was the easiest to open, she picked the Pelican, hands down. The OtterBox Venture is also notable for an innovative and effortless latch experience. This big box combines a rubber latch for security with a plastic locking mechanism that makes it a breeze to use and requires much less brute strength than some of the all-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's easy to use latches.
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 drain altogether. 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. The RTIC, Tundra, Engel, Orca, Rovr, and Stanley all have this handy ability. But 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, but several have unfortunately paired this with a sizeable lip or other obstruction that than stops drainage before it's complete. Models that we found to be the best self-draining models include the Engel, Tundra, and Orca, which all feature either a tiny lip or a sloped lip to make emptying your meltwater a breeze. And if one drain isn't enough for you, the RTIC features TWO drains, one on either end!
A large, well-functioning drain is an important component of any good cooler.
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 family reunion party in the park didn't score as well. With this in mind, the Rovr RollR and RTIC are 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 - a feat made even more impressive by all the bumping over debris you'll be doing on your way to the party! 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 storage bin included with your cooler.
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 strewn across the path to the park, and the lumpy uncut grass of your favorite picnic spot. We scrutinized every handle's design, shape, location, and comfort for 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 pounds? We filled them up and loaded them in and out of cars, across beaches and 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 Yeti Roadie, Stanley Adventure, 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 handle, as well as a smoother overall design that makes carrying this product full of heavy glass bottles of craft beer a much more pleasant experience than the same contents in the Roadie or Stanley. It also weighs less by a significant margin, which adds to its portability. 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 two-handed carry.
The Igloo BMX wins top marks for portability due to its light weight, comfortable handle, and smoothed corners more conducive to carrying
Wheeled coolers may appear amazingly 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. The Rovr is the only one that has actual rubber tires filled with air, the same as a vehicle or bicycle. While competitors may use this as a downside (more maintenance, the potential for flats, etc.) it makes for a vastly better system of pulling. While hard-wheeled models pulled over smooth surfaces like city sidewalks can quickly leave blisters on your hands from the vibration of the wheels (this actually happened to a tester), pulling the Rovr with its air-filled wheels lets you glide over imperfections in the ground. Equally as important, the Rovr's handle swings out far enough from the body of the chest to avoid painful heel smashing. With motocross-style rubber handles located on the edges of the sides of the wide trolley handle, this product is designed with the user in mind. We are seriously so impressed by the portability of this rolling icebox that we hardly even noticed or minded its heavier initial weight.
Wheeled coolers we tested, from left to right: Rovr RollR, Igloo Trailmate Marine, Pelican Wheeled 80.
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 Tundra and Engel both are relatively portable as well, that combine overall shapes that make finding exactly what you're looking for easy with a mid-50-quart capacity that's big enough to bring everything you need without being so big it requires two people to lift it out of the car. Interestingly, the RTIC is the only model we tested that has straight-up foam handles for a two-person carry. You may not enjoy lugging the 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 this relatively large, fully-loaded cooler.
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 your intended use of your cooler. In general, we gave higher scores to more universally useful features like 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, thereby extending 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, not all the accessories you could choose to purchase for an additional charge. That said, many manufacturers offer some 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 Yeti Tundra, OtterBox Venture, Rovr RollR, and Igloo Trailmate all come with handy interior dry storage, which is also great for keeping clean ice for drinks. The Tundra and Igloo feature a simple basket that sits across the top of the opening, while the OtterBox is a similar design but is plastic and has no holes like the other two's wire baskets. The Rovr's dry storage goes above and beyond by having two large compartments that extend to the bottom of the cooler. It also attaches to the side of the interior with a simple hand screw and therefore doesn't move during transit like all the other baskets are wont to do. The OtterBox, Igloo Trailmate, Coleman Xtreme, and Pelican all have leashes attaching their drain plugs to the body of the chest, though except for the Trailmate, these are all plastic strips. The Pelican, Engel, and Igloo Trailmate all have built-in bottle openers hidden in various spots. Helpfully, many of the models we tested are rated to hold dry ice, so feel inspired to take that long midsummer canoe trip with your Tundra, OtterBox, Engel, or RTIC model.
The Igloo Trailmate is one of several models we tested that comes with an interior dry storage bin.
Two models stood out in this metric, though in slightly different ways. The Igloo Trailmate Marine comes with an almost absurd number of features. These include a small box and basket on the front to a butler tray that sits on the trolley handle and even 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 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 you get to your destination or it's time for storage, the dry bin folds down flat and is easily 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.
We've been researching, testing, and retesting popular coolers for years to bring you the most competitive models out there continually, 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 right cooler.