Summer is here so it’s time to hit the beach, go for a hike, jump on a plane to La Costa Brava, or pack the car for a weekend camping trip. Whatever your preference, you’ll need a good beach cooler filled with ice-cold foods and beverages to accompany you on your journey.
It doesn’t matter if you choose to travel with family, friends and the next-door neighbor, or if you’re heading to top up your tan because there are many coolers available to suit every type of traveler and every budget. From compact collapsible coolers for tucking into your suitcase to multifunctional cooler seats or waterproof daysacks-style coolers for backpacking and water sports to heavy duty hard side coolers road trippers and wilderness explorers. Our list aims to provide a suitable option for every type of traveler.
10 Best Beach Coolers in 2018
1. Yeti - Hopper 2
- High price tag
The Yeti TWO Hopper Cooler is made for people who want to keep drinks cool while on the go. The padded shoulder strap and tapered body are designed to make carrying the filled cooler comfortable for extended periods.
Capacity: up to 40 pounds
Size: 26 x 13 x 19.5 Inches
Weight: 6.1 Inches
The fully waterproof DryHide shell is foldable and flexible while still being resistant to punctures, abrasions, UV Rays, and mildew. What may users like about this product is the HydroLok Zipper which is completely leakproof. We also like that Yeti have chosen to place the zipper on the side instead of the top, so that the cooler can be packed with ease, and that the outer side features a HitchPoint grid for attaching accessories such a bottle opener.
If you’re going somewhere for a few days then the TWO Hopper Cooler is an excellent choice. The ColdCell insulation should hold ice for considerably longer than most soft-shell coolers. The Yeti TWO Hopper is a premium beach cooler and as such, it comes with a premium price tag which, at first glance, might put some people off. It’s worth remembering however that the Yeti TWO Hopper Cooler is made of top quality, durable materials, and that it comes with a 3-year warranty so it might be worth the investment.
2. Coleman - Xtreme Cooler 70-Quart
- Plastic hinges are flimsy
The 70-Quart Xtreme Cooler from Coleman is our best value for money hard shell cooler. The cooler can hold up to 100 cans so it’s perfect for group or multi-day trips and, because 100 cans are likely to be pretty heavy, Coleman has fitted the Xtreme Cooler with large wheels and a pull handle.
Capacity: 100 Cans
Size: 23 x 17.5 x 17.5 Inches
Weight: 12.3 Pounds
There shouldn’t be any problems if you do have to carry the cooler though because the product features pinch-free no-crush handles. It also has an easy clean lid with 4 moulded cupholders so it doubles up as a picnic table or seat.
While we’re doubtful that the Coleman Xtreme Cooler would live up to its claim of keeping ice for a full 5 days, many users report that it can keep things cool for at least 2-3 days which is enough for the average beach trip or camping weekend.
Coleman is known for producing quality outdoors gear however, many users agree that what lets the Xtreme Cooler down is the plastic hinges which are weak and tend to break. It’s possible to close open/close the cooler without the hinging system, it would effectively function as a separate lid, so if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to the Yeti Tundra then Coleman’s Xtreme Cooler is still worth considering.
3. CleverMade- SnapBasket
- No shoulder straps
- Better to use with ice paces than ice
The CleverMade SnapBasket is an inexpensive soft side beach cooler made from an extremely durable and water-resistant rip-stop fabric which protects the cooler from tears and scratches.
Capacity: 50 Cans
Size: 18.25 x 12.25 x 12 Inches
Weight: 1.9 Pounds
The body, base and lid of the SnapBasket cooler is lined with leakproof insulation which users report will keep your food and drinks cool for around 4-5 hours. We have found, however, that this cooler works best with ice packs rather than actual ice. It has a pretty decent capacity too, despite the fact that the SnapBasket weighs less than 2 pounds, it’s large enough to hold at least 50 cans plus ice or a volume of 30 litres. You’d think a cooler with this capacity would be pretty bulky when in fact the CleverMade SnapBasket collapses down to just 3 inches, the perfect size to tuck under the passenger’s seat on a road trip.
What we particularly like about this compact beach cooler is that it holds its shape so your ice cream and Fanta won’t come cascading out each time you open it. Many users also report that this Flop-Free cooler is very easy to load and unload. The SnapBasket features a convenient phone sized front pocket so there’s no need to take an extra bag to the beach. If there was one improvement for this well-made budget cooler then it would be to add a shoulder strap. Although the SnapBasket is fitted with padded side handles and duffle bag handles, many users agree that it can be awkward to carry for long distances.
4. Yeti - Tundra 45
- Very highly priced
- May leak when on its side
For many years Yeti has been a premium producer of outdoor equipment and their products are designed to withstand even the toughest conditions.
Capacity: up to 26 cans
Size: 25.5 x 16 x 15.5 Inches
Weight: 22 Pounds
Their Tundra 45 Cooler, features a FatWall design with 3 inches of PermaFrost insulation and a ColdLock gasket which is capable of holding ice for multi-day periods, users have reported that the cooler holds ice for at least 4 days and even managed to keep cool for an entire week in the Oregon Desert. The cooler is fitted with anchor point tie down slots and bear foot non-slip feet so it can be securely tied to the bed of a truck, trailer or boat. You don’t need to worry too much about dropping it either because the Tundra 45 has a super durable, abrasion resistant rotomolded construction.
All these features do, however, make the Tundra 45 quite a heavy cooler. Weighing in at 22 pounds when empty and considerable more when full, it means that this cooler is not well suited for solo travellers or for hiking trips. Also, due to the price, the Yeti Tundra 45 is aimed at people who use a cooler on a frequent basis or for longer excursions to very warm place. If you’re not a frequent user, then a lower priced hard or soft side cooler might be more appropriate.
5. Arctic Zone Rolling Wheel Cooler
- Tends to wobble on the roller
The Arctic Zone Ultra Collapsible Rolling Wheel Cooler is useful in a variety of situations. While it is described as a rolling cooler the bag itself can be detached from its cart and carried using the padded handles and adjustable shoulder strap.
Capacity: 58 Cans
Size: 14.25 x 14 x 15.5 Inches
Weight: 7 Pounds
The cart is strong enough to hold approximately 58 cans (or up to 100 pounds) so this cooler is ideal for a group trip to the beach. You don’t need to worry about carrying anything either because the cart is fitted with oversized wheels which can handle rough terrain and sand. What we like about this product is that both bag and cart can be folded flat when not in use so it should fit in the back of the car without any trouble.
We also like the practicality of this Arctic Zone beach cooler. The bag features a separate pocket small items, which should stay dry due to the UltraSafe leakproof liner, as well as an insulated food pocket and cup holders, which users agree are very useful. The main problem that users report with the Arctic Zone Ultra Cooler is that the bag is not so steady on its cart and needs an extra strap or two to prevent it from wobbling or falling off.
6. OdyseaCo - Aruba Beach Tote
- Not designed to carry ice
- Soft-sides and will not hold its shape when empty
If you’re someone who prefers take everything in just one bag then the Aruba Mesh Beach Tote is defiantly worth taking a look at. The lightweight tote cooler is divided into two sections with the cooler section separated from the main mesh compartment.
Size: 20 x 16 x 6 Inches
Weight: 1.35 Pounds
We like that the cooler compartment is easily accessible with a zipper which allows you fully open the compartment for flat packing. The upper compartment is large enough to hold 4 beach towels and many users agree that the mesh fabric is useful as you can see what’s inside the bag instead of rummaging blindly. We also like that the mesh allows for air to flow through the bag, thereby reducing the risk of smelly swimwear odours.
Despite its appearance, the reinforced handles are able to carry a decent amount of weight. They are also padded for extra comfort and the 9-inch shoulder drop should make it comfortable for both men and women to use. We also like that the Aruba Tote Cooler features two external lined and zippered pockets for easy access to your sunscreen, phone or car keys. OdyseaCo has also considered security with the latest model of this cooler which has a full-width zipper at the top.
Admittedly the cooler section on this tote is quite small compared to other soft-sided coolers, therefore, we recommend this bag for half day trips to the beach or family outings when you just want to keep your food and snacks fresh. Another thing worth mentioning is that it doesn’t hold its shape like the Yeti TWO Hopper or the CleverMade SnapBasket, meaning that the bag tends to flop over when it is not full. Although this can be irritating users also reports that this makes it very easy to roll up and pack in a suitcase.
7. One Savvy Girl - Backpack Cooler
- Small seat
In our opinion, this is the best cooler for sports lovers & travelers alike. The Ultralight Backpacker Cooler Chair from One Savvy Girl is made from highly durable oxford fabric, which is resistant to rips and abrasions.
Size: 18 x 15 x 12 Inches
Weight: 3 Pounds
It also has a waterproof coating to protect the items stored in the coolers side pockets and to keep your back dry whilst carrying the cooler. While this backpacker cooler may not be the largest on the market it does only weigh 3 pounds which makes it perfect for solo use. Likewise, this soft side cooler will only hold ice for a few hours rather than days as some of the higher priced coolers on this list can.
What we like about this cooler is that it’s a very reasonable price and that it’s not just for the beach. Actually, due to its collapsible and lightweight design, the Backpacker Cooler Chair can be used in almost any outdoors or travel situation, from beach days to hiking trips to festivals, it’s even small enough to be tucked into a carry-on case and used when waiting in long lines at attractions. Despite the name, we think that this ultra-portable cooler can be used by any age or gender, although users do report that the seat is a little small for some adults.
8. ICEMULE Backpack Cooler
- No outside pockets
The Ice Mule Classic Insulate Backpack Cooler offers something a little different to standard soft side coolers. It’s certainly the best beach cooler on the market for water sports. The ICEMULE’s no frills and streamline design makes it the perfect companion for water activities, like paddle boarding or kayaking.
Capacity: 6-8 cans (or 4 wine bottles) plus ice
Size: 12.5 x 5 x 4 Inches (Open)
Weight: 1.7 Pounds
. The ICEMULE even stays afloat when full and, due to its vibrant color options, there’s little chance that you’ll lose it in the sea. We’ve found that the ICEMULE drybag system makes it very easy to open a close, there’s no faffing about with clips or zippers, and users report that the fully welded seams are able to prevent water from entering or leaking. A possible downside to this beach cooler is that, unlike the Aruba Beach Tote, it’s not so useful as a day bag as there are no external pockets meaning that you would need to take an extra bag for any additional items.
What we like about the ICEMULE are the adjustable shoulder straps which allow the cooler to be carried as a backpack or side bag, leaving your hands are free to carry a surfboard to the sea for example. The straps are also well-padded and ventilated for comfortable carrying. We’ve also found that it packs up very small, any trapped air can be released via the air valve before storing the cooler making it ideal for backpacking.
When it comes to the insulation the ICEMULE features MuleSkinEV which is twice as thick as standard soft side coolers plus a PolarLayer which should keep drinks cool for up to 24 hours. We’ve found that ice will melt well within the first 12 hours but users report that the remaining water and liquids remain cool for longer periods. We, therefore, recommend the ICEMULE for full-day excursions rather than overnight trips. The ICEMULE is available in various sizes, here we are reviewing the 10 Litre Classic which is about the right size for 1-2 people.
9. Wagan - EL6224
- Foods/Drinks need to be pre-chilled
- AC/DC wall adapter is not included
The EL6224 Cooler/Warmer from Wagan is the perfect addition to any road trip. This hard side cooler is specifically designed to fit snugly into the space behind the passenger seat so roadies can enjoy fresh drinks and snacks whilst cruising.
Capacity: up to 27 cans (4 x 2-liter bottles)
Size: 11 x 10 x 12 Inches
Weight: 12.5 Pounds
The cooler connects and charges via the vehicles power outlet. It features a 7.5 ft long 12V DC power cord which neatly packs away inside a built-in storage compartment. The Wagan Cooler/Warmer also features a heavy-duty folding handle for easy carrying from the car to your picnic spot or campsite. The 24-liter capacity makes it the perfect size for a family day out. There is enough space for four two-liter bottles to stand upright plus a little wiggle room for ice and snacks.
We like that this cooler doubles up as a heater which can hold a temperature of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, making it useful all year round. Even if your when you’re not on vacation the cooler/warmer can be used to keep your groceries cool and your take away hot. We have noticed however that this is product does not actually ‘cool’ foods and drinks, rather it keeps them cool, up to 32 degrees F below room temperature. This means that some advanced preparation is needed. If you’re coming from home or have access to a fridge then this shouldn’t be a problem, however, it’s a little inconvenient if you’re not able to pre-cool your drinks. Overall, we think that, for the price, this is a great product for day trips, picnics, and road trips.
10. Wildhorn Tortuga Beach Cooler Bag
- The shoulder strap is not adjustable
- Bottom and sides do not hold their shape
The Tortuga Beach Bag Cooler Tote from Wildhorn is one of the largest soft side coolers on our list with an impressive 52-liter capacity.
Capacity: 24 cans. 28.6 liters (cooler compartment only), 52 liters (total)
Weight: 1.6 Pounds
The oversized tote is divided into two large sections, one 26 liter drawstring compartment for carrying your beach towels and sunscreen and one 28.6 liters cooler compartment with leak-proof welded seams and 10mm insulated foam which users report will keep drinks and food cool all day. The cooler compartment closes with a simple zipper which features rubber coated loop pulls which users agree makes it possible to open the bag even with wet hands.
What we like about this large cooler tote is that the rubber coated mesh pockets make removing sand and cleaning very easy when compared to similar totes made from opaque materials. This fabric is also breathable and highly durable. We also like that, as well as an external front pocket, Wildhorn has included a hidden zippered pocket for keeping your keys and mobile safe whilst you take a dip in the sea.
The Tortuga Beach Bag Cooler Tote features a padded shoulder strap made from hard-wearing seat belt webbing, on the belt, there is also D-ring for attaching a bottle opener or other accessories. While this sturdy strap should be strong enough to carry the weight of the tote when filled with drinks, food and other bits and pieces, we’ve found it to be a bit on the heavy side. That said if you are only walking a short distance or if you don’t plan to use all 52 liters of space then the single strap should be comfy enough.
Criteria We Used to Evaluate
Beach coolers are nothing new but there is certainly a lot of variety between each brand and model so it’s important to look at the individual features that each cooler offers. The facets that we paid close attention to are:
- Quality of Materials
- Size and Weight
- Additional Features
Versatility is also important and we have discussed this as well in a section below but we felt when choosing this shouldn’t be given too much importance over the others mentioned above.
Quality of Materials
This is priority #1 as far as are concerned because we expect the best beach coolers to be waterproof, durable and reasonably lightweight. We also want to know that the cooler will actually keep things cool for a decent amount of time. High-quality hard-sided coolers, like the Yet Tundra 45, tend to have thick walls and feature insulation made from steel-based fabrics which are able to hold ice for over 24 hours. In soft-sided coolers, we look for brands which use aluminum-based fabrics for insulation which tends to be more flexible, lightweight, and pack up relatively small.
We also looked for features such as leakproof welded seams and rip-stop fabric which are both waterproof and highly durable. Likewise, the straps, handles, or rollers should be strong enough to carry the weight of the cooler when full, without straining the materials. We, therefore, look for hard-wearing materials such as military grade polyester rope, seatbelt webbing, padded shoulder straps, and large wheels which are suitable for rough terrain.
Q: Which is better, a beach tote bag with a cooler or a dedicated cooler?
A: Usually, a dedicated hard side or soft side cooler is better at keeping drinks cold and holding ice for longer periods. Beach totes with built-in coolers, on the other hand, tend to work better with ice packs than actual ice and are better suited for short trips or when you will be walking a lot. Beach totes are designed to be carried on one shoulder so you don’t want to be putting too much weight inside it. The advantage of beach totes is that they usually have separate compartments for towels, swimwear and so on, so you only need to carry one bag. This is more convenient if you’re a solo traveler or a parent with your hands full of excited children.
Size and Weight
Of course, you’ll want to know how many cans and bottles you can take to the beach with you. To find out we prefer to look at capacity before the products dimensions. This is a more practical way to measure its usefulness to you. Personal use coolers, such as the ICEMULE, are able to carry approximately 6-8 cans plus ice, were as larger cooler designed for multi-day trips or group use can hold over 20 cans. Soft-sided coolers are often more popular for solo-use or for road trips, therefore, we look for coolers which are very portable and able to fit in the footwell of a car.
We also look at the weight of the cooler. If the cooler is designed to be carried on your back or shoulder then we expect it to be very light when empty. All of the soft-sided coolers on our list have simple designs which weigh less than 2 pounds so they won’t be adding much additional weight to your load.
On our list, we’ve included beach coolers which will suit a range of budgets. Of course, we expect the price to reflect the quality and durability of each item. Higher priced coolers, such as the TWO Hopper and Tundra 45 by Yeti, come with guarantees and the promise of a reputable brand name. For these prices we also expect top of the range insulation materials and for the cooler to last multiples years. We still expect budget range coolers, such as the Coleman Xtreme and the CleverMade SnapBasket to be functional, practical, and to keep food and drinks cool for the promised length of time, however, these products may have a less durable design and lower grade insulation compared to premium competitors.
Most of the coolers on our list have additional features which make them useful in a variety of situations. Our hard-sided coolers feature molded cup holders and built-in seats on the lids which can double as picnic tables for a comfortable day at the beach. Similarly, the collapsible cooler from Arctic Zone comes with an additional rolling cart which makes it more portable and practical for carrying heavy loads. We also like brands such as Yeti which have grip point attachments, for securing the cooler in place or attaching accessories, and tote coolers from OdyseaCo and Wildhorn which feature large compartments for carrying non-food items.
Other Factors to Consider
Hard Cooler Vs Soft Cooler
When it comes to choosing a hard side or a soft side beach cooler remember that both designs have their advantages. Usually, hard side coolers use better insulation meaning that the contents will stay colder for longer, of course, this also makes hard side coolers heavier and considerably bulkier than soft side coolers which tend to be more flexible and lighter. This means that they often pack away very small making them better for traveling or for occasional use. Of course, the insulation used in soft side coolers is usually thinner and most will only keep your cola cool for a few hours.
Q: Are there any coolers that float or do all hard side coolers float?
A: Some coolers, such as the ICEMULE are designed for water sports and will, therefore, float even when filled with drinks and ice. Premium hard side coolers such as the Yeti Tundra are also able to float but not all hard side coolers have this capability so it’s best to check the manufacturers’ details or do a trial run in your bathtub before tossing your cooler overboard.
Hard side coolers are generally stronger too. They can last for decades, be used as an extra seat, stood on, or even dropped without causing too much damage, whereas a soft side cooler is more prone to rips and abrasions and sitting or standing on a soft side cooler would make an awful mess.
If you are purchasing a beach cooler specifically for use at the beach then versatility is not so important. However, when you’re traveling, backpacking or hiking with a beach cooler than a product with more than one purpose would be far more useful. For example, solo travellers might like the Aruba Beach Tote from OdyseaCo because it can double as a picnic bag or city day bag, were as day hikers would probably be better off with the One Savvy Girl Ultralight Backpacking Cooler which can also be used as a beach/camping chair as well as carrying your drinks, lunch, and personal items.
Q: Why haven’t you chosen more wheeled options?
A: We’ve aimed to include a variety of coolers to a variety of travelers. Wheeled coolers like the Coleman Extreme tend to be much larger and heavier than soft side coolers and are therefore best for people traveling with their own vehicle and are not well suited to the needs of hikers or people using public transport. For this reason, we have included only two-wheeled coolers on our top 10 list.
Q: Are coolers with speakers useful or not really?
A: Although we haven’t included any in our top 10, there are a variety of hard side and soft side coolers with built-in speakers on the market. There is a range of duffle bags, backpacks, and classic box style coolers with or without rollers. Of course, there are some advantages to having in an all in one entertainment and cooler system, it takes less space in the car and it is more convenient than carrying speakers and a cooler separately. Coolers with speakers generally operate with iPhones/iPod or Android devices too, so it will connect to almost any device. This is ideal for a group picnic or beach party; however, the extra feature is likely to make the cooler heavier and considerably more expensive. You’ll also need to think about the practicality of charging the battery on a longer trip.