Whether you are going on a camping trip for several days, or you are going to tailgate before a big game, a cooler is an essential piece of equipment to have on hand. Coolers are an excellent way to keep food and beverages that need to be refrigerated cold and safe to consumer when you are out and in a location where you will not have access to a refrigerator. With a great cooler, you can easily enjoy foods that would perish if they were not kept cold, such as meat and dairy products, as well as fruits and vegetables. They can also keep items that aren’t perishable cool so that you can thoroughly enjoy the.

If you are shopping for a cooler, you are going to find that there are a lot of options available. While having options is a good thing, it can make finding the best cooler for your specific needs a challenge. To help you on your quest for finding the best cooler to suit your needs, we have put together this handy buyer’s guide. This guide highlights the different types of coolers, the factors to consider when choosing a cooler, the features that coolers can offer, and the best cooler brands. With the information presented in this buyer’s guide, you will be well informed and ready to find the best cooler for your specific needs.

Types of Coolers

In order to find the best cooler for your specific needs, the first thing you need to know is that there are different types of coolers available, and each type offers different benefits. There are five main types of coolers, which include:

Here is a breakdown of each of these five types of coolers, and the advantages and disadvantages associated with them.

The Plastic Cooler

Plastic coolers are also known as ice chests. They are constructed from heavy molded plastic. Durable and strong, plastic coolers come in a variety of sizes, so you will be able to find one that will fit the amount of items you want to keep cool, whether for a day at the beach, or for a weekend camping trip. Plastic coolers boast insulated lids, which fit snuggly on the top of the basin, sealing the coldness in. They also feature handles that are either located on the sides (on larger coolers,) or on the top (on smaller coolers.) To cool items, ice is placed underneath, on top of and / or around them. On the downside, as the ice melts, the plastic cooler loses its cooling abilities. Also, plastic coolers can take up a lot of room, and they can be difficult to store.

The Fabric Cooler

If you are going on a picnic, or packing a lunch to take with you to work, a fabric cooler is a great option. Also known as insulated cooler bags or collapsible coolers, the fabric cooler comes in different sizes, though they are intended to only carry a small quantity of items. Fabric coolers are constructed of durable canvas or synthetic materials, and they are lined with an insulating foam material. Fabric coolers are lightweight and compact, which makes them convenient to use. They can be easily folded down when they aren’t being used, which is another advantage. Bags filled with ice or ice packs that can be refreezed are used to keep items cold in a fabric cooler. On the downside, because of their soft construction, they cannot prevent items from being crushed.

The Metal Cooler

Metal coolers are the most durable of all coolers. Not only is the metal that they are constructed out of strong, which protects items stored in them from being crushed, but it is also an excellent at retaining coldness, which means that a metal cooler will keep your items cold for a prolonged period of time. Metal coolers cool items the same way a plastic cooler does; ice is placed underneath, on top of an / or around the food and beverages stored inside. On the downside, metal coolers tend to be more expensive than other types of coolers, and they are often heavy and bulky, which can make them difficult to transport.

The Styrofoam Cooler

As the name suggests, this type of cooler is constructed of Styrofoam. Essentially, it is a Styrofoam box and lid. They are very lightweight, and they are usually the least expensive of all types of coolers. The Styrofoam is densely packed, so these coolers can protect the items stored inside from being crushed. On the downside, Styrofoam coolers cannot accommodate a heavy load, as they can break if they are too heavy.

The Electric Cooler

Also known as a portable refrigerator, an electric cooler is similar to the refrigerator used in your home. It features a power cord, which is plugged into a socket in your vehicle, such as a cigarette lighter, creating electricity that is used to keep the interior of the cooler cold. With this type of cooler, you won’t have to worry about the mess of melting ice, and you won’t have to worry about your food becoming soggy. You also won’t have to deal with the hassle of refilling the cooler with ice. Also, no ice means more space for the items you want to store. On the downside, electric coolers are the most expensive of all five types of coolers. Also, they are not as portable as other types of coolers, as they need to have access to an outlet to provide the power that is needed to keep them cool.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Cooler

Before you purchase a cooler, there are a number of factors that you are going to want to take into consideration. By considering these factors, you will be able to find the best cooler for your specific needs. Some of the most important considerations to make when choosing a cooler include the size of the cooler, where you will be using it and the price, among other things. To learn more about the factors that we think are the most important when choosing a cooler, please continue reading.

Where you will be using it

The first thing you are going to want to consider is where you will be using the cooler. You will need a different cooler if you plan on using it for packing a lunch than you would if you were planning on using it for a camping trip. For example, a fabric cooler may be great for packing a picnic lunch, but it won’t be suitable for a camping trip. Make sure that you know what your intended use is before you shop so that you can choose the best type of cooler for your specific needs.

The size of the cooler

Coolers come in a variety of sizes. In order to ensure that you have enough space for the items that you plan on storing in the cooler, you need to purchase the right size. Remember that, unless you are purchasing an electric cooler, you will not only need to account for the food and beverages you will be packing inside the cooler, but you will also need to account for the space the ice will take up.

The durability of the cooler

The durability of the cooler will impact how you intend to use it, and how long it will last. If you plan on using it for a picnic lunch, it won’t need to be as durable as a cooler that you would take on a long camping excursion. If you are going to be using it for camping, or for other activities where it will be exposed to dirt and debris, you want to choose a cooler that is constructed of a durable material, such as plastic or metal.

Ease of use

You should also consider how easy the cooler is to use. While you may need a large cooler for a long camping trip, it can be difficult to transport once filled with food, drinks and ice. Also, you want to make sure that the cooler is easy to load and empty, which means that it should have a lid that you can easily put on and take off.

The cost of the cooler

Another important factor to consider is the price of the cooler. Coolers can vary significantly in price, with Styrofoam coolers being the least expensive and electric coolers being the most expensive. Also, coolers that offer more features will have a higher price tag. Make sure you know how much you want to spend on your cooler before you start shopping so you can avoid spending more than you are comfortable with.

Features Coolers Can Offer

There are several features that coolers can offer. These features are intended to improve the functionality of the cooler, and make it easier to use. As mentioned above, the more features a cooler offers, the more expensive the price tag will be. In order to determine whether you want or need certain features, it is important to make sure that you understand the different features that are available.

Here is a look at some of the top features that coolers can offer.

Built In Wheels

If you are shopping for a large cooler, you may want to look for one that features built in wheels. With this feature, transporting a heavy cooler that is filled with food, beverages and ice will be a lot easier than trying to carry it.

Pull Out Handles

This is another handy feature to have on large coolers. A handle that pulls out, combined with built in wheels, will make transporting a large, heavy cooler as easy as possible.

Built In Cup Holders

Some coolers feature built in cup holders, which will provide you with a safe and sturdy spot to rest your drinks when you are out and about. Cup holders are either built into the lid of the cooler, or on fabric coolers, they are placed on the side or front.


Draining the melted ice out of a cooler can be tedious. With a built in drain, this task is a lot easier. Simply open the drain and allow the water to pour out. This will eliminate the need to empty the contents of the cooler when the ice has melted.


Some coolers are designed with different sections or compartments on the inside. This is a great feature to have if you are going to be storing different items that you do not want to have potentially leak on or damage other items; bread can be packed in one container and bottles of water can be packed in another, for example.

A Warranty

This is a particularly useful feature if you are shopping for an electric cooler, which has a high price tag and has components that can break. Should something happen to the cooler, the warranty will allow you to have it repaired or replaced.

The Best Cooler Brands

There are several companies that manufacture coolers, which can make it difficult to determine which brand you should go with. To help you choose the best cooler for your needs, we suggest purchasing one of the following brands.


Coleman coolers are some of the best on the market. They offer innovative designs and durable construction that will keep your items protected and cold for extended periods of time. These coolers are also built to last.


Established in 1947, Igloo is one of the most trusted manufacturers of coolers. This company offers various type of coolers, which are all constructed out of high quality materials and will keep your items fresh and protected.


If you want a cooler that is super tough and will last you a long time, Yeti is a great brand to go with. These coolers are designed to withstand the harshest weather conditions and environments.