When it comes time to upgrade your cooler to something that will actually keep your ice, well, ice, for more than a few hours, you’ll find that a good cooler is actually a pretty big investment. While Yeti is often known to be the best when it comes to coolers, our research has found that there are some comparable and even better brands at all different price points.
This guide will cover the best names in coolers and ice chests so you can find the best model for you.
Our Top Pick: ORCA
Built like Yetis and priced only slightly less, the ORCA has a huge fanbase and are consistently ranked higher than Yetis. They are made in the U.S.A, which a lot of buyers really like. They also come in numerous sizes and colors.
ORCA tops the competition with insulation and durability. ORCA coolers are rated for heat/cool retention for “up to 10 days” (though of course it will likely be less for most users). ORCA has a lifetime warranty, intelligent design, and the coolers are priced well for premium coolers.
Understanding ORCA’s sizes is easy, unlike some other cooler brands. The stated size of an ORCA cooler is the usable, measurable size inside the cooler. The sizing from ORCA also includes the number of cans it holds, which is helpful for visualizing the actual size you need. ORCA coolers are bear-proof and have excellent ice retention. With the roto-molding design and made in the USA assembly, ORCA offers fantastic coolers in sizes that you need.
Here are the available sizes:
- 20 Quart (holds up to 18 cans)
- 26 Quart (holds up to 24 cans)
- 40 Quart (holds up to 48 cans
- 58 Quart (holds up to 72 cans)
- 75 Quart (holds up to 90 cans)
- 140 Quart (holds up to 192 cans)
While some call the Yeti cooler overrated, and plenty balk at the high price, there’s a good reason why this name comes up again and again. Yeti coolers are excellent coolers, plain and simple. Yes, they are spendy, but they also have a lot of great qualities as well as high marks from reviewers and buyers alike. Durable, bear-proof, smartly designed, and featuring great ice retention, you really can’t go wrong with Yeti if it’s the brand you pick.
Yeti pioneered the roto-molded design that distinguishes them (and similar models, like the ORCA above) from regular coolers. Roto-molding enhances durability and insulation, making them a much better choice for long-term use and ice that lasts for days. Unfortunately, the design and materials makes them much more expensive. The name itself is probably why Yeti charges so much for their coolers, but for many happy customers, it’s worth the price.
The five-year warranty is a bit disappointing given the competition’s lifetime warranties and there are a few design flaws that can be bothersome, but overall Yeti coolers are solid. There are a few different sizes and models to know about:
The Hopper is a portable cooler that’s leakproof and durable.
The Roadie is a 20-quart cooler that is easy to carry and holds up to 14 cans.
Other Premium Cooler Brands
Engel coolers, like ORCA and Yeti, feature the roto-molded design, meaning they are durable and have great ice retention. Comparatively, Engel is less expensive than both ORCA and Yeti, with similar features.
Engel’s ice retention performance is slightly worse than the other two brands. However, considering the cost difference, it is worth it for many consumers. Like the others, it is also bear-proof and has excellent insulation.
Engel has a three-year warranty, which is another deal breaker for some (compared to Yeti’s five year and ORCA’s lifetime). But, if it fits your budget, Engel coolers are cost effective and perform well. There are nine sizes available
Like any of the other premium brands we’re discussing here, the RTIC has the same roto-molded design and long ice retention time. RTIC recommends pre-chilling and following their guidelines for maximum ice retention. There are plenty of RTIC fans out there, but the biggest issue we have with this brand is their very puny warranty. RTIC’s warranty is only 1 year, a far cry from the three year, five year, or lifetime warranties of its competition.
Pelican is yet another brand of premium coolers that inspires lifetime customers and comes highly reviewed. Pelican coolers are made in the U.S.A. and have a limited lifetime warranty. While it’s one of the heaviest coolers in the roto-molded category, the Progear Elite has a wheeled construction that makes moving it around much easier. Ice retention is rated up to 10 days like most of these coolers, with the average user getting about 4 days.
There are numerous size options, color schemes, and available accessories from Pelican. Click here to see them all.
Grizzly coolers are on the less expensive (though not by much) end of the roto-molded spectrum. They are made in the U.S.A. and feature a rugged durability, as well as bear-proof construction. Testers have found that the Grizzly cooler doesn’t hold ice quite as long as some of the competition, with the exception of the smaller coolers (like the 15 and 20 quart). Grizzly offers a lifetime warranty on their coolers.
Non-Premium (and Budget-Friendly)
What we’re calling “non-premium” here are really just the best coolers that aren’t roto-molded. These tend to be much more budget friendly and lighter. While most of these won’t last as long as a “premium” cooler, there are still plenty great picks with good construction and ice retention. In this category, we’ll cover some specific models.
Our Top Pick Coleman Coastal Xtreme Series 120 Quart
This is a huge cooler that is a fantastic bargain (especially if you can find it on sale, as it is right now for almost 50% off!). It holds everything you could need for a weekend away. It will last a few days as long as you watch the number of times you open it and pack it with ice before you leave. Any cooler that’s not premium will get you far fewer days of ice retention. However, Coleman’s cooler does a good job anyway, making this our top cooler for the money.
Another cooler from Coleman is a good value for the money. The Xtreme Cooler is 70 quarts, under $75, and is durable enough to double as a seat for up to 250 pounds. The cup holders molded into the lid is an added bonus, and makes this cooler a great pick for tailgating, fishing, and more. The hinge design is really the only drawback for this model, but overall this is a solid cooler that performs well.
Igloo’s 100-quart cooler is a beast and it easily holds 2-liter bottles upright. This is a good cooler for large capacity needs. It’s not the best-built cooler on the market, but it’s practically a steal price-wise and users have found it to be pretty good with ice retention.
Best Small Cooler Stanley Adventure Cooler
This 7 or 16-quart cooler is the perfect size for portability and keeping things cold. Ice retention on the Stanley Adventure Cooler is actually very good for a small cooler – up to 36 hours. It is designed to work with the Stanley vacuum bottle/mug, making it a perfect lunch box, too.
Budget Pick Rubbermaid 34 Quart Ice Chest
Buying a cheap cooler is a gamble, but this Rubbermaid cooler is inexpensive and works well. The 34 quart is well under $50 and it is sturdy. It’s made in the U.S. and is stain and odor resistant. If you’re looking for a wallet-friendly cooler that will hold up and keep stuff cold, this is a great option.