The Ultimate Guide to Travel Coolers
Let’s back this up a minute. Do you really even need a cooler? They’re big and bulky, and they can be expensive, which makes them as cumbersome to tote around as a raging, rabid squirrel (have you ever tried to catch one of these?). Unless you’re using these in large groups where you need the extra capacity or you’re keeping perishable items for more than a day, you probably don’t need one. This being said, if you’ve got a grand trip coming up and you’ll be out enjoying the sights and sounds of nature, it can be really convenient to have a cooler at your side.
So what’s the dif?
Is there really a difference between the $30 cooler at Wal-Mart and the $400 Yeti cooler? Absolutely! After searchinghigh and low, we’ve found the best ice chests for your next get together. The main differences between all of the coolers out there are the way the outer shell is made, how much insulation is in the walls and some convenience features like wheels and draining mechanisms. The trade-off for perishables that are colder longer is smaller space inside to store them. Some of the room inside is taken away by the extra insulation to keep things colder longer, so they tend to run a little smaller inside. Be wary of this as you’re looking for your big purchase.
How big is too big?
Coolers come in all shapes and sizes. Some even fold down to almost nothing, which makes them perfect for taking along in an RV. The size of cooler you get is dependent on how big your shindig is. If you’ve got a brood like the Duggars, you’re going to want a really big ice chest (or four). If it’s just you and the dog, it’s hard to justify a full-size chest for just the two of you. Keep in mind what your needs are when you’re looking for your purchase and buy the minimum amount you need to save your back from carrying a way too heavy cooler around the campground.
Honest point here? You can’t go camping without a cold one. It’s un-American! These ice chests took the cake in our book, proving study after study that they were built American tough. The Yeti Tundra 50 and Pelican Elite consistently ranked in the top five best coolers, hands down. Even in 90 degree weather, the Yeti still had ice in it through the fourth day basking in the sun. Close behind was the Igloo Sportsman and the Orca 40. Despite passing the cold test with flying colors, these top performers could use some attention to detail. Not only do they consistently have a drain plug that’s a total pain to use, their lids and rolling wheels don’t tend to last as long as some of the other models.
If you’re not planning to be out for more than a couple days, you don’t need to waste your money on an expensive cooler. A nice Rubbermaid will do ya just fine. It’s got all the convenient features (even more than a few more than some of the fancier models) to keep you going. A few things that make life so much easier for campers is the drain plug for melting water and wheels to make toting it around a breeze. As skeptical as we were, the “extra features” of the Rubbermaid brand were some of the most convenient to use. What they lack in extra days of cold they more than make up for in ease of use.
The nuts and bolts.
Aside from how long your beer will keep cold in your new cooler, you should also consider a few other options. For example, is it easy to drain the ice melt water from inside the chest? And no one wants to fight with a lid to get to the goodies inside. If you’re going to be hiking or hauling the cooler is it going to weigh a ton and a half by the time you reach your destination? These are all crucial things to keep in mind as you plan your next trip.
Is it really worth it?
So we come full circle. Is it really worth the money to buy a $400 Yeti? If you’re going to be gone for a long period of time, you need a cooler that can take a beating, and don’t mind hauling the extra weight with you, absolutely, yes. It is worth every penny. But if you’re hanging around the campground for the evening and wanna crack a cold one with your buddies, the $30 Wal-mart cheapie will keep the party going so you can keep celebrating your Good Life.