Summer is here and it has been incredibly hot lately and quite difficult to stay cool. This is especially true when going out camping or hiking. Nowadays, with the crazy heat from the weather, it becomes an almost impossible task to relax outside with a cold drink in your hands, breathing in the fresh air.
That is why you need a really good ice chest to keep your drinks cold while you are outdoors. Believe me when I say, having a nice, cold sip of your favorite drink while camping during the summer heat can help keep you feeling cool, refreshed, and happy throughout your trip. An ice chest is also really important so you can store any raw and perishable foods safely while you are outside.
What Do You Use It For?
Before deciding on anything, you have to think about what you are using it for. Knowing exactly what kind of trip you’re bringing it on will determine other factors for when you buy your ice chest, such as the price range, how big, and what other features you may need with it.
To begin with, ask yourself these five important questions to help you decide what to look for in your ice chest:
These two questions are going to affect the size and storage capacity of your ice chest.
- How many days is your trip going to be?
- Do you need your ice chest to keep all your perishable food for longer than one day
These two questions are going to affect the size and storage capacity of your ice chest.
- Do you plan on using your ice chest for more than one trip?
- How much are you willing to spend on your ice chest?
This final question will determine what additional features you need to look for in your ice chest like how portable it needs to be.
Types Of Coolers
Before we go deeper into the details, let’s take a quick look at what type of coolers or ice chests there are available on the market. In general, there are three main types of coolers: traditional, soft-side, and high-end/heavy duty. But recently, there have been specialty coolers popping-up, such as electric ones.
Traditional coolers are the basic coolers that you can find in virtually any grocery store or hardware store – yup, these are those ice chests we’ve seen countless times on many camping and picnic trips.
Generally, these types of ice chests make use of a foam insulation that is sandwiched between some sort of plastic layer. The lids are usually screw-on or snap-shut hinges that make use of some sort of internal mechanism to stay closed.
Traditional coolers are generally on lower on their price range. This is the economical choice for most people, as it will do its job. It is perfect for shorter camping trips – anywhere between 2 to 5 days maximum. Common brands that make traditional coolers include Coleman and Rubbermaid.
Soft-side coolers are meant for campers who are a bit more conscious about the size and the weight of what they are bringing since they take up less space and are much lighter.
This means that if your campgrounds is far from your parking area and you have to hike a bit, soft-side coolers might be the better choice for you. However, soft-side coolers are lighter on the insulation so they won’t last as long.
They are best for a short day trip or a picnic and are perfect for carrying your cold drinks. But any longer than that and the items inside won’t stay cool or your bag may begin to leak of melted ice.
3. High-end/Heavy Duty
Finally, we have your high-end or heavy duty ice chests that are meant to withstand harsh conditions. They are built with better insulation and tighter locking lids to really keep your contents cool and stored properly for a longer period of time.
These type of ice chests only really came by early in this decade when Yeti introduced a “price-is-no-matter” ice chest that focused all its attention on maximizing insulation, capacity, and durability. A number of other companies followed suit, and thus the higher-end, heavy duty coolers were born.
These things will be able to stand the test of time, that’s for sure, but they are very pricey and very expensive. This means you’ll only really be able to take one of these along with you if you can drive up to your campsite, or else you’ll have a really difficult time trying to lug it up some mountains.
Selecting Your Features
Now that we’ve gone through the basics of an ice chest, we can talk about the different features an ice chest has so that you can decide which product is best for you, depending on your answers to our five questions earlier.
1. Size & Storage Capacity
The size of your cooler depends on how long your trip is going to be and how much food you plan on taking. This, of course, is also dependent on how many people you will be packing for.
A good tip before buying a cooler is to grab all the perishable food and drinks you plan on taking with you on your trip and pile them up. That is around the size you will be looking for. But you need to get one that is slightly bigger than all those items so that you have extra room for your ice.
A popular range you can go for if you are still quite unsure is somewhere between the 60 to 75 quarts range. It is good enough for a family for a few days or for hunters and fishermen to store large amounts of meat.
If you’re only looking to carry a few drinks for a day or two, or your own food for an overnight trip, 25 quarts will do just fine. 40 quarts, on the other hand, will last a two people over a weekend.
The durability of your cooler will depend on how much abuse you are going to put it through. This can also help you decide if you are looking for a more traditional cooler or need a high-end, heavy duty one.
Higher-end coolers, for example, have stronger hinges that are in style, they have bigger latches, larger handles, thicker materials, and more. But they are larger, heavier and more expensive. So these types of coolers are better if you plan on using that one cooler for many years and many trips.
3. Additional Features
Finally, there are some additional features of coolers that make them great and give them a bonus touch. Some that you can look for include:
- Bottom drain – it will make your life a lot easier
- Pull-out/foldable handles
- Molded drink holder
- Insert trays
- Section dividers
These features aren’t always necessary, but they are a pretty good touch and something extra you can look for to really get the most value for your money!
Top 5 best ice chest for camping
Now that we’ve gone through some of the basics of what to look for in an ice chest, let’s go over my top five picks of what I feel are pretty great products that you can check out for yourself.
#1 Igloo Ice Cube Maxcold Roller 70
The first ice chest on the list is the Igloo Ice Cube. It is a 70-quart ice chest that measures 18.6” x 23.5” x 20.3” (W x H x D) and weighs 14.5 pounds.
It has a molded handle that you can pull in and out like a suitcase and wheels to help you drag it around as well as molded side handles for lifting. It also has a drain plug and two molded drink holders on top.
The insulation is made of foam and can help keep your items cool for around five days as told by the manufacturer.
#2 Yeti Tundra 45
This ice chest comes from the pioneer of high-end coolers so you can expect to pay a pretty hefty price. This is a medium-sized chest with a capacity of 45 quarts and measures 25.5” x 16” x 15.5” (L x W x D) and weighs about 23lbs when empty.
The Tundra makes use of a PermaFrost Insulation and a thick FatWall design to help keep your contents cool inside. It has a Rotomold Construction making it highly durable and heavy-duty.
The lid latch is what they call a “T-Rex” and is made of heavy-duty rubber. It also has handles on the side made of a strong chord with a plastic handle. It is also certified bear-resistant.
#3 Elkton Outdoors 50
This next ice chest is designed to be used for hunting and fishing with its 50-quart capacity. It measures 30” x 16.5” x 17” (L X W x H). It is made with commercial-grade insulation but is backed up with freezer-grade seal gaskets and rubber latches to retain most of its interior temperature efficiently, keeping things cool for around 4 to 5 days. The chest is made with rotomolded injected plastic, reinforced lock plates, and a non-slip base. It is also bear resistant with a lock in the corner.
It is an ice chest that is easy to clean because of its non-stick surface and extra wide drain plug. It also has some extra features, which are pretty cool and really meant for an outdoorsman, such as a fish ruler and a bottle opener.
#4 Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Cooler
This cooler from Coleman is the biggest one on the list, measuring 17.38 x 17.75 x 25.38 inches and weighing about 20lbs. It has a storage capacity of 120 quarts – holding around 204 cans inside.
It claims that it can keep ice frozen for up to 6 days at temperatures up to 32C because of the insulated lid and insulated walls. It also has comfort-grip side handles and four cup holders on the lid.
The insulation is also made of low CO2 to reduce carbon emissions that come from manufacturing of foam.
#5 Orca 58 Cooler
The final ice chest on the list is from ORCA. This is a 58-quart cooler that weighs 24lbs and measures 36” x 21” x 20” so it is quite large. It mentions that it can keep your items cool for up to 10 days.
It has a cargo net pocket attachment on the back to keep any accessories or other things you may have. It also has a flexible handle on the side to help you carry it around.
It makes use of a lid gasket to keep it locked tightly so it keeps cool inside.
And The Winner Is…
After going through all of these products, I would have to say my favorite is the one from Elkton Outdoors. While the Yeti or the ORCA may be the popular choice when it comes to heavy-duty ice chests, I feel like the Elkton does well at keeping the pace.
I love that it has a few extra features like the fish ruler and a bottle opener. I also like that you can add a padlock on it. It is a very sturdy, heavy-duty ice chest. And yes, while it may be really really heavy, its capacity and insulating capabilities are good enough for me.
This, of course, is not something I would bring on a backpacking trip, but on a camping trip with my friends where we can drive to the campsite, this ice chest is great!