Best Coolers for Camping: A Buying Guide

Best Coolers for Camping: A Buying Guide

There are many reasons why people love to go camping. For many, it is the simple love and appreciation for the natural beauty of our world. Some seek out the wildest outdoor adventures to become one with Mother Nature. 

For others, camping is an opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of cities and enjoy peaceful surroundings. Other campers look forward to spending time with family and loved ones, building and shaping memories for years to come. Whether it’s one of these reasons or all three, camping invigorates us.

No matter what form of camping you love, a weekend trip spent car camping or a month-long backpacking trek, preparation is key. You need the right outdoor gear to get you through your trip.

Camping is fun, but it can also be intense. This intensity requires gear that can live up to its name. Besides your bottle opener, camp stove, and cup holder attachment, you need a high-quality cooler.

Your cooler is perhaps your most vital piece of camping gear. It keeps your drinks and food cold and stores your vital necessities all trip long. A poor-quality cooler can spoil your food and leave you vulnerable to bears. These leave you with nothing but warm drinks, watching your ice melt away (along with your chance for an epic trip).

To help you make a good cooler selection for your camping needs, we put together a list of our favorite high-end coolers.

Here are the best coolers for camping that you can find:

What Type of Cooler Do You Need?

The first decision you have to make when looking to buy a new camping cooler is whether you want to buy a soft-sided cooler or a hard-sided cooler. Both design styles have their unique advantages and disadvantages. Review how they might apply to your specific needs to make the best choice. 

Option 1: Hard-Sided Coolers

A hard-sided cooler is your most heavy-duty option for long-term camping trips or large group outings. Hard-sided coolers tend to be heavier and larger than soft-sided coolers. 

This extra weight and size give them more durability and better insulation to keep things cold for days at a time. The non-skid rubber feet will keep your cooler just where you want it — be it watching orcas pass by your ice fishing setup or butterflies fly past your tent in the Amazon. 

The thick, durable rotomolded plastic walls of our Patriot Coolers Hard Coolers are built tough to stand up to whatever you or nature throws at them, all backed by our one-year warranty

Option 2: Soft-Sided Coolers

Soft-sided coolers tend to be smaller and lighter than the hard-sided variety, making them more portable. You can carry around a soft-sided cooler in a backpack or as a tote. Compare this to a hard-sided cooler which will weigh a few pounds before being filled, so it often requires a vehicle to move long distances.

For day trips, hikes, soccer game days, and lunch at the office, a soft-sided cooler is going to be more your speed. 

The Best Coolers For Camping

Now that we’ve reviewed the basic elements behind your cooler choices, we are ready to get super-specific.

These are the best coolers for camping for any scenario you might encounter.

The Best Cooler For Long Camping Trips:

Patriot Coolers 50 Quart Rotomolded Cooler

If you enjoy taking camping trips that last a few days or traveling with a group, you will likely have specific needs. You need a cooler that provides the size, insulation, ice retention, and durability these trips demand.

We understand this issue on a very personal level. At Patriot Coolers, we designed our coolers for the toughest conditions. These all-terrain ice chests will chill your food and drinks for days while handling whatever nature might have in store for you.

Our 50-quart capacity cooler is the perfect size for families and large group outings, allowing you to keep your cold items all together and ice-cold for up to five days straight. Plus, our rotomolded hard-sided coolers are bear-proof as well.

The 20-QT and 50-QT coolers keep bears, raccoons, and other animals out of your food stores. Bear-resistant technology is a must for avid backcountry campers!

The Best Soft Cooler for Day Trips

Patriot Coolers Softpak Cooler

For a day trip or single-night camping trip, you may not need such a large cooler. The added benefit of the days of refrigeration doesn’t apply for short trips, giving the portability and weight advantage of soft-sided coolers the edge. Your best cooler for day trips right now is going to be one of the Softpak Coolers.

Our Softpack Can Coolers come in three sizes; you can have one that is just the right size for your needs. The nylon outer shell and the closed-cell insulation interior keep ice, food, and drinks cold all day long with durable foam insulation. Our Can Coolers are waterproof, leakproof, and disaster-proof. 

Softpack coolers are ideal for road trips to the beach or weekend sports tournaments tailgating on the sidelines to store snacks and food fresh all day. 

The Best Cooler for Backpacking

If you prefer the thrill and adventure of backpacking for a day or weeks with only what you can carry on your back, then your cooler needs are different as well. You need to prioritize insulation, weight, size, and storage space for the perfect balance to get you through.

The Ultimate Backpack Cooler

The Patriot Coolers Backpack Cooler stands up to the wear and tear of backpacking so that you can rest assured you’ll have everything you need wherever you go. The Backpack Cooler offers unparalleled storage, cooling, and on-the-go capability for hiking trips. 

Our backpack cooler gives you six gallons of storage space so that you can easily bring along everything that you might want. The shoulder straps are made with a unique padded and breathable fabric. You can fit 20 pounds of ice in this backpack cooler and still neatly fit your stainless steel water bottle in the side pocket.

The Best Cooler for Picnics and Beach Days

For a simple picnic or beach camp day, you don’t necessarily need a substantial hard-sided cooler unless you are hosting quite the party. Similarly, you might not need the space that a backpack cooler or softshell cooler can bring you. Instead, you want a bag that’s easy to carry but still promises ultimate versatility and great insulation.

The Best Tote Cooler

Enter the Patriot Coolers Tote: the ultimate cross between style, ease of use, and cooling put together into one attractive and powerful tote bag. Our tote gives you eight gallons of storage space for the ultimate picnic on the beach or in the woods.

The ultra-durable handles hold up to the wear and tear of frequent use, unlike other totes whose straps tear and rip with wear. Our insulated interior is FDA-approved so that you can put food right in the bag without fear of contamination.

Our tote bag is ultra-stylish and comes in navy and gray color colorways to match the rest of your loadout. 

Top Picks for Any Camping Trip

When camping, hiking, or backpacking, a little planning goes a long way. Before there’s fun to be had, a safety and gear checklist is in order. Without properly cooled and stored food and beverage, you might have to scrap all your favorite camping meals. A lack of nutrition can lead to safety issues, discomfort, and grumpy family members.

Choosing the right camping cooler starts with deciding whether you need a hard-sided or soft-sided cooler. Hard-sided coolers are larger, more durable, and better insulated but are heavier and less portable than soft-sided coolers. The latter trades off portability and size at the expense of long-term cooling capabilities.

For long-term camping and large group outings, you can rely on rotomolded coolers to keep things fresh. Whether you need a 20 or 50-quart cooler, there is no better choice for a dependable, strong, and secure cooler.

For day trips, you will be best handled by the Patriot Coolers Softshell Can Cooler. In three different sizes, this soft-sided cooler offers you the ultimate compromise between size and cooling power, remaining portable while cooling everything down.

For backpacking, our Patriot Coolers Backpack cooler is a no-brainer, and for picnics and beach days, your perfect cooler purchase is going to be the Patriot Coolers Tote cooler, the ultimate in style and portability.

With these recommendations in hand, you can pick out the perfect cooler ideal for your needs. 


Storing Food - Bears | US National Park Service

Camping recipes | BBC Good Food


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