Need to know what the best cool box for camping is? Od you want to upgrade your old cool bag to a new one? You came to the right place; this guide can help you make the best decision when upgrading your cooling receptacle. We reviewed and ranked today's best cool box, cool bag and electric camping cooler options – read on to find out which ones we like the most.
A cool box or bag is essential to keep your food and drinks chilled, fresh and protected on a camping trip. More than ough, they're an excellent investment for the summer – whether you're hosting a garden gathering, heading to the beach or hitting up a festival. Add one of the best camping chairs and perhaps a beach tent, and you're sorted for a chilled day in the sun.
Best cool box for camping to buy right now
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The best camping cool boxes
Coleman’s monster 47-litre passive coolbox on wheels has a durable and weatherproof design and earns a place in the best camping cooler ranking, partly thanks to its solid, rugged build. The Coleman 50QT is designed to keep food and drink fresh and cold for up to five days, making it an excellent choice for longer camping trips.
The lid features PU foam insulation, taking care of the cooling, and four cup holders for housing your bottles and cans. It'll also double as a makeshift camping seat and will support up to 113kg in weight. The only real downside is that according to the official guidelines, you'd need to add more than 13 kilos of ice for best performance, which would put a not-insignificant dent in the space left for food and drink.
Read our full Coleman 50QT Xtreme camping cooler review.
The Yeti Roadie 24 Cooler is a well-engineered and super-rugged portable cool box that's just the ticket for keeping beers and food chilled outdoors. The interior has been proportioned as to ensure it'll hold a bottle of wine, stood up (important), and Yeti encourages you to use it as a stool. In fact, it even sells an accessory cushion for that very purpose.
Thick rotomolded walls, dubbed the Yeti ‘Fatwall’, and PermaFrost insulation are responsible for the chilling. That same rotomolded construction makes this timeless ice chest nigh-on indestructible, so it’ll withstand the rough and tumble of outdoor life. It is slightly tricky to carry over long distances, but it's a solid choice for road trips, boating and car camping.
Read our full Yeti Roadie 24 cooler review.
If you're looking for an ultra-tough YETI alternative, check out the BOTE KULA. It's available in a range of equally funky colourways, and the roto-moulded plastic construction is strong enough to go head-to-head with an alligator, should that be a concern where you're headed (it's actually certified by the Gator Proof Alliance).
This cool box packs plenty of practical design details. A clever, one-handed latch means you can keep hold of your drink while cracking it open for snacks, and the back hinge is also designed to allow the lid to open right up so you can easily access the entire insides. Sticky rubber feet keep it in place, which is helpful if you want to use it as a seat or even a stepping stool, and a drain plug at the bottom makes it super simple to get rid of old water.
For toting it about, you've got a rotating stainless steel handle with an EVA sleeve for added comfort. Finally, there's an integrated stainless steel bottle opener, or if you opt for the 2.5-gallon version, you can go the whole hog and fill the entire thing with drink, thanks to the built-in tap.
The best cool bags
From the brand that brought you some of the best hiking water bottles comes this cool bag tote that's perfect for day trips. The Hydro Flask day escape is a soft cool bag that's altogether much easier to tote about than a boxy cool bag with short straps. There is a hand-carry option, but there's also a removable cross-body strap that works perfectly with the tapered shape for carrying it comfortably over long distances. It's at the pricier end of things, but the build quality is impeccable, and there's reassuring attention to detail on the design front.
It delivers impressive insulation for such a thin, pliable bag – with ice, it'll keep the contents cool for up to a whopping 36 hours. Hydro Flask has added thicker insulation in the base, where most heat is lost. The sturdier flattened off-base also gives some structure and extra protection where packing is concerned, although you obviously can't bash it around like you could a solid plastic option, and a few customers commented they'd prefer if it were slightly wider. Watertight and welded seams ensure no water gets in or out on your travels, and if you need more space, there's also a 20L and 26L version.
The Outwell Penguin is sturdier than your average cool bag, thanks to 2cm thick foam walls. While this does mean you can't squish it down when not in use; it also makes it very easy to stack food inside, ensures that food is well protected from itself getting squished, and will also keep said food cool for 13 hours if you add an 800ml ice block. We've been testing one out this summer, and even without the ice block, it has some impressive insulation powers.
Elsewhere, it's a simple but effective design. The inner is easy to wipe clean, and you can zip the whole top open like a lid, to easily access and shuffle around what's inside. Twin handles with a velcro-fastening grip enable easy upright carrying, and the zip pulls have wide, easy-grip plastic pulls. It feels high quality, and two mesh side pockets make for a useful place to pop any extra bits and bobs, like bottle openers. Finally, it's available in three sizes to suit different situations and party sizes.
The brand is better known for its hard coolers, but Yeti's Hopper Flip cool bag range is also well worth a look. They're robust, well-designed, and the quality you'd expect for an admittedly premium price tag. A thick layer of closed-cell rubber foam between the outer case and inner lining locks cool air effectively, and the entire top opens up (this is the 'Flip' part) for easy access to the bag's contents. Carrying is comfy thanks to an ultra-squishy rubber padding on the removable shoulder strap (there are also hand handles elsewhere for shorter distances).
The high-density 'DryHide Shell' blocks UV rays and repels mildew, and will withstand plenty of bumps and scrapes, while the 'Hydrolok' zip keeps liquid in reliably. Daisy chain loops down the front and back give you somewhere to attach any extra bits and bobs for your trip. There are three sizes to choose from, and instead of litre capacity, Yeti tells you what each will hold - the Hopper Flip 8 (pictured) is the smallest and will hold 8 cans or equivalent, based on a 2:1 ice-to-can ratio. In the middle of the range is the Hopper Flip 12, which holds 13 cans, and the Hopper Flip 18 holds 20 cans.
The best electric camping cooler
If you need more than just a cooler, the Dometic CFX3 25 is the next best thing to take your fridge camping with you. It's an active cooler, which means that you'll have to hook it up to your car battery to keep things chilly, but it features a dynamic battery protection system that'll prevent it from sucking the life out of your vehicle.
With 25 litres of storage, there's plenty of room inside, however, it can get very cold in there (down to -22°C), and anything touching the sides is likely to freeze; there's an internal basket to prevent this, but you'll still need to take care when you're packing a lot in. It's easy to use, either via its touchscreen or an app, and it feels solid and sturdy – a good thing, considering its price.
Read our full Dometic CFX3 24 review
Not everyone needs the Anker EverFrost 30 Powered Cooler, but those who like their food and drinks chilled and have a big enough vehicle to carry the unit and their family with them will appreciate the chill factor of this cool box. Lifting the unit might not be quite breezy, but as long as there is a ramp, you can move the EverFrost 30 around on the transport wheels using the EasyTow suitcase-style handle.
Another fact that might deter some people is the price point of the Anker EverFrost series – after all, you can use a passive cooler and keep things relatively cool for comparatively long. However, if you prefer not having to fish out your beer cans from a pool of melted ice cubes mixed with salad leaves, the EverFrost 30 Powered Cooler is a much better solution.
Read our full Anker EverFrost 30 Powered Cooler review.
With both a car battery and electric hook up adapter, the DC/AC Electric 24 L Coolbox ensures that your precious bacon rashers, sausages and beers remain cool for the entire length of your trip. Like all electric cool boxes, it's on the heavy and bulky side, and here the capacity is on the small side compared to other camping coolers in the list. However, if you require a reliable means to keep your food cool you can’t really go wrong. If you’re looking to hook it up to your car battery intermittently throughout your trip, you may want to make sure your car is up to the job first – a jump start exit from the campsite probably won’t be your finest hour.
How to choose the best camping cool box for you
There are plenty of sizes, styles and cooling methods on the market. First, you want to decide whether a cool box or a cool bag is better. The former will keep food protected from getting squashed but tends to be bulkier and harder to carry (although some come with wheels and telescopic handles to make the job easier). The latter might be cheaper and easier to tote around, so a better option if you're walking long distances with your cooler.
Most basic coolers use 'passive cooling', which means they're insulated to stay cold as long as possible – you'd usually pop a frozen ice pack, loose ice or gel pack in to get it cold to start with. It won't keep things cool indefinitely, though, so if you're on a multi-day trip, you'll need to replace the ice (campsites often have a service where you can swap your defrosted ice packs for frozen ones).
If you're car camping and going on an extended holiday where an electric hookup is available, and weight isn't an issue, you might want to invest in an electric camping cooler, which is essentially a mini-fridge for your tent. These will also have a secure seal to keep bugs and rodents out.
If you don't drive and will be heading to the campsite, park or beach on foot or via public transport, you'll want a camping cooler that's lightweight, weatherproof (in case it rains) and easy to carry. In that case, look for a cool box on wheels with a pull-along handle or a cool bag that can be slung over your shoulder or worn like a backpack. Shoppers in the US especially might be focused on one brand in particular, and to that end, we've got a separate guide to the best Yeti coolers.
How we tested these cool boxes and bags
T3's expert team of outdoor gear testers selflessly tried out the best cool boxes and the best cool bags on the market, to see which would keep their
beers juices and isotonic drinks for the longest time. Factors such as capacity, easy of transport, cost and style were also analysed during the review process.