Top coolers for the beach, camping, picnics and beyond

Portable coolers are a spring and summer essential.

May 29, 2024, 2:43 PM

Whether you're taking a trip to the beach or planning a picnic in your backyard, having a portable cooler is essential in spring and summer.

Consider coolers for grocery shopping to help transport cold and frozen food home safely. Use coolers to stock cold beverages for an outdoor party or barbeque or opt for an electric cooler on a long road trip to stay fed and hydrated. Or use a small, personal portable cooler or a cooler backpack for lunch on the go.

There are some important things to consider when using a cooler, mainly, keeping your food and drink safe to consume.

Best temperature for a portable cooler

Portable coolers, of course, help keep our food and beverages at a safe and enjoyable temperature: your cooler should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to keep food safe and unspoiled, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA advises a portable cooler for grocery trips that a more than a half hour away from home, and for road trips, boating, camping, beach visits and cookouts. Use an appliance thermometer to monitor the cooler's temperature.

Packing your cooler

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration first notes to use ice or frozen gel packs in your cooler to keep cold food cold. "Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer."

Organize your cooler contents, the FDA says, by packing perishable foods and beverages in separate containers. Don't cross-contaminate raw meat, poultry and seafood and keep them securely wrapped. Clean fresh produce prior to packing them in your cooler and dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth towel or paper towel.

The USDA has more tips, like keeping food in watertight containers and avoid opening your cooler often. Keep ice or frozen gel packs on hand as well as your thermometer. Depending on your trip, have more than one cooler can be helpful.

Cleaning your cooler

Don't forget to clean your cooler! "At the end of the picnic or as soon as you return home, clean your cooler with water and a mild detergent and rinse thoroughly. Then, make sure to wipe it completely dry before storing," the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says. Be sure to keep any drain plugs open during storage.

Shopping for your cooler

Brands like Yeti, Coleman and IGLOO have highly rated portable coolers. Consider the size or sizes you need to best suit your lifestyle. Shop for additional features like plug-in capabilities for a car, padded handles or shoulder straps for easy carrying, compartments for storage and more.

Continue below to shop.

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YETI Tundra 45 Hard Cooler

The YETI Tundra 45 Hard Cooler is one of the bestselling hard coolers on YETI's website. It is available in multiple colors and sizes, and has a 4.8-star rating with more than 5,500 reviews. YETI recommends the Tundra cooler for hunting, fishing, camping, rafting, barbecuing and more. It's "built to last and will keep your contents ice-cold even in sweltering conditions, or keep your campfire food warm despite the wind chill." It features rotomolded construction, heavy-duty latches, an interlocking two-pin design, handles made from military-grade polyester ropes and non-slip feet, among other characteristics. 

  • $300
  • YETI
15% off

Insulated 8L Soft-Sided Cooler

CALPAK's Insulated 8L Soft-Sided Cooler has expandable side buckles and a removable crossbody strap. Fill it with beverages and snacks and take it on the go. It also boasts a water-resistant lining that's easy to clean. 

  • $55.25
  • $65

Titan by Arctic Zone Deep Freeze Cooler

This zipperless hardbody cooler has a 4.6-star rating on Amazon and more than 48,000 reviews. Its zipperless feature is meant to quick access to food and drinks. It also includes a removable HardBody liner with SmartShelf to keep soft items separate. Its exterior is water-repellent and stain-repellent. 

  • $62.99
  • Amazon

Ninja FrostVault 50qt Hard Cooler with Dry Zone, Cloud White

Ninja's newly-launched FrostVault cooler has a 4.8-star rating. Ninja's website boasts that it's "the cooler with premium ice retention and fridge-temp dry storage.With FrostVault Technology, cold transfers into the Dry Zone to keep food cool, dry and separate at food-safe temperatures (under 40° F) for days."

It has a 50-quart capacity and is made with up to 3 inches of insulation for durability. It has molded handles for carrying and a lockable lid and drawer latch. 

  • $249.99
  • Ninja

IGLOO Cotton Candy Tagalong 11-Quart Cooler

Shop this IGLOO cooler on Nordstrom for a day at the beach. It holds up to 14 12-ounce cans and "MaxCold insulation provides up to two days of ice retention." Shop it in three bright colors, including turquoise and lemon. 

  • $59.99
  • Nordstrom
9% off

Coleman Portable Rolling Cooler

This 50-quart rolling cooler has 4.5 stars and more than 18,000 reviews on Amazon. It boasts technology that "uses an insulated lid and extra wall insulation for longer ice retention," and a leak-resistant drain to remove water. It can hold up to 84 cans, and its heavy-duty wheels and long handle make moving it that much easier. 

  • $54.46
  • $59.99
  • Amazon

Dometic CFX3 35 Powered Cooler

Having an electric cooler you can plug in makes grocery runs or road trips that much easier. This Dometic cooler has a 4.5-star rating on REI. It has strong, spring-loaded aluminum handles for carrying, a high-resolution color displace and soft-touch buttons for control and monitoring and 36-liter storage. You can set an ideal temperature with an app.

  • $880
  • Amazon
10% off

Maelstrom Soft Cooler Bag

Pack a couple of these Maelstrom soft, collapsible cooler bags for a trip to the beach or a camping trip. This highly rated, Amazon's Choice cooler comes in three size options (up to 75-can capacity). The brand boasts durability with double-stitched carry options, including shoulder straps and carry handles. It also features a top pull tab to access food or drink without opening the entire top cover.  

  • $38.68
  • $42.99
  • Amazon
13% off

RTIC Lightweight Backpack Cooler

A portable backpack cooler is a great option for camping and hiking. This lightweight option from RTIC is fully insulated and has extra pockets for storage. It has a 4.7-star rating and more than 1,300 reviews. 

  • $51.99
  • $59.99
  • Amazon
74% off

iFanze 48-Can Insulated Cooler Bag

This 4.8-star cooler is a bestseller on Walmart. Its claims to be water-resistant, leakproof and can hold up to 48 cans plus up to eight ice packs. Carry it by hand or over the shoulder and fold it up for easy storage. 

  • $25.99
  • $99.99
  • Walmart