The Best Portable Coolers for Picnics, Beach Days, and Hikes

By Maria Lichty

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One of my essentials during the summer months is a reliable cooler — especially in muggy summertime heat! Whether you’re planning a beachside picnic, a camping trip under the stars, or a tailgate feast before the big game, having one of the best portable coolers can make all the difference. 

best portable coolers
Credit: Amazon

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From backpack coolers to coolers with wheels, I’ve found top-tier picks from brands like YETI and Coleman (though my personal favorite is this one from Arctic Zone!). Ahead, you can check out the best portable coolers to keep your ingredients fresh, your beverages icy, and your outdoor adventures deliciously memorable!  

My Top Picks: 

  1. My Favorite: Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Cooler – $42.99 at Amazon
  2. Best Budget Portable Cooler: Coleman Chiller 16-Quart Portable Cooler – $22.99 at Amazon
  3. Also Great: RTIC 20-Can Portable Soft Cooler – $99 at Walmart
  4. Best Splurge Portable Cooler: YETI Hopper Flip 12 Portable Soft Cooler – $250 at Amazon

Reviews of The Best Portable Coolers

1. My Favorite: Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Cooler

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Cooler
Credit: Amazon

Soft coolers are lightweight and easy to carry, which is only one of the many reasons why the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Cooler is the one I use for all sorts of activities! Available in various sizes and colors, the 16-can cooler is perfect for short day trips such as hiking or beach outings. 

One of its standout features is the removable interior liner, a user-friendly design that separates hard items from soft ones (a.k.a no more sandwiches smushed by cans!). This thoughtful feature makes packing and organizing a breeze. The cooler is also easy to clean thanks to a wipeable interior and a water- and stain-repellent exterior.

The Specs:

  • Capacity: 7.8 liters or 16 cans
  • Materials: Mesh side pockets, HardBody lining, triple layer ColdBlock base
  • Features: Leak-proof lining, adjustable shoulder straps

What I Like:

  • Easy to clean
  • Good insulation
  • Roomy storage
  • Comfortable to carry
  • Can keep ice cold for up to two days

What I Don’t Like:

  • The zipperless lid can pop open

What Others Are Saying:

The Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Cooler has more than 48,700 reviews and a 4.6-star rating on Amazon. It was also Good Housekeeping’s and Travel + Leisure’s picks for the best value cooler.

Buy the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Cooler: 

2. Best Budget Portable Cooler: Coleman Chiller 16-Quart Portable Cooler

Coleman Chiller 16-Quart Portable Cooler
Credit: Amazon

This 16-quart Coleman cooler offers a fantastic combination of durability, portability, and ice retention, making it a great companion for outdoor activities. Its compact size is especially handy for grocery stores and farmer’s market trips, while the heavy-duty handle makes it easy to carry, even when fully loaded. 

At a 16-quart capacity, this cooler has a good amount of room to offer. The plastic construction isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but it’s definitely easy to wipe down and clean in the event of some accidental spillage. Plus, because it’s priced at less than $25, you can’t snag a much better deal than this one!

The Specs:

  • Capacity: 16 quarts or 11 cans with 8 pounds of ice
  • Materials: Plastic
  • Features: TempLock insulation, large grip bail handle

What I Like:

  • Easy to clean
  • Convenient handle
  • Compact size
  • Affordable

What I Don’t Like:

  • Small size
  • Basic design

What Others Are Saying:

The Coleman Chiller Series Portable Cooler has over 3,700 Amazon reviews with a 4.7-star rating. 

Buy the Coleman Chiller 16-quart Portable Cooler:

3. Also Great: RITC 20-Can Portable Soft Cooler

RITC 20-Can Portable Soft Cooler
Credit: Amazon

This RTIC cooler offers up to 24 hours of chilly temperature retention and can hold up to 20 cans! One of the best things about this cooler is that it floats, making it an excellent option for tubing down a river or days at the sandbar! Because of this neat feature, it’s lightweight but has a tough exterior nylon shell that holds up to normal wear and tear. 

The soft cooler features ample ice storage to keep your beverages and snacks chilled all day long. Plus, it comes in various colors and sizes, so you can choose the one that best fits your style and needs. The leak-proof zipper and removable padded shoulder strap only add to the handy appeal of this portable cooler! 

The Specs:

  • Capacity: 20 cans
  • Materials: Nylon exterior shell, closed cell foam insulation
  • Features: Lightweight material that floats, removable padded shoulder strap, leak-proof zipper

What I Like:

  • Easy to clean
  • Various colors and sizes
  • Good insulation
  • It floats
  • Padded strap can be removed 

What I Don’t Like:

  • Zipper may be hard to open

What Others Are Saying:

The RTIC 20-Can Portable Soft Cooler has a 4.5-star rating from more than 10,500 Amazon shoppers. 

Buy the RTIC 20-Can Portable Soft Cooler: 

4. Best Splurge Portable Cooler: YETI Hopper Flip 12 Portable Soft Cooler

YETI Hopper Flip 12 Portable Soft Cooler
Credit: Amazon

You can’t go wrong with YETI for one of the best portable coolers. The brand is known for its stock of top-tier water bottles, coolers, and beverage holders, including this soft cooler. And while the cost is definitely on the higher side, it’s for a good reason: It has a unique ColdCell insulation design, a closed-cell foam that can keep ice and drinks cold for days! It can hold up to 24 cans or a little over 2 pounds of ice at a time, too. 

This cooler is rugged — built to withstand tough conditions thanks to features like a 100% leakproof HydroLok Zipper and high-density fabric that is puncture- and UV-resistant, making it ideal for outdoor adventures. Though it’s a bit of a splurge, this YETI cooler is super reliable and comes in various sizes and colors.

The Specs:

  • Capacity: 24 cans or 2.2 pounds of ice
  • Materials: Closed-cell rubber foam, DryHide shell
  • Features: Can keep things cool for days, puncture- and UV-resistant, leak-proof zipper

What I Like:

  • Fantastic temperature retention
  • Various colors and sizes
  • Durable design

What I Don’t Like:

  • More expensive than other portable coolers

What Others Are Saying:

This YETI cooler has a 4.7-star rating from more than 1,600 Amazon shoppers. 

Buy the Yeti Hopper Flip 12 Portable Cooler: 

Other Portable Coolers to Consider

Coleman Portable Rolling Cooler, 50-Quart

This Coleman cooler with wheels is a top choice for many. The retractable handle makes it easy to wheel the cooler from place to place, or you can push it down and use the built-in handles on the sides of the cooler. While it has a HUGE capacity (84 cans!), it’s not the most portable option for the same reason. I can’t imagine this being a good pick for camping trips, days on the trail, or even on the beach. The Coleman Portable Rolling Cooler, 50 Quart is available at Amazon for $51.99.

TOURIT Coler Backpack

The TOURIT backpack cooler is a smart choice for anyone who wants to travel with delicious snacks and drinks. This insulated backpack, available in a range of colors, is designed to hold up to 30 cans! Its comfortable and supportive straps are convenient, but I think carrying 30 cans via backpack sounds like a less-than-happy experience. Personally, I’d prefer one of the options on my list that boasts a handy padded shoulder strap. The Tourit Cooler Backpack is available at Amazon for $29.04.

Why You Can Trust Me

Hi! I’m Maria, the founder of Two Peas and Their Pod! My husband Josh and I absolutely love cooking, baking, and entertaining. Since starting this blog, we’ve had a blast sharing recipes, cooking knowledge, and, of course, our journey with our two little peas, Caleb and Maxwell! 

best portable coolers
Credit: Two Peas and Their Pod

When selecting the best portable coolers, I researched extensively — I read customer ratings and reviews, went through other roundups, and took a look at popular brands, I considered major factors like insulation, durability, portability, and ease of use. I remember one beach trip where our cooler kept everything chilled ALL day — it was a game-changer! Because of that, I made sure to select portable coolers that offer great value, are easy to transport, and keep food and drinks fresh for long periods. 

Everything to Know Before Buying a Portable Cooler

best portable coolers
Credit: Two Peas and Their Pod

What to Consider Before Buying a Portable Cooler

When it comes to the best portable cooler, here are the features to look for to keep your ingredients fresh and your adventures sizzling! 

Size: Consider how much space you’ve got and how much you need to stash your favorite goodies, both in capacity and dimensions.

Insulation: This feature is critical — it’s like the secret sauce that keeps things cold for hours! When considering insulation specs, you should think about what you’re planning to use your cooler for, whether it be marathon outings or long days at the beach.

Portability: Think of sturdy handles, wheels, or straps to make hauling a breeze, especially if you’re packing a big cooler. 

Hard or soft: It’s like choosing between a cast iron skillet and a non-stick pan — hard coolers are rugged and ace at keeping ice solid, while soft ones are lightweight and bendy for easy storage. 

Bonus features: Built-in gadgets, handy drainage systems, wheels, handles, and easy-clean designs — these are the little things that make your outdoor excursions a whole lot smoother. 

How Long Does Dry Ice Last in a Cooler?

Let’s talk dry ice in coolers — it’s like a science experiment with delicious benefits! The duration of dry ice in your cooler depends on a few key factors: how much dry ice you’ve got, how well your cooler is insulated, and what the weather’s like . Generally, you’re looking at a solid 18 to 24 hours of chill time in a top-notch insulated cooler. 

However, every cooler is different, so keep an eye on those variables I mentioned. And remember, handling dry ice is like handling magic — gloves are your best friend here to avoid any icy surprises. Don’t forget to give your dry ice some breathing room to prevent a CO2 buildup, keep tabs on your cooler’s temp, and top up when needed. Trust me, it’s a game-changer for keeping your goodies frosty during all your outdoor adventures!

How Do You Keep Ice Cream Frozen in a Cooler?

best portable coolers
Credit: Two Peas and Their Pod

Packing ice cream in a cooler (and keeping it adequately chilled) is possible, but it requires a bit of planning! First, pre-cool the cooler by storing it in a cold place (or filling it with ice packs for at least an hour) before adding the ice cream. Make sure to use plenty of ice packs or crushed ice to create a thick layer at the bottom of the cooler to provide an even distribution of cold. 

Place the ice cream snugly in the center of the cooler, surrounded by more ice packs or ice to form an icy barrier. You could also wrap the ice cream containers in a towel or newspaper to enhance insulation before placing them in the cooler. 

Be sure to keep the cooler closed as much as possible to keep warm air out. I like to keep my cooler in a shaded area to keep the heat at bay. With proper insulation and careful management, your ice cream should stay frozen for hours! 

How Do You Clean a Cooler? 

Regularly cleaning your portable cooler is absolutely crucial for maintaining its functionality and keeping your food and drinks fresh! Start by emptying the cooler and disposing of any remaining ice and food debris. Next, use a soft sponge or cloth to scrub the interior and exterior of the cooler with a mixture of warm water and mild dish soap, paying particular attention to any stubborn stains or odors. 

Rinse the cooler thoroughly with clean water and let it air dry completely with the lid open. (You can also use a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar for stubborn stains or odors!)

Don’t forget to clean the cooler’s lid, handles, and any removable parts. Finally, store the cooler in a cool, dry place to prevent mold and mildew growth between uses. 

Regular cleaning and proper maintenance will keep your portable cooler in top condition for all of your outdoor adventures! 

Should You Put a Thermometer in a Cooler? 

Placing a thermometer in your cooler is a savvy move for any culinary adventurer. Why? Consider it your trusty sidekick in the quest for freshness and safety. With a thermometer inside your cooler, you’re not just keeping tabs on the temperature; you’re safeguarding your snacks against spoilage, ensuring every bite is as deliciously safe as it is delightful. 

Whether you’re whipping up a feast for a picnic or storing ingredients for an outdoor cooking extravaganza, a thermometer provides the reassurance you need to keep your feast fresh.

The Best Recipes to Put in a Cooler

best portable coolers
Credit: Two Peas and Their Pod

Here are some of my favorite recipes to pack in the cooler for family fun-filled days!

Prices were accurate at time of publication.

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I'm Maria and my husband is Josh. We share a love of cooking, baking, and entertaining. We enjoy creating recipes that are simple, fresh, and family friendly. We love sitting around the table with good food, good conversation, and good friends and family! Our kitchen is always open!
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