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Best Coolers for the Money

Ice coolers are a critical part of any number of summer activity. This makes it important to be sure to find the best budget coolers to fit your needs. The best cooler for the money must have superior ice retentio. It must help keep you refreshed when you're exhausted after any outdoor activity. These coolers are available in different types, sizes, and prices. They range
from soft coolers to a backpack coolers. Not all expensive coolers are efficient in keeping your snacks ice cold. Conversely, there are many inexpensive coolers reasonably priced with great ice retention. But how do you choose the best cooler for your requirements? You can choose the best cooler for the money by considering few features. Before going shopping you should decide on what exactly you are looking in a cooler. Features that will help you find the best coolers are size, price and capacity.

Finding the Best Cooler

Deciding on a cooler size is of primary importance as it should fit in the space in your vehicle. Look for different types of coolers available that fit in the space available in your vehicle. If you are looking for heavy coolers for a trip then look for a cooler with wheels. Wheeled coolers will free from worries of lifting heavy-weight. Narrow coolers comfortably fit in the smaller spaces. Tall coolers help in keeping bottles upright and need the extra room. The kind of cooling you are looking for is another feature to consider. Coolers with thicker walls provide better insulation. They are also ideal for chilled beers and storing other stuff that needs ice cold temperatures.

Today market is flooded with the variety of coolers making the selection a daunting task. Finding the best cooler at a great price that perfectly suits your requirements can be tricky. Our step-by-step guidance helps you find right cooler for your next picnic. Below is the buying advice for you to buy the best cooler at great prices.

The best budget coolers keep perishable food and drinks cold below the certain temperature for more than a day. Ice coolers are ideal for long journeys especially at a beach or places with the warm climate. The best ice coolers are handy where you need storage capacity for items for a longer period of time. There are many features, apart from price, that you need to evaluate to find the best cooler. These features include type, size, insulation, capacity, durability, and portability.

Type of coolers

Before deciding on a cooler size you need to consider various types of coolers available in the market. Many coolers come with foam insulation sandwiched between plastic shells where the lids attaches with the screws on hinges. This design indicates coolers that are inexpensive but known for high performance. These can be the economical choice for most people. These models can maintain the cooling for 5 days due to the structural integrity. There are also expensive high-end models known for their insulating capacity and durability. These high-end models are available in competitive designs for you to choose depending on your taste and requirements. There are also specialty coolers exclusively designed for keeping specific foods and beverages chilled below the certain temperature. Lastly, there are ice coolers that can work on electric charging mechanism. These are chargeable with cigarette lighters or by plugging into wall sockets for charging.

Soft Sided Coolers

A Soft Sided cooler is build for its portability and less for it's ice retention.  These Soft coolers are best for a short trip or to throw on your back.  Be careful when picking a soft cooler as some of the lower quality coolers can leak easily.  Below is a chart for some of the best soft coolers.






AO Soft Cooler
lifetime 28 quart cooler

12-48 cans

1.5 lbs

Yeti Hopper
Lifetime 55 quart

20 Cans

5 lbs

Igloo Playmate Cooler
91oEGFWVOpL. AC SL1500

22 cans

1.1 lbs

RTIC Cooler bag
41sog4+zLCS. AC

20 - 40 cabs

3.65 lbs

AO Soft Cooler

The AO Soft Cooler is a popular and high-quality cooler. It is well-regarded for its durability and insulation capabilities. It is made from rugged, high-density nylon material that is both tear-resistant and easy to clean.

The cooler also features closed-cell foam insulation. IT boasts ice retention up to 24 hours in 120-degree heat. This makes it perfect for outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and fishing. It is available in a range of sizes. The smallest is12-can ranging up to 48-can capacity. The AO Soft cooler also boasts multiple exterior pockets for extra storage.

In addition to its practical features, the AO Soft Cooler is stylish. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns to suit different tastes. It is also relatively affordable, with prices ranging from around $50 to $100 depending on the size and features. The AO Soft Cooler is a reliable and high-quality option for anyone looking for a durable and insulated cooler for their outdoor activities.

AO Soft Cooler features

Yeti Hopper

Yeti Hopper backflip 24

The Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 is a popular and high-end backpack cooler. It is well-known for its durability, insulation capabilities, and ease of use. It is designed to be both comfortable and functional. This makes it an excellent choice for outdoor adventures such as hiking, camping, or tailgating.

The cooler is constructed with a DryHide shell. This is a high-density fabric that is resistant to punctures, abrasions, and UV rays. The liner of the cooler is made from a food-grade material. It is anti-microbial, which helps prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.

The Hopper Backflip 24 also features closed-cell foam insulation. This makes it capable of keeping ice frozen for days, making it perfect for long outdoor excursions. It has a 24-can capacity. It has enough room for ice and other accessories. There a range of exterior pockets for additional storage.

One of the unique features of the Hopper Backflip 24 is its backpack-style design. This allows you to easily carry the cooler on your back while keeping your hands free. It has ergonomic shoulder straps and a ventilated back panel. This helps to prevent sweat and discomfort during extended wear.

Overall, the Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 is an excellent choice. While it is a bit more expensive than some other options, its durable construction, insulation capabilities, and convenient design make it well worth the investment.

Igloo playmate Cooler

Igloo playmate Cooler

The Igloo Playmate Cooler is a classic and popular cooler. IT has been around for many years. It is well-regarded for its durability, affordability, and portability. This makes it an excellent choice for outdoor activities such as picnics, camping, or tailgating.

The Playmate Cooler features a classic tent-shaped design that is both simple and effective. The Igloo playmate cooler has a 14-can capacity. It is made from a sturdy and durable material that is resistant to scratches and impacts. The cooler also has an easy-to-use push-button lid that opens and closes with a single touch. This means it's easy to access your food and drinks.

One of the main advantages of the Playmate Cooler is portability. It has a top swing handle that makes it easy to carry, and its compact size makes it convenient to transport. It is available in a range of colors and designs.

The Playmate Cooler uses a foam insulated body and lid that provides decent ice retention for a few hours. However, it may not keep contents as cold as some of the more high-end coolers on the market.

The Igloo Playmate Cooler is a great choice for anyone who wants an affordable cooler for the outdoors. It may not have the insulation of more expensive models, it's a reliable option for short excursions.

Backpack Coolers

Backpack coolers are a type of soft cooler that is made for portability.  As the name implies they work like a backpack with straps to go over you shoulders.  These can range in price from $40 all the way up to $170.  The capacity and ice retention of these coolers cannot compare to hard sided coolers but can be a great option if you are only need the cooler to keep items cold for a few hours. 






Tourit Backpack
lifetime 28 quart cooler

30 cans

1.1 lbs

Everlasting Comfort


Lifetime 55 quart


2 lbs

81K16giCqcL. AC SL1500

18 cans

4 lbs

Hard Sided Coolers

A Hard Sided cooler is typically larger and have better ice retention.  Keeping Ice frozen is a critical job for any cooler and most hard sided coolers do this extremely well.

Cooler Size

When you decide on the type of cooler then the next thing consider is the cooler size. What you want to store should determine cooler size. However, the size affects portability and cooling performance to a great extent. The size range of 58-75 quarts is more popular. This size can meet the cool storage requirements of a family for multiple days. This range of coolers is easily movable from one place to another by two people when loaded in full.

Quarts is the unit of measure when referring to an ice cooler’s capacity. Smaller units generally come with 25 quart capacity. This is enough to carry drinks for few people or multiple items for a single person for an overnight picnic. Mid-Size Coolers typically have a capacity around 40 quart. This range helps store food for single person for multiple days or 2 days for couple. 70 quarts capacity unit is ideal for a family of four. This size is good enough for storing food and drinks for camping or family trips for multiple days. There are also extra-large coolers available on the market. These coolers are very large and used only for stationary purposes and are not very mobile.

External dimensions of a cooler are also a factor when it comes to size. The insulation and the kind of material used will increase the exterior cooler dimension. In other words, small coolers may take up more space than expected. It’s imperative to consider the cooler’s external size and space available in your vehicle to take an informed decision.

An ice cooler’s size effects the cooling to a great extent. Small coolers will not hold ice for a longer time when compared to larger ones. The coolers that are fully loaded will not lose any amount of cooling due to the absence of air spaces. Therefore, choose a size that will be fully loaded at the beginning of a trip.

Insulation Performance

The main purpose of a cooler is to keep things cool at or below a specific temperature. This makes the insulation performance a major feature to take under consideration. Although traditional models maintain cold temperatures for 5 days, there are superior models that can maintain the cold temperature for more than 5 days. Traditional models feature thin insulation material compressed between plastic sheets which can hold temperature up to 5 days. High-end models come with thick insulation. These superior models, however, are little pricey when compared to traditional models. A high-end model proves to be a worthwhile investment if your trips stretch beyond 5 days. High-end models are ideal for fishing and hunting trips when you want to store freshly caught fish. The traditional models hold ice below 40°F for 2 to 3 days. This makes them ideal for weekend trips. If you are planning a trip beyond 10 days then dry ice will stay cold for a longer time. However high-end models need no dry ice to maintain the cold temperature which saves you money. Frequent users of ice coolers benefit from high-end models and save money on ice in the long run.


Cooler durability depends on the amount of usage. For Frequent use, the best cooler would be a high-end model. These high end models are highly durable compared to traditional models. Traditional models can withstand occasional use that too in less demanding circumstances. These are less durable compared to high-end models. High-end models feature pin style hinges and advanced external latching mechanism. These features prevent loss of cooling. High end coolers also come with many other features. These include large handles, rubber seals, UV resistant body and screw drain plugs. It’s better to buy one high-end cooler than buying three to four low-end coolers. Regardless, always buy a cooler which comes with resistance certifications and complies with food storage regulations.


Portability is another important factor to consider when buying a cooler. A fully loaded unit will be the heaviest thing to move on the camping trips. Smaller coolers are easy to move from one place to another. If a small cooler is not an option then be sure to look for one with wheels.

When considering large models of 70 quarts or above, plan how you will be carrying it on your trip. Some of the best large coolers come with convenient features such as handles and wheels to increase the portability. The handles on either sides of the cooler make it easy for two people to carry. However, it’s not possible for a single person to carry a fully loaded cooler which is quite heavy.

Most traditional ice cooler models come with a set of handles easily used by a single person or two people. The best budget cooler with good to great storage capacity include wheels to increase the mobility. Cooler wheels result in increased mobility. Wheeled models include a handle on one end. The wheels will be on the opposite end. This allows for easy transport over flat areas. Heavy coolers with 70 quarts or more are not easily movable as they are quite heavy when fully loaded. Such heavy coolers should only be used on trips where not much of moving is required.

Additional Features

There are also small features of note that make the use of ice cooler a convenient one throughout your tour. Ease of use is another aspect that needs to consider when buying a cooler. The food and drinks stored should be accessed easily which depends on the opening and closing mechanism. The water from the melted ice should not be a problem with a good drain plug. With the best coolers draining should be an easy process, whereas with lessor coolers it can be messy. Models with higher draining holes require more manual effort than those models with lower draining holes. High-end models come with big sized holes at the bottom which drains the water in a flash.

Cleaning is another aspect that needs to consider when buying an ice cooler. Generally, white textured coolers are difficult to maintain and clean. Flush mounted drains are easy to clean and maintain as these kind do not trap dirt. Read the instructions carefully when using dry ice for coolers as it can sometimes damage the liner. The latches and lids of the best budget coolers are easy to operate. Ideally these latches can open by using a single hand.