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Best Cooler of 2024

Best Cooler of 2024

The biggest difference you'll hear a lot about when shopping for a cooler is ice retention — specifically, how long a cooler can keep a full load of ice frozen (melt ice, aka water, Not so good at keeping (drinks cold). The newer, more expensive options all hang their hat on this test, with roto-molded coolers specifically designed to ace it (and in doing so, to justify their prices).

That's all well and good, but I worry that a standard ice retention test won't tell us the whole story. Sure, some coolers will probably keep ice frozen much longer than others, but using the melting point ignores everything that comes before your metric. I wanted to get a good sense of performance, not just days later but hours, before the snow melts.

To do this, I started with a modified version of the ice retention test. Instead of a full load of ice in each cooler, I carried ice equal to 10% of the total volume of each cooler. (I have an accurate measurement of the total volume of each cooler from the capacity test described earlier.) Less snow means more of a challenge for the coolers, which will hopefully improve how well they perform against each other. We will have a more granular look at this.

Specifically, I wanted to track the ambient temperature in each cooler, so I spread ice in each one I tested under an elevated flask of propylene glycol solution (watered-down antifreeze). with an examination of . Why raised? The bottom temperature in the ice would have been approximately the same in all coolers, leaving retention as the only real variable. Tracking the ambient temperature on top of that was very telling, and gave us some additional variables to consider.

Oh, and I did all of this in one of our appliance lab's climate-controlled test chambers, and I made sure to leave each cooler in the room open for several hours beforehand so Make sure they all start at room temperature (about 80 degrees). Fahrenheit to simulate a nice outdoor summer temperature).

In the end, it proved to be a fruitful test. After 48 hours (72 hours for the largest cooler), I had a nifty graph showing the temperature inside each cooler on a minute-by-minute basis — and the variation from cooler to cooler was astounding. . To help put this data into perspective, I split the soft-sided coolers into separate size categories after peeling them into their own categories. That left me with small coolers (under 40 quarts), medium sized coolers (40-59 quarts) and large coolers (60 quarts or larger). You can find graphed data for each of these categories below, as well as our performance data on soft coolers (again, you shouldn't expect too much from coolers like these).

Steve Conaway/CNET
Steve Conaway/CNET
Steve Conaway/CNET
Steve Conaway/CNET

Mobility and stability

I also took into account the design and features of each cooler as I tested it and kept an eye out for durability concerns. I was not impressed with the lid. Igloo Latitude Cooler on Wheels, For example. It doesn't close and the plastic knob hinges are a complete joke. Give it a slight jolt and the whole lid comes right off — and the cheap plastic wheels didn't impress me either. Not great if you're looking for a camping cooler.

gave Rovr Roller Cooler with wheels It performed much better, thanks to a rugged design that includes heavy-duty wheels, a sturdy steel handlebar and an optional $50 accessory that lets you strap it to the back of your bike. I also liked that the interior comes with a divider that makes it easy to keep things you don't want separated from the snow and that you can customize it with different interior liner designs. My gripe is that the T-shaped handlebar includes comfortable rubber grips on the sides, but not in the middle, which is where you'd want to grip with one hand while dragging.

Next cooler opened.

I can try, I can't enough See all the great features of the Igloo Trailmate in one picture.

Steve Conaway/CNET

On the topic of coolers with wheels, the Igloo Journey Trailmate 70qt All-Terrain Cooler also came with a lot of extras and features. Overall, it wasn't as durable as the Rovr, but I think they are mostly designed for different purposes. If I'm trekking in the woods with a few friends on the weekend, I'll take the Rovr, no question. If I'm going to the beach with the family for a day, I'm probably going to choose the Igloo.

Oh, and if you'll be spending a lot of time camping somewhere where bears are a concern, you might want to invest in a bear-proof cooler. gave Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Keeps a The list of verified options is running., which includes several coolers from this rundown. Several models I've tested from Cabela's, Orca, Rovr, Magellan Outdoors and Yeti all make the cut.

It's also worth considering whether or not your cooler is sturdy enough to sit on, something that comes in handy when you're out camping. Most of the coolers I tested, however, took things even further. For example, Bison General 2 Cooler Advertise and even sell yourself as an ideal casting platform to stand on during your next fishing trip. Non-slip traction mat for lid in a variety of designs.

Between the hinges, lid, drain plug and lid strap, the Bison cooler felt like the most premium product to touch. It doesn't cost as much as an air cooler or as much as other roto-mold models and costs about $150 more than our most affordable roto-mold pick, the Xspec 60qt High Performance Cooler.

Latches and lids

Cooler latch Cooler latch

The Magellan Outdoor model has four hinge latches, two on either side, so you can open the cooler from either side, or remove the lid entirely.

Steve Conaway/CNET

Let's pause a little longer to jump into hinges and latches. Some are good, some are bad and some are simply non-existent. Coolers with removable lids tend to be cheap coolers that don't perform in the top percentile — with one exception that I've found so far. The Magellan Outdoors has a double-latching, double-hinged removable lid and just so happens to win our picks for best small and large coolers. The easy-to-use, double-latched design means you can open the cooler from either side and, if you want, you can detach the latches on either side to remove the lid entirely.

Now let's compare this to most newer cooler designs from models like Yeti, RTIC, Orca, Cabela's or Frosted Frog that have rubber T-shaped handles that you have to pull to secure the lid. It's hard to pull them down, even as a full grown adult. I asked three other adults to secure these handles and two of the four of us succeeded, one failed and the last succeeded only after much struggle. Performance is important, but so is design — and sometimes, it's a deal breaker.

I think a rubber bungee style latching mechanism is probably more efficient for manufacturers from a cost and maintenance perspective. Fewer moving parts and it's rubber, so… it just kind of flexes, but I've noticed that there's a latching mechanism that's probably a perfect middle ground between the rubber latches and the Magellan outdoor products. I've seen it on products like the Xspec 60qt Cooler, Amazon's Commercial 20qt Cooler and the Lifetime 55qt High Performance Cooler. These latches have rubber straps to secure the lid, but each strap has a plastic handle at the end that you can easily leverage against the mounting point to achieve a tight fit. It's much better than the rubber T-handles but make no mistake, the Magellan Outdoor still gets my vote for the best latching mechanism.

A blue bag cooler A blue bag cooler

Our first soft-sided and backpack cooler didn't perform well, but it's durable and a great option for hikers and campers.

Steve Conaway/CNET

The Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 was the first backpack-style cooler we tested, and while its overall performance wasn't stellar, there were things I liked. First, it's a bag. I love it. Whether you're lugging your trekking gear to the beach or heading out for a day of hiking, having a free hand is always a bonus. The bag also has plenty of straps and hatching points — I imagine the target demographic is geared more toward hiking than a day at the beach, but either way, you'll be able to store extra gear.

There is no latch as this is a soft sided cooler, just a zip. The zipper claims to be both water and leak proof. We tested this during our capacity tests, where the entire cooler is filled to the top with water, and then turned off. In its closed state, filled with water, I tossed it around without spilling a drop, so it's safe to assume leaks won't be an issue. Our recent Magellan Outdoor Soft Sided Cooler (title holder for Best Soft Sided Cooler) has the same zip setup.

Final thoughts

Surprisingly, or not, brands matter. Everyone expects the Yeti cooler to perform well. They also expect their prices to be higher than their competitors. I recommend keeping an eye on other brands we've come to respect that have a more palatable price point. Magellan Outdoors, Frosted Frog, RTIC and even Amazon Commercial Coolers are worth a look based on what I've seen of their product offerings.

The only other thing I'll say here is that I'm still amazed at how many high-end options stand out from the pack with clever bonus features like a built-in battery to charge yourself from the camp. Not seen trying to do that. Outside (or better yet, a solar panel).

If that's what you're hoping for, your best bet might be to turn to Kickstarter and Indiegogo, where expensive, gadgety mega coolers like The best cooler And Unlimited coolers Live in infamy. I say infamous because these two have a history of cash grabs. Production delays and definitely unhappy customers.

If you ever find yourself tempted to back such a campaign with your cold hard cash, I'd do more than recommend the healthiest possible dose of skepticism. I mean, come on – literally the last thing you want from your cooler is to get burned by it. Stick with an old-fashioned cooler like I suggest above.

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