A Truly Objective Cooler TEST!! | 16 Best Coolers For Camping, Hunting, Ice Retention & The Money

What are the best coolers on the market? What are the best coolers for camping? What about the best coolers for hunting? What are the best coolers for the money? There are SO MANY ice chests out there that sorting through them is nearly impossible, which is why we dove into this project and did this review. We wanted to help you find the absolutely best coolers for camping, hunting, the beach, and other outdoor activities.

Our goal was to determine which ones are the best coolers for the money, which is the best cooler for game meat (when you are fortunate enough to harvest a big game animal), and what size cooler works best for different activities. In particular, we were curious to find out what the best cooler would be for hunting – one that would fit an entire elk or an entire deer inside.

We’ll dive deep into how each of these coolers performed, their functions and usability, and what the overall best value is for the coolers we tested.

Make sure to check out our other gear reviews and the Backwoods Pursuit YouTube Channel to help you decide what gear will help you stay out in the field longer!

Keep in mind that we targeted and tested only the highest quality coolers in order to find the best coolers for each situation you might find yourself in, and as such, these are not your budget friendly models. These are all top of the line coolers that keep your food, beverages, or wild game meat cold for a long time. Our question was, which of these high end coolers out-performed the others and which ones are the best value.

Best Coolers For Camping: The Details

Table of Contents show

It’s time to dive into the details of the coolers we tested to help you determine what the best coolers are for your particular needs. First, we’ll go through the general details of each individual cooler we tested and then how each compared to others taking into consideration various performance measures, features, and specs.

Tips to Get the Most Out Of Your Cooler – Best Coolers For Camping

Best coolers for camping, best coolers for hunting

In order to get the absolute best performance out of of any cooler, no matter if they are the best coolers on the market or an economy cooler, there are a number of things you should do to maximize performance. Some of these things are obvious but take intentional planning to make sure you get the most performance out of your cooler.

COOL THE COOLER

This is a lesser practiced thing that really helps extend the performance of your cooler. If your cooler is stored in a hot garage or out in a shed and you immediately put ice and food in the cooler, which many of us do, you’ll greatly reduce the performance as the ice first has to cool the ice chest, then cool and keep your food/beverages cold.

Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Stick a frozen gallon or two of water in the cooler the night before, then put your ALREADY CHILLED FOOD AND BEVERAGES IN THE COOLER. The same principle applies with putting warm food in the cooler. You’ll reduce the cooler’s performance by putting food in there that isn’t already chilled. Bottom line: to get the most performance out of any cooler, chill the cooler overnight before you head out, then only put chilled food and beverages in the chilled ice chest.

OPEN AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE

It goes without saying that the less you open the cooler, the longer it will keep food cold. This is a hard one to live by as your favorite snack or beverage is residing there, so between you and your family members you may get into your cooler 20-30 times a day without even thinking about it.

DON’T DRAIN THE WATER

The melted water in the cooler helps keep the inside cold, so unless that water is damaging your food, don’t drain the water. If possible, keep items elevated off the bottom of the cooler that could be ruined by the melting ice so you can leave the cold water in there. Putting your drinks in the bottom is a great option.

USE ENOUGH ICE

Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

When packing your cooler, it’s easy to skimp on the ice. Heck, I’ve done this more times that I can count. It’s not as big of a deal on short trips, but if you are going out for an extended period of time, you’ll want to use a 2:1 ratio of ice to food. That’s right. Put TWICE AS MUCH ICE AS FOOD IN THE COOLER to maximize the cooler’s performance. This of course is the ideal situation, but you may not have the space to bring an extra cooler (or a larger one) on your trip to make this happen. If that’s the case, be prepared to visit the convenience store frequently to get more ice.

What Size Do I Need? Best Coolers For Camping And Hunting

WEEKEND CAMPING TRIPS

What are the best coolers for your outing in terms of size? That will depend on many different factors such as how many people you are packing for, etc., but generally a 65 quart cooler will be a great place to start for a weekend camping trip. If you are packing for more than 4 people you may want to jump up to an 80 or 100 quart ice chest.

WILD GAME STORAGE

Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Now when it comes to storing your big game harvest, that’s an entirely different story. If you are fortunate enough to harvest a deer, elk, moose, or pronghorn but want to stay in the field to keep hunting, you’ll need to bring a larger cooler. We tested some sizes during the last hunting season and found the following to be a starting point:

  • 65-75 quart – 1 deer plus a little ice
  • 110-125 quart – 1-2 deer with room for ice
  • 140-165 quart – 2 bone-in deer or 1 elk (de-boned) with room for ice

I did fit all 4 bone in quarters of bull elk in the Grizzly 165 qt cooler, but it was a jigsaw puzzle and there was very little room for ice. In my case, the meat had thoroughly cooled overnight already by hanging in a tree with temperatures just above freezing, and the cooler just needed to keep the meat cool for a short time, so I was OK with not being able to add a bunch of ice. However, that is not recommended for longer periods of time.

If you are venturing out into the woods for a long hunting trip, you’ll want to take the best cooler for game meat that is solely dedicated for your harvest (f possible). You’ll also want to fill that cooler ahead of time with blocks of ice or, better yet, frozen jugs of water. The ice jugs won’t leave a pool of water at the bottom of the cooler like an ice block will, which is a good thing when you are storing wild game. If possible, you don’t want your game meat to be sitting in water, even if that water is ice cold.

Interesting Things We Learned: Best Coolers For Camping

  • Some coolers varied much more than others with daily temperature swings.
  • It doesn’t necessarily matter how long the cooler will hold ice- the internal temperature matters most. Just because a cooler still has ice in it doesn’t mean it is safe to store meat in (The temp needs to be below 40°F)
  • Some coolers were able to hold sub 40°F temperatures until all the ice melted, but many did not.
  • Ultralight generally hurts thermal retention performance.

Watch Our Day By Day Video Review!

How they Performed: Best Coolers For Camping

In order to find the best coolers, we needed to see how each one stacked up against each other in a number of categories like thermal retention and size to weight ratio as well as their value on a per quart cost basis.

First, let’s look at the most important performance aspect; thermal retention (or in very simplistic terms, how long the cooler keeps things cold).

Thermal Retention How We Tested: Best Coolers For Camping

Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

The most important thing an ice chest does is keep things cold. If coolers don’t keep things cold enough, it simply can’t be one of the best coolers for longer camping trips (unless you have a way to refill it with ice on a regular basis). We wanted to determine which of these ice chests could be considered the best coolers on the market, so we tested the thermal retention for each of them to find out.

This was an extremely cumbersome task, and it cost a fortune in ice and water, but it was necessary for us to perform this test. When you are looking for the best coolers for camping, hunting, or the beach thermal retention is one of the most important things to consider, so we set out to find which cooler would be greatest in this area.

TESTING PARAMETERS

With each ice chest, we made sure the environment was identical so there were no variables that could alter the results of our testing. (No special treatment for any of them.) We monitored the internal temperature of each cooler and charted when the cooler’s internal temperature rose above the FDA’s recommended temperature of 40°F for storing meat.

Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

We should note that we used the exact same thermometers in every cooler, and they have an accuracy of +/- 1°F. Because of this, we wanted to account for that in the results as to not prematurely “tap out” a cooler if that cooler happened to be reading on the warm side due to the thermometer. So with that in mind, once the cooler hit 41°F for two consecutive readings, it was marked as past the recommended internal temperature for meat. Then we noted when each cooler reached the 50°F mark, which is about as high of a temperature as you’d want for a cold beverage.

Finally, we tracked and charted how long each cooler lasted before all ice melted, leaving just a puddle of water along with the water bottles we’d placed in there on day one.

Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

To make this test as accurate as possible, each cooler was set up identically. We wanted this test to be as “real life” as possible, so it included opening the cooler 4 times throughout the day like you would if you were camping. To make sure the temperature and sun exposure was equal for all the coolers, we put them all in my Kodiak Canvas 12×12 Cabin tent so no one cooler was exposed to direct sunlight. Then we tracked the temperature that we subjected the coolers to INSIDE the tent rather than just the outside temperature.

Here is how we set up each cooler:

  • 40% ice / 20% beverage (2:1 ratio) relative to our own measured internal volume of the cooler (not just the advertised size)
  • We used ice cubes (from Costco) for every cooler.
  • We opened each cooler 4 times throughout the day for roughly 10 seconds each time.
  • All the coolers were inside a canvas tent (tent was exposed to sun during a majority of the day).
  • The ice chests were left in the same spot for the whole test.

OUTSIDE & TENT TEMPERATURES DURING TESTING – Best Coolers For Camping & Hunting

Here is a chart of the temperature swings for the outside temperature as well as, more importantly, the temperature inside the tent during our testing. Of course, the performance of any cooler will vary depending on the temperatures the cooler is exposed to, but this at least leveled the playing field with all of them.


As you can see, we had a pretty wide range of temperatures throughout this test, and unfortunately had a pretty cool day the last day, but thankfully the results had been solidified by then (other than the 50 degree benchmark for a couple coolers).

RESULTS BY SIZE CATEGORY – Best Coolers For Camping & Hunting

After we put each of these coolers through our thermal retention testing, we compiled the results and separated them out in categories based on size to make the information more digestible.

Here are the results from our thermal retention testing:

First, let’s take a look at how long each cooler kept its air temperature below 40°F next to others in the same size class.

50-65 QUART CATEGORY – Best Coolers For Camping

75-80 QUART CATEGORY – Best Coolers

110-165 QUART CATEGORY – Best Coolers

# of DAYS BELOW 40° F (Safe for Meat) – Best Coolers For Camping & Hunting

The breakdown above is great if you know what size cooler you are looking for, but what if you aren’t yet set on a size and overall thermal retention performance is the most important factor to you?

Let’s take a look at how they all performed side by side, regardless of size.

# of DAYS BELOW 50° F (Ideal For Beverages) – Best Coolers For Camping & Hunting

If you want to relax your standards just a bit and primarily use a cooler for drinks then 50°F is considered to be an acceptable temperature.

Let’s take a look at how they all stack up in this test.

LOWEST AVERAGE INTERNAL TEMPERATURE – Best Coolers For Camping & Hunting

Next, we used the information above to pull out which cooler held the lowest average temperature up until it hit the 40 degree mark on two consecutive readings. While this metric is less important, it’s interesting none-the-less to see how this statistic correlated with how long a cooler kept its internal temperature below the critical 40 degree mark. As you can imagine, the lower the average, the longer the cooler lasted generally speaking.

INTERNAL TEMPERATURE STABILITY – Best Coolers For Camping & Hunting

Another factor in determining which of these were the best coolers is temperature stability. Throughout the test we charted the daily internal temperature stability of each cooler based on our 4 readings throughout each day. The 8 AM and 10 PM readings typically provided the lowest internal temperature readings, while the noon and 5 PM readings proved to give us the highest internal temperature readings as anticipated. These two readings are where coolers typically hit their failing point when their time came.

It was pretty interesting how some ice chests had minimal temperature swings, while others saw much greater internal temperature swings. A smaller temperature swing was evidence of a more stable temperature environment and a higher performance even during the hottest parts of the day.

A smaller number here is better, meaning that throughout the course of the day, the internal temperature of the cooler didn’t change as much. The coolers with larger daily internal temperature changes seemed to be the most affected by the outside temperatures.

THE LAST COOLER STANDING – Best Coolers For Camping & Hunting

Finally, to find which of these was the best coolers for holding ice, we let the coolers sit until ALL the ice melted and only water was left in the cooler. This can be an important consideration as the temperature of the melted water is going to be cooler than the air temperature of the cooler, so you can squeeze a little more use out of the cooler if you choose to let your cooler’s contents be submerged in the ice water.

Here are those results:


TOP TO BOTTOM ICE RETENTION RANKINGS – Best Coolers For Camping & Hunting

Here is a simple spreadsheet to show how each of the coolers ranked from top to bottom based on how they held an internal air temperature BELOW 40 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT.

Thermal Retention RankingCooler
#1Bison 125qt
#2Grizzley 165qt
#3Orca 140qt
#4Blue 110qt (W)
#5Pelican 80qt (W)
#6Yeti 75qt
#7Blue 60qt
#8RTIC 65qt
#9Pelican 65qt (W)
#10Orca 80qt
#11Bison 75qt
#12Grizzly 75qt
#13Orion 65qt
#14RTIC UL 52qt
#15Pelican 50qt
#16Rugged Road 65qt

Size to Weight Ratio: Best Coolers For Camping

In the chart below, we noted the size of the cooler (orange bar) in relation to the weight of the cooler (green bar) so you can see which ones provide the best size to weight ratio. For many folks, this won’t matter, but this is helpful if weight is something you are wanting to keep to a minimum while not sacrificing the internal volume of the cooler.


The higher the number, the better in this category. The Rugged Road Outdoors 65 Quart blew the field away as it was the lightest cooler by leaps and bounds. If weight is a primary concern for you, the Rugged Road Outdoors coolers are definitely ones to look at.

Cooler Sizes: Advertised vs Measured

Here is where things got really interesting. We measured out the volume of each cooler to see how the actual measured volume compared to the advertised volume. To get this as accurate as we possibly could, we filled each cooler with water until the lid was displacing water. We then drained all the water and measured how much water drained from the cooler. As you can image, this took FOREVER given the size of these coolers, but we wanted this to be as accurate as humanly possible, give or take a few ounces here and there from drops spilling.


Here you can see that surprisingly, the actual internal volume of quite a few coolers was larger than their advertised size. On the other hand, some were significantly smaller than their advertised size. The biggest offender here was the Rugged Road 65 Quart as its internal volume was substantially smaller (roughly 44.1 quarts) than the advertised size of 65 quarts.

Weights: Best Coolers For Camping & Hunting

If you are only looking at the weight of the cooler you are selecting, below is a chart showing the actual weight of each ice chest after we weighed them all on our scale.


As a side note, all of the wheeled coolers (Blue 110, Pelican 65, Pelican 80) are heavier since they have built in wheels, so take the extra weight of those three with a grain of salt as that is offset with the highly convenient wheels which make a MASSIVE difference in getting your cooler down to the beach, campground, or boat.

Value – Cost Per Quart: Best Coolers for Camping

It was especially interesting to calculate and chart which coolers offer the best value on a cost-per-quart basis. We manually measured each of the coolers for their interior volume to get an actual volume (give or take a bit for human error as mentioned above). We took these numbers and calculated the actual cost per quart for each cooler based on our own measurement vs. the advertised size.

Here are those results:


Durability: Best Coolers For Camping & Hunting

While durability is most certainly a big factor that helps determine which of these are the best coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and especially which is the best cooler for the money, we aren’t going to pretend that we were able to fully test their durability for this review. We took them out with us on hunting trips, camping trips, etc., but by no means did we push the limits on their durability.

These are all rotomolded coolers and should all offer great durability for a long long time, but it would take many years of use to fully determine that, so we aren’t going to pretend that we tested for that.

We did note a couple of things that seemed to indicate less durability in a few coolers during this review process:

  • The RTIC Ultralight 52 Quart Cooler was notably lighter than most of the others, but that also was noticeable in the outer shell. The shell material seemed like it would crack much easier than your typical rotomolded cooler, so with that in mind you will want to take more care not to drop or rough up this cooler.
  • The Rugged Road Outdoors Cooler was far and away the lightest weight cooler we tested, and it wasn’t even close. While ultralight is super nice when you are carrying the cooler to your campsite, beach, or boat, this cooler had a much more fragile feel to it than all the others. The Rigorite blast resistant exterior coating and ultralight Titan shell seemed to do well in light use, but it also seemed as though a sharp object or fall from a height would produce a cut, puncture, or smashed corner much more easily than a typical rotomolded cooler. That being said, we didn’t actually test this out, so that’s just speculation. These coolers are built to be ultralight, and there are sacrifices that must be made to shave weight.

The rest of these coolers seemed quite similar is their outer shell material/construction and durability, so we won’t speculate as to which ones would be the most durable coolers of the bunch. They are all premium coolers built with high quality materials.

Hardware – Latch Styles: Best Coolers For Camping

There aren’t a lot of “features” on coolers, but the style of latch used can be one distinguishing factor that can make a big difference in regards to ease of use. While the type of latch a particular cooler uses isn’t a deal breaker, it might make you go one way or another if you are on the fence between a couple different brands.

Four of the coolers we tested for this review in order to find the best coolers for camping, hunting, game meat, and value use your typical rubber latch style that stretches over a notch.

The brands that use this style are:

Each of these operated somewhat similarly, but we also noted that of these, the Grizzly Cooler’s latches were the easiest to operate as they were pre-formed to stay out of the way when closing the lid. Not once did the rubber latch get in the way when closing the lid.

There are also quite a few coolers that feature very unique latches which is worth pointing out.

BISON COOLERS

Bison Coolers latches

The all-rubber latch on the Bison Coolers is one of our favorites, as it allows you to use your foot to open the cooler if needed. This latch system is also one of the easiest to operate of all the coolers we tested. We did, however, notice that this latch system tended to get in the way of the lid closing more than with any of the others we tried out. Often it found itself getting caught in the lid rather than allowing the lid to close freely.

PELICAN COOLERS

Pelican Coolers latches

We absolutely love the push-button latch system on the Pelican Coolers. It is the most unique of all the coolers we tested and took the most intentional effort to open. These latch systems are absolutely rock solid and secure. Some folks may not love that they take a bit more dexterity to open, but that also makes them one of the most secure latch systems we tested. This system also ensures that the latch is never in the way when closing the cooler.

BLUE COOLERS

Blue Coolers latches

Blue Coolers are built with a pretty sweet latch system that is much like the Orion latch, but rather than a steel portion on the lower section you grab, the latch appears to be a polymer. They are super easy, functional, and simple to operate. One really nice thing about this latch system is that it does not get stuck in the lid like some of the others.

RUGGED ROAD COOLERS

Rugged Road Coolers latch

Rugged Road Outdoors Coolers feature a handy “Kick Flip Lid” that is reversible and fully removable. These coolers can be opened with your foot, and the lid can be reversed to act as a cup holder in a matter of seconds. Pretty handy. Rugged Road is also the only single latch system of this group, while all others have either two or three latches.

ORION COOLERS

Orion Coolers latches

Orion Coolers feature a very similar latch design to the Blue Coolers except for Orion uses an ultra durable, super tough, steel latch rather than polymer. It is very user friendly and simple to use. We did note that it tends to squeak a bit when opening and closing. Not a bit deal, but it was the loudest of the latch systems we tested for this review.

Drain Plugs: Best Coolers For Camping

It’s worth noting that some of the coolers have one drain plug while others have two. Blue Coolers even give you a pressure release valve for those times when you have a big change in elevation and the lid is hard to open. The pressure release valve is very helpful, and its location is 3/4 of the way up the side of the cooler to ensure it does not get plugged with water.

Some of the coolers have tethered drain plugs, which is nice in making sure you don’t lose the drain plug.

Here is a chart showing how many drain plugs each cooler has, if it’s tethered, and if it has a pressure release valve.

Cooler BrandDrain Plugs
Bison Coolers2, not tethered
Blue Coolers1 + Pressure Release Valve, not tethered
Grizzley Coolers2, not tethered
Orca Coolers (140qt)2, not tethered
Orca Coolers (80qt)1, not tethered
Orion Coolers1, not tethered
Pelican Coolers1, tethered
RTIC UL522, tethered
RTIC 65 Coolers2, not tethered
Rugged Road Coolers1, tethered
Yeti Coolers1, not tethered


Included Accessories: Best Coolers For Camping

Most coolers don’t come with any accessories, but a couple do which is very nice! The Rugged Road Outdoors Cooler as well as the RTIC UL 52 Cooler come with a divider and basket. (The divider in the RTIC is even a cold pack that can be frozen.) That’s a nice perk. All the other coolers have accessories available, but they must be purchased separately.

Warranty: Best Coolers For Camping

One thing that’s important to consider when selecting which is the best coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, or any other outdoor activity is the warranty that backs the cooler.

Not all warranties are the same, so here is a rundown of each brand’s warranty:

Cooler BrandWarranty
Bison Coolers5 Year
Blue Coolers7 Year
Grizzley CoolersLifetime
Orca CoolersLifetime
Orion Coolers10 Year
Pelican CoolersLifetime
RTIC Coolers1 Year
Rugged Road CoolersLifetime
Yeti Coolers5 Year

As you can see, only Pelican, Grizzly, and Rugged Road offer a lifetime warranty, which makes them attractive. Orion offers a 10 year warranty and Blue Coolers offers a 7 year warranty which is also good.

Where Are They Made?: Best Coolers For Camping

Here is a rundown of where each of the coolers we tested are made. More and more people these days are taking this into consideration.

Cooler BrandOrigin
Bison CoolersMade in USA
Blue CoolersMade in China
Grizzley CoolersMade in USA
Orca CoolersMade in USA
Orion CoolersMade in USA
Pelican CoolersMade in USA
RTIC CoolersMade in China
Rugged Road CoolersMade in China
Yeti CoolersUSA, China, Phillipines

I was pleasantly surprised that 5 of the 9 brands we tested are MADE IN THE USA, but as we all know that typically means a steeper price tag (but not always).

The Coolers We Tested: Best Coolers For Camping

Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Next, let’s go through each model that we tested in our search for the best coolers you can buy and point out some of their features along with the pros and cons we identified after using and testing them. As with any gear or piece of equipment, there was a mix of things we liked and didn’t like about each of them, and there is always some give and take.

SCORING: OVERALL VALUE WAS CALCULATED BASED ON 50 POSSIBLE POINTS WITH A WEIGHTED AVERAGE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Thermal Retention – 60%: Calculated by dividing the number of days the cooler’s air temperature stayed under 40°F by 8.5 days (the longest any cooler stayed under 40°F). This ranking carried the most weight, because obviously you buy a cooler to keep your food and beverages cold.
  • Durability – 10%: Based on our use and observations, but this is obviously subjective.
  • Cost per quart ranking -10%: Calculated based on how the cooler compared to the others in this review in dollars per quart (our actual measured volume, not the advertised volume).
  • Latches – 10%: This is subjective but based on our use and getting into the coolers A LOT during this testing. Ease of use, durability, and how well the latch secured the lid were all considered.
  • Warranty -10%: A lifetime warranty received the maximum of 10 points, a 10 year warranty received 8 points, a 7 year warranty received 6 points, a 5 year warranty received 5 points, and a 1 year warranty received 1 point.

PELICAN ELITE 50 QUART COOLER REVIEW – Best Coolers

Best coolers for camping, best coolers for hunting

The Pelican Elite 50 Quart Cooler is the ideal size for quick trips to the beach or lake or when you aren’t needing to take a bunch of cold food items with you on a short trip. The Pelican Elite 50 Quart Cooler is unique in a number of ways:

  • Push-button latches
  • Large handles/no rope handles
  • Cup holders on top
  • Ruler/tape measure on top

PROS

  • MADE IN THE USA!
  • Certified bear proof
  • Extremely durable and well-built
  • Large, easy carry handles
  • Convenient, easy to operate latch system

CONS

  • Bulky
  • 1 drain plug
  • Expensive on a cost-per-quart basis
  • Poor thermal retention
Buy the Pelican Elite 50 Quart

RTIC ULTRALIGHT 52 QUART COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

RTIC UL 52 Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

The RTIC 52 Quart Ultralight Cooler is ideal for those day trips to the beach, a quick fishing trip, or any place you need to keep food/drinks nice and cold but don’t want the bulk or weight that a typical rotomolded cooler gives you. This is an excellent, quality cooler that’s offered at a great price point, however, you do sacrifice some thermal retention abilities in exchange for the ultralight aspect.

A few unique features include:

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Easy carry rope handles
  • Tethered drain plugs
  • Included divider (doubles as an ice block) and basket

PROS

  • Not bulky or heavy
  • Good cost per quart value
  • Large, easy carry handles
  • Convenient, easy to operate latch system
  • Larger volume than advertised
  • 2 tethered drain plugs
  • Basket and ice block/divider included

CONS

  • Less durable exterior
  • Poor thermal retention
  • Latch system seems less secure than others
  • Not certified bear proof
Buy the RTIC UL 52 Quart

BLUE COOLERS 60 QUART COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Next up in our search for the best coolers for camping, hunting, and the money is the Blue Coolers 60 Quart Cooler. This was one we honestly had no idea what to expect from. The price point is appealing, but the real question was how it would perform and if it would compete with some of the much more expensive brands. We really like the latch system that Blue Coolers offer as it is one of the more user friendly ones, and the latches don’t get in the way of the lid closing.

  • Lightweight
  • Easy carry rope handles

PROS

  • Excellent thermal retention
  • Good cost per quart value
  • Large, easy carry handles
  • Excellent, easy to operate latch system
  • Compact size

CONS

  • Heavy for its size
  • Not certified bear resistant
  • Drain plug not tethered
  • Not made in the USA
Buy the Blue 60 Quart

PELICAN 65 QUART WHEELED COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

Pelican 65qt wheeled Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Another ice chest we tested to find some of the best coolers on the market is the Pelican Elite 65 Quart Wheeled Cooler. Pelican has long been one of the best coolers you can buy, but that didn’t stop us from putting this thing through the paces. Like all Pelican coolers, it is MADE IN THE USA, features their signature latch system, is certified bear proof, and is built like a tank.

Pelican coolers certainly don’t have the slimmest design. In fact, this was the bulkiest cooler we tested. With that being said, one of the things that causes them to be more bulky are the handles which are quite convenient when it comes time to carry the cooler. It’s kind of a love hate thing.

Some of the unique Pelican 65 Quart Wheeled Cooler features are:

  • Push button latches
  • Large handles/no rope handles
  • Large pull handle
  • Ruler/tape measure on top

PROS

  • Certified bear proof
  • Excellent thermal retention
  • Tethered drain plug
  • Large handles make for easy carrying
  • Excellent, easy to operate latch system
  • Lifetime warranty

CONS

  • Slightly smaller than advertised
  • Expensive on a cost per quart basis
  • Bulky handles/overall design
Buy the Pelican 65 Quart

RUGGED ROAD 65 QUART COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

Rugged Road 65qt Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Next up in our search for the best coolers out there is the Rugged Road 65 Quart Cooler. Rugged Road coolers are built with the primary focus of being ultralight, and that they are. In fact, they are the lightest of all the coolers by a whopping 10 lbs (vs. the RTIC Ultralight 52) we reviewed. This is an incredible feat, and something that makes you hate lugging around a heavy rotomolded cooler. Another very nice feature is that the Rugged Road Coolers float upright, which can be super useful for rafting, boating, or a leisurely float on the lake.

The ultralight Titan shell feels a lot like your spray on truck bed, which is a very interesting and unique feature on a cooler. The ultralight aspect of these coolers does come at a cost, however, and that is seen in their thermal retention performance. As with pretty much all ultralight gear we’ve tested, being ultralight always comes with a price.

UNIQUE FEATURES

  • Kick-flip lid for ease of use
  • Handles and rope handles
  • Reversible lid (cup holders on one side)
  • Ruler/tape measure on top

PROS

  • Ridiculously ultralight
  • Reversible/removable lid
  • Floats upright
  • Tethered drain plug
  • Excellent, easy to operate latch system
  • Lifetime warranty

CONS

  • Much smaller internal volume than advertised
  • Poor thermal retention
  • Most expensive on a cost per quart basis
  • Not certified bear proof
  • Drain plug and handles don’t feel as durable as others
Get 10% Off Rugged Road Coolers

ORION 65 QUART COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

Orion Core 65qt cooler. Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Another one of the best coolers available for purchase is the Orion Core 65 Quart Cooler. Orion coolers are clearly built to last, and the latch system they use is rugged and easy to use. Orion Coolers are MADE IN THE USA and are certified grizzly bear proof. It doesn’t take long to see that these coolers are well built.

Orion Coolers have thick sided walls and lids, extremely solid construction, and are offered in a bunch of unique colors to differentiate your cooler from most others on the market. The Orion 65 Quart Cooler we tested was right in line with the weight of others in its class, and offers a good value on a cost per quart basis as well.

We were a bit surprised at how well the Orion 65 performed in keeping ice in the cooler for an impressive 7.75 days, however, it breached the 40 degree mark after just 5.25 days.

UNIQUE FEATURES

  • Ultra thick insulation
  • Extremely durable construction
  • Steel reinforced corners
  • Unique colors

PROS

  • Well built
  • MADE IN THE USA!
  • Certified bear proof
  • Excellent hardware
  • Easy to operate latch system
  • Larger volume than advertised
  • 10 year warranty
  • Good value

CONS

  • Average thermal retention
  • 1 drain plug (not tethered)
Buy the Orion Core 65 Quart

RTIC 65 QUART COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

RTIC 65qt Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Next up in our search for the best cooler is the RTIC 65 Quart Cooler. RTIC coolers fill a need if you are looking for a great value in a cooler and want fantastic performance, but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg. Tying with the RTIC 52 Quart and the Blue 60 Quart for the best overall value on a cost per quart basis, the RTIC 65 Quart Cooler offers a ton of performance without the premium price tag.

That being said, we found the latches aren’t as secure as others as they could be opened much too easily for our liking. We were also bummed by the 1 year warranty, the fact that it is not certified bear proof, and isn’t made in the USA.

UNIQUE FEATURES

  • Very slim design
  • Durable construction
  • Low cost, high performance option

PROS

  • Great thermal retention performance
  • Well-built
  • Extremely good cost per quart value
  • Easy to operate latch system
  • Slim design

CONS

  • Latches not snug
  • Not certified bear proof
  • Not made in the USA
  • 1 drain plug (not tethered)
  • Only a 1 year warranty
Buy the RTIC 65 Quart

GRIZZLY 75 QUART COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

Grizzly 75qt Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

The Grizzly 75 Quart Cooler is next in our search for the best coolers, and Grizzly coolers have some unique features that set them apart. First, their “Claw” latch system is one of our favorites as not once did the latch get in the way of the lid when closing the cooler. We certainly can’t say this about most of the coolers we tested. Grizzly Coolers are certified bear proof, MADE IN THE USA, and give you a nice slim design which is really attractive to save space in the bed of your truck or trunk of your car.

The only real downside we found to the Grizzly 75 was that it didn’t quite do as well as expected in our thermal retention testing.

UNIQUE FEATURES

  • Very slim design
  • Durable construction
  • Claw latch system
  • 2 huge drain plugs

PROS

  • Well-built
  • Certified bear proof
  • Super easy-to-operate latch system
  • Slim design
  • MADE IN THE USA!
  • Lifetime warranty

CONS

  • Average thermal retention
Buy the Grizzly 75 Quart

BISON 75 QUART COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

Bison 75qt Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

The Bison 75 Quart Coolers firmly entrenched themselves as one of the best coolers for camping, hunting and fishing after their performance in our testing. In order to be considered one of the best coolers, a lot of things have to fall into place, and Bison Coolers pulled it off.

Bison Coolers is a brand we frankly were not all that familiar with prior to diving into this review, but we’re sure glad we discovered them. Not only were they among the top performers in the most important testing for thermal retention, they are also MADE IN THE USA, offer a unique and fantastic latch system, are generally larger than advertised, and built to last. Their slim design doesn’t take up extra space in the truck, but also doesn’t compromise on durability or thermal retention.

The only real downside we found to the Bison 75 is that it doesn’t carry a lifetime warranty like several of the other options made in the USA. The Bison 75 did above average in our thermal retention testing keeping its internal air temperature below 40°F for 5.5 days, which earned it 3rd place in its size class. The only thing we didn’t love about the Bison 75 Quart Cooler was that on occasion, the latches would fall between the lid and the cooler when closing, which was a bit annoying at times.

UNIQUE FEATURES

  • Slim design
  • Durable construction
  • Latch system
  • 2 drain plugs

PROS

  • Good thermal retention performance
  • Well-built
  • Awesome latch system
  • Slim design
  • MADE IN THE USA!

CONS

  • Latches interfered with closing the lid
  • Not certified bear resistant (currently in testing, however)
  • Only 5 year warranty
Buy the Bison 75 Quart

YETI 75 QUART COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

Yeti Tundra 75qt cooler. Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Yeti Coolers have long been known to be one of the best coolers you can buy. While they have certainly earned that reputation, we were super interested to see how they stacked up against other ice chests, particularly given that the competition is much more stiff these days. While Yeti coolers are some of the most expensive you can buy, they are relatively lightweight for their size and very slim in their design. They take up no extra space in your vehicle, and as you know, excel at keeping your food and beverages cold for a long, long time.

Unfortunately, Yeti Tundra 75 Coolers have just one drain plug that is not tethered, and while some manufacturing is done here in the USA, they are not entirely made in America like many of their competitors.

Regardless of where they are made, Yeti coolers are some of the best coolers you can buy for camping, hunting, and fishing as they tied for the top spot in our thermal retention testing, keeping its internal air temperature below 40°F for a full 7 days. Additionally, Yeti Coolers are certified bear proof, which is a huge plus if you are camping in an area with bear problems or where recent regulation changes require bear proof containers for all your food and beverages.

UNIQUE FEATURES

  • Slim design
  • Durable construction
  • Certified bear proof

PROS

  • Best in class thermal retention performance
  • Extremely well-built
  • Certified bear proof
  • Awesome latch system
  • Slim design

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Slightly smaller volume than advertised
  • Only 5 year warranty
  • Not made in the USA
Buy the Yeti Tundra 75 Quart

ORCA 80 QUART COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

Orca 80qt cooler. Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

The ORCA 80 Quart Cooler is a super well-built cooler and certainly claims it’s place among some of the best coolers on the market. It provided us with some really interesting results during our evaluation. During our thermal retention testing the ORCA 80 Quart registered some of the lowest temperatures of all the coolers, all the way into day six. However, on day six, the ORCA 80 Quart Cooler saw all of its ice melt, and the internal air temperature rose above 40 degrees. While this was surprising, it was interesting that the internal temperature didn’t go above 40 degrees until all the ice was melted. That’s exactly what you want if you have meat stored in your cooler.

It’s awesome that ORCA Coolers are made here in the USA, and they are clearly built extremely well. Also unique is that each Orca Cooler comes with a mesh storage bag that is attached to the back of the cooler. This is great for plates, bowls, plastic-ware, etc. when you are making a quick trip.

While ORCA Coolers are not certified bear resistant, based on their extremely rugged construction, they would likely fare just as well as most that are certified. I have little question about that based on their build quality. It would be nice to see this certification, however, to allow campers who are required to store their food and drinks in a certified bear resistant container, to use this one in compliance with the law.

UNIQUE FEATURES

  • Slim design
  • Extremely durable construction
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Large mesh storage on back

PROS

  • Kept internal temp below 40°F until all ice melted
  • Extremely well built
  • Large mesh storage attached
  • Lifetime warranty
  • MADE IN THE USA!

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Latches occasionally got in the way when closing
  • Not yet certified bear proof
Buy the Orca 80 Quart

PELICAN 80 QUART WHEELED COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

Pelican 80qt wheeled Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

After our testing, the Pelican 80 Quart Wheeled Cooler staked its claim as one of the best coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, etc. based on its incredible thermal retention performance, keeping its air temperature below 40°F for seven full days, as well as keeping the lowest internal air temperature of all the coolers we tested (by a lot). The Pelican Elite 80 Quart Wheeled Cooler also routinely registered the lowest temperature of all the coolers we tested throughout that seven day period.

The Pelican Elite 80 Quart Elite Cooler isn’t without its flaws though, as it is far and away more bulky than anything else in its class. The large, bulky handles make it super nice and easy to pick up, but also stick out far and take up extra space in your truck, trailer, or camper. When space is at a premium, which is often the case when heading out on a camping trip, this can be an annoyance you have to work around.

Pelican coolers are certified bear resistant, so you can take them to any campground that requires a certified bear resistant container, and they are MADE IN THE USA! You even have a tethered drain plug and get a lifetime warranty, making the choice to pick up a Pelican Elite Cooler an easy one.

UNIQUE FEATURES

  • Push button latch system
  • Extremely durable construction
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Large carry handles
  • Certified bear proof

PROS

  • Best in-class ice retention
  • Kept internal temp below 40° F until all ice melted
  • Extremely well-built
  • Large easy carry handles
  • Tethered drain plugs
  • Amazing latch system
  • Certified bear proof
  • Lifetime warranty
  • MADE IN THE USA!

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Bulky design
Buy the Pelican 80 Quart

BLUE 110 QUART WHEELED COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

Blue 110qt wheeled Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Next in our quest to find the best coolers on the market is the Blue 110 Quart Wheeled Cooler. If I’m honest, I didn’t expect a lot from this cooler, let alone that it would stand among some of the best coolers out there, but that’s exactly what it did. Keeping its internal air temperature below 40° F for a whopping eight full days, it came in 4th overall, which is extremely impressive given the value you get here. The Blue 110qt Wheeled Cooler is right there with the best on a cost per quart basis, further making its case that it’s one of the best coolers you can buy.

The hardware on the Blue 110 Quart Wheeled Cooler is much more robust than I expected, and the pull handle is steel instead of plastic and feels like it’s built to last. The front corners of the cooler are reinforced, and as with the Blue 60qt cooler mentioned earlier, you get a very handy pressure release valve which really makes a difference if you change elevation and your cooler doesn’t want to open when you get to your camping spot.

I wish that Blue Coolers were certified bear resistant, but they are not. Blue Coolers says they are bear resistant, but just don’t have the certification, so unfortunately you can’t legally take them to any campground that requires a certified bear resistant container.

UNIQUE FEATURES

  • Lightweight
  • Robust pull handle
  • Easy carry rope handles
  • Pressure release valve

PROS

  • Excellent thermal retention performance
  • Good cost per quart value
  • Lightweight for its size and having wheels
  • Excellent, easy to operate latch system
  • Compact for its size

CONS

  • Not certified bear resistant
  • Not made in the USA
  • Drain plug not tethered
Buy the Blue 110 Quart

BISON 125 QUART COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

Bison 125qt Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Like the smaller Bison 75 Quart, the Bison 125 Quart Cooler firmly entrenched itself as one of the best coolers for camping, hunting and fishing after their phenomenal performance in our testing. In order to be considered one of the best coolers, a lot of things have to fall into place, and Bison Coolers was able to put all of that together in their Bison 125 Cooler, taking our overall top spot in our thermal retention testing, just barely edging out the Grizzly 165 Quart.

Bison Coolers is a brand we weren’t all that familiar with prior to diving into this review, but I’m sure glad we discovered them. Not only were they among the top performers in most categories, most importantly our testing for thermal retention showed us just how good they are. Not only that, but they are also MADE IN THE USA, offer a unique latch system that is one of our favorites, are generally larger than advertised, and are built to last. Their slim design doesn’t take up extra space in the truck, but also doesn’t compromise on durability or thermal retention.

The primary downsides we found with the Bison 125 is that they aren’t certified bear resistant (currently in testing though), and don’t carry a lifetime warranty like several of the other options made in the USA. Quite frankly, that’s the only factor that kept the Bison 125 Quart from taking the overall top spot when all things were considered and factored in. The Bison 125 was the best of all coolers we tested in our thermal retention testing keeping its internal air temperature below 40°F for an incredible 8.5 days, averaging an internal temperature of just 35.8°F which is remarkable!

UNIQUE FEATURES

  • Slim design
  • Durable construction
  • Unique latch system
  • 2 drain plugs

PROS

  • Best overall thermal retention performance
  • Extremely well-built
  • Awesome latch system
  • Good cost per quart value
  • Slim design
  • MADE IN THE USA!

CONS

  • Latches interfere with closing lid
  • Not certified bear resistant (currently in testing though)
  • Only 5 year warranty

Buy the Bison 125 Quart

ORCA 140 QUART COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

Orca 140qt Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

The ORCA 140 Quart Cooler is a BIG cooler- a really big cooler. But when you need a huge cooler, this is definitely one to look at. Just like the smaller ORCA 80 Quart we looked at earlier, the ORCA 140 Quart Cooler features ORCA’s signature rubber latches shaped like a ORCA’s tale, isn’t overly bulky, and came in 3rd overall in our thermal retention testing.

We love that ORCA Coolers are made here in the USA, and they are built extremely well. Also unique is that each ORCA Cooler comes with a mesh storage bag that is attached to the back of the cooler. This is great for plates, bowls, plastic-ware, etc. when making a quick trip.

While the 80 quart model is not yet certified bear resistant, the ORCA 140 quart is and features extremely rugged construction. Having that certification gives you peace of mind and also meets the requirements of some campgrounds that require certified bear resistant containers, which is a huge plus.

The Orca 140 Quart Cooler is nothing short of phenomenal in our thermal retention testing keeping its internal air temperature below 40°F for an incredible 8.25 days, averaging an internal temperature of just 37.1°F. Very impressive!

UNIQUE FEATURES

  • Slim design
  • Durable construction
  • Unique latch system
  • 2 drain plugs

PROS

  • #3 overall thermal retention performance
  • Kept internal temp below 40°F until all ice melted
  • Extremely well built
  • Certified bear resistant
  • Large mesh storage attached
  • Good cost per quart value
  • 2 drain plugs
  • Lifetime warranty
  • MADE IN THE USA!

CONS

  • Latches occasionally interfered with closing lid
Buy the Orca 140 Quart

GRIZZLY 165 QUART COOLER REVIEW– Best Coolers

Grizzly 165qt Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

The Grizzly 165 Quart Cooler is the biggest cooler that we tested at a whopping 165 quarts. This cooler is built for really long camping trips, or hunting trips where you may need to store your harvest in a cool place to keep the meat from spoiling. The Grizzly 165 Quart Cooler is one of the best coolers we tested for this purpose, and the long, narrow shape is ideal for elk or quarters.

Outside of the shape and size, the Grizzly 165 Quart Cooler tied for the top spot in our thermal retention testing, keeping its internal air temperature below 40°F for an incredible 8.5 days. Only the Bison 125 Quart was able to accomplish that same feat, although the Bison 125 earned the top spot in thermal retention testing due to its lower average internal temperature throughout our testing period.

Grizzly Coolers also have a few unique features that set them apart. First, their “claw” latch system is one of our favorites as not once did the latch get in the way of the lid when closing the cooler. We certainly can’t say this about most of the coolers we tested. Grizzly Coolers are certified bear proof, MADE IN THE USA, and give you a nice slim design, which is really attractive to save space in your truck bed.

UNIQUE FEATURES

  • Very slim design
  • Extremely durable construction
  • Claw latch system
  • 2 HUGE drain plugs

PROS

  • #2 overall thermal retention performance
  • Well-built
  • Lightweight (for its size)
  • Certified bear proof
  • Slim design
  • Super easy-to-operate latch system
  • Excellent value, especially for its size
  • MADE IN THE USA!
  • Lifetime warranty

CONS

  • It’s big-REALLY big- so you need 2 people to carry it
Buy the Grizzly 165 Quart

Our Picks For Each category

Now for Backwoods Pursuit’s top picks for the best coolers in a number of different categories after doing our testing!

We can’t name them all, and all of them performed well in different areas, but here are our top choices. These weren’t easy to pick, and your personal needs/wants may push you in a different direction, but there should be enough data in this review to help you make your decision when it comes to determining what ice chest is best for you.

Biggest Surprise

Bison 75qt Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Bison Coolers

Before setting out to do this big cooler review and trying to find the best cooler on the market, Bison Coolers wasn’t on the radar. The only reason they even ended up in this review was because another cooler company recommended them.

The Bison 125 Quart Cooler is particularly impressive with its overall best thermal retention performance. We’re sure glad we stumbled on this ice chest manufacturer as they proved to be a top performer and are MADE IN THE USA to boot!

Runner Up: Pelican 80 Quart Wheeled

Check out Bison Coolers

Best Thermal Retention Performance

Bison 125qt Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Bison 125 Quart Cooler

This one is a hard category to declare a winner because, in doing this review, we learned that each size category performs at different levels. Be that as it may, the cooler that kept its internal air temperature the lowest for the longest period of time was the Bison 125 Quart Cooler. It tied with the Grizzly 165 Quart for an incredible 8.5 days under 40°F, but the Bison 125 Quart won on a tie breaker by maintaining the lowest average temperature throughout that 8.5 days.

Runner Up: Grizzly 165 Quart

Buy the Bison 125 Quart

Best Cost Per Quart Value

RTIC UL 52 Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

RTIC Ul 52 Quart Cooler

If you looking to pick up a cooler primarily for the value, the RTIC UL 52qt and 65qt provide you with the best cost savings. We calculated each cooler’s cost per quart based on their internal liquid volume as noted in the chart above, and this RTIC Cooler provided the lowest cost per quart value. However, if you need better thermal retention performance, I’d recommend going with the RTIC 65 Quart at nearly the same cost per quart. The Blue 60 Quart also provides a great value with great performance.

Runner Up: RTIC 65 Quart

Buy the RTIC UL 52 Quart

Best Coolers For The Money

Grizzly 165qt Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Grizzly 165 Quart Cooler

Among the best coolers you can buy, we found the Grizzly 165 Quart Cooler to be the overall best cooler for the money when all the test factors are considered. While most won’t want a cooler this large, it is overall the best value/performance/quality combination. If you need something smaller, consider the RTIC 65 Quart or Blue 60 Quart as both of those provide an excellent value without sacrificing much performance.

Runner Up: RTIC 65 Quart

Buy the Grizzly 165 Quart

Best Coolers For Hunting (Wild Game Storage)

Grizzly 165qt Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Grizzly 165 Quart Cooler

When you are heading out for a long hunting trip, you need to be able to keep your harvest from spoiling, and the Grizzly 165qt is just the cooler for that job.

It is one of the best coolers for elk-sized game, and can easily hold 3+ bone-in plus deer with room for plenty of ice. If you won’t need something to hold an elk-sized critter, the Bison 125 Quart or ORCA 140 quart are also fantastic options as they give you plenty of room and some of the best thermal retention out there to keep your game meat from spoiling. If you will only need to store deer-sized game, the Pelican 80 Quart is our choice as it offers best in class thermal retention.

Runner Up: Bison 125 Quart

Buy the Grizzly 165 Quart

Best Coolers For Camping

Pelican 80qt wheeled Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Pelican 75 Quart Wheeled Cooler

This category has a TON of great coolers, but the one that stood out the most during our testing is the Pelican 80 Quart Wheeled Cooler. This one routinely gave us the lowest internal air temperature reading and tied for the top spot in its size category with the Yeti 75 Quart, staying under 40°F for a whopping seven days. If you head out for a weekend camping trip, the Pelican 80 Quart Wheeled Cooler is our favorite when you need a big cooler, but not a huge cooler.

Runner Up: Yeti Tundra 75 Quart

Buy the Pelican 80 Quart

Best Coolers – 50-65 Quart Class

Pelican 65qt wheeled Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Pelican 65 quart Wheeled Cooler

In this small – medium category, the Pelican 65 Quart Wheeled Cooler takes the top spot with its top tier thermal retention performance, lifetime warranty, bear resistant certification, and being MADE IN THE USA. While the Blue 60 Quart Cooler actually out-performed the Pelican 65 Quart, holding its internal temperature below 40°F a couple hours longer, the other compensating factors give the Pelican 65 Quart the edge in our book.

Runner Up: Blue 60 Quart

Buy the Pelican 65 Quart

Best Coolers – 75-80 Quart Class

Pelican 80qt wheeled Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Pelican 80 Quart Cooler

Throughout this test the Pelican 80 Quart Wheeled Cooler and the Yeti Tundra 75 Quart, along with the ORCA 80 Quart all made a bid for the best, holding some of the lowest temperatures we saw throughout our testing. At the end of the day, these are all fantastic coolers, but the Pelican 80qt Wheeled Cooler held the lowest average temperature for the longest amount of time.

However, the Yeti Tundra 75 is much less bulky, so if that’s a factor for you, go with the Yeti 75qt. If you are ok with a little extra bulk, the Pelican 80qt wheeled was downright impressive, holding its internal air temp below 40°F for seven days, and not going above 40°F until all the ice was melted. Both the Yeti Tundra 75 and ORCA 80 Quart produced this result as well but with slightly higher internal temps, and the Orca didn’t last quite as long (5.5 days vs 7 for the Yeti and Pelican).

Runner Up: Yeti Tundra 75 Quart

Buy the Pelican 80 Quart

Overall Best Coolers

Bison 125qt Cooler - Best Coolers for camping, hunting, fishing, and best cooler for the money

Bison 125 Quart Cooler

If you are looking for the absolute best overall cooler, we are handing that award to the Bison 125 Quart Cooler. Best overall thermal retention performance, our favorite latch system, ultra durable construction (with bear resistant certification coming soon), and MADE IN THE USA!

If that’s too big of a cooler for you, the Pelican 80 Quart Wheeled Cooler is our pick with its best in class thermal retention, awesome latch system, lifetime warranty, and bear resistant certification, all while being MADE IN THE USA!

Runners Up: Grizzly 16 Quart/ Pelican 80 Quart

Buy the Bison 125 Quart

Conclusion: Best Coolers on the Market

Dang! That’s a lot of coolers! But we walked away with some very interesting information in our quest to find the best coolers on the market. Some of our biggest surprises were that the smaller coolers didn’t fare nearly as well as the larger coolers. Some brands had a top performer in one size category, but in a different size category their cooler didn’t perform nearly as well. This didn’t just happen to one brand, but several.

We did our best to be as objective in our approach as possible, but there may be other factors that determine which are the best coolers for your specific needs. It’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all. Size, weight, bulk, budget, and thermal retention abilities are all huge factors in deciding which route to go. We hope this extensive compilation of data points will help you make that choice a little easier.

Subscribe to Backwoods Pursuit to get Your FREE Backcountry Gear Worksheet!!!

Dial in your gear list, calculate your pack weight, and lighten up your pack with this handy tool!

8 thoughts on “A Truly Objective Cooler TEST!! | 16 Best Coolers For Camping, Hunting, Ice Retention & The Money”

  1. Have been a bison user for years! Love them! Also check with customer STC if warranty is “over” .. they will take care of you!

    Reply
  2. This was a very thorough and complete review, as is what we’ve come here expecting because that just how y’all operate. I enjoyed it very much.
    I wish size and wt of each cooler were included but the links made it super easy!
    Keep up the good work.

    Reply
    • Hey there! Thank you very much for the kind words. That means a lot! The weight and size of each cooler we tested should be in there in a spreadsheet, but I believe there was a problem with that spreadsheet loading, but it should be fixed now. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
    • Hey there Ken! Thank you! I can’ be 100% sure where the Cabelas cooler would land, but I’ve heard that it’s a great cooler. I wish we could have included all comparable coolers, but that would be nearly impossible LOL! Thanks for reading!

      Reply

Leave a Comment