Summer is just around the corner, and for me that means lazy days at the beach, hiking in the mountains, and as many outdoor concerts and festivals as I can find time to attend. For all of these outings, cold and plentiful refreshments are essential. For years I used an old plastic cooler I had inherited from my parents, and it did a decent job of keeping the items inside cold, but it was also awkward and heavy to carry—no wheels or straps, just one handle on top. And then a couple of years ago I was at the beach with a large group of friends when I noticed they all had much (pardon the pun) cooler coolers than me. And that’s when it hit me—I was really out of touch with advancements in cooler engineering. While I was schlepping my clunky cooler from one activity to the next, new products were being made with all-terrain wheels, comfortable backpack straps, and even integrated USB ports!
So needless to say, I started shopping. And I’ll admit I now own a few styles of coolers so I have choices based on where I’m going, what I’m doing, and what I plan to eat and drink. For example, a day of hiking requires a portable, lightweight option while a trip to the beach demands big wheels and added features like serving surfaces.
If you haven’t upped your cooler game in a while, do it now—before your phone rings and your friends are planning a trip to the coast! And we’ve found six of the best options you can buy right now, starting at just $29.99.
Igloo Trailmate LiddUp
Igloo just launched this as the newest addition to its rugged Trailmate line. The LiddUp version has LED lights so you can easily see what’s inside even in the dark. (Perfect for camping!) All of the Trailmate coolers have 10-inch wheels that easily traverse wooded trails and sandy beaches. It also has built-in removable trays for serving, bottle openers on both sides of the cooler, and a stand to prop up your smartphone or tablet. Oh, and it holds a whopping 112 cans!
Yeti Hopper Two
This is the newest soft cooler from Yeti. (Fun party trivia: Brothers and founders Roy and Ryan Seiders named it Yeti because they say their coolers are tough and adapted to harsh environments like the abominable snowman.) The Hopper Two has the same leakproof construction as the original version, but adds an extended zipper and extra wide opening. Double-stitched side handles and a removable shoulder strap provide carrying options. It comes in three sizes—20, 30, and 40 (named for the number of pounds of ice it can hold).
By now you’ve probably heard of this cooler, which got its starts as a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 and generated more than 60,000 backers and $13 million! Now the coolers are available for purchase to the public—and I have to admit, they are pretty darn cool! In addition to keeping food and drinks cold, the coolers have a built-in battery-operated blender, waterproof Bluetooth speaker, USB charger, LED light, bottle opener, and cutting board. Now that’s a portable party!
Engel Cooler Bag Backpack
Engel is known for its rugged marine coolers, but it also makes a great backpack-style option for lighter-duty use. The cooler can be carried as a backpack, over the shoulder, or by the handle on back, and the interior waterproof liner is removable for easy cleaning. The company says the cooler will keep items cold for up to three and a half days thanks to one-inch thick, high-density foam insulation and a layer of foil. It holds more than 24 cans with room for ice.
Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Zipperless Cooler
The flip-top lid on this cooler makes it super easy to access your food and drinks with one hand. One of my favorite features is the “SmartShelf” that keeps soft things like sandwiches separate and elevated so they don’t get crushed or soggy in the ice. And the shelf is removable if you prefer to have one large compartment. The hard shell interior wipes clean easily and the shoulder strap has padding for added comfort. The cooler comes in three sizes—16, 30, and 48—based on how many cans it can hold.
AO Coolers Canvas Soft Cooler
The interior lining of this durable cooler is the same material that’s used to make waterbeds and above-ground pools—meaning it’s virtually indestructible and is said to hold ice for 24 hours in temperatures up to 120 degrees! The bag comes in four sizes based on capacity—holding 12, 24, 36, or 48 cans plus ice—and each one has a removable shoulder strap and clip-down ends.
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