The Best Ice Chests For 2017

Let’s face it, ice chests aren’t very sexy.  They’re pretty much a just a tool to keep stuff cold right?  But they’re a necessity if you plan on doing any camping, fishing or even throwing parties.  So I’ve done a ton of research on the best ice chest coolers for 2017 and compiled a nice buyers guide to help you pick the right cooler for your budget and needs.
Igloo Polar Cooler

Pros:

  • 120 quart capacity
  • Keeps ice cool for up to 5 days
  • Drain plug for easy draining
  • Handles for easy carrying

Cons:

  • Flimsy hinges
  • Lid isn’t completely tight

The best part about this cooler is the size. It’s much bigger in person than you’d expect which is useful for large family gatherings, picnics or camping trips. You can fit several large bags of ice in this unit, and the more ice you add, the cooler it gets. For such a large cooler, it’s impressively lightweight.

The Polar is fully insulated with Ultratherm technology. It also comes with UV inhibitors to prevent the lid from heating up in the sun. The cooler is designed to keep ice cool for up to 5 days at 90 degrees Fahrenheit. I didn’t get a chance to use it in those conditions, but I did notice that it began to melt slightly at around the 3-day mark. That’s not bad for such a large, affordable cooler, but it’s something to keep in mind for those that need longer-term ice storage.

Another perk of the Polar is that it comes with a threaded drain plug. That means you don’t have to worry about picking up the entire cooler and dumping out melted water. For me, a cooler of this size without a drain would be a huge inconvenience, so it’s great that the drain comes included and is easy to use.

The cooler comes with two handles, so it’s easy to lift into the car. The lid snaps closed and you can tie it down, so there’s no risk of spilling the contents of the cooler all of your trunk. However, the handles themselves are relatively flimsy — they’ve stayed intact so far, but the quality feels subpar like they might come loose at some point.

Also, the lid isn’t air-tight like some other coolers are. That’s likely the culprit behind the shortened cooling time. Since this unit is affordable, it’s still a great value for the money. It’s great for storing huge amounts of ice over a few days.

Pelican ProGear Elite Cooler

Pros:

  • Sturdy construction
  • Durable handles
  • Stainless steel hardware
  • Ice lasts for up to 10 days

Cons:

  • High price
  • Medium capacity (45 quart)

This cooler from Pelican is a nice medium size. It’s small enough to be handled relatively easily but large enough to hold plenty of ice and other items. On the other hand, it’s quite heavy for its size at around 36 pounds, so it’s much better for local activities like parties or tailgates. It’s not ideal for any activity where you’d need to carry it and its contents for a long distance.

Though the Pelican doesn’t hold nearly as much ice as the Polar, it keeps the ice solid for much longer. It claims to keep ice cool for up to 10 days, and my experience was that it does exactly that. It’s truly impressive in that regard, and it’s not surprising once you see how rugged it looks in person. It looks like it’s built to last.

The cooler is quite durable. It doesn’t dent or scratch easily. Though it’s unlikely that you’ll be using it in rough conditions, it’s nice to know that it will hold up to some manhandling if need be. A couple drops or rolls are unlikely to be noticeable at all. The handles on this cooler are reliable, too.

The hardware is all made of stainless steel, so the cooler is resistant to wear-and-tear. This cooler also includes a latch, which helps keep the contents completely protected. The latch is easy to open while still being sturdy.

This cooler is noticeably higher in price than some other models, but in this case, you get what you pay for. It’s a high-quality model that will last for many years, so if you use coolers regularly, this one will eventually pay for itself. The only true downside to this unit is the weight. It’s difficult to manage with just one person.

Yeti Tundra

Pros:

  • Three inches of permafrost insulation
  • Heavy-duty construction
  • Sturdy latches with rubber seal
  • Two drain plugs

Cons:

  • High price
  • Rather heavy (39 pounds)

The Yeti Tundra is designed especially for rafting, but I can assure you that it’s also well-suited to many other uses. This model is quite large — it can hold 101 pounds of ice or 65 cans of beer. That makes it perfect for parties and tailgates. As such a sizable cooler, it’s quite heavy even while empty. You’ll definitely need two people to lift it if it’s full.

In my experience, the Tundra keeps ice cold for at least a week before it begins to melt noticeably, though it depends on whether it’s sitting directly in the sun. The cooler’s quality is noticeable immediately, from the latch to the handles to the rubber feet. The sides are layered with about 3 inches of permafrost to keep the contents nice and cool, and the walls are even designed to be bear-resistant — perfect for camping, though thankfully I don’t have personal experience with that quite yet.

The Tundra also has not one but two drain plugs. That allows it to drain more quickly than other models once the ice is melted.

This cooler is top of the line, so it’s not cheap. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants an item that will last for a long time without needing any repairs or maintenance. It comes in different sizes.

Coleman Coastal Xtreme

Pros:

  • Keeps ice cool for up to 6 days
  • 120 quart capacity
  • Stainless steel hardware
  • Channel drain

Cons:

  • Handles feel a bit cheap

For an affordable, reliable cooler that can hold an amazing amount of ice, the Coleman Coastal Xtreme is my pick. It’s quite lightweight for a cooler of this capacity — it weighs just 25 pounds and can hold a whopping 120 quarts of ice. Like most Coleman products, this cooler is reliable quality. It’s exactly what you expect out of a standard camping cooler, complete with built-in cupholders and side handles.

The cooler also doubles as a seat. It can hold up to 250 pounds of weight, which speaks to the high level of quality of the lid. Most of the cooler feels sturdy and relatively durable for the price, with the exception of the handles. They’ve held up thus far, but they do feel a bit cheaply made for a cooler that can hold so much weight. The hardware is made of stainless steel, but the handle hinges are made of plastic.

This cooler keeps ice cold for several days before melting. It comes with drain plugs for easy draining.

A cooler of this size is naturally difficult to fit into a small space. It took up the entirety of my trunk space, which for me was a con. While the size is, of course, a necessary tradeoff for the capacity, this cooler is best for those who truly need to store a ton of items. Otherwise, the generous capacity will go to waste.

Orca Cooler

Pros:

  • Sturdy construction
  • Comfortable handles
  • Great insulation
  • Tightly sealed lid

Cons:

  • Small capacity

This 26-quart cooler from Orca is my pick for a smaller, manageable cooler that’s still sturdy enough to last for many years. It’s perfect for camping, small get-togethers, outdoor sports and other activities. This cooler is built with about three layers of insulation to keep the contents cold for a long time. In my experience, the cooler stays cold for a little under a week before needing new ice.

The lid also feels dependable, unlike many other coolers. It has a tight seal that traps cold and prevents any leaks. The Orca also comes with side handles that allow for easy portability.

The Orca is a reasonably priced high-end cooler. I’m confident that I’ll be able to rely on it for a long time to come, and none of the parts feel as if they’ll easily break off.
The Orca does come in different sizes. The 26-quart is a convenient size because it’s easy to pack into a smaller space, and it’s relatively light at about 20 pounds. Still, even those 20 pounds can feel like a burden when you’re carrying a cooler with such a small capacity around — it can fit only about 24 cans of beer, for example.

However, all high-end coolers seem to have the same issue with being heavy for their size. If that means a better, longer-lasting product, then that seems to be a fair tradeoff. I’d recommend this product to any family that wants a small yet tough cooler.

Engel Cooler/Dry Box

Pros:

  • Small, convenient size
  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Good seal

Cons:

  • Doesn’t stay cold for that long
  • Hardware feels a bit cheap

If you’re shopping on a budget and don’t need a huge cooler, this 19-quart model from Engel is a great choice. It’s the smallest cooler on this list, and though it’s affordable, it still includes all of the features you need in a great cooler. It’s well-insulated with a layer of polystyrene foam, and the lid includes two manual latches for a reliable seal.

The cooler is only 3.5 pounds, so it’s a cinch to carry around. It has one handle on the top and comes with a shoulder strap. It’s a reasonable size that will fit in the backseat with tons of room to spare.

Because of the small size, I thought of this cooler more like a large lunch box than a true cooler. It can fit a few packs of beer, so it might work for a small party if you don’t need to bring much ice along. However, it’s the perfect size to carry your family’s lunches for a picnic or other day trip.

The Engel cooler keeps contents cool for about a full day. Any longer than that, and you will start to notice significant melting. That’s another reason that I think of it as a lunch box, designed to be used over the course of a day rather than for a longer period of time.

Unsurprisingly for such an affordable cooler, the Engel’s hardware feels a bit flimsy. Still, the latches have held up so far and they seem to afford a tight, reliable seal.

Corona Beer Cooler

Pros:

  • 54-quart capacity
  • Lightweight
  • Solid and durable
  • Built-in bottle opener

Cons:

  • A bit pricey

If you love Corona or simply don’t mind the branding, this cooler is a surprisingly great deal. It’s manufactured by Coleman, so it’s great quality. It will keep ice cool for several days, and it’s large enough to accommodate about 85 cans of beer. With the exterior covered in stainless steel, it has a sleek look that fits in well at barbecues.

One thing I love about this cooler is that it’s lightweight for its size. At just 16 pounds, it’s super easy to transport while empty. It comes with two thin handles on the sides. They aren’t the most comfortable, but they do the job.

The cooler is optimized for beer lovers, with a built-in Corona bottle opener on the side. It definitely comes in handy when nobody remembered to bring a bottle opener. However, when it comes down to it, this is just a regular cooler with a Corona label on it — meaning that you can use it for food, ice or anything else that you might need. It’d work wonderfully for camping or all-day beach trips.

This cooler has a reliable seal and great insulation, but it’s not as heavy-duty as some other high-end coolers. The price might seem a bit steep for that reason. However, the Corona cooler has one perk that rugged coolers don’t — it’s light enough to carry for a while without much trouble.