Best Portable Coolers

With plenty of options in the portable cooler space, which reigns to be the best? To arrive at the answer, we reviewed eight of the most popular portable coolers in the market and put them through multiple exhaustive tests – exacting insulation tests for chilling food and refreshments, ease of portability, etc.

To see how they would perform with daily use, we even examined build qualities, how the latches, hinges, lids and drain plug compared to each other.

For the purpose of this review, we considered the 70 quart size range of these portable coolers to keep the test standardized. However, these coolers are available in a variety of sizes and our reviews can be extrapolated to other similar sizes as well.

Product DescriptionUsers ScoreOverall Score
Editor choice
Editor’s Choice – ORCA 58 Quart

Editor’s Choice – ORCA 58 Quart

Among the other coolers we tested for insulation, the ORCA 58 Quart came out on top as it was able to maintain food ...

User Rating: 4.5 (1 votes)
Editor choice
2 Coleman 3000001845 Xtreme Marine

Coleman 3000001845 Xtreme Marine

Insulation was one of the most essential features we looked at in the coolers we reviewed and the Coleman Xtreme Marine ...

User Rating: 3.3 (1 votes)
3 Engel Deep Blue

Engel Deep Blue

The Engel Deep Blue did fairly well in our insulation tests and managed to keep food at the right storage ...

User Rating: 3.45 (1 votes)
4 Pelican Products ProGear Elite Cooler, 65 quart

Pelican Products ProGear Elite Cooler, 65 quart

Pelican has recently upgraded its line of coolers promising improvised performance and a range of sizes. We tested ...

User Rating: Be the first one!

 

Editor’s Choice – ORCA 58 Quart

ORCA 58 QuartAmong the other coolers we tested for insulation, the ORCA 58 Quart came out on top as it was able to maintain food at safe temperatures and was also able to hold the ice together the longest.

Apart from insulation, we also found the design of the ORCA 58 Quart to be best utilized – the cooler is less bulky and ease to transport. A small drawback that we did notice was that the drain could have been better and easier to operate. However mainly due to its ability to insulate longer and its ease of portability, we consider the ORCA 58 Quart better than the rest.

Here’s the lowdown: The ORCA 58 was able to keep temperatures below 40˚F (which is the temperature recommended by the FDA) for a whopping 6 full days. It is also able to retain ice for seven whole days which makes it ideal if you are planning long trips.  

The design of this cooler also contributes to maximizing the coolers insulation performance. It is shaped almost like a perfect cube and is slightly taller than the rest which keeps the surface area to volume ratio lower.

The construction of the ORCA has plenty of hallmarks such as sturdy hinges that are thick and durable. The seal lid is also one of the strongest in its class and we tried hard to leak water out, but this cooler wouldn’t give in.

Looking at user reviews as well, we didn’t find any complaints about the coolers durability. In terms of ease of use, we found the OCRA 58 to be slightly lacking behind — the lid, for instance, snaps shut at a very fast rate which meant that we had to keep one hand on the lid at all times when accessing the cooler.

In terms of portability, however, it is much better than the other coolers we used. The handles are flexible enough to evenly distribute the weight load when carrying it around. In terms of its value, too, this cooler is priced cheaper that most other high end coolers on the market and is also big in terms of its performance.

Last but not the least; it is available in over 10 colours, the most popular of which are pink, green, tan and white.


Editor’s Choice – Coleman 3000001845 Xtreme Marine

Coleman 3000001845 Xtreme Marine Review
Insulation was one of the most essential features we looked at in the coolers we reviewed and the Coleman Xtreme Marine did not disappoint.

It scored second to the ORCA and did exceedingly well as compared to the other traditional we looked at.

According to the insulation tests we carried out, we found that the ice remained in a solid state for five whole days and kept food at safe storage temperature for 3 days at a stretch– far better than some of the other traditional models we tried such as the Grizzly Hunting or Tailgating.

The Xtreme Marine is most ideal for weekend camping trips – it’s the ideal period this cooler keeps your beverages nice and chilly even if you decided to extend your stay for a day or so.

In terms of its price tag, the Coleman Xtreme Marine packs value for your money. Even on Day 5, the cooler still managed to retain plenty of ice. In terms of its durability, we found the top lid to be stiff, the hinges don’t look tough enough but they can stand-up to some heavy lifting.

The cooler did leak some amount of water, but when compared to the spillage in other traditional models, this was far less. The lid and the walls are well built and overall it delivers a high performance.


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Pelican Products ProGear Elite Cooler, 65 quart

Pelican Products ProGear Elite Cooler, 65 quartPelican has recently upgraded its line of coolers promising improvised performance and a range of sizes. We tested the 35qt, 45qt and 65qt at the time of this review. This range of coolers also includes 30qt, 50qt and 70qt sizes.

For this review we tried out the 65qt cooler. In terms of insulation for ice retention, the Pelican Elite Cooler was able to retain ice for an astonishing 7 days — at par with the ORCA 58 Quart and the food lasted at nearly 40 degrees for just over 5 days.

The Pelican Cooler is thus excellent for short to medium trips due to its insulation ability. The exterior of the cooler is rugged unlike the other coolers we reviewed and has hard moulded plastics for its latches as well as extended handles.

The cooler is equipped with an extended drain plug rather the one seen in other coolers (a plug that screws). This gives it the option to be added to a longer pipe while draining to minimize the mess caused.

One drawback we noticed was that there was a large amount of spillage from the lid indicating a not so strong and durable structural integrity of the lid seal. So while this prevented us from giving this cooler the top spot, we would consider the Pelican Pro Gear cooler to be a strong and durable cooler that offers strong insulation.

In terms of ease of use, we found the cooler to be one of our favourite models. It features a sturdy plastic latch that is released by the push of a button, making it easy to operate from several angles.

The lid stays in an upright position when the cooler is opened and does not come crashing down or slam shut unexpectedly. The cooler was also easy to transport as it has hard plastic handles that work well to distribute the weight of the cooler evenly.

This particular model, however, was the largest in terms of size and we found it difficult to pack it into a vehicle.


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Engel Deep Blue

Engel Deep Blue ReviewThe Engel Deep Blue did fairly well in our insulation tests and managed to keep food at the right storage temperature for 5 days (ideal for longer trips due to its ability to store food for a long period). It also held ice in its solid state for 6 days, putting it slightly behind as compared to the ORCA 58 Quart.

In comparison to traditional models, the Engel Deep Blue does exceedingly well in terms of its performance clearly setting it apart from other traditional models available in this category. We rate the cooler among the best in terms of its durability as it has well constructed exteriors and also solid handles, hinges and latches.  

The structural integrity of the lid and seal is very solid as it did not leak any water during the slosh test we put the cooler through — ranking it among the top performers such as the Pelican and the ORCA and easily outshining other models such as the Rubber Maid and the Igloo Max Cold.  

The cooler also has extendible handles that are designed just short of the drain plug avoiding any obstruction. The drain works best with the lid sealed on as it creates a vacuum enforcing a faster drain.  

The latches of the cooler are a bit different in design– a hard metal lid is used to hook the plastic levers shut. These metal hooks can also be used as bottle openers in case of an emergency.  

The lid stays in an upright position when opened even when we kept rummaging around for a while. A small drawback, however, is that the cooler tends to be a bit uncomfortable when carrying heavy weight.

In terms of the price point, we found the cooler to be priced higher than other coolers offering the same features and performance such as the ORCA 58 Quart or the Pelican ProGear Elite.


Buying Advice

Buying a cooler can get a bit tricky. If you walk into a store, all of them look the same. So unless you have an understanding on how each one performs, it makes it hard to pick the right one.  

In our bid to find the best performing coolers, our primary focus was on the longevity of the insulation in these coolers. Our other focus was the spillage from the lids which speaks to the integrity of the structure of these coolers.

We also chilled beers with ice in them to gauge how long this insulation could keep the ice together.  The other big questions we asked were: are they worth the price? If you are dropping $450, does it bring value in its performance?

Our reviews will thus help make the process less confusing before you set out to make the purchase.  We rigorously tested these coolers on all performance parameters to give you a better sense of the model and also an idea of what suits your needs best.


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Cooler Types

Traditional Coolers

These coolers are the most conventional form of coolers available that many of us would relate to when we think about coolers. The build of these coolers is very basic and the structure consists of weak plastic and foam insulation that is glued together. The hinges are screwed on to the side of the main body and are often not built to take on much weight. The main lid is usually snapped on with an internal latch or is pushed in to seal with some amount of friction. These are generally priced under $100 and are the most basic forms of coolers available on the market.

High End Coolers

High end coolers hit the market somewhere around 2006/07 with the primary aim of pushing out the traditional cooler. The difference is immediately noticed — thicker walls along with foam injected insulation and lid covers that also feature rubber gaskets to allow for a tight seal.  

These coolers are built in a method called roto-moulding technique which essentially allows producing a hollow shell without any seams. In this method of manufacturing, the hinges and handles are attached to the build itself which is essential for maintaining durability. These coolers are usually available in the $400 price range and have proven to display high performance.

Buying a Cooler that suits your needs

Cooler are essential if you are planning a trip for over a day to keep perishable food and drinks cold.  Coolers are also great in large group situations where the capacity to store food is more or even for multi-day excursions.

Food Safety and Cold Beverages in Coolers

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends food to be stored below 40˚F, or the food is deemed unfit for consumption. Many a times, it is difficult to tell whether the food has gone bad and whether it will make you sick. Beer is quintessential after a long hike or when out camping and beers and other beverages stored at the bottom of the cooler just above the layer of ice are awesome. Coolers, therefore, form an integral part of any trip. Depending on your needs, of course, there are a wide variety of coolers available to store these vital essentials for any outdoor trip.