Sometimes, an ice-cold drink and a snack are all you need to make grueling road trips more bearable. If you’re looking for the best travel coolers, know that there’s something out there for every type of traveler.
There are hard-cased coolers and wheeled varieties, portable cooler bags, and big ones for trunks and hatches. These coolers also come in various colors with features that range from the very basic to the robust and versatile.
Gearing up for your next four-wheeled adventure? We suggest that you try exploring Midwest road trips with family and friends. Or try the Route 100 Vermont Road trip with your kids. And make sure your next road trip is well-stocked with our rundown of the best coolers for road trips.
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Tips on selecting the best travel cooler
Before selecting the right one for you, it’s wise to know the different types of coolers available in the market. Factors to think about include features, size, style, and price. Coolers are often categorized into four types:
Basic coolers: These coolers are what you’d commonly see in picnics and backyard barbecues. These variations are lightweight, often double-walled, and with very little or no insulation. They’re generally the most affordable and do an okay job at keeping your drinks and snacks cold for a few hours.
Soft-sided cooler: Soft-sided coolers offer more portability and flexibility. When empty, soft-sided coolers can be folded and stowed away to give you more space in your hatch or truck. They weigh less and are easier to transport. Unlike hard coolers, however, soft-sided coolers have less ice retention, which means they do a worse job at keeping your things cold longer.
Heavy-duty coolers: Heavy-duty coolers are built to withstand wear and tear and usually come with high tech insulation. Their lids typically come with commercial-grade gaskets that allow your beverages and snacks to stay cold for a more extended period. As their name implies, heavy-duty coolers are bulkier and heavier than their soft-sided cousins.
Electric coolers: The most convenient of them all, electric coolers don’t need ice to keep your goodies cool. When plugged into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter, they can keep anything cold indefinitely. The only drawback: an electric cooler’s temperature depends on the outside temp. If you usually keep your air conditioner running, this shouldn’t be a problem.
See Related: 21 Best Family Travel Hacks You Need to Know
The 10 best travel coolers
1. Coleman 28-Quart Cooler
- Can keep your beverages cold for up to three days in temperatures up to 90F
- Xtreme technology uses more efficient insulation on walls and lid for longer ice retention
- Keep your drinks close with two molded cup holders on the lid
Coolers are often synonymous with the Coleman brand, so when it comes to classics, you can’t go wrong with this one. For travelers on a road trip looking for a no-fuss cooler, the Coleman 28-Quart Cooler does the job. This hard-sided cooler uses Xtreme technology, which claims to keep your items cold for up to three days.
Large enough without being too cumbersome, the Coleman 28-Quart cooler has enough space for 48 cans with enough vertical height to hold 2-liter bottles upright. If you’re lugging your cooler around, the comfort-grip bail handle puts less strain on your hands, so you can get to your destination comfortably. Need a place to sit? Coleman’s ‘Have-A-Seat’ Lid can support up to 250 lbs., giving you a place to sit and rest instantly.
3. Igloo BMX Cooler
- Able to keep ice for four days in 90F
- Heavy-duty construction with metal kickplates and reinforced base
- Sturdy rubberized latches lock in the cold
The Igloo BMX Cooler is the best travel cooler for adventurers looking for a heavy-duty ice chest. Engineered for performance and durability, this lightweight cooler is built to withstand severe conditions (the reinforced base and metal kickplates give this lightweight ice chest a formidable appeal. You can toss it around, and it wouldn’t mind).
When it comes to cooling your snacks and beverages, this top-notch cooler has plenty to brag about. UV inhibitors keep the sun from getting in, while extra-thick foam walls and an efficiently insulated lid offer competitive cooling performance.
T-grip latches with extra rubber protection ensure the lid remains efficiently closed and none of the cold gets out. At the same time, Igloo’s Cool Riser technology elevates cooling performance by elevating the body from hot surfaces. Still concerned about the lid opening due to movement or heavy wind? Tie-down loops add extra lid protection and security.
About security, you might want to avoid these road trip mistakes so you can have the best road trip with your kids.
3. Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze
- Ultra-safe leak-proof technology with an easy-to-clean interior lining
- High-performance insulation (Deep Freeze technology) with radiant heat barrier to ward away heat
- Water, stain, and puncture-resistant
Collapsible, flexible, yet surprisingly durable, the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze is the best travel cooler for those looking for a lightweight, soft-sided icebox. Able to keep ice for up to three days with space for up to 30 cans, this portable cooler features high-performance insulation, a triple-layer ColdBlock base, and a radiant heat barrier for high-quality cooling that trumps the other soft-sided travel coolers in the market.
Unlike other soft travel coolers with inconvenient zippers, Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze features a patented “flip-open” zipperless lid, giving you instant access to your food and drinks. By far, the feature that makes it the best travel cooler for car is its SmartShelf technology.
SmartShelf allows travelers to safely store soft items (e.g., sandwiches, cheese, cake) away from hard items (e.g., bottles, cans), so they don’t get crushed. If you need more space, you can easily remove the SmartShelf dividers to provide one large compartment.
4. Rubbermaid DuraChill Wheeled 75-Quart Cooler
- Thick insulation to keep items frozen up to 5 days
- Sturdy plastic and metal tow handle with side swing handles
- Extra-large size to hold up to 130 cans with ice
If your road trip involves multiple stops in different campgrounds, you’ll want to travel cooler that you can easily lug around. If you’re packing lots of food and beverages, this can be a problem. Large coolers require a couple of people to carry them over long distances, so you’ll want a travel cooler on wheels.
Rubbermaid DuraChill 75 Quarts is an excellent travel cooler for people looking for wheeled varieties as it offers lots of space and impressive durability. When it comes to cooling, this cooler can stand up against the expensive types. Extra thick insulation can keep ice for up to 5 days at 90F. The split lid offers easy access to your food and beverages without letting too much cold air out.
Designed to be portable, this versatile cooler comes with side swing handles with comfort grip, rugged wheels built for various surfaces, and a metal tow handle.
5. CleverMade SnapBasket
- Patented SnapHinges give this soft-sided cooler structured support when open. Just push the side hinges to conveniently close.
- Large capacity can hold 50 cans of beverages including ice
- Leakproof with multiple layers of insulation
Looking for an ice chest that gets the job done without too much fuss? The CleverMade SnapBasket is the best travel cooler in the market today if you’re looking for soft-sided variations. This space-saving solution is not only great for road trips, but for grocery trips, deliveries, and day-to-day tasks as well.
The durable polyester fabric is leakproof and water-resistant, with three insulation layers finished with sonically welded PEVA. This guarantees that less cold gets out, so you can enjoy cold snacks and beverages longer than other soft-sided coolers in the market.
Soft-sided coolers are notorious for having a very flimsy structure, but the SnapBasket Cooler is equipped with a steel wire frame on the top, a solid base, a patented SnapHinge on each side. This gives the cooler a sturdier structure, even when half full.
Need more space at the back of your trunk? This SnapBasket Cooler easily folds down to just three inches, allowing you to keep it in just about anywhere.
6. Igloo Quick and Cool
- Ultratherm insulation technology allows you to keep ice frozen for five days
- Dual snap-fit latches keep your snacks and beverages secured even when the trip is rough
- Quick-access hatch offers fast and easy access to your goodies
For extended road trips, coolers that can keep snacks and beverages cold for only a few hours just won’t cut it. You’re going to need something special, and the Igloo Quick and Cool has all the qualities road trippers need from a cooler when adventuring for a long haul.
With its Ultratherm insulation and foamed lid, the Igloo Quick and Cool can hold ice up to five days at 90F, easily trumping most of the coolers available in the market today. The quick access hatch allows you to retrieve the coolers’ contents without fully opening the lid and letting the cold air out.
Reinforced side handles allow easy carrying, while built-in tie-down loops allow you to transport the chest cooler in the back of a truck or another vehicle. A threaded drain plug can connect with a hose for easy draining, cleaning, and storage.
7. Igloo 24 Can Legend Cooler
- Unique shape allows easily fit behind vehicle seats or under stadium seats
- The lid may be reversed to reveal a tray and cup holder
- Able to hold 2-liter bottles upright
If you’re looking for the best cooler for road trip, look no further than this entry from Igloo. With its unique shape and size, the Igloo 24 Can Legend Cooler is the best travel cooler for families going on road trips or camping adventures. The tall and narrow design makes it easy to stow behind vehicle seats or hidden under stadium seats during sporting events.
Crafted from heavy-duty plastic, this 24-can cooler offers a large storage capacity, so you can bring all your favorite beverages, fruits, sandwiches, and snacks. It can even store a 2-liter bottle in an upright position.
An integrated swing-up bail handle offers easy transport and portability (you can fold it down quickly for convenient stackable storing). The removable lid can be reversed to reveal a tray and cup holder, which you can use to serve and prepare. When you’re done using this Igloo cooler, cleaning up is as easy as wiping it clean and storing it away.
8. YETI Roadie 24 Cooler
- Thin and lightweight for easy transport
- Taller build allows better fit behind the driver or passenger’s seat of the car
- Quicklatch offers fast, one-handed access to contents
The best travel cooler for a road trip is one that is specially designed for the job. The YETI Roadie 24 Cooler is just that, with multiple features that make it a great road trip companion. This variation is 10% lighter, holds 20% more, and performs 30% better thermally than its predecessor, the Roadie 20. It’s also taller, which means it can hold a bottle of wine upright while also making it a great fit behind the driver’s seat.
The handle is made from a flexible material, so it’s easy to carry and lug around. Tie-down points are also provided for easy securing at the back of a truck, boat, or raft. Got your hands full? Convenient latches open with just a flick of one hand so you can reach your snacks and beverages faster and with ease.
9. Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler
- Unique backpack design with comfortable padded straps for extra comfort
- Heat-welded seams prevent leaks
- Large front pocket to hold napkins and accessories
If you’re looking for a portable cooler, those commonly available may not cut it. In these cases, the Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler is the best cooler bag for you. With enough space to fit 28 cans, this portable and wearable backpack is excellent for quick road trips and camping.
The seams are heat-welded to make sure that melted ice doesn’t seep out, while multiple pockets offer just enough space for dry goods and accessories while saving room inside the bag for goodies that require cold environments. Padded adjustable straps and handles make it easy to lug your cooler around, even if it’s filled to the brim with snacks and beverages.
Not only for looking coolers? What about books? Check out our list of the best books that your kids will most likely enjoy on road trips. If you’re planning to camp, read our guide in renting an RV and make the best use of our research on the best road trips in the US. Lastly, you may want to consider California road trips in your bucket list.
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