Ah, summer. The beach, the lake, the river—wherever you can find water is the place to be. But while you're beating the heat floating in an inner tube or standing on a paddleboard, your drinks and food are not. They're baking in the afternoon sun, because this morning's shady spot has already evaporated, along with your ice.
When cooler companies claim ice lasts for days, be skeptical. They're not necessarily lying, but they are testing under ideal conditions that are never going to exist in the real world. We've been testing coolers for over two years now, and we've stored them in the sun, in bike trailers, and in cars, all while trying to keep food and drinks cool and edible. Below, you'll find our top picks for each category (hard-sided, soft-sided, backpack-style, expensive, affordable, even disposable), as well as a few alternatives, plus general buying tips if none of these capture your fancy.
Updated May 2023: We've added several new Yeti coolers, the Airskirts inflatable cooler, and the Oyster iceless cooler, and we've updated prices throughout.
Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you'd like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.
TurboTax coupon: Up to an extra $15 off all tax services
H&R Block tax software: Save 20% - no coupon needed
Instacart promo code: $25 Off your 1st order + free delivery
50% off any size order + free delivery with DoorDash promo code
Take $10 Off Your Order - Finish Line Coupon Code
Groupon promo code: Extra 30% off any amount