Although we’re avid users and lovers of Costco Pelican Coolers, there are tons of other coolers that can turn your hot beach day into a cool one.
Let’s face it, grabbing a hot Corona after your time spent in the water can kind of ruin a day.
Not only do most people use coolers to keep your food and beverages cold, people who fish need them to store their bait and any fish that they may catch.
Long gone are the days of the cheap plastic cooler. We’ve seen huge innovations in the cooler realm that make you think, “Why haven’t we had this all along?”
There are two main types of coolers out there: hard-sided and soft-sided.
Hard-sided cooler are great for weeklong trips where you need to store something like a block of ice. Soft-sided coolers are great for casual day trips to the lake or beach.
With the hundreds of coolers out on the market, finding one that fits perfectly with your needs and budget can be quite difficult. Continue reading our “Best Beach Coolers” review so we can help you stay cooler than ever this summer.
7 Best Hard Sided Beach Coolers
Our #1 Pick - Yeti Roadie 20 Cooler
Any cooler that is part of the Yeti family is a cooler that you can count on. Their Interlock lid system is like no other and helps to block out any outside elements. “It may protect from the elements, but what about a bear?”, you say. Well thanks to the T-Rex lid latches, this thing stays locked up safely and securely. With help from the ColdLock gasket locks and the fat wall Permafrost Insulation, ice that is put inside can stay in tact for just over a week.
The wildly durable Yeti Roadie 20 Cooler is actually one of the only cooler of its size that you can store dry ice in, as it is totally UV-resistant and protected on the inner walls. Bring this baby with you wherever you go and know that it is compact enough to throw in the trunk when you travel and in the tent when you’re relaxing. We wouldn’t recommend this for anyone who wants to take week long trips, as it might not fit all you need inside, though if you are riding solo, this 5.2 gallon container might just be the perfect cooling application to bring along with you.
#2 - Pelican Elite 50-Quart Cooler
Pelican is another one of those cooler brands that seems to consistently put out some of the best high-end coolers like Yeti. It is also another choice for people who are very serious about their cooling needs. The Pelican Elite 50-Quart Cooler is made of a 2-inch thick polyurethane insulation that helps to keep cold air locked inside.
The reason it stays so tightly locked is because of the built-on freezer grade gaskets. As with the Yeti, you can get about 10 days of ice retention depending on the weather and conditions. The molded dual handle system makes it very easy and comfortable to carry too. All in all, the hardware on the Pelican Elite 50-Quart Cooler is very high quality and is even corrosion resistant so you don’t have to worry about it being constantly wet.
Pelican decided to have some fun with this cooler as well, and stuck four built-in cup holders atop the unit that are self-draining. It looks a little funkier than all of the other Pelican Coolers too with it’s grey and lime green color scheme. Wrap that all up with the integrated measuring board, molded tie-down slots, stainless steel bottle opener, and Pelican’s lifetime replacement guarantee, and you’ve got yourself a heck of a cooler.
#3 - RTIC 65 Cooler
The RTIC 65 cooler is one of their bigger models and is perfect for hosting larger parties or taking longer road trips with. Put it this way, this thing holds up to 64 standard cans, 70bs of ice, or 65 quarts of water, more than enough to get you through a few days out in the wild. It can keep any of those cold for up to 10 days, same as the aforementioned coolers.
RTIC has given you a few options in color, as you can pick from tan, white, or a nice baby blue. It doesn’t stop at the aesthetic though, as this cooler is packed with awesome features. It’s an extremely heavy-duty cooler that is made with a rotomolded construction. Be aware that it is pretty heavy at 41.5lbs empty, though the handles are very rugged and comfortable enough to have two people transport it without worry.
Overall, the RTIC 65 Cooler is built to experience the outdoors along with you. With everything we’ve already mentioned, as well as the heavy-duty rubber T latches, the freezer-style lid gasket, the rapid V drain system, and easy flow drain spout, this cooler truly has character.
#4 - Igloo Quick and Cool Cooler
Not looking to spend an arm and a leg on a cooler? In that case, you might enjoy the Igloo Quick and Cool Cooler. Igloo is probably the most recognizable brand in terms of mid-range coolers. While it may not be built for weeklong ice retention, you can get about 3 days out of it if you keep it closed and out of the sun. This model comes in 100 and 150-quart designs that are both made from a hard shell polyethylene. The quick-access hatches make it easy to grab a drink on the fly without needing to completely open the cooler.
This is a solid trade off for the fact that the ice retention isn’t amazing. As for getting these down to the beach, they are pretty heavy when loaded and do not come with any sort of wheels or practical transportation applications.
We would highly recommend getting some padding for the handles, as they can be uncomfortable to grip when the cooler is full. You truly get what you pay for with a cooler, though the small price you pay for a cooler that can hold up to 248 standard 12oz. cans makes it worth it. Overall, we would highly suggest this cooler if you are in need of something big that you will only be using once in a while.
#5 - Pelican Elite 20-Quart Cooler
Don’t let the size of the Pelican Elite 20-Quart Cooler fool you, as this thing is an absolute monster. To start things off, this cooler looks and feels like it was built for some hardcore navy seal mission. You’ll never need to worry about busting this thing up, as most of the time it doubles as a seat. In terms of cool, you are truly getting freezer-grade quality with the Pelican 20-Quart. The ice retention, like its bigger brother, is rated to keep ice frozen for up to 10 days.
Thanks to the thick 2 inches of polyurethane insulation and the 360-degree freezer-grade gasket, it really does. Some of the other hardcore features on the Pelican 20-Quart include the corrosion-resistant reinforced lockable hasp, the molded-in tie downs, and thick rubber feet to prevent slippage, all which make it perfect for fisherman too.
As an added bonus, Pelican added a built-in bottle opener to keep the part going. We recommend this cooler for the people taking small day trips either solo or with a friend, as it can only hold up to 15 standard 12oz. cans. Other than that, if you’re looking for a cooler that you’ll be able to take with you over the next few decades, this lifetime warrantied cooler is a great choice.
#6 - ORCA Cooler
Just like the RTIC Coolers, the ORCA Cooler are rotomolded for durability. Basically, if you are a hardcore outdoorsman or woman, these coolers will be able to take the trip with you. One of the most unique things about them unlike a lot of other high-end coolers like YETI, ORCA Coolers are completely designed and manufactured right here in the US without any outsourcing. This means a lot for the quality.
From 140 quarts all the way down to 20 quarts, it’s easy to find an ORCA Cooler that suits your specific needs. They also look a lot better than other coolers in our opinion, as they’re much sleeker. As an added bonus that has also become a part of their aesthetic. ORCA puts nice little pouches on the backs of their coolers that are great for putting your phone or wallet in.
Similar to the other coolers on this list, the ice retention on the ORCA Cooler works for up to 10 days. This is because it is equipped with airtight latches and seals that keep cool air in and warm air out. The drainage spout is probably the highest quality out of all of the cooler we’ve looked at too. If you want an all-American cooler that can be as tough as you, ORCA is where it’s at.
#7 - RTIC 20-Quart Cooler
Digging the RTIC coolers but want something that is more portable and better for shorter trips? You guessed it! RTIC makes 20-quart coolers that are perfect for those solo rides up the coast. RTIC’s main focus is on keep your stuff cold in the harshness of the wild. They are truly multi-purpose coolers that are perfect for any kind of outdoor event, whether camping, boating, hunting, fishing, or chillin’ in the sand.
The best part about the RTIC 20-Quart coolers is that it is much lighter and far easier to stow away in your car or truck than any other model. The strong top-handle paired with the rubber coating makes it easy for one person to transport. Scared that some bears might eat your ham sandwich? One of RTIC’s promises is that their coolers are completely bear resistant.
This has to do with the built-on integrated locking system. Rotomolded coolers are great because they truly hold up with anything you throw at them and they also help in optimizing the insulation. The RTIC 20-Quart Cooler also comes comes with durable T-latches, a freezer-grade gasket, a full-length hinge system, and an array of colors to chose from.
3 Best Soft-Sided Coolers
Our #1 Pick - YETI Hopper Flip Portable Cooler
If you’re looking for a cooler that delivers all of the high-quality performance of a YETI without the bulk, the YETI Hopper Flip is a great choice. This cooler is built for people who are taking solo trips or trips with a few friends and don’t need tons of storage capacity.
The thick insulation is rated to keep your things cold for about 4 days and is sealed with a fat, heavy-duty zipper. We must really enhance the fact that the HydroLok zipper is hardcore and won’t break or get stuck with tons of use like most zippers would. The wide-mouth design makes it easy to pack up the cooler, as well as reach for your drinks or food with ease.
Even though this cooler is soft, it holds up to its cousins in terms of durability. With thick interior walls that are made of a TPU-laminated nylon that not only help retain ice better, but also help to keep the YETI Hopper Flip safe from punctures or dents. What really sets this cooler apart from the other on the YETI lineup is the fact that it is so easy to transport. It’s lightweight even when packed, the shoulder strap is padded and comfortable to sling around your neck, and the side handles add an extra option in case the strap doesn’t work in your favor. Mix that in with the included Velcro patch and Molle webbing straps for clip-on gear and you’ve got an all-around Swiss Army Knife of a cooler.
#2 - YETI Hopper Two Portable Cooler
After reading that you probably didn’t think the YETI Hopper could get any better. Well let us introduce you to the YETI Hopper Two. While there are no major differences that really set this apart from its predecessor, there are some small changes that YETI made to optimize the unit. They changed the zipper that moves around the top of the cooler to the front face of the cooler. Not only does this give the mouth and wider and more accessible design, it also gives the cooler an entirely different look.
You also don’t have to deal with the falling lid, one of the few cons of the YETI Hopper Flip. YETI really wanted to optimize portability with the YETI Hopper and that is why they decided to taper the design a bit instead of having it be so square so that the user was able to stick it in tighter corners. The last big difference that you’ll find with this second generation Hopper is the top handle that complements the shoulder strap.
Besides those small changes, this cooler has the same ice retention as the original Hopper and is perfect for everyone from fisherman to beachgoers. With 3 different options for sizes ranging from 20 to 40 quarts, you can find the size that best suits your needs. The outside is also very durable with the YETI signature DryHide shell. Not only does it help keep your items stay cold, but it also protect your cooler from any sort of punctures or tears.
#3 - RTIC 40 SoftPak
Even though YETI might have monopolized the high-end soft cooler market for quite some time, RTIC is on the come up. They’ve also made a soft cooler that is very portable and perfect for taking on quick trips. With cooler sizes ranging from 8 to 40 quarts, we’re going to be focusing on their largest. Just like the YETI Coolers, the RTIC 40 SoftPak is made from a puncture resistant StayDry material that will hold up with just about anything you throw at it. Not only does it match YETI in terms of durability, it is also UV resistant.
While the zipper isn’t as thick as the ones on the YETI, you’ll still find that it is ultra durable and won’t snag after tons of use. It is also completely waterproof to help complement the welded seams that protect it from leaking or letting water in. Hate the nasty odor that comes out of old damp cooler? Luckily this model comes with an antimicrobial liner that helps keep those odors at bay. At only 5lbs completely empty, this cooler can hold a surprising amount inside. It can also keep your stuff cold for about 3 days, which is awesome for a cooler of its size.
Factors to Consider When Buying
There is no doubt that the ice retention is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing any type of cooler. What’s the point of cooler if it can’t do its primary job? The amount of ice retention you need truly depends on the types of trips you’re planning to take your cooler on. While “10-day ice retention” might sound incredible, there’s no point in spending an arm and a leg for that when you’re just taking your cooler to the beach for a few hours. The variety of materials used for ice retention can be a bit confusing and that is why we recommend looking at the thickness of the insulation first. Though it isn’t a golden rule, it is typical that the thicker the insulation is, the better the ice retention will be.
As with ice life, this really comes down to the kinds of trips you’ll be taking. You’ll typically see coolers measured in terms of how many quarts they can hold. That can be a bit confusing, which is also the reason why many companies will give you an idea of how many standard 12oz. cans it can hold for better judgment. You need to think of what you’ll be putting in your cooler. If you’re thinking of just bringing beers down to the beach, a small 20-quart cooler might do you just fine. On the other hand, if you’re doing some bass fishing or deer hunting, it’s definitely necessary to have larger cooling capacity.
This doesn’t only mean how heavy the cooler is, but also how bulky it is. Do you have a large flatbed in the back of your truck that you could fit a horse in? You’re probably solid with a bigger cooler in that case. On the other hand, if you’re repping a Mini Cooper, having the 65-Quart RTIC might be impractical. In general, look for the lightest cooler that fits your cooling needs. Don’t sacrifice insulation though. Just make sure that even when it is all loaded up, you or you and a friend will still be able to haul it.
Durability is serious, especially if you want your cooler to last you over the years. It might not be priority to someone just hanging at the beach, but for someone on a rugged hunting or fishing trip, durability can make or break the cooler. Most every cooler on this list is made out of strong material with reinforced seams to help keep them going strong. Rotomolded designs of heavy-duty polyurethane materials are great to keep an eye out for. If you’re checking out soft coolers, look for ones that have heavy-duty, waterproof zippers and puncture-resistant outer layers. A well-built cooler can go a long way, literally.
This is something that many people won’t think of when purchasing a cooler, but will be pretty noticeable after you’ve struggled for the fourth time trying to get a beer out. The one thing you should look after is coolers with wide mouths. This makes it so you can not only easily store your items in it, but when it comes time to grab something out, everything is visible and within reach. While the Igloo Cooler on our list isn’t the most high-quality, the fact they added an extra latch so that you can reach in the cooler without fully opening it is pretty awesome.
Know your budget. Seriously, while all the high-end models might make your mouth drop, it’s important to take affordability into account. Some of these coolers cost hundreds of dollars. Some cost more than others, even though they do the exact same things. This is why you should do a bit of research, not only comparing prices, but also comparing features and designs.
A brand name item can cost you more, but it will also give you some peace of mind knowing that many other people have used the brand before and will continue to long after you buy one. A cooler with a brand name will also typically have better warranties and will have better customer service if you ever find a problem with your cooler. For example, would you rather pay extra for a YETI cooler that has a massive community to back up their reliability, or a cheap, no-name cooler from Jeff’s Beach Shack that breaks after a week of use without any warranty?
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I get a hard-sided or soft-sided cooler?
Each of these coolers has their own advantages and disadvantages. It truly depends on how you want to use your cooler. Soft-sided coolers are much easier to carry and transport, making them great for smaller day trips without your whole group of friends. They’re pretty durable as well, so you won’t have to worry about taking them to places where the environment isn’t as forgiving. If you’re going on long excursions or camping trips with the possibility of bears or other scavengers getting in the mix, definitely go with a hard-sided cooler. They’re far tougher and you can get models that provide tons more storage capacity. They also retain ice much longer than soft-sided coolers.
Which cooler has the best warranty?
The ORCA has the best warranty out of all of the coolers on our list with a complete lifetime warranty. We assume they can do that because it completely American made and they have faith that their product won’t break. Pelican takes them in second with their limited lifetime warranty that protects against manufacturer defects.
Why go with a rotomolded construction for hard-sided coolers?
The process of rotomolding isn’t very old, but can keep a product in shape for many, many years. The process works by taking plastic and rotationally molding it until it becomes the solid foundation that you see when you purchase it. High-end kayaks are also made with rotomolding. Cooler manufacturers found that not only could this make their coolers tougher, but it could also help retain ice much longer than normal plastic builds. While they cost much more, they are truly worth every cent when you take into account their durability.
Which coolers are made completely in the US?
The only ones on this list that 100% American made are Pelican Coolers and ORCA coolers. Other cooler brands that we did not mention such as Bison and Esky are also made in the USA. The others are partially made in the USA with specific pieces being manufactured in countries around the world.
Can these cooler also keep my food warm?
Absolutely! The fact that these coolers are made with heavy-duty insulated walls means they are made to retain the temperature that is inside them. The colder the stuff you put in, the colder the temperature on the inside will be. The same goes for any hot items. Want to hit a part or potluck and keep that casserole warm on the way? Try using a cooler!
Whatever you end up choosing, make sure to consider your needs and budget prior.
The coolers we’ve listed are pretty much top-of-the-line, and we are confident that they will do you well, whatever your needs are. Have fun this summer and stay cool!