Updated: May 9, 2015
Best CoolersInsulated coolers and thermos' have been around for a long time, in the never ending quest to keep hot things hot and cold things cold. Most people use coolers for camping, sporting events, on their boat. For sporting events, beverage coolers are most commonly used. These big jugs (usually shaped like a barrel, can be big or small) can be loaded with water or other beverages, filled with ice, and they will deliver cold beverages for hours, even on the hottest of summer days. You can get a big 5 gallon Igloo Water Cooler for less that $50. Designed to hold a lot of weight, these coolers come with heavy duty handles and a pressure fit lid that won't trap dirt. A smaller one gallon water cooler can be had for just $13, perfect for a family picnic or afternoon of tennis, basketball, or some other activity.
Classic Coolers - Camping CoolersAmerican Retro makes the old-fashioned hard-sided classis coolers from back in the 50's and 60's. My dad used to call it the ice chest and I still find myself referring to it that way and my kids laugh. You can get one with old-style Pepsi logos, Corvette logos, Orange Crush logos - $115 gets you chrome highlights, built-in bottle opener, but they only hold a six pack. Coleman sells the popular cooler combos, which come with multiple pieces, like a large 54 quart rectangular coolers, a smaller 5 quart mini-cooler, and a 1/3 gallon water cooler jug - all for less than $60. If you're looking for the best cooler to take camping, you need a full-sized cooler, which range in size from about 40 quarts to over 100 quarts. A good size where you are shopping around is around 60 quarts - these are the sizes you might see at a tailgate party or a backyard BBQ -- a 60 qt. cooler holds about 75 cans of pop or beer, ice included. Try CamperStore.com for a nice selection of coolers for all your camping needs. What should you look for in a camping cooler? We prefer removable lids to hinged lids, and we like the drain channel models that funnel melted ice to the drain spout so you don't have to lift and tilt the heavy cooler to drain off excess water. All coolers offer more or less the same level of insulation - these babies are designed to keep ice from melting for up to 5 or 6 days at 90 degree outside heat! In terms of shape, most are rectangular in design like an old seachest, although Igloo also offers some cube-shaped coolers. Cube shapes are easier to carry since they are balanced better, and they take up less floor space in a car or truck bed, though they are taller. Also, look for little extras in the lid - cup holders, storage areas for keys, glasses, etc. Little details like this sometimes really make or break the cooler for your personal use. You can browse the top rated chest coolers online here.
Finally, consider getting a wheeled cooler. If you've ever carried cooler a long distance to a beach, camping, or picnic site - I probably just sold you already. Wheeled coolers come with a pop-up handle that lets you comfortably pull the cooler behind you, making it extra helpful for families with lots of gear and not so many strong hands to carry thing. Thermos also makes some really cool soft coolers. These designs have layered insulation in soft materials, allowing the cooler to be folded up and squeezed down to to less than 1/3 the size it takes to store a normal cooler. In terms of keeping things cold, these coolers are on par with their hard-sided brethren. BEST - For the top rated wheeled cooler on the market see the Coleman 6-Day 50 Qt. Ultimate Xtreme Wheeled Cooler - Coleman is perhaps the #1 brand in this industry and the large wheels on this model make it easier to pull through rough terrain. There is plenty of storage space on the interior for ice, drinks, food, and more.