Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice in which we find the best-reviewed products and single out the most convincing ones. (You can learn more about our rating system and how we pick each item here.)
While we’ve written about plenty of things to keep drinks cool, including an insulated Japanese water bottle, a white-wine-cooling icicle, and the best ice-cube trays, here we’re going deep into the best coolers that you can buy on Amazon.
Our pick for the best-rated cooler on Amazon is a soft-sided, easy-lugging, Coleman that hundreds of reviewers use as a lunchbox. “I bought this for the purpose of a lunch box and cooler to bring by the pool [or] go fishing. It’s perfect for both,” says one satisfied customer, adding, “My food for the day fits perfectly with the hard liner taken out. Six beers with plenty of ice and a sandwich fit with the hard liner in.” Well-made is another word used to describe this cooler. “This cooler is gorgeous, well made, looks exactly like the picture, perfect size for one or two people, and plenty of strap to wrap around over my head against my neck and hangs comfortably on opposite side of my 6’1”, 220-pound body,” sums up one.
Lots of reviewers talk about how it’s great for kids and journeys. “We got this for a trip to Disney World, to stick in our stroller for the babies milk, drinks, and snacks for the rest of the family and it was perfect,” says a vacationer. Another argues for its utility by saying, “I expect 90 percent of the time I’ll be using this in my car when I’m on day trips and don’t want or have time to stop at a restaurant. The cooler is big enough to fit two meals for two people and keep cold what needs to be cold.” People say the removable hard liner, outside pouch, and mesh pockets make it especially adaptable. A wife writes, “My husband uses these coolers as his ‘purse.’ He works outdoors and stuffs the thing with drinks, nuts, cheese along with his wallet, cell phone, knives, papers. He literally can’t be without it.”
Best-rated (less expensive) cooler
Reviewers love this lunchbox-sized personal cooler for porting everything from bait to breast milk to insulin to blood samples (per a registered nurse) to phones (for extended battery life) to, of course, snacks and drinks. A reviewer says, “The snap lid is good, the cooler is sturdy, the lid flips over and slides to make a little tray table. Would recommend for all tiny cooler enthusiasts.” And though it is small, according to one reviewer, “It holds three sandwiches and fruit or a large burrito or a small six pack of beverages.” Users like the rigidity: “The soft coolers tend to sweat or even leak, getting the rest of your ‘stuff’ wet. This one stays dry. It’s perfect.” And over a dozen reviewers say that they like using this for making clear ice: “I bought this cooler solely to make clear ice like in the great watering holes of America and it does a great job.”
Best soft-sided cooler bag
“I have no idea why some people aren’t impressed by what this cooler can do,” wonders one reviwer, who explains, “I put a relatively thin layer of ice over six beers and played in a golf tournament a few weeks ago on a 95 degree day. This cooler sat in the back in direct sunlight for about 75 percent of our time on the course. Got to the last tee and went for my last beer. There was still ice in the cooler and the beer was freezing cold.” A couple of reviewers note that this soft-sided cooler can keep food as cold as it would’ve been in the fridge. One reviewer’s friend drove from one end of Washington state to the other with food in this cooler: “She said that it worked great, keeping the seafood she’d brought as cold as if it had been in a refrigerator.” Another reviewer, who’s often moving milk and other perishables from one home to the other, writes, “In the past we had a standard soft-sided cooler which just didn’t keep the ice packs cold during the trip. Bought this Yeti cooler and no problem. The icepacks feel as cold as when they’re pulled from the freezer before the trip in either direction.” (Former Strategist writer Lauren Levy also deemed this the best cooler, back in 2016.)
Best (less expensive) soft-sided cooler bag
“Keeps things cold over 24 hours if not in direct sun,” writes a user about this easily portable, largely leak-proof soft-sided cooler by AO that reviewers for both grocery shopping and day trips. A mom says, “This cooler kept a month’s worth of my breast milk frozen during a move from the U.S. to South Africa which lasted about 3 days. I didn’t lose any of the milk and I am so thankful for this cooler.” And a motorcyclist fan who apparently is riding through hell-like conditions adds, “I rode in 100-107 degree weather for a full day’s ride (8 hours or more) many times on my 3500-mile ride on my Harley and by the end of the day the ice packs were still very much frozen and my water bottles icy cold.” A number of users caution that the strap is not as strong as it could be, and while this doesn’t impede functionality, one aesthetically-minded user observes “that the logo could use some work and definitely has a long way to go to inspire the kind of lifestyle this is geared toward. Seems like a logo of a company that sells industrial shelving.”
Best tote-bag cooler
“This is HUGE,” writes a reviewer. “You know those bags pizza deliverers carry, that fit three large pizzas and a side of breadsticks? That’s this. It actually has instructions for how to use it to carry pizzas.” Well over a hundred reviewers, especially those dealing with Southern summers or long hauls to the store, love it for groceries. “I have an hour commute from the grocery store to home. These bags are fantastic, kept ice cream frozen on a 90 degree summer day. Also well made, with a nice bonus feature of Velcro on the bottom to keep your bags stationary in the trunk,” says one. Another notes, “I am able to stop at the library or do other things until I head for home, put the groceries away and don’t have warm milk by then.” Though this is more general thermal bag advice, one user advises, “Once you’ve put seafood in a bag like this, it will always need to be a seafood bag.”
Best backpack cooler
Reviewers express affection for this backpack cooler because it’s comfortable and unobtrusive to carry, has useful pockets and a bungee cord, and keeps things cold. One enthusiast, who describes this as “amazing,” offers this proof: “We have used it on day trips to the beach, walking around Savannah with it carrying beer, and on trips. It doesn’t leak for over 24 hours! It also looks so discreet, almost like a normal backpack and not a cooler. The straps are comfortable so I can carry it even when it is full and heavy.” Nearly fifty users say it was a stalwart (and money-saving) partner on trips to Disney. “Perfect for our Disney trip. We used the freezer packs and carried sandwiches, snacks and drinks in this. It fit on all the rides easily and kept everything cool,” writes a typical park-gooer. Everyone seems impressed with the build for the price (“The zippers are not too large yet sturdy and work smoothly”), though many note that the pack works better with Cooler Shock packs rather than ice.
Best stainless steel cooler
Reviewers love this cooler for its simplicity, effectiveness, and its “old school” style, as described in dozens of reviews. As one verified buyer put it, “Took me back to my childhood when I saw it! In Florida at the beach in 90 degree weather, it held ice just as well as a Yeti that was also in our group.” The consensus is it will keep ice for a weekend. “On a typical camping trip in the summer, it will keep 2 bags of ice about 36 hours. It is well made and performs about like we thought it would,” says a user. “This is a three-day cooler that is of a size that can be filled with food and ice and still be lifted by an old geezer,” is another camper’s assessment. Users appreciate the metal hinges and handles, like one who writes, “I was tired of dealing with a floppy lid and decided to invest in something with metal hinges.” As far as small drawbacks, some note the lack of trays, and one reviewer advises, “There are no trays in this cooler, so make sure to double bag anything that will be affected by water as the ice melts.” And, as a popular review adds, “Also is a sturdy seat option for when your idiot cousin steals your chair at the campfire.”