8 Best Coolers WIRED Tested For Every Budget, Any Situation

Oh, summer. Tea 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.

For your other outdoor needs, be sure to check out our other buying guides, like the Best Portable Grills, Best Camping Gear, Best Camp Cookware, Best Tents, and the Best Binoculars.

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.

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