Food & Drink, Gadgets

Summer Suds Stash: The 8 Best Portable Coolers

Hot weather and cold drinks are the only way to enjoy summer. But that sweet sunshine can quickly spoil your best beverage if you don’t have an insulated way to keep it cool. Enter the cooler. Devised by the gods of summer themselves, a cooler in a haven that keeps hot and cold where they belong. Unless you get a bad cooler, and are then stuck with skunk drinks until Ricky comes back from the store. So that you’re able to stay ice cold, we’ve drummed up the 8 best coolers for sweltering in the sunshine.

What Makes a Good Cooler

There’s a lot more to a cooler than just keeping things cold. You can pack a box with styrofoam and it will insulate well enough, but it won’t be convenient. The key to a truly marvelous cooler is a sturdy outside that reflects the sun’s energy, reducing the heat before it even tries to sink in. It also must have enough space inside so you can load it up, and organize it for easy access. It’s got to be strong, and it’s got to be tough enough for you to sit on, and survive season after glorious season in the wild world, or your back porch.

Igloo Daytripper Tote

Igloo was the ugly cousin of the cooler world for a time. It seemed the brand couldn’t shed its kitsch feel and was destined for the scrapyard. Then, like a phoenix carrying cold cuts, Igloo began to catch the pack. Thanks to items like the Daytripper, it’s back in the rankings where it belongs. This beautiful beast is like a diaper bag and cooler all in one. Pockets galore let you stow and stash extra gear, and the adjustable handles let you move it how you dig. With all the straps and snaps and accessories, you’ll forget it’s also a cold holder like few on the market today. $80

Rubbermaid Extreme 5-Day 75qt

We don’t all need a $300 cooler that doubles as a portable bunker should North Korea decide to set us up the bomb. Some of us just want a good, solid piece that can be rolled around like a carry-on bag, holds a ton of stuff, works pretty well, has easy access, and mostly stays the hell out of the way. This can keep ice for days on end, and while it won’t go for weeks, like some, it’s not slouching in the insulation department. For our go-to weekender cooler for anyone and everyone, Rubbermaid gives you a lot to love for a price you can live with. $85

IceMule Pro Cooler XX Large

IceMule products come with a mission in mind. This can daunt the casual buyer, and well it should. These aren’t intended for average consumers. These are made for the outdoor hellcats, the bushwhackers, the machete-wielding survivalists, and the outdoor sportspeople who get their jollies testing their mettle against the elements. It straps in like a survivalist backpack, sticking close to your body for easier carry and more apt weight alignment over your feet. The heavily engineered build knows that users will be moving hard over varied terrain, so it aims at stability and comfort, then ergonomics, all while keeping ice for 24 hours, even while on your hot and sweaty back. $140

Icey-Tek 40 Quart

A simple cube cooler, perhaps, but our experience with Icey-Tek’s 40 quart cooler was exceptional. Somehow the polyethylene body with its Roto-Molded manufacturing process created a lightweight, convenient, managed to keep ice for longer than anything in the same ballpark. You can padlock it shut if you so desire, and cracking through the shell is no small feat. This should be your off-road, smash-it-up cooler of choice, as it’s ready to take direct missile hit and still dispense frosty refreshments. $190

Coleman Steel Belted Vintage

There’s a sense that merely because something is ‘classic’ or ‘traditional’ or ‘vintage’ that it’s automatically good. In most cases, it’s just old. In the case of this cooler, it’s righteously retro. The hard shell with its broad top begs to be a bench or a table, while the built-in bottle opener ensures that once you sit, you’ll only need to rise when it’s time to refresh your drink. More than that, it brings good looks and generous space that can hold 2-litre bottles upright for fewer flat sodas. $220

Orca Pod

We’d written off Orca as being another humdrum marine cooler brand that catered to fishmongers and no one else. Then we got the Pod and began to rethink how we viewed the brand. The circular build seems unwieldy, and does take some adjustment, but it also helps redistribute weight all around the base, so you won’t end up with the ‘sloshing’ feeling that can come from square backpack coolers. What’s really dead sexy about the whole thing is the straps and MOLLE loops that let you attach sling bags or other military add-ons to your giant beer tank. $270

Yeti Hopper BackFlip 24

Backpack coolers have begun to catch on, and Yeti had to be one of the first off the line. The BackFlip 24 evenly distributes weight so that however you pack it, it manages to keep you balanced for the long road ahead. Like any quality backpack there’s a chest strap and waist belt to provide extra stability, while the ergonomic shoulder straps hold you dear. The zipper is leakproof, showing no sign of giving up, and the exterior is true DryHide that won’t perforate or puncture as you trudge along. $300

OtterBox Venture 45

Yes, it is that OtterBox. Figuring it had conquered the world of protective phone cases, OtterBox decided it would bring its savvy guarding power to your food and drink. Auspicious in the extreme, the Venture 45 proved that no matter what kind of case it’s making, OtterBox knows how to hold stuff. It can keep ice for an eye-popping 14 days, and has a customizable exterior that can be mounted onto campers, RVs, cars, and stuffed or stacked wherever you have space. By the by, if you think you’re going to break it, you clearly don’t have an OtterBox case on your phone. $350

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