What Is the Best Cooler for Camping?

There’s nothing like the peace and quiet of nature paired with a refreshing beverage and a fresh meal. To keep your food safe and your drinks cold during camping trips, you need the perfect cooler. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a camping newbie, finding the best cooler for your needs can make a huge difference.

Learn about the various types of coolers and the most important considerations when shopping for your ideal camping cooler.

The Different Types of Coolers

The first step to finding the best cooler for camping is choosing the type of cooler that suits your needs and camping style. From durable hard-sided options to packable soft-sided coolers and even powered coolers for longer trips or sophisticated needs, here are the most common cooler variations.

Hard-Sided Coolers

Many campers swear by hard-sided coolers, the more traditional, robust option. These coolers are known for their excellent insulation and durable construction, keeping food cold for extended periods while withstanding any weather.

  • Durability: Hard-sided coolers can withstand rough handling and harsh outdoor conditions. They are perfect for long trips where maintaining low temperatures is crucial.
  • Insulation: Most come with thick walls and quality insulation materials that retain ice for several days, making them ideal for extended camping adventures.
  • Capacity: These coolers are available in various sizes, from small personal coolers to extra large family-sized ones, ensuring a model for every need.

Soft-Sided Coolers

Soft-sided coolers offer flexibility and convenience, especially for shorter trips or day outings. They can often be folded up when not in use, allowing extra packing space on the ride back home once most of your food and drink has been used up. If you’re short on storage space at home, they’re also easy to stash without taking up too much room.

  • Portability: These coolers are lightweight and easy to carry, often featuring shoulder straps or handles. They can easily fold up flat when not in use, saving space.
  • Flexibility: Soft-sided coolers can fit into tighter spaces, making them suitable for packed cars or kayaks.
  • Quick Access: Most come with multiple compartments and pockets, allowing easy access to snacks and drinks on the go.

Powered Coolers

Powered or electric coolers bring refrigeration technology to the great outdoors. These modern models, such as the EcoFlow Glacier Portable Refrigerator, can connect to shore power if your campsite has electricity hookups or use alternative energy sources such as EcoFlow RIVER 2 Series Portable Power Stations

Just plug the cooler into the battery or pair it with EcoFlow Portable Solar Panels to create full EcoFlow RIVER 2 Series Solar Generators for uninterrupted cooling.

(Pro Tip: If you bring a portable power station to power your cooler, why not use it to power other helpful camping devices like the EcoFlow Wave 2 Portable AC? Utilize all the power you have to keep yourself cool, too.)

  • Consistent Cooling: These coolers can plug into a car’s power outlet and run on solar or a battery, providing consistent cooling without the need for ice.
  • Temperature Control: Many powered coolers offer adjustable temperature settings, allowing you to keep your contents at the perfect chill level or ensure certain items stay frozen. The EcoFlow Glacier Portable Refrigerator even offers dual cooling zones to utilize the freezing and cooling features simultaneously.
  • Convenience: Ideal for long road trips or camping sites with access to electricity, these coolers eliminate the hassle of constantly replenishing ice.

Backpack Coolers

Backpack coolers combine mobility with the functionality of a traditional cooler, perfect for hiking or day trips. While they’re typically on the smaller size, they’re effective at keeping water or snacks cool for short camping trips.

  • Hands-Free Carrying: Designed like a backpack, these coolers free up your hands for other gear, making them great for active adventurers.
  • Compactness: While less spacious than hard-sided coolers, they provide enough room for a day’s worth of refreshments.
  • Comfort: Padded straps and ergonomic designs ensure carrying comfort, even when fully loaded.

What to Consider When Looking For a Cooler for Camping

Ready to find your perfect camping cooler companion? Things like size, cooling performance, construction, and portability matter. Ensure you keep these considerations in mind during your shopping search.

Size and Volume

The size and volume of your cooler should match the length of your trip and the number of people in your party. A small cooler of about 20 quarts or less for solo or single-day trips is usually sufficient. Weekend getaways or camping adventures with small groups may fare better with a mid-sized cooler with between 20 and 50 quarts of space. Opt for a large cooler with more than 50 quarts of usable space for extended adventures or larger groups.

Cooling Performance

Cooling performance is paramount, especially for longer trips where keeping food and beverages cold is critical. Most coolers rely on ice to keep the contents cool, so it must prevent ice melt. The cooling performance depends on a power source such as solar, AC, or a car charger for powered coolers that offer refrigeration power without ice. 

For ice retention, check the manufacturer’s claims and user reviews about how long ice lasts. High-end coolers can offer a retention time of several days. Good insulation materials like foam or polyurethane can enhance cooling performance.


The cooler’s empty and full weight can impact your choice, especially if you have to carry it over long distances. Soft-sided and backpack coolers are typically lighter and easier to carry, whereas hard-sided and powered coolers may require two people to carry when fully loaded. This may be worth it if the trade-off is superior insulation, but it’s still worth keeping in mind.


Consider how you’ll transport the cooler and the terrain you’ll encounter. Will it be rocky or paved? Is there a steep elevation climb, or are you camping on flat land? The answers to these questions will help you understand how portable your cooler should be. Some features that aid in portability include wheels, suitcases, carry handles, and straps.

Construction and Durability

While camping, your cooler will likely encounter rugged outdoor conditions. If you prefer a hard-sided cooler, choose a high-quality plastic or metal exterior with reinforced corners. For soft coolers, look for durable fabric and stitching that won’t budge. 

Another thing to consider is how bear-resistant the cooler is. Some products even have a certification from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) to show that they won’t budge even if a bear catches a whiff of your food.

Unique Features

Some coolers come with additional features that enhance their functionality and convenience. For example, dual cooling zones, fast cooling (the EcoFlow Glacier Portable Refrigerator cools from 30°C/86°F to 0°C/32°F in around 15 minutes), dividers or baskets to organize your contents, drain plugs, sustainability via solar charging, and ice makers are a few features that make a cooler stand out.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best cooler for camping depends on the size of your party, the length of your stay, and the extent of your food and drink contents. Whether you opt for the robustness of a hard-sided cooler, the portability of a backpack cooler, or the advanced technology of a powered cooler, the right choice will enhance your outdoor experience.

For those seeking a top-tier option that combines advanced cooling technology with portability, consider checking out the EcoFlow Glacier Portable Refrigerator.

EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.


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