Perhaps in response to Yeti, one of the first manufacturers to find serious traction by selling $500 uber-coolers, the portable insulation game has become the new black for loads of gear-makers. This is a good thing, as it offers the intrepid lover of keeping things cool a variety of options to consider—and some don’t require you to adjust your monthly budget in order to buy them. Here’s a handful of the best out there, as well as a few that will hit the shelves in spring 2018.
This stealthy backpack cooler boasts 28 liters of storage, including a massive insulated section, a zippered mesh pocket for an ice pack, a fleece-lined pocket for your sunglasses, and an on-the-go koozie attached to one shoulder strap. And yes, it also includes a bottle opener. It won’t keep your kit cold for days; it’s more ideal for a one-day or -night outing. And keep your eyes peeled for the Party Block, a larger-format cooler that drops in spring 2018 and includes a removable shoulder strap laced with beer koozies, so you can wear your beverages across your chest like Rambo stringing his ammo.
Starting at $250
As we’ve already gushed, Otterbox entered into the uber-cooler space with a pretty impressive offering. But what sets Otterbox isn’t just that the cooler will insulate the insides for days. It’s the cooler’s accessories, which includes everything from cutting boards and dry storage trays to cup holders. That trend will continue this spring, with a new pair of ultra-rugged wheels paired with a handle that’s engineered for quick hauls from house to car, or for longer forays into the variable terrain of the wild. Oh, and they’re all certified as bear proof.
Bend, OR-based Hydroflask already makes some of the best vacuum-sealed liquid vessels on the market, and this spring they’ll shift their focus on all things insulation to coolers. The new Unbound Series will include two models—a 24-liter tote as well as the 25-liter pack. Opt for the latter. The soft insulation backpack bulks up the insulation at the top and bottom, where most of the cold escapes, with waterproof zippers, a handful of storage options, and an aesthetic that hides the fact you’re lugging around a cooler. And it’s free-standing, making it easy to load, sort, and retrieve your goods.
Starting at $200
King Kong cooler maker Yeti has branched out into selling buckets and duffle bags, but their coolers still reign as some of the industry’s best. The recently revised Hopper line offers a (slightly) more approachable price point, with sizes that range from eight to 40 liters. All come with their HydroLok zippers for 100% waterproof insulation, with bomber fabrics built to combat whatever elements you may encounter. And on the 20 and up models, they’ve reconfigured the zipper to sit on the side (rather than the top) to make it easier to load and unload, and tweaked the body shape to make it more comfortable to carry.
Starting at $55
For those apartment dwellers where space is a commodity, Kelty’s Folding Cooler models offer the perfect hack. The insulated walls are assembled via Velcro flaps. Assemble them like origami, then nestle in the soft waterproof bucket. And when not in use, it collapses into a 5.5×166.5-inch rectangle (in the smallest of three version), diminutive enough to easily slip under your bed for storage. Cup holders lining the top are also a nice touch.
When all you want to haul is a six-pack of your favorite canned microbrew, the Cooler Tube will provide, with a full-zip closure, an adjustable shoulder strap, and a waterproof, seam-sealed lining. Some will think you’re going to yoga, others might think you’re channeling your inner ninja; it’s up to you to let folks in on the secret. Packing tip: consider half-freezing half of your load to provide additional cooling power when in transit.
Calling the Coolest a cooler doesn’t do the thing justice. It’s a full-on party. It includes a high-performance blender, an outdoor-ready Bluetooth-enabled speaker, a waterproof USB charger, a ceramic knife, a wine and bottle opener, fold-down tables, and (yes) a place to put the ice and beverages. It all runs on a rechargeable 20V lithium battery, and is mounted on double-wide rubberized wheels.