Which beverage cooler is best?
Is there anything more disappointing than warm soda? Outdoor beverage coolers keep your favorite drinks at the perfect temperature. Whether you’re camping, tailgating or on a road trip, the best beverage coolers keep you and your family refreshed.
Our top pick, the Trinity Stainless Steel Cooler with Shelf, has room for 96 cans. The best beverage cooler for families, friends or yourself will depend on how many drinks you plan to tote.
What to know before you buy a beverage cooler
Hardtop beverage coolers are made of plastic. They have two handles for easy carrying and often have cup holders built into the lid for added convenience. Some models have a pullout handle so you can wheel the cooler around like a suitcase. Two people may need to carry a very full cooler.
Soft tote beverage coolers are made of fabric. When not in use, they collapse for easy storage. Some models have backpack or crossbody straps for hands-free carrying. Even when it is very full, one person can usually carry it.
Think about where you’ll be using your beverage cooler most often. If you’re mostly using it for fishing with a friend, a low-capacity cooler that holds five or six cans should work. If you’re mostly using it for backyard barbecues with the whole neighborhood, a high-capacity cooler that holds around 90 cans would be better.
If you want the flexibility of a larger cooler but don’t need that much space, a medium-capacity cooler that holds 30-50 cans is your best bet.
Larger models that perform well in the blazing summer sun aren’t meant to stay outside in the freezing winter snow. Make sure there’s room for your cooler in the garage if you decide to go big.
If you plan to use your cooler on or near water, look for watertight storage or water-resistant fabric. This is also a good idea if you live in an area with sudden downpours.
What to look for in a quality beverage cooler
The better the insulation, the more expensive the beverage cooler. Some coolers are designed to keep drinks cold for a few hours. Others can stay chilly for up to two days. Depending on the type and size of your cooler, you’ll want to use ice, ice packs, or a combination of both.
The key to longer storage is an insulated lid. If you want maximum cold time, look for a beverage cooler with this feature.
Ice eventually melts in even the best-insulated beverage coolers. Most larger models have a spout on the bottom of one side to easily drain the cooler and allow for lighter and easier carrying. It’s much simpler than picking up and trying to dump out the water with drinks still floating around in the cooler.
These spouts aren’t standard on smaller models, so if it’s an important factor for you, be sure to look at the feature list closely.
Cleaning your beverage cooler isn’t the most exciting thing to think about, but it’s important. You can wipe or hose down a hardtop cooler and it will be ready to go again in a few minutes. You can spot clean a soft tote cooler with soap or detergent, but they will need to dry out overnight once they are wet.
Larger-capacity beverage coolers made of stainless steel will look pretty but will require extra cleaning effort and time.
How much you can expect to spend on a beverage cooler
Low to medium-capacity soft tote coolers with a few hours of storage time are under $50. Medium and high-capacity hightop coolers with longer storage times range from $50-$150. High-capacity stainless steel and decorative patio coolers can reach up to $300.
Beverage cooler FAQ
How do I prevent odors from accumulating in a beverage cooler?
A. Regular cleaning is key. Wash out the inside of your cooler with diluted vinegar and water after every use. Sprinkle with baking soda to absorb smells. Don’t leave standing water in your cooler overnight.
Why do so many beverage coolers have latches?
A. It increases the airtight seal of the lid, keeping your drinks colder for longer. It’s also a safety measure to keep out pets and small children.
Why would I get a pricey backyard patio cooler instead of just a simple hardtop?
A. The choice is mostly one of aesthetics. Some users prefer a more decorated cooler that matches their home decor. Others care only about the features of the cooler itself.
What’s the best beverage cooler to buy?
Top beverage cooler
What you need to know: This is a sleek and professional-looking cooler ideal for backyards and big groups.
What you’ll love: You won’t have to bend over to get a drink. It holds 96 cans, is easy to roll around and looks great on a patio.
What you should consider: Bulky. Difficult to transport. Stainless steel will take longer to clean.
Top beverage cooler for the money
What you need to know: This cooler can store 50 cans and you can hide it in your trunk when you don’t need it.
What you’ll love: Comes in six colors. Reinforced handles on the top and sides. A lot of room when you need it, not too big when you don’t.
What you should consider: Some users report issues with the bag’s zippers.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: The convenient handle allows you to roll this cooler, which means you’ll never have to pick up a heavy cooler ever again.
What you’ll love: It has a 90-can capacity and is on wheels. Four cup holders are built into the lid, and the unit drains easily.
What you should consider: The handle seems a bit flimsy when the cooler is full.
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Frank Paiva writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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