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It should go without saying: on the hottest days of the summer, there’s nothing better than an ice-cold drink. But unfortunately, when the sun is shining bright, it’s harder than ever to keep your refreshing beverages chilled. That’s why the right cooler is a must for trips to the beach—or the park, or the pool, or the campsite, or a hike. There are so many different types and styles available that whatever your warm-weather plans entail, there’s a perfect option to help you, your friends, and your drinks stay cool.
To get the most out of your beach cooler this summer, the key is to start with maximum coldness. You’ll need to do some prep work. The night before you use your cooler, fill it with ice water to get it nice and frosty. Chill your drinks in the refrigerator—or, better yet, the freezer—ahead of time, so they stay icy longer. Use pre-chilled ice packs instead of ice cubes, if possible, and place them near the top of the cooler, to chill the warming air as it rises from the bottom. If you need to restock your ice later to keep the party going, no problem—just use ice cubes in resealable plastic bags.
Now, take all of these hot tips and apply them to your new favorite beach cooler. Here is a curated list of our favorites.
Best Overall: YETI Hopper Flip 18 Soft Cooler
Excellent customer service
Exceptional performance and durability
Modern design with color options
Expensive for its size
Simple with no bells or whistles
When it comes to staying cool, nobody does it better than YETI. This fan-favorite brand checks off all the boxes: Performance, durability, versatility, and style. YETI coolers don’t come cheap, given their exceptional quality, but you get what you pay for with these coolers—especially the popular Hopper Flip 18 Soft Cooler.
This model is the perfect size for a day trip with your closest friends to your favorite scenic spot. It can hold 20 cans of your favorite beverage, with a 2-1 ice-to-can ratio, and your drinks are guaranteed to stay frosty for days, with no chance of leakage, thanks to YETI’s peak-performance zipper technology. Like all YETI products, the Hopper Flip is built to last, made from waterproof fabric that won’t be damaged by occupational hazards of the outdoors like mildew, punctures, and UV rays. The loops on the outside of the bag are great for attaching your adventure essentials, like reusable ice blocks, dry bags, bottle openers, flashlights, or other tools.
What’s included: Cooler (compatible accessories sold separately)
Best Budget: Seehonor 45-Can Insulated Cooler Bag
Lightweight and space-saving
Easy to clean
Can leak when ice melts
Not durable enough for frequent or long-term use
This basic bag does everything you need it to do—and on a budget. Large enough to hold 45 cans—or a day’s worth of snacks, drinks, beach towels, and other supplies—yet weighing just a pound and a half, this cooler is effortless to collapse flat and pack up once it’s empty (which also means it won’t take up valuable storage space at home). Despite the light weight, the insulation is highly effective, thanks to a dual lining of eco-friendly PEVA and EPE foam—which also offers excellent thermal resistance if you prefer to use the cooler to keep food warm. The food-grade inner lining is both water-resistant and dirt-proof, so cleanup is just as easy as storage.
A combination of handles and an adjustable shoulder strap make carrying this soft yet durable cooler a breeze even when it's full of your favorite treats. In addition to the large main compartment, there are two side pockets, one zippered front pocket, and one interior zippered pocket, so it’s easy to store and find small accessories like napkins, straws, can koozies, and bottle openers, but no worries if you forget that last item—there’s one right on the zipper.
What’s included: Cooler, bottle opener
Best Luxury/Splurge: Sovaro Luxury Cooler
Sleek and modern design
Keeps drinks chilled for 4 to 5 days
Easy to transport
What could be cooler than sipping an ice-cold drink straight from the same luxury cooler favored by the rich and famous? The Sorvaro—which comes in three sizes, in black or white, with gold, silver, or chrome accents—has graced the decks of more than a few yachts. It’s the cooler market’s most extravagant model, and not just because actual models are often the ones sipping Champagne from its frosty interior. The Sovaro isn’t just a pretty face; it’s also a remarkable piece of temperature-control technology, and the only cooler you’ll find that uses cork as a natural insulator. While that certainly adds to the opulent appearance of the Sovaro, it serves an additional function as well: Cork is impermeable to both gas and liquid, which means you’ll never have to worry about mildew or mold in your cooler.
The Sovaro’s airtight seal means that once you close the cooler, the cold air isn’t going anywhere—even under intense sunlight or in the toasty back seat of a hot car. But you don’t need to worry about the lid slamming shut while you’re searching for your favorite drink—thoughtfully designed friction hinges keep it safely open until you’ve made your selection. You won’t need to do much digging, though, because the Sovaro also comes with a removable divider for effortless organization. If you need to transport the Sovaro, you’ve got options: side handles, for easy carrying with help from a friend, or telescoping handle with heavy-duty, luggage-style wheels.
What’s included: Cooler, removable divider, fabric storage bag
Best Design: Sunnylife Cooler Box Sounds
Convenient two-in-one product
Fun and playful design
Not the most high-performance cooler or speaker
Can’t decide if your party persona is DJ or bartender? Bring the drinks and the tunes to your next summer outing with this stylish and charming cooler/speaker hybrid from Sunnylife. What else do you even need to enjoy fun in the sun?
Lightweight, compact, and easy to carry, this cute little cooler box will fit right in with your crew at the beach, a bonfire, or a picnic. It can hold up to 16 cans, with ice, and can get the party started via Bluetooth, FM radio, AUX, or USB. Talk about effortless cool!
What’s included: Cooler/Speaker hybrid, USB charging cable
Related: The Best Beer Koozies
Best Backpack: Igloo Reactor 24-Can Backpack
Durable, waterproof, and effective, with long-lasting chill
Comfortable and easy to wear/carry, hands free
Can hold a bottle of wine upright
Waterproof zipper can be challenging to grip
Limited color options
From one of the most reliable names in coolers, this stylish, sleek backpack is the best way to keep your drinks cool while keeping your hands free. Ideal for camping and hikes, the Reactor’s streamlined design takes up minimal space while providing maximum functionality—all at a great price. Igloo can always be trusted for high-quality materials, and the Reactor is no exception. Durable, waterproof exterior fabric, a sturdy, stable structure, and a leak-proof zipper help this cooler backpack withstand the elements through your outdoor excursion, while advanced insulation means that once the journey is over, you’ll be rewarded with a delicious, ice-cold drink.
But the Reactor doesn’t just keep its contents happy—it’s looking out for you, too. Padded and adjustable shoulder and sternum straps, as well as a padded back panel, offer plenty of comfort, while versatile carrying options (backpack straps, top handle, dual side handles) allow you to switch things up if you need a break. Considerate and full of refreshments? Now that’s a great adventure buddy.
What’s included: Cooler backpack
Best Duffel: Business & Pleasure Premium Cooler Bag
Eye-catching, fashionable design
Lightweight and easy to carry
Not ideal for longer excursions
Before you even get a chance to open this standout duffel cooler, your fellow party-goers will know that you have excellent taste—so be prepared to be mixing drinks or dispensing wine pairing advice all day long. Casual enough for the beach or the campsite but brilliantly designed with a delightful retro color palette, this roomy, 70s-inspired cooler bag is perfect for leisurely activities from morning till night.
Pack OJ, bubbles, and breakfast for sunrise mimosas; cheese, charcuterie, and sangria for a picnic in the park, or canned cocktails and canapés for a sunset boat ride—anything you throw in will stay nice and chilled until the festivities are through.
What’s included: Cooler bag
Related: The Best Coolers
Best With Wheels: Igloo Trailmate Journey
Easy to maneuver on sand or other difficult terrain
Generous storage space
Tough, durable, and effective
Tons of extra features
Heavier than other options
If you’re buying a beach cooler, you’ll probably want to make sure you can actually use it at the beach. This can present a challenge for those who prefer a cooler with wheels, since most wheeled coolers on the market aren’t built to traverse tricky terrain, like sand or uneven rocks. With the Igloo Trailmate Journey, however, no landscape is too rugged. Oversized 10-inch, never-flat, high-traction wheels let you roll to your destination with ease (with help from a comfortable, easy-glide telescoping handle), whether you have to go over the river, through the woods, or across coastal dunes. And once you get there, the self-draining cup holders built into the lid provide extra convenience while you settle in.
The Trailmate Journey can hold 70 quarts, enough for 112 cans, keeping the contents perfectly chilled for four days using special insulation technology in both the body and the lid of the cooler. But beyond the basics, the Trailmate Journey is packed with incredible features—like a removable butler tray for serving drinks and snacks, an inner storage pocket, a lockable dry-storage bag, a mobile device stand, built-in bottle openers, an interior food basket, and more. If you’re looking for a rolling beach cooler that can really perform, this is worth the price tag.
What’s included: Rolling cooler, butler tray, food basket, accessory holders, mobile device stand, storage bag
Best Compact: Igloo Retro Fanny Pack
Fun, nostalgic design—great for gifts
Antimicrobial, easy-to-clean fabric
Hands-free, lightweight, and effortless to wear
Not the highest quality
Were fanny packs actually cool in the 90s? The jury is still out on the history of that polarizing trend. But 90s nostalgia is undoubtedly cool today, and we can all agree that there is nothing more 90s than a neon-colored fanny pack. Well, with their bold, playful Retro Collection, Igloo has just gone and made the fanny pack even cooler. That’s right—by turning it into a cooler. This revival of Igloo’s original 1992 design comes in five totally rad color combinations (one for each of your besties), perfect for stashing three cans of beer...or six pouches of Capri Sun.
Ideal for a short hike, a stroll along the beach, or cooling down after jazzercise class, the Retro Fanny Pack is lightweight and hands-free. The insulated main compartment will keep your beverages cool, while the front pocket is just the right size for stashing your keys, wallet, and pager—er, we mean, iPhone.
What’s included: Fanny pack
Best Large Capacity: Coleman 100 Quart Xtreme 5 Wheeled Cooler
Reliable, durable, and effective
Large tow handle
Safe to sit on lid
Basic with no special features
This simple and beloved classic is a sturdy, reliable choice. It won’t knock your socks off with extra features, but it also won’t break the bank—and it will do what you need it to do, which is keep lots of drinks cold, very effectively. The 100-quart Coleman Xtreme can hold more than 160 cans, keeping the ice frozen for up to five days—even in the hot summer sun, thanks to an insulated lid and extra insulation in the walls.
The telescoping handle and durable, heavy-duty wheels make for easy rolling to your campsite, picnic spot, or barbecue site, even when this massive cooler is completely full, but if you’re worn out after the journey, you can grab a cold drink, have a seat on the lid (which can support up to 250 pounds) and relax. Or, if you don’t need a chair, take advantage of the convenient cup holders built right into the lid.
What’s included: Cooler
If you want an all-purpose cooler for frequent use, the YETI Hopper Flip 18 Soft Cooler (view at Amazon) wins out on style, quality, and functionality, despite being pricier than many other options. If price is a higher priority than performance—especially for those who will be using the cooler infrequently and for short durations, the Seehonor 45-Can Insulated Cooler Bag (view at Amazon) is a perfectly serviceable option. Those who primarily plan to use their cooler at the beach or on other difficult surfaces will most appreciate the convenience and ease of the Igloo Trailmate Journey’s all-terrain wheels (view at Amazon).
Do beach coolers come with ice packs?
Beach coolers do not typically come with ice packs, however, most stores or websites that sell beach coolers will offer or suggest them as an add-on to your purchase. You can easily find ice packs on Amazon.com or at sporting goods stores.
Can you put dry ice in a beach cooler?
You can use dry ice in a beach cooler, but it is important to understand the correct way to do so safely, as it can burn your skin or lead to excessive carbon dioxide exposure. When used properly, dry ice is great for camping, as it is colder than regular ice and will keep your food and drinks chilled for longer. Since dry ice doesn’t melt, it won’t leave a puddle of water in your cooler.
Always wear gloves and long sleeves when handling dry ice. Wrap the dry ice in several layers of newspaper and place it on top of the contents of your cooler. Fill the rest of the cooler with crumpled newspaper. Always place the cooler in the trunk or a separate area of your car while driving, and store it outside of your tent or camper.
What's the best way to clean?
Most coolers, both soft and hard, can be easily cleaned by hand. For basic cleaning, you can simply wipe down the interior and exterior of the cooler with dish soap or mild detergent. If a deeper cleaning is needed, hose down the cooler and coat it with a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. Let it sit for several minutes before scrubbing and rinsing. Make sure your cooler is dry before placing it into storage. If your cooler has a drain, leaving it open can help speed the drying process along—just make sure to close the drain plug before the next use.
Be careful to securely close the drain plug cap prior to subsequent use.
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Nikki Goddard is a wine writer with 14 years of industry experience as well as CSW and WSET Diploma certification. She is passionate about taking the intimidation out of wine education and has taught classes for WSET levels 2 and 3. In 2019, Nikki was named a top young wine writer by Vinous Media.
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