Top Coolers for Road Trips in 2023

    Part of the Joy of Road Trips: Best Coolers to Keep Your Snacks and Drinks Cool

    Road trips are an adventure, and one of the highlights is stopping at convenience stores in unfamiliar places to stock up on snacks and drinks. Local convenience food provides a glimpse into the culture and daily lives of a community. However, there are times when you don’t have time to shop, the store is closed, or you simply want to keep everything cool during your road trip. That’s where car coolers come in handy. They keep your drinks at the proper temperature and prevent your chocolate-coated, marshmallow-filled pecan patties from melting—no offense Europeans!

    Finding the perfect cooler can be overwhelming, given the various sizes, styles, prices, and levels of effectiveness. Some coolers are designed for multiple days of keeping your food warm, while others are meant for quick day trips. You have the choice between a cooler that doubles as a makeshift armrest or a larger chest that needs to be placed in the trunk. Regardless of your preference, you want a cooler that won’t leak, will keep things cold, and can withstand the rigors of life on the road. Here are some of the best coolers available:

    1. Best Overall: Coleman Banyan 30-can Soft Cooler

    This soft-sided cooler is not only effective but also compact. It can carry up to 30 12oz cans and has outside pockets for additional storage. Made from heavy-duty waxed canvas, it is durable and features a reinforced base. The cooler can keep your food and drinks cool for up to 24 hours and is easy to carry for grocery shopping or short hikes. However, it has less insulation compared to hard-sided coolers and can roll around if not secured while driving.

    2. Best Value: Tourit 46-Can Soft Cooler

    If you’re looking for a cooler that keeps your drinks and food cold during a half-day drive, the Tourit 46-Can Soft Cooler is a great choice. It has a capacity of 46 cans, with compartments to separate leaky foods. The cooler also features outside pockets and a cargo net on top for additional storage. While it is not as durable as some other options, it provides great value for the price.

    3. Best Premium Multi-Day Cooler: Yeti Tundra 35

    The Yeti Tundra 35 may come with a higher price tag, but it is worth the investment. This hard-case cooler is designed to keep your items cold for days. With excellent insulation, a water-tight seal, and top-tier hinges and latches, it is built to last. The cooler also doubles as a good armrest on a bench seat and is certified bear-proof by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC). However, its thick insulation means the outside dimensions are larger than the interior dimensions, and it requires regular use to justify the price.

    4. Best Compact Cooler: Pelican Elite 8-Can Cooler

    Perfect for solo road trips, the Pelican Elite 8-Can Cooler is compact and easy to operate with one hand. It can hold up to 8 cans or 4 cans and plenty of food. The cooler’s latch is ideal for one-handed operation while on the road, and it comes with a 3-year warranty. However, it may not provide the same level of insulation as a Yeti cooler and can become a dangerous projectile in an accident.

    5. Best Powered Cooler: Bodega Cooler

    The Bodega Cooler is not just a cooler—it’s a refrigerator in disguise. It can be plugged into a 12V socket in your car or run off 110V in your house. With two separate temperature-controlled sections and controlled by a smartphone app, it keeps your food and drinks chilled to perfection. The cooler is large, offering 41 cans of capacity, but it’s important to note that it requires a power source other than your car’s engine when camping.

    Our Verdict

    When it comes to road trip coolers, the Coleman Banyan 30-can Soft Cooler is the best overall choice. It strikes a good balance between functionality and convenience. However, if you’re willing to splurge for long-term durability and superior temperature isolation, the Yeti Tundra 35 is the ultimate cooler.


    1. Are hard or soft-sided coolers better?
    While hard-sided coolers are generally better at keeping things cooler for longer periods, soft-sided coolers are easier to store when not in use and often offer more internal storage space relative to their external dimensions.

    2. Is it better to use ice or ice packs in a cooler?
    Both ice cubes and ice packs have their advantages. Ice cubes can fill more empty space in the cooler, cool things faster, and often require fewer ice packs. Ice packs, on the other hand, are less likely to leak when they melt and may perform better if filled with materials other than water.

    3. How long do coolers keep things cool?
    The duration a cooler can keep things cold varies depending on multiple factors such as the quality of insulation, outside temperature, frequency of opening the cooler, and other variables. Cheaper soft-sided coolers with decent ice packs can typically last around three hours, while high-end hard coolers with a high ice-to-food ratio can keep items cold for days.

    Remember, our reviews are based on hands-on testing, input from experts, feedback from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We strive to provide genuine and accurate guides to help you find the best cooler for your road trip.

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