Looking to get an affordable portable cooler? Igloo and Coleman both have some great options and we’ll take a good look at some of their best coolers below!
At A Glance: Comparison of Coolers
This review features softshell coolers, backpack coolers, classic hardshell coolers and options on wheels. And all of them range in price from some $20 to $200, so there’s definitely something for everyone. Whether you just want a simple cooler to keep your beers ice cold or a versatile option that has a built-in iPad stand, you will find what you’re looking for if you just scroll down!
Best Backpack Cooler
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Best Hardshell Cooler
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Best Wheeled Cooler
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Coleman’s backpack cooler is a really good option if you want something that’s easy to carry even when it is filled to capacity. This is a standard backpack with insulation in the two main compartments, as well as heat-welded seams. Coleman claims that this bag is leakproof, but I would still recommend you put ice in a plastic bag first, to be on the safe side. The zippers definitely aren’t leakproof, so bear that in mind.
I love that the bag has two different insulated compartments, since it lets you separate the drinks from the food. Also, this pack has two stretchy side pockets that are great for any smaller items that don’t have to be insulated, or just stuff you want easily accessible. The bungee cord on the front panel allows you to attach some bulkier items to the exterior of the bag, and you can use it just to quickly stash a hoodie or a jacket.
This is a backpack cooler, so it’s great for longer adventures. It features padding and breathable mesh in the backpanel, shoulder straps and the hip belt, for ultimate carrying comfort. The hip belt helps transfer the load of the bag onto your hips, so you don’t actually feel weighed down by the bag even when you fill it to capacity.
The pack can hold up to 28 cans comfortably, which should be enough for day outings. It’s fine for a short hike or a day on the beach, but I wouldn’t recommend it for overnight adventures because the insulation is not that powerful.
The Coleman Xtreme cooler is a great option for anyone who needs a reliable wheeled cooler for overnight trips. It is capable of keeping ice frozen for up to five days in temperatures that go as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just ridiculous for the price!
This cooler usually retails for about $100, but it’s often on sale and you can get it for under $70. That’s excellent value for money and if it happens to be on sale when you’re looking at it, don’t miss out on the deal! It’s an amazing cooler with multiple layer of insulation in the walls and lid, which is how it manages to offer such long-lasting performance.
Additionally, this is a wheeled cooler, which means easy transport and convenience. And that’s very important, considering it has a total capacity of 100 quarts (113 liters)! That is enough to hold 160 cans of 12 ounces, so I assume it will be enough for most people, even those of you who are throwing a party for your entire extended family.
The top lid of the cooler has molded cup-holders, so it’s a bit more versatile than just any basic cooler. And that same lid is reinforced so it can hold up to 250 lbs without a hitch, allowing you to use this cooler as a seat if you need. At the very least, it means you don’t have to freak out when that one lazy friend decides to do it anyway without asking you first.
On top of all that, this cooler weighs only some 18 lbs when empty, which is just unbelievable for the size. And it has a comfortable wheel handle as well as a couple grab handles on the sides, so it should be easy to transport it however you find most convenient.
The Excursion cooler from Coleman is a good option for people who want a small capacity cooler that’s great for day outings and short trips. It is small and lightweight with a total capacity of some 15 liters, which should be enough to get you through an afternoon. And it retails for just some $20, making it the most affordable portable cooler you can get.
This Coleman cooler is great for picnics and barbecues. The internal capacity is enough to fit 22 cans or about 20 lbs of meat, if not more. And it’s an easy cooler to carry thanks to both the weight and the wide comfortable handle that distributes that weight evenly.
However, I have to point out that you shouldn’t expect too much from this cooler. Yes, it can keep beers cold for a couple of hours, but that’s about as good as it gets. The insulation power is not amazing and the lid is not insulated at all, so you shouldn’t leave the cooler in direct sun for too long.
Also, I have to point out that this cooler doesn’t have any faucets or drain plugs. Once that ice eventually melts, you will have to take everything out to spill the water. It’s not the most convenient option, but I’m not complaining about $20.
The upside of the Coleman Excursion is that it features an easy-clean lid with a smooth texture. You can easily just wipe any dirt off the lid, and if you want to thoroughly clean it you can do so with some soap and a sponge.
The Trailmate Journey is a beast of a cooler. It’s one of the most expensive options from Igloo and it represents all of their best technologies and features combined. Everything about this cooler is impressive, from the rugged all-terrain wheels to the dedicated storage pocket on the outside.
Other interesting features of this cooler include built-in cup holders and a mobile device stand that lets you prop up a tablet – and that’s just on the lid. There’s a small shelf inside the cooler for stuff you want to keep cold but dry, and there are built-in bottle openers.
The retractable aluminum handle makes it really easy to manoeuvre this cooler, while the rugged wheels easily glide on any terrain. Plus, you get a tray that secures to the handle, so you can actually turn it into a small table when the cooler is stationary.
Also, this cooler features tie down loops that let you secure it place – even if you set up camp on uneven terrain, you can be sure that the Trailmate won’t just glide away from you.
In terms of the power and performance of the Trailmate Journey, you will not be disappointed. The Ultratherm insulated body is able to keep ice frozen up to four days, so the performance is on par with the interesting features. Also, there’s a drain plug at the bottom that makes it easy to get rid of any excess water in the cooler.
Igloo Outdoorsman is a great option if you want something lightweight with a generous capacity. This softshell bag weighs less than 3 lbs, which makes it one of the lightest options out of the bunch. And it has a padded shoulder strap as well as two sturdy grab handles, so it will be easy to carry the cooler however you find the most comfortable.
This is great for people who need a cooler they can take on hikes or other adventures that require them to walk for a while with their cooler. This is slightly more convenient than a wheeled option, and a lot more convenient than a standard hardshell cooler you have to carry with both your hands.
The insulation inside the Outdoorsman is great and certainly good enough to get you through a day outing. Even the lid is thoroughly insulated, so you can be certain that everything inside will stay properly cold. Additionally, the cooler features a small hatch on the lid, which is great for taking out a drink without letting the cool air out.
In addition to that, I also like how this cooler features multiple external pockets. Some are zippered and some are open, and they’re all great for the stuff you want easily accessible but shouldn’t necessarily be inside an ice-filled cooler.
I have to point out that this is great for shorter adventures, but it’s not good enough for an overnight trip. The zipper is not fully sealed and there’s no way to easily get rid of the water that’s bound to be inside once the ice melts. So, I would only recommend the softshell Outdoorsman cooler to people who specifically want something lightweight and affordable for day trips!
The Marine Ultra cooler is a simple hardshell option for people who want a lightweight plastic cooler. It’s also super affordable at just some $35 for the 40-liter version and a little under $100 for the massive 88-liter option.
This is a simple hardshell cooler without any bells and whistles. Well, it has one interesting feature – the lid has a built-in ruler, making this a great option for fishing trips. It is surprisingly lightweight for a plastic cooler, and that’s a big plus. Especially since it features a thick layer of Ultratherm insulation in the walls and lid, which ensures that whatever you put in stay will stay cold. And the lid is resistant to UV rays, so even if the cooler sits in direct sunlight for a while, the temperature inside it won’t be impacted.
This Igloo cooler has two swing-up handles at the sides, with a rubberized grip. The smaller sizes are quite easy to carry, but I think it’s a two-person job with the larger coolers. Keep in mind that the 88-liter option is 35” wide, and that’s not very convenient for one person to carry on their own.
On top of all that, this cooler also has a drain plug at the bottom, which lets you get rid of any excess water quickly and easily. This is a great feature that’s pretty much a necessity on any hardshell cooler, especially for people who usually use ice instead of ice packs.
Are you looking to get a cooler for the occasional barbecue or something you can take on an overnight camping trip?
For occasional use like picnics, barbecues, and other day outings, you can get pretty much any cooler you want. Even a simple $20 option is enough to get you through an afternoon outside, so you really don’t have to spend a lot of money if that’s all you’re going to use it for. You should look at the pros and cons of the cheaper coolers though, just to make sure that there aren’t any features you consider deal-breakers.
On the other hand, if you want a cooler that can get you through a weekend camping trip or a hiking adventure of several days, you should look at some better (and pricier) options. Look at how long the cooler can keep ice frozen – this should give you a good idea of how long you can use it without having to switch out ice. It’s also important to look for coolers with insulated lids – when you’re spending several days outdoors, you can’t be certain that there will always be a shaded spot where you can hide your cooler.
Also, the size and capacity of the cooler are important factors here. If you want a cooler that can carry enough food and water for several days, you need to get something big – 50 liters at the very least should be enough for a group of people for a weekend. But if it’s just for a couple of people for one afternoon, you will be fine with some of the smaller options featured here.
Both Coleman and Igloo coolers are generally affordable, so no matter which brand you decide to go with it won’t break the bank.
But if you’re really low on cash and want the cheapest option available, it’s better to look at Coleman coolers. They are usually cheaper, with options that cost anywhere from $15 to $100. Some of their best coolers offer up to five days of perfect insulation retail for only $60-70, which is absolutely insane! Compare that to Yeti coolers that start at $150 for the most basic options!
Igloo coolers are also quite affordable – some of their best and most popular options are under $50, while their best performing cools tend to be between $100-150. They’re not expensive coolers by any means, but they’re not as cheap as Coleman either. Meaning you won’t pay several hundred dollars for an Igloo cooler, but you also can’t get it for just some $15.
Not quite sure which cooler to get? Just go with one of our top picks, depending on whether you want a softshell or a hardshell cooler!
The Coleman backpack cooler is probably the best softshell option you can get. It is lightweight, extremely affordable, and super easy to carry thanks to the padding and ventilation in the back system. It has two insulated compartments that can fit enough food and drinks for a day trip, and a couple of external pockets for those items you won’t easily accessible.
If you want a rugged hardshell cooler, you can’t go wrong with the Igloo Trailmate Journey. It’s one of the best coolers this brand ever made, and it has so many different features you will absolutely love using it. There are built-in cup holders, bottle openers, an iPad stand and even a mini tray that secures the aluminum handle. The rugged all-terrain wheels can go anywhere, while the drain plug at the bottom makes it super quick and easy to get rid of access water. And it keeps ice frozen for up to 4 days, making it a great choice even for longer adventures.
Head over to Amazon to see the prices and size options of all the coolers featured here. And if you want to look at some other options, you will find some excellent coolers in our related posts!