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How we review coolers

Here's how our experts sort out the best from the rest.

Hand taking bottle from ice filled cooler

Not all coolers (also known as eskies or ice boxes) are created equal. Can you tell which ones will keep your food safely refrigerated for a week-long camping trip, and which ones are just suitable for an afternoon picnic? Our expert testers can. Here's how they do it.

How we choose which coolers we review

With so many coolers to choose from, we can't review them all. Instead we aim to test the most popular brands and types on the market, and the coolers you're most likely to see in camping and outdoor stores, as well as other major retailers. 

To do this, we survey manufacturers to find out about their range of products, we check market sales information, and we also check for any member requests to test specific models.

How we review coolers

Although CHOICE maintains a NATA-accredited test laboratory and the vast majority of our product testing is done in-house, for coolers it's a bit different. Our refrigeration experts can tell how most coolers will perform just by examining their construction and materials.

Scoring criteria explained

The CHOICE Expert Rating, our overall score that determines which products we recommend, is based entirely on performance – i.e. how long the cooler will keep its contents cold. , and are scored as follows:

  • 80%: These are the coolers to go for if you need their contents to stay chilled on one load of ice for a long time – in the case of a large cooler, this can be several days.
  • 70%: These are good performers and can keep their contents chilled for a few days – enough for a weekend camp, for instance.
  • 60%: These are OK performers better suited to short-term use. Don't rely on them for more than a day or two of chilling.

The scores are only comparable within each size category (medium, large and extra large), as a larger cooler naturally holds a greater mass of ice and chilled food and therefore takes longer to warm up.

Our test lab

CHOICE has high-quality NATA-accredited laboratories, and lab staff with many years of experience across a range of laboratory disciplines and product areas. Our lab equipment is calibrated to ensure accurate and precise measurements.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.