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Whether you call them iceboxes, coolers or eskies, no one wants warm drinks, limp sandwiches or a bout of food poisoning to ruin a great day out. We lab test and review the latest models to help you find the best cooler for you. Our cooler buying guide will help you decide which type of cooler you need.
We test 13 hard, medium-large coolers priced from $83 to $400, to find which esky:
Our interactive comparison tool helps you find out which brands are the best quality. Our Recommended list will help you see quickly which models come out on top in our testing.
List of brands we tested in this review.
Recommended retail, as of December 2014.
enter value/s in increments of 1 between 83 and 400
We've recommended coolers with at least an 80% overall score.
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enter value/s in increments of 1 between 55 and 85
Wheels make pulling a heavy, loaded cooler on smooth surfaces much easier than carrying it.
Does it have a hole for draining after use? Flush-mounted drains don't trap dirt or objects.
Handles should be robust and easy to grasp. Shoulder straps are useful for small coolers. Pull handles for larger wheeled types are handy, but try them out to make sure they suit your height.
Clasps, latches, and lids should be easy to open and close. One-handed types are easier for general use. Watch out for some hinged type lids that can cause the cooler to tip over when it's empty.
Don't want anyone taking off with your precious food or drink (including animals)? That's where a padlock comes in handy, especially if you are going for a dip and leaving the cooler alone for a while.
A flat top makes the cooler easier to rest items on, including being an extra seat for when you have too few chairs.
The performance score makes up 70% of the overall score.
We test each cooler's performance by loading it with drink bottles to about 20% of its capacity. The coolers are preconditioned to 32°C. The tester fills each cooler with ice equivalent to 20% of the cooler's volume, closes it and places it in a temperature-controlled room at 32°C.The tester measures the time taken from when the average temperature inside the bottles rises from 0°C to 2°C, and then 2°C to 8°C. The slower the warm-up time, the better the performance score.
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The ease of use score makes up 30% of the overall score.
We assess how easy each cooler is to carry, load and unload, and how easy it is to open and close the lid and drain melted ice.
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