Whether you call them iceboxes, coolers or eskies, no one wants warm drinks, limp sandwiches or a bout of food poisoning to ruin a day out. We review the latest models to help you find the best coolers.
We review and test hard-framed coolers sized from 40L to over 150L, to find which ones:
Most of the coolers in this review are assessed by visual inspection. Our lab tester Corinna Horrigan is experienced enough with testing coolers to know how they will perform through careful examination of how they are constructed. These visually assessed models don't have photos, as we examine them in stores (or on manufacturer websites, if their information is detailed enough). Some models are put through our rigorous lab testing, to check the visual assessments and to test any models whose construction can't be determined by inspection alone.
Our interactive comparison tool helps you find out which brands are best suited to you, whether you're going on a day trip, a fishing weekend or several days off-road in the bush. Our Recommended list will help you quickly see which models come out on top.
List of brands we tested in this review.
Recommended or typical retail price, as of November 2017.
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We recommend coolers that score 80%.
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We group the coolers into three size categories: medium (41–60L), large (61–80L) and extra large (81L and over). The bigger the cooler, the more ice it can fit and the longer it will keep its cool, but make sure your new cooler will fit in your vehicle before you super size. We haven't included small models (40L and under) as coolers of that size are usually only for short-term use and with their relatively low thermal mass, don't perform very well.
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The weight of the cooler when empty. For lab-tested models this is the weight we measure; for the rest it is the manufacturer's claimed weight. Some models do not state their weight.
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Most models are assessed by visual inspection, as our testers can tell through experience how a cooler will perform by looking at how it has been constructed. However, some models undergo rigorous lab testing to verify the visual assessments or to evaluate models whose construction can't be determined by inspection alone.
Wheels and a pull handle make moving a heavy, loaded cooler on smooth surfaces much easier than carrying it.
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.
A flat top means you can use your cooler as a table without your drinks rolling off, or as an extra seat.
Baskets and/or partitions make it easier to sort through the cooler and organise your space.
Padlock loops or holes allow the lid to be locked shut, or for the cooler to be secured in place. This is important if your cooler will be left unattended (in a campground or on a boat for example).
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Models that can fit a tall bottle upright may be more useful for keeping wine, soft drinks or other large items cool.