Last Updated on March 25, 2021
Road trip, you either like it or hate it. If you are for the former, then you they are forerunners of great adventures.
This involves packing all the food and drinks you need for the road prevent unnecessary stops.
In fact, if you are always on the road you’ll need a cooler that can keep your drinks cold for long periods. The ideal car cooler should fit easily into your car, and provide enough space for all your stuff. More on that in the buyer’s guide.
In this review guide, we’ve shortlisted some of the best road trip coolers voted by first-hand users that have used these coolers on their trip. Needless to say, you will find the ideal cooler for your type of trip.
Best Road Trip Coolers Review – Comparison
Igloo Max Ultra Roller Cooler – Most Affordable
- Igloo max cold cooler offer the ultimate in cold retention with ultratherm insulated lid and body
- Durable wheels and tow handle for easy transport to and from the event
- Ultratherm insulation in body and lid helps keep things cold
- Reinforced swing-up handles with tie-down loop
- 40 qt. Capacity and can hold up to 56 cans
The Igloo Max Ultra Roller is a decent cooler that’s extremely cheap. In fact, it’s so affordable that you’d pay almost 10x the price to get a premium cooler. And it performs fine.
In terms of size, it’s available in medium 40QT to the giant size of 100QT. Needless to say; you have multiple sizes for short trips and long trips as well.
It comes with wheels that make movement a breeze. Also, the tow handles and handles on the side provide multiple transport options. Ultratherm insulation is utilized in the walls and lid to improve ice retention. Many users have reported 2 days of ice when they used the Ultra roller. As you can see ice retention is not particularly its forte. However, considering the cooler will be inside the car for most of the trip, you’d likely get up to 2 days of cold drinks.
The interior liner is easy to clean and doesn’t hold on to odor. It does not have a drain, so users have to empty the cooler by tipping it.
On the downside, the wheels are not durable, same goes for the handles. However, the wheels will seldom be used, since the cooler will sit in the car for the most part of the journey.
Finally, while the cooler will not bag any award, it features the bare basic essentials of a cooler. Considering the cheap pricing, this cooler is worth checking out.
Yeti Hopper Two 30 – Editor’s Choice
- The YETI Hopper Two 30 is the first 100% leakproof, portable cooler that’s built for the long haul and can keep ice for days
- The updated design of the Hopper Two means your contents go in (and out) more easily
- A tapered body makes extended hauling more comfortable. Inside(inches) : 9 × 14 × 17
- Features a waterproof DryHide Shell and nearly indestructible straps will stand up to an abundance of abuse in the field
- HydroLok Zipper (a design borrowed from HazMat suits) is completely leakproof, eliminating spills and locking in cold. Empty weight is 5.5 pounds
This cooler right here has is all. From being portable to insulation, durability and extended ice performance, the hopper can comfortably pack enough food for a 2-day trip. It holds 23 cans of beer and 28 pounds of ice respectively.
It has a hydrolock zipper which is leakproof, tough and trap in the cold. The body is made of the dry hide shell – a patented shell material to resist mildew, punctures and UV rays.
The hopper is hard-shelled yet soft cooler that retains ice longer than the average cooler. When compared to conventional ice chests, this soft cooler managed to retain ice for an average of 2-4 Days. The interior liner is FDA approved meaning it’s safe to put your food and drinks inside.
At 5.5lbs when empty, hopper two 30 is relatively easy to carry. Thanks to multiple carrying options – a detachable shoulder strap, side handles, and integrated handles on either side of the dry hide shell. Another handy feature is the hitchpoint grid used to hang accessories such as the Molle Zinger or an opener.
While we are ready to rave about this cooler, it sure has some downsides which are primarily the relative weight and price. When filled with drinks, lifting the cooler can be tedious as you will probably need to support it with the body. The price is the major turn off for many customers.
Many users are a bit skeptic for paying over $300 for a soft bag, while some think the price is worth it. While I am neutral on this topic, I wrote an article discussing why yeti coolers are pricey.
In conclusion, the hopper is perfect for road trips and ticks all the boxes. Although it’s an expensive investment, it is stronger and durable than soft bags.
COSTWAY 54 Quart Portable Refrigerator
- ❄️ 【A Multi-voltage System】This portable car refrigerator operates at 12V/24V DC and 100V~240V AC power source, which allow you to plug in a socket at home or use it with a cigarette lighter on the car. The original package includes 1 DC power cord and 1 AC adapter. You don’t have to reset the temperature when you change the power source because of the memory function.
- ❄️【Large Capacity】With a capacity of 55 quarts, the compressor car refrigerator is able to hold 84 bottles 330ml beer, 60 bottles 550ml water and 19 bottles 750ml wine. What's more, the car fridge can keep your food chilled or frozen easily without consuming too much energy. It has MAX and ECO working modes for you to adjust as needed.
- ❄️【Convenient Operation with LCD Display】With LCD display screen and digital buttons, you can set your desired temperature (range from -4°F to 50°F) and adjust compressor speed conveniently. Internal LED lights also allow easier and more convenient access in low light conditions. Our car refrigerator handles on both sides allow you to move it to any desired location.
- ❄️【Separate Dual-Zone Design】We have carefully designed two separate compartments, including refrigeration and freezing area. （not Dual Temperature Control）not Dual Temperature Control Dual zone car refrigerator allows you to store items reasonably according to your requirements. In addition, the travel car refrigerator easy to control the temperature by display panel.
- ❄️【Intelligent Battery Protection】Three different levels of battery protection are available, and they are low, med and high. This car refrigerator design can meet your different needs and protect your car battery well. When the input voltage reaches the minimum value, the compressor stops working; when the voltage returns to normal, the compressor will rework automatically.
Simply put, they use electric power to cool the interior cooler space. Using the Peltier effect and fewer components, cooling takes less time. Now that’s exactly what you need with you on a road trip. You don’t have to make many stops at stores for ice. The costway has good reviews and feedback from satisfied consumers, an indicator that it’s the real deal.
Regarding space, this cooler is 54QT and can hold up to 20 cans of beer. The slim profile allows the cooler to fit into the back of your car, SUV, or truck. Fast cooling is enabled by the compressor to cool from 90F to 32F in 30 minutes.
Impressively, it has an LCD display and a temperature adjustment button. You can select and adjust temperature modes to achieve the preferred cooling condition. At 45db the operation is almost quiet which I like most about it.
The top is designed with a flip mechanism; this is convenient for one hand operation when digging for drinks inside. It has a rack inside to keep your food and drinks organized. It has a strong handle on the side for transport which allows for easy loading on/off a car.
Even at night, you won’t blindly dig for drinks as it comes with a LED light. This refrigerator is also shockproof – it can withstand bumpy roads and rough terrains, this refrigerator can last years of abuse.
Road Trip Coolers – Factors to Consider Before Buying
Before you choose a road trip ice chest, whatever the purpose, there are some things you need to consider. You don’t want to get stuck with a mediocre cooler during your trip and you can wait to post a negative review about it. That’s why you need to get the decision part right. With a few of our tips, you are assured to get it right at first attempt.
Length of Road Trip & Type Of Cooler
This is something all users should take into account. It is important to know the length of the trip. If you are planning on a long trip then a large cooler will be ideal, as it can pack more food and drinks. Additionally, electric coolers are the best options for lengthier trips.
They save cost and the gripe of making stops to buy ice packs, physical ice or dry ice. Another good thing about the electric fridge is that it can be chilled to 20 degrees with no water from melted ice. This improves ice retention because there’s no pool of water to drain.
A shorter trip will require a lot less space, thus a smaller cooler is perfect but if your supplies are many then go for a large option.
Although there’s no rule of thumb that justifies the analogy above, cause depending on the number of people, a longer trip might require fewer supplies and a short trip more.
As I’ve said earlier the size of the cooler is of utmost importance to the length of your trip. However, you need to consider the space in your car. A large cooler is going to take up much of the space while a smaller option is portable and can easily fit into tight spaces.
The space in your car will determine the type of cooler you can carry. So it is advised to make necessary preparations for the chest you want to carry for the trip.
This is perhaps the most important factor to consider. Ice retention, in general, depends on the insulation performance of the cooler. Most ice retaining coolers are built with high-quality materials and the result is a top quality product like the Hopper Two 30.
Preferably you should choose a Rotomolded ice chest if you want more than 3 days of ice. However, you don’t have to splurge on a Rotomolded cooler if you don’t have the budget. Some coolers from igloo and Coleman provide alternatives that are affordable and the ice retention is average.
If you don’t use a cooler frequently then a cheap cooler will suffice. But you have to be ready to deal with second rate quality. Not all cheap coolers perform averagely but if you want a guaranteed cooler with top features then you need to shell out cash. If you are a frequent user you should treat a cooler like an investment. To enjoy longer ice retention and get many years of use then expensive coolers like the Pelican, ORCA Or Yeti will be perfect for you.
What Should I bring on a cooler for a road trip?
Simple answer – Food and drinks you like.
To explain further, you’ll want foods that can be frozen to help the content inside get cold. Chocolates are good travel buddies; they can pretty much fill you up after the main course. Fruits are also great snacks that fill up the tummy and they are healthy for the body. Select a healthy collection of fruits that won’t perish during the trip. Fruits like Apples and orange aren’t likely to perish before berries and bananas.
Nonperishable foods like jelly, peanut butter and hard like cheese are also great foods you should carry along. Meats are best stored frozen, but you have separated the meat from food that will be eaten raw. Use a plastic container to prevent the odor from rubbing off on other items inside. For more check out this list of road trip snacks to pack.
How To pack your cooler for a Road Trip?
Quick Tip: A cooler will retain cold when it is full. It is important to select a cooler that will fit in all your items. Pack the cooler with frozen gel ice packs, frozen water bottles, dry ice (it’s dangerous for direct contact with foods and skin so read this to know how to use it in a cooler).
Use containers or nylon to prevent water from getting in your foods. Ensure that the cooler is drained regularly, avoid direct contact with the sun. Use a towel or keep in the shade for better insulation. For more information about how to pack your cooler, we made an infographic on Pro ways to pack your cooler perfectly.
How long will a cooler keep things Frozen?
This depends on the quality of the cooler and how you use it. Premium ice chests prices are sometimes justifiable considering the quality of materials used to make them above average. Coolers like the Yeti, ORCA, Pelican, Rtic, Grizzly, Engel, etc are regarded as premium because they are robust, durable, have better insulation and as a result extended cooling. On the other hand, most cheap coolers don’t have the construction quality to match these high-end products, thus lower ice periods.
Rotomolded coolers are the best ice clingers on the market. These beasts can offer 4-7 days of ice depending on the brand. Meanwhile, the cheaper ends can hold ice for a day or two.
It is important to know that how you pack the cooler really impacts ice retention as I’ve mentioned earlier. Also, frequent access to the cooler means heat will get inside. We advise users to put items they’ll need at the top when packing so that they don’t have to dig into the cooler.
Finding the best road trip cooler can be tedious. Thanks to our list of road trip coolers, now it is easy to know what cooler to carry for journeys and things to carry to make your trip a memorable one.
Now that you know the top options on the market, factors to consider before choosing, and how to pack coolers for maximum cooling, you can make an informed decision on which cooler to go with on your trip. Our work here at coolersjunkie is to ensure you don’t have to do the hard work of scouring the internet for reviews, we recommend products have been used by satisfied customers. The journey to a memorable road trip starts by selecting a good cooler – don’t get it wrong. Cheers !