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A trip to the beach is supposed to be a carefree, relaxing experience. For many people, a day at the beach is a time to unwind from the pressures of everyday life.
Unfortunately, your beach trip could easily turn from a fun getaway into yet another stressful experience if you don't plan properly.
One of the biggest challenges in planning a beach trip is bringing enough food and drink, and crucially, keeping it cool all day long. Let’s face it - nobody wants a warm beer on a hot summer day.
Thankfully, there’s a straightforward solution to the problem of keeping food and drinks cool at the beach: a cooler!
Coolers are bags or boxes that are insulated to ensure that the items inside stay cool and fresh.
Today, we’ll be reviewing the 5 best beach coolers so that you can enjoy your day by the sea, stress-free!
Don’t forget to check out our buyer’s guide and our FAQ section for helpful tips surrounding choosing and using your new beach cooler.
This Soft Cooler Bag from Coleman ticks all the right boxes for a beach cooler, and because of that, it’s our best overall pick.
Coleman’s Soft Cooler Bag measures 11.81 x 11.02 x 7.87 inches, which means that it has a large internal capacity for plenty of food and drink.
You can fit a total of 16 cans of beer in this cooler, although this doesn’t leave much room for ice, so you might need to adjust this estimate.
Speaking of adjustments, the Coleman Soft Cooler Bag is easy to maneuver and carry thanks to the adjustable shoulder strap and large handles on the sides.
You can carry the bag by yourself using the strap, which you can lengthen or shorten to fit your needs, or with the help of another person using the handles.
Something else that helps this cooler bag stand out from the other coolers on the market is its antimicrobial lining, which prevents the buildup of mildew and mold and other potentially harmful bacteria.
This is crucial for food safety and ensures that your food and drinks stay not only cold but hygienic.
Of course, the ice you load into your cooler will melt over time despite the insulation. Luckily, the seams of this bag are heat-welded, meaning that the bag is completely leak-proof.
Additionally, this cooler bag has external pockets on the front and sides.
Thanks to the leak-proof seams, anything you put in these pockets will stay dry, meaning you can keep your food, drink, and personal items (phone, suncream, etc.) in the same place for ease of access.
Our only criticism of the Coleman Soft Cooler Bag is the fact that the zipper often catches on the lining inside the bag, which may lead to premature wear and tear.
In the runner-up spot, we have the RTIC Hard Cooler. We recommend this cooler to anyone looking for quality similar to that of the Coleman Soft Cooler Bag, but in the form of a hard cooler.
One of the primary selling points of the RTIC Hard Cooler is the stainless steel rotomolded construction.
Rotomolding is short for ‘rotational molding,’ and it’s a process that ensures consistency in terms of thickness.
This is really important for a cooler because keeping the cooler's contents at a consistent temperature requires even wall thickness.
You can purchase this cooler in a choice of 3 sizes: 20 quarts, 45 quarts, and 65 quarts. For context, a 20-quart cooler should provide you with enough storage space for 24 cans in addition to ice.
This means that the smallest size is already quite substantial, and the larger sizes will ensure that you’re never limited in terms of how much food or drink you can bring to the beach.
You might be wondering how effective the RTIC Hard Cooler is when it comes to actually keeping food and drink items cool.
The answer is: very. That’s because this cooler features 3 inches of thick foam insulation that can literally keep ice solid for days.
Additionally, this cooler is lockable, ensuring the safety of its contents at all times.
There are also tie-down slots built into the cooler, so you can leave it unsupervised (although we recommend keeping an eye on it) without worrying about tampering or theft.
The main drawback to this beach cooler is that, even in its smallest size, it weighs 9.23 kilograms, equal to just over 20 lbs.
Even with the help of the strong handles, this is quite a hefty load to carry when filled.
When you look at some of the beach coolers available on the market currently, it might seem as though you need to spend hundreds of dollars to keep your beer cool at the beach.
We’ll be taking a look at the best premium-priced beach cooler in just a moment, but first, why not consider this budget-friendly soft cooler bag from Yodo?
Yodo’s Collapsible Soft Cooler Bag will contribute convenience and peace of mind for your beach trip without taking away too much from your wallet.
This cooler is available for purchase in both 18 and 25-liter capacities. 18 liters is equivalent to 20 quarts, which is enough capacity for 24 cans, whereas you should be able to fit approximately 32 cans in the 25-liter cooler.
Thanks to the combination of FDA-approved insulated lining and heat-welded seams, you can expect ice to stay cold for between 4 and 6 hours in the Yodo cooler, and when it does start to melt, it won’t leak through the bag.
Regardless of which size you choose to buy this cooler in, you’ll easily be able to carry it to and from the beach using the padded, adjustable shoulder strap and padded handles.
There are also external pockets on the front of the bag and on the side, which provide space for items that don’t need to be insulated.
With that being said, the zipper appears to be the weakest point of the cooler, with some customers reporting premature breakage. Therefore, we would recommend using the zipper with extra care.
The YETI Hopper Portable Cooler is one of the most high-end beach coolers on the market at the moment, but it’s also one of the most popular, indicating that it’s well worth the money.
And we have to say, we agree!
The YETI cooler has a DryHide shell, which combines the lightweight nature of softshell coolers with the durability of hard construction.
On the inside, this cooler features ColdCell insulation, a type of closed-cell foam that provides hours of cold insulation.
When the ice does start to melt, you can rely on the leak-proof HydroLok zipper to help avert any accidents.
In addition to the padded handle on top of the cooler, the YETI Hopper comes with an adjustable shoulder strap for ease of portability.
However, unlike some other coolers we’ve reviewed today, the YETI cooler doesn’t have a huge capacity.
You should expect to fit 6 cans inside this cooler when ice is accounted for.
The upside to this is that the bag is lightweight (2.8 lbs), but it’s not a cooler for storing copious amounts of food and drink.
Finally, we have been impressed with the construction and functionality of SEEHONOR Insulated Cooler Backpack.
The construction of this cooler backpack is primarily nylon, which is a heavy-duty material with a good level of wear resistance and durability.
This is a backpack-style cooler, which means that it’s practical and easy to carry.
However, the straps are on the thin side, and when the cooler is very full, this may lead to discomfort from the straps digging into the wearer’s shoulders.
Despite this, the other features of the SEEHONOR cooler are ideal. The capacity is 25 liters, which is enough to fit 32 cans or the equivalent in meals and snacks.
Thanks to the PEVA lining, which is both insulating and leak-proof, you can enjoy your time at the beach without fretting about warm drinks or puddles of melted ice.
This cooler backpack also includes a handy beer opener, which we think is a very convenient and user-friendly addition.
As you can see, there are many different types of beach-friendly coolers on the market currently.
While that’s great in terms of choice, it can make a final decision more difficult to come to.
For this reason, we’ve curated this buyer’s guide with all the information you need to make the right choice.
Before you get into the finer details of what you’re looking for in a beach cooler, it’s important to start with an idea of how large you’ll need the cooler to be.
The reason for this is fairly straightforward: a family of 5 is likely to need a cooler of a different size from a couple, for example.
To work out what size cooler you need, you’ll need to consider several factors.
First of all, how many people are you providing food and drink for? Secondly, what kinds of food and drink will you be bringing?
And thirdly, how long are you planning to stay at the beach? (This last factor will also be involved in evaluating other cooler features, so make sure to bear this in mind).
Capacity is usually expressed either in liters or quarts when it comes to coolers. You can easily convert one unit of measurement to the other using online tools.
Coolers come in a variety of different sizes. A 20-quart cooler can hold roughly 24 cans, plus ice, while a 45-quart cooler will hold over 50.
When it comes to the external construction of your beach cooler, the most important decision you have to make is whether you want a soft-shell or hard-shell cooler.
Both have their own set of pros and cons.
A soft-shell cooler will be more lightweight than a hard-shell cooler, and storage is often more convenient because you can usually fold a soft cooler to make it more compact.
However, with a soft cooler, you need to pay more attention to seam construction. Heat-welded seams are desirable because they are the best at preventing leakages.
Alternatively, you could choose a hard-shell cooler, which will likely be heavier and more cumbersome to carry but will provide extra durability and protection.
You will also need to consider the material that your cooler is made out of. For a hard-shell cooler, we recommend stainless steel.
Soft-shell coolers are usually made out of nylon or material that ranks closely in terms of weight, durability, and water resistance.
The main thing to look for in terms of internal construction when choosing a beach cooler is insulation.
With a hard-shell cooler, this insulation usually takes the form of closed-cell foam.
Foam may also be used as an insulating material for soft-shell coolers, although certain lining types such as PEVA are also common.
We recommend looking for an insulative lining that is FDA approved and, if possible, antimicrobial.
If the lining material ticks both of these boxes, you can trust that your food and drink will be totally safe, both in terms of temperature and hygiene.
The vast majority of soft-shell beach coolers use zipper closures.
Unfortunately, these closure mechanisms tend to be the weak points of a soft cooler, so we recommend reading some customer testimonials before purchasing to understand how ergonomic and durable the zippers are.
With hard-shell coolers, it’s much more common for closure mechanisms to involve latches and locks.
These might be slightly more time-consuming to work with, but they’re usually superior in terms of security and strength.
Zippers often provide easier access to the contents of your cooler, though, so it’s entirely down to you and your personal priorities.
A good beach cooler should be highly portable and ergonomic to carry.
After all, you never know when you might need to walk a long distance from your car to the beach, and the last thing you want is to work up a sweat before spending all day in the sun.
Most soft-shell coolers combine a handle or multiple handles with a shoulder strap.
The handles and strap should, where possible, be padded for comfort, and it’s best for the strap to be adjustable to fit all frames.
A backpack-style soft cooler will help you ensure that you’re carrying the cooler's weight evenly and safely across both shoulders, minimizing the risk of injury.
Hard-shell coolers usually don’t have shoulder straps, so they’re often less practical to carry.
However, you should be fine as long as sturdy handles are provided on either side and you have somebody to help you.
Be sure to verify the empty weight of the cooler and consider how heavy it will be when filled so that you can plan regarding transport.
Sometimes, cooler manufacturers will throw in additional features to sweeten the deal.
One of the most useful additional accessories to have with a beach cooler is a beer opener.
Of course, you may already have your own, but if there’s one included with the sale of your new cooler, you can keep it in the cooler permanently.
This way, you can be sure you never forget your beer opener!
Beach coolers come in a variety of types, styles, shapes, and sizes.
However, high-quality coolers have one thing in common: they’re designed to help you make the most of your adventures.
Before you press ‘add to cart,’ make sure you’ve thought carefully about factors such as construction, size, and portability, and don’t forget to consider included accessories!