X

Which cooler gets the coldest? The results are in

We tested the cooling power and capacity of 25 of the top coolers on the market. Here's a cold, hard look at the results.

steveconaway.jpg
steveconaway.jpg

Steve Conaway

See full bio
small-cooler-temperature-performance-data.png
1 of 12 Steve Conaway/CNET

Comparative performance data for small coolers

This chart shows the ambient temperature inside each small cooler we tested after we loaded each one with 10% volume of ice and let them sit for 48 hours in a climate-controlled test chamber. Lines that go lower and for longer indicate coolers that do a better job of holding colder temperatures over time.

Magellan Outdoors is our defending champ in this category, getting colder for longer than any other unit. There is a lot of similar performance in the middle, with the Igloo Mini returning to room temp much quicker than its competitors. 

small-cooler-coldest-average-temperatures.png
2 of 12 Steve Conaway/CNET

Coldest and average temperatures held for small coolers

This chart shows the coldest temperature each of those small coolers reached during our tests, as well as the average temperature from its entire 48-hour run.

Similar to the temperature performance data, you can see clearly the Igloo Mini at the bottom of the pack and the Magellan Outdoors cooler in the lead. The Amazon cooler performs slightly better in the middle cluster. 

small-cooler-capacity-comparison.png
3 of 12 Steve Conaway/CNET

Capacity comparisons for small coolers

Generally speaking, the manufacturer capacity claims checked out, which is why the blue bars indicating the capacity we measured are all pretty close to the red bars indicating the manufacturer claims. 

As for the white bars, those tell you how many cans you could fit into the cooler if you added two cans' worth of ice for each one, by volume. The best of the bunch by that metric was the Camp Zero, which could fit a little over three six-packs with room for ice. The smallest was the Igloo Mini, which could only squeeze in about three cans.

midsize-cooler-temperature-performance-data.png
4 of 12 Steve Conaway/CNET

Comparative performance data for midsize coolers

Let's move on to midsize coolers. Among them, the RTIC got the coldest, and the Yeti held its cold the longest. 

Meanwhile, the worst finisher on both fronts was the Igloo. 

midsize-cooler-coldest-average-temperatures.png
5 of 12 Steve Conaway/CNET

Coldest and average temperatures held for midsize coolers

Overall similar performance, but the RTIC showed the lowest reached temp at 46 degrees Fahrenheit even, but the Yeti has the lowest average temperature at 59.6 degrees by holding its low temps longer.  

midsize-cooler-capacity-comparison.png
6 of 12 Steve Conaway/CNET

Capacity comparisons for midsize coolers

Yeti was the only unit to understate its capacity -- but only by .3 quarts. RTIC was furthest from its mark, overstating by 5.4 quarts.  

large-cooler-temperature-performance-data.png
7 of 12 Steve Conaway/CNET

Comparative performance data for large coolers

Finally, the biggest coolers we tested. The big takeaways here are the poorer performance of the Kenai cooler, and the exceptional performance of the Cabela's cooler. 

large-cooler-coldest-average-temperatures.png
8 of 12 Steve Conaway/CNET

Coldest and average temperatures held for large coolers

The Cabela's Polar Cap Equalizer cooler registered the coldest temperature of any of these, clocking in at a cool 44.6 degrees Fahrenheit. And, generally speaking, even though all coolers are tested with the same capacity percentage of ice, the larger coolers tend to get colder than their smaller counterparts. Kenai's lowest temp was 49.6.  

large-cooler-capacity-comparison.png
9 of 12 Steve Conaway/CNET

Capacity comparisons for large coolers

If you're buying a king-size cooler like these, then capacity is probably a top concern. All of these coolers have slightly overstated capacities, but Cabela's boasts the largest volume. It holds 67 cans -- or 11 six-packs -- at a two-to-one ice-to-can ratio, by volume. 

soft-cooler-temperature-performance-data.png
10 of 12 Steve Conaway/CNET

soft-cooler-temperature-performance-data

Most of the soft cooler charts will show the Magellan Outdoors cooler in the lead as you see here. Much colder temps for much longer.   

soft-cooler-lowest-average-temperatures.png
11 of 12 Steve Conaway/CNET

soft-cooler-lowest-average-temperatures

Magellan Outdoors lowest temp was 53.8 degrees Fahrenheit, 7.8 degrees lower than the next best. 

soft-cooler-capacity-comparison.png
12 of 12 Steve Conaway/CNET

soft-cooler-capacity-comparison

Magellan Outdoors and OlarHike both understate their capacity, while Tourit seems to be drastically overstated. The largest capacity in this category goes to LifeWit.  

More Galleries

2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More

More Galleries

2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More

95 Photos
Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

More Galleries

Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

81 Photos
The 40 Absolute Best Games on Nintendo Switch

More Galleries

The 40 Absolute Best Games on Nintendo Switch

41 Photos
Hyundai Ioniq 6 EV Is a Slippery Sedan With Strange Details

More Galleries

Hyundai Ioniq 6 EV Is a Slippery Sedan With Strange Details

14 Photos
2023 Acura Integra: A Solid Sport Compact

More Galleries

2023 Acura Integra: A Solid Sport Compact

35 Photos
2023 Cadillac Lyriq Comes Out Swinging

More Galleries

2023 Cadillac Lyriq Comes Out Swinging

46 Photos
Photos: Inside Cheyenne Mountain, America's Fortress

More Galleries

Photos: Inside Cheyenne Mountain, America's Fortress

23 Photos