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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Magellan Outdoors lowest temp was 53.8 degrees Fahrenheit, 7.8 degrees lower than the next best.
Magellan Outdoors and OlarHike both understate their capacity, while Tourit seems to be drastically overstated. The largest capacity in this category goes to LifeWit.