If you’re planning to go sailing or camping out over the weekend, or longer, you’ll want to find the best coolers for the money to store a variety of foodstuffs and drinks.
Choosing the right cooler will depend on the place of destination and conditions you will likely encounter while in the outdoors. These reliable cooling chests come in various types, sizes, materials used, and purposes. Their main function is to help maintain freshness of perishables and keep beverages cold and refreshing.
The choice of what type of cooler to buy, though, will greatly depend on the items that you intend to store and the length of time you’ll be storing these items. As a rule of thumb, the more durable the cooler, the more expensive it becomes.
Types of coolers
Even with ice, coolers need proper insulation to sustain the right temperature that preserves and cools food.
With the exception of electric coolers, all other types require ice cubes or ice packs which generally occupy a quarter of the space to produce and contain the cold temperature.
Fabric cooler – also called by most users as “insulated cooler bag” since this type of cooler is intended for carrying smaller number of food items (e.g., packed lunch) or beverages.
It can also be called collapsible cooler because it folds up easily for storage when not in use.
It’s absolutely lightweight and made from strong synthetic materials, usually of the canvas type, and reinforced with foam padding for insulation.
They’re ideal for day trips or two-some picnic at the park.
Styrofoam cooler – it’s basically a Styrofoam box that comes with a cover.
It’s made from polystyrene plastic and ideal for storing small and lightweight items.
They’re obviously not as tough and durable as their solid plastic counterparts that can hold out to extreme weather conditions and constant wear.
They’re great for backyard parties with friends and family, but not advisable for outdoor camping, hunting or fishing.
Plastic cooler – commonly known as ice chests, these coolers are typically made of sturdy and durable molded plastic.
Because of their lightness (as compared to metals), plastic coolers are designed to take in large amounts of food for longer periods.
Most large coolers come with wheels and retractable handles for portability and a plug at the bottom that makes draining of thawed ice easy. They’re also well insulated throughout.
Metal cooler – by and large, fishermen and hunters use metal coolers because of their durability and reliability to perform myriad functions, like keeping fish catch fresh and storing various food items for days on end, to mention a few.
The sturdiness it offers makes it all the more expensive than the other types of coolers.
As it is made of metal, it comes heavy with metal covering to shield insulation layers.
Electric cooler – a portable car refrigerator, that’s simply what it is as it can be plugged in to any car cigarette outlet.
It serves as an insulated cooler box using electricity to keep its interior cool.
It’s the only type of cooler that requires no ice, thereby providing more stowing room for foodstuffs and drinks. This is just one among many reasons why electric coolers are the most expensive types. Albeit high-priced, the benefits these chests offer are definitely worth it.
What to look for when buying a cooler
It requires painstaking considerations to get the right cooler.
- What do you intend to use it for, will it be for camping, fishing, or hunting?
- What do you plan on putting into it?
- Will it be used for trips of short or longer durations?
You see, it would be highly impractical toting a fabric cooler on a hunt with your friends over the weekend, or awkwardly lugging a bulky electric cooler for a half-day eat out to a nearby park with your girlfriend. Here are two basic qualities to look for in a cooler.
Durability – for fabric collapsible coolers choose those that are made of strong synthetic materials with rugged stitches that do not fray and tear easily, and reliable carrying straps.
If you’re looking for a large plastic cooler, choose the one made of hard plastic that can withstand extreme weather conditions and frequent wear and tear.
Go for a large-wheeled cooler that are made from hard plastic, with durable handles (preferably steel) and well-fit insulated lids.
Size – there should be no cause for worry finding the right size of cooler you want, since you’ll come across all sizes, from the smallest foldaway six-pack fabric cooler to the monstrous over 400-quart plastic coolers!
Most importantly, though, think of the space intended for the ice – around a quarter of the total space.
Portability – there’s no point lugging around a hefty chest of meat, bottled drinks and ice – up and down the car, and all around the place.
Find a cooler that has reliable handles, sturdy straps, wheels to move it effortlessly, and even one that can function as a seat when you need one!
Thermal Efficiency – the insulation material used must be high-density, and the lid seal must be air-tight.
Two of the ways to check on insulation is by lifting the chest and pressing the inner walls.
Heavy chests usually have high-density materials. Inner walls that feel solid instead of soft or hollow are more compact and dense. Lids must have gaskets.
Proper insulation and efficient lid seal reduces the transfer of heat or increase in temperature.
Easy-Drain – the manufacturer must have made draining easier for you. See if the draining method suits your preference. Are the bottom plugs and stoppers easy to locate, remove and reattach? Won’t they get lost easily? Is a hose fitting provided?
Brand – trusted names commit to quality for the simple reason that they have spent decades building a name, and they’re not about to destroy that hard-earned reputation with a lousy model.
The Yeti’s, Igloo’s and Coleman’s can’t be beat in this category. Prices, however, tend to be directly proportional to the years the brand has been around in the market.
Surfaces – plain surfaces are easier to clean than textured surfaces.
It would be nice if the interior bottom surface is grooved or ribbed, though. This will prevent food from being soaked in melted ice.
There you are, choosing the right cooler that fits your requirement shouldn’t be too difficult a decision to make.
With practicality in mind you can get the best deal there is in acquiring an affordable, durable, and efficient cooler.