Best Coolers

Need a reliable cooler for your next camping trip or tailgate? We did the research to find the best coolers made by American manufacturers. Check out our top picks below, along with what liked and didn’t like about each one, and factors we considered in our research.

Our Findings

There are several different American made cooler brands that are manufacturing high quality products. Brands like Bison, Esky, Grizzly, Igloo, Cabela’s, Orca, Orion, Polar Bear, Pelican, and others are all making coolers right here in the USA. We found a variety of options that have best in class qualities: whether it’s ice retention, durability, or other features. Orion, Cabela’s, Igloo, Pelican, and Polar Bear are some of the top brands that rose to the top of our analysis.

Top Recommendations

Best CoolersBest for:
Orion 45Durability
Cabela’s Polar Cap 40-Qt EqualizerIce Retention
Igloo Sportsman 55-Qt CoolerAffordability
Pelican Elite 45-Qt CoolerWarranty
Igloo Marine Breeze Roller CoolerWith Wheels
Polar Bear Soft CoolerSoft Side

Recommendations: Going Deeper

Check out some more in-depth product details below. We go into what we liked, what we didn’t like, and the best qualities about all our top picks.

Best Cooler for Durability

Orion 45


The Orion 45 is a total beast. This cooler tested best among the competition for durability – it barely had any scratches after all stress tests, and the latches also were the most secure. We love the non-stick pad on top of the cooler for holding gear or acting as a cutting board. The Orion 45 also has several bottle openers on each side, tie downs, and a rail system that allows you to mount a phone, camera, or other gear. This cooler does moderately well in ice retention – not league leading, but good enough to hold ice for about a week. The handles are comfortable and durable, made with reinforced climbing rope, so they can handle just about anything. Dimensions: 27 x 17.5 x 18.5 inches.

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Things we like:

  • Extremely tough for any conditions
  • Lots of great features
  • Comes with a solid plastic tray
  • YakAttack tracks to mount gear
  • Easy open drain plugs

Things we don’t like:

  • Expensive, but worth it for the quality
  • Ice retention

 

Best Cooler for Ice Retention

Cabela’s Polar Cap 40-Qt Equalizer


The Cabela’s Polar Cap Equalizer cooler tested best against the competition in terms of ice retention – lasting nearly 9 days in several tests (although they advertise 12 days). The thick insulation coupled with air-tight latches (which also serve as bottle openers) keep the cold in and the elements out. Construction of the Polar Cap Equalizer is solid, easily surviving several durability tests and advertised as “bear-resistant” by Cabela’s (that claim seems to hold up from field tests). The molded-in handles were some of our favorites among the competition. This cooler also has a pressure release valve, something you don’t see on many other coolers, which helps with lid opening. Overall, you can’t go wrong with this cooler that leads the industry in ice retention. Dimensions: 32 x 18 x 18.5 inches.

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Things we like:

  • Ice retention for over a week
  • Comfortable handles
  • Great price
  • Rugged

Things we don’t like:

  • Not a great product warranty, but doesn’t deter us from buying this quality cooler

 

Best Value Cooler

Igloo Sportsman 55-Qt Cooler


Coming in at less than $170, this huge Igloo Sportsman Cooler is one of the best values we found on the market. This cooler’s ice retention is middle of the road at about a week, but that is plenty long for a weekend camping or fishing trip – handling surprisingly well given the size of the cooler. The latches are sturdy and air tight, and kept out dirt and other elements during tests. The drain on the Igloo Sportsman works well and drains water quickly. It also has some nice anti-skid feet that prevent the cooler from sliding around in the back of your car. Overall, a great value cooler for under $170. Dimensions: 31 x 17.5 x 18.2 inches.

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Things we like:

  • Price
  • Latches
  • Sturdiness

Things we don’t like:

  • These handles are plastic and more susceptible to snap vs. rope handles

 

Cooler with the Best Warranty

Pelican Elite 45-Qt Cooler


If you value having a safety valve for products you buy, the Pelican Elite has the best product warranty among high quality coolers. The warranty lasts for a lifetime, and they’ll send you a brand new cooler in case anything ever happens to yours. The Pelican Elite is second to the Cabela’s Polar Cap Equalizer in terms of ice retention, lasting over 8 days in several field tests. The drain plug and handles were the only two downsides to this cooler – these two elements didn’t fair as well as the rest of the cooler during durability tests. Dimensions: 29.7 x 20 x 19.2 inches.

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Things we like:

  • Lifetime warranty
  • Ice retention
  • Comes with a dry good tray

Things we don’t like:

  • Plastic handles are susceptible to breaking
  • Drain plug is poorly constructed

 

Best Cooler with Wheels

Igloo Marine Breeze Roller Cooler


If you need a cooler with wheels, the Igloo Marine Breeze cooler was the best we found on the market, especially for taller people. The wheels roll smoothly and are very durable. The Igloo Marine Breeze is well insulated to keep your contents cold and has UV inhibitors to prevent against sun damage. It also sports a stain and odor resistant liner. Overall, a quality cooler on wheels at a very affordable price under $100. Dimensions: 27.5 x 19.1 x 16.8 inches.

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Things we like:

  • Easy rolling wheels
  • Affordable price
  • Comfortable and reliable handle

Things we don’t like:

  • Sub-par ice retention, but perfect for a long weekend on one batch of ice.

 

Best Soft Cooler

Polar Bear Soft Cooler


Polar Bear makes a great soft cooler manufactured right here in the U.S.A. This cooler stuck out to us for its rugged nylon exterior. A lot of soft coolers are subject to frequent tears, but the Polar Bear is very tough and passed several durability tests. Soft coolers are perfect for keeping your drinks cold for a day or two, but not much longer than that. If you need your ice to last longer, go with a hard-side cooler. The Polar Bear soft cooler is also impressive in terms of water retention – it’s virtually leak-proof and sweat-proof. This cooler also folds up nicely when it’s not in use, in case you need to store it away in a small space. Dimensions: 10 x 18 x 12 inches.

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Things we like:

  • Rugged exterior
  • Good water and cold retention
  • Comfortable straps

Things we don’t like:

  • None

Recap: Best Coolers Made in the USA


What About YETI?

Contrary to popular belief, YETI coolers are not 100% made in the USA. Their popular Tundra series is made at facilities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Philippines. Check out our recent article on YETI for more information.


Factors We Considered

Durability

Durability is a must with your cooler – it goes through a lot, whether it’s a camping trip or hunting excursion. We analyzed several field tests to find the coolers that held up best to each stress test. We wanted to make sure that the shells were unscathed, handles and latches stayed intact, and nothing (dirt, etc.) got inside the cooler.

Ice Retention

In order for a cooler to get good grades, the bottom line is ice retention – how long can my food and drinks stay cold? We looked at dozens of consumer tests to find the best average length of ice retention before the cooler temperature reached 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooler construction is a big factor here – you need thick insulation for ice to last long. Your latches are also important – they help keep the cooler air tight so that cold stays in and the elements stay out.

Handles

Handles are all about usability and comfort. Generally, rope handles performed better than plastic ones. However, we did find that molded-in handles (especially on the Cabela’s cooler) were especially comfortable and functional.

Drain

The drain is an important piece of the cooler to remove excess water and fully drain the cooler after use. We looked for drains that had a large water flow and were durable – often times manufacturers will neglect the drain when designing the durability for the rest of the cooler.

Latches

Sturdy and easy to use latches are essential for ice retention and durability. Typically they come in a few different varieties: heavy duty rubber, plastic, and metal. We found, generally, that rubber performed best.

Value

We eliminated any coolers from consideration where we felt that the cooler quality did not meet the price tag. After all, we’re consumers too, and we want to make sure you’re getting the best cooler for your money.

 

All American Reviews Team

We’re here to take the guesswork out of buying quality, American products and services.