If you’re looking for the best ice chest for a BBQ, beach trip, boat outing, or camp trip, it’s easy to see all the high end rotomolded options and look for the cheapest one. There are multiple factors to consider, which we’ve outlined below. We’ve researched and found five top-rated ice chests of 2018, as well as a couple you might want to avoid.
Reviews of the 5 Best Ice Chests, Plus the 2 Worst to Avoid
1. Orca Ice Chest Review
Made similar to the better-known Yeti and Grizzly ice chests the Orca is making a name for itself. These ice chests are completely manufactured in the United States and offer a wide variety of sizes and colors. The best orca ice chest does well under extreme conditions because of its durability and insulation.
Orca Ice Chests claim to retain ice for 10 days, although this depends on the climate and conditions. For users that are constantly getting in and out of the ice chest, they should see ice retention for about 4 days. The best orca ice chest is ideal for campers, and survivalists.
The intelligent design helps these ice chests stay ice chest for longer even when in direct sunlight. Orca does well by keeping their systems simple and focusing on ice retention instead of unnecessary additional features.
Orca ice chests come with a lifetime warranty where they happily replace or repair your ice chest no matter the damage. Orcas are becoming a popular choice because they’re much cheaper the Yeti or Grizzly competing models.
2. The Yeti Tundra 50 Ice Chest Review
Yeti ice chests keep it simple, which had led them to earn a reputation for their quality. However, many campers, hunters, and survivalists also believe the Yeti is overrated. However, their durability is constantly put to the test.
All in all, you can’t go wrong with a Yeti ice chest if it’s in your budget. There are a lot of great qualities you’re paying for with the Yeti Tundra 50. Yeti ice chests are great for ice retention and bear-proof. Hunters are the most common Yeti owners, and they sing its praises.
They were the first to use the roto-molded design that makes them stand apart from the competition. But, because Yeti only uses the top-quality materials and updates their design regularly for enhanced durability, expect to pay top dollar. If the Yeti is in your budget, and you need an ice chest that will last for years, the best yeti ice chest is the Yeti Tundra 50.
3. Pelican ProGear Elite Ice Chest Review
The best ice chest under $500 is the Pelican ProGear Elite Ice chest. Although it’s price tag doesn’t fall too far under $500 this is an investment that will last you for years. It’s one of the most affordable ice chests on the market currently. The Pelican ProGear Elite Ice chest is best-known for its ice holding abilities. It has the look of a regular beach ice chest but all the durability you need when camping or hunting.
When it’s compared to the other brands available you get many of the same features. The Pelican ProGear Elite Ice chest has a taller build than many other ice chests. It fits well in your backseat or trunk, which is great for packing. However, it’s tallness can make it top heavy.
The Pelican ProGear Elite Ice chest is known to keep ice for up to 7 days with the regular opening of the lid. If you’re attempting to keep your ice for even longer, you can stretch that 7 days up to 10.
4. Grizzly Ice Chest Review
One of the best ice chests ever made is the Grizzly ice chest. With a bear-proof design and large capacity, this is the best Grizzly Ice Chest. It offers a durable build and has a variety of size options. Many Grizzly models call a hunting cabin home.
These heavy-duty ice chests are great for camping, hunting, picnicking and family outings. They are American made and their size options start at 15-quarts and go up to 400-quarts. Many survivalists like the Grizzly looker because of it’s many size options. If you are dedicated to the brand, you find the sizes that work best in your trunk and back seat.
The standard ice retention on Grizzly Ice chests is about 6 days. Grizzly ice chests typically have a lower ice retention time frame than competing brands, but if you don’t need ice to stay frozen for 10 days, the Grizzly ice chest is a great option.
5. Igloo Glide Pro Cooler 110-quart Review
The best ice chest with wheels, Igloo is a more commonly known household name compared to the others on our list here. However, the Igloo Glide Pro Cooler is meant for picnics, beach days and weekend camping trips. The ice retention is about 2 days on this model, so it’s not great for hunting trips or camping far away from civilization.
The Igloo Glide Pro Cooler has a handle which makes rolling it easy. The wheels are durable, large and have teeth to help it grip in sand, dirt, or on flat ground. The handle is sturdy and telescopes back in to get out of the way.
As the best ice chest with wheels, it’s meant for use when you already have your hands full. The Igloo Glide Pro Cooler is easy to pull even when fully loaded. This ice chest is a great option if you’re looking for something for a weekend trip. However, it’s not as durable and doesn’t hold ice as long as the other models available.
Avoid – Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric Cooler Review
This ice chest is the prime example of how adding unnecessary features is a death sentence for ice chests. The Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric Cooler is possibly the worst ice chest on the market. It aims to meet the needs of every road trip.
As the worst ice chest on the market, you can imagine the slew of features it claims to have and fails to deliver. This ice chest uses a 12volt power port (AKA cigarette lighter) in your car to keep the chest cool. It doesn’t keep ice and won’t hold ice well at all if you tried.
The only thing this ice chest does have going for it is the space. Because of its design, the Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric cooler has a ton of space to stash drinks and snacks. Unfortunately, it doesn’t keep your drinks cool enough for a satisfying beverage.
Avoid – Engel High-Performance ENG35 Cooler Review
Avoid this ice chest at all costs; the Engel High-Performance ENG35 Cooler doesn’t hold up to the expectations you would have of this brand. Engel has taken on a great reputation so it’s surprising that you should avoid this ice chest.
The Engel uses the same roto-molded design that the Yeti and the Grizzly both use. They claim they are bear-proof and shockproof. However, it’s 2-inch insulation, and IBSC certification doesn’t help its ice retention or durability.
The Engel High-Performance ENG35 Cooler claims to retain ice for 10 days, but this is closer to 4 days if you regularly open the lid. There’s also reports that the unit doesn’t seal completely. This sealing problem would contribute to the lack of ice retention. The drain plug is also known to break after a few weeks of use.
2018 Buyers Guide to the Best Ice Chests:
A few brands in the ice chest world reign supreme. Top of mind is of course Yeti cooler, followed by the likes of RTIC, Orca, Grizzly, Pelican, Engel, Coleman, Rubbermaid and a hand full of others. The available options can make your budget go a lot further and still offer all the durability and quality of these great brands. The most well-known brands shouldn’t be your only choice, always check out the underdog competition in the coolers market because it is always changing and expanding. Before you buy a few key factors consider include the design, ice retention, and capacity. Without these aspects, you might find yourself disappointed in the ice chest option you went with.
3 Main Points to Consider
- Design for Cooling Ability: The whole point of an ice chest is to keep ice. But if an ice chest has poor cooling abilities, you won’t know until after you purchase it. Many manufacturers rely on you not knowing about the ice chests’ cooling abilities until it’s too late and you’ve already used it. But, this is a big deal because the cooling ability is the sole purpose of having an ice chest. What you can look at to help judge cooling ability and ice retention is design. The roto-molded options available will always offer a longer period of ice retention. However, those that don’t use this design can offer ice retention for days. Igloo is well known for days of ice retention. You can also figure that the ice retention will change with its size. The smaller the ice chest, the smaller the time frame on ice retention. When it comes to design and cooling ability, you should consider taking the time frame provided by the manufacturer and subtract 3 days. For models that claim to offer 10 days, figure that they’re only actually good for 7 days.
- Insulation: The key aspect that determines your ice chests cooling ability is its insulation. The best ice chests of 2018 will have sturdy ice retention performance levels. Insulation divides into 2 categories either ice retention or food-friendly temperatures. Food safe temperatures must remain under 40-degrees Fahrenheit to keep food from perishing. You should be especially careful with these coolers because they often go above this temperature. Usually, ice chests that are in the safe food range are good for drinks only. Because they’re not reliable for long periods of time they aren’t ideal for hunters or campers. However, they are great for beach trips, road trips, and picnicking. Ice retention ice chests are what make up most of our list here because they’re good for years of hard use. However, these ice chests are incredibly expensive. Hunters, campers, and survivalists often look at these ice chests as investments. Ice retention directly refers to how long the ice will last in the chest. This depends on design, insulation and the lid type. You have probably noticed that the Orca, Grizzly, and Yeti all look similar. This feature is one of the marks of great ice retention, simple design.
- Size: The size of the ice chest will affect how long it can retain ice, and many of the best ice chests of 2018 offer the same model in various sizes. Always measure the space you have available in your trunk or backseat to ensure that the ice chest will fit. Consider what size you need. Because ice chests range from about 15-quarts to 400-quarts, you have a lot of options. Small ice chests work best for tailgating, day-hiking, going to the beach and picnicking. However, they don’t do well for hunting, weekend camping or the survivalist lifestyle. You want a model that will comfortably hold your drinks, food, and the ice necessary to keep it all cold. Keep in mind that the larger the ice chest, the heavier it is, the bigger isn’t always better. You should be able to handle an ice chest with 1 or 2 people comfortably. The larger ice chests are also usually more durable which means they can quickly increase in weight.
Why might you need a large ice chest for storage and protection?
Portable cold storage is imperative when you’re camping or on an excursion in nature. Anytime you’re away from home you need to know that you have safe to eat food. A large ice chest can help you maintain confidence in the safety of your food storage.
Many survivalists also seek out a large ice chest for storage and protection, however, if you’re a survivalist newbie, assembling important equipment like an emergency water filter, know that large items can get in the way in the case of a survival situation. You might want to opt for a smaller, more mobile Yeti cooler or soft-sided cooler option.
Protection is another hot subject when it comes to ice chests. Many new or inexperienced hunters and campers don’t understand the wildlife that surrounds them when they’re in nature. Your ice chest can attract unwanted attention from more than geese at a campsite.
Many of the top dollar ice chests are bear proof. If you’re looking for the best ice chest of 2018, you’ll find that bear-proof is a regular feature. This level of protection if you’re looking to take your ice chest with you when hunting or camping.
6 Genius Cooler Hacks (Video):
Final Thoughts on Finding the Best Ice Chests:
After years of hard use, you want to have confidence that your ice chest can withstand the harshness of the wild. You want a unit that will keep your food cold, but also provide a level of comfort for your trips. Consider all the models available and decide which is best for you. The best ice chests of 2018 provide long ice retention, safety, bear-proof durability and fit easily into your car or trunk.