Best Tailgating Cooler
Last Updated by Brandon F. on November 11, 2022
For many people, tailgating at their team’s sporting event can be a favorite time of the year. The combination of grilling food, playing yard games, drinking beverages, and socializing with your fellow fans makes it truly a fun time. Since tailgates are typically outside and away from buildings, almost everyone will need some sort of cooler to hold their food and drinks, which is why we felt it was important to list out the best tailgating coolers.
However, not every ice chest will do the job. Tailgating presents unique challenges that some brands are up to while others might fall a bit short. Some cooler brands even make coolers specially designed with tailgates in mind. There are several common requirements that almost every tailgater will need, and these are things that you should consider when researching which tailgating cooler you are going to purchase.
But before we list out the common requirements we have included our top choices for the best tailgating coolers. If you wish to read more detailed reviews of each hop on below the table and there will be additional information!
Our Top Rated Tailgating Coolers
|Igloo Ice Cube||Grizzly||Rubbermaid DuraChill Wheeled|
|Price by Volume (Amazon)||$||$$$$$||$|
|Ice Life||2-3 days||7-10 days||5-6 days|
|Our Full Review||Link||Link||Link|
What to Consider in Your Next Tailgating Cooler
While some people will have the benefit of being able to pull up their vehicle to the tailgate, in many places you might have to lug your cooler some distance to get to that area. Because of this, having a tailgating cooler that is easy to move is quite helpful. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to have wheels (although it certainly can help!), but having an easy-to-use handle that is strong and set up for multiple people to help carry it is definitely positive.
This applies both to how much space you will need for items but also for how much space the cooler takes up. Depending on the tailgate location, space might be a luxury, and having a huge cooler that takes up valuable area could make things very inconvenient. Because of this, finding a cooler that is optimally-shaped to provide enough storage space for your items but also be easily stored out of the way is something you should consider. There are also some typical tailgate items that people will oftentimes use so having a cooler that has the specific spacing needed to fit those items can be helpful.
Tailgates can last an entire day, oftentimes in the hot sun, so having adequate ice life is important. Also, we have found that tailgate coolers are typically opened much more often at a tailgate than on a camping trip or lunch excursion since people will oftentimes need refills on their drinks or will need to grab food or snacks to cook.
Because of this, having a cooler that can sustain cold air and recover quickly when it is opened is important. However, having a cooler that promises 7-day ice life might be a bit overkill as most gatherings only last for 24 hours maximum. It all depends on the location that the cooler will be in (out in the open under the sun, under a shaded tree, etc.) and how often you anticipate that it will be opened.
Easy Access Lid
Since you will oftentimes be carrying both food and drinks and needing both at separate times, having a lid that is easy to access and that also potentially minimizes outside air exposure is a nice touch. A popular method of doing this is to have a “lid within a lid” which allows you to access items without having to open up the entire, larger lid.
The less exposure the cool air inside your tailgating cooler has to the outside, warmer air the better as this can have a very significant impact on how long your ice will perform.
Having helpful gadgets such as built-in cup holders and embedded bottle openers can be quite handy, especially if your chair doesn’t have a cup holder or if you have a tendency to misplace your bottle opener often. Some sturdier tailgating coolers can even double as an additional seat or table for those times when space might be cramped or you simply don’t have enough chairs for everyone.
As much as we hate it, sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t want to cooperate when we are out enjoying our favorite sports team play. It is important to have an ice chest that won’t lose performance when it is rained upon, especially when you are storing food inside that you don’t want to get wet. If you are lucky enough to typically be tailgating under a tent then this might not be as big of a concern so approach this specification on a case-by-case basis.
Variety of Colors
Having a cooler that matches your team’s colors is a nice touch. Also, some cooler brands even offer coolers with your favorite team’s logo on them! We listed out some of our favorite colored and team-oriented coolers here so we recommend you check it out if you want more detailed information on colored tailgating coolers.
Like most things in life, the cost can be very important. Some people don’t have the want or the means to drop several hundred dollars on a cooler, particularly if they only primarily use it for tailgates which might only happen a few times per year. There are plenty of more budget-friendly coolers on the market that offer acceptable performance for a day of tailgating.
The one benefit of tailgating is that most of the time the cooler will only need to keep ice for a single day. This opens up a lot more possibilities that are more affordable since typically only the expensive premium coolers can keep ice for several days at a time.
These are a few topics you should consider before you make your next purchase. That being said, here are a few of our recommendations for good tailgating coolers:
Igloo Ice Cube
This is a great overall tailgating cooler. The combination of great team colors to choose from, easy storage capabilities, and ease of access make this a definite recommendation from us.
Pros: Easy to transport, very durable, wheeled options available, many different color choices, great price
Cons: Not quite as long of a cooling time as advertised, the handle is somewhat prone to break
For someone wanting to purchase a higher-end tailgate cooler. Huge overkill on cooling ability and is one of the easiest of the high-end coolers to transport and stow away. If you go with this you should have no concerns about items not staying cold during the day.
Pros: Some of the best ice life on the market, incredibly durable, aggressive look, easy to carry considering the size
Cons: Very expensive, heavy
Rubbermaid DuraChill Wheeled
We like the combination of carrying options (wheels and handles). The front drain port and embedded cup holders could also definitely come in handy when standing around the grill. Also, we love the price for the cooling performance you get.
Pros: Nice insulation, solid construction, impressive looks, good price
Cons: Too many leak paths, hinges are a bit too weak
A great budget choice for those needing a tailgate cooler but needing to watch their wallet. There are enough color choices that you can probably find something that works for you. The ice life is acceptable and the larger sizes come with cup holders.
Pros: Built tough, strong handles, great price
Cons: Underwhelming ice life, lid won’t stay open, plain design
Also, as a bit of an extra, we found a really helpful video that helps to explain the best way to pack your cooler for your next tailgate.