What is the Toughest Cooler?

Last Updated by Brandon F. on December 3, 2021

When shopping for a cooler, one of the top considerations is toughness.  People want a cooler that can hold up to typical wear and tear.  They want something that isn’t going to fall apart after 3 months of use.  In general, people will look for the toughest cooler that they can find and that is within their budget.  This can vary quite a bit from person to person, depending on what they are planning to use the ice chest for and how much money they are willing to spend.

For instance, someone who needs a cooler to house beverages in their backyard for BBQs won’t put their product through the environmental and mobile extremes that someone would use their cooler for long backpacking trips and mountain excursions would.

Furthermore, someone who will have their cooler fully exposed to the elements of the sun and ocean on a fishing vessel would have different wants than someone who plans to primarily keep their cooler indoors.  Think long and hard about what you plan on doing with your cooler and where you want to take it to during use. 

Before we go into greater detail, we have listed our top picks for the toughest coolers on the market.

Best Beach Coolers

 Igloo Ice CubeRubbermaid DuraChill WheeledColeman Xtreme
igloo ice cube thumbnailrubbermaid durachill wheeled thumbnailcoleman xtreme cooler thumbnail
Our Rating4.5 star3.5 star3 star
Price by Volume (Amazon)$$$
Ice Life2-3 days4-5 days2-3 days
Our Full ReviewLinkLinkLink

Figuring Out How Tough of a Cooler You Need

It is first important to figure out what sort of environment you plan on putting your cooler through.  For many, buying one of the toughest coolers on the market will simply be overkill and they will not need the extra durability and only end up likely spending a lot more money than they need to since tougher ice chests tend to cost more. 

Also, the longer-lasting ice chests are oftentimes much bulkier and heavy, which can make transportation and storage that much more difficult.  For those who plan on simply using their cooler for mobile excursions such as hiking or picnicking, lugging a huge cooler around might be too much to ask.

Here are a few considerations we think you need to go over when figuring out what caliber of cooler to go for:

-Will I be moving this product often or will it typically stay in one place?

-If I am moving it, will it often be carried through harsh terrains such as rocks and sand, or will it be mostly sitting on grass or tables?

-Will the cooler be exposed to natural elements or be kept indoors during use?

-If being kept outside, will it be exposed to water?  Fresh or salt?

-What is the climate like?  Is it extremely hot or cold?

-How often will it be accessed and moved around?

-Are there chances it could be exposed to wildlife?

There are plenty more considerations you can go over, but these are a few to help you get started.

If after going through these questions you can foresee needing a cooler that is going to be through some pretty tough tests then you might want to consider looking for one of the tougher coolers on the market.  If most of the answers came back as needing something less extreme, then perhaps you should look at a more conventional ice chest to save money and make transportation and storage easier.

What Makes a Cooler Tough?

So what makes a cooler “tough”?  There are a few common characteristics that we have seen on the more durable coolers on the market sharing.  We will go over each of these characteristics below.

Roto-molded construction

Roto-molded is short for rotationally molded.  Rotational molding involves using a heated hollow mold that is slowly rotated.  This causes the material to disperse to the walls, forming a shell.  There are several benefits to this process over conventional manufacturing. 

For example, it results in more consistent wall thickness and strong corners that are very low-stress risers.  This is because it is one piece.  Also, it is easier to add non-plastic components such as hinges and threads since you don’t have to drill directly into the plastic (which can cause additional stress risers).

Metal components

One of the common failure points on lower-end ice chests is the hinges or handles.  These are oftentimes also made of plastic or some other type of more affordable material.  Since these areas need to be dynamic (in other words, able to move) then they are put through strain that the cooler body itself might not have to experience. 

This can cause these to fail over time.  The toughest coolers on the market will generally use metal components for these areas.  Not only do they typically look more aesthetically pleasing but they also tend to last longer.  They will also be using a metal that is rust-proof such as stainless steel so that they can be exposed to wet conditions and not rust.  This is important if you plan on keeping your cooler outside a lot where it could be exposed to water from the lake or a sudden rain shower.  But all ice chests can benefit from higher-end hardware since they will be exposed to moisture through melted ice and spilled drinks.

High-quality sealing features

What good is a tough cooler if it easily loses its cooling ability and is susceptible to outside environmental components such as air, dirt, and water?  The toughest coolers will have premium plastic and rubber sealing components with tight tolerances and a sturdy design.  This will typically come in the form of a rubber gasket.  

Rubber gaskets are used everywhere in the refrigeration world and are particularly important when it comes to coolers as they are the sealing component between the cold internal air of the cooler and the warm outside air.  Specifically, the rubber gaskets used in a tough cooler will typically be very thick and made of durable rubber that can hold up to small cuts and abrasions.  In cheaper coolers, a small cut could spell the end for the cooling ability of the ice chest but on these bulkier gaskets that isn’t the case.

Optimal design

tough cooler

Many subtle design features are included in higher-end coolers that maximize their life.  Many of these might go unnoticed to the uninformed but have been included after extensive testing and engineering that many of the premium companies put their products through. 

Examples of these include raised legs so that the base of the cooler isn’t directly exposed to potentially abrasive surfaces, ribbed internal structure to increase load handling and weight allowances, centered handles that minimize the impact that carrying them has on the hinges and frame, and many others.  In other words, many coolers are much more than a simple box upon closer inspection!

While these examples are far from being all-inclusive, they give you a good idea of some common characteristics you’ll find and should look for if in the market for a tough cooler.

What is the Toughest Cooler?

So what do we feel is the toughest cooler on the market?  Unfortunately, we don’t think there is a single “toughest” but we have listed some of our top choices.  Coincidentally many of these coolers also have great ice life and also coincidentally many of them are some of the most expensive products on the market but this is the price you have to pay if you want the best.  Feel free to click on any of the links below and you will be direct to our larger, full-page review for each cooler.


grizzly cooler reviewOur Rating: 

4.5 star

This cooler uses only the top materials and goes through a rigorous construction process, which results in an extremely tough cooler that can handle anything you can throw at it.  Add it some of the longest ice life in the game and you have a real winner in our book.

Pros: Some of the best ice life on the market, incredibly durable, aggressive look, easy to carry considering the size

Cons: Very expensive, heavy

Read Our Review of Grizzly Cooler

K2 Summit

k2 summit cooler reviewOur Rating:

 4.5 star

Another great cooler that has no major weak points.  It also looks great with the traditional K2 layout.  Add in that it has incredibly impressive ice life and you have a product that can thrive in the great outdoors and for long camping trips, as long as you are willing to pay the premium price for it.

Pros: Incredible ice life, wheeled option for mobility, very sturdy construction, great tough look

Cons: Quite expensive, very bulky

Read Our Review of K2 Summit Cooler

Engel High Performance

engel high performance cooler reviewOur Rating:

 3.5 star

This product is plenty tough and only uses quality components.  However, it won’t have quite as long of ice retention as some of its competitions, but it does come at a significantly cheaper price  A good choice for those looking for a tough enough cooler but want to save a little money.

Pros: Great insulation ability, very tough, cheaper than many comparable coolers

Cons: Lid doesn’t seal as well as expected, very heavy, still quite expensive

Read Our Review of Engel High Performance Cooler

Pelican Elite

pelican elite cooler reviewOur Rating:

 4 star

Being Pelican, they are used to building tough containers.  This is no different from their cooler lines, which are made to handle anything you can throw at them and look quite while doing it.  Ice life is also some of the best in the business.  Coincidentally, it is also one of the most expensive ice chests you will find.

Pros: Incredible cooling life, very durable, rugged look

ConsVery heavy and difficult to move, expensive

Read Our Review of Pelican Elite Cooler

Igloo Yukon Cold Locker

igloo yukon cold locker cooler reviewOur Rating:

 4 star

The insulation is superb on this product, and its thick and high-quality material also translates into an extremely resilient ice chest.  The hinges and latches used are of great quality and should last for years.  You do pay for this, however, as this product will be a big blow on the wallet.

Pros: Amazing cooling ability, extremely tough and long-lasting, aggressive styling

ConsVery heavy and bulky, expensive

Read Our Review of Igloo Yukon Cold Locker Cooler

Yeti Tundra Series

  yeti tundra series cooler reviewOur Rating:

 3 star

Everybody knows of Yeti and their toughness.  They are tried and tested and can handle extreme conditions with ease.  The ice life is also very good thanks to the great construction and premium components used.  However, they are extremely expensive and some competing coolers are as good for much cheaper but they don’t come with the Yeti name.

Pros: Great cool life via thick insulation, easy gripping, high-quality build construction

Cons: Very expensive, quite bulky, not many additional features

Read Our Review of Yeti Tundra Series Cooler

What is the Toughest Cooler?
TheCoolerZone tests and reviews various coolers to find the best products for you. When readers buy our reviewed picks, we earn affiliate commissions that help to support the site.