What is the Toughest Cooler?

When shopping for a cooler one requirement that often comes to mind is to have a product that will last a long time and be able to hold up to whatever wear and tear you plan on putting it through.  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.  For instance, someone who simply 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 who uses their cooler for long backpacking trips and mountain excursions.  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.  Before we go into greater detail, we have listed out 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.  In addition, 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 picnicing 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 terrain 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 the more durable coolers on the market sharing.

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 a more consistent wall thickness and strong corners that are very low stress risers.  This is due to the fact that it is one piece.  In addition, it is also 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 are 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 used of a metal that is rust-proof such as stainless steel so that they can be exposed to wet conditions and not rust.

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 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 tough cooler will typically be very thick and made of a 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

There are many subtle design features that are included on higher-end coolers that maximize their life.  Many of these might go tough coolerunnoticed 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 have 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 really 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 thrives 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 with their cooler lines, which are made to handle anything you can throw at them and look quite while doing it.  The 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 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 there are some competing coolers that 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

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