When you’re heading out for a day of fun in the sun the last thing you want to worry about is lukewarm drinks and spoiled food. Good beach coolers solve this problem – providing you with an insulated, cool storage space to stash plenty of food and beverages.
Beach coolers come in a wide variety of designs, sizes, and features, from heavy-duty wheeled models to simple hard-sided coolers to collapsible waterproof dry sacks for backpacking and water sports.
Picking the right one for your particular needs can seem like a chore – which is why I’ve broken down the best beach cooler for each use case and scenario. Let’s dive into it!
Quick Answer: 7 Best Beach Coolers
- Best Soft Cooler: YETI Hopper M30
- Best Hard Sided Cooler: RTIC Cooler, 45 qt
- Best Wheeled Beach Cooler: Igloo Trailmate Journey
- Best Small Cooler: Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze
- Powered Cooler: Igloo Iceless 40-Quart Cooler
- Dry Bag Cooler: IceMule Classic Insulated Cooler Bag
- Also Consider: Pelican Elite 30 Quart Cooler
Top 7 Beach Coolers
Best Soft Cooler
If you’re looking for a highly portable, well-made soft cooler for a day at the beach, you’ll have a hard time beating this one. It’s the newest version of YETI’s well-regarded Hopper – and features an all new magnet closure rather than the old zipper. This ensures the cooler is easy to open and shut, and you’ll never have any issues with the zipper jamming.
The magnetic hydroshield closure uses powerful magnets to create a leak proof seal, and also creates a wide-mouth opening making loading and unloading a breeze. Like other YETI products, its overengineered – with RF welded seams and double-stitch reinforced pick up points, so you can rest assured it can handle anything you’re likely to throw at it.
Dual quick-release buckles ensure the cooler has a backup closure system, so you can toss it on a boat without any worry. With a 7.2-gallon internal capacity, the soft cooler can hold up to 20 regular sized cans or 28 pounds of pure ice. The leakproof liner ensures nothing can get in or out of the cooler, keeping your drinks and food ice cold for days at a time.
While it costs a bit more than other coolers, the portability, durability, and featherweight design more than justifies the increased price.
- Dimensions: 25” x 12” x 17.5”
- Weight: 7 pounds
- Best in class thermal performance.
- Magnetic closure offers a wide, easy-to-use seal.
- Overengineered, redundant closure system provides failsafe closure.
- RF welded seams and double-stitch reinforced pick up points.
- Can be used to cool food, drinks, or as a fish bag.
Best Hard-Sided Cooler
If you’re looking for a hard-sided cooler to keep your food and beverages ice cold on the beach, you’ll have a hard time beating the performance and value of this one. While it might not have all the bells and whistles of certain high-end brands, it does exactly what it’s supposed to – keep your stuff ice cold and protected from the elements. The price is also fairly reasonable – so you won’t need to take out a second mortgage to afford one!
It features heavy-duty roto-molded construction, 3” thick insulated walls, and heavy-duty T-latches that won’t come loose unless you want them too. The mid-size 45-quart volume makes it an ideal choice for cookouts, a day at the beach with the whole family, or camping and fishing use. It can hold up to 36 standard sized cans or 40 pounds of ice – and will keep ice cold for 3 to 10 days, depending on the temperature.
The rugged design and overengineered chassis make it great for heavy-duty use. The durable high traction lid doubles as a bench, cutting board, or makeshift tabletop. It’s also fairly easy for one person to carry, so loading and unloading is stress-free.
- External Dimensions: 5” x 16.5” x 16”
- Weight: 25 lbs.
- Capacity: 45-quart
- Durable, impact-resistant construction.
- 3” thick insulated walls cool ice for up to 10 days.
- Lid doubles as a makeshift bench, cutting board, or tabletop.
- Rapid V-drain system, no-fail hinges, non-slip feet, and no-sweat exterior.
Best Wheeled Beach Cooler
Designed specifically with off-road use in mind, this wheeled cooler makes an excellent option for soft beach sand, dirt roads, mud, and other challenging terrain. The 10-inch oversized wheels provide superior traction and ground clearance – allowing you to float over sand that would stop other wheeled coolers.
Beyond the wheels, Igloo’s trailmate is packed with features that make it ideally suited for all-terrain use. A telescopic locking aluminium glide handle allows you to easily adjust the handle length – so anyone can find the ideal towing setup. A built-in butler tray allows you to serve up food and ice-cold drinks on a removable tray, which stashes away under the lid when not in use.
Integrated dry-storage allows you to keep essentials like keys, cellphones, and other electronics safe and dry in a lockable anti-leak box. Two built-in bottle openers let you crack open a few cold ones right on the cooler exterior, while four can holders in the lid keep your drinks securely in place. It also comes with integrated fishing rod holders for using on a dock or boat!
With a healthy 70-quart capacity, the cooler can store up to 112 twelve ounce can, and keep ice cold for up to 4 days at a time. It’s also quite the eye-catcher, with several different color schemes that look great nearly anywhere.
- External Dimensions: 6” x 19.7” x 23.6”
- Weight: 7 lbs.
- Capacity: 70-quart
- 10-inch oversize wheels float over sand, mud, and other challenging terrain.
- Built in butler tray, dry storage compartment, bottle openers, and rod holders.
- Can keep ice cool for up to 4 days.
Best Small Cooler
If you’re looking for a more compact cooler with enough capacity to hold a few snacks and drinks for the beach, this one makes an excellent choice. It comes in several different sizes, from a compact 9 can capacity up to a generous 48 can model.
High performance insulation with radiant heat barrier reflects heat back rather than absorbing it. The interior is completely leak proof and features a removable hardbody liner to keep everything inside protected from getting crushed. The liner also allows you to separate hard items like cans from softer items like sandwiches and wraps.
An adjustable shoulder strap makes carrying a fully packed cooler a breeze, while an abrasion and puncture resistant exterior ensures your food and drinks are completely secured. A triple layer coldblock base locks in the cold – and will keep ice cool for up to 48 hours.
Keep in mind that this is a fairly light-duty cooler, so don’t expect it to preform like a full sized hard-bodied cooler.
- Sizes Available: 9-can, 16-can, 30-can, 48-can
- Leak-proof, easy-clean exterior.
- Removable hardbody liner protects soft items from being crushed.
- Triple layer base keeps ice cool for up to 48 hours.
- Exterior radiates back heat rather than absorbing it.
A powered cooler can be an excellent option for people with access to a 12 volt auto plug or a 110-volt outlet. This cooler allows you to keep your food and drinks completely cool – without adding any ice.
The cooler can be used either upright like a full-sized refrigerator, or horizontal like a traditional cooler. An adjustable food shelf or divider comes included – allowing you to organize your items easily. A quiet brushless motor ensures long lasting performance and silent operation.
A convection cooling fan circulated cold air throughout the cooler, which makes quickly cooling bottles and cans a breeze. Swing up carry handles allow for easy transport, while a generous 40-quart capacity allows you to stash up to 56 regular sized cans.
Assuming you have access to a 12-volt car plug (or a regular 110-volt wall plug), you’ll be able to keep everything you need cool indefinitely. The cooler also works well in campers, boats, vans, or anywhere else you need a portable powered fridge.
- Dimensions: 22” x 16.8” x 15.3”
- Weight:75 pounds
- Capacity: 40-quart
- Comes with both 12 volt auto plug and 110-volt wall outlet adapter.
- Can be used either upright or horizontally.
- Quiet brushless motor for silent operation.
Dry Bag Cooler
Compact, insulated, and highly portable, this dry bag style cooler is the perfect choice for the beach, hiking, camping, and nearly anywhere else. Its engineered to be the most portable soft cooler around, and utilizes a simple dry bag design with added insulation to keep ice and beverages frosty cold.
The soft sided cooler is completely collapsible, folding up to the size of a small towel – making it perfect for travelling with. Its closure system is designed without any zippers and welded seams, so there’s no leaks to worry about. Three different sized models are available (10L, 15L, and 20L) as well as a variety of different colors.
A unique air valve allows you to add extra air to the insulating layer by blowing into it, and also release air when you want to roll it up for storage. These coolers also float – making them great for kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding and other watersports.
Icemule coolers can retain solid ice for over 24 hours – which is pretty impressive considering its lightweight construction.
- Sizes: 10L, 15L, 20L
- Welded seams ensure bag is completely waterproof.
- Cooler will float in the water.
- Air valve allows you add or remove extra insulation.
- Folds up to compact size for travelling or backpacking.
While it might be a little overkill for a casual day at the beach, this well-made, heavy-duty cooler is about as good as it gets when it comes to keeping your stuff frosty cold. Unlike other coolers that use rubber locking latches, pelican uses real-deal heavy-duty press and pull locking latches and freezer grade seals. The construction is fantastic all around – providing superior ice retention and durability.
At 30 quarts, it’s in the middle of the pack in terms of capacity, holding up to 23 standard sized cans or 28 pounds of ice. A built-in bottle opener and four self-draining cup holders make enjoying a few ice-cold brews a breeze.
Pelican also includes a number of features that make the cooler ideal for rugged outdoor usage. A fish ruler comes engraved on the outside of the lid, while a sloped tethered plug allows you to drain the contents without lifting the cooler.
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty cooler capable of lasting for decades, then you’ll have a hard time topping this bad boy. Pelican backs up their American-made coolers with a lifetime warranty, so you’ll have no problem taking this thing to roughest places on earth.
- External Dimensions: 3” x 19” x 11”
- Weight: 22 lbs.
- Capacity: 30-quart
- Heavy-duty insulation and construction.
- 3-inch heavy duty locking latches.
- Made in the USA.
- Lifetime warranty.
How to pick the right beach cooler?
With so many different makes, model, and designs, finding the right beach cooler for your needs can seem like a tricky task. Let’s take a look at some of the most important features to consider when picking out a beach cooler.
Size and Weight
The right sized cooler for you will largely depend on how much stuff you need to keep cool. Beach coolers typically come with a stated volume in quarts, and many manufacturers also give a number for the amount of standard sized cans or pounds of ice the cooler can hold.
The number of cans should give you a good ballpark figure for how much the cooler can hold. Smaller personal size coolers can often fit 8 to 10 standard sized cans, while larger models will often hold 25 plus.
In addition to internal capacity, you’ll also want to consider the external dimensions of a cooler. Because they offer varying degrees of insulation, the external dimensions of coolers with similar internal capacities can vary significantly.
Weight is another important consideration – as you’ll probably need to carry the cooler over sand for some distance. If you plan to load your cooler in a beach cart or wagon, then you’ll want to consider the total weight when fully loaded with drinks and ice.
Whenever you’re transporting a cooler over a significant stretch of sand, mobility is an important factor. Soft coolers often come with built in shoulder carry straps, so you can sling them over your shoulder and carry them easily.
Larger beach coolers are generally more difficult to transport over long distances, with bulkier and heavier bodies. Most will feature large comfortable carry handles – so you can carry them in tandem with someone else.
There are also wheeled beach coolers, which make long distance transport much easier. Keep in mind that many of these coolers won’t work well in soft sand, with the Igloo Trailmate Journey above being the exception to this rule.
Accessibility refers to the ease of getting your stuff in and out of the cooler. Generally, large hard-bodied coolers will be the most accessible, as their flip up lids and horizontal layout will give you complete access to the interior. Smaller softy bodied coolers can be more difficult to access, as their mouths are smaller – making it harder to get to your food and drinks inside.
Some coolers feature a mini access lid – allowing you to reach in and grab something without fully opening the top and letting out cold air. As beach coolers are opened and closed constantly, this is a worthwhile feature to lookout for.
Ice retention is a bit of a controvertible topic. Manufacturers will often give long ice retention times in the 5+ days range, but you need to consider these are typically done in ideal laboratory conditions. So, take these numbers with a grain of salt.
If you’re using the cooler in hot weather, and are constantly opening and closing the lid, your ice retention time will be significantly less than the stated one. To extend your ice retention time as much as possible, keep the cooler out of direct sunlight, open it only when necessary, and seal it completely every time you close the lid.
Hard vs. Soft
Hard bodied beach coolers differ significantly from their soft bodied counterparts. Because they feature a higher level of insulation and solid body, they’ll have higher ice retention times and will be more durable in the long run.
Some higher-end soft coolers will offer similar levels of insulation to hard bodied coolers, but you’ll pay a premium for the increased performance. Also consider that hard bodied coolers will take up significantly more space – so if you’ve already got beach chairs, an umbrella, towels and other gear, a smaller soft-bodied cooler can make sense.
While not strictly necessary, there are a number of extra features that can come in handy.
Bottle Opener: Some beach coolers come with integrated bottle openers. This can be a handy feature if you forget to bring one along with you – and will let you crack open a few cold ones anytime you feel like.
Cup Holders: Cup holders molded into the cooler lid are a pretty convenient feature. These will keep you from spilling your drinks and allow you to use the cooler lid as a makeshift table.
Drain Plug: A drain plug allows you to fully drain any melted ice or other liquid from your cooler without needing to lift it up and dump everything out. This is a handy feature for larger coolers, and is particularly useful for when your using the cooler for an extended period of time. You can open the drain plug, let any melted ice drain out, and then add fresh ice on top.
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.