Last updated on September 2nd, 2023.
A fishing cooler is an essential piece of gear on hot summer days. We tell you what to look for and show you the best fishing coolers.
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Disclaimer: All products in this guide are independently researched by our team. We only recommend products we believe in and never get paid for the reviews. Learn more about our review process here.
How to Choose the Best Fishing Cooler
Summertime is one of the greatest seasons to go a on fishing trip. It doesn’t matter if you are going just for an afternoon session or a multi-day trip. An essential piece of gear for these fishing outings is a proper fishing cooler. Over the past couple of years, the technology behind fish coolers has improved significantly.
Hence, nowadays the best ones can easily keep your catch, food, drinks, etc. cool for days. When we talk about fishing coolers we think of big, sturdy ones with large capacities. These hard box coolers have a significant advantage over soft box coolers: they will keep your essentials cool for longer.
In this guide we want to give you an overview of some of the best products you can currently find on the market. Yes, some of these are expensive. But there is a reason for that: these coolers are build for the wild. You can even throw products such as the YETI Tundra 45 around and stand on them, they won’t break!
We broke this review down into two pieces. First we will give you an overview of the best fishing coolers out there including two rolling ones that make it easier for you to bring them wherever you go. In the second part of this guide, we tell you what to look for before making a purchase and what features a quality cooler has. Let’s go!
Best Fishing Cooler Quick Answer List
Best Fishing Coolers on the Market in 2023
In this first part of the buyer’s guide we’ll give you our favorite fishing coolers of the season. We’ll explain each product and tell you why we like it. No matter which product you end up choosing in the end, you can’t go wrong since we only recommend products to you that we use ourselves and that we are convinced of.
– Capacity: 28 cans (plus ice) / 34lbs of ice (only)
– Dimensions: 25 3/4 x 16 1/8 x 15 3/8 inches
– Weight: 23lbs
– Multiple colors
Why we picked it:
American manufacturer YETI has made a name for themselves in recent years for building some of the sturdiest outdoor equipment money can buy. They are well known for their waterproof bags and backpacks but their flagship products are coolers such as the YETI Tundra 45.
The YETI Tundra 45 combines key features of a fishing cooler in an unparalleled way: ice retention, durability, sturdiness and design. The YETI Tundra 45 can hold 28 cans (with ice) (if that’s not enough go for the YETI Tundra 65) and also features a dry goods basket. 3″ inch insulation, extra-thick walls and a tightly-fitting lit make sure the inside stays cool even on hot days. The sturdiness of the YETI Tundra 45 is second to none. Throw it around or sit on it – it won’t break. The YETI can even serve as a casting platform if you are fishing from a boat.
– Fantastic ice retention
– Very sturdy – you can sit or stand on it
– Many colors to choose from
– Heavy (particularly when fully loaded)
– Capacity: 36 cans
– Dimensions: 26 1/2 x 16 1/2 x 15 7/8 inches
– Weight: 29lbs
Why we picked it:
The RTIC 45 QTHard is another fantastic hard cooler with a similar built as the YETI Tundra 45. The brand has garnered many fans amongst outdoor lovers thanks to the quality of their products. The RTIC 45 QTHard Cooler also features T-latches that secure a tight fit and provide freezer grade insulation. The RTIC 45 QTHard has a little bigger capacity than the YETI Tundra 45 and can hold 36 cans and 40lbs of ice. Just like the YETI Tundra 45 features an incredible sturdiness and can be used as a bench, tabletop or cutting board.
RTIC promises that the RTIC 45 QTHard Cooler can keep ice cold for up to 10 days. From our experience that is hard to achieve when you open the cooler regularly. However, a few days is not a problem at all for the RTIC 45 QTHard Cooler. Can be carried by one person. Similar dimensions as the YETI Tundra 45 but a bit heavier at 29lbs.
– Very good ice retention
– Latches close very tightly
– Even heavier than the YETI Tundra 45
– Capacity: 24 cans – 18 bottles
– Dimensions: 23 5/8″ x 17 3/4″ x 14 5/8″
– Weight: 25lbs
Why we picked it:
The Orca 26 Quart is another great hard cooler – Made in the USA – that comes in similar dimensions as the YETI Tundra 45. Available in a wide range of colors (and sizes), the Orca 26 Quart features a durable, roto-molded construction that makes it almost indestructible. The lid system is also very similar to the Yeti and ensures a very tight closure that makes sure everything on the inside stays cold and fresh no matter how hot it gets on your fishing trip.
A neat little feature of the Orca 26 Quart is the small cargo net on the back of the cooler that allows for the storage of small items. As you would expect from a high quality fishing cooler, the Orca 26 Quart comes with a drainage sprout to facilitate the drainage of excess water after a long day out on the boat or after storing your catch.
– American made
– Excellent grip options
– Roto-molded construction for extra durability
– Ice retention not quite at the level of the YETI in our test
– Capacity: 83 cans (without ice)
– Dimensions: 25.98 x 16.34 x 16.54 inches
– Weight: 16.4lbs
Why we picked it:
The Igloo 52 Qt BMX Cooler is a great option if you don’t want to spend $200 or $300 on a cooler. It terms of sturdiness it does not quite play in the league of the YETI Tundra 45 or the RTIC 45 QTHard Cooler. Yet it features some of the same high quality details such as the T-latches for a secure fit. The Igloo 52 Qt BMX Cooler can keep the inside cool for up to 5 days. The big, anti-slip handles make this cooler comfortable to carry even when fully loaded. A fish ruler on the lid is a neat little extra feature. The Igloo 52 Qt BMX Cooler can hold 83 12-oz cans and weighs in at only 16.4lbs.
The outside dimensions of the Igloo 52 Qt BMX Cooler are comparable to the RTIC 45 QTHard Cooler and the YETI Tundra 45. On the inside it has more space than these two. This is because the walls and hence insulation of the RTIC 45 QTHard Cooler and the YETI Tundra 45 are stronger.
– Cooling capacities are solid
– Ice retention not on a level with the Orca or YETI (not to be expected at this price)
– Capacity: Up to 100 cans (without ice)
– Dimensions: 28.25 x 15.75 x 18.25 inches
– Weight: 12.3lbs
Why we picked it:
The Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler is a great quality cooler for well less than $100. The biggest difference to the three previous coolers is the closure technology. The Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler does not have T-laces to close the top lid and hence does not achieve the cooling capacities of its competitors. Yet it can keep the inside cool for a couple of days.
On the upside, it’s little lower degree of insulation results in a huge capacity on the inside: the Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler can hold up to 100 cans (without ice). A neat little feature are the cup holders that are integrated into the top lid. The Coleman Xtreme 5 Cooler is not as bullet proof as the RTIC 45 QTHard Cooler or the YETI Tundra 45. Hence, don’t throw it around. Neither do we recommend grown ups to sit on it. At only 12.3lbs it can easily be carried by one person.
– Thought-through features like the “cup holders”
– Good for a day out (not more)
– Closure system is not the best (no lid closure)
Best Fishing Cooler with Wheels
In the second part of our guide we want to give you a few options if you are looking for a fishing cooler with wheels. Rollable fishing coolers have the advantage that you can roll them to the dock instead of carrying them. This can come in handy if they are fully loaded and get heavy. Here are a few good options.
– Capacity: Up to 45 cans (plus ice) 55 lbs of ice only
– Dimensions: 28.25 x 18.63 x 19.5 inches
– Weight: 32lbs
Why we picked it:
Once again, the YETI is our overall favorite choice when it comes to rollable fishing coolers. The YETI Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Cooler combines all the great features of a classic YETI cooler with some really sturdy wheels.
The wheels of the YETI Tundra Haul feature YETI’s NeverFlat construction that makes them highly impact and puncture resistant. An arm handle made from welded aluminum makes sure you can pull hard when the YETI Tundra Haul is fully loaded. The YETI Tundra Haul is the perfect choice for fishermen and women who don’t want to carry a heavy cooler around on a hot day.
– Excellent, big wheels
– Fantastic lid closure
– At 32lbs rather heavy
– Handle is rather short
– Capacity: Up to 101 cans (without ice)
– Dimensions: 28.20 x 15 x 18 inches
– Weight: 16.8lbs
Why we picked it:
The Coleman Ice Chest | Coleman 316 is the perfect choice if you are looking for a wheeled fishing cooler that won’t cost you a fortune. For well under $100 this is a great entry level product that comes with a number of premium features.
The Coleman Ice Chest | Coleman 316 features 6 inch wheels that provide solid stability when rolling the cooler to the dock for example. When closed, the lid can support a weight of 250lbs. A feature that the Coleman Ice Chest | Coleman 316 shares with much more expensive products such as the YETI Tundra Haul. Despite thinner insulation, the Coleman Ice Chest | Coleman 316 can keep ice up to 5 days. If you are looking for even more capacity, take a look at the bigger version featuring 100 Quart.
– Sturdy with 250lbs weight capacity to sit on
– Good handle to pull
– Closure could be better
– Capacity: 70 quarts
– Dimensions: 33.3 x 17.2 x 17.6 inches
– Weight: 46lbs
Why we picked it:
As our last product in this review we have picked our favorite big rolling fishing cooler: the Seavilis Milee-Heavy Duty Wheeled 70QT. The sheer size of this cooler makes sure you can bring everything for a long day or even weekend on the water.
The Seavilis Milee-Heavy Duty Wheeled 70QT comes with a basket cupholder and divider so you can create multiple departments. The built quality is similar to YETI’s, featuring industry grade insulation and T-zips to securely close the top lid. The 7″ wheels on the Seavilis Milee-Heavy Duty Wheeled 70QT provide a smooth running even when the cooler is fully loaded.
– Huge capacity
– Excellent ice retention
– Wheels work really well
– Heavy (particularly if you have to lift it out of or into a truck)
Features of a Great Fishing Cooler
As you can see from the products we reviewed above, the best fishing coolers come in a variety of shapes, sizes and with different features. This make the price range quite wide ranging from about $70 all the way up to $500. Here are a few things to consider before making a purchase.
Insulation is probably the most important factor before buying a fishing cooler. Ask yourself how and where you are going to use your cooler. Do you need the ultimate in cooling capacities to keep food or drinks cold for days? If that’s the case go for a product with an industry grade insulation. Examples are the YETI Tundra 45 or the RTIC 45 QT. These coolers are really built for the wild and will stand any test.
If you are looking for a cooler that can keep cold for a couple of hours to make your fishing day on a boat or at the river more enjoyable, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars. As a rule of thumb it can be said that coolers with T-latch closures can keep the inside cool for longer. They close the lid tightly and securely.
A little trick to keep the inside of your cooler cold for longer is to only open it when necessary. Ask your friends and family if they want a cold drink or something to eat. Then open the cooler once and keep it closed for a while afterwards. The more often you open it, the harder it will be for the inside to keep the temperature low no matter how good the insulation.
Construction / Toughness
The same things that we said about insulation hold true regarding construction. What are you going to use your cooler for? If you just want to keep beverages, food or your catch cold, a standard one will do the job.
If you want to stand or sit on your cooler instead, using it as a chair or table, you will have to make sure, it can stand the weight. Again, products such as the RTIC 45 QT or the YETI Tundra 45 will have no problem with a person standing on it. This can be the case when using it as a casting platform on a skiff.
Size of the Fish Cooler
Before making a purchase, ask yourself how much you want to fit into the cooler. Keep in mind that the more cans, food and ice you put into the cooler, the heavier it gets. The coolers with the best and thickest insulation are quite heavy even when empty. A big one fully loaded, might be too heavy for you to carry.
If you know you’ll have to make a little walk from the parking to your boat in the dock for example, you should consider buying a wheeled one since that makes it a lot easier to get to the boat without sweating.
When it comes to the capacity of the cooler, there are a couple of things to consider. When comparing coolers, make sure to compare their inside capacities. Two products might have the same dimensions on the outside, yet due to different insulation they might have significantly different dimensions on the inside.
As a rule of thumb you can say that a 25 quart fishing cooler is enough for an afternoon on the paddle board or kayak. If you are planning to spend a whole day, look in the 45 quart range. For a whole weekend or a couple of days on a boat, consider getting a cooler in the range of 70 quarts upwards.
Draining and Cleaning
A long day on the water will result in some of the ice inside your cooler melting. A good drainage system helps to get rid of that water so that the remaining ice inside can do its job. A drainage system at the bottom of the cooler makes it easier to drain the water even if the cooler is still heavy when fully packed.
Make sure to rinse and wipe your fishing cooler after every use. Make sure it’s dry on the inside and store it with the lid not fully close to enable air to circulate and prevent bad odors.
Best Fishing Cooler: FAQ
Why do you need a fishing cooler?
A fishing cooler is a very versatile piece of gear for a long day on the water. Not only can it keep your catch cool, it can provide you with cool drinks at the same time to make your fishing day more enjoyable.
What kind of fishing cooler should I get?
Think about the situations you will be using your fishing cooler in. Do you only need it for an afternoon fishing session? Then consider getting only a small portable cooler bag. Do you want to spend the whole day on a boat and need more capacity to store items? If that’s the case go for a bigger hard wall cooler that will ensure everything on the inside stays cool for longer.
How to clean my fishing cooler?
The most important things to do after a day of fishing, are to drain your cooler, the rinse and wipe it. Afterwards let it dry and keep the lid open to allow air to circulate. This prevents bad smells.
What features should I look for in a fishing cooler?
Consider the size and capacity of the cooler, the ice retention period, durability, and whether it has a drain for easy clean-up. Additional fishing-specific features might include a ruler on the lid to measure your catch, non-slip feet, or tie-down capabilities for secure transportation on a boat.
How can I maximize the ice life of my fishing cooler?
Pre-chill your cooler before use by filling it with a bag of ice or ice packs. When you’re ready to pack the cooler, use a good ratio of ice to contents and try to minimize empty space. Avoid opening the cooler too frequently, and keep it out of direct sunlight whenever possible.
What’s the difference between a regular cooler and a fishing cooler?
Fishing coolers are typically designed with extra features that make them more suited for fishing trips, such as longer ice retention times, secure tie-down capabilities for boats, built-in fish rulers, and sometimes even rod holders.
Are there different types of fishing coolers?
Yes, there are hard coolers that are typically more durable and have better ice retention, and soft coolers that are easier to carry and store but might not keep items cold as long. There are also backpack coolers for hands-free carry, and cooler bags that are perfect for small trips or solo anglers.
Can I use dry ice in my fishing cooler?
Dry ice can be used in most fishing coolers and will keep your catch colder for longer. However, it’s important to handle dry ice safely and check the cooler manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure it can withstand the extremely low temperatures. Never handle dry ice with bare hands, and make sure to ventilate your cooler to let off the gas that dry ice emits as it evaporates.
Why You Should Trust our Reviews
Leonard Schoenberger and his team spend plenty of days out fishing. Their goal is to test and review products for you so you can make a solid purchase decision and improve your fly fishing game. We always express our honest opinions, never get paid for reviews and are proud of our editorial independence.
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