Two people riding an ATV with a QuadraX Cubix Cooler strapped to the back

A Comprehensive Guide on How to Choose a Cooler

What's the one thing you can't forget before you leave for an adventure? That's right, a cooler! A trusty cooler is essential for camping, picnicking, or lounging on the beach, ensuring your refreshments stay fresh. You might think all coolers are created equal, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We're breaking it all down for you, from the durable to the compact, ensuring you make a choice that's as cool as your upcoming adventures.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Cooler

Types of Coolers

Let's dive into the different types of coolers available, each with its own unique features, pros, and cons:

A comparison chart of different types of coolers

Cooler Specifications

When shopping for a cooler, the devil is in the details. Here's what to keep an eye on:

  • Insulation Thickness: For decent cooling, 2 inches of insulation is sufficient, but if you're aiming for the stars, 3 to 4 inches will keep your drinks colder for longer.
  • Material Quality: Durability is key. Choose a cooler made from rotomolded plastic to ensure it can withstand the great outdoors and keep your adventures worry-free.
  • Closure Mechanisms: A tight seal is your best friend in the battle against the heat. Look for coolers with sturdy latches, zippers, or straps that create a tight seal to keep the cold in and the heat out.
  • Drainage System: After the fun, you'll want an easy cleanup. Opt for a cooler with a hassle-free drainage system to bid farewell to melted ice quickly.
Friends share wine and music on a sandy beach beside a blue Viva Cubix cooler

Use Cases and Space Needed

As you gear up for your adventure, consider what you'll be packing! Are you bringing drinks only? Food only? Both? Knowing this will help you choose the perfect cooler size and features. In general, longer trips and larger groups call for higher-capacity coolers to guarantee an ample supply of snacks and drinks. Here’s a rough guideline:

Graph of cans per cooler size

10 Quart Cooler 

A 10-quart cooler is the perfect lunchbox for an epic day trip with your partner or going solo. Its compact size keeps road trip snacks chilled without taking up valuable cargo room. Look for coolers with a silicon gasket that keeps the cold in and prevents leaks, especially during long stretches on the highway where it can be shaken.

14 Quart Cooler

Mother walking with her two daughters carrying a teal Viva Cubix rotomolded cooler

A 14-quart cooler is a great choice for a short picnic with sandwiches and drinks, especially if you're hiking solo, with a friend, or with a small family of 3-4 people. Plus, it's easy to carry around, and with a built-in bottle opener, you can crack open a cold drink in no time. 

20 Quart 

Four different angles of the QuadraX Series cooler

Hitting the beach with your crew or going on a fishing day trip? A 20-quart cooler, ideal for 4-6 people, is perfect to keep the day running smoothly. Opt for a cooler with at least 3 inches of insulation to fight the beach heat. Quick-access features like zipperless closures or flip-open lids are lifesaving when your hands are coated in sand. Look for a cooler with a built-in fish ruler to measure your catches and cup holders to keep your beverages handy while you cast your line.

25 Quart 

Cooler packed with fruits, drinks, sandwiches, and ice packs

Planning a park picnic or tailgating before the big game? A 25-quart capacity cooler offers enough room for food and drinks for a small group of people. Sturdy handles make transporting the cooler from your car to your spot a breeze—bonus features like cup holders for keeping drinks steady and a drain plug for easy cleanup.

46 Quart 

Man and woman sitting in a camping ground making a hot beverage

A hard-sided cooler is your best bet for a short family camping trip, parties, tailgating, or supplying snacks and drinks for your kids' soccer team. Look for a cooler with a capacity of around 46 quarts. This size ensures enough space for your beverages and a few days' worth of food, especially if you opt for a cooler with superior ice retention, like any of the 46-quart Cubix Outdoor coolers that can last 5+ days. 

Don't forget to estimate your food and drink needs, including any emergency supplies like chocolate. It's always wise to plan for a bit more than you think you'll need rather than facing the grumbles of hungry (or "hangry") travel buddies. 

Weight and Portability

When selecting a cooler for your outdoor adventures, various factors come into play to ensure it meets your transportation, storage, and convenience needs. Here's what to consider:

  1. How You'll Be Traveling: Consider whether you'll travel by car, on foot, or by other means, and choose a cooler that suits your transportation needs. We all know the struggle of trying to play trunk tetris with suitcases, supplies, and limited space.
  2. Size and Capacity: Smaller coolers are lighter and more portable than larger ones. Consider the size and capacity of the cooler based on your storage needs and available space.
  3. Carrying Options: Look for coolers with ergonomic handles, adjustable straps, or thick built-in wheels for easier transportation. Comfortable carrying options can make a significant difference, especially when moving the cooler over longer distances.
  4. Material and Construction: Choose coolers made from lightweight yet durable materials like high-density polyethylene (HDPE), nylon, or polyester.
  5. Collapsible Design: Some coolers feature a collapsible design that allows them to be folded down or compressed when not in use, saving space and making them easier to transport and store.
  6. Accessory Compatibility: Consider coolers that are compatible with accessories like backpack straps, bike racks, or mounting systems. These additional features can enhance the cooler's versatility and portability for various activities and modes of transportation.
  7. Insulation Efficiency: While insulation is important for keeping contents cold, thicker insulation layers can add weight to the cooler.
  8. User-Friendly Features: Look for coolers with user-friendly features like easy-access lids, bottle openers, cup holders, and drainage systems for melting ice. These features can improve convenience and usability while on the go.

It's crucial to weigh your needs before making a decision. If enduring durability and superior insulation for lengthy adventures are what you're after, then the heft of a rotomolded cooler is a worthwhile investment. However, if you are looking for a lightweight solution, opting for a soft cooler might be a better choice.

Person surrounded by white snow standing and fishing by a lake.

Environmental Considerations

Mother Nature can be unpredictable, so choosing a cooler that can handle whatever she throws your way is essential. Consider these environmental factors when making your decision:

  • For the Sun Chasers: Heading to the desert or the beach? Opt for a cooler with thick insulation and UV-resistant materials to combat the heat. Keeping your goodies cool under the blazing sun is key to a successful outing.
  • For the Arctic Explorers: Don't let your food freeze. Look for a cooler with robust insulation to prevent your snacks from turning into ice cubes. A well-insulated cooler will keep your food at the perfect temperature, no matter how frosty it gets outside.
  • For the Tropical Trekkers: Humidity can wreak havoc on your cooler, leading to moisture buildup and soggy snacks. Choose a cooler with effective sealing mechanisms to keep the humidity out and your food dry and fresh.
  • For the Wetland Wanderers: Rain or shine, your cooler needs to hold its own. Opt for a waterproof cooler with a durable exterior to protect your supplies from unexpected downpours or splashes. 

Final Thoughts

And there you have it – your comprehensive guide to choosing the perfect cooler box. Armed with this guide, you're now ready to choose the perfect cooler that meets your specific needs, ensuring your food and drinks stay chilled. Want to learn how to pack your cooler to maximize insulation? Check out our blog about How to Pack a Cooler Like A Pro with our Top Tips And Tricks, making your outdoor experiences even more enjoyable. So, pack your compact cooler, load up on snacks, and get ready to conquer the open road in style with both sustenance and sanity intact!