Best Fishing Coolers: Top Hard And Soft Shell Models

Best fishing cooler feature image

When it comes to spending an entire day on the water from sunrise to sunset you’re going to need a few items to help you for the long day on the water. One of the items that will immensely help you in your cause is a good fishing cooler. In this post, we are going to look at some of the best fishing coolers on the market, and help you decide which one is best for you.

Best fishing cooler quick picks:

Fishing coolers needed to keep or catch fresh and cold, or our drinks and food for long trips, even for days or a week worth of time, for example, a Canadian wilderness fishing trip.

We looked at all factors to choose the best fishing coolers with the best fishing cooler overall, best budget cooler, and best small/portable cooler.

Best Overall
RTIC Hard Cooler
RTIC Hard Cooler
9.9

Many people reading this review might wonder why the RTIC hard cooler was picked over the wildly popular Yeti Tundra. The reason for this decision was simple, cost. The RTIC hard cooler has very similar components, design, and features excellent ice retention that is right up to par with the Yeti Tundra while being 100 dollars cheaper.

 

Best Budget
Igloo IMX Cooler
Igloo IMX Cooler
9.5

The Igloo IMX has some pretty awesome things going for it, and you get a high-quality cooler at a great price when compared to some other coolers. While the ice retention times of the IMX are slightly under that of the Yeti or RTIC coolers, the IMX is almost half the price.

Best Small
YETI Roadie 24 Cooler
YETI Roadie 24 Cooler
9.5

Kind of hard to beat the ice retention and features of the Yeti Roadie, and it’s the obvious choice for a smaller and portable cooler. It features the same designs and capabilities as the Tundra, while offering a very ergonomic carry strap/handle and a very secure latch system.

Full reviews of our top fishing coolers

YETI Tundra 45 Cooler
YETI Tundra 45 Cooler
YETI Tundra 45 Cooler
Our Score

It is probably not a surprise to anyone that the Yeti Tundra is on the list for best fishing coolers. Yeti coolers quickly made a name for themselves in the cooler market, and have become an absolute powerhouse by creating some of the highest-quality coolers of all time.

The Tundra is loaded with innovative design features with one job in mind, keeping things cold and can hold ice for an incredibly long period of time. Yeti does this by creating very thick walls that hold up to 3 inches of insulation which consists of a polyurethane injection during construction, and an interlocking lid system that creates a form fit a barrier to prevent any leaks.

The Yeti Tundra Cooler is also roto-molded which makes it incredibly tough, and features the “T-Rex” lid latches which are very durable and made from rubber. If you have the rare event of breaking one of these latches, they are easily replaced, making coolers with broken plastic or metal latches that make for impossible securement and seals a thing of the past.

The Yeti Tundra also comes in a wide variety of sizes from the smaller 45 tundra to the massive 350 tundra that can keep tons of stuff cold, great for an extended weekend-long or longer fishing trip with friends.

  • T-Rex lid latches
  • Variety of sizes
  • 3-inch insulated walls
YETI Roadie 24 Cooler
YETI Roadie 24 Cooler
YETI Roadie 24 Cooler
Our Score

Need something a little more compact? The Yeti Roadie is probably right up your alley. We covered the workhorse in the Yeti line-up, and the Roadie is the more compact version.

The Roadie is made with the same great construction methods as the Tundra but has a few different components added in.

The Roadie doesn’t feature the  T-Rex handles but it does utilize a quick latch system for fast and easy access and is still great in terms of durability. The Roadie also features the “hefty hauler” handle to make one-handed carrying a breeze.

Small boats and shore angling is where this cooler is really going to shine, and if you are an angler that needs a small cooler, this one should be perfect.

  • Small and Mobile
  • Great Carrying handle/strap
  • Same great insulating features of the Tundra to keep ice frozen
RTIC Hard Cooler
RTIC Hard Cooler
RTIC Hard Cooler
Our Score

The next cooler on the list is the RTIC hard cooler. It is also one of the top coolers on the market, and is a direct competitor to Yeti, and also has some very innovative design features.

The RTIC hard cooler can keep ice cold for an incredibly 10-day period, making it great for remote fishing trips when you cant run to town for ice. The longevity to hold ice for this long is due to having 3- inch thick insulated walls along with a gasket seal and freezer style lid.

Along with the awesome insulating design, the RTIC hard cooler has a ton of other handy features like no-slip feet, an integrated locking system with heavy-duty rubber T-handles, molded tie-down slots, and heavy-duty rope handles to name a few.

Very advantageous for anglers, the lid features a no-slip traction lid, allowing you to use it as a casting platform, great for saltwater flats anglers and freshwater anglers in shallow water.

  • Incredible ice retention
  • No-slip casting platform/lid
  • Freezer style lid
Engel 65 High Performance Hard Cooler
Engel 65 High Performance Hard Cooler
Engel 65 High Performance Hard Cooler
Our Score

Roto-molded for incredible durability the Engle cooler is a great option for anyone looking for a fishing cooler. It will keep food and drinks ice cold and will hold ice for up to ten days, which goes toe to toe with the other top cooler brands.

The Engle features a thinner wall of two inches but uses a closed-cell foam insulation construction to insulated as efficiently as coolers with double the wall thickness.

Unlike rubber gasket lid seals the Engle hard cooler uses a silicone gasket to create a perfect airtight seal that is highly durable and won’t lose its shape after years of use.

The Engle cooler comes in a wide variety of sizes from 25 to 320 quarts of storage space, giving anglers a fishing cooler size to suit all needs.

  • Closed-cell foam insulation
  • Silicone gasket
  • Variety of sizes to choose
Igloo IMX 24 Quart Lockable Insulated Ice Chest Roto-Molded Cooler with Carry Handle
Igloo IMX 24 Quart Lockable Insulated Ice Chest Roto-Molded Cooler with Carry Handle
Igloo IMX 24 Quart Lockable Insulated Ice Chest Roto-Molded Cooler with Carry Handle
Our Score

The Igloo IMX cooler is a lightweight but heavy-duty cooler constructed by injection molding. With thick walls that feature Igloos’ Ultratherm insulation, the IMX can hold ice for a period of 7 days.

While the ice holding period is not as long as other cooler companies in the market, this was a strategic decision by Igloo, as it weighs 40% less than other coolers that have similar performance, making the Igloo IMX a lighter option than other similar portable fishing coolers on the market, which is great for those who need to keep weight minimal on a fishing trip.

The Igloo IMX has some features that are perfect for a fishing cooler like a bottle opener, cup holders, lockable lid, fish ruler, and wire basket to keep things organized.

  • Very lightweight
  • Bottle opener
  • Cup holders
Coleman Coastal Xtreme Series Marine Portable Cooler
Coleman Coastal Xtreme Series Marine Portable Cooler
Coleman Coastal Xtreme Series Marine Portable Cooler
Our Score

Anyone who has ever owned coolers in their lives probably isn’t a stranger to the Coleman brand, and they can be found at pretty much any campsite or cookout that you go to. Coleman does make some dedicated fishing coolers as well, and while not having as many whistles and gadgets as some of the other fishing coolers on this list, it still does its job admirably.

You get some excellent ice retention with the Coleman Xtreme series cooler, and it has the ability to keep ice intact for up to six full days in 90 degrees of outdoor temperature.

Unlike other brands, the Coleman Xtreme series utilizes stainless steel components and hardware, and it also uses a UV guard sun protection material making it UV resistant and will withstand years of heavy use.

Last but not least, the Xtreme series utilizes a leak-resistant threaded drain plug that can drain water without the need to tip the cooler.

  • Great ice retention
  • UV resistant material
  • Leak-resistant threaded drain plug

Fishing cooler buyer’s guide:

Yeti tundra with beers on top cooler
Yeti coolers are a trusted name in the industry and popular with outdoor people

What Are the Best Fishing Coolers for various types of angler?

The best cooler for you depends on your individual needs and your style of fishing. Many anglers might only need a small cooler, particularly those who fish for the day on inland water and need only some snacks and sandwiches along with a few bottles of water and soda.

Other anglers like those who fish saltwater, like offshore anglers, might want something very large to hold large bait, along with provisions to last the day on the water, or for keeping harvested fish in while they fish to keep them fresh.

Saltwater anglers who fish shallow flats, particularly fly fishermen, might want a  medium to large marine cooler with thick insulation that they can stand on, to get a better view of the area and spot fish, as well as a place to store caught fish or provisions and good ice retention.

Shore anglers might not need a giant fishing cooler unless you plan on keeping large fish, and can instead remain more mobile with a smaller cooler to keep their drinks and food cold.

Fishing Cooler Features

Modern fishing coolers have some awesome features dedicated to helping anglers keep things cold, while also serving other roles.

Modern fishing coolers have some awesome features dedicated to helping anglers keep things cold, while also serving other roles.

As mention before some fishing coolers were designed with the option of being a casting platform, and many have textured no-slip lids that allow you to stand on them, and are durable enough for the job.

Other features can range from racks to keep food items separate and out of the ice, and bottle openers for when you want to crack open a cold one with the boys. Other great features of a fishing cooler can include things like cup holders, rubber T-handles, and UV-resistant materials.

Every fishing cooler should have some sort of drain designed into it.

How to Care for Your Fishing Cooler

Yeti tundra white cooler
If moisture stays in the cooler after use for long periods of time mildew and mold can form and can lead to a foul smell.

Caring for your fishing cooler is pretty easy and straightforward. After using your fishing cooler it’s important to remember to drain out the water and ice, and afterward leave the lid open for it to dry.

If moisture stays in the cooler after use for long periods of time mildew and mold can form and can lead to a foul smell.

Other than letting the cooler dry out, wiping and scrubbing the interior of the cooler down is a great idea, especially if you use it to hold caught fish, and using dish soap or other types of cleaners that won’t damage the plastic is definitely a good idea to get rid of that fishy smell.

Other than cleaning the interior, fishing cooler maintenance is very minimal.

How to Keep a Cooler Cool

To get the maximum cooling performance of your fishing cooler and retain ice for the maximum amount of time, you are going to want to keep it out of direct sunlight if at all possible. Simply putting it in shade will ensure that it holds ice for longer periods of time.

If shade is not an option you could put a light-colored towel or something above the fishing cooler to help keep fish cold or retain ice during fishing trips.

Avoid putting it on anything or putting anything over your fishing cooler that is black or dark in cover as this absorbs more heat from the sunlight and will lessen its ice retention times.

Final Thoughts on the Best Fishing Cooler

A cooler is an integral piece of gear for many anglers, and you might be one of them. Pick the size and type of cooler that’s best suited to your needs, and you will find it is something you use more than you ever thought you would. Sure, you could throw some ice in a Livewell but it’s going to melt within hours,  and no one likes a soggy and warm sandwich or spoiled fish.

Author

  • Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He is a regular on fly fishing podcasts and appeared in the international fly fishing film Predator.

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