Best boat coolers: 9 top options from tote coolers to deck coolers

Serial boat owner Drew Maglio picks out 9 of the best boat coolers on the market right now and explains what features to look out for…

In my time boating, I have found boat coolers to be a real must-have accessory.

Whether for keeping drinks cold, preserving bait, or as an ice box to store food on an extended passage, there is such a multitude of different boat coolers available adapted to different purposes.

From tote coolers to deck coolers and all-purpose coolers, he choice can be dizzying at times (before you even consider the world of portable refrigerators), but never fear – MBY is here to help you find the right boat cooler for your needs.

9 of the best boat coolers available right now

Tote coolers

Tote coolers are small, portable, lightweight and suitable for carrying perishable items onboard from an onshore shopping excursion or similar.

Boaters who rely on this type of cooler will typically have a fridge on board, so the tote cooler will only be used for transport and storage for up to a few hours.

For this reason the best form of tote is typically a soft insulated bag that molds to a given area for storage and transport.

best-boat-coolers-everlasting-comfort-backpack

Everlasting Comfort Insulated Cooler Backpack

This insulated backpack tote cooler is perfect for transporting food from the grocery store to your boat.

With adjustable straps and special holders for wine, it is the perfect accessory for cruisers and weekenders alike.

The interior is made with PEVA (Polyethylene vinyl acetate), so the backpack is both leakproof and easy to clean.

Specifications

Capacity: 54 cans
Dimensions:
13.38 x 8.66 x 17.71 inches
Weight: ‎2.06lbs

Reasons to buy

• Comfortable and ergonomic with adjustable straps that allow it to be worn as a backpack
• Lightweight and extremely manageable design
• Leak-proof on the inside and weather-resistant on the outside

Reasons to avoid

• Limited capacity
• Only suitable for up to 24 hours

Buy it now on Amazon

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best-boat-coolers-yeti-roadie-24

Yeti Roadie 24

This Roadie 24 by Yeti is another great option for usage as a cooler tote to carry food, drinks, and ice to and from the mothership.

Being built from hard plastic is a double-edged sword however – although it offers far better insulation than a cooler backpack, it is both heavier and bulkier.

Specifications

Capacity: 2.11QT
Dimensions:
‎17.1 x 14.3 x 18 inches
Weight: ‎12.8lbs

Reasons to buy

• Rugged and durable premium construction
• Comes in many colors
• Superb insulation for its size
• Has an integrated carrying strap

Reasons to avoid

• Limited capacity for its size
• Very expensive

Buy it now on Amazon (US)

Buy it now on Amazon (UK)

Buy it now on West Marine

best-boat-coolers-kula-5

KULA Cooler 5

This 5-gallon bucket-style cooler from Kula is extremely well-engineered and ergonomic with non-slip rubber feet.

Uniquely suited to preserving ice during transport, this unit is extremely well-insulated and features a robust latch-and-grab handle.

All of this does come at a hefty price, however.

Specifications

Capacity: 24QT
Dimensions:
‎16.75 x ‎16.75 x 14.25 inches
Weight: ‎13lbs

Reasons to buy

• Beefy grab handle and latch
• Rubber feet to prevent sliding
• Well-insulated

Reasons to avoid

• Relatively expensive
• 20 quart capacity is less than the Yeti

Buy it now on Amazon

All-Purpose Coolers

All-purpose coolers are larger and more obtrusive than tote coolers, but are still small and manageable enough to be used for transporting food and drinks to and from your boat or your home.

An all-purpose cooler will typically be rectangular in shape and have about 35-75 quarts of capacity.

Compared to totes, all-purpose coolers have enough insulation to keep contents ice cold for at least a few days.

Because of their ‘jack of all trades’ nature, it is probably not worth spending more than $300 on an all-purpose boat cooler.

best-boat-coolers-igloo-54qt-stainless-steel

Igloo Stainless Steel 54 Quart Cooler

This stylish stainless steel boat cooler from Igloo is a prime example of an all purpose cooler.

With its sleek and relatively lightweight design (and 54 quart capacity) this boat cooler could easily be carried aboard and doesn’t take up too much deck space.

Specifications

Capacity: 54QT
Dimensions:
‎24.45 x 15.87 x 16.5 inches
Weight: ‎16.55lbs

Reasons to buy

• Integrated bottle cap opener
• Stainless steel finish
• Heavy duty latch
• Integrated grab handles
• Can store ice for up to 4 days

Reasons to avoid

• Stainless steel finish can be marred by dents
• Fairly expensive for its capacity

Buy it now from Amazon

best-boat-coolers-cabelas

Cabela’s Polar Cap Equalizer 60-Quart Cooler

The Polar Cap Equalizer from Cabela’s is a 60 quart all-purpose cooler that is fairly well insulated and sealed, which allows it to preserve ice for days on end.

Available in a range of different colors with a rugged plastic construction, this cooler will stand up to the rigors of boat life with ease.

Specifications

Capacity: 60QT
Dimensions:
‎37 x 19.5 x 18.75 inches
Weight: ‎30.1lbs

Reasons to buy

• Rugged construction
• Extremely well insulated
• Sealing latches
• Comes in a range of different colors
• Molded handles for easy transport
• Rubber feet prevent sliding around on deck

Reasons to avoid

• Quite heavy (~31 pounds) for its rated capacity
• Doesn’t have wheels

Buy it now on Cabela’s

best-boat-coolers-igloo-70qt-trailmate

Igloo 70 qt. Trailmate Journey Marine Cooler

The 70 quart Igloo Trailmate cooler is a great all-rounder with a special emphasis on portability and ruggedness.

The cooler features large and robust, integral wheels that allow it to be rolled down to the dock with ease. Being relatively small in size, boaters should have no issues carrying the cooler on and off the boat as well.

As a unique touch, the Trailmate features a small tray which can be used as a cutting/serving board in a pinch. With a small storage pocket and molded drink holders, this cooler is the best option for boaters looking to spend a day at the sandbar or a secluded riviera.

Specifications

Capacity: 70QT
Dimensions:
19.7 x 34.59 x 23.61 inches
Weight: ‎43.5lbs

Reasons to buy

• Large handle and oversized wheels provide easy transport
• Stow-away tray and molded cupholders

Reasons to avoid

• Quite heavy for a 72 quart cooler (43lbs when empty)
• Expensive for a cooler with only marginal insulation

Buy it now via West Marine

best-boat-coolers-rtic-lifestyle-shot

Deck Coolers

Dock coolers also typically make good on-deck coolers. Whereas the primary criteria for totes and all purpose coolers is portability, what makes a good deck cooler is build quality, storage capacity, and insulation properties.

Deck coolers are most typically used by fisherman to temporarily store their catch after returning from an excursion, as well as party boaters who seek to host large social gatherings onboard and therefore need a cooler that provides ample storage for drinks and snacks.

In addition to insulation, a good deck cooler must also be able to resist moving around on deck while underway and therefore some heft, rubber feet, and a provision for straps are all vital features.

RTIC Hard Cooler

This 145 quart cooler from RTIC, which can keep ice for up to 10 days, is a prime example of an ideal deck cooler.

With heavy-duty latches and 3-inch insulated walls, this cooler has some heft that will prevent it from moving around on its rubber padded feet.

Additionally, RTIC offers some divider accessories for this cooler, which can help keep its contents organized.

Specifications

Capacity: 145QT
Dimensions:
‎42.99 x 20.98 x 22.24 inches
Weight: ‎64lbs

Reasons to buy

• Robust construction with heavy duty latches and thick insulation
• Weight should prevent it from moving around on deck underway
• Large capacity
• Comes in many different colors

Reasons to avoid

• Handles are a bit underwhelming
• Very expensive
• No wheels

RRP: $600

Buy it now on Amazon

Igloo 165 qt. Maxcold Cooler

For more budget-conscious boaters, this 165 quart deck cooler from Igloo is an affordable alternative, but obviously it will not perform as well as more premium options from RTIC, Yeti, and others.

However, if you are having a party at the dock or returning from an offshore excursion with a fresh catch, this offering may be more than adequate.

Specifications

Capacity: 165QT
Dimensions:
‎41.25 x 17.75 x 22.6 inches
Weight: ‎32.6lbs

Reasons to buy

• One of the most affordable deck coolers on the market
• Can keep ice for up to 7 days
• Threaded drain plug can be attached to a garden hose
• Has a locking knob for better sealing

Reasons to avoid

• Relatively cheap build quality
• Will not perform as well as more premium offerings

Buy it now via West Marine

YETI Tundra 250 Cooler

This Tundra 250 is the Cadillac of deck coolers with a price tag to boot. Like the RTIC above, it has over 3 inches of insulation, is incredibly well-built and is sure to stand up to the elements over time.

At 250 quarts, the Yeti will be able to hold all but the largest of pelagic fish. However, this behemoth of a cooler is 55-inches long and weighs 66lbs empty.

It can hold up to 232lbs of ice, so when full it won’t move around on deck easily. This large cooler is best suited to usage on/around large open power boats like a sportfish yacht, which typically feature a large, open rear deck.

Specifications

Capacity: 250QT
Dimensions:
‎55 x 22 x 21.25 inches
Weight: ‎66lbs

Reasons to buy

• Extremely robust construction and top-of-the-line insulation
• Heavy and therefore uniquely suited to usage on a boat underway
• Massive capacity

Reasons to avoid

• Very expensive
• Difficult to move when full

Buy it now on Amazon

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.

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