Kristen Hicks on December 27, 2016 0 Comments Table of Contents Benefits of Travel Coolers Types of Coolers Factors to Consider While Shopping Customer Reviews of Popular Brands Who doesn’t love a cold drink on a hot day? Whether you’re hitting up the local lake or having a BBQ at a nearby park, any outdoor summer scenario you picture will likely include a drink. Even in the colder seasons, your image of tailgating or camping may still only seem complete if there’s a cold drink in hand. Having the proper refreshments adds a lot to our outdoor experiences. Many of the best days in your memory likely included a cooler full of tasty food and refreshing drinks. Maybe you’ve long stuck with ice chests that require a refillable supply of ice from a nearby gas station, but there’s a more convenient way. The Benefits of Travel Coolers Travel coolers take that need to make an extra stop for ice out of the equation. Maybe you feel like your ice chest has been serving you well, but the upgrade to a travel cooler can come with some considerable benefits: Emptying ice (or the water after it melts) out of a cooler is cumbersome and messy. With a travel cooler, you’ll never have to deal with that again. If you use your cooler often, you’ll save a lot of money on not having to buy ice for every use. You’ll never have to dig through the ice to get to an item on the bottom of the cooler. If you store sandwiches or other snacks that can get soggy from floating in ice and water, a travel cooler will keep them fresh without the extra dampness. A travel cooler makes it easy to stock up on snacks and drinks in advance of a long trip, so you don’t spend extra money purchasing items as you go. If you or a family member has insulin or any other meds that need to stay chilled, you can count on a more consistent temperature with a travel cooler, (as long as you give it some time to get cold in advance). Shop for Travel Coolers Here Types of Travel Coolers If you’re branching away from ice chests, most of the travel coolers you consider will fall into two pretty simple categories: those that work as portable refrigerators, and those that can get cold enough to function as a freezer as well. Portable Refrigerators Portable fridges will suffice for most of the same scenarios you would use an ice chest for. Camping, tailgating, BBQs, road trips — if you simply need to keep your food and drinks cold enough for them to be refreshing and fresh, a portable refrigerator will do the trick. Often with these travel coolers, you will need to think ahead and turn them on for a few hours before use so they’ll already be cold and ready by the time you load them up with your food and drinks. They can take some time to cool down, and if you load them with warm drinks first, the wait will be even longer. As long as either the cooler itself or the items you put into are cold to begin with though, portable fridges work well. Portable Fridge/Freezers Some travel coolers can work either as a fridge or a freezer, based on your preferred use. These will get much colder than portable fridges and usually get there quite a bit faster. They do usually cost more as a consequences, but if you’ll need to use your travel cooler for something sensitive like keeping meat fresh or you want to be able to freeze up some ice cubes with it, the splurge will be worth it. Factors to Consider When Buying a Travel Cooler While any travel cooler you go with should accomplish the basics — getting your stuff cold — you will find some variety in what different models have to offer. These are some of the main factors it’s good to keep in mind during your search. Capacity How much you plan to put into your travel cooler is one of the most important factors to consider. If you get one that’s too small, you’ll be frustrated at not being able to load it up as much you’d like. If you get one that’s larger than you need, you’ll be dealing with a cooler that feels heavier and more cumbersome than necessary. Even if you purchase a travel cooler online rather than in a store where you can clearly see its size, every cooler you look at will helpfully list its size and capacity. Often website listings will even go so far as to list how many drinks you can expect to fit inside (e.g. 43 quart = 60 12-oz cans). Pay attention to the capacity before you buy and you should have an easy time picking out a cooler that meets your needs. Portability The whole point of a travel cooler is that it should be easy to take with you on the go. If you buy one that’s prohibitively heavy or won’t fit easily into your vehicle, you’ll have a hard time using it for its intended purpose. Features like sturdy handles and wheels can make a big difference in how easy it is to move your travel cooler from place to place. Reviewers will often comment on whether or not they find a travel cooler especially heavy so you have an idea of what to expect. And obviously, any larger model will quickly become heavy once it’s filled with drinks and food, so take that into consideration as well. Types of Use What do you plan to use your travel cooler for? If you want to be able to load it up with several days worth of food and drinks before heading out for a long road trip, you’ll want to be confident both that it will fit everything you need and that it will stay cold enough while hooked up to the power options you have available to you (without running them down). If you want to be able to freeze meat after a hunting trip, you’ll need to go with a cooler that has freezer capabilities. Many travel coolers will work well for multiple types of uses, you just need to consider all the possible uses you’re likely to want it for in advance to ensure it will meet all of your needs. Ease of Use Some travel coolers can get very cold very quickly. Others require the forethought to turn them on hours in advance to get them to the temperature you need. Some have handles designed to make them easier to carry or wheels that make carrying them unnecessary in most scenarios. Generally speaking, travel coolers will be easy to use, it’s simply a matter of plugging them in, but some have features that add extra convenience. Durability Keeping things cold can take a lot of power and flimsily made travel coolers can wear out fast. As you might expect, splurging on higher-end brands with proven reputations will often pay off in the form of a cooler that can last you years. Some more affordable models may fare well for a while, but if your cooler will be getting frequent use, make reputation for durability a priority in your search. Temperature Not all travel coolers reach the same temperatures. Some work fine for keeping a few drinks cold, but are worthless for maintaining a reasonable temperature for something like ice cream. Consider what items you’re most likely to store in your travel cooler and how cold they’ll need to be to satisfy you. As with capacity, any model you consider should have the temperature ranges it’s good for listed in the product description. Power Source Travel coolers have to be plugged in, which can get tricky when you’re on the road. Most come with adaptors that can be used both with the outlets typically found in cars, as well as more conventional home outlets. Look for the types of power sources your travel cooler works with and consider whether all the adaptors you need come with it, or if any will need to be purchased separately. Energy Use If you’re going to be plugging your travel cooler into your car, you need to trust it won’t run down your battery. A few cold drinks aren’t worth getting stuck in an out-of-the-way campground with no way home. Product reviews are a good place to find an early indicator of which models tend to use up lots of power to get the job done, and which will serve up refreshing drinks while leaving your car battery intact. Cost Travel coolers come in wide range of prices, but do tend to be pretty pricey across the board. Often the higher upfront cost can lead to savings down the line though. You won’t have to buy bags of ice, can skip the expensive snacks and meals from gas stations and restaurants when on the road, and can keep your leftovers when on long trips rather than tossing them. Larger travel coolers will typically cost you more than smaller ones and you should expect a cooler with freezer capabilities to cost more than one that only reaches refrigerator-level temperatures. According to user reviews, many higher-end models end up paying off in performance and durability, so spending more today may be well worth it over time. Organization Many travel coolers come with removable baskets that make it easier to organize the food and drinks you put inside. If you don’t want to deal with digging through a full cooler every time you want a drink or a sandwich, those extra organizational aids can be a big value add. Features to Look Out For: Sturdy Handles The kind of handles your travel cooler has and how sturdy they are will make a big difference to how easy your cooler is to lift and move. Latch A solid latch on the door ensures the items inside will stay colder. Wheels A travel cooler with wheels will be easier to move from place to place than one you have to lift entirely. Cup Holders When you’re camping or tailgating, a couple of cup holders can come in handy. Baskets Baskets can help you better organize the items you keep in your travel cooler. Popular Travel Cooler Brands You’ll come across a lot of brands in your search for a travel cooler. Some of them may be familiar names; others may be new to you. To help give you an idea of what to expect from each, we’ve scoured the reviews of the travel coolers sold by each to provide a summary view of what actual customers think of them. Coleman The reviews of Coleman’s travel coolers were predominantly positive. Most reviewers felt they worked well, were rugged and dependable, and lasted a long time for the price. There were some dissenters in the mix though who didn’t think their coolers got cold enough, complained they use to much power to stay cold, or ended up with units that didn’t last longer than a few months. While there appears to be the occasional Coleman unit that has durability issues, our overall takeaway from the reviews is that most users with reasonable expectations and knowledge of how to use Coleman’s coolers effectively were satisfied with their purchases. EdgeStar EdgeStar makes travel coolers that can function as a refrigerator or freezer. Most reviewers of their models are very pleased with how cold they get, how fast they get cold, and how quiet they are. Some reviewers even mentioned using theirs to store ice cream with no problems, which puts them a clear cut above most travel coolers. Igloo Igloo’s a familiar name in cooling technology with a few travel coolers consumers can consider. Their coolers have a strong reputation amongst customers, the majority of their reviews are positive. The most common complaint was more about the quality of the cord than the cooler itself, although a couple of reviewers also mentioned the cooler draining their battery. Most customers are happy with the purchase and the use they get out of their cooler. Koolatron Koolatron has a wide inventory of travel coolers that get strong reviews from customers. They work well, stay cool, are quiet, and generally meet the needs of the customers that purchase them. Between the variety of options available and the praise of the reviewers across models, there’s a good chance Koolatron can supply your travel cooler needs. Engel Engel sells a wide range of travel coolers and related accessories. Their products earn almost universally positive reviews from customers who say they’re quiet and dependable. While their travel coolers can get pricey, customers say they’re well worth the price for the performance they provide. Conclusion A good travel cooler may not feel like a necessity, but the benefits they offer can really pay off over time. The upfront investment can save you from buying bag after bag of ice, having to purchase expensive food while you travel, and add a lot of convenience to your trips. Most people who invest in a travel cooler never want to go back to their old ice chests. You’ll likely feel the same.