The Best Ice Chest Coolers for Use in the Car

Do you feel like going off to work with a little lunch box in hand? If yes, then it’s time for you to discover a new way to make your lunch more enjoyable. You may also be looking for a perfect ice chest cooler for yourself, your child, or a day trip to the beach.

Ice chest coolers are perfect for taking much more than just lunch along with you.

In this article, I will share with you the things you need to look for in an ice chest cooler. I will also include some of the best ice chest coolers available and learn to consider purchasing one for you.

What to Look for in an Ice Chest Cooler

From keeping your beverages chilled throughout your road trip or to housing your frozen foods from a grocery store, a quality ice chest cooler is a necessity. Various situations call for an ice chest cooler, but not all can meet the same demands. The features you need to have in your ice chest cooler will depend on your activities. There are ample options to choose from. But, finding the right ice chest cooler for your needs can be simple if you know what to look for.

So, before you run to the store or search online for the best ice chest cooler for your car, ask yourself first with this question: What do you intend to use your ice chest cooler for?

Understanding the purpose of purchasing an ice chest cooler can help you decide the insulation level you need and hone in on your budget.

1.      Durability

When you are thinking of what ice chest cooler to use, consider how much punishment it will take. If it will just cozily in the bed of your vehicle for only a few hours, then you won’t have have to search for tough exterior surface. You can opt for softshell coolers instead, which is easy to carry and efficient in these situations.

However, if you will use on extended trips or use your ice chest cooler on a boat, then you need those that are made of harder plastic or metal. This would be pricier but will give you the high-level durability you need.

Another thing to consider also is if you want to use it for another purpose. For example, you want to eat on it or sit on it. In these cases, consider those that have reversibility tops and more hardened surfaces.

2.      Insulation

The purpose of your ice chest cooler is to keep food and beverages cool. So, naturally, you should consider your ice chest cooler’s insulation capabilities when making a purchase. For ice retention, opt for hard-shell coolers than softshell counterparts because there is more insulating material designed to this.

Softshell ice chest coolers may work well too, but it is recommended to use hard-shell coolers to keep the food fresh and beverages cold for a more extended period. You may want to consider investing in a high-end cooler for a better ice retention rate.

Another tip here is, look at the ice chest cooler’s lid and ensure it has sufficient insulation. The lid will take much heat when your cooler is sitting outside. So, having a thick layer between the top, elements, and the ice can make better cooling capabilities.

3.      Size

The size of your ice chest cooler should be determined by how much food and drink you try to keep cool and how much space you have available for the cooler.

Most ice chest cooler is measured by how many cans it can carry. Ice chest coolers measuring 25 quarts or less are great for overnight trips and can house for small groups. If your trip is for an extended excursion, you will need larger ice chest coolers than 75 quarts in size.

When it comes to size decision, you also need to factor room for ice or ice packs. The good rule of thumb here is that one part ice is to be used for every two parts of food or beverage. Moreover, larger coolers will require more space. If you own a small car, opt for small ones.

4.      Materials

When it comes to a cooler’s construction, there are a few material options available. Softshell coolers made from fabric are ideal for events calling for little food or drink or short trips. This type of ice chest cooler is lightweight and straightforward. It also features additional pockets on the exterior to store extra snacks.

On the other hand, hard-shell ice chest coolers are made from metal or plastic. These materials allow for thicker insulation. This keeps items cold longer. While these are way better than softshell ice chest coolers, you have to plan for space.

5.      Portability

It’s fantastic to have an ice chest cooler with both excellent durability and insulation. However, this type cannot do much when you can’t transport it to different places. So, when you plan to buy this, consider the design and how that will affect portability.

Smaller ice chest coolers offer single-handle design while larger ice chest coolers offer side handles or ropes that can be carried by two persons. Other ice chest coolers have built-in wheels, like a suitcase, for easy transport.

What Makes a Good Ice Chest Cooler for Your Car?

Soft-Sided Ice Chest Cooler

This type of cooler is sized small enough to handle by one person comfortably. They have soft sides and a shoulder strap for easy transport. Some may also have a top handle or have an insulated backpack cooler.

Soft-sided ice chest coolers stay closed by using a zipper. On the other hand, hard-sided personal coolers have a plastic locking lid. These types can keep your items cold for a day or two. In most cases, these may hold ice for up to 5 days. When it comes to the best small ice chest coolers, you see that there are several different styles, material, and ice retention capabilities.

Most of these ice chest coolers are available in different colors for you to choose from. Each ice chest cooler manufacturer add their own unique designs and touches to the cooler.

Ice chest coolers can be used for a car ride, trips to the grocery store, or a trip to the beach.

Soft-sided ice chest coolers may look small but are expandable. So, you can expect that this can also hold more. However, if you are not a fan of soft-sided ice chest coolers, there are other plastic personal coolers you can use.

Ice Packs or Regular Ice for Ice Chest Coolers?

Ice packs?

People who use ice chest coolers use this for personal lunch or a day trip. Since most are using these coolers for daily lunches, most use ice packs. Using ice packs in your ice chest coolers will keep internal temperatures cool enough to enjoy your food. Most importantly, it will not cause your food to become waterlogged. When compared to using ice only, where it can potentially melt or ruin your sandwich.

Most of the affordable soft-sided ice chest coolers cannot hold water. When ice melts inside, water could go through the seams of the bag. However, when you opt for higher-end cooler bags like Yeti Hopper or Polar bag, they can hold the ice melt enough as they are water-tight.

Top 10 Ice Chest Coolers for Cars

1.      Coleman FlipLid 6 Personal Ice Chest Cooler

This small ice chest cooler can hold up to 6 cans of soda or beer. It has a comfortable handle for you to hold onto and a wide bottom for stability. The FlipLid top sets it apart from other ice chest coolers because of its reversibility. You can use it as a serving tray and also includes molded can holders. With these, you can now eat worry-free wherever you are.

2.      Rubbermaid 10Qt Personal Ice Chest Cooler

This is one of the best ice chest coolers that can hold as much as 12 cans with ice. Thanks to its superior thermal retention, it can keep your food and drinks cold.

It also has a durable and swingable handle on top. It is easy to clean and is resistant to stain and odors. You can choose from red and blue colors. It is probably one of the most popular and cheapest choices for the small best ice chest coolers.

3.     Igloo 14.8Qt Playmate Ice Chest Cooler

This ice chest cooler has an industrial diamond plate exterior look. It has a tent-shaped locking lid that can help prevent spills. Since it’s produced by Boss, which is one of the well-known longstanding ice chest coolers on the market, you can ensure its durability and damage resistance from impacts.

You can also open this toward either side to access it easily. Plus, the handle is comfortable to hold. The overall look of this ice chest cooker makes this a go-to lunch of men.

4.   Coleman 16QT Personal Wheeled Ice Chest Cooler

Ice chest cooler can become too heavy if it’s loaded with cans of beer or soda along with ice. If this prevents you from getting a small best cooler with wheels, then you should consider Coleman’s wheeled ice chest cooler. It is taller than most personal ice chest coolers. It can hold a two-liter bottle upright.

Among the ice chest coolers with wheels, this one is one of the smallest but can hold 22 cans and ice.  This ice chest cooler ensures it rolls smoothly and has the extendable handle to make it comfortable at any height.

5.      Stanley Adventure Ice Chest Cooler

Any working dad or husband will appreciate this manly cooler. The company provides a lifetime warranty for this product. This adventure ice chest cooler has double-wall insulation and offers leak resistance.

It is also slightly larger than most personal ice chest coolers as it can hold 21 cans, making it suitable for days worth of drinks. Lastly, this is one of the fewer smaller coolers that can double as a seat.

6.      Wagan Powered Personal Ice Chest Cooler

For a good reason, this cooler is slightly different from the rest of the ice chest coolers listed in this post. Yes, this is because it needs to plug into a 12-volt source to cool and warm contents. Hence, this personal ice chest cooler is great for long hauls.

During summer, this powered ice chest cooler can maintain internal temperature for longer periods if it is plugged in. Moreover, when its winter, this versatile ice chest cooler is great for transporting food or a warm cup of coffee or soup.

The Wagan Powered personal ice chest cooler has 7 liters capability. It features built-in cup holders and a padded shoulder strap. It can also maintain at 35 to 40 degrees on cool mode and 140 degrees on warming mode. This is definitely a perfect ice chest cooler for your car or truck.

7.      Coleman 24 Hour Ice Chest Cooler

This Coleman 24-hour ice chest cooler is capable of holding up to 30 cans and keeping them cool for 24 hours. The front of this cooler has a pouch for dry goods. Transporting this cooler is convenient and handsfree too, thanks to its padded strap.

Aside from these features, this cooler also has an antimicrobial liner. It resists mildew and odor. It’s the perfect ice chest cooler for anyone who tends to forget ice packs or food inside.

8.      eBags Crew Ice Chest Cooler

The eBag crew ice chest cooler may seem new to some. But, as a matter of fact, this ice chest cooler is one of the most popular packing cube manufacturers. It’s the perfect cooler for traveling. It has several compartments for the storage of dry and wet goods.

The bottom part of it is the “cold section” and offers 6-sides insulation. When looked on the outside, you can see multiple bottle storage compartments. On top of it is a zippered dry storage area.

The back slip pouch is one of the most unique features of the Crew Cooler. This allows for a rolling suitcase handle to slip through. You can ensure that it can be carried securely on top of the rolling suitcase.

9.      Igloo Max Cold Lunch Box Ice Chest Cooler

The Igloo Max Cold ice chest cooler is the most traditional “lunch box looking cooler.” Even if this offers a leak-resistant look, you still need to use ice packs with this cooler. This is to ensure that seams will not become damp.  It also boasts its anti-microbial liner and ergonomic look of the handle on the exterior.

10.      Everest Lunch Bag

Are you a simple type of person? Then, this Everest ice chest cooler is for you. This is one of the most affordable ice chest coolers. This already has a sizeable insulated area, but they add extra storage area to make it more practical. At only $10, you can already have the most economical ice chest cooler in your car.

Your ice chest cooler in the car can take on many roles in your life. It can keep up your foods and beverages chilled while you’re enjoying the outdoors. So, on your next road trip, weekend barbecue chillout, game day tailgate, or fishing excursion, make sure you have an ice chest cooler with you!

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