If you are in the market of a cooler, you will find a lot of varieties. Coolers are different in sizes, shapes, designs, colors, and features. Thus, you need to consider a lot of things before buying a cooler. It is begin said that cooler size is the second most important factor (after ice retention) to consider before buying.
Modern coolers are available in different sizes ranging from 10-quart to 350-quart or even more. Small size coolers or ice chests offer a perfect solution for individuals or couples on their regular outings. These are large enough to preserve plenty of foods and drinks for a day trip while small enough to be carried anywhere by a single hand.
To help you find the perfect small portable cooler for your regular outing, we’ve reviewed a lot of coolers and finally come up with the top 10 best small coolers on the market. All of the coolers listed below are ranging from 15-quart to 30-quart internal storage.
Top 10 Best Small Coolers of 2020
Based on the quality, performance, and features, followings are the top 10 small coolers:
01. YETI Roadie 20 Cooler
YETI is the most popular brand of coolers and other outdoor gears. They manufacture the best performing coolers and ice chests for avid campers. The Roadie 20 is the smallest hard cooler in YETI’s Tundra series. It comes with the capacity of holding 14 cans along with a lot of ice. The cooler is perfect for individuals on their regular travel day outing.
This is a rotomolded cooler. If you are familiar with roto-molding technology, you probably know that this is the strongest construction technology for a cooler. YETI uses 2 inches of PermaFrost Insulation to maximize ice retention time. Additionally, the FatWall design makes this cooler resistant to bear.
There are T-Rex rubber latches included on the lid to ensure a solid seal while providing easy opening and closing. The lid is extremely tough, and you can stand on it without any flex. The handle is made of durable stainless steel with a rubber grip on the top for comfort carrying. Overall, this is a great cooler for individuals or couples for their regular outings.
02. Pelican Elite 20 Quart Cooler
If you are familiar with the brand Pelican, you probably know that they manufacture the strongest cooler on the market. This Elite 20 cooler by Pelican comes with a true 20-quart internal volume where you can store up to 15 cans with a lot of ice. It is made of using 2 inches of polyurethane insulation including a freezer style gasket to ensure better ice retention. The cooler can hold ice for up to 3 days due to its durable construction and freezer style gasket.
Unlike the Roadie 20, this cooler comes with an over-molded carrying handle which is somewhat better than the steel handle due to its stability. Additionally, the latches are better than the Roadie 20 due to the easiness of its opening and closing. Another useful feature of this cooler is that it comes with 4 self-draining cup holders.
Overall, this is one of the best small hard coolers on the market. The most important thing about this cooler is the warranty. Pelican is offering you a lifetime warranty for this cooler. So, if anyone looking for a lifetime solution for cooler, this is the right option for them.
03. RTIC 20 QT Cooler
RTIC coolers are almost similar to the YETI. This 20-quart cooler comes can hold up to 24 cans while maintaining the 2:1 ice-to-content ratio. It is a rotomolded cooler with 3 inches of insulated walls. A freezer style gasket is included on the bottom of the lid to ensure no airflow inside the cooler. Like the Roadie 20, it includes T-Latches to create a solid seal. You can expect to have around 3-5 days of insulation from this cooler.
This is a bear-resistant cooler. It includes a durable stainless-steel handle to ensure one-handed comfortable carrying. There is a rubber grip on the top of the handle to provide comfort on carrying. RTIC has included an integrated locking system to this cooler which is very useful for camping. Overall, this can be a perfect fit for your regular camping, fishing, or hunting.
04. ORCA 26 Quart Cooler
ORCA is another American brand. The 26 Quart cooler from ORCA comes with a true 26-quart capacity. So, there are a lot of spaces to preserve your foods and drinks. The rotomolded construction ensures the durability of this cooler while the integrated insulation provides maximum ice retention. The lid gasket creates a perfect seal to prevent any leakage on the cooler. If you can pack the cooler perfectly, you can expect to have around 3-5 days of insulation.
One of the major differences between the ORCA and the previous coolers listed above is the carrying handle. This 26-quart cooler doesn’t come with a single-handed carrying handle. Instead, there are extendable flex-grip handles on each side of the cooler. So, you will need at least two people to carry this cooler. The cooler includes a cargo net attachment on the side where you can keep your essential items. This is a very unique feature for a cooler.
Like the PELICAN, ORCA is offering a lifetime warranty for this small cooler. So, if you want to have a small cooler for life, this can be a great option for you.
05. Grizzly 15 Quart Cooler
The Grizzly 15 is the smallest portable cooler in our list. It is actually a 16-quart cooler designed for avid campers and hunters. Like the Pelican and ORCA, Grizzly is also an American brand. All the coolers are also made in America. This small cooler can hold up to 12 cans along with ice.
Grizzly uses RotoTough rotationally molded construction technology on this cooler. So, there will be no issue with the toughness and durability of this cooler. A rubber gasket is included on the bottom of the lid to ensure a perfect seal. The pressure-injected insulation provides ice retention capacity for multiple days.
The best thing about this cooler is the carrying option. Grizzly uses a molded handle that comes with a tie-down point. So, you can carry this small cooler by your shoulder. If you need a cooler for your personal use, this can be a good option for you.
06. K2 Coolers Summit 20 Cooler
Summit 20 from K2 Coolers is another great cooler for camping and other outdoor trips. It comes with roto-molded polyethylene construction along with extra-thick insulation to provide extreme durability and ice retention time. The company uses ICE vault lid gasket with POSITRAC latches to ensure a tight seal of the cooler. During our research, we found that this small cooler can hold ice for up to 5 days. However, you need to pack it perfectly and ensure proper use to get the best insulation.
The carrying option of this cooler is very unique. There is a padded shoulder strap that allows you to carry this hard cooler by your shoulder. Finally, the company is offering a 7 years warranty for this cooler. Overall, this can be a great option for people who wants a comfortable carrying solution for their cooler.
07. Driftsun 20-Quart Ice Chest
The Driftsun 20 quart is one of our favorite choices. It comes with a true 20-quart capacity. So, the cooler is good enough for individuals of couples on their regular day outing. The rotomolded thermoplastic construction ensures the toughness and durability of this cooler. Driftsun uses 3 inches of commercial-grade insulation along with freezer style gasket and ColdCell latches to provide maximum ice retention time. The cooler can hold ice for 3-4 days which is great for any outdoor trips.
For easy carrying and transport, there is a comfortable grip handle. There are 2 built-in bottle openers on this small cooler which is very useful during camping. Unfortunately, the cooler comes with only a 1-year warranty. However, you can still consider this as your regular camping equipment because it provides the best value for the money.
08. Vibe Element 20 Cooler
The Vibe Element 20 can be another good option of a portable ice chest for camping, hunting, fishing or taking to your everyday work. It also comes with durable rotomolded construction. So, the built quality is almost the same as other coolers mentioned above. In addition to this, it includes 2 built-in bottle openers on the top which may become useful during your outdoor trips. The cooler comes with a true 20-quart capacity. So, you can preserve a good amount of food and drinks into it.
There is a pressure release valve included for ensuring easy access to the cooler contents. Like the previous one, this cooler also comes with a comfortable grip handle. So, carrying and transportation will be very easy and comfortable for this cooler. Overall, this is another great small cooler for the money.
09. Canyon Outfitter 22 QT Cooler
The 22-quart Outfitter series cooler from Caynon offers durable rotomolded construction and comfortable carrying option. It comes with foam insulation. So, you can’t expect to have longer ice retention from this cooler. The cooler can keep your foods and drinks cold for around 24-48 hours. So, it can be a perfect lunchbox, or a day-long beverage cooler for individuals. Canyon has integrated shoulder straps for easy and comfortable carrying.
The best thing about this cooler is the warranty. Canyon offers a lifetime warranty for this cooler. Due to the durable construction and comfortable carrying option, this can be another best small lunch cooler for your everyday use.
10. Igloo BMX 25 Quart Cooler
If you are having a very tight budget but still looking for a durable and good performing cooler for your everyday outing, the Igloo BMX 25-quart cooler can be a good option for you. This is the cheapest but small cooler on our list. It comes with blow-molded construction which is not as tough as the rotomolded coolers but still offers long-lasting performance. The cooler can hold up to 37 cans along with a lot of ice.
The company uses extra-thick foam walls along with a solid lid system to provide maximum ice retention time. You can expect to have 2-3 days of insulation from this cooler. There is a triple-point grab handle that allows you easy and comfortable carrying. Another important part about this cooler is it comes with an integrated fish ruler on the top of the lid. Overall, this can be another small portable cooler for fishing, camping, tailgating, hunting, beach trips, and other outdoor activities.
Buying Guide – How to Choose the Best Small Cooler for Camping?
If you are looking for a comfortable way of carrying your foods and drinks on your outdoor trips, there is no alternative to small coolers. These are very portable and convenient to carry anywhere. However, small coolers are available in various sizes, shapes, and features.
The following guide will show you what features you need to consider when shopping for a small cooler:
This is the very first thing you should consider when buying a small cooler. There are both positive and negative sides of having a small cooler.
- Cooler with less storage capacity is easy to pack then the large size cooler.
- These small size coolers can hold very few items.
You should consider checking how much cans a cooler can hold. If you need a cooler for your personal use, you can go for the smallest cooler with limited storage capacity. In case you need a cooler for a multiple-day trip, you should consider buying a cooler with a large internal storage capacity.
You should always consider the weight of a cooler before buying. This is because you are going to carry the cooler in most of your time during any outdoor trips. Cooler itself has some weight and when you pack it with your items it becomes heavier. So, always try to pick the best performing but lightweight cooler.
Portable coolers are not so cheap. So, you should always make sure that you are spending your money on a durable product. The durability of a cooler mostly depends on the materials. Rotomolded construction is one of the toughest construction technologies for a cooler. It’s better to choose a rotomolded cooler as they offer the best durable cooler.
Ice Retention Time
Ice retention time mostly depends on the size of a cooler. Small coolers cannot hold ice as long as the large size coolers. This is because of the limited ice and less insulation capacity. However, you can still get enough ice retention time for multiple-day trips. Some premium rotomolded cooler offers more than 3 days of ice retention time. So, try to pick the right cooler that comes with better ice retention capacity.
While shopping for a small size cooler, you need to consider the carrying options. Most of the small cooler comes with a one-handed carrying handle which is usually made of stainless steel. There should be a soft grip on the top of the handle to ensure comfortable carrying. Make sure the steel is durable and comfortable to carry the cooler anywhere.
Some cooler comes with an adjustable shoulder strap which is sometimes more comfortable to carry the cooler. However, the straps should be made of durable materials.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Most of the cooler comes with a drain plug on the bottom which allows you to clean the cooler after having a day-long outdoor trip. The drain plug is very useful for cleaning the cooler quickly and easily. So, make sure the cooler you are selecting comes with a proper draining plug.
The following video will show you the exact way of cleaning a dirty cooler after a successful camping trip:
Other Features Along with all the above-listed factors you can also consider the following features on a cooler:
- Bearproof: A bearproof cooler is very useful especially if you are camping in the jungle. Most of the rotomolded cooler is bearproof. However, you need to lock the cooler to keep it protected from bears.
- Built-in Bottle Opener: A built-in bottle opener is another useful feature of a cooler. You can consider having an integrated bottle opener before buying a cooler.
- Integrated Cup Holders: Some small cooler comes with integrated cup holders which is very useful during any outdoor trip.
- Fish Ruler: An integrated fish ruler is very useful for the fishermen.
- Locking System: Most of the cooler listed above comes with an integrated locking system. This is a very useful feature for a cooler.
A small cooler with all the above-listed features is one of the best options for any outdoor trips. So, try to make sure that you are choosing the right cooler with all the necessary features to make your camping, traveling or day outing more enjoyable.
Frequent Asked Questions
Q. Which one is the best small ice chest cooler?
Based on our review, the RTIC 20 QT is the best performing small cooler for camping, hunting, fishing, or any other outdoor trips.
Q. How long does a small cooler can hold ice?
A small cooler cannot hold ice longer like the large size cooler. You can expect to have around 3-5 days of ice retention from these coolers.
Q. What small cooler keeps ice the longest?
Based on several ice-retention-test, the YETI Roadie 20 can keep ice the longest.
Q. Which one is the best size small cooler for kayak fishing?
For fishing purpose, the RTIC 20 QT can be a good option for personal use.
There are plenty of coolers available in the market. Each of them differs in quality, performance, and features. Small size portable coolers are specially designed to provide you extreme comfort on packing and carrying it to anywhere you want.
The main purpose of using a portable cooler is to keep foods and drinks cold for a longer time. The modern rotomolded cooler offers durable construction and extreme ice retention capacity.
To help you find the best small coolers, we’ve reviewed a lot of brands and finally come up with the above-listed coolers. We hope you will be able to find the right perfect small cooler for your needs.