Dreaming of the next fishing trip, boating holiday or camping escape? Proper planning and investing in the right equipment may be all that you need to turn your dream into some great memories.
To ensure that your drinks are cold when fighting that big fish and your catch stays fresh for as long as you need, equipping your boat with a good quality marine cooler is very important.
But how do you go about choosing the best marine cooler? That’s simple! By finding a product that has all those quality features that high-end boat coolers have and matching them with your individual needs and budget.
We are here to help and provide you with all those key features of a successful purchase.
What Is A Marine Cooler?
A marine cooler or a boat cooler is a cooler that is specially designed to tackle rough marine life conditions such as high weather temperatures, direct sunlight, seawater corrosion, rainfall and more.
These items are equipped with features that are important for marine use such as insulation, anti-skid feet, anti-rust hardware, and UV sun protection while also providing customized solutions that can make the life of a boater or a fisherman more comfortable and fun.
Why Do You Need A Marine Cooler vs. A Regular Cooler?
Regular coolers are fine for a day on the beach or a few hours tailgating, but when you are on a fishing trip for days and you have to cope with really high temperatures, saltwater exposure, and other challenges, high-end marine coolers are simply the best.
Here is why:
- They retain the ice better: While standard boat coolers can keep the ice solid up to 3 days, high-end roto-molded coolers can last even up to 10 days. This ensures, that your drinks, food, bait or catch will stay colder for a longer period.
- Provide excellent insulation: They are constructed with thick walls that provide dense insulation, keeping the hot air out and the cold inside. Most of these are also UV insulated which protects their contents from direct sunlight exposure and high temperatures.
- Heavy-duty construction: Made of stainless steel anti-rust materials and roto-molded plastic makes them highly durable and long-lasting.
- Slip-resistant: They are skid-resistant which prevents them from sliding when your vessel or vehicle is moving.
- High functionality: Some can be used as a seat or you can stand on them and use them as a casting platform.
- Additional features: They are equipped with extra features including rod holsters, beverage holders, cutting boards and bottle openers which are very practical and fun to use.
Best Premium Choice
1. YETI Tundra 65 Cooler
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Founded by two passionate outdoorsmen who needed advanced cooler solutions, YETI has been an iconic brand since 2006 creating not only coolers but apparel, drinkware and more.
Using the so-called rotomolding technology, which is also utilized in kayaks, YETI Tundra 65 features a 3-inch polyurethane foam insulation in the lid and in the walls which makes sure that your catch, hunting kills, drinks, and food stay cold for longer.
Depending on the external temperatures, this cooling beast can keep the contents cold up to seven days and even more. Just remember to pre-chill and follow the manual instructions carefully.
This model is also equipped with a full-frame gasket around the lid which is made of rubber and seals the cold inside, minimizing air exchange.
Exposed to the sun all day can most of the time cause the plastic to warp and become brittle or discolored. Not with YETI! It has UV protection which prevents the plastic from bubbling and keeps the colors brighter.
This product is also certified as bear-resistant which means that it can uphold any rough handling by grizzly bears or other animals. This is due to its heavy-duty construction and latches which are made of stainless steel and they are therefore more durable compared to the plastic ones.
The handles are recessed thus minimizing the square footage of the product, saving you deck space and maximizing its capacity in tight spaces such as under your leaning post.
To make sure that it does not slip or slide around the deck, there are rubber grip feet that keep it in place. Due to its indestructible construction, large size and textured non-slip surface, you can stand on it or use it as a table or a bench. It becomes even better if you add a cushioned seat.
On the downside, YETI Tundra 65 is quite heavy when it is full of food and ice. When it’s empty, it weighs 29 lbs. Although it has handles and you can even add wheels to make it portable, some users complain that it is quite heavy to carry.
Its high price tag may also be a deterrent factor but if you are on a budget, keep reading since, in this review, there are quality options that cost less.
- The dimensions are 30 ½ x 17 ½ x 16.
- It comes with a dry goods basket.
- It holds approximately 14.3 gallons.
- You get a bottle opener as a free gift if you register your product with YETI.
- There are slots to add dividers but these are purchased separately.
Best Overall Choice
2. RTIC Cooler 45 qt
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When looking for the best roto-molded coolers, one name comes up frequently in people’s preferences and that is RTIC.
RTIC cooler’s features are competitive to those of the YEDI and all this comes at a lower cost, which makes it an excellent combo and a more budget-friendly option than YEDI.
Its 3 inches insulated walls, heavy-duty hinges and lid gasket make sure that the contents stay cold even up to 10 days depending on the temperatures. If the heat is extreme, it can make it up to 4 days. Once the ice is melted, the water can stay cold for a couple of days more.
Its solid construction and integrated locking system make it bear-resistant and an excellent multi-purpose product that can be used as a step stool, bench, cutting board or tabletop.
The rubber feet are a functional feature to have especially for boat use. The heavy-duty rope handles make transfer easier but since this item is on the heavier side when it is full, purchasing a wheel kit to go with it might not be a bad idea after all.
There is a drainage outlet on each side and the plug fits nicely without water leakage problems.
Based on the fact that generally larger coolers feature better ice retention, you can go for a bigger RTIC model such as the RTIC 65 qt but the smaller size is more convenient.
- Rapid drain system.
- Traction lid.
- Takes 36 cans.
- 40 lbs of ice.
- External dimensions: 25 ¼ x 13 ¾ x15 7/8 .
- Comes in 4 colors.
3. ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box With 4 Rod Holders - 30 Qt
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Keeping your rods organized and ready for use when you are out to the water or even on the shore can be challenging. ENGEL took this in mind when designing a compactlightweight cooler/dry box that features 4-rod holders to manage rods with ease.
Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast who needs to keep their drinks, bait or food cold for a couple of days (which, according to some users, can reach even up to 4 days) or you want an easily portable solution to carry your lunch to the construction site, ENGEL has you covered.
The fact that it does not hold ice solid for several days does not mean that it lacks quality features, have no doubt! This is a robust cooler that can also be used as a leak-proof dry box to keep out dust and moisture from your expensive electronics, cameras or emergency kits.
ENGEL cooler/dry box is insulated with high-grade polystyrene foam and features an airtight gasket that keeps the contents cold and protected. The hinges are self-stopping and the fittings are secured with screws that are stainless steel.
There is a recessed carry handle in the center of the lid which makes it very convenient to carry, but even more convenient is the shoulder strap that is integrated and adjustable. It also comes with a hanging tray that is removable and great for dry goods storage.
- It can be strapped to a paddleboard.
- 4 sizes and 6 colors available.
- 5-year guarantee.
- Odor and stain-resistant.
- Easy to clean surface.
- Dimensions of the tray: 10x6x 2.5
4. ORCA Cooler 20-quart
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ORCA coolers have a great reputation for creating roto-molded coolers that are durable, functional and have excellent ice retention that can reach up to ten days.
Whether you need a rugged cooler for your outdoor excursion or to keep on your boat, ORCA is made to last and provide great value for money. That is why it is also supported by a lifetime warranty.
Rotationally molded polyethylene walls provide maximum cold retention and in combination with the lid gasket and the strong latches, it makes an excellent waterproof product. You can try yourself to turn the cooler upside down and no water will leak out.
It also becomes bear-proof when ORCA masterlock set is used. The flex-grip handle is stainless steel, sturdy and easy to be used by one person, falling out of the way smoothly when not in use.
Whether you keep your ORCA on the boat or carry it in your truck, the rubber feet will keep it safely in place. We particularly like the cargo net attachment at the back of the product which is very handy and unique.
This product is bulky and thick but what would a warrior be without its full armor! Just put it in use and you won’t be disappointed.
- Good drainage spout.
- Made in the USA.
- Available in 6 color options.
- Outside dimensions: 19″ x 13.75″ x 15″
- Weight: 17 lb.
Best Budget Choice
5. Coleman Coastal Xtreme Series Marine Portable Cooler – 70 Quart
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Coleman is a popular brand in the world of outdoor gear and camping. What started as a business creating gas lamps quickly expanded into constructing top-notch tents, coolers and more.
This Coleman Coastal Xtreme Series Marine Cooler has a lot of fans mainly due to its great ability to retain ice for 3-4 days, its budget-friendly price and a few other handy features.
This product is built from molded plastic that features ThermOZONE insulation. According to the company, the lid can be used as a seat supporting weight of up to 250 pounds. The 4 molded cup holders of the lid are very handy to use.
The handles offer easy transportation but they are not the best quality handles you can get. The hinges are metal while the draining system is easy and quick to use. This 70-quart model has plenty of space to use.
However, there are some quality issues that might not be so important if your main target is to buy a non-expensive boat cooler that does what is supposed to do and that is to keep things cold.
Some users have reviewed that leaving it out when it rains leads to water leaking into the cooler. Also, you have to double-tap the lid in order to close snug. When it is loaded, it can be quite heavy so it would have been nice if wheels were added to it.
- Weight: 13.4lbs.
- External Dimensions : 28.4 x 15.8 x 17.5
- Internal Dimensions: 24.1 x 12.0 x 13.0
- Takes up to 100 cans
6. Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler – 94 Quart
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Even though it does not provide the most long-lasting solutions for ice retention, Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler is quite popular mainly due to its low price. If you want a basic product that can retain ice for a period of two days approximately, this might be the right product for you.
It can also work well if you want to invest in a second cooler that will keep your catch fresh and prevent the smell of the fish meshing with your food.
Based on its size, Igloo Marine 94 can take up to 140 12-oz cans. Its walls are a little over 1 inch. We like the integrated measuring ruler on the lid which allows you to quickly measure the fish before deciding whether to keep it or not.
The handles are non-slip and there is also an odor and stain-resistant liner. The drain plug can be hooked up a hose for easy drainage.
On the downside, many users complain that the lid is not insulated and some of them come up with their own DIY ideas to provide some insulation to it.
- Corrosion resistant stainless steel hardware.
- UV protection.
- Weight: 7.58 kgs.
- Exterior Dimensions:35.01″ x 16.75″ x 17.63″
- Interior Dimensions of the Top: 30.5″ x 12.75″ x 13.5″
- Interior Dimensions of the Bottom: 28.25″ x 11.5″ x 13.5″
- Made in the US.
7. OtterBox Venture Cooler 45 Quart
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As a top of the line cooler,OtterBox45 features a lifetime guarantee and plenty of quality features to show off. We love its tank-like looks and the fish-themed pattern on the lid makes it a very attractive gift for fishing lovers.
Its 2-inch foam core insulation and tight seal are capable of preserving the ice up to 14 days according to the company claims if you follow the instructions correctly and keep it away from direct sunlight.
The ultra-durable construction and tough latches protect its contents from wild animals but make it very easy for humans to open and close, producing a sound that reassures you that the lid is closed.
The fixed handles are very strong and sturdy, making it easier to carry as compared to those rope handles. However, the fact that they are not recessed or made of rope might make it unsuitable to fit in tight spaces or places such as the back of your truck.
The rubber feet help keep it in place and leakage is not an issue for this beast. It also comes with a dry storage tray and a bottle opener.
- It comes with nesting grooves to keep a cutting board.
- External dimensions: 31.39″ L x 18.76″ W x 18.83″ H.
- The capacity is 45 quarts.
- The slanted bottom makes draining easy.
8. Pelican Products Progear Elite Cooler, 35 Quart
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Pelican coolers are some of the most popular cooling beasts out there mainly because they combine top-notch quality with a cost that is lower than some of its top competitors such as YETI.
Another key feature of Pelican is that they provide a lifetime warranty making their product excellent value for the money. Pelican coolers are very popular among users who are interested in a high ice retention multi-purpose product that is perfect for their boating, hunting, tailgating or camping excursions.
The Pelican 35 is constructed with a 2-inch polyurethane insulation walls and a freezer-grade gasket that provides ice retention up to 10 days. In very high temperatures, you may be able to keep ice for 5 to 6 days.
For keeping ice longer, try to drain the water every day because watery ice melts the chunk ice at a faster rate than with no water. Also, blocks of ice last longer than flake ice.
Pelican’s heavy-duty shell and durable press and pull hinges make this item long-lasting and if camping with a bear is not one of your immediate plans, it is good to know that this is a bear-proof item.
The molded-in and hinged handles are well made and durable while the airtight drain makes it easy to get rid of water in less than a minute.
The 35 quart is a practical size to use, but if you are planning to be away for some days, then a larger size should be more useful. The 45 quart comes with wheels and without, and it can be more practical when portability is an issue.
Especially since Pelican 35 is too heavy to carry when it is full, you may consider this as the perfect solution if you need a fixed cooler for your boat.
- Measurements on the lid allow you to measure your big catch quickly.
- Rubber feet to prevent it from sliding.
- Interior that is easy to clean.
- Available in 3 colors.
9. Elkton 75 Quart Roto-Molded Commercial Grade Insulated Cooler
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When awesome looks get combined with top-notch features and a competitive price, you get a product that guarantees durability, functionality, and worth.
This Elkton cooler features 3-inch rotomolded thermoplastic walls and a rubber gasket that guarantees ice retention between 5 to 7 days. This is a heavy-duty product with a solid construction that is built to last.
The heavy-duty latches are easy to release while the handles are made of military-grade nylon that is durable and strong. The non-skid rubber feet are great for marine or vehicle use and the recessed drain plugs are designed to prevent leakage.
The built-in fish measuring ruler and the bottle openers are nice additions although, not to be greedy, wheels would also have been a nice extra.
- UV resistant.
- Valve releases pressure.
- No sweat exterior.
- Weight: 14.5 Lbs.
- Outside Dimensions: 33″ x 17″ x 17.5″
- Inside Dimensions: 27″ x 12.25″ x 13″
- 1-year manufacturer guarantee
10. KONG Cooler 70 Quart Rotomolded
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As one of the most rugged coolers out there, Kong Cooler combines maximum quality and a price that is less expensive than other top-notch roto-molded models.
Actually, one thing that makes Kong stand out when compared to similar products is the variety of accessories it comes with and the divided storage solutions it provides.
For example, due to a hinge, the handle can be kicked out and on top, you can attach a cutting board. There is also space for the board to be stored inside and the divider can be used to separate the cooler into two compartments or utilized as a side table or a shelf.
A gorilla face-shaped bottle opener that is attached to the cooler is a fun and useful feature to have.
Overall, this is a high capacity product with enough storage room to feed a crowd. The 10+ day retention of ice claimed by the company is not an overstatement. Going for the white model can also make a difference in how long your ice will last.
The lid is stay-put and strong enough to stand and sit on it while the latches are durable and well made. The rubber feet are non-slip and the handles are rigid and padded for a comfortable grip.
- High-grade materials.
- Well-built drain plug.
- Outside dimensions: 34.5″ x 18.375″ x 17.875
- Inside dimensions: 26.375″ x 12.125″ x 13″
- Made in the US.
- Available in 5 color variations.
- Limited lifetime guarantee.
Top Features To Look For In A Marine Cooler – Buying Guide
What makes a boat cooler functional and durable? This is a question you need to think about before purchase but also what your specific needs are. For example, going on a boating trip for a week or more will require a different type of cooler than the cooler you will need for a one day or two days fishing trip.
You can start by prioritizing your needs and then check for the details because details often do make a world of difference. Here are some important features to consider.
One of if not the most important features when choosing the best coolers for your boating or camping trips is the ability of a product to retain the ice and keep your fresh catch, drinks and food protected from the high temperatures and direct sunlight exposure.
For this purpose, the best option is to go for is a high-end roto-molded cooler. These models feature heavy-duty construction and super thick insulated walls made of polyurethane foam. This is what makes them ideal for retaining ice even up to 10 days (depending on the specific model) as opposed to typical boat coolers that retain ice usually up to 3 days.
This feature can be further enhanced by the appearance of a full-frame rubber gasket around the lid which is mainly a feature of high-end products and not of those common boating coolers. These rubber gaskets increase seal protection and insulation and maximize ice retention.
Also, weather temperatures hugely affect how long the ice will be retained and remember that the white colors better reflect the heat and the Sun.
Sometimes, it is very easy to be carried away from bells and whistles and forget to focus on one important feature, the available space. Think of the size of your boat, truck or vehicle and make sure that the external dimensions of the cooler are the right ones for you. Also, don’t forget about the handles because fixed rigid handles will require more space.
The storage capacity is not only important for practical reasons (you need to get the right size to fit in everything you need) but it is also significant in terms of ice retention. Generally, a larger model will retain the ice longer than a smaller one.
Durability And Construction
The durability will not only depend on the thickness of the materials and the overall heavy-duty construction of a model but the quality of the latches and hinges.
Stainless steel latches and hinges are anti-rust and more durable than those plastic ones that can easily break.
Heavy-duty latches and strong built construction make a product bear-proof, which may not be something to be conscious about when fishing but when hunting or camping, it sure is a very useful feature to have.
The thick walls and tough structure of a product make it also suitable to be used as a seat or a casting platform.
Ease Of Transportation
Roto-molded coolers generally weigh more due to their robust bulky construction but common marine coolers can also weight a lot when they are loaded with ice and other items.
Many companies take this into consideration and add wheels to their products or equip them with rigid handles to facilitate transportation. If mobility is an issue for you, you may need to look for a portable solution but keep in mind that using wheels on rough terrains can be challenging.
However, if you just need a fixed product for your boat or truck, weight may not be a problem.
The most lightweight options include soft-sided coolers with a shoulder strap or dry box coolers with a single handle.
Many people report that the lid of their cooler warps or gets brittle and discolored after a period of leaving it exposed to the sun even if it is in the back of a truck.
Cheaper models are generally more susceptible to this issue, but high-end items are enhanced with UV protection. You can look for products with inbuilt sun protection.
Marine coolers often feature non-slip rubber feet which keeps them securely in place even when your boat or vehicle is moving.
Good quality well-made handles will not only increase the life of your product but make it easier to transport, too. Generally, Inflexible plastic handles are more sturdy and easy to use especially when it comes to lifting a heavy cooler, but the recessed handles save space and can better fit in tight spaces.
Rope handles are also commonly used and it all depends on what suits you best.
Other available features boat coolers provide are rod holsters, beverage holders, cutting boards, built-in bottle openers and more.
The price will depend on the size, brand, type of cooler and additional features. For example, a high-end roto-molded product will cost a lot more than a simple marine cooler.
Top-notch brands often offer a lifetime warranty to their clients, which shows that they have confidence in their products.
- Draining system.
- Leakage proof.
- Wheels or no wheels.
- Measurements on the lid for measuring the fish
The Bottom Line
Buying a marine cooler may seem an easy task in the beginning, but finding a quality, functional and durable model is not that easy as you need to assess your needs and check thoroughly the product specifications.
To help you make an easier and more informed decision, we have reviewed in detail some top-notch options but also some more cost-effective alternatives in case you are on a budget.