The year I was born, 1965, Coleman® introduced the popular steel-sided ice chest that I imagine many of us grew with, camping with our families. I imagine that it wasn’t all that great, compared to some of today’s high-tech plastic coolers, but it was as much a part of my early camping experience as the smell of kerosene from the camp stove and I kind of miss its retro-simplicity.
Unlike 1965, we have a lot of choices these days, when it comes to keeping our camping food cold. There are coolers of all different shapes and sizes, hard-sided, soft-sided and even refrigerated units. We have the boating industry to thank for a lot of the technology we see in today’s multi-day ice chests and, indeed, some of the best (and most expensive) coolers on the market are aimed primarily at boaters.
Colman stopped making their metal cooler in 1994, but that doesn’t mean you have to work the garage sales to get your retro fix. In 2001, they introduced a reinterpretation of the old classic, under the Steel Belted® name.
Dimensions: 24.25” x 16.75” x 16.75” (L, W, H)
Big ice chests work great on boats, where you don’t have to move them around, much. On land, though, these behemoths can tip the scales at over 100-pounds, which makes them cumbersome for family camping. Igloo® gives you the best of both worlds with their All-Terrain™ line of wheeled ice chests.
Dimensions: 38.31” x 17.38” x 17.75” (L, W, H)
Soft-sided coolers have a bit of a bad rap as being okay for picnic lunches, but not serious contenders for family camping. That’s not the case with American Outdoors® coolers, however. They feature more insulation than other soft-sided coolers and are guaranteed to hold ice for 24-hours at 120-degrees.
Size: 36-quart (approximately)
Dimensions: 21” x 13” x 13” (L, W, H)
Like soft-sided coolers, 12-Volt coolers have a reputation for not keeping food cold, in addition to having lots of reliability problems. Engel coolers are a different story, though, and their AC/DC coolers feature ultra-efficient motors that have a great reputation for longevity.
Dimensions: 25” x 15.5” x 18.5” (L, W, H)