Finding the Best Small Cooler for You
Outdoorsy romantic getaways, solo expeditions, and short trips all have one thing in common: they don’t require a giant cooler. In fact, you probably don’t need a medium-sized cooler, either. If you’re searching for the best small cooler for your lifestyle, you came to the right place.
The Best Small Cooler Reviews: Overview
In the following reviews of small coolers, you’ll find some of everything.
- The Best Small Cooler with a Lifetime Warranty
- A Review of the Best Small Cooler for a Car
- The Best Small Soft Sided Cooler
- A Review of the Best Small Cooler with Wheels
- The Ultimate Small Cooler Lunch/Picnic Box
- Orca’s 20 Quart Best Small Ice Chest
- The Best Small Cooler Bag for the Money
- Accessories: Small Accessories for Small Coolers
The Best Small Cooler with a Lifetime Warranty
At an estimated $40 or less, the Stanley Adventure Cooler is a steal of a deal. It’s also damn good at holding ice.
When Outside Online placed it outside on a hot day with no shade from the sun, the beer was still cold after 5 hours. According to Outside Online (an extremely good authority on all things related to outdoor gear), this is the most durable small coolers they reviewed.
- BPA Free
- Comes with a Bungee for added storage
- Premium Insulation
- Lifetime Warranty
One thing to keep in mind is that this personal cooler isn’t the most size-efficient, as you can’t fit 12oz drink containers in an upright position. It just isn’t tall enough.
The color selection is slim, with just two colors: navy and green.
Our Favorite Accessory:
We love the Stanley Adventure Stainless Steel Pint, because it’s dishwasher-friendly.
Many of the best stainless steel insulated cups require hand washing. But nope, not this guy.
The Black & Decker Travel Cooler & Warmer (8- or 12-can)
This best small cooler for a car actively cools down contents and also warms them up! Since the Black & Decker Travel Cooler is a thermoelectric cooler, it has some extra amazing advantages.
Plus, as is true of other thermoelectric coolers, just plug it into your car’s 12 volt DC outlet or power supply, and you’re set for miles and miles.
- First, the Black & Decker Thermoelectric Cooler doesn’t require pre-cooling.
- In fact, put something warm or lukewarm inside and it’ll actually get colder.
- And this best small cooler outsmarts the best in that it warms your food up, too.
- With a zippered side pouch, two cup holders, you have the added benefit of outer access and extra cup holders.
- It also fits perfectly in a car seat.
- This is a pricey cooler. However, the higher cost brings with it higher quality.
- You’ll need to purchase a power adapter if you don’t already have one. That can also increase the price.
- Another downside is the warranty, which is only a year long.
- But still, considering all of the benefits…it’s worth it!
The Mountainsmith Sixer Cooler (10 liters/2.65 Gallons)
This is another best small cooler recommended by Outside Online. Is it the absolute best at keeping stuff cold? No, no it is not. It performed the worst in Outside Online’s test, but keep in mind that 6 of the best small coolers were tested…so it’s not like a Mountainsmith completely sucks at locking in the cold.
- The Mountainsmith Sixer Cooler is light as can be, weighing in at only .75 pounds.
- Best of all, it’s got lots of great extra features, like an integrated bottle opener.
- There’s also a handy back pocket for storing extra stuff without having to open and close the bag every time.
- A removable shoulder strap is also provided. Every little extra counts!
- Additionally, this soft sided cooler is available in Camo.
- As we mentioned above, this best small cooler isn’t the best-in-class in terms of maintaining a cold temperature for an extended period of time.
- If you know you’ll be needing your food and drinks to stay cold for a long time, consider the Orca 20 Quart or Yeti Roadie.
The Best Small Cooler with Wheels
The Coleman Personal Wheeled Cooler (16 quart/22 cans)
There are lots of wheeled coolers on the market today, but there aren’t many that are small. Who says a wheeled cooler can’t be the next best small cooler? Not Coleman, that’s for sure. Their small personal wheeled cooler combines convenience with efficiency. Say goodbye to lugging around a big wheeled cooler unnecessarily.
- Other than being the best small rolling cooler, this is easy to use and very affordable.
- A telescope handle, big molded-in side handles, and recessed wheels enable you to both roll and pick up the cooler without any trouble.
- The icing on the cake is the hinged lid. You can have an icy cold beer in one hand and still open this best small cooler with ease.
- Not only do we trust the Coleman brand, but we also love their prices. If you’re on a tight budget, Colemans may be your best bet!
- There aren’t any added features like cup holders, outer pockets, or built-in bottle openers.
- But if you like basic, this is going to serve you well at picnics, camping, and ball games.
The Igloo Playmate Pal (7 quarts)
These reviews of the best small coolers wouldn’t be complete without the Igloo Playmate Pal. In fact, it’s the most portable hard-sided cooler in this review, due to its unique tent-top design.
- The tent-top design is the Playmate Pal’s secret weapon because it’s loaded with convenience. First of all, it has a button to push to open the lid. This makes it perfect for solo road trips.
- Also, the tent-top has a molded-in handle at the top for comfortable, convenient carrying with just one hand.
- But that’s not all. The lid can slid to both sides, so as the “Cha Cha Slide” goes, if you need something from the right side, slide to the left. Slide to the left to easily access contents from the right side.
- The fourth and most practical benefit is that this particular design prevents spills. So bring it on, moms and dads.
Additionally, there’s a lot of wiggle room in terms of price and function.
Obviously, the original is great. But you can also get the Playmate Pal MaxCold to keep your loot cold for even longer. And if you want something even smaller, the Igloo Playmate Mini holds 4 quarts (6 cans).
- Ice melts within 3-5 hours. However, the remaining cold water will chill the contents for longer.
- Combat this problem by pre-cooling, limiting the number of times you open and close the lid, and strategically using small ice packs.
- Or, of course, upgrade to an Igloo Playmate Pal MaxCold if you need ice retention for longer than 5 hours.
Our Favorite Accessory:
The Igloo Legend Beverage Cooler is a firm, 1-gallon water jug. It complements the cooler nicely when you want to stay hydrated as possible and still have room for all the food/pop/beer you need.
The Overall Best Small Ice Chest Cooler
It’s rather hard to find a roto molded cooler smaller than a “20 quart.” But if you’re on the market for the best small ice chest cooler, this is our top recommendation.
Orca Coolers are among the best high-end ice chests in the world. If we had to name the ultimate cooler brand for keeping ice, it would be Orca.
So, as we combed through candidates for the best small coolers for keeping ice, we knew immediately which brand to point you towards.
- Having a quality ice chest like this gives you more flexibility. Since it holds ice so well, you can take longer adventures away from home.
- An outer cargo net pocket gives you the extra room and convenience of outside storage.
- Also, an Orca can stand plenty of wear and tear. With thick, roto molded shells and their Grizzly Bear Proof Certification, you won’t have to worry about being gentle with this best small cooler with a roto molded shell.
- The icing on the cake? A lifetime warranty.
Orca Coolers are expensive. Even though it’s the cheapest in the line, you’ll have to shell out well above $200 for the 20 quart. Your best bet is to keep on eye on prices through online marketplaces like eBay or Amazon. >>Check Current Discounts
The Coleman Soft Sided Cooler Bag with Hard Liner (9- and 16- can)
This just might be the best small cooler bag for the money in the history of time. With comfy side handles or an adjustable shoulder strap, you’ll barely remember you’re carrying this best small cooler bag… it’s just that simple to use.
- There’s a hard, removable liner to use with regular ice.
- But you can easily slide out the liner (which makes it easy to clean!) and rely on the built-in soft liner.
- This liner has built-in microbial features and is FDA-approved.
- Another characteristic loved by many is the room for extra storage. There are zippered front pockets and two side mesh pockets for your small miscellaneous items.
- Also, the included bungees provide additional storage room.
- This “16-can” cooler bag doesn’t really fit 16 cans. Not very easily, at least.
- Some reviewers have complained that this soft sided cooler doesn’t do a good job of keeping contents cold.
- Although, users commonly complain when they haven’t bothered to pre-cool or use ice packs/ice. Do these things to get the most out of this cooler.
- Here’s a favorite thing we like to do: freeze one of the bottles/cans you’re storing in the bag. You can even freeze a small juice box.
Settling on the best cooler is the most satisfying feeling. But buying accessories? That’s the most fun.
- Fit & Fresh Slim Ice Packs measure 4.75″ x 4.75″ x 0.25″, and they’re dirt cheap.
- For slightly larger and especially long lasting ice packs, go for an extra small Arctic Ice Pack. This size weighs a mere .75 pounds and is the best-in-class. There are larger sizes available, so stock up for larger coolers while you’re at it. These are no-brainers if you’re looking for a durable, effective, eco-friendly ice substitute.
- The Yeti Molle Bottle Opener is easy to use and small enough to tuck away in a cooler’s side pocket or even one of your own pockets.
- Chuggie Can/Bottle Coolers make the best coolie companions. They’re soft, so you can easily fold them up and tuck away for compact storage. Plus, the bottle coolies have a built-in bottle opener.
As we come to the end of this review, we hope you found the best small cooler for your budget and lifestyle. Sometime it’s hard to branch out from the traditional hard or soft coolers, but small coolers with wheels and small thermoelectric coolers are very worthy of your consideration.
Small cooler ice chests are the best. They don’t need as much ice, so they’re cheaper to use and easier to drain. It’s also much easier to find a space in storage, and they’re very portable. Quite a contrast from a hefty Yeti Tundra 350, for example.
Really, it boils down to what simplifies your life the most. Happy shopping!