Marine coolers are arguably the handiest tools the modern mariner can have. Enjoying a steady supply of ice-cold beer, snacks, and other beverages on every fishing trip, rain or shine, is a luxury that all sea dogs should enjoy. That is if you’re like me who wants to have a great time on every fishing or boating holiday.
The same goes for keeping your catch flavorsome. The best marine coolers should be able to keep any fish fresh, to the point that it’s still at peak freshness once you lay it on the grill. And what could possibly compare to the relative bliss of savoring a nice and juicy catch after a whole day of fishing?
The best boat coolers offer all these enjoyments to you if you know how to make the most of them. My marine cooler reviews have got your back so you can do just that.
Table of Contents
- Best Marine Cooler Reviews
- 1. Igloo Marine Ultra Family
- 2. Coleman 3000001845 Marine Cooler
- 3. Igloo 6776-APRENT Marine Coolers
- 4. YETI Tundra 65 Cooler
- 5. Coleman 3000001846 Portable Cooler
- 6. Engel UC Series Dry Box Cooler
- 7. Pelican Products Progear Elite Cooler
- 8. Cubix Marine Cooler
- 9. Camco 51700 Currituck Cooler
- 10. RTIC Ice Chest
- 11. Pelican Elite Cooler
- 12. ENGEL ENG80 Cooler
- Buying Guide
- Care and Maintenance
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Marine Cooler Reviews
1. Igloo Marine Ultra Family
This easy-on-the-wallet marine-grade cooler is concrete proof that you don’t have to pay more than what an average cooler costs to have one that fits the sea life.
How Igloo managed to incorporate all the essentials of a boat ice chest into this budget-friendly offering is one thing that will always be a pleasant surprise for me. And you get plenty of variations, too! As for me, I chose the 52-quart one because of the neat accessories. Besides the rally wheels and the extendable handles, which lend it all the benefits of a luggage trolley, I also loved the handy drink and fishing rod holders.
I don’t get why some reviewers pointed out that there’s no interior insulation. Sure, it might not be as great as others that cost twice, but considering the price, it’s still superb in my book. With a little support from an insulated bag placed on top and using cold water in the interior, I always managed to enjoy two days’ worth of cool drinks from it even in relatively hot weather.
I can say the same for keeping my fish fresh, but I wouldn’t want them to stay in there for more than a day. With that said, I’d recommend this Igloo marine ultra cooler to anyone who only needs to keep stuff cool for no more than a day or two. But if you know a few tricks to extend it, as I’ve explained above, then you’ll definitely get more value from it.
2. Coleman 3000001845 Marine Cooler
Who says Coleman doesn’t belong in the high seas? This affordable beer chest cradles a whopping 204 cans of beer in its cavernous interior, even as it endures above-average temperatures and the occasional splashes of waves.
I had some reservations before I ultimately decided to buy this Coleman 120 quart. After all, I’m glad I gave this one a try because it continues to wow me ever since.
And it’s not just the mammoth-sized build of the entire thing, even though that’s one of the main reasons why I decided to give this one a go, besides the dirt-cheap price tag. I use it a lot for stowing 100 cans of suds along with a few frozen steaks whenever my three other fishing buddies and I decide to take a fishing holiday. We do so once or twice a month at most, and I’ll just say that these trips are never complete without this goliath of a treasure chest.
I can safely say it keeps the contents cold for three days without any extra help or modifications from me. The temperatures I subject it to never go beyond 85 degrees, though. Also, it’s as sturdy as it’s capacious and has never had trouble tolerating the heat and moisture I let it endure.
3. Igloo 6776-APRENT Marine Coolers
This Igloo marine ultra cooler deserves to be readily included in the “coolers for boating” group by all its notable ice-keeping ability and generous capacity.
This one is available for 36-quart and 94-quart capacities. I opted for the 94-quart version because you get more value for money from the added space alone, judging by the price. And, I’m like plenty of boaters who can’t get enough load capacity in their marine coolers.
I once took it out on a 4-day fishing and camping trip to Big Bend where the temperatures reached as high as 95 degrees. I can attest to its amazing cooling features since it managed to keep my drinks ice-cold even in weather as hot as that. I rarely use it to store fish, but it always does the job every time I decide to do so.
I’m not sure how “marine-grade” the hinges really are. I’ve not had much opportunity to test that out, and I always make it a point to keep my coolers in a spot in my boat where they won’t get wet. What’s good is that it supports any upgrades to the hinges, and I’ve since fitted mine with stainless steel ones.
4. YETI Tundra 65 Cooler
YETI marine coolers occupy the highest pedestal for these kinds of ice chests precisely because of this item. Sheer longevity and outstanding cooling characterize it. Thus, I do not really think you need to ask for another cooler when you can confidently rely on this YETI marine cooler in every boating trip.
I bought this cooler in 2012, back when it was a relatively new presence in the market and a bit cheaper. It had already been making waves even then. I still use this cooler regularly, along with some backup chests, and that alone should give you a good hint about what kind of durability you can expect from it. All I can say is that it’s one of the best purchases I’ve made my whole life.
I won’t bother going into the details about what exactly made this cooler last this long. It’s probably the straight-up thickness of it and the “permafrost” insulation they put on it. It’s reinforced like a tank, in my opinion, and this is one of the few coolers I’ve owned that I don’t hesitate to leave out in the sun for hours.
I’ve had ice last for 3 or even 4 days in temperatures that don’t go above 87ºF with it. Of course, I always make it a point to chill whatever I’m stowing first and filling it with up to 7 or 8 1-pound blocks of ice.
5. Coleman 3000001846 Portable Cooler
Extremely low-cost yet can rival most high-end coolers with its cooling performance, this marine ice chest is no less than a diamond in the rough.
I take this with me mainly when I visit beaches like the Florida Keys where the temperatures are mostly mildly warm and don’t go above 80ºF. It makes for a solid substitute for my YETI coolers simply because it delivers what it promises: 3 days of ice-cold beer, beverages, and fresh seafood. In fact, I always look forward to a sumptuous dish of grilled snapper at The Buzzard’s Roost every time I go there, especially if it comes straight out of this marine ice chest.
The cooler is fairly elementary when it comes to performing clean-ups, which is always a plus for me. I’ve found that most Coleman marine coolers exhibit this trait, and I’m more than willing to commend them for that. That being said, I rarely use the cup holders they provide for reasons I’ve mentioned above.
For its remarkable ice-keeping alone, this product already delivers the most bang for your buck. As for cons, while it has a sizable interior, I refrain from filling it to its limit because I’m not too confident about the handles. They feel like they’re going to give out if they had to carry the alleged 48 cans they can accommodate plus my standard 8 pounds of ice.
6. Engel UC Series Dry Box Cooler
This Engel marine cooler does a fine job of functioning both as a cooler and a dry box. As a whole, it’s well-designed for easy portability and versatility.
I like to take this cooler to most of my canoe trips, and even if I don’t do it as much as fishing in the Great Lakes, this Engel offering never lets me down. Some people who’ve bought it wonder why it’s even called a “cooler” if it doesn’t keep ice intact for long. But, really, most of it stems from a lack of knowledge on how to use it.
I’ve experimented with various blocks of ice with it and, do you know what finally gave me the best results? Freezer packs, particularly four of the 9″x10″ kind. I immediately got the results I wanted, but how long it managed to stay cold still fell below my expectations. At best, I’d say getting 2 days of cooling from this in relatively hot weather would be a long shot.
For this reason, I wouldn’t be comparing it any time soon to any YETI ice-box I’ve tried out. This one is designed more with adaptability in mind, specifically its ability to double as a dry box. Actually, I’ve found that it performs better as a dry box, since I don’t hesitate to put any camera I might decide to bring along in one of my canoeing ventures. The lack of insulation only reinforces this.
7. Pelican Products Progear Elite Cooler
By looks alone, this cooler won’t look out of place in any military’s arsenal, and you’ll find that it’s a perfect fit considering its plethora of utterly useful features.
It’s not just about the sheer solidness of this cooler, though that’s undoubtedly one of its major plus points. Rather, it’s the fact that it actually does justice to its ginormous build through its dynamic performance. One occasion when I went to Texas on a fishing trip to Lake Conroe with my family in late August only proves this.
We had a stopover in Houston and had some outdoor barbecue in the 90ºF heat. This cooler held up fairly well against that blaze and kept its contents cold for the entire duration we were there. It kept the original ice for close to 5 days with regular draining.
It’s safe to say that it’s another aspect I love about this box. We re-iced it afterward with block ice, and overall it kept our meat and fish juicy for the entire 10-day affair.
I also love the heavy-duty, almost tactical style of this cooler, which automatically lends it that tank-like look. I rarely praise a cooler’s aesthetics but this one is an exception in my opinion. It readily transmits the fact that it’s built to last for years, and I can prove that, having used this cooler for 3 years now.
8. Cubix Marine Cooler
This cooler readily makes it to this list because it immediately proved to me that it delivers what it promises and more, thanks to its expert design.
I often get more than 3 days out of this cooler with the optimal use and block ice setup. However, what actually instantly grabbed my attention is its imposing handle. Moreover, this cooler also impressed me when I felt the relative sturdiness of its handles.
By the way, I’m referring to the 10-quart variety when I say this. I wanted a tinier, portable box that can carry at least 10 cans for one or two-day fishing and canoeing endeavors. This cooler, at best, filled that role competitively from day one.
I’d say it has as much ice-keeping potential as most YETI coolers. With that in mind and the lower price tag, it’s clear that this is a good product for you to use. I hope it’s just as durable, though — a topic I can’t contribute much on yet since I have only been using this cooler for 4 months.
I feel it’s the right thickness for most marine coolers, but the absence of protection against the elements the weather might happen to throw at it. Still, I’m also impressed by the cup holders and the bottle opener. I use them frequently.
9. Camco 51700 Currituck Cooler
This Currituck cooler is ready to take on whatever oceans, lakes, seas, the sun, and rain chucks at it — all while keeping your drinks, baits, catch, and snacks cold for as long as you need.
I admit that this shines more in the durability department than in keeping ice. This wasn’t immediately evident to me when I bought it, but I was hooked by the stainless steel parts and the ultra-thick build. After all, I wanted a cooler that I can rely on for a long-time with irregular use, and this one I believe fit the bill.
I was all raised eyebrows when I read that it can keep ice for 10 days. That’s a lofty statement to make, and while I’ve had trips when it did manage to achieve that, it never stayed consistent. I even had one instance when it only managed 24 hours, though I do admit that I literally kept it in the sun for 4 hours in a 93ºF heatwave.
Even so, it still delivered, more or less, on its promise so it always gets my thumbs up. This is why I’m more willing to praise its sturdiness before anything else, and I’m relieved this quality extends to the handles. True enough, I still take it with me when I need a backup cooler or the main one that I can use for shorter trips.
10. RTIC Ice Chest
This ice chest could just as easily take the top spot as others in this list. What sets it apart is its cheaper-than-YETI-but-just-as-good appeal.
This cooler assures me 5 days of cold drinks on average, especially in mild weather and with everything pre-chilled, but I’ve had numerous instances when it lasted for 7 to even 8 days. This is part of the reason why I tend to bring it along with me more now, than my YETI cooler. I’ve yet to experience a heatwave with it, but I’m guessing it can manage 3 days without re-icing in extreme heat.
It may not be as thick as the other coolers here, but it’s still adequately substantial. In fact, its no-nonsense design already says a lot about what you can expect from it: straightforward performance from a cooler that will last for years. The stainless steel handle only convinces me more that this is the case. I’m elated to say that I continue to enjoy it for two years now and counting despite abuse from rain and sunlight.
It’s solidly built overall. The box shuns low-quality materials in its hinges, lid, drain plugs and other essential parts. It’s not like your average Coleman or Igloo icebox, in short, and that’s what seals the deal for me, with its performance considered. Also, no leaks, whatsoever.
11. Pelican Elite Cooler
This is an elite cooler precisely because it falls under the high-end category. Nonetheless, it’s priced far cheaper and comes equipped with all the goodies needed to make any camping and fishing a blast.
This Pelican cooler made it to this list because of its heavy-duty construction, backed by a lifetime warranty, and satisfactory ice-keeping. I have to admit, the lifetime warranty appealed to me as well. It’s a tough-as-nails cooler that you’ll expect to have good mileage with from the day you decide to purchase it.
I manage on average 2 to 3 days of ice-keeping with my standard ice setup with it. I’m not really that surprised since the insulation isn’t that thick. What counts is that it maintains those results, regardless of the weather and water conditions I expose it to.
I can feel the difference in weight, too, as lugging it around has been a consistently no-sweat task for me even though it’s packed full of ice and cans. Moreover, the non-skid feature only makes it a number-one option whenever I need a cooler to take with me to my sea excursions. I also love the robustness of the handles, even though they’re made of plastic.
12. ENGEL ENG80 Cooler
This cooler can wow anyone in all key areas where marine coolers need to stand out. All I can say is, “What more could you ask for?”
This ENGEL ice-box ticks plenty of checkboxes I have when considering the optimal marine cooler. For one, it has UV protection and the brand makes it clear that they use marine-grade latches. Obviously, the claim that it can make ice last for 10 days also caught my eyes.
Overall, I’m satisfied with the thick 2” insulation, which is just an inch shy of the RTIC icebox I own. As for actual performance, the tight-sealing gasket coupled with the insulation is most probably responsible for the 8 to 10 days of ice. I once subjected this to Texas’s infamous heat that reached 92ºF, and you can only imagine my delight when I discovered that the ice had only minimally melted when the third day rolled in.
I can say the same for when I take it with me fishing, and with mostly mild weather, I enjoy the 10-day average the brand claims with a few deviations sometimes. When I examined its thickness, I felt its overall sturdiness. While I don’t often use them that much, I still appreciate that the brand fitted this with extra locking features.
There’s no reason to endure needless stress when deciding to buy the best marine coolers. Their purpose and functionalities are straightforward, after all. Without a doubt, many would also agree that there are a lot of safe options out there. However, you still need to keep in mind that these iceboxes were specifically built to handle the rougher, if not extreme, elements and environments involved in boating and fishing.
They’re not your average cooler, in short. To gain a more vivid picture of this, you only need to pay attention to the following factors to see how different and more heavy-duty these chests are. And by doing so, you’ll be able to arrive at the best decision in no time.
How long will the cooler be able to keep the ice and cold intact? Are you aiming to go all the way with ice retention? Or can you do or even prefer ice chests that keep your snacks and drinks cool for just an entire day?
Take note that despite their name, most coolers’ performance actually hinges not so much on their ability to keep the coldness inside as preventing heat from making its way in. Much like in standard coolers, you’ll need to be mindful of insulation for this. The best fishing coolers often have denser insulation to keep their contents cold for days.
How can you possibly forget about this significant factor? How many beer cans can it hold? Not much of a beer lover? Then you have to be aware of how much space you will need for whatever item you will be regularly putting inside your cooler.
Obviously, bigger coolers readily connote a larger interior volume. Most of the time, brands use quarts to indicate how much ice and items the cooler can hold. On the other hand, you’ll also need to be aware of whether your boat will be able to accommodate the cooler’s size. But generally, storage capacity is still a vital factor that you should take a note of.
The relative thickness of the box often dictates how tough a marine icebox is. However, when it comes to marine coolers, you’ll need to be mindful of elements such as extreme temperatures, seawater corrosion risk, and continued exposure to sunlight and rainfall.
Any feature that takes care of rust is a plus in my book. Don’t hesitate to get stainless components if they’re available. Also, keep an eye out for chests with anti-UV rays insulation on its exterior because these tend to handle loftier temperatures and direct sunlight better.
Extra Features and Functionalities
Do you want to be able to sit on your cooler from time to time? You need to opt for a sturdier box if that’s the case. What about cup and fishing rod holders? These accessories have helped me a ton while fishing and bumming around on beaches. Some even incorporate bottle openers.
Other Factors to Consider
- Aim for sturdy handles and comfort grip handles for easy gripping. Shoulder straps and wheels often become godsends for hassle-free transportation.
- Drain plugs make your life easier by allowing ice water to drain without turning the cooler over.
- Built-in hinged lids, while a good sign of durability, tend to be heavier.
- You might want to consider a latch that you can lock the cooler with and keep it in place if you’re going to leave it unattended.
- Ease of cleaning pays off with long-term, regular use.
- If you have a habit of sitting on your cooler, make sure it’s sturdy enough, and consider adding a boat cooler seat to it or opt for a marine cooler with cushion.
Care and Maintenance
Taking care of your boat cooler isn’t at all hard to do and is often more about finding the motivation to keep them spick and span, especially if you use them regularly. Since plenty of marine coolers come with sophisticated protections, many users tend to forget to clean their exterior.
Based on my experience, this is often possible in plenty of the high-end stuff like your standard YETI cooler. But those are arguably exceptions to the rule. You still don’t want your cooler to stay wet in seawater, for instance, especially if certain parts are vulnerable to corrosion.
Also, can you really endure letting your icebox stay begrimed by mud, especially if you have food and drinks in there? A quick rinse accompanied by a thorough wiping ought to do the trick for such scenarios. In most cases, these coolers can take care of themselves, and we have the extra reinforcement and thicker builds to thank for that.
The interior, on the other hand, requires more attention, much like most standard coolers. Whether it has any fishy smell, which could be a consequence of your last fishing trip, or address mildew problems, cleaning it only allows you to continue to enjoy your cooler for years — if not decades.
At best, you only need to follow these steps:
- Wash away any leftover debris, particles, and other items that are still left in the cooler. This includes any ice you no longer need or the ensuing ice water formed. You have the drain and the hose to use for this in certain boat cooler models.
- The key is to ensure no moisture stays inside. Therefore, take the time to wipe the entire interior dry with a clean cloth. You may even use some bleach or alcohol to ensure sterilization. Just make sure you rinse it thoroughly with cold water afterward.
- If you don’t have sterilizing items, you can always rely on the sun on this, assuming the weather is fair. A good hour of direct sunlight should suffice to dry it out.
- Don’t forget to wipe the handles, lids, and hinges, too. Just make sure you know their material to prevent any bad reactions that could lead to damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who makes the best marine cooler for the money?
A lot of the brands mentioned here can deliver a reliable marine cooler for the money. YETI ice-boxes are industry standard, at most, and continue to serve as benchmarks for quality based on durability and ice retention.
RTIC and ENGEL come at a close second and can even beat YETI in some of the additional features they include. If you’re strapped for cash, Coleman and Igloo remain viable options as proven by the positive points both have that I’ve mentioned above. On the whole, though, these selections all deliver value for money as long as you use them properly.
What brand keeps ice the longest?
With the right setup, you can extend most coolers’ ice retention. But if the sheer duration is the topic, Camco and Engel have, rather surprisingly, stood out to me when retaining ice. However, YETI and RTIC will always be no-brainer choices for me when it comes to this factor — at least, I can say as much for the ones I’ve owned.
Is Coleman or Igloo cooler better?
Based on my experience with these budget-friendly brands, I’d say they’re tied. Coleman and Igloo coolers offer generous interior space and superb ice-keeping. Both also don’t do that well in integrating better handles or stainless steel components, most probably to keep their prices down. Incidentally, I’ve heard rave reviews about marine soft cooler selections by Coleman but haven’t really given them a try yet.
Is there a cooler better than YETI?
YETI has been a big name in the cooler industry for a long while now simply because they deliver quality over quantity every time. But there are too many great items on the market. And many competitors have since challenged its position as the best by taking advantage of the most apparent downside of YETI coolers (i.e. their expensive price).
I can safely say that RTIC coolers are just as good as certain YETI offerings, and I can say the same for some Engel coolers. Both brands often sell $100 cheaper or more than most YETI coolers.
Are expensive coolers worth it?
They are if they manage to deliver everything you need and a host of other delights that you weren’t exactly expecting. To me, as long as they last long and don’t let me down every time I take them out to any sea or lake, they’re worth it. Some of the items mentioned here fit that label.
Good marine coolers often do just fine in most cases. But, as proven by my review, the best marine coolers readily showcase consistency and a host of unique perks that effortlessly move the needle toward excellence in performance, longevity, and reliability. The brands featured here more or less have that sought-after spark.