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This article is especially for the budget-minded outdoor traveler who’s looking for the best camping coolers under $100.
If this is your first time on this blog, one thing we teach is balancing a budget for outdoor travel. We are neither cheap nor do we just spend on anything we want to do. Instead, we have found the secret to doing what we truly want is by conserving in some areas, so we can splurge in others.
A camping cooler can sit on either end of that budget. Is it a “conserve” item? Or do you “splurge” and buy the top of the line?
On the one hand, there are high-end models that will set you back $200 – $300. And if you don’t mind investing in a cooler that you can pass down to your grandkids, they may be worth looking into.
On the other hand, a camping cooler could just be something to chuck some food for a weekend trip. You want out of your cooler what you would like out of all of your camping companions: just to keep it’s cool and not leak.
If so, we have written this article just for you. So let’s get right into it. Here are the best camping coolers under $100 right now.
Table of Contents
Best Overall Camping Cooler: Igloo 52 Qt BMX Cooler
Best Soft-Sided Camping Cooler: Arctic Zone Titan
Best Fishing Cooler Under $100: Plano Frost Cooler
Best Rolling Cooler Under $100: Coleman 100 Quart Xtreme 5 Wheeled Cooler
Best RV Cooler Under $100: Coleman Xtreme Cooler – 70 Qt
Best Dry Box Cooler Under $100
Best Cooler Backpack Cooler Under $100: TOURIT Cooler Backpack
What To Expect From A Camping Cooler Under $100
The old adage “you get what you pay for” has not always held true. Take kopi luwak for example.
I would have paid my little brother $10 to drink cat poop. But people are paying top dollar to sip on feline feces.
The point is, just because you pay more doesn’t mean you aren’t getting crap.
Are There Good Coolers Under $100?
Absolutely! The difference between a good cooler and a bad one isn’t necessarily the price range. In fact, when you consider the cost of ice and the limited use most of us get out of our cooler, you can never fully justify the extra expense for a Yeti or RTIC.
Not to knock those brands. They make a quality product. And if you can afford them, they will last a lifetime.
But for a majority, these coolers under $100 will tick all of the boxes for a quality way to keep food cool while camping.
Best Brands For Coolers Under $100
That said, some brands stand out above the crowd when it comes to cheap coolers. You can always save money, but not all discount gear focuses on maintaining quality at the expense of expense.
Here are the top brands when considering an affordable camping cooler. Oh, and keep an eye out for brands that include “x’s” in their product. Because everyone knows x’s are cooler.
Coleman is no stranger to making great camping gear. Founded in 1900 in Oklahoma, they have been making campsite accessories for over a century. Your great-grandparents probably had a Coleman camping cooler at one point.
Igloo is also another strong contender in making coolers for camping. It started out in 1947 making metal water coolers and has continued to refine its production of camping coolers.
Today, it is one of the most recognized names in food storage. From lunch boxes to tailgate parties, Igloo has also been part of the camping scene for generations.
Engel is one of the leaders in food and beverage coolers. Not only are they one of the premier choices in a camping fridge, they also make a variety of top-notch coolers. From hard side, soft side, dry boxes, boat, and even fishing coolers. These guys know a thing or two about keeping things on the ice.
If the first thing you think of when you hear “Plano” is fishing tackle, you know they are synonymous with fishing gear. But, they are no strangers to making high-quality and affordable campsite and Overlanding coolers.
As they continued to expand their offerings to more and more resources for outdoorsy people, the next logical step was to make quality camping coolers.
Features Of The Best Coolers Under $100
The best coolers are going to offer a balance of efficiency, durability, and affordability. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that rank our favorite camping coolers.
Let’s face it. In its simplest form, a camping cooler is a box you put ice in. But without insulation, your food won’t stay cool for very long. And if the lid doesn’t secure and seal well, the ice won’t be around for long.
We have to consider how durable it is. After all, you could just have a styrofoam box that will hold a few things in. But if you’re camping, you know it’s gonna get tossed around. So your camping cooler needs to be able to take a beating.
Type of Camping Cooler
We typically think about a camping cooler being hard-sided. Like an Igloo or Coleman we knew growing up. But there are also soft-sided coolers that are a bit lighter and easier to carry. We had to separate these into two different categories.
How much do you need to pack for your camping trip? If you’re going for a week-long trip with your family, you’ll need to hold as much food as possible. On the other hand, if you’re just going on a solo weekend trip and you just need to keep a couple of hot dogs cool for a few hours, you can get by with a much smaller cooler.
This is a factor if you have to carry your cooler very far from your car or truck. If it’s gonna stay in one place, you can fill it up with ice and not worry about it.
But if you have to carry it, it better be easy enough to move the weight it packs.
Best Camping Coolers Under $100
So, with all of the factors in mind, we have made a list of our top recommended camping coolers. And after the final analysis, these budget options hold their own against the high-priced competitors.
- Keeps food cold for up to 5 days
- Has an “X” in the name
- Sacrifices storage volume for extra insulation
- It may not be the BMX you thought
I actually only included this one because I thought it was a bike. Just kidding.
This may look like a Yeti knock-off, but Igloo can stand on its own. The name of the game is keeping things cold for as long as possible, and Igloo is a bit of an expert in that area.
They held nothing back to compete with the big boys in this space. Plus they put an “x” in the name. And you know how we feel about x’s. They make us all look cool.
- Lightweight and portable
- Leak proof
- Not as durable as a fully hard-sided cooler
If you want a combination of portability and quality, this is a great cooler to grab and go. Although it won’t have the durability of the hard-sided cousins, its convenience will have you bringing it to more places than your dedicated campaign cooler.
- Will keep cold for up to 5 days
- One of the lowest volumes on this list
While the Plano Frost will keep cold for a long weekend camping trip, there is a trade-off in capacity. To stay under $100, you have to go all the way down to a 21 quart camping cooler. For the price, you’re better off with the Igloo 52 quart.
Or, go even bigger with one of the next options.
- Super large capacity
- Fully loaded, may weigh as much as your home refrigerator
- Not a true 5th wheel; don’t try to tow this with your truck
This one has a funny name because it would seem to indicate it has 5 wheels. It actually has 2, which makes the number 5 look like a 5th wheel.
But, in fact, the 5 stands for 5 days. And that is how long you can expect ice to stay cool in 90 heat. With the added convenience of wheels, it makes it much easier to drag to the campsite, beach, or barbecue.
- 5 day ice retention
- smaller than its big brother mentioned above
- has an “X” in the name
- May not latch as tightly as some of the others
- Still a bit heavier than the Igloo 52 qt
We are back with another Coleman Xtreme. With the 5-day ice retention, you can’t go wrong. But we recommend this one as a smaller option than the 100-quart version above.
If you don’t have the room for the larger size, the Coleman Xtreme 70 quart will make a good substitute. You lose the convenience of the wheels and handles. But you still have the benefit of keeping things cool for nearly a week.
The bonus is, you can tell it’s extreme because they dropped the “e” in Xtreme…Which is radical!
- Doubles as a dry box for keeping things dry
- Doesn’t cool as well as the others in this list
Engel makes a decent camping refrigerator. They even have good coolers. But this one is more of a dry box. It doesn’t keep cool nearly as long as the others on this list. If you need something for a day or so, this one is ok.
If you’re planning on camping overnight, it’s best to look elsewhere.
- The most portable of the bunch
- Not as durable as a hard cooler
- Much smaller capacity than the others
Rather than carrying or dragging a large cooler, most of us want a convenient way to lug our lunch to the top of a mountain or to the beach. Backpacks have been around for a while, and what a great idea to turn one into a cooler.
The Tourit cooler backpack is a best seller on Amazon, combining the convenience, durability, efficiency, volume, and budget to make a perfect backpack cooler.
So there you have some great camping coolers to choose from.
And if a cooler is your splurge item, go for it. You certainly won’t regret it.
Then again, if you want to take it to the next level, you could buy a camping refrigerator and never need to buy ice to keep it cool. We have a whole buyer’s guide on fridges for camping. And if that’s your luxury item, go for it.