One of the many practical applications of coolers is keeping your catch nice and fresh when you are out fishing. Whether it be an afternoon’s worth of a fishing trip or a multi-day adventure, you cannot do either without the help of a quality cooler.
However, since coolers come in many different forms and sizes, it can be a bit difficult to choose the one right for your needs. Sure, you can get a relatively cheap cooler from your nearby superstore, but those don’t do a good enough job when exposed to the elements hours on end.
UV rays emitted by the sun are especially strong near large bodies of water due to the reflection. Moreover, you need a cooler that is durable enough not to leak water while carrying it around. Due to these reasons and more, it’s generally a good idea to invest in a high-quality cooler that will last you years to come.
Let’s explore what considerations you should make when buying a fishing cooler. Of course, size is the biggest factor to keep in mind, but there are also a couple of other things to watch out for. Let’s explore.
What To Look Out For When Buying a Cooler?
When talking about the size of a cooler, there are two distinct dimensions to keep in mind. Firstly, the exterior dimension of the cooler is typically referred to as the size. Not to be confused with the storage capacity, which is the interior dimension. We will get to that next.
The size of the cooler is a vital consideration as it will dictate the ease of use. Larger coolers, while great for storing more fish, are cumbersome to move around and transport. It also depends on what sort of a car you drive and if you have enough space to fit a large cooler.
Then once you are at the fishing spot, will you be kayaking out to the lake? Since kayaks are generally narrow, it’s important to purchase a cooler that will fit and won’t take too much space.
The second most important dimension to consider is the interior capacity of the cooler. Keep in mind that the size and capacity are directly related because the bigger a cooler is, the more capacity it will have.
Some companies compromise on the insulation thickness and offer a greater storage capacity in a smaller cooler, but that hurts ice retention.
If portability matters to you and you want ease of use, then perhaps a 25-quart cooler will suffice. However, such a cooler will only be suitable for an afternoon’s worth of fishing.
On the other hand, if you are an enthusiast and going on a multi-day expedition, you will need a much bigger cooler like 75-100 quarts.
However, for most people who fish throughout the weekend or one entire day, a 45-quart cooler will do just fine. 45-quart coolers are sort of middle of the way when it comes to storing capacity and ease of movement.
Arguably the most critical factor to consider when selecting a cooler is its ability to retain coldness. This is determined by the quality of insulation which depends on the thickness of the walls and the quality of gaskets.
Leading brands like YETI have thick walls and freezer-quality gaskets that can retain ice for up to 10 days, depending on the environment.
Best Afternoon Fishing Cooler
YETI Roadie 24 Cooler
The YETI Roadie 24 is the industry’s leading portable cooler. It has the highest quality construction and can easily retain ice for three days. Since this is a smaller cooler that can store 24 grams of ice, it’s ideal for an afternoon’s worth of casual fishing.
- Top-quality construction and insulation
- Can hold 24 pounds of ice
- Retains ice for three days
- Can be easily carried and lightweight
- Not big enough for longer fishing sessions
- Cost on the higher side
RTIC, a direct competitor of YETI, makes a 20-quart cooler called RTIC 20 that costs significantly less and stores a bit more ice.
Best Weekend Fishing Cooler
YETI Tundra 45 Cooler
YETI has the widest variety of sizes when it comes to coolers. Their Tundra 45 hard cooler is the perfect size for those going out on a weekend escapade. It can store 34 pounds of ice and is large enough for even bigger fish. Like all YETI coolers, the quality is unmatched, and you can expect 10-day long ice retention. As a result, your catch will never go bad, even in the hottest environments.
- Extremely durable
- Ideal size for a 2-day long fishing trip
- Can store bigger fish along with ample ice
- Can retain ice for up to 10 days
- May require two people to move when full
- Costs more than similar options by other brands
The RTIC 45 is an amazing substitute if you want to save a good chunk of change. It has the same high-quality construction and ice retention but only a 1-year guarantee instead of YETI’s 5-year.
Best Multi-Day Fishing Cooler
YETI Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Cooler
If you plan to go on a longer trip, you’ll need a 100-quart cooler that can store more fish and ice while keeping everything cool. The YETI Tundra Haul is a massive cooler that can store 55 pounds of ice. However, since it’s incredibly bulky, it comes with wheels to aid in movement. You can easily store days’ worth of fish in this cooler and not worry about spoiling it.
- Ideal size for multi-day fishing
- Can store 55 pounds of ice
- Extremely rugged and durable
- Can retain ice for 10 or more days
- Might be difficult to place on a smaller boat
- Requires multiple people to pick up when full
The RTIC 110 and Igloo Polar 120 are both great alternatives. However, the RTIC provides better quality and longer ice retention.
Related: Best Marine Cooler
Fishing coolers are a vital piece of equipment to keep your catch fresh. The size and storage capacities depend on how long of a trip you have in mind.
Generally, a 20-25 quart cooler is sufficient for an afternoon trip to the lake. However, if you plan to spend the weekend catching fish, a 45-quart cooler is more suitable.
However, if you are going on a multi-day expedition, then it’s best to get a 100-quart cooler that can fit bigger fish and retain ice for more than a week.