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Updated: 17 Jun 2022

Best cool boxes

Find out how cooler boxes from popular brands including Coleman, DeWalt and Igloo did for insulation, durability and portability
Sam Morris
People getting drinks out of a cooler.

Investing in the right cool box could make or break your next camping or beach trip. To find out which is easiest to lug around and will keep your food and drink coolest, we put cool boxes from Coleman, Igloo and DeWalt through their paces. 

In June 2021 we tested cooler boxes ranging from £10 to £132, on everything from insulation to durability and portability. 

We also compared the passive coolers to an electric cooler to see whether any of them came close to matching its insulation ability and, to our surprise, one wasn't too far off.  

Prices and availability last checked: 1 June 2022.

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The best cool boxes

Only logged-in Which? members can view the cooler box test results below. If you're not yet a member, you'll see an alphabetically ordered list of the cooler boxes we tested. 

Join Which? now to get instant access to our test scores and Best Buy recommendations below.

Coleman 30QT Performance Cooler

Coleman cool box

Only available at Amazon: £39.99

Outer dimensions (HxWxD): 39 x 42 x 25cm 

Inner dimensions (HxWxD): 33.5 x 39 x 25.5cm

Weight: 2.95kg

Stated capacity: 28 litres Can capacity: 49

Key features: Two-year warranty, also available in 56 litres, two cup holders on top of the lid

Coleman is a well-known outdoors brand, selling camping equipment ranging from camping stoves to sleeping bags. We've tested their camping equipment before but how has its cool box fared?  

Log in or join Which? to find out. You can also read our review of the Coleman FastPitch Galiano 4 tent in the best pop-up tents.

Connabride Passive Coolbox

Connabride cool box

Cheapest price: £22.49, available at Camping World, also available at Go Outdoors (out of stock), Robert Dyas (out of stock)

Outer dimensions (HxWxD): 40 x 38 x 22cm

Inner dimensions (HxWxD): 32 x 34 x 20cm

Weight: 1.7kg

Stated capacity: 24 litres Can capacity: 35

This cool box is a simple design with a single moveable handle that locks the lid into place.

To find out whether its simplicity impacted its insulation log in or join Which?.

DeWalt TOUGHSYSTEM DS404 COOLER

DeWalt Tought System cool box

Cheapest price: £143.30, available at Amazon, also available at Screwfix

Outer dimensions (HxWxD): 40.5 x 54 x 35cm

Inner dimensions (HxWxD): 27 x 41 x 23cm 

Weight: 8.1kg

Stated capacity: 25.5 litres Can capacity: 38

Key features: One-year guarantee, two cup holders on top of the lid

DeWalt is famous for its power tools and is a brand typically associated with building sites. 

This cooler is far more expensive than the other coolers we've tested and we wanted to find out whether it was worth paying that bit more for a cool box.

To unlock our results log in or join Which? today.

Igloo Maxcold Quantum 28 Wheeled Ice Cool Box

Igloo Maxcold cool box

Only available at Igloo: £59.95.

Outer dimensions (HxWxD): 40 x 43.5 x 33cm

Inner dimensions (HxWxD): 34.5 x 38.5 x 22.5cm

Weight: 3.95kg

Stated capacity: 26 litres  Can capacity: 42

Key features: Also available in 49 litres, four cup holders on the lid and a set of wheels

This cool box has an extendable handle and wheels that make carrying heavy loads that bit easier. 

It's also got four integrated cup holders but, extras aside, how did it do in the insulation test? 

Log in or join Which? to find out. 

Quechua Rigid Camping or Hiking Cooler Box

Quechua cool box

Only available at Decathlon: £39.99.

Outer dimensions (HxWxD): 41 x 41 x 26.5cm

Inner dimensions (HxWxD): 32 x 38 x 24.5cm

Weight: 3.8kg

Stated capacity: 24 litres  Can capacity: 43

Key features: Two-year warranty, also available in 32 litres, four cup holders on the underside of the lid and a removable insert

This is a mid-range cool box with a number of cup holders and a removable insert that allows you to separate your contents. 

Want to know how it did in the insulation and durability tests? 

Log in or join Which? to find out. 

Thermos Cool Box

Thermos picnic cool box

Cheapest price: £46.50 available at Amazon. Also available at Robert Dyas (out of stock)

Outer dimensions (HxWxD): 40 x 42 x 27cm

Inner dimensions (HxWxD): 34.5 x 37.5 x 23.5cm

Weight: 2.4kg

Stated capacity: 28 litres  Can capacity: 45

Key features: 12-month warranty, also available in 32 litres

Thermos is famous for its insulated products. We've tested a number of them already, including a vacuum flask and a cooler bag, and had mixed results. You can read those results in best cooler bags and best vacuum flasks.

To find out how the cooler box compared log in or join Which?.

Vango Pinnacle Wheelie Cooler Box

Vango Pinnacle cool box

Cheapest price: £59.95, available at Amazon. Also available at John Lewis (out of stock)

Outer dimensions (HxWxD): 40 x 45 x 28cm

Inner dimensions (HxWxD): 31.5 x 44 x 25cm

Weight: 4.4kg

Stated capacity: 30 litres  Can capacity: 49

Key features: Two-year warranty, also available in 32, 45 and 57 litres, four cup holders on top of the lid and a set of wheels

This cool box is one of two we've tested which has a set of wheels and an extendable handle. 

We found one of the wheeled cool boxes we tested to have particularly loud wheels, but which was it?

Log in or join Which? to find out.

How does an electric cool box compare?

Outwell ECOcool Lite 24L (12V/230V)
Outwell ECOcool Lite 24L (12V/230V)

Unsurprisingly, the electric cooler we tested, the Outwell ECOcool Lite 24L (12V/230V), outdid the passive coolers in the insulation test, with only a small temperature increase across the day. However, one of the passive coolers wasn't far off. 

With this particular electric cooler, there's little guidance on how long you should have it cooling down for before use. We pre-cooled ours for 15 minutes but we'd recommend doing it for longer because the temperature only stabilised after about four hours.

Although they stay cold, the issue with electric cooler boxes is that they aren't very portable. The most widely available tend to only be compatible with car cigarette lighters, and those that can be powered by both your mains and your car still have to be plugged in at all times to keep chilling.

Cooler box temperatures over time

We measured the temperature of chilled bottles of water in each box on the hour, every hour, across the day. 

Log in or join Which? today to see the results

ModelTemperature increase after four hoursTemperature increase after eight hours
Electric cool box3.0°C3.2°C
Best cool box1.9°C4.0°C
Worst cool box6.0°C8.8°C

How we tested cool boxes

Insulation 

We put a chilled bottle of water and two ice packs into each box. The ice packs were kept in the freezer overnight and then left in the boxes for 30 minutes before testing began. We attached thermocouples (a sensor for measuring temperature) into each bottle and left them for the day, taking temperature readings on the hour, every hour. 

To replicate typical use we opened and closed the boxes four hours in – and then every 30 minutes.

Durability

Sturdy design is important for a cool box. If it can't take a small impact from a short height then it's unlikely to have a long life span. We dropped each box from waist height five times from different angles, giving boxes with cosmetic damage a better score than those with damage affecting usability.  

Portability

Being able to comfortably lug around your food and drinks can make any camping trip that bit better. To help find you the most portable cool boxes we looked for features that improved portability such as wheels and extendable handles and penalised those that didn't have them.

Leak proofing 

We filled the boxes with 500ml of water and left them sitting on top of a bed of paper towels for an hour. After the hour we checked for any leakage onto the towels and poured the water back into the measuring jug to check we hadn't missed any leakage.

Which type of cool box is best for me?

  • Passive: The standard non-electric cool box and the type that we've tested. All they need is ice or ice packs to keep them cool and, because of this, they are far cheaper than thermoelectric coolers. 
  • Thermoelectric: These don’t require ice but they do require power. You either plug the box into your car (12V) or into your mains (230V) depending on what its required voltage is. They require constant power and the majority of them are only compatible with 12V. You can get battery-powered boxes, but they’re less common and far more expensive.
  • Compressor: These top of the range coolers are usually on the larger side, starting at 40 litres, and they resemble a mini-fridge. They can be powered through your car, mains or through built-in solar panels. Often they're high tech – you can even get apps to control them.
  • Absorption: Similar in size and design to the compressor cool box, but you can also power these through gas.

Video: How to make clear ice using your cool box

Watch our video below to find out how you can make clear ice, which tastes nicer and melts slower for impressive cocktails and drinks using your cool box.

Cool boxes vs cooler bags

Cooler box with food and drink inside it.

If you're thinking of investing in a cooler bag or cool box, our tests showed some key differences worth considering before making your purchase:

Build - Cooler bags are easier to store, as they're made from soft foldable material, but offer less protection than a cool box when in use. We also found that when they aren't completely full, cooler bags have a tendency to collapse in on themselves, knocking over the bottles inside. 

Features - It's common for cool boxes to have a nozzle for draining water out of them. Some even have taps attached for drink decanting – ideal for larger events. Cooler bags generally don't have these, but do have side compartments and mesh pockets for organisation.

Portability -  Cool boxes might seem more cumbersome on the face of it, but some come with wheels and extendable handles which makes transport a full box much easier. But wheels won't take well to sand and other uneven grounds, and most cooler bags can be slung over the shoulder. You can even get backpack style bags making carrying cooler bags comfortable even on long walks.

Size - You'll generally find larger capacity with cool boxes. You can get cooler bags up to 50 litres at a push, but if you need more consider a box instead.

Holidaying with a large group, or throwing a big garden party? In this case a cool box will likely meet your needs better than a cooler bag. However if you're into trekking, or just want something to keep your lunch cool for work, then a cooler bag is the way to go.