What is the Best Type of Cooler for Travel

Aside from the fact that coolers nowadays come in many different shapes and sizes – they also come in several types. But which is the best type of cooler to take with you when you travel?

Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer when it comes to the best type of cooler to travel with. Instead, it really boils down to the type of trip that you’re going to be taking.

Soft-Side Coolers

Soft-side coolers are basically insulated bags, i.e. with soft walls.  Although they can come in various sizes the capacity of these coolers is generally smaller than other types of coolers. This makes sense seeing as they are designed to be carried.

In many ways that is exactly what makes them a great option for travel – and they are very portable. However the insulation on these coolers is not as good, and the durability can’t be compared to other types of coolers either.

Suffice to say, if you want a cooler that can keep food and drinks chilled on a day trip or one that is easy to lug around – it is definitely a good fit. However, for longer trips, it may not be as well-suited.

Hard-Side Coolers

Hard-side coolers are the ‘standard’ type of coolers that you’re probably familiar with. The size and capacity of this type of cooler can vary quite a bit, ranging from very small to extremely large.

One of the main advantages of this type of cooler is the fact that they have better insulation than other options. On top of that they are normally more durable overall, and the ‘heavy-duty’ options tend to be made of more durable materials and have better joints or latches.

The big drawback of this type of cooler for travel is it isn’t very convenient to carry around. However, some have features to help get around that, such as the best coolers with wheels.

Hard-side coolers are decent in most cases but not so ideal for trips that require them to be carried for long periods.

Disposable Coolers

Disposable coolers are typically Styrofoam boxes that come in various sizes. The insulation on these coolers is not that great, but it will get the job done in the short term.

Overall it is worth considering a disposable cooler for short trips or one-off use, due to the fact that it is cheap. However, for long-term use, it isn’t very ideal.

Powered Coolers

Powered coolers are hard-side coolers (mostly) that are designed to be portable refrigerators. Because of that they share most of the traits of normal hard-side coolers, but tend to have better insulation and can regulate the temperature to keep it low.

Needless to say this type of cooler is only suitable for travel if you have a source of electricity. Some powered coolers can be plugged into the DC outlet of vehicles, or to a wall socket.

Unfortunately powered coolers aren’t cheap and are in fact more expensive than most other types of coolers. In most cases, you will only want to use one for travel if you really need to keep certain food or drink items at a low temperature over a long period.


That covers the best types of coolers for travel. Hopefully, that helps you to see how each one is suited to specific cases. Ultimately it is up to you to decide exactly which type would suit your trip the best.

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