Portable coolers are essential if you are going on surf fishing trips. Selecting a new cooler can be a headache-inducing task for most people. There are too many brands and too many models on the market. So, you might waste money on something that does not fit your needs.
I personally like the Igloo BMX Cooler With Cool Riser Technology. It is the perfect combination of durability and utility. The BMX series also comes in many sizes, so it’s much easier to find a perfect fit.
As veterans know, the success of surf fishing depends largely on how fresh your bait is. A cooler can help keep bait fresh and act as a storage unit for more fish and other items. So, you cannot choose any random cooler for the job. I’ve made this guide to help you find the best cooler for fishing.
7 Best Cooler For Fishing
There’s no such thing as “best” for fishing coolers. They are comparable to fishing tackle, reels, and rods. Different ones are better, depending on the situation. That said, here’s a list of all the ones I think are worth looking into:
1. Igloo BMX Cooler With Cool Riser Technology
The Igloo BMX With Cooler Riser Technology is one of the most efficient coolers. It’s highly durable, has excellent ice retention, and has many other cool features. The cooler comes in three different sizes.
The smallest of them is the 25-quart, then the 52-quart, followed by the 72-quart. I prefer the 72-quart because it’s the perfect size for placing on the tailgate.
Despite how it looks, the BMX is not a roto-molded cooler. Igloo calls it the blow mold, which is different from the roto mold. The main body of the cooler is one solid piece of construction.
The singular mold allows it to have exceptional durability compared to the random riff-raffs.
Blow molding also makes it more insulated than other regular coolers. Igloo claims it has an ice retention time of 5 days.
While the statement is technically true, it is only in a controlled environment. The ice retention lasts just around 4 days in harsh conditions under the sun. Still, that in itself is quite nice.
One downside to this cooler is the lid. It is a heat-insulated lid but not completely watertight. That may be a bit of a dealbreaker for some people. But the only time it will leak is if you tilt it halfway down.
On the other hand, there is an engraved scale on top of the lid. That’s a great feature to help you measure your catch.
- Blow-molded Durable Body
- Sturdy Lid
- Great Ice Retention
- Reinforced Heat Insulation
- Lid Is Not Watertight
2. Coleman Steel-Belted Cooler
Maybe you don’t want a futuristic-looking cooler at all. Maybe your heart craves the feel of authentic metal coolers with a retro vibe. Steel-belted coolers from Coleman are exactly that.
It is one of the most aesthetically beautiful coolers available. Its distinct appearance alone sets it apart from the competition.
But it’s not just a pretty flower. The Coleman Steel-Belted Cooler has huge storage space, and it’s solid as a brick. Even the handles are solid steel with rubber insulators.
It also has a rust-resistant coating, so don’t fret about saltwater corrosion too much. It might get some scratch marks if you let it hit harder objects.
However, the entire body is not steel. It’s mostly hard plastic with a steel casing. That is why they call it “steel-belted.” It does not have as much ice retention as roto-molded or blow-molded coolers.
But it still lasts for around 3 to 4 days in harsh conditions. The lid can hold around 70 kg of weight.
Despite being made of stainless steel, this cooler is one of the lightest ones. It is a truly compact piece of equipment that will fit almost any car.
The stainless-steel parts are also easily replaceable if they ever receive damage. It does have a plastic drain channel, so cleaning the cooler should be easy.
- Sturdy Design
- Decent Ice Retention
- Aesthetic Appearance
- Plastic Bottom
3. YETI Roadie 24 Cooler
Yeti is well-known for making high-quality coolers. The YETI Roadie 24 Cooler is a slightly controversial model from their lineup. It is a compact cooler with a narrow structure. Instead of being wide, the cooler is taller. That gives it the ability to fit into cramped storage spaces while still retaining a respectable capacity.
The YETI Roadie-24 Cooler comes with a hard-sided case. It has thicker walls that offer better impact resistance and insulation. These walls are layered with permafrost technology.
There are small pressurized air gaps inside the wall that insulate the whole thing from outside contact. These features, along with the roto-molded frame, give it unprecedented ice retention.
The YETI Roadie 24’s clear-cut structure seems like a very basic cooler. But it has plenty of nifty features to offer. It has compact latches that you can operate with one hand.
They used heavy-duty fabric to make the carrying straps. It is exceedingly easy to carry around, even when full. The only issue is that the strap grip wears off after a year.
You can replace the strap or completely remove it. The strap is too short to carry over the shoulder. It has a seal around the lid to make it partially watertight.
It will still drip water if you turn it over, though. But the week-long ice retention is enough to ignore minor inconveniences.
- Compact Design
- Sturdy Exterior
- Excellent Ice Retention
- Lightweight Material
- Strap Grip Wears Off
4. Igloo Outdoor Sportsman Heavy Duty Hardsided Cooler
The Igloo Outdoor Sportsman Heavy Duty Hardsided Cooler is a dedicated outdoor cooler. It has the inherent capacity to help keep fish fresh for longer. It has excellent ice retention for five days. Aside from that, the cooler also comes with a large pair of wheels.
Coupled with a sleek telescoping handle, it is one of the most portable coolers on this list.
There are quite a few other options in the Outdoor Sportsman series. For example, you can get 120- and 150-quart coolers that do not have wheels.
They are harder to move but have a significantly larger capacity. The side handles are plastic with rubber covers. I like how it gives my hands a sturdy feeling when I hold them.
These coolers have much larger drain channels compared to other ones. The drain platform inside the cooler is also wider. The channel is also threaded, so you can attach a hose to it.
The faster drainage comes in handy when you want to clean up. These coolers also have commercial gaskets to keep cool air in when you open the lid.
The lid also has a notch at around a 90° angle. This notch keeps the lid from automatically closing once you open it past that threshold. It also has reinforced stainless-steel latches. The metal parts are highly resistant to rust and saltwater corrosion.
- Insulating Gasket
- Portable Wheels
- Fast Drainage
- Highly Durable
- Very Heavy
5. Coleman Xtreme Portable Cooler
The Coleman Xtreme Portable Cooler is a very compact yet durable plastic cooler. It is lightweight and sturdy at the same time. Coleman coolers are known for their thermal resistance, and the Xtreme series does not disappoint in that regard.
It has an ice retention period of 5 days. But that drops to a little more than 3 days in harsh sunlight.
The new addition of thicker walls and a lid gave it the necessary insulation. The walls are roughly 3.80 cm on average. The lid is a bit thicker than the side walls.
The lid itself is sturdy enough to be used as a seating apparatus. However, it is not reinforced enough to support more than 110 kg. So, I would recommend against standing on it.
The Coleman Xtreme Portable Cooler also has a fishing ruler like the Igloo BMX. These grips help immensely with moving larger coolers. Its drain channel helps immensely. This cooler also has an odor- and stain-resistant inkling, making it ideal for storing fish.
I am not a fan of the color black when it comes to coolers. Black absorbs heat too much. Colman claims the exterior is UV resistant, but the heat still lowers its ice retention. You wouldn’t want to sit on a black lid in the middle of summer.
- High Capacity Storage
- Comfort Grip
- Decent Ice retention
- UV Resistant
- Durable Exterior
- Not Watertight
- Black Color Absorbs Sunlight
6. Yeti Tundra 65
The Yeti Tundra 65 Cooler has been a popular fishing cooler for a long time. This cooler is sturdy and has a lot of storage capacity.
Not anything to write home about, but not insignificant either. The body is a roto-molded structure with industrial-grade gaskets on the lid. That gives it an ice retention duration of about 4 days.
The ice retention of the Tundra series mostly comes from its massive internal capacity. It is more of a stationary cooler, as in, you don’t want to move it around too much.
It can get quite heavy when full, but it’s good for keeping at the tailgate. I would avoid using it on a week-long trip, though, just to be safe.
This cooler comes with an anti-slip bottom plating, which ensures that it does not slide out of the vehicle when you reposition it. It has a cold-lock gasket that tightly keeps the cold air in. It is also one of the few gaskets that offer a somewhat watertight seal.
- Excellent Durability
- Lip Grip Handles
- Fat Wall Insulation
- Stability Features
- A Bit Heavy
7. Pelican 30 Quart Elite Cooler
The Pelican 30 Quart Elite Cooler is a relatively new name in the cooler manufacturing industry. The Pelican Elite is a highly compact, durable, and portable cooler from their lineup.
Its a very narrow cooler, but it has a much higher vertical length. It is an excellent cooler with a modern design.
The vertical design helps it with accommodation issues that most other coolers face. It has a top-quality roto-molded exterior. The lid also has an excellent quality gasket to ensure a watertight seal. The Pelican elite also boasts extremely high impact resistance.
The inner lining has a 2-inch polyurethane wall, which gives it a significant boost in ice retention. There is also a one-handed carrying handle on this cooler.
It has a notch in the joints that lock it down when it reaches a 90-degree angle. I like how they made the locking mechanism double as a bottle opener.
One downside to this cooler is that it lacks a drain channel. But with how small it is, turning it upside down to clean is not much of an issue. The lid on this thing is also not watertight.
So, it will spill if you tilt it down low enough. I do think the lack of a drain channel is a significant downside. That, coupled with its low storage capacity, is why I placed it so low on the list.
- Sturdy Design
- Excellent Ice Retention
- Lightweight Build
- Not Watertight
- No Drain Channel
How To Choose The Best Cooler?
Fishing coolers are generally more heavy-duty compared to regular coolers. Here are some things you need to check before buying one for surf fishing:
Storage capacity is a matter of preference in most cases. However, surf fishing still requires a certain standard. In the surf, the fish are usually pretty big. Things like redfish, bluefish, and pompano can reach a fairly decent size.
You should try to get a relatively larger cooler for fishing purposes. Small (20 qt. or below) coolers can’t handle too many of them. Not to mention, you also need space for the ice.
Toughness is one of the necessary prerequisites for a fishing cooler. The cooler acts as a platform for spreading other tools most of the time. Sometimes people use it as a seat. People generally don’t move the cooler around too much on the beach.
Low-quality coolers usually don’t have the durability necessary to handle this much stress. So, get a cooler with a sturdy exterior for fishing. The interior also needs enough strength to handle live fish.
Level Of Insulation
Another reason why you need a sturdy cooler is the insulation. The insulation level directly correlates to how long your ice will stay frozen. Soft-shelled coolers are much worse at ice retention than hard-shelled ones.
This is why everyone uses hard-shell coolers for fishing. There is also a significant difference in ice retention levels, even among the hard-shell coolers. That’s why it is necessary to check the duration before investing in one.
Level Of Portability
Portability should not be an issue for surf fishing. You would usually keep the cooler stationery. It is a storage unit that doubles as a workspace. Most people keep it on their car’s tailgate. So, you probably won’t need too much manual lifting.
You may want to get a lightweight cooler if your preferred fishing spot is like that. Softshell coolers are also viable in that case. However, some beaches prohibit vehicle entry.
Hardshell coolers are usually made from reinforced plastic and metal. Most of them get a few additional layers of insulation lining. That’s why the sturdy coolers seem slightly heavy compared to the softshell ones.
Softshell coolers are better for storing drinks and other consumables. They are easier to carry because the fabric and plastic combo ensures a lightweight build. But they also have comparatively weaker ice retention.
Useful Hacks To Increase Your Fishing Cooler’s Efficiency
The fundamental job of a cooler is to keep the temperature as cool as possible for a long time. But did you know you can make an ice melter even more efficient? Try adding some salt to the ice in your cooler. That will extend the ice retention a lot.
A thicker lid usually means better insulation. The lid absorbs most heat when your cooler sits in direct sunlight. You can make it cooler by placing a wet towel over the lid.
Speaking of lids, keep an eye out for the “bear-resistant” mark when buying a cooler. They will have better lock systems.
You can keep your fish fresher by making an ice slushy inside the cooler. Putting your fish directly on the ice will make it colder on one side. Submerging the fish in an ice slushy will ensure even coldness. Avoid doing this if you are on a long fishing trip, though.
I hope you found this guide helpful in finding the best cooler for fishing. In this article, I’ve talked about how you can pick the right cooler for your fishing needs. I’ve also shared some tips to make the best of you cooler. If you are looking for a cooler, any of the 7 coolers on this list will do fine for you.
In my opinion, the Igloo BMX takes the cake as the best-rounded cooler of the bunch. It has respectable ice retention, portability, and durability all in one. The other ones have specific features that let them shine on their own, but the BMX is better on average.