What Is The Best Cooler For Overlanding?

Anyone looking to ditch the hustle and bustle of normal life and escape to calm, open land knows that overlanding is the best way to go. But of course, any time you leave the grid, you need to bring some food with you. After all, you still gotta eat! So, how can you make sure you have fresh, ready-to-eat food and drinks for the long haul?  You need a great cooler. But not just any cooler will do. No, you need cooler that will withstand the beating that overlanding can give it.

Bear with head in a cooler. Probably not the best cooler for overlanding

What are the best coolers for Overlanding? Here’s our favorites:

  1. RTIC 45 Quart Cooler
  2. Elkton Outdoor Ice Chest
  3. Canyon Coolers 55qt Outdoors Cooler
  4. KENAI 65 Cooler
  5. Landworks Rotomolded ENHANCED Ice Cooler

Overlanding coolers aren’t the regular old coolers you remember from years past. They’re built to hold up to the rough conditions on the trail and keep your food cold no matter the climate. Check out our top 5 tried and tested overland coolers on the market.

What Is an Overlanding Cooler?

When you think about traveling to a remote location with nothing but a cooler in your arsenal, flashbacks of trips to the beach when you were 16 might pop into your head. The cooler was wimpy, it could hardly store anything, and by the end of the 4-hour car ride, the ice was completely melted—not exactly something you would want to trust on an Overlanding mission, right?

Well, coolers have come a long way since their humble beginnings. Today’s coolers are made with roto-molding and foam technologies. This means coolers utilize thermo-molded plastics to ensure they’re durable and insulated to stay cold for extended periods. Some coolers even offer a week of insulation at a time, which is perfect for long-haul expeditions. 

However, there is a small downside to using coolers: they need ice to keep things cool. Now, this isn’t a significant issue if you’re going on a weekend trip or even possibly a week. But eventually, the ice is going to melt no matter how great the seal is. This could lead to spoiled food and warm drinks. 

Although an overlanding cooler will keep food colder a lot longer than a typical cooler, they can’t hold food cold beyond a week, at best. Anyone looking for month-long excursions might want to pass on the cooler and go for an overlanding fridge (yes, they exist). Even the best cooler on the market will struggle to keep ice cold for that long.

If you’re ready to start shopping for your icebox away from home, here’s how to pick out the perfect overland cooler to suit your needs.

Difference Between a Regular Cooler and an Overlanding Cooler

One difference you might notice right off the bat is the hefty price tag of an overlanding cooler compared to something smaller you’d take on a three-hour-long beach trip. But there’s a good reason. Regular coolers don’t have roto-molding. Overland coolers with roto-molding can hold ice for days at a time, long after the ice in a regular cooler would have turned to water.

‘Regular’ coolers designed for day trips are cheaper and don’t have the same construction or durability as an overlanding cooler. They also don’t seal as well, which means the ice will melt at a rapid pace—usually anywhere from 24 to 48 hours—which isn’t ideal for someone going on a week-long trip.

The lack of sealing with a regular cooler can also lead to leaks. While this won’t cause too much trouble if you’re only using it for a few hours, you don’t want to mess with leaks in your rig. 

Regular coolers differ from overlanding coolers immensely. Are they worth the price tag? Yes. Overlanding coolers are designed to keep your items cold and ready to be consumed for several days, which is imperative for overlanders. 

What to Look for in a Cooler

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for an overland cooler. Here are some things to consider when you’re meddling through the options:

  • Interior space – The size of the overland cooler is the most important part of finding the perfect cooler. You need to make sure there’s enough room inside the cooler to store all your food and drinks. Don’t forget about the ice! Ice takes up a lot of space in a cooler, so make sure you choose one that’s big enough to hold everything.
  • Portability – A lot of overland coolers have wheels on the bottom so they can be rolled from location to location with ease. This might be the best choice if you’re planning to move from spot to spot—like from your rig to that awesome overlook you found.
  • Sealing ability – While most overland coolers come with roto-molding, some might not be up to date. You should make sure the cooler has roto-molding for the best seal possible. The better the seal, the longer your stuff stays cold (and the fewer leaks you’ll have to deal with).
  • Overall size – Besides making sure there’s enough room inside, you also need to make sure the overall size is adequate for you. Keep in mind that the cooler is going to take up a lot of room wherever it’s stored. Make sure it is going to fit into the space you need it to. Most overland rigs don’t have spare storage space, so make sure a cooler will fit before swiping your credit card.
  • The look – This is obviously less important, but every overland cooler comes with its own style. Make sure it’s visually appealing and fits your overlanding style. 

Top 5 Overlanding Coolers

Now that you know what an overland cooler is and what to look for, it’s time to reveal our top five picks. These coolers have been tried and tested to offer superior results. They’ll keep your items cool and ready to be consumed thanks to their supreme insulation. Let’s take a closer look at these state-of-the-art coolers:

RTIC 45 Quart Roto-Molded Cooler

The RTIC 45 Quart Roto-Molded Cooler is a top choice for overlanders. One of the best features of this overland cooler is the 3 inch insulation that will keep your ice rock-solid and cold for days at a time—even if it’s left out in hot temperatures in direct sunlight. It won’t melt or get damaged by the sun thanks to UV resistance. 

If you’re in the mountains or woods, you won’t have to worry about critters getting into your cooler. It’s bear resistant. With heavy-duty rubber latches to keep the lid on tight and non-slip rubber feet, this is undeniably one of the most durable coolers on the market. You’ll also enjoy the no fail hinges, lockable lid with padlocks, and an option for tie-down straps.

It’s not enough to stop your worries at ice retention; you should also be careful about the materials an overland cooler is made from, as some can be damaging to food and your health. But that’s no concern with the RTIC 45 Quart Roto-Molded Cooler. It’s made with food-grade polyethylene, which doesn’t include any harmful dyes, chemicals, or additives.

Convenience is key with this overland cooler. The built-in water drain ensures no water leaves the cooler without your approval, and when ready, simply remove the water using the easy-to-use drain plug.

This overland cooler is a great choice for less than $200. It’s my go-to choice for a weekend trip.

Top Pick Overall
RTIC 45 qt Hard Cooler
  • Roto-molded construction with heavy duty T-latches and a freezer grade gasket will store all your necessities with ease.
  • Going on a long trip? No problem. Up to 3" of insulated walls will keep your ice cold for days.
  • No fail hinges, no sweat exterior, cool lift design, molded side handles and tie downs so your cooler is always where it needs to be.
  • At RTIC we don’t see the reason for making products that our customers can't afford. That's why our products are the HIGHEST QUALITY for the LOWEST PRICE.
  • If you have an issue with your product, RTIC will make it right.
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Elkton Outdoors Ice Chest

The priciest, yet one of the top picks for overlanding coolers is, without a doubt, the Elkton Outdoors Ice Chest. This is a superior choice if you’re willing to shell out a few extra dollars, as this model will cost you a little over $300, but wait until you hear all the fantastic features this overland cooler has to offer.

The Elkton Outdoors Ice Chest prides itself on being one of the most portable coolers on the market. It’s equipped with rugged wheels for ease of transportation from location to location. You can fill the cooler to the max without having to worry about breaking your back lugging it around the campsite.

Made with precision and quality in mind, this cooler offers military-grade nylon rope handles you know won’t ever let you down. Aside from that, it also comes with Gorilla Grip non-slip rubber feet and tie-down slots with lock plates to keep your items in place no matter how far off road you go.

This high-tech overland cooler also comes with a recessed, no-leak drain plug to ensure all liquids stay inside until you’re ready to drain. It also has a built-in pressure release valve and 2 bottle openers!

Designed with rotomolded thermoplastic construction, you can depend on this overland cooler for all your needs for years to come. It’s incredibly tough and sturdy, complete with a heavy-duty rubber cold-seal latch and UV protection. Thirty inches of insulation ensures your items stay colder for longer.

To put it simply, this is the best overland cooler on the market. From its durable construction to the ease of use, it’s a cooler you can trust whether you’re going for a weekend trip to the mountains or going deep into the desert. It may be a bit pricier, but you can’t argue with quality. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth with this product.

Top Pick For Long Trips
Elkton Outdoors 75qt Ice Chest
  • Designed For the Outdoors: 75 Quart capacity, extra wide drain plug, fish ruler, anti bear lock plates, bottle opener and non slip feet makes this ice chest ideal for the outdoors!
  • Built To Last: Each fishing cooler is built with top grade rotomolded injected plastic creating an incredibly durable single piece design makes this ice chest nearly indestructible!
  • Superior Insulation: This commercial grade insulated cooler features an extra wide freezer gasket and super tough rubber latches creating an airtight seal and up to 5 days of ice retention!
  • Easy To Clean: Extra wide drain plug and non stick surface allows for quick and convenient cleaning and draining!
  • Sleek Design: Curved edges, low profile handles, and clean finish brings style and functionality in one highly durable fishing cooler!
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Canyon Coolers 55 Quart Outfitter Cooler

The Canyon Coolers Outfitter Series 55qt is an excellent choice for any overlander. This high-quality overland cooler comes with a whopping 55 quarts of storage space, with a max can capacity of 56 cans. 

In terms of ice retention, you can feel confident in this overland cooler. It’s designed with HUNTX foam that’s extreme pressure injected. What this means for the consumer is maximum ice retention that can last anywhere from 5 to 14 days!

This cooler comes with a 100% recessed cam latch as well as a bulletproof hinge. Don’t worry about unwanted leaks thanks to the no-lose drain plug, and keep your items secure with the handy locking lid made with Brutally Tough PE. 

Downside: There are no wheels on this overland cooler. Since it’s such a large cooler, this isn’t ideal if you don’t have someone to help you carry the cooler when it’s loaded.

Canyon Coolers Outfitter Series 55qt
  • 55 Quarts - Max Can Capacity: 56 cans - Ice Retention: 5 to 14 Days
  • 100% Recessed Cam Latch, Integrated Bullet Proof Hinge, No-Lose Drain Plug, Locking Lid
  • HUNTX foam is extreme pressure injected, making for maximum ice retention.
  • Brutally Tough PE RotoMolded cooler shell - IGBC Grizzly Resistant Bear Certification #3769
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KENAI 65 Quart Cooler

A sleek design isn’t all the KENAI 65 Cooler has to offer. No, they use a rotomolded seal with thick, strong, durable walls made of rotationally-molded LLDPE plastic to ensure maximum performance, no matter where you end up on your overlanding excursion. 

Are you an overlander who strives to protect and help save the environment? Then you’ll be glad to know that not only is the KENAI 65 Cooler a durable and sophisticated cooler, but it also uses Ecomate insulation for optimal cooling. This type of insulation isn’t made with any type of volatile organic compounds, so its production doesn’t contribute to global warming or ozone depletion.

Thanks to a state-of-the-art silicone rubber gasket, it’s never been easier to keep your items nice and cold, even out in extremely hot temperatures! Cold is easily kept inside, which means you can enjoy longer adventures without fear of drinking lukewarm soda.

Opening this cooler is a breeze thanks to the one-handed latch. But don’t worry; just because it’s so easy to use, doesn’t mean it lacks security. You can rest assured the latches stay in place and keep your items secure throughout your mission.

This overland cooler is around the same price as the previously mentioned coolers at about $250. Again, you won’t find wheels on this model.

KENAI 65 qt Cooler
  • ROTOMOLDED - If the walls of a cooler aren’t uniform in thickness, the strength and durability of that cooler is questionable at best. Our coolers are built with rotationally-molded LLDPE plastic to ensure even wall thickness, durability, and max performance on every adventure.
  • ECOMATE INSULATION - We want to protect The Good Land for all of us to enjoy. KENAI Coolers use Ecomate for optimal cooling. We also use it because this unique insulation has no global warming potential, no ozone depletion potential, and is made with no volatile organic compounds.
  • LID GASKET - A cooler isn't cool if it doesn't keep things cold. KENAI Cooler lids seal for optimal insulation even in hot temperatures with a silicone rubber gasket to keep cold air trapped inside to extend the life of ice. Everything for your adventures stay colder, fresher, longer.
  • LATCHES - When you've got an armful of stuff for the cooler and no one's around to open the lid for you - what do you do? Give a quick, one-handed flip of the latch and you're in. So is your stuff. Secure the latch and the lid won't open.
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Landworks Rotomolded ENHANCED Ice Cooler

This top-shelf overland cooler goes well beyond the minimum standards and offers a up to 10 days of ice retention! That’s pretty impressive, but at 20 quarts this cooler is probably better suited for those overnight or short weekend trips.

Touted as the ‘cream of the crop’ when it comes to overland coolers, this nifty product is designed with 3-inch thick walls that are insulated for success. The shell is UV protected with a commercial grade 360-degree D-Seal freezer gasket, which means ice and cold temperatures are trapped inside. 

Aside from durability and superior construction, this cooler is also convenient. The recessed zero-leak drain plug ensures that no water is leaked or emptied without your permission, and molded tie-down slats help everything stay in place. This cooler also comes with a handy steel handle with a comfort grip for easy maneuvering.

Surprisingly, despite its high praise, this cooler is the cheapest model on the list. You can pick one up for around $150, making it a cost-effective solution that doesn’t skimp on quality.

Landworks Rotomolded 20QT Cooler
  • Our Rotomolded 20QT / 8.9L Ice Cooler goes BEYOND the minimum standard Days of Ice Retention but up to 3-5 Days or LONGER (if pre-cooled, kept in low: temps & UV index). Food Grade Safe, Dry Ice Compatible, approx. (23) 12oz Can Capacity (no ice added) & Tough Enough to Endure Whatever Nature Throws at You
  • Our Cooler has 3" THICK Insulated Walls, All Round UV Protective Shell, Commercial Grade 360° D-Seal freezer Style 15mm Gasket (Trapping All Cold Inside), Recessed Zero-Leak Drain Plug, Molded Tie Down Slats & a Lock in Place Steel Handle with Ergonomic Grip
  • Dual Built-In Stainless Steel Lock-plate Bottle Openers, Non-Skid Feet, Sleek Low Profile Snag-less TPE T-Clasp Latches that are Tight & Lock Flush. (Internal Dimensions: 14.4L x 8.1W x 10.4H Weight: 16.7lbs [empty])
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Chill Out with a Great Overland Cooler

An overlanding cooler is a handy storage space for food and beverages. Its portability makes it a must-have for any overlander. For most models, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $400 for a quality cooler. That might sound steep for a cooler, but they’re built to last, and you’re sure to get plenty of use out of them for many adventures to come.

James with daughter on the trails

About James...

Hi, I’m James. If I’m not working on this site, you can often find me outdoors roaming the trails. I’m an avid hiker, mountain biker, and overlander. I’m excited to share my passion for the outdoors with you.