What to Look For in a Fishing Cooler


Updated on November 18, 2022 by
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

When picking a fishing cooler, you should consider the insulation’s thickness, capacity, portability, and weight.

There are some very important tips you’ll want to keep in mind when shopping for a good fishing cooler. Among all the many brands and models available online or in large retail stores, a few specific areas of importance will help you determine which coolers are better than others. If you’re looking to save a few bucks and get a cooler that’s a bit more budget-friendly, you can pick out the specific areas of importance and look for coolers that deliver on those areas while still being priced at an affordable rate. 

Coolers at a camp site

Insulation 

When purchasing any fishing cooler, the most important thing you’ll want to look at is the insulation capability. This is the cooler’s ability to keep the contents cold and preserved, despite the outside temperature. Several new brands have emerged in the last decade, and many are geared toward offering premium-quality coolers with outstanding insulation. 

Brands like Yeti, Rtic, Pelican, and others have quickly established a reputation among anglers in the fishing industry for producing top-notch coolers that can keep ice for more than a week in some cases. These coolers can do this thanks to thicker, dense insulation material that has been scientifically developed over the last few decades. You can usually equate the thickness of the cooler’s insulation to its insulation’s quality and ability to keep ice. 

Some brands produce a more lightweight material that is not quite as thick as others but still somehow able to keep its interior contents ice-cold. These models are typically made by companies that create much more expensive products than your average fishing cooler. 

What to Wear Fishing: Essential Clo...
What to Wear Fishing: Essential Clothing Guide [2022 Update]

Capacity 

Some anglers require a larger cooler, while others can usually get by with a medium or smaller size. The size of the fish usually dictates the size difference you plan to catch. If you’re an avid offshore angler who routinely goes after massive fish like wahoo, tuna, snapper and others, You should choose a cooler based on the number of items you plan to keep inside or ice you’ll need to store your fish adequately. 

If you’re fishing on a boat and plan to be on the water all day, you’ll need a cooler that can keep a good amount of ice, which should be at least 45 quarts of capacity or more. 

Size 

The size of a fishing cooler and its capacity go hand-in-hand, but it’s important to note that you should be aware of the specific size cooler you need if you’re limited on space in your boat. You should consider the size of your boat and whether a cooler can fit on board comfortably or if it might take up too much space and be hard to store. Another important aspect of fishing coolers that you need to pay close attention to is the overall weight, especially when it’s fully loaded with ice or anything else. 

Cooler Size Chart
Illustration of Cooler Sizes, Source: BestCoolersInfo.com

I use my cooler exclusively for my own supplies and get a fish kill bag I use for my catch.

Ice Retention 

Among the best fishing coolers and the most popular brands on the market today, you’ll usually find that companies advertise that their coolers can keep ice for a specific number of days at a time. Some premium-quality cooler brands are well-known for keeping ice for up to a week or more, but others might not fully deliver on the timeframe they claim that their cooler model can store ice without melting. 

It’s important to read through as much information about the specific cooler you want. By checking the reviews and reading what other real customers say about a cooler, you’ll have a better grasp of just how long it can keep ice. This is especially important if you’re fishing in hot temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Most premium coolers are designed to hold ice no matter the outside temperature, but others that are not as well-made might be more susceptible to experiencing faster melt times in extreme heat. 

Durability 

In most cases, you won’t need a fishing cooler built like a tank, but some anglers who venture into the deep wilderness might require a predator-proof cooler. Some of Yeti’s newest models are made to withstand a curious bear’s attempts to get into the cooler and find out what’s inside. If you are traveling through more rugged areas with rivers and predators, investing in a cooler with better overall durability is a good idea. 

As for the average angler, you still need to pay close attention to the durability level of the cooler you’re considering. Some brands have a better reputation than others when it comes to toughness; this more or less comes down to the components and materials used to make the cooler. 

Portability 

Most anglers are content with lugging their cooler onto the boat and fishing all day. For some, it’s more important to have less difficulty moving their coolers from one location to another. This is especially important if you’re fishing solo and have a fully-loaded cooler that might weigh more than 100 pounds.

Getting a cooler with wheels or one that can be worn as a backpack is a smart move depending on where and how you plan to fish. Some coolers are built to be easily moved, while others might be more difficult to carry and unload.

You can also get coolers that fit inside a fishing cart. It’s a good idea to consider the overall portability of a cooler before purchasing. 


Photo of author

Russ Egan

Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.