Best Fishing Coolers – (Reviews of Ice Chests For Fishing 2019)

Fishing Cooler ReviewsFishing is one of the oldest activities of mankind, and it still manages to fascinate and amuse us. Fishing can be described as a sport, a relaxing activity, a bonding experience, and a hobby at the same time, and none of those descriptions would be wrong.

There are a few activities as enjoyable as fishing, and being sure you have everything you need for your trip close at hand will make this activity more relaxing than ever. Fishing coolers stand out among their peers thanks to their spacious storage capacities. These models not only keep your food fresh and your drinks cold, but they also keep your tackle arranged and within easy reach.

The best fishing coolers come with multiple pockets that allow you to store and arrange your baits and lures, and they will keep your drinks cold for up to two whole days.

Let’s take a look at the top fishing coolers currently available and the features that make them good for fishing trips.

Best Fishing Cooler Reviews

PRODUCTDETAILS
NorChill Realtree Soft Cooler

NorChill Realtree Soft Cooler

  • Price : $$$
  • Cold For : up to 48 hours
  • Capacity : 48 Can
  • Dimensions : 3 Size Options
  • Made : 900 Denier
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Extreme Pak Camo Cooler

Extreme Pak Camo Cooler

  • Price : $
  • Cold For : up to 10 hours
  • Capacity : 16 Can
  • Dimensions : 12-1/4 x 9 x 9-1/2″
  • Made : Polyester construction
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Swell Avenue Camo Cooler

Swell Avenue Camo Cooler

  • Price : $$$
  • Cold For : All Day
  • Capacity : 24 Can
  • Dimensions : 12 x 10 x 12″
  • Made : PU fabric / mesh pocket
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Mossy Oak Leak Proof Cooler

Mossy Oak Leak Proof Cooler

  • Price : $$
  • Cold For : Several hours
  • Capacity : 12 Can
  • Dimensions : 15.4 x 8.9 x 2.9″
  • Made : 600 D water resistant material
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RTIC Soft 30-Can Cooler

RTIC Soft 30-Can Cooler

  • Price : $$$$
  • Cold For : up to 24 hours
  • Capacity : 30 Can
  • Dimensions : 13.75 x 9.5 x 13.5″
  • Made : Tough, laminated fabric and welded seams
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Arctic Zone RealTree

Arctic Zone RealTree

  • Price : $
  • Cold For : Several hours
  • Capacity : 16 Can
  • Dimensions : 11.25 x 6.25 x 8″
  • Made : SuperFoam® insulation
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1. NorChill Realtree Soft Cooler

NorChill Realtree Soft CoolerWith an insulated storage capacity of up to 48 cans, the NorChill Realtree soft cooler is the largest model we included on our list. Unlike the coolers we presented so far, this model is better suited for long fishing trips or for those who pack for more people when they go fishing.

We liked the NorChill’s attention to detail when they designed this cooler. Every material the manufacturer used in the construction of this cooler has a high quality. The zippers are unbreakable YKK, the shoulder strap is made out of tightly-woven nylon, and both the shoulder strap and the handles come with comfortable padding.

As far as the cooler’s effectiveness is concerned, this model will keep your drinks cold for up to 48 hours, so it’s suitable for a weekend getaway. Thanks to its large storage capacity, the cooler will also be able to hold enough food and drinks to last for the whole weekend.

Even though the cooler is large enough to store the freshly caught fish, you shouldn’t do that as the fish scales can damage the cooler’s insulation lining.

Pro

  • Great Cooling Capacity – This model can keep your drinks cold for up to two days.

Con

  • Leaks When It Tips Over – Even though the cooler is normally leak-proof, the water will leak if it reaches the zipper.

2. Extreme Pak Camo Cooler

Extreme Pak Camo CoolerAnother popular model, the Extreme Pak Camo cooler is large enough to hold up to 16 cans of drinks alongside the ice it needs to keep them cool. This model offers a lot of storage space for your tackle, making it a public-favorite among fishers.

We liked that the cooler comes with multiple pockets beside the insulated compartment. This will allow you to arrange and compartmentalize your tackle as you see fit, and it will also make every item easier to find.

Each of the cooler’s pockets is secured with a zipper, so you don’t have to worry about losing anything on the way to your fishing spot.

As far as the cooler’s effectiveness is concerned, this model is capable of keeping your drinks cold for up to 10 hours, depending on the ambient temperature and if you place it out of the sun.

Pro

  • Great Value – This cooler provides ample storage space, it keeps your drinks cold for a long time, and yet it manages to come at a great price.

Con

  • Zippers Snag – The cooler’s zippers tend to snag the material around them if you open them too quickly. It’s better to take your time when opening them than to ruin the insulation lining.

3. Swell Avenue Camo Cooler

Swell Avenue Camo CoolerThe Swell Avenue Camo cooler is a good model for every catch-and-release fisher. This cooler is large enough to fit all your drinks for the day and efficient enough to keep them cold. Moreover, the cooler comes at a great price, and it offers plenty of storage room for your tackle besides the drinks.

One of the things we appreciated about this model is that it has a sturdy build. The zippers seem durable and secure, and the mesh pockets extend the cooler’s storage capacity. The shoulder strap is adjustable, and it allows you to carry the cooler with ease, even when it’s full of drinks and food.

As far as the cooler’s storage capacity is concerned, this model can fit a food casserole and a few drinks besides. If you’re not interested in packing any food, the cooler will fit about 20 drinks and the ice it needs to keep them cool throughout the day.

Pro

  • Spacious – This cooler looks compact, but it’s actually very spacious allowing you to store both your drinks and your lures without any problems.

Con

  • No Padding – The adjustable shoulder strap doesn’t have padding, so it can bite into your flesh when the cooler is full.

4. Mossy Oak Leak Proof Cooler

Mossy Oak Leak Proof CoolerThe Mossy Oak cooler is a good budget choice for those who like to make short fishing trips. This model can fit up to 10 cans of drinks, and it comes with several pockets that will help you arrange your lures and tackle.

We liked that this cooler is very easy to clean. The exterior fabric is water-resistant, so you can clean most of the dirt and debris that spoil the cooler’s appearance using water and mild detergent or by brushing it.

Even though the manufacturer advertises this model as being capable of holding 12 cans of drinks, you will only be able to fit up to 10 cans alongside the ice they need to stay cool. However, the cooler’s storage capacity will hold a decent lunch and some drinks, so it’s more than enough for most fishers.

Pro

  • Keeps Drinks Cold – This cooler is really good at keeping your drinks at a cool temperature for several hours.

Con

  • False Claims – The manufacturer advertises this model as being able to fit 12 cans of drinks, but if you store 12 cans into it, the cooler’s lid won’t close even without any ice.

5. RTIC Soft 30-Can Cooler

RTIC Soft 30-Can CoolerNow we come to the most popular model on our list. The RTIC soft cooler has a storage capacity of up to 30 cans of drinks plus ice, and it can keep your drinks cold for a long time.

We were impressed by the cooler’s well-thought design. This unit is lightweight, yet it’s also very sturdy. The cooler’s zipper has a no-leak design that will prevent the water resulted from the melted ice to leak outside the insulation compartment.

Thanks to its thick insulation, this model will keep your drinks cold for up to 24 hours, depending on the ambient temperature, so you might even return with some ice from your fishing trip.

If we had to choose a thing RTIC could improve, it would be the shoulder strap. The cooler has a high-quality build, but the shoulder strap comes with a thin plastic karabiner that’s flimsy and prone to breaking, especially if you fill the cooler to its maximum capacity.

Pro

  • Long-Lasting Ice – The cooler can keep the ice from melting for up to 24 hours, so it’s safe to say it will keep your drinks cold as well.

Con

  • Plastic Karabiner – Despite the cooler’s good overall quality, the karabiner is made out of cheap plastic and is prone to breaks

6. Arctic Zone RealTree

Arctic Zone RealTreeThe Arctic Zone RealTree cooler is a good medium-sized model that will keep your food fresh and your drinks cold for several hours. This model comes with a zipperless lid, and it’s spacious enough to hold both your drinks and your tackle.

One of the things we liked about this model was its zipperless design. The cooler’s lid has a flip-open design which can be quite helpful when you’re fishing. This design makes the cooler very easy to use, and you can even handle and open it using a single hand.

The cooling compartment is large enough to fit up to 16 cans of drinks, and it comes with a shelf that makes arranging the food and drinks easy. Thanks to the dry storage compartments it comes with, the cooler can also hold a large variety of baits and tackle.

Pro

  • Easy Access The lid’s flip-open will provide you easy access to your belongings. This can be advantageous when you’re fishing and your hands are busy.

Con

  • Water Leaks – The flip-open design of the lid is both a pro and a con. The design will grant you easy access to your drinks, but it will also allow the water to leak if the cooler tips over

9 Features Your Fishing Cooler Should Have

Best Fishing Coolers

It’s safe to say that only amateur fishers or newbies go fishing without a cooler. But sometimes even the most experienced fishers can mistake a normal cooler for one that’s suitable for fishing. To avoid making this mistake, we recommend you look for the following features when shopping for a fishing cooler.

  1. Good Insulated Storage Capacity – A fishing cooler has to offer a well-insulated storage capacity. No, that doesn’t mean you have to take the largest metal cooler with you every time you go fishing. However, that means you should always make sure your fishing cooler is large enough to store the fish you catch and your provisions. There’s nothing worse than reaching a good fishing spot and realizing you didn’t bring enough drinks after only a couple of hours. Moreover, certain fishing techniques like fly fishing are time-consuming, so you need a cooler capable of keeping fish fresh until you cook it.
  2. Dry Storage Compartments – Whether you’re passionate about river fishing or you enjoy fishing in saltwater, you know that having a proper technique is only a small part of the equation. The rod you use, the tackle, and the spot make up for the rest. Now, when you go fishing, you need to pack a lot of things. From baits to lures and lines, you need to be prepared for every situation possible. And you can’t prepare for everything if you don’t pack for everything. That’s why choosing the right fishing cooler is very important. Not only will these dry pockets allow you to pack your lures away from your drinks, but they will also allow you to arrange your tackle so everything is easy to find.
  3. Portability – It’s safe to assume you’re going to walk for a while before you reach a good fishing spot. This means you’re going to have to carry the cooler until you reach the spot. Now, when you’re going fishing, the cooler can get somewhat heavy, so using a model that’s highly portable is always an advantage. The best fishing coolers come with padded shoulder straps and handles that make carrying them easier.
  4. Water Resistant – Unlike inflatable coolers, fishing models don’t have to be impervious to water. However, they have to be somewhat water-resistant if you want to use them when you’re fishing.
  5. Low Maintenance – Say anything you want about fishing, but don’t say it’s a clean activity. In fact, it’s very difficult to fish without getting your hands dirty. And when your hands are dirty, everything around you gets dirty as well. This means you’re very likely to spoil the appearance of your fishing cooler with every trip you make, so it’s rather important for the model you choose to have a low-maintenance. High-quality models can be cleaned easily, and their linings are usually removable and machine-washable.
  6. Sturdy – Fishing coolers have to be sturdy. They don’t have to be as resilient as rotomolded coolers, but they have to be able to withstand some damage, nonetheless. But unlike other coolers, those that are suitable for fishing have to be able to handle the damage coming from inside of them rather than outside. When you’re packing baits and fishing hooks it’s only a matter of time until one of them snags on the cooler’s material. This is why choosing a cooler that comes with thick insulation like the RTIC Soft 30-Can Cooler can be a very good choice. We have compiled a list of marine coolers too.
  7. Secure Pockets – The fishing hooks, the baits, the lures, and the lines can be really small at times, and losing them can ruin your day. Using a fishing cooler that comes with multiple zippered pockets will not only keep them from falling out of the pocket, it will also make arranging them easier.
  8. Leak Proof – Unlike other types of coolers, the units you take with you when you’re fishing are more likely to stand in direct sunlight. Sometimes the shore is only a distant spot on the horizon, other times there’s nowhere to shelter from the sun. When you place a cooler in direct sunlight, the ice inside it will melt faster, so more water will accumulate in the insulated compartment. If the cooler is not leak-proof, the water will leak outside.
  9. Durable – A fishing cooler is good only if it’s durable. Since you don’t use it every day, and you might have whole seasons when you don’t use it at all, a good fishing cooler should last for a very long time.

Fishing Cooler vs. Regular Cooler

Fishing Cooler vs. Regular Cooler

You might wonder whether a fishing cooler is a sensible investment, or you could go around it and use a regular cooler instead. The truth is that you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of having an adequate cooler when fishing. Keeping your fish in an appropriate environment will make the cleaning and filleting process significantly easier when you get home.

But is the difference between the two that significant? Or does it come down to marketing at the end of the day?

  • Main Differences Between the Two

There are many ways in which fishing coolers differentiate themselves from regular coolers. For one thing, a fishing cooler is designed in such a way as to withstand harsher environments and conditions. A regular cooler is meant to be used simply for keeping a bunch of beers cool while hanging out on the beach or at a barbeque. Ideally, you shouldn’t leave a regular cooler too much time in the sunlight, as this will most likely make the ice cubes melt.

On the other hand, we have fishing coolers – you can definitely keep such a cooler in the sunlight all day long. In addition to that, you won’t have to worry about exposing it to salt water, for instance. We couldn’t say the same about regular coolers that aren’t made to withstand such conditions.

At the same time, a fishing cooler has a non-slip built, not to mention that it will keep the fish fresh during the length of your trip.

  • Additional Features of Fishing Coolers

Now, let’s get a bit into more detail regarding the actual features you’ll find in fishing coolers. For one thing, these units boast better ice retention. This is, perhaps, the one reason why you might be better off investing in a fishing cooler, as it is definitely capable of keeping your drinks, food and bait fresh and cold for much longer.

Another noteworthy difference would be the insulation of the cooler. Fishing coolers usually have better, thicker insulation in comparison with standard coolers. That will maintain your contents cooler for longer. In the case of excellent insulated coolers, you might be able to freeze the fish – this may apply especially in the case of the more expensive models, which are more capable altogether.

Some fishing coolers feature anti-rust components. This is mainly because, during fishing, you might expose the cooler to saltwater. And as you may already know by now, saltwater is notorious for creating rust. Once again, this depends on the manufacturer and the type of fishing you’re most fond of – whether it is saltwater fishing or freshwater fishing.

Another difference you might find in some fishing coolers would be the non-slip characteristic. This can come in handy as things are hardly steady on a boat. This is primarily why fishing coolers come with non-slip feet and you might be able to secure them to the boat.

Evidently, there will be a price difference between a regular cooler and a fishing cooler, but this is self-explanatory due to the many additional features it has.

FAQ about Fishing Coolers

  • What makes the best fishing cooler?

Some people might say that one fishing cooler is the best, whereas others will say the exact same thing about another product. But ultimately, it will depend on the way in which you intend to use the cooler. As a rule of thumb, your best indicator of a cooler’s reliability would be the insulation rating. The higher the insulation rating, the more consistent the temperature will be – and this is of great importance for keeping the fish fresh.

  • For how long can I keep the fish in the cooler?

Generally speaking, it is best to process the fish as soon as you can. But since this isn’t always a possibility when you’re on a fishing trip, you should keep track of the remaining ice. As long as you can see that there is ice left inside the cooler and the fish still feels cold to the touch, everything is under control. But you should keep track of the fish to ensure that it doesn’t go bad. Otherwise, all your efforts will account for nothing.

  • How long will the fish stay cold in a fishing cooler?

Typically, the fish will stay cold for roughly three days or so. Nonetheless, there are some state-of-the-art, more expensive models that may keep the fish cold for up to seven days. In order to maximize the cooling retention of your cooler, you should prime it in advance.

  • Is it better to opt for a portable bag or get a fishing cooler instead?

For the most part, this comes down to the way in which you will arrive at the fishing spot, the length of the trip and how you plan to fish. Basically, in the case of long fishing expeditions and boat fishing, you might be better off with a sturdy, durable fishing cooler. This would mean that you’ll get a lot of use out of it.

Now, let’s say that you intend to move a lot on foot, or you’re planning a kayak fishing trip. At the same time, if you’re into short trips, you might choose a portable bag instead. That’s because it is more lightweight, portability being a key advantage. And if you get a high-quality bag, it will most likely keep your fish fresh for an entire day. But it is not a good investment if you usually prefer lengthier fishing trips. Most fishers choose to invest in both and use the one that suits their needs best for the type of fishing trip they plan.

  • How do I clean my fishing cooler?

It’s very important to keep your fishing cooler clean. Otherwise, you will most likely deal with a nasty smell that’s difficult to get rid of. Basically, what you should do is rinse the cooler thoroughly. Afterward, the next step would be mixing some dish soap with baking soda. You should use that mixture and a sponge to scrub the surface of the cooler. You might also consider spraying the surface with food-safe bleach, for a boost of protection.

Best Fishing Coolers Comparison Chart

PRODUCTPRICECOLD FORCAPACITYDIMENSIONSMADE
Swell Avenue Camo Cooler
$$$All Day24 Can12 x 10 x 12"PU fabric / mesh pocket
Mossy Oak Leak Proof Cooler
$$Several hours12 Can15.4 x 8.9 x 2.9"600 D water resistant material
RTIC Soft 30-Can Cooler
$$$$up to 24 hours30 Can13.75 X 9.5 X 13.5"Tough, laminated fabric and welded seams.
NorChill Realtree Soft Cooler
$$$up to 48 hours48 Can3 Size Options900 Denier
Arctic Zone RealTree
$Several hours16 Can11.25 x 6.25 x 8"SuperFoam® insulation
Extreme Pak Camo Cooler
$up to 10 hours16 Can12-1/4 x 9 x 9-1/2"Polyester construction

Wrap Up

As you could see from our short reviews, even though fishing coolers have different designs, all of them offer the same advantage. These models are capable of keeping your drinks cold and your tackle organized at the same time. This might not seem like much at a first glance, but when you’re sitting at the edge of the water, having everything packed in a single bag can be really useful.

Even though these models are not designed to keep your drinks cold for a very long time, the best fishing coolers can maintain a low temperature in their cooling compartment for up to two days, making them suitable for long fishing trips.

When it comes to fishing, finding the right cooler is only a matter of preference. You should factor how frequently you go fishing, how much time you usually spend on a fishing trip, and how much you eat and drink on a trip before deciding on a model.