Best Lunch Coolers – (Personal Ice Chests + Reviews & Guide 2018)

Breakfasts are overrated. Many people now consider lunch as being the most important meal of the day. But when you’re on your lunch break, finding a healthy and nutritious meal might be problematic. This is where a lunch cooler comes in handy.

These coolers give you the possibility to pack your own tasty lunch instead of eating in a cafeteria, and they can keep your food fresh for hours. But can these coolers be useful for those who work long shifts?

Well, they actually can.

The best lunch coolers can keep your food fresh for more than 30 hours, and they’re still compact enough to be highly portable.

In the following article, we take a closer look at the top 6 coolers you can use in an urban environment without standing out and examine the features that make them suitable for everyday use.

Best Lunch Cooler Reviews

  • 4.4 Customer Rating
  • Coleman 9-Can Cooler
  • PRICE $$
  • Material : Textile
  • Capacity: 9 Cans
  • Ice Retention : 24 Hours
  • Dimensions : 9.4 x 6.7 x 10.2"
  • Weight : 1.31 pounds
  • 4.0 Customer Rating
  • Pelican 12-Can Cooler
  • PRICE $$$$
  • Material : Double-coated TPU outer fabric
  • Capacity: 12 Cans
  • Ice Retention : 24 - 36 Hours
  • Dimensions : 13.5 x 7 x 12"
  • Weight : 3 pounds
  • 4.3 Customer Rating
  • BALORAY Insulated Lunch Bag
  • PRICE $
  • Material : Polyester
  • Capacity: Decent-sized lunch and one or two drinks
  • Ice Retention : 4-8 hours
  • Dimensions : 9.6 x 6.5 x 8.5"
  • Weight : 3.52 ounces
  • 4.3 Customer Rating
  • PuTwo Lunch Bag Tote
  • PRICE $$
  • Material : Thick insulated cotton design
  • Capacity: 2 bento boxes + 3 can of coke
  • Ice Retention : 6-8 hours
  • Dimensions : 9.4 x 8.7 x 6.3"
  • Weight : 12 ounces
  • 4.2 Customer Rating
  • Fit&Fresh Lunch Cooler Bag
  • PRICE $$
  • Material : Mesh pocket / Double thick insulation
  • Capacity: 6 cans
  • Ice Retention : 3-6 hours
  • Dimensions : 8 x 8 x 6"
  • Weight : 8 ounces
  • 4.3 Customer Rating
  • Yeti Hopper 12-Can Cooler
  • PRICE $$$$$
  • Material : Tough nylon/rubber type material
  • Capacity: 12 cans
  • Ice Retention : more than 30 hours
  • Dimensions : 12.6 x 10 x 11.5"
  • Weight : 3.5 pounds

1. Coleman 9-Can Cooler

We start off this list with one of the most popular models currently available on the market. The Coleman 9-can cooler is a great unit for everyday use because it’s large enough to hold a decent-sized lunch and some drinks, and it can keep your food fresh for several hours.

We really appreciated Coleman’s simple and effective design. This model offers a good storage space that will hold some food casseroles and drink cans comfortably, and it also comes with three non-insulated pockets for dry storage. These pockets are not extremely spacious, but they’re large enough to hold napkins and eating utensils. The cooler also comes bungees on the top, so you can extend its carrying capacity.

As far as this cooler’s effectiveness is concerned, the Coleman will keep your drinks cold for several hours, depending on how many ice packs you pack along with your food.

Pro

  • Removable Liner – This cooler comes with a removable liner, so you won’t have any difficulties cleaning it.

Con

  • Zippers Can Snag The Insulation – Make sure you arrange the insulation liner after you pack the cooler, otherwise, the zippers can snag it.

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2. Pelican 12-Can Cooler

The Pelican soft cooler is a top-of-the-line model suitable for those who work in warm environments without having access to a refrigerator. This model uses a very effective insulation, and it will keep your food fresh for a long time.

We were impressed by the Pelican’s cooling capacity. Even though it’s not particularly large, this model can go head to head with larger, more expensive models. The cooler can keep your drinks cold for more than 24 hours at a time relying on a single ice pack. Some customers report that the cooler kept a cool temperature for more than 36 hours, so it’s safe to say it’s very effective.

Even though this is one of the best coolers currently available on the market, its price can seem expensive, especially if you factor in its storage capacity. The cooler will hold up to 12 cans of drinks, but you will probably be better off packing only 10 and more ice packs if you want to keep them cold for a long time.

Pro

  • Long Lasting Cold – The cooler will keep your food and drinks cold for up to 36 hours in the right conditions

Con

  • Expensive – This model performs great, but it also comes at a steep price.

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3. BALORAY Insulated Lunch Bag

The BALORAY insulated lunch bag is the cheapest cooler we included on our list. This model is a great unit for everyday use, and it will hold a decent-sized lunch and one or two drinks.

We were actually impressed with the cooler’s storage capacity. This model doesn’t seem overly large, and the pictures don’t do it justice. However, the cooler is larger than you would expect, and it will hold one or two food casseroles along with one or two drink cans.

Another good thing about this cooler is that it doesn’t look like a cooler at all. You can take this model everywhere you go and people would assume it’s a normal bag or a purse. The cooler’s handles are comfortable and sturdy, and the exterior fabric is aesthetically pleasing.

Pro

  • Looks Great – This cooler has a nice design and its exterior comes in different stylish patterns which make it seem like an ordinary bag instead of a cooler

Con

  • Lining Could Be Better – The cooler’s lining is not very easy to clean, and you will have to wash the entire bag every time you spill something inside it.

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4. PuTwo Lunch Bag Tote

The PUTwo lunch bag is a good model that comes with many helpful features. This personal cooler offers a good storage capacity, and it can keep your drinks cold for up to 8 hours.

One of the things we liked about this model was its design. This cooler is designed like a classic lunch box, and it will hold both sandwich boxes and drink cans comfortably. The cooler comes with an adjustable shoulder strap and a padded handle for an increased portability, and it offers three dry storage pockets. While these pockets are not extremely large, you can use them to store food utensils and small accessories like gadgets and keys.

This cooler comes with YKK zippers that open easily, and it uses two layers of insulation. The first layer protects the bottom of the bag, and you can use the second one to keep fruits or biscuits away from the ice or to keep sensitive objects from getting smashed.

Pro

  • Comfortable To Use – This cooler offers you the possibility to arrange your food with the help of an insulation layer, which can be very helpful when you want to keep things away from the ice of to keep them separately.

Con

  • Thin Shoulder Strap – The cooler’s shoulder strap is pretty thin, and that makes it somewhat uncomfortable to use.

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5. Fit&Fresh Lunch Cooler Bag

The Fit&Fresh cooler bag is a good budget choice for those who are looking for a unit they can use on a daily basis. This cooler has a storage capacity of 6 cans, and it comes with a comfortable top handle and an adjustable shoulder strap for an increased portability.

We liked that even though the cooler has a small storage capacity, it gives you the possibility to arrange your food and drinks so they will be within easy reach. Besides the insulated compartment, the cooler comes with a good-sized front pocket that can hold small accessories like gadgets and food utensils.

As far as the cooler’s effectiveness is concerned, this model will keep your drinks cold and your food fresh for several hours. However, you should keep in mind that this is a small cooler, and even though an ice pack might extend its cooling capacity, it will also take up valuable storage space.

Pro

  • Small And Compact – This cooler has a small and compact design that will allow you to take it with you everywhere you go

Con

  • Limited Storage – The cooler has a storage capacity of 6 cans, but you will actually be able to pack only 4 if you pack some ice beside them.

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6. Yeti Hopper 12-Can Cooler

We finish off this list with one of the most effective coolers available on the market today. The Yeti Hopper can hold up to 12 cans of drinks alongside the ice it needs to keep them cool, and it can maintain a cool temperature in its insulated compartment for a long time.

Honestly, everything about the Hopper is impressive. The cooler is spacious, and it will hold food casseroles and drinks comfortably. The zippers have a high-quality, and they won’t snag on the material. The cooler’s handles and shoulder strap are sturdy and comfortable, allowing you to carry the cooler without any problems even when it’s full.

And as for effectiveness, the Hopper can keep your drinks cold for more than 30 hours.

But you would expect all these specks from a high-end cooler, wouldn’t you? After all, you’re paying big bucks to own a Yeti cooler. However, one of the good things about the Hopper is that you can actually see that your investment was worth it.

Pro

  • Great Cooling Capacity – The Hopper can keep your drinks cold for 30 hours or more if you pack enough ice.

Con

  • Prohibitive Price – Even though this is a great cooler, it comes at a steep price.

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10 Must-Have Features Of A Lunch Cooler

Best Lunch Coolers

Packing your own lunch for work can save you a lot of money. Moreover, packing your lunch is a great solution for those who want to eat healthily. And the best part is, there are plenty of lunch recipes that are way tastier than the food you would get from a cafeteria or a fast-food stand. But if you really want to enjoy the lunch you packed, you have to store it so it would be fresh when you eat it. That’s where lunch coolers come in handy. These units are small and compact, and they will keep your food fresh without having to use the refrigerator. Let’s take a look at some of the features that make coolers suitable for work lunches.

  1. Compact Design – Unlike marine coolers, lunch coolers don’t have to be too big. In fact, it would be better to find a cooler that’s large enough to fit your lunch, but small enough to fit under your desk or even on top of it. The best lunch coolers are small and compact, but they are large enough to accommodate one or two meals, especially if you pack them right.
  2. Lightweight – You don’t need to carry a steel cooler every time you go to work. Not only are these coolers bulky, but they can also be unnecessarily heavy. Good lunch coolers are lightweight, and they won’t be too heavy even when they’re fully loaded.
  3. Pleasant Exterior – Going to work with a classic-shaped cooler just won’t do, especially if you work in an office environment. Lunch coolers have interesting designs, and many of them come in various color patterns that make them suitable for modern urban environments.
  4. Durable – You will probably use your lunch cooler daily, so it’s very important to find a durable model. Even though a lunch cooler doesn’t have to be as durable as a rotomolded model, finding a unit that’s capable of withstanding a daily punishment will be an advantage. Models like the Pelican 12-Can Cooler are constructed out of high-quality materials, and they should last for a long time.
  5. Portable – Since you have to carry them to work every day, personal coolers have to be highly portable. Most of these coolers come with features that improve their portability, such as padded handles or shoulder straps.
  6. Good Cooling Capacity – Unlike camping coolers, lunch coolers don’t necessarily have to keep your drinks cold for days on end. However, they have to be capable to maintain a constant temperature in their insulated compartment so the food you packed would be warm or cold at lunchtime. Even so, some people work long shifts so the coolers they use should keep their food fresh for more than several hours. If this is the case, you should look for high-end models like the Yeti Hopper 12-Can Cooler that can keep your drinks cold and your food fresh for more than 30 hours. Moreover, a cooler will also keep your meals safe.
  7. Low Maintenance – Commutes are long and often crowded, so your cooler might tilt and bounce once in a while when you’re in a hurry. Even if you somehow spill something in your lunch cooler, you shouldn’t worry. Most of these models have a low maintenance, and their interiors can be cleaned using water and a mild detergent.
  8. Suitable For Children – Not only adults need to eat healthy lunches, children do too. Good lunch coolers are suitable for children. They’re small enough for the kids to carry, and some of them come with fun designs and exterior patterns that will make the kids want to take them to school.
  9. Cost Effective – Let’s face it, you shouldn’t spend a lot of money on a cooler that needs to keep your drinks cold from morning to lunchtime. On the other hand, it’s only natural for a cooler that can keep your drinks cold for more than 30 hours to cost more than a model that can keep them cold for 5. You should find a model that’s cost-effective for your needs, depending on your schedule and on the cooler’s performance.
  10. Spacious – A good lunch cooler doesn’t have to be able to hold a lot of weight, but it should be able to accommodate a decent-sized meal and some drinks. You should look for a model that’s spacious enough to fit your regular lunch and more. A healthy work lunch also contains some snacks and fruit, so it’s always better to have more storage space to work with.

Best Lunch Coolers Comparison Chart

PRODUCTPRICEMATERIALCAPACITYICE RETENTIONDIMENSIONSWEIGHT
Coleman 9-Can Cooler
$$Textile9 Cans24 Hours9.4 x 6.7 x 10.2"1.31 pounds
Pelican 12-Can Cooler
$$$$Double-coated TPU outer fabric12 Cans24 - 36 Hours13.5 x 7 x 12"3 pounds
BALORAY Insulated Lunch Bag
$PolyesterDecent-sized lunch and one or two drinks4-8 hours9.6 x 6.5 x 8.5"3.52 ounces
PuTwo Lunch Bag Tote
$$Thick insulated cotton design2 bento boxes + 3 can of coke6-8 hours9.4 x 8.7 x 6.3"12 ounces
Fit&Fresh Lunch Cooler Bag
$$Mesh pocket / Double thick insulation6 cans3-6 hours8 x 8 x 6"8 ounces
Yeti Hopper 12-Can Cooler
$$$$$Tough nylon/rubber type material12cansmore than 30 hours12.6 x 10 x 11.5"3.5 pounds

Wrap Up

As you could see in our short reviews, lunch coolers come in different shapes and sizes. Be that as it may, but the best lunch coolers have several things in common. They are highly portable, so you can carry them everywhere you want, they can keep your drinks cold for at least several hours, and they’re cost-effective.

Moreover, these models don’t look like coolers, so you can take them to work without standing out on your daily commute. Some of them actually have pleasant shapes and designs, and they might even attract compliments from coworkers.

But the best thing about using a personal cooler is that you can pack your own lunch and make sure you eat high-quality nutritious food instead of whatever they serve at your local cafeteria.

We hope that this article gave you some insight on how to choose a good personal cooler and that it helped you with making an informed decision on which fits your needs.