What to Know When Buying a Cooler for Camping

What to Know When Buying a Cooler for Camping - Car Camping Cooler

A car camping cooler is good for way more than just car camping. Quick, name an activity that’s not better when you have cold beverages and fresh snacks at the ready. If you managed to name a single activity I’d be impressed. Day hikes, snow days, family road trips, sporting events, you name it–I’ve never regretted packing a few drinks. And you know who else loves me for it? My hiking buddies, fellow parents, and thirsty kids.

When it comes to buying a cooler, it’s important that you get the very best camping cooler for the money. Premium cooler technology has become widely available to the point where you can get elite performance without putting a chill through your bank account. But what features really matter? What should you be looking for when shopping for a camping cooler? Does it have to break the bank or can your camping adventures be fully supported by an affordable rotomolded cooler?

Here are the features to know as you shop for your cooler and why they’re important.

Rotomolded Construction

Rotomolded, short for rotational molding, is a manufacturing technique that results in a durable plastic with consistent wall thickness. This makes it harder for the cold to escape and the heat to get in. Frankly, a rotomolded cooler for car camping is the way to go for anyone looking for maximum ice retention and durability. Rotomolding also decreases the amount of resources wasted in the manufacturing process, making it a more environmentally friendly option than many traditional coolers.

standing on a camping cooler to load up the car

Storage Capacity

What size camping cooler you need will depend on your activities, your vehicle and the size of your group. Rotomolded coolers are typically measured by the quart and can range in size from 10 Quart to 400 Quart. Ideally you’ll have multiple coolers, so you can pack the large cooler for the family camping trip and the smaller one for a fishing float with a friend. But if you’re going to start with one, get something that you know will fit in your vehicle or boat and that suits the majority of your outdoor adventures. Size requirements differ depending on what you’re planning to bring, where you’re planning to go, and how long you’re planning to be away for any given trip. And whether you have a midsize or large cooler, the way you pack it is essential.

maxing out the storage capacity of your camping cooler

Bear Proof Seal

Have you ever laid awake in your tent debating with yourself about whether your food is safe from animals? The right cooler will put a stop to those worries. Make sure your cooler is certified bear-proof. This ensures that bears, along with all manner of other critters, won’t raid your stash while you’re zonked out.

Bear proof coolers, like bear proof garbage cans, help maintain the health of the ecosystems we use them in. By keeping wild animals out, they’re prevented from choking on or ingesting plastic. This also minimizes the likelihood that wild animals develop unnatural preferences for human food. Rotomolded coolers from Cascade Mountain Tech bear the Bear Proof Seal, meaning they are certified bear-resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, an organization dedicated to keeping both people and bears safe.

family using their heavy duty rotomolded camping cooler


Instead of tipping or turning a cooler upside down, most coolers have a drain plug or drainage system for getting the water out of the bottom of your cooler. Just as the name suggests, a drain plug is a plug at the bottom of the cooler that, when unplugged, lets the water from the melted ice out. This is a must-have feature. Any cooler worth its weight will have a good drain plug. Apart from keeping your food from getting soggy, getting rid of the water also makes the ice last longer and minimizes the weight of your packed cooler.

opening the drain plug on a heavy duty rotomolded camping cooler

Durable Parts

Coolers loaded with features can be great, but are those features durable? Your cooler should be passed down to your kid or nephew, not tossed in the dumpster after a season or two of use. Handles, latches, feet, and wheels should be designed and built with the same care as the cooler’s core capacities and features. Look for features like woven rope handles and heavy duty rubber latches. You’ll be glad you did.

carrying a camping cooler with durable woven rope handles


With the fundamental knowledge about coolers now at your disposal, you’re ready to shop confidently. Ready to hit the road with your new cooler? Check out these articles for inspiration on planning your next trip. These are all cooler-friendly adventures: winter camping, road trips, winter adventures.


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