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The best cool boxes and bags to buy in 2022

Keep your beers chilled and your snacks fresh by investing in a handy cool box. We round up the very best options, whether you’re heading to the park, beach or campsite.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Sep 23, 2021

Cool box on the beach

Sometimes you just can’t beat an ice-cold drink. And with staycations more popular than ever, it’s well worth investing in a quality cool box to keep your food and drinks chilled wherever you are. Whether you’re taking a picnic to the beach or supplies to a campsite, a cool box is a handy accessory for trips near and far. 

But what kind of features are worth spending money on and what’s the best cool box to buy for you and your family? Whether your priority is keeping beers cold or sandwiches fresh, there’s a cool box out there for you. 

Here are the best cool boxes to buy in 2021.

1. Best overall cool box: Coleman 36QT Xtreme Cooler

Coleman Xtreme cool box

Price: £103 | Buy now from Amazon

"I have a Coleman Xtreme Cooler. It’s advertised as able to keep ice for up to 5 days in temperatures reaching 32 degrees centigrade. This is one of the most affordable quality boxes on the market. It is quite big, but I think smaller ones keep ice for only 3 days in 32 degrees centigrade. This Xtreme range is really good in my opinion as most cheap boxes usually cool to about 18 degrees below ambient temperature. So anything above 22 degrees centigrade and you have a problem and tents warm up quite a bit on sunny days" - Kmski 

"I've just returned from my first trip with my new Coleman Xtreme and thought it was excellent" - reallyneedmoresleep

The Coleman Xtreme cool box range gets a lot of love on the Mumsnet forums for finding the sweet spot between value for money and performance.

This wheeled cooler is designed with premium polyethylene insulation technology in the walls and the lid which can keep contents ice cold for days. It’s ideal for longer camping trips too; it’s BPA-plastic free so it’s suitable for food. Just pair the box with a cooling pack (sold separately) to keep things fresh for up to five days. 

While the design is very traditional, it does come with nifty features like a sturdy handle and cup holders in the lid that will keep your beverage cool and within easy reach!

Key specs

  • Size: 70 x 38 x 44cm
  • Weight: 5.6kg
  • Capacity: 48 litres
  • Type: Passive cooler

2. Best budget cool box: Campos 24l Cool Box

Campos cool box

Price: £15 | Buy now from Argos

Think of Spain and you think of the sun, so it’s probably no surprise that this Spanish-made Campos cool box does a fine job of keeping things cool.

Its 24-litre capacity provides enough room to hold about 60 cans or six 1.5-litre bottles of pop. It’s lightweight and ergonomic too with a handle that clamps the lid in place to protect your precious cargo when you’re transporting it from A to B. As with any passive cool box, you’ll need to slip some ice packs in in advance to cool things down.

Key specs

  • Size: 40 x 55 x 35cm
  • Weight: 3.8kg
  • Capacity: 24 litres
  • Type: Passive cooler

3. Best large family cool box: Icey-Tek 56-litre Long Cool Box

Icey Tek cool box

Price: £220 | Buy now from Cool Boxes UK

"I have an Icey Tek 55l (is the 56l the long box?) and love it. We toyed with the long box but it actually wouldn't fit in our car and the square one is not much better. It's amazing how much stuff you can actually fit in it and it's mystical cold keeping properties will amaze you for years to come" - TheFantasticMrsFox

"Yes, I recommend Icey Tek too. We just bought one and camped for four nights - still had ice in our drinks on the last night! They are big and expensive though" - isambardo

"I've just bought an Icey Tek and I'm really impressed with it! We only bought a 25l because we're only weekend campers (and tend to drink red wine!)" - mrsm43s

Any cool box is the same as any other, right? Wrong – at least according to the Icey Tek afficionados on the Mumsnet forums.

The Icey Tek is a serious bit of kit – it’ll keep your contents frozen for two days and cold for up to 10 days with no power, thanks to its high quality insulation. You can see the build quality in the seals, latches and hinges - and the manufacturer backs it with a five-year guarantee.

One thing to bear in mind though – this box is a lot bigger than some others on the list, so you’ll need to make sure you can fit it in the car, and have someone willing to carry it to wherever you’re heading!

Key specs

  • Size: 65.5 x 27.5 x 30cm
  • Weight: 14kg
  • Capacity: 56 litres
  • Type: Passive

5. Best cool box on wheels: IGLOO Outdoor Maxcold Latitude Cool Box, Grey, 56 Litre

Igloo cool box

Price: £109 | Buy now from Amazon

"I’ll recommend Igloo cool boxes. We have 56L and so long as I cool it down the night before it lasts me 5 days (have not tried for longer) - I do change the ice blocks if possible if away for that long though" - hillbilly

"We have an Igloo cool box which is amazing. It's massive but obviously you can get smaller than our 56 litre. I chill it down a day before and it lasts us a good few days" - hillbilly

Cool boxes can get a bit heavy when they’re packed with all the food and drink a family needs for a few days, so putting one on wheels is a great way to ease the load.

This Igloo cool box can hold 56 litres and will keep your food and drinks ice cold for up to five days, while also claiming to use a more eco-friendly type of foam for its insulation.

Key specs

  • Size: 55 x 45 x 53 cm
  • Weight: 6.18kg
  • Capacity: 56 litres
  • Type: Passive

5. Best electric cool box: Outwell Ecocool Cooling Box

Outwell Ecocool cool box

Price: £119 | Buy now from Amazon

"We have an Outwell one. It's great and runs of mains or car battery while driving. It's not very big though" - hillbilly

This electric cool box offers really powerful cooling – it will keep anything inside it 18 degrees cooler than the outside temperature when plugged in. And you can hook it up to the mains, or a 12v adapter in your car.

If you need further cooling, it also has a built-in freezable water bottle which will bring the temperature down as well as doubling up as a divider to keep things organised.

Key specs

  • Size: 42.5 x 42.5 x 30.5cm
  • Weight: 4.6kg
  • Capacity: 24 litres
  • Type: 12 volt

6. Best budget electric cool box: Mobicool MM24 DC 20-Litre Electric Cool Box

Mobicool cool box

Price: £67 | Buy now from Amazon

"I've got a Mobicool one. Cost about £70 and that was with mains power lead plus 12 volt for the car" - Glitterknickaz

This Mobicool electric cool box is a little smaller than the Outwell electric one listed above, but that could be a bonus if you’re looking to slide it in behind the passenger seat of your car.

It can be connected to the car cigarette lighter so you can enjoy ice-cold on-the-go drinks and it will cool snacks and drinks 15 degrees below the outside temperature. The insulation will keep things chilly for several hours after you’ve unplugged it too. 

Key specs

  • Size: 39.3 x 23.3 x 40cm
  • Weight: 2.8kg
  • Capacity: 20 litres
  • Type: 12 volt electric

7. Best cool box for picnics: Silver Editions Green Tweed Cooler Basket

Silver Editions Cooler Basket

Price: £49 | Buy now from Joules

Are you looking for a cool box that doesn’t look as ugly as… a cool box? This Silver Editions green tweed cooler basket could be just the ticket.

This is a more stylish companion for a picnic in the park for two as it’s made from lightly steamed willow for a traditional look. And the cool bit - the zipped chill compartment has plenty of room inside for a few food boxes, a bottle of wine and some cups and plates. 

Key specs

  • Size: 40 x 20 x 33cm
  • Capacity: Suitable for food for two people
  • Type: Picnic basket with zipped chill compartment

8. Best collapsible cool box: Quechua Fresh Compact Ice Box 36l

Quecha Compact Ice Box

Price: £45 | Buy now from Decathlon

Cool boxes can be big bulky things which are a pain to carry but this collapsible design from Decathlon shows they don’t have to be. It will self-inflate from a compact 22 x 33 x 43cm size, and the polyurethane insulation works well, with neat pockets inside to keep everything organised.

You can cram 35 litres worth of goodies in, and as long as you have some ice packs, it can keep food fridge-cool for up to three days. Just remember that it’s not waterproof, in case the weather forecast is looking iffy for your big trip!

 Key specs

  • Size: 43 x 42 x 33cm (when inflated)
  • Weight: 1.5kg
  • Capacity: 35 litres
  • Type: Inflatable

9. Best cooler bag: Kuyou Cooler Backpack,35L Leakproof Insulated Ice Backpack with Picnic Mat

Kuyou Cooler Backpack

Price: £38 | Buy now from Amazon

This Kuyou cooler backpack is a great choice for an afternoon picnic and will keep food and drinks cool for three or four people. 

The fabric exterior covers an insulated and leakproof bag which can keep things cool for up to eight hours, even without ice packs. There is also an integrated picnic mat included – so you’ve got everything you need to settle down and enjoy yourself.

Key specs

  • Size: 49 x 30 x 22cm
  • Weight: 1.62kg
  • Capacity: 35 litres
  • Type: Cool bag

How to buy the best cool box

A good rule of thumb is not to buy a cool box that’s bigger than you need. After all, that extra size will cost more, weigh more, and take more ice to cool – so you might end up unintentionally hot and bothered! 

If you’re heading on a long car trip, you might want to think about an electric plug-in cool box – this will keep things cooler for longer, but the cooling motor might add a bit of extra weight.

There are cool boxes with wheels too which can help with portability as well as cool bag backpacks which you can sling over a shoulder. So if you’re buying a cool bag, make sure it’s leakproof.

Lastly, as your cool box or cool bag will have food and drink in it, it’s worth thinking about hygiene. Choosing a waterproof cool box with an easy wipe clean surface will give it a longer lifespan. 

Is a cool box better than a cool bag?

A solid cool box will usually keep things cooler for longer, but if you’re worried about storing it when not in use, a cool bag will pack away a bit more easily. Some will keep things fridge- or freezer-cool for up to five days, so read the manufacturer’s guidance to make sure you get what you need.

How to pack a cool box 

Most cool boxes recommend that you cool them down the night before you need to use it with special cooling packs from the freezer or bags of ice. Once you’ve pre-cooled, it’s then a question of packing stuff in a way that will keep everything in one piece – some premium boxes have straps and compartments to keep things separate.

At a general level, think about what you might want to take with you when choosing which cool box or cool bag to buy. Will you want to be able to stand a litre bottle up inside it? Do you need separate compartments for food and drink?

What is the best cool box to buy? 

The Coleman 36QT Xtreme Cooler is the best cool box to buy right now, thanks to its combination of five day cooling, value for money, and legions of fans on the Mumsnet forums.

How we chose our recommendations

Because we know that there’s nothing like a real recommendation from a real parent, we first headed to the Mumsnet forums to find out which cool boxes discerning Mumsnet users had bought. We compiled a list of cool boxes and bags which they recommended, noting how effective they found them, and whether they were particularly good for any certain needs.

We then did some research across the wider web, looking at which cool boxes had won accolades or been featured in ‘best buy’ lists across websites and print media, and what customers’ reviews said about them. 

Having collated all that information, we picked the cool boxes we thought would make the best buys in several interest categories.

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.

Mumsnet carries some affiliate marketing links, so if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale (more details here).