Despite the unpredictability of British weather, many of us will be happily and determinedly socialising outside all summer, making the most of the sunshine when it comes. Cool boxes are an incredibly practical investment for a number of reasons, but mainly because they're a simple solution for safely storing food at a colder temperature – excellent for a picnic or barbecue.


Electric cool boxes can be plugged into your car for travelling, while cool bags and backpacks are a great choice for slinging onto your shoulder for adventures.

There are plenty of options on the market, and thinking about how you'll use your purchase will help you make the right choice for you. Prices can range from very cheap to hugely expensive, so frequency of use and the need for portability are key factors to consider.

To help you choose, we carefully long-listed and tested a selection from a range of brands to hit all budgets. Read on to discover our top cool boxes to buy this summer.

For more on eating in the great outdoors, check out some of favourite seasonal recipes from spring desserts to family picnic recipes and easy traybake dinners. We've tested all the kit you'll need for al fresco dining: check out our reviews of the best camping stoves, best outdoor tableware and best picnic hampers. Plus, we've taste tested the best BBQ boxes to buy this summer to make packing a breeze.

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Best cool boxes at a glance

  • Best all-round cool box: Outwell Ecocool slate grey cool box, £99.95
  • Best cool bag for versatility: Red Original waterproof 30-litre cool bag, £179.95
  • Best large cool bag on wheels: Igloo MaxCold 40 Ice 38-litre wheeled cool box, £109.95
  • Best investment cool box: YETI Roadie 24 cooler, £178
  • Best cool backpack: Red Original insulated cool backpack, £134.95
  • Best budget cool box: Campos cool box, £35.92
  • Best space-saving cool bag: Mobicool 12V thermoelectric 32-litre cool bag, £79
  • Best cool box for carrying large quantities: Coleman 50QT Xtreme wheeled cooler, £98.61

Best cool boxes to buy in 2024

Outwell Ecocool slate grey cool box


Best all-round cool box


  • Powered by in-car socket
  • Cable storage in lid
  • Treated with a biocidal product for antibacterial effect


  • Air vents must not be blocked
  • Energy rating F on the EEI scale despite its 'eco' name

Star rating: 5/5

This cooler ticked all of our boxes, from great cooling capacity to performance. It’s a well-thought-out bit of kit. There’s a rectangular water bottle which doubles as an ice pack and slots handily in the box as a divider, helping to maintain a low temperature.

It can be powered both to heat and cool, either in the car or with a mains plug, giving it versatility. Effort has obviously gone into the technology behind its energy efficiency, but its performance is more impressive than the eco credentials its name suggests.

Red Original waterproof cool bag

RED cooler bag

Best cooler bag for versatility


  • Waterproof and leakproof
  • BPA-free lining
  • Zipper lubricant included
  • Additional shoulder strap


  • Stiff zip
  • Strong 'new product' smell

Star rating: 5/5

This is a cooler bag-box hybrid, equipped with carry straps and additional handles, with a robust exterior that's self-supporting. It has impressive cooling capabilities, living up to the 72-hour credential for keeping ice frozen (with a bit of melt).

It's also practical. The body is reinforced and waterproof, with a YKK Aquaseal zip designed to keep water out and leaks in.

There are two side pockets and wave webbing, a luggage tension system for attaching it to your boat, roof or car. If you're after an easy-to-carry cooler box for adventures that's large enough for a family of six, this is our top recommendation.

Igloo MaxCold 40 Ice 38-litre wheeled cool box

igloo coolbox

Best large cool box on wheels


  • Reasonably priced
  • Robust design
  • Spacious interior
  • Sturdy construction protects contents


  • Lid doesn’t have a latch or lock

Star rating: 5/5

This is a large capacity rugged cool box with chunky wheels. It’s ideal for camping trips or festivals where you can’t park very close to your tent. Plus, the effective insulation can keep food cold for days under the right conditions. We filled it with food and drinks as well as a bag of ice and it was all still chilled 36 hours later.

At around 4kg it’s not too heavy and, even when full, it’s well balanced with a big handle that’s sturdy and comfortable, so it doesn’t feel heavy to pull along. There’s plenty of space inside for bottles to stand upright and the simple shape means it’s easy to pack. The lid forms a tight seal, although we would have liked to see a latch to lock it closed.

YETI Roadie 24 cooler

YETI - Roadie 24 (Aquafier blue)

Best investment cool box


  • Well-made and hardwearing
  • Available in lots of colours
  • Sturdy construction protects contents
  • YETI ice packs available to buy separately
  • Robust rubber feet


  • Expensive
  • Heavy

Star rating: 5/5

This investment level cool box is certainly price, but for the money you’ll get a top-notch, hardwearing cool box that should stand the test of time. It’s heavy though and weighs in at almost 6kg when empty, so despite having a sturdy, comfortable handle, you won’t want to carry it too far, making it best suited to road trips, camping, or boat trips.

The lid locks firmly in place with two latches that help it form a tight seal. With the addition of a bag of ice it kept our selection of drinks cold for an impressive 36 hours, but this will be reduced if you open it frequently.

Red 15L insulated cooler backpack

Red Original 15L cooler backpack

Best insulated cooler backpack


  • Lightweight
  • Excellent insulation
  • Eco-conscious TPU
  • BPA-free inner lining


  • Stiff top zipper

Star rating: 4.5/5

The boxy external structure of this backpack is self -supporting, covered with an impressively durable TPU fabric. The padded straps and back panel made wearing it a comfortable experience, although the chest strap came into play when fully loaded.

We found its 15L capacity was enough space to stack lunch for four, helped by the two high bottle pouches which encased a tall water bottle in one side and two cans of beer stacked in the other. The only downside is the stiffness of its zip – responsible for it's impressive leakproof credentials. The added bungee storage pocket held a scrunched up jacket whilst keys and a phone fitted in the top zip pouch.

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Campos cool box


Best budget cool box


  • Lightweight
  • Good insulation


  • No wheels

Star rating: 4/5

This cooler is lightweight without compromising on sturdiness, making it ideal if you need to carry your supplies over a distance. It also holds 29 litres, so you can really load it up. It’s possible to stand six 1.5-litre bottles in the base, which means soft drinks are covered, as well as wine. We found it retained the temperature well, with a good seal and insulation.

Mobicool 12V thermoelectric cool bag


Best space-saving cool bag


  • In-car socket for travelling
  • Adjustable shoulder strap


  • Not freestanding so needs propping up during travel in a car

Star rating: 4/5

Cool boxes are generally more effective than bags when it comes to insulation, but this Mobicool bag deserves its place in the line-up. It proved very effective in its own right, and with an in-car socket, you're given the option of extending that time over long journeys. Being a bag, it's also lighter than the boxes with a cooling mechanism, and has the benefit of folding to a smaller size once empty.

Coleman 50QT Xtreme wheeled cooler


Best cool box for carrying large quantities


  • Huge capacity
  • Practical 'landscape' shape perfect for stacking
  • Robust wheels and handle


  • Chunky to store when not in use

Star rating: 3.5/5

This cool box holds a whopping 47 litres, yet is surprisingly lightweight when empty. It comes with a set of wheels and a handle, making it manageable even when packed to the brim. The plughole at the bottom is a nice detail – if you’ve filled it with ice, you can easily drain the water away.

Other cool bags tried and tested

  • Halfords 24 Litre electric cool box, £60
  • Hydroflask 20-litre insulated tote cool bag, £68.83

How to choose the best cool box

Depending on where you're planning to use your cooler will affect your choice. They are often made from heavy-duty plastic and insulated with polyurethane foam, which tends to keep food colder for longer. In most cases, you'll need to add ice packs to keep the temperature down.

Cool bags are generally lighter than cool boxes and once emptied, you can pack them down for easier storage. You may forfeit capacity for portability as the largest bags will be the heaviest to carry when loaded – which is when wheeled options come into play.

In all cases, think about size. Do you want to be able to stand a litre bottle upright inside, or perhaps you have a casserole dish that needs to sit comfortably in the base?

Electric cool bags and boxes with a cigarette-lighter charging cable are ideal if you’re heading on a long car journey. They increase the duration of cooling, but will add more weight. Once you've decided the type of activity you require a cool box for, we recommend considering the following in order to buy one that fulfils every need:

  • Weight: a cool box for keeping drinks cold in the garden can be weighty, but if you're travelling with it over a short distance, a lighter option with wheels will be better
  • Capacity: how many people will you be catering for? The size of cool bags are often described in litres rather than people, but as a rule of thumb, 18 litres will carry between 25-28 cans, 30 litres will fit around 50, and anything above this will be large enough for a variety of food and drink vessels
  • Bag or box: if portability is the goal, cool bags are a much more flexible for transporting, often featuring straps for carrying it over the shoulder or as a rucksack
  • Durability: you want to be confident that a fully packed cool bag or box will be able to support the weight, and also won't be let down by its handles, straps or wheels when you attempt to move it
  • Easy-clean inner: cool boxes should be wipe-clean and rinsable
  • Waterproof capabilities: particularly important for cooler bags if you're taking them out and about, but also that the lining is leakproof

How we tested cool boxes


Sturdiness: coolers are often heavy when they're packed as the weight of cans, ice blocks and food all adds up. We wanted handles that made it easy to hold.

Portability: unless you’re only planning to use your cool box in the garden or for fridge overflow, portability is important. Extra points were given where coolers were especially easy to transport.

Keep-cool capability: this was key to our choices, being the primary function of a cool bag or box. A good seal and effective insulation were a must.

Additional features: in-car electric chargers, wheels, drinks holders and easy-carry options were well rated among the sea of products on the market.

Easy to use and clean: anything that carries food needs to be easily cleaned before and after use, so we looked for interiors that could be easily wiped clean.

How we tested: we filled each of the coolers with bags of ice, ice packs, drinks and typical picnic foods. We then checked the contents at intervals using a thermometer and timed how long it took for the ice cubes to melt.

More reviews and guides

Picnic recipe collection
Tips for al fresco eating
Best picnic gadgets
Best picnic rucksacks
Best portable barbecues
Best charcoal barbecues
Best sustainable picnicware

The products in this guide were reviewed in April 2023. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at


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