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In today’s post, we are going to help you with picking the best small cooler.
Although having big and heavy coolers can certainly be nice if you want to keep a lot of stuff cool, such coolers are, well, big and heavy.
Not everybody has the space or the need for bulky coolers. When you are headed out for a few hours and just need something a little bigger than a lunch box to store some perishable food, what do you do?
Well, you could put it in a bag with a few good ice packs, but that won’t hold. You can just take the food with you and hope it holds up, OR you can pick up a smaller cooler.
With that, if a small or tiny cooler is exactly what you are looking for, we have a few good options below!
In a Hurry? Here are Our Top Picks
If you just need some quick recommendation, here are our top picks:
- Best Small Cooler Overall: Cordova Side Kick 20QT Cooler
Great build quality, long ice retention, easy to carry, affordable and made in America.
- Best Mini Cooler: DeWalt 10 QT RotoMolded Cooler
Tiny yet rugged; fully rotomolded with thick insulation, keeps stuff ice cold for 1-2 days
Small Coolers & Mini Coolers – How We Define Them
Before we move on, let’s understand what a small size cooler is exactly.
There are no strict definitions for small and mini coolers, but for the sake of this post, here’s how we define them:
- Mini coolers (or tiny coolers) are sized below 15 quarts.
- Small coolers are sized from 16 to 34 quarts.
We'll start by briefly explaining our approach and methodology used for picking up coolers to feature in this post. Then, we'll introduce and review the top 5 best small cooler picks, followed by the top 5 best tiny coolers for those who need something even smaller. Here we go!
Small & Mini Coolers – How Did We Choose?
There are so many coolers out there, so it can be pretty difficult to pick the right small size cooler.
When shortlisting candidates for our small cooler reviews, we’ve focused on uniqueness most of all to help you differentiate between the coolers easier and to also meet the needs of as many readers as we can.
Next, we prefer to pick coolers from reputable, quality brands. We decided not to feature coolers that we consider subpar, even if they have lots of stars at Amazon or at other stores.
It's because we’ve seen seemingly highly-rated coolers perform badly, so when we picked small coolers for review, we relied on our expertise to make better suggestions.
Finally, in terms of price, we usually include both premium and inexpensive coolers.
High-end coolers are typically the best all-around (quality-, durability-, and insulation-wise), but since not everyone needs “premium” features and because not everyone has the budget, we like to dilute our list with some cheaper picks.
By the way, when picking cheap coolers for review, we are a little pickier than with pricier models. Cheap coolers are more likely to perform not as good as the pricey ones (due to lower quality, inconsistent insulation, or whatnot), so typically we strive to be extra careful when dealing with budget options.
Best Small Coolers – Our Top Picks Compared
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|item-title||Yeti Roadie 24||Otterbox Venture 25||Cordova Side Kick 20QT||REYLEO 21-QT||Igloo IMX 24 QT|
US / Thailand
2" PermaFrost (PU)
2" Polyurethane (PU) Foam
2" PU Foam
2" PU foam
• Rotomolded Construction
• Neverfail Hinge System
• Heftyhauler Handle
• Wine-Friendly Packing
• Mounting systems
• Tough latches
• Bottle Opener
• Anti-slide rubber feet
• Durable integrated handles
• Eco Foam Insulation
• Quad-core rubber gasket
• Top Mount Lid Latches
• Built-in Raised Tray
• Built-in bottle opener
• 16-inch fish ruler
• Have-a-seat lid
• Drain plug
• Pressure&water relief valve
• Injection molded construction
• Rubberized lid latches
• Cool Riser Technology®
• Stainless steel locking plate
Small Size Cooler Reviews
YETI Roadie 24
YETI Roadie 24 is a just-released successor to Roadie 20 – a hugely popular small cooler that has arguably been at the roots of YETI’s early growth and success.
Roadie 24 retains many of the benefits its predecessor (including the rotomolded build and the premium PermaFrost insulation), as well as has a few improvements.
Insulation is perhaps the biggest improvement – it’s 30% better than in Roadie 20. In our tests, Roadie 20 retained ice for almost 4 days, so you should be able to get 5 or maybe a day more out of Roadie 24.
Another improvement is the HeftyHauler strap handle, which replaces the metal handle on the previous Roadie 20. The strap is a little more flexible and more convenient than the metal handle in Roadie 20.
The design in Roadie 24 is significantly different too – Roadie 24 is taller (so it can more easily accommodate wine bottles) and looks sleeker & more attractive to us. It’s also more convenient to sit on.
And finally, Roadie 24 is a little bit bigger – it can fit 18 cans of beer at 2:1 ice-to-beer ratio, or 24 pounds of ice alone. In quarts, Roadie 24’s capacity in quarts is 23.6. In contrast, Roadie 20 could do only 16 cans/about 20 pounds of ice and is sized at 23 quarts.
Check the current price at YETI.com >>
Why we like YETI Roadie 24
YETI Roadie 24 continues the tradition of Roadie 20. It retains its key advantages and does a few things a little better. But most importantly, it boasts the iconic premium YETI quality!
RELATED: Read our full Roadie 24 review here.
The new Roadie 24 video review:
Otterbox Venture 25 Cooler
Otterbox isn’t as renowned in the US as YETI, but Venture 25 cooler is no less premium than Roadie 24. Venture 25 also has a few bells & whistles that may make you fall in love with it!
The highlight of Venture 25 is the mount points that allow you to attach accessories like cup holders, cutting boards, side tables, or bottle openers (one included). The slanted interior bottom is pretty interesting as well – it allows for easier draining.
Insulation- and build-wise, Venture 25 is comparable to Roadie 24 – it can store ice for about 4 days and has a durable rotomolded build. However, unlike Roadie 24, Venture 25 is IGBC-certified to be bear-resistant. The capacity is a little higher too – 25 quarts.
PRO TIP: Note that the advertised 10-day ice retention relates to Venture coolers as a whole and does not reflect the actual insulation of Venture 25 specifically. The larger the cooler, the better it retains ice, so bear in mind the 25qt Venture won't perform as good as the 65qt one. The same goes for the YETI and any other cooler brand.
We also were glad to find out that Otterbox covers Venture 25 with a lifetime warranty – at the price, we’d expect nothing less. It’s also made in the US – a huge pro for many of our readers!
Get the Otterbox Venture cooler >>
Why we like Otterbox Venture 25
Venture 25 offers a few more interesting things than Roadie 24 and slightly bigger capacity. It’s again a rather pricey high-end cooler, but if you have the budget, it's worth the money. If you need more information, read our full Otterbox cooler review.
Cordova Side Kick 20QT Cooler
Our Editor's Choice, Cordova’s Side Kick is a US-made cooler similar to Roadie 24 and Venture 25, but it’s definitely less expensive. It’s a little smaller (20 quarts) too, but its features may be more interesting to you.
In Cordova coolers, the latches always catch our eye the first – with their top-facing design, these latches are very easy to access in tight spaces. If you are picking a small cooler, you probably have limited space, so the latches may be a huge advantage for you.
The housing in the Side Kick cooler is again rotomolded and is IGBC-certified – like in previous models.
As for the insulation, it’s closed-cell PU foam (the best kind of insulation you can find in small coolers) and is eco-friendly.
For convenient carrying, the Side Kick cooler features a shoulder strap. And if you have the buck, you may also purchase the famous Cordova aluminum handles with integrated bottle openers.
Check out the Side Kick cooler at Cordova's website >>
Why we like Cordova Side Kick 20QT
Side Kick is the cheapest US-made rotomolded cooler on this roundup. If you want excellent durability and insulation but have a limited budget, this may be the best small ice chest for your needs.
RELATED: Read our Cordova vs YETI comparison for more information.
Watch the Cordova Side Kick in this video:
REYLEO 21-Quart Cooler
The REYLEO 21-quart cooler is rotomolded but much cheaper than our previous picks. However, it’s manufactured in China, which might be a problem for some of our readers. If you only care about price per quart (it's one of the cheapest rotomolded coolers in this size category) and value though, you won’t find a better rotomolded small cooler.
REYLEO’s cooler boasts features galore – integrated cup holders, a 16-inch fishing ruler, and a bottle opener. For easier opening, this cooler even has a pressure relief valve, which not every cooler (even premium ones) has.
What we also like about this cooler a lot is its unique design and eye-catching two-color scheme. There are a few colors to choose from as well, so you should be able to find something to your taste.
Like the previous coolers, REYLEO’s model is rotomolded and bear-resistant (though not IGBC-certified). Exterior surfaces are additionally treated with a UV protectant, so sun exposure shouldn’t be detrimental to this cooler.
The insulation is pretty decent as well, but it’s nothing exceptional – this cooler is advertised to store ice for up to 3 days with a 2:1 ice-to-contents ratio.
Get Reyleo cooler at Amazon >>
Why we like REYLEO 21QT
For the money and features, REYLEO’s cooler is absolutely a steal. If you don’t care about domestic manufacturing, you will struggle to find a better small roto-molded ice chest.
For more information, you may want to read our Reyleo cooler review.
Igloo IMX 24-Quart Cooler
Last but not least in this category, we have Igloo’s IMX 24-quart cooler. Unlike all previous picks, this is an injection-molded cooler – it isn’t as durable as rotomolded models, but it’s lighter (16 pounds) and much less expensive (priced a little higher than REYLEO’s cooler).
Despite the lower durability, the IMX cooler has ice retention comparable to our rotomolded picks – up to 3 days. The housing is treated with UV inhibitors too, so the sun shouldn’t be a challenge for it. If you don’t intend to subject your cooler to heavy use, Igloo IMX will hold up just fine.
Igloo IMX is pretty convenient as well thanks to its handy features – an integrated bottle opener, fish ruler, and cup holders. The lid is lockable as well for added security, but this cooler isn’t tough enough to be bear-proof, nor is it IGBC-certified.
PRO TIP: By the way, if you are on a budget and don’t consider rotomolded construction a must, also pay attention to Igloo BMX. At the same capacity as IMX, it’s nearly 5 pounds lighter and much cheaper but lacks some features and has weaker insulation.
Check the current prices in Igloo's store >>
Why we like Igloo IMX 24QT
As an injection-molded cooler, Igloo IMX is lighter than its rotomolded counterparts. If lightness is more important to you than durability, then IMX is an awesome cooler to consider. Check out our full IMX cooler review here.
Best Mini Coolers – Our Top Picks Compared
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|item-title||Igloo Playmate||DeWalt||Stanley Adventure||Igloo Ice Cube Cooler||Rubbermaid Mini Ice Chest|
4, 7, 14 QT
7, 16 QT
• Push-button lid design
• Top swing handle
• Secure lid
• Molded-in handle
• T.O.U.G.H. Roto Mold Design
• Easy-Open Cam Latch System
• Heavy duty Handle
• Integrated Ice Pack Storage Area
• Double wall foam insulation
• Leak resistant lid
• Adjustable tie down
• Cube geometry
• Dry lid storage
• Rigid swing-up handle
• Superior thermal retention
• Top swing handle
• Stain and odor resistant
• Easy-to-clean liner
Mini Cooler Reviews
Everyone’s needs vary, which is why you need to think about your specific situation before picking up any old small cooler. These are our top tiny cooler picks and we’re sure you’ll find one that will meet your requirements.
Igloo Playmate Mini Cooler
Onto the best mini cooler category, with the Igloo Playmate being our first pick! The Playmate is an iconic cooler and people’s favorite around the world thanks to its compact size, inexpensiveness, and the unique trademarked design.
Igloo Playmate certainly can’t offer days of ice retention or bear resistance – however, for day trips or those who want to have lunch at work, Playmate is an excellent tiny cooler (as our Igloo Playmate review has proved)
Playmate keeps everything inside via the spill-resistant lid that swings to the side at the push of a button when you need to take something out.
And although small, you can put a lot in this cooler, especially if you go for the 14-quart size (7 and 4 quarts also available.)
Playmate is a very simplistic cooler, but remarkably, it has the richest selection of colors and styles among all of our picks. You not only have plenty of colors to choose from, but some Playmate coolers are also themed after famous and acclaimed movies – like Toy Story, Star Wars, or SpongeBob SquarePants.
Check all the color options for Igloo Playmate >>
PRO TIP: Note that Playmate is also one of those Igloo coolers that are manufactured in the US.
Why we like Igloo Playmate
Igloo Playmate is a great cooler if you need no more than a day of ice retention. No camping or fishing with this cooler – however, if you feel that spending $100 or even $50 on a cooler is too much for your needs, Playmate is worthy of consideration.
DEWALT 10QT Rotomolded Cooler
The second pick in the tiny cooler category is DEWALT’s rotomolded 10-quart model. That’s right, the reputable tool manufacturer DEWALT produces coolers as well (we even reviewed them before). And being 10-quart, it's likely the smallest rotomolded cooler we've seen.
With that, this cooler is a perfect choice for jobsite lunches (though you may use it anywhere else as well). It will work wonderfully for day-long ice storage, but with proper packing, you may be able to get 2-3 days out of it (as some buyers seem to have managed).
The build of the DEWALT cooler is excellent – with a rotomolded design, this cooler should be able to withstand any challenge at the jobsite. The cam-style latches are especially nice here – once you fix them in the closed position, they are extremely unlikely to burst open even with impact.
In terms of features, the DEWALT cooler is similar to our 16-34-quart picks too – it has traditional cooler features like can holders, a bottle opener, and a combo of metal & rope handles.
Check the current price at Amazon >>
Why we like DEWALT 10QT
The DEWALT 10-quart cooler is just like the big, premium coolers, but in a much smaller form-factor. It will be nearly as convenient as the likes of YETI or Cordova coolers but in a much lighter and more compact frame.
Stanley Adventure Mini Ice Chest
Another cooler from a known and respected tool brand. You can find this mini ice chest in Green, Polar White or Flannel Red, as well as in a 7 or 16 quart size. Double wall foam keeps items cold, while a leak resistant lid locks in the cold.
The larger size holds nearly a case of canned beverages and can keep items cold for up to a day and a half. You’ll also find bungee cords on the lid to hold down items you may need quickly.
One user reported some hesitancy in purchasing this cooler but after several uses admitted that it stood up to the test. In fact, in a follow up review the user mentioned that is has been in vehicles, boats and even in a kayak and held up to the rigorous use.
Another user mentioned that it was also kept in the car with just frozen ice packs and temperatures nearing triple digits, with the Stanley holding up and keeping contents cold.
Igloo Ice Cube Cooler – Tiny Cooler With Extra Dry Storage Space
This little guy is the perfect companion for anyone on the go. The square size helps to keep contents cold for longer periods of time and can hold up to 14 cans. The height of this cooler also make upright storage of bottles much easier.
The smaller shape and design make it easy to place on the floor of most vehicles and the snapback top built into the lid allows you to store more stuff, say things like eating utensils or napkins. Rounded and molded feet allow the cube to sit more firmly on the ground.
Users have enjoyed the durability of this cooler. Many have used it on a regular basis, while one user even said that it’s the perfect man-sized lunch cooler. Many have used this one for work with one individual reporting that the compartment in the lid was ideal for his cell phone storage during work hours.
Rubbermaid Mini 5 Quart Cooler – Best Mini Cooler For Easy Cleaning
This five-quart offering from Rubbermaid comes in red or blue. The mini size is perfect for a six-pack, whether that’s for soda or otherwise.
The cooler is stain and odor resistant which means you can store your favorite food or beverages, without having to worry if a spill should happen.
The top swing handle makes transporting and carrying easy when you are on the go. At less than two pounds when empty, this small cooler ensures that you are carrying as little weight as possible.
Many reviewers at Amazon applaud the size of this mini cooler, as it is not too big and not too small. One user mentioned finally finding his “lunch box.” The user stated that in the past the coolers that were purchased were either too big or the inside of the actual cooler was too small. Many other users also mentioned how easy the cleanup was.
Best Small Ice Chest Cooler Guide
Smaller coolers are great for short day trips, if you want to keep items cold for several hours at a time or even to store a few meals. So how do you choose? Here are a few questions to consider.
Ease of cleaning?
If you frequently transport items that may spill out of containers or use your cooler for extended periods of time where smells have a tendency to stay, then one of the things to consider is the type of material used and the ease of cleaning the product. In this case, you may want to check out the Rubbermaid product above.
What do you need to store? If you are looking to replace your lunch can and want to store drinks and meals for the day while you are out hunting or fishing, then you may want to try out the Stanley Adventure Mini ice chest.
If you just need something to keep a few drinks cool at the park, then perhaps the Igloo Playmate cooler will do.
One of the things that many pay attention to is the price. If you are on a budget then perhaps one of the softer sided coolers will better suit your needs. If you have a little more to spend and want a cooler that can hold ice for a bit longer, then you may want to give one of the more durable offers a try.
Anyway, it doesn't hurt to try what other small coolers are for sale at Amazon.
RELATED: You may also want to check our post about best camping coolers.
Best Mini and Small Coolers – Bottom Line
When shopping for the best small cooler, remember to consider things other than size – build, quality, durability, or included accessories. No matter how limited your space might be, it would be great if you found a cooler that’s not only space-efficient but also very convenient!
Last update on 2023-04-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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Do you know of a small ice chest that has a drain?