Why styrofoam? Well, it’s common knowledge that styrofoam is a good insulation material.
Pour a cup of piping hot coffee into a styrofoam cup and paper/plastic cup, and see which one doesn’t burn your hand.
Styrofoam is cheap to produce, effective, and very functional – this is why we see it used in everything from fountain drink cups to packaging material to restaurant to-go boxes. In fact, it’s probably sitting underneath the drywall insulating the room you’re in right now.
Of course, it’s one of the most commonly used materials for coolers, too. Head to any gas station, convenience store, grocery store, etc. and you’re bound to find some basic styrofoam coolers sitting on a shelf for 8 or 10 bucks.
As you might assume, though, not all styrofoam is created equally. These foam cooler reviews will go over some of the best options out there for great functioning, super-affordable styrofoam coolers, styrofoam bucket liners, and insulated styrofoam shipping boxes.
Our Best Styrofoam Cooler Picks
|Lifoam 5328 Huskee Collection Powerhouse Styrofoam Ice Chest||Lifoam 5345 Huskee Collection Hercules Styrofoam Ice Chest||EmmChill ‘Chill Box’ CB-12 Insulated Shipping Cooler||Polar Tech 205C Thermo-Chill Insulated Carton w/ Foam Shipper||5-gallon Bucket Companion Cooler/Styrofoam Liner by Leaktite|
|to-top||• 1.5” walls|
• 16” x 15” x 20”
• 30 12-oz. cans
|• 1.5” walls|
• 25.2” x 16” x 12.6”
• 48 12-oz. cans
|• 12” x 12” x 12”|
• 9” x 9” x 9” inside
• disposable class-7 material
|• 1 ¼”-thick walls|
• 6” x 5” x 6 ½”
• body + press-fit lid
|• fits most 5-gallon buckets|
|Check on Amazon||Check on Amazon||Check on Amazon||Check on Amazon||Check on Amazon|
First Things First – What is Styrofoam?
‘Styrofoam’ is actually a trademarked brand name owned by the Dow Chemical Company, who ‘invented’ the material in a research lab in the 1940’s.
The material itself is actually polystyrene, which is a petroleum-based plastic. Meaning, of course, that oil is that raw material – not so great for the environment. (Several cities across the U.S. – including New York and San Francisco – have actually tried banning styrofoam because it’s so terrible for the environment).
Styrofoam is simply expanded polystyrene (EPS) with millions of tiny air pockets trapped in-between the material. By mass, in fact, styrofoam is actually about 97% air – this is why it’s so light.
The trapped air is also what does the insulating – not the polystyrene material itself. Going back to the coffee experiment, pour a hot cup of coffee in a normal (unexpanded) plastic cup, and you’ll see how quickly the heat transfers through the material. Not so with foam – the heat (or cold) gets trapped inside the millions of air pockets, and can’t escape. The magic of insulation.
The expanding properties of styrofoam is also what makes it cheap – they’re essentially taking a very small amount of material and maximizing the use out of it. Getting the ultimate bang for their buck, so to speak.
On the other hand, this is also why styrofoam is so flimsy and easy to break – there’s hardly any material actually there, it’s mostly air.
Of course like we mentioned, not all foams are created equally. The density of styrofoam is what determines its insulating ability; the more dense it is, the better insulation it will provide. (We’ll talk more about this here shortly in the product reviews).
The Pros & Cons of Foam Ice Chests
The ultimate advantage of styrofoam coolers, of course, is price. You will not find a cheaper cooler option out there (to read our cheap coolers guide, go here).
Our TOP Picks for Styrofoam Coolers, Insulated Shipping/Cooler Boxes, and Styrofoam Bucket Liners
In the following reviews, we’ve picked out the absolute best options out there – based on a combination of performance and value – for foam ice chests, insulated shipping boxes, and styrofoam bucket liners.
Styrofoam Ice Chests – Huskee Collection – Our Best Picks
Lifoam 5328 Huskee Collection Powerhouse Styrofoam Ice Chest
With 1.5” thick walls, this small styrofoam cooler is designed to be durable and last for years, while providing quality insulation and performance.
In our opinion and experience, the Lifoam Huskee Collection styrofoam ice chest (including the larger Hercules model listed below) are the best-performing and most long-lasting styrofoam ice chests out there. From the heavy-duty hinged lid to the well-constructed handles, you’ll seriously be surprised that this is a 100% foam cooler.
At 28-quarts and measuring 16” x 15” x 20”, the cooler will easily hold up to 30 12-oz. cans or bottles (including ice).
If you’re looking for a decent quality functioning cooler and not wanting to spend more than about 30 bucks, you won’t be disappointed with this one. Find it on Amazon right here.
Lifoam 5345 Huskee Collection Hercules Foam Ice Chest
At 45-quarts, this is the bigger brother of the Lifoam 5328 Powerhouse. This large styrofoam cooler has all the same features of the Powerhouse, including the 1.5”-thick walls and heavy-duty hinged lid.
With dimensions of 25.2” x 16” x 12.6”, it can hold up to 48 12-oz. Beverages.
Again, a well-built, quality functioning cooler that will give you a good year or so of performance, at a fair price.
Insulated Shipping Boxes – Our Best Picks
EmmChill ‘Chill Box’ CB-12 Insulated Shipping Cooler
This 12” x 12” x 12” (inside 9” x 9” x 9”) shipping cooler is made of polyurethane foam, which provides slightly better insulation that standard EPS foams.
With a good quality ice pack (not included), the box will maintain a temperature of about 35-46 degrees Fahrenheit (2-8 degrees Celsius), for a period of about 72-hrs. This is usually enough time for standard ground shipping, and eliminates the need to have to pay extra for overnight shipping.
For all the ‘go-greeners’ out there, the manufacturer claims the polyurethane foam used in the box is a ‘disposable class-7 material’, which apparently means you can toss it in the trash, ‘legally’. (Make no mistake, though – there’s nothing green about any type of foam).
Check it on Amazon right here.
Polar Tech 205C Thermo-Chill Insulated Carton w/ Foam Shipper
Although there are various sizes available, these small 6” x 5” x 6 ½” insulated shipping boxes by Polar Tech come in packs of 2, and are constructed of two-piece (body + press-fit lid) 1 ¼”-thick high-density foam walls.
They’re the industry standard for shipping small, temperature-sensitive items such as (according to the manufacturer’s product description): chemicals, reagents, insulin, lab cultures, blood, tropical sea life, lab testing applications, etc.
A quality insulated shipping box that you can trust to keep whatever you’ve got to keep cold during shipping, cold. (Ice packs not included).
Here’s an Amazon link.
Styrofoam Bucket Liner – Our Picks
5 gallon Bucket Companion Cooler/Styrofoam Liner by Leaktite
Now, this might just be the most inexpensive cooler option out there.
Order a 3-pack of these styrofoam bucket liners to slide into any standard 5-gallon bucket, and voila, you’ve got yourself a sweet, durable, functioning cooler with a nice handle for easy carrying.
Out of all the silly marketing gimmicks and unnecessary mods out there, it’s stuff like this that we really enjoy coming across – who would’ve ever thought about turning an ordinary 5-gallon bucket (most of them come with a nice press-fit lid that creates a good seal), into a functioning cooler?
Dump some ice and drinks in there, pop the lid on, and you’ve got yourself a fully portable, convenient seat/cooler. Definitely recommend these ones for all the penny-pinchers out there. Here’s a link to their product page on Amazon.
Foam Coolers – The Bottom Line
If you’re one of the thousands out there who thinks it’s a little crazy to spend hundreds on a top ice chest, seriously consider checking some of these simple, well-functioning styrofoam coolers and insulated shipping boxes out. They get the job done in a no-gimmicks, no-frills sort of way that’s often lost in today’s marketing-driven world. (Just don’t expect your ice to hold out for 3-weeks like one of those top-of-the-line primo coolers).
Of course, although most manufacturers will claim that the polyurethane foam they use is fully degradable, or even bio-degradable, these probably aren’t the best cooler options if you’re an environmentalist. (Interestingly enough, though, we did recently stumble across a very interesting article about a species of mealworm that can eat and digest styrofoam, and produce clean excrement that is suitable for crop fertilization. Might be onto something there).
Wondering Where to Buy a Styrofoam Cooler?
All of these recommended picks are available through Amazon, and can be conveniently shipped to your doorstep.
>> Browse all styrofoam coolers available on Amazon