Best Tailgating Cooler: Pre-Game the Right Way with these Top Picks

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If you’re a hardcore sports fan, you know the importance of tailgating and know that having the best tailgating cooler can make that bit of difference between a great pre-game and, well, a sloppy one.

Moreover, all sports clubs rely in part on the motivation they get from the crowd, and you know that a proper tailgate party puts you in the right mindset to give your team the support they need, come crunch time.

In this article, we’ve picked out the TOP 5 best tailgate coolers so you and your friends can have the most optimal pre-gaming experience. Your team needs you, after all, and a good tailgate cooler is just one little factor that’ll help you be the best fan you can be.

Best Tailgating Cooler: Our TOP 5 Picks

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Orion Coolers w/ ‘Utilitop’ Mini-Bar: #1 Best Cooler for Tailgating

If you seriously want to throw the best tailgate parties on planet earth, you’ve got one option when it comes to the right cooler: Orion.

Not only are Orion coolers some of the best made coolers in the world, they’re chock-full of functional, integrated features that really make the difference between a ‘normal’ tailgate party and a truly kick-butt one.

While the built-in bottle openers and internal tray system are great tailgating-specific features, the Utilitop Minibar really puts the icing on the cake as far as what makes this cooler – in our opinion –  the best tailgating cooler in the world.

The double-decker minibar attaches securely via the YakAttack GearTrac System (another feature unique to Orion coolers), and acts as a dual-purpose cutting board and/or multipurpose workstation. So whether you’re mixing drinks to serve to your friends, slicing up limes for the perfect cocktail, or chopping up carrots and celery for the veggie dip, the Utilitop really will make your tailgating life a whole lot easier.

TIP: If you want to check out a much more in-depth article on Orion Coolers that goes over their construction and design features, be sure to check out our full Orion Cooler review.

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Picnic Time Buccaneer Tailgating Cooler with Grill

What’s better than a good tailgating ice chest? A good tailgating ice chest with a grill, of course.

This new, relatively unheard of integrated soft tailgate cooler is one of the sweetest things we’ve happened to come across in recent memory. The unit itself comes with a removable PVC cooler, a charcoal grill, and a large front storage compartment with three BBQ cooking tools. So you’ve literally got everything you need for a tailgate cooler/grill combo in one convenient package.

The cooler itself measures about 20” L x 14” H x 12” W, and will hold a 12-pack of 12 ounce cans or bottles. The small charcoal grill with fold-down legs stashes conveniently right underneath the cooler, and is the perfect size for tossing on a half dozen or so hamburgers and hot dogs.

One thing we really like about this cooler is how easy it is to transport; even fully loaded down with ice, drinks, and food, it’s no bother at all to sling over your shoulder and haul it wherever you need.

The soft tailgating ice chest also features several zippered and mesh pockets for storing various odds and ends, and it includes a drawstring bag to keep the grill stashed in.

Definitely a great choice for tailgate lovers everywhere — it won’t hold ice for days on end, but it’ll easily last through a full day's festivities no problem.

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Tailgaterz Cool-N-Carry Cooler

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Tailgaterz Cool-n-Carry Cooler: Best Tailgate Cooler Bag

You know a cooler will be a tailgating hit if the company it’s made by is called ‘Tailgaterz’.

This new ‘Carry-n-Cool’ cooler is actually a really unique, cool design that’s become a popular buy at Amazon with a ton of great reviews. In addition to the main central cooler (which measures 12” H x 12” L x 10” W), it’s got two full-size organization compartments that fold out on either side (compartments measure 10” x 10” x 10” each). Fully opened and spread out, the entire unit is almost 3 feet long, but it folds down to just over 12” wide when the organization compartments are folded in.

Also, the cooler itself is durable and really good quality, made out of a ripstop 300D polyester outer layer and a fully insulated, waterproof PVC liner for the central cooler compartment.

Tailgaters everywhere love the thing, as it makes it super convenient to store all your food and goodies (cups, napkins, plates, etc) within one organized unit, rather than having everything spread out all over the picnic table or bed of your truck. Overall, a great product for people who like to stay organized and keep everything neat and tidy.

Oh and also, one of the things folks love most about it is it’s super inexpensive (here's the current price). Also, to check out other tailgating-specific products from Tailgaterz, click here.

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Coleman 100-quart Xtreme 5-Wheeled Cooler: Best Cheap Ice Chest for Tailgating

For tailgaters not looking to spend a ton of money, and/or for folks who carry a lot of food and drinks with them to their tailgate parties, the Coleman 100-quart Xtreme is a great value buy.

The integrated wheels operate well on offroad/uneven ground, even when the massive ice chest is fully loaded down with ice, food, and drinks. The cooler will hold up to 160 cans (more than 6 full cases), but of course you can pack it down with all your burgers, franks, veggies and dips as well – everything you need for the perfect large group tailgate.

Also this is a relatively inexpensive value cooler, but the reason we chose to put it on our list is because of how well it’s made for the price, and for the impressive list of features that come standard on it.

It’s rated to hold ice for up to 5 days (not really necessary for a tailgate party..), and the trademark ThermOZONE ™ insulation is actually environmentally friendly and contains no harsh ozone-depleting chemicals. Also, the lid operates on two fully-integrated stainless hinges, and is integrated with four built-in cupholders — premium features that you’d expect to see on an ice chest two, three, or four times the price.

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Grizzly Coolers Tailgating Cooler: Heavy Duty Cooler for Serious Tailgaters

Though it doesn’t have quite as many features, the Grizzly Tailgating Cooler is similar in quality to the Orion Coolers, albeit much less expensive.

One of the thing that makes Grizzly coolers so popular is that they’re made in the USA, and a lot of fans will say that out of all the premium brands out there, these are the best quality.

For a tailgate party you certainly won’t need your cooler to hold ice for a week straight, but if you consistently take your cooler on weekend for or even week-long trips, it’s got some of the best ice retention of any coolers on the market.

The 75-quart size is probably the most popular for tailgating, as you’ll be able to fit everything you need in it for a full afternoon’s fiesta for a large group of people. Also, the integrated tie-down slots are definitely a necessity for lashing it to your truck bed for transport to/from the tailgating site, and they also double as lock flanges where you can fit a heavy duty padlock – excellent features for busy, crowded stadium parking lots.

Also, one of the other main selling points of Grizzly Coolers is their lifetime warranty – these are heavy, serious duty ice chests, but if you invest in one it’ll be the last cooler you ever need to buy, no doubt about that.

TIP: For much more detailed information about Grizzly Coolers and their full range of features, models, and sizes, check out our full-length review of the brand here.

What to Pay Attention to When Choosing Your New Tailgating Cooler

Of course, the main thing you’ll want to ask yourself when shopping for the best tailgating cooler is, ‘what are my needs’? Here’s a few things to consider:

  • Are you going to be the drink/food supplier for a large group of people?If so, you’ll want to go with a large 75 or 100-quart ice chest like the Coleman Xtreme 5-wheeled or the Grizzly Tailgating Cooler. Even the Tailgaterz Cool-n-Carry would be a good, inexpensive choice.
  • Is it just going to be yourself and/or another person?If this is the case, something small, personal, and easily portable like the Orion 25 would be your best bet. Plenty of room for a full day’s drinks and snacks for one, two, or maybe three people at most.
  • Are you going to need a cutting/drink mixing board?If you know you’ll be spending a lot of time mixing drinks, preparing sandwiches, cutting up veggies, or even filleting fresh fish for the grill, the Orion coolers with the Utilitop Mini-bar is right up your alley. Yes it’s a bit expensive, but it’s absolutely worth it if you know you’ll be getting plenty of use out of it.
  • Are you going to be carrying/transporting the cooler long distances?This is definitely something you really want to take into consideration, because you certainly don’t want to be carrying a full ice chest loaded to the brim with food, drinks, and ice for any sort of distance at all.Something like the wheeled Coleman, the Buccaneer tailgating cooler or the Tailgaterz (they both have shoulder straps) would be wise choices.
  • Planning on grilling out?If grilling out is a staple part of your tailgating get-togethers, you’ll definitely like the Buccaneer tailgating cooler that comes with the grill and BBQ cooking tools – an awesome grill/cooler combo that comes in one convenient, easy to carry unit. And, inexpensive to boot.

Of course, another major thing you’ll be considering is price. We’ve obviously made an effort to include products for a wide range of budgets on this list, because we understand that not everyone can (or even wants to) drop 400, 500, or 600 dollars on a top of the line Orion or Grizzly.

If you’re on a budget, the Tailgaterz Cool-n-Carry is a perfect option that you’ll be sure to get a ton of use out of, or even the X-Large Coleman 100-quart doesn’t have too hefty a price tag.

And finally, the last thing you don’t want to forget about is ice retention. Every cooler on this list is more than sufficient to hold ice through an entire day’s tailgate, but if you want something that will hold ice for longer weekend (or even full week) trips, you’ll need to make the jump up in quality and price to either the Orion or the Grizzly rotomolded ice chests.

Conclusion / Bottom Line … What’s the Best Tailgate Cooler?

We really can’t pick one specific ice chest as the best tailgating cooler overall, because we understand that everyone out there has different needs, uses, and budgets to consider.

That being said, our goal with this article was to provide options for anyone and everyone who loves to tailgate — after all, we all know how important it is to be a good, supportive fan to your favorite team!

Last update on 2022-05-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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Greg’s a co-founder of and author of 100+ product reviews and comparisons on this website. When not at work, Greg’s an avid sportsman who enjoys running marathons, loves snowboarding, hiking and discovering new single tracks on his bike.

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