The Best Food Coolers & Warmers Reviewed

Call it what you like – ‘Ice chest’, ‘Ice box’, ‘Car Fridge’, ‘Esky’, ‘Chiller’, ‘Cooler’, you name it, the box you carry your food in needs to work its butt off.  The best tailgate party tip is to find a box that can transport the goods at the correct safe temperature, be easy to lift, wheel and withstand a bit of rough-and-ready treatment. The best food coolers and warmers are reviewed below but as the range expands and contracts, don’t forget to come back and read about all the new items and the ones that are discounted just in time for tailgate party season.

Best Coolers and Food Heaters for tailgate parties

Best Coolers and Food Heaters for tailgate parties

Without the box, your beer is warm, and who likes warm beer outside the British Isles???? Nobody of course.  Ideally, a cooler needs to fit in the back of your vehicle and a bonus is if it is strong enough to double as seating or flexible and compact enough to fold up to store in your house.  Oh, those last two are mutually exclusive. Don’t sit on a flexible cooler especially when it is full of deviled eggs.  Power is optional, in fact it is an affordable option these days.  Yet, most coolers just do their job with the addition of ice in the right quantities and will get you through anything from one to five days as long as you don’t keep opening the lid.  Buy a cooler that is made of food grade plastic rather than a cheap knockoff that may pollute your food. The powered models can keep you on the road, tailgating from city to city.  Don’t laugh.  I know people who do just that!  The ice filled ones can be managed to do the same though so below are some really good buys and some hints on how to manage your portable food carrier.

Just remember when you are packing the car to allow for the weight of the cooler.  Most large ones weigh around 20 pounds on their own, before you add those 16 dozen cans of beer … before you buy, take a tape measure to the trunk of the car and figure out how many of these you can comfortably fit in. So, that’s enough of an intro! Now read on for the reviews of the best food coolers and best food warmers!

The Best Food Coolers & Warmers Reviewed

Let’s start with the coolest of coolers, the Cruzin’ Cooler.

Cooler Review: Crazy Coolers Motorized Cooler


Best Coolers and Food heaters - Crazy Cooler with motor

Best Coolers and Food heaters – Crazy Cooler with motor

OMG, so you didn’t get the parking space you wanted in the lot!  You’re not next to your mates.  In fact, you are way over the other side.  Heck, that has to be a long walk.  Oh no, and you have a large cooler packed full of sublime amber fluid and hey, it was your turn to bring the ribs.  Sit on this little beauty. Start it up and cruise your way to Tailgate Party Heaven. Crazy Coolers created these innovative motorized coolers that kind of sound like a lawn mower or mo-ped when they are running. They feature unique all-terrain tires, a 2HP 4-stroke engine, 48L Cooler and that combo can be a full bar on wheels.   Just don’t speed while driving it.   The cooler is fine too, but really, aren’t you just buying this one for the fun?

Cooler Review: Bundle-47 Electric Cruzin’ Cooler

Cruzin Cooler Electric Scooter

Cruzin Cooler Electric Scooter

Here’s the Greenie, Tree-Hugger Tesla style version …. OK, so it’s not a Tesla.  It’s from Cruzin’ Coolers and they are the guys who started this mobile cooler ride-on craze.

NOTE TO SELF: Add to Wishlist for Christmas, Birthday, hey any day with ‘day’ in it.

There are 300 watt and 500 watt versions and the whole kit and caboodle weighs around 64lbs..-Nicely finished with aluminum and chrome on exposed metals, it also features a built in cup-holder and an overall quality design and manufacture.

The Top speed is 13 mph.- This model holds 24 x 12oz cans with ice.

Rider Capacity is limited to 250 lbs.-It has easy brake and throttle control and is great personal transportation.

Compatible with: Cruzin Cooler Powered Coolers, Cruzin Cooler Coolagons.

It also has accessories such as this neat cover tailor-made for the Cruzin’ Cooler. which comes in a couple of nice colors.

Too lazy even to drive the Cruzin’ Cooler?  Then sit in a chair and tell the drinks to come to you:

Cooler Review: Interactive Toy Concepts Radio-controlled Cooler

Remote Controlled Cooler

Remote Controlled Cooler

This is a Canadian invention.  Why am I not surprised?  This elegant radio – controlled, battery powered Cooler, lets you just sit back and take the controls on your next beer delivery. Its insulated sides keep your drinks cold for the big game, 12 bottles at a time, allowing the RC Cooler to cater your friends’ drinking needs without you doing more than jiggle the controls.   Ice-cold precision: 30′ RC range; 4 sturdy and stable sure-grip wheels; Bottle-cap shaped controller.

Send it back to the kitchen for refills if you need to.

It’s collapsible down to only 6 1/2″ h. for easy storage but I am thinking you’ll be getting this one out every weekend and using it a lot.

NOTE: Uses 6 C batteries in cooler and 2 AA batteries in remote (batteries not included).  You may want to get a stash of rechargeable batteries to avoid the cost and pollution of replacements.

Dimensions:  12″ diam., 14″ h. Weighs 3 lbs., 10 ozs.;

OK, now to the serious stuff.

Cooler Review: Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Cooler

Coleman 54 Quart Steel-Belted Cooler

Coleman 54 Quart Steel-Belted Cooler

This tough-as-nails Coleman was designed for camping but it is great for tailgate parties – strong enough to sit on.  Kind of retro in appearance, it holds 85 cans so you and your three best friends will be set for a day of tailgating. This could very well be the best food cooler of them all!

Its stainless steel handles are covered in grippy rubber making it is a breeze to pick up, at least when empty. The retro look isn’t just for decoration: the steel (which is painted) makes it super tough and easy to clean.  It is rust-proof, leak resistant and the drain hole is designed for ‘no-tilt’ emptying.  Hinges and screws are also steel and tough.  Locally made, from USA and foreign made components, it is guaranteed and anything that breaks under normal wear can be replaced.  The latch and gaskets make it seal securely which means cold stays in much longer.

Measurements:           26” x 18” x 17”

Cooler Review: Coleman 62 qt. Xtreme Cooler

Coleman 62 qt. Xtreme Cooler

Coleman 62 qt. Xtreme Cooler

The Coleman 62 qt. Xtreme Cooler features Xtreme 5 technology and the capacity to hold up to 85 cans. It features two-way handles for easy lifting and carrying, a tow handle and its rustproof, leak-resistant channel drain allows for no-tilt draining. The lid is hinged and high-quality plastic construction from Xtreme 5 technology with Thermozone insulation makes it durable. The corners are curved to prevent the gathering of bacteria as it is simple to wipe out after use.

Wheels are ‘all terrain’ making it a perfect choice for tailgating.

Dimensions: 31.5 x 17 x 15.5 inches (W x H x D)

Sturdy for sitting on, but maybe not Bubba and his sister, Ten Ton Tessie…

Cooler Review: Coleman 100 qt. Xtreme Wheeled Cooler with Tow Handle

Coleman 100 qt Xtreme Wheeled cooler

Coleman 100 qt Xtreme Wheeled cooler

Next size up holds up to 160 cans.  Wow, this tailgate party is getting better by the minute!  Very durable, again the ice won’t melt for 5 or even 6 days.  A couple of these will see you through – one for drinks, one for food.  The insulated walls are 2 inches thick and the snug insulated hinged lid has a gasket seal.  It has two tough all-terrain wheels and the tow handle will make dragging it around the parking lot a breeze.  Though sand may be a struggle for the wheels particular when the cooler is packed high with brewskis.

HINT: Look after that seal on the lid.  Just as you clean the gasket seals of a refrigerator, do the same with these and they will last for many years.  Don’t let your guests leave the lid ajar.  You need to be quite tough closing it to preserve the cold temperature.

Dimensions: 36.5L x 16.75W x 18.25H inches.

Drain plug works well.  Very efficient cooler nicely designed for tailgate party use. Buying from this local company is an advantage as their after sales service is great (for instance, if the handles break, they can be replaced easily and fast).

Good value for the price at the moment.

Cooler Review: Coleman 120-Quart Xtreme 5 Cooler


Here’s a massive cooler that, according to description, will keep ice for 5 days.  Looks the same as all the others in the range but enormous.  Good seating. The way to do this is to pre-chill everything you put in there and also make the ice you put in there quite dense.  For instance, you can freeze a deep aluminum pan full of water and put it, pan and all in a large Ziploc plastic bag which you seal well.  This stays cold for days.  Or you can buy various sheets of refreezable gel packs. In a parking lot at a tailgate party, despite up to 90 degree heat, 190 cans of beer or the equivalent food will stay chilled.  Or buy two and pack those 190 beers and use the other cooler for food.  Be sure to measure the space in your vehicle allowing for the hinges of the trunk.  This cooler is tall enough for wine bottles to be packed, standing.

Another nice feature of this outstanding cooler is the hinged lid with its can holders.  It’s rustproof and has the Coleman designed drain so it is practical for dealing with cleaning and letting out melted ice.  The 2 large all-terrain wheels make it simple to transport and tugging its tow handle is a breeze. It’s tough and OK for your guests to sit on.  A handy feature is that you can tether additional stuff to the top and the lid has been designed to fit cords to fasten items (dry goods, other small boxes).  You can buy these cords separately.  The interior has no toxic CFCs, HFCs, or HCFCs.  Made in the USA.  Full warranty.

Dimensions: 39.75 by 13.75 by 19 inches (L x W x H) (Exterior), 32 by 12.5 by 15 inches (L x W x H) (Interior).

Cooler Review: Igloo Polar Cooler (120-Quart, White)

Igloo Polar Cooler

Igloo Polar Cooler

This cooler only fits 188 cans – aw gee!  It’s another version of the 5-day ice-keeper and I see a lot of these in use though I have never owned one.  I know that they keep fish and meat frozen for days, so beer should be a cinch.  It doesn’t have wheels but it is probably the toughest one around.  It has snap-fit latches to keep the warm air out.  Very tough walls and well insulated.

I have seen these stacked 2 high made into an amazing table with contributions from all the party guests who coincidentally, happen to have bought the same cooler.  It’s 36 inches high (a stack of two) and you can bank them up and throw a team logo cloth over them.  Good for playing tailgate party games if you have enough of them! Just get the food out BEFORE you set the table.  Just over half price at the moment so snap one up before they sell out.

Dimensions: 38.3 x 18 x 18.5 inches

Cooler Review: Koolatron 18 qt. Compact Cooler

Koolatron 12V compact cooler

Koolatron 12V compact cooler

If you have any foods that are particularly vulnerable to heat spoilage then maybe you need a plug-in cooler.  The Koolatron Kooler is very useful to keep food and drinks cool while traveling or at the tailgate party parking lot and you can plug it in to your accessories socket. (The unit cannot be left plugged in to the cigarette lighter in the car for more than 4 hours or it will run the car battery flat. There is an optional battery saver adapter that will shut off the unit if it overtaxes the car battery).

It’s narrow enough to slip behind the driver’s seat on the floor but has a good capacity at the same time.  As it has powered cold, the addition of any ice is not necessary but I just like to put a couple of flexible thin gel packs (frozen) at the top or on the side that may heat up during the drive.

Items to be placed in it should be cool before filling the cooler. The empty unit will cool about 10 degrees an hour to about 40 degrees lower than the ambient temperature around it. It will maintain any pre-cooled contents at that temperature while plugged in. Check the manual for cooling times.

The optional AC power adapter (Koolatron Muti-Purpose Adapter 110VAC to 12VDC ) is useful – plug it into the wall and cool down the box for 12 hours or more. A slab of ice or gel pack is also a good idea.  Anything you put it in should be fridge cold or frozen.   Note that it will keep things cold not freeze items or cool things down (except by using ambient temperature)  A refrigerator thermometer would be a good little accessory for this unit.  An extension lead from your cigarette lighter helps too.

The Koolatron is also a food heat source, keeping hot foods hot.  Again, set the temperature before you put the food in.  I also throw in a few of those small hand warmers having first heated them in the microwave.  Pizza, mac’n’cheese and other delicacies will stay hot for hours.

18 quarts is not a huge capacity but between this and your drinks cooler(s), you should cover all bases.

Tailgate Hotbag Side Loading

Tailgate HotBag - Side Loading food warmer

Tailgate HotBag – Side Loading food warmer

We all have our large coolers and they double as seats and tables in many cases.  But this is a range of soft-sided insulated boxes that will keep food hot.  They plug into your 12V outlet (and have a long lead).  That outlet was once known as a cigarette lighter).  Without flattening your battery it will keep your home-cooked food piping hot at 165 – 170 degrees F for several hours. The bag is made from 1000 denier rugged nylon with thickly insulated walls and base and is lightweight and very easy to keep clean.  Just wipe it over after use.  Designed to be easy to carry and the food slides in through the side so you can access it sort of the way pizza delivery guys get the pies out.  Full instructions are included and these come in a range of sizes.  If you are tailgating at Metlife, for instance, and cooking on site is not an easy option, then take your pre-cooked corn dogs, hot wings, mac’n’cheese and so on and keep them safely hot in this excellent box.  There are no negatives!

Dimensions: 18 x 18 x 5.5 inches ; 3.3 pounds

Then there’s this Large Side Loading Electric Tailgate Hotbag which is perfect for lots of light weight foods that can be stacked such as sandwiches, pizzas or rolls. Bring enough hot food for the whole gang and keep it hot all the way to the tailgate party, even if it’s hours away. The dry heat does not let the food get soggy.

Tailgatea HotBag - LARGE side loading

Tailgatea HotBag – LARGE side loading

More food warmers great for transporting your hot food.

Food Warmer Review: Tailgate Hotbag Side Pocket

Medium sized Tailgate HotBag Side Pocket

Medium sized Tailgate HotBag Side Pocket

It’s lightweight, has a handy shoulder strap for easy carrying and large pockets on each end.  Heats to 165 degrees to keep your food oven hot from kitchen to tailgate party. Nice for a casserole or pot of mac’n’cheese and you can put bread or condiments in the pockets.

Dimensions: 16 x 12 x 9 inches ; 5 pounds

Review: Black & Decker TC212B Travel Cooler & Warmer

Black & Decker Cooler and Warmer

Black & Decker Cooler and Warmer

Black & Decker 12 Volt Travel Cooler & Warmer with 12 can/2.3 gallon capacity. Powers from vehicle accessory outlet. Thermo-electric systerm keeps food cold or warm. Low voltage auto cut-off prevents coolers from draining vehicle battery.

Thermo-Electric System cools down to 40°F below ambient temperature and heats up to approximately 120°F

Plugs directly into vehicle’s or boat’s 12 volt DC outlet or any other 12 volt power supply

Rests on vehicle seat, tailgate, hatch or floor for easy access during travel

Zippered side storage and accessory pouch

Dual can/cup holder

Dimensions: 18 x 10 x 14 inches.

Heavily discounted at the moment.

Cooler Review: Koolatron 12V 48-Can Voyager Cooler

Koolatron 29 qt Voyager Cooler

Koolatron 29 qt Voyager Cooler

This is a nice, streamlined cooler/warmer which holds 48 cans and the only difference between this and the other Koolatrons is the size, shape and color.  You can stand a wine bottle up in this one.

Heats as well as cools.

NOTE: DO NOT cover up the fan/exhaust outlet.  It needs to be able to breathe in and out.

NOTE: Don’t use melting ice in these machines – the gel pack sealed sheets are the best.  It will operate best when you avoid opening the lid too many times and also pack it to avoid air gaps.  Put chilled items in to retain the cold and hot items in to retain the heat.  Again, I noticed that these are heavily discounted at the moment.

Dimensions: 17.5 x 16 x 15.4 inches

12 pounds

Review: Coleman 40-Quart PowerChill Hot/Cold Thermoelectric Cooler

Coleman PowerChill Hot/Cold Thermoelectric Cooler

Coleman PowerChill Hot/Cold Thermoelectric Cooler

Keep your food warm OR cool, and strictly speaking, you don’t need ice or a freezer pack.  The Coleman 40-Quart PowerChill Hot/Cold Cooler uses electricity to keep your food at the right temperature. Set to Cool mode it cools down to forty degrees below the surrounding temperature; on Warm, it heats to 110-140 degrees above the surrounding temperature. Just plug it into your car’s 12-volt outlet – it has a long lead and even longer ones can be purchased. Also purchase the 110-volt AC adapter (sold separately) for use in the home which is, as mentioned earlier, essential for pre-cooling the unit overnight or in between uses. The PowerChill 40 Quart can hold 44 cans, plus snacks. The interior tray helps keep everything organized, and you can use the PowerChill upright, cabinet-style like a hobbit-sized fridge, or horizontally, chest-style. The door can be converted to open from the left or the right, so it’ll work well in your available space. 1-year limited warranty.  These plug in miniature fridges used to be really expensive but there is a great range these days at affordable prices and this is one of my favorites. If you are tailgate partying in, say, Phoenix, a few sheets of gel icepaks will help keep the sun’s effects off your tailgate.  But in general, it is fine without any assistance.  Also is discounted right now just in time for the 2016-17 NFL season so move quickly if you want one at a good price.

Dimensions 15.7 x 17.8 x 24 inches

Koolatron Multi-Purpose Adapter 110AC to 12 Volts DC ( Model AC-16)

Koolatron Multi-Purpose Adapter 110AC to 12 Volts DC ( Model AC-16)

Koolatron Multi-Purpose Adapter 110AC to 12 Volts DC ( Model AC-16)

You definitely need one of these so that you can pre-chill the container overnight prior to the tailgate party Big Day.  See notes on this process!  Also if you are homegating in the back yard, it’s a really useful item to save you trips to the kitchen and back and can be plugged into the wall wherever your tailgate party is located.

Cooler Review: Koolatron 26-Quart Soft-Sided Electric Travel Cooler

Koolatron 26 qt Soft Side Bag Cooler

Koolatron 26 qt Soft Side Bag Cooler

The Koolatron D25 Soft Bag Cooler can be taken anywhere, like the car, to picnic sites, hotels, offices, and more. For even more convenience the D25 plugs into all 12V cigarette lighters. The Koolatron D25 Soft Bag Cooler comes with an easy-to-carry adjustable shoulder strap, and holds up 32 x 12 oz cans. An optional 110V adapter is available for home use. The Koolatron D25 Soft Bag Cooler also has a convenient cord storage compartment when not in use. Cools to 16.5 degrees C or 30° F below the ambient temperature.

What I love about this is its ability to organize me with pockets and compartments for everything.  Tailgating is the ULTIMATE picnic and that is what this great little, lightweight cooler guarantees.  Bottles of pop, no, make that growlers, can stand up and you can tuck the food in all around it.  The long lead means you can keep it plugged in for at least a couple of hours if you have a good battery in your vehicle.  Stuffed eggs, for instance, require a really cool temperature or they can be a sure way to spending the day in the porcelain palace in the throes of a Technicolor yodel.  Avoid tummy trouble and keep the food really cold!

Dimensions: 9 x 17.5 x 15 inches

Now a few pretty items for the ladies to put their cupcakes in!

Wheeled Picnic Cooler for 4, Houndstooth

Wheeled Picnic Cooler for 4 - many patterns available

Wheeled Picnic Cooler for 4 – many patterns available

This fully-equipped picnic cooler combines a removable wheeled cart, as well as a unique, divided cooler with separate sections for wine and food. Leaning towards the chic rather than tailgate party ruggedness, it has a leak-proof cooler which includes an easy drink access panel in the lid, a hand grip, an adjustable shoulder strap, and an extra front pocket. The wheeled cart has strong retractable handle like a suitcase and is easy to remove when not needed. Designed and assembled in the USA it has a  Lifetime warranty. The cooler comes with a combination corkscrew, cheese knife, wineglasses, plates, napkins, flatware, wheeled cart and has a stylish pattern on the outside. Dishwasher-safe plates, flatware and glasses (glasses top rack) are included; hand-wash and dry wood accessories though and only spot-clean bag and cooler; machine-wash and dry napkins.  Nice gift for the tailgate party gals!  High enough to stash a wine bottle or two.

Dimensions: 17.25″ x 14.5″ x 13.5″

Thermal Food Carrier, Trellis Blue

Ascot style picnic carrier - for the gentlewomen at your tailgate party

Ascot style picnic carrier – for the gentlewomen at your tailgate party

Despite its feminine appearance it features sturdy construction just like my cousin Meryl. Thermal Shield insulation make this colorful food carrier essential for transporting food such as casseroles, cakes, rolls, and more hot or cold. It also zips fully open for easy packing. Lifetime warranty.  Discounted at the moment for tailgate party season!

Dimensions: 4″ x 18″ x 11″

Trunk Organizer and Cooler Set, Chevron

Trunk organizer and cooler - style and substance

Trunk organizer and cooler – style and substance

Dimension: 12″ x 23″ x 14″; folded, 12″ x 14″ x 3″

You might find this trunk organizer useful.

It’s a durable three section trunk organizer with removable Thermal Shield insulated cooler and despite its glamorous looks it is great for keeping sports gear, cleaning supplies, and groceries organized. Two large outer sleeve pockets. Foldable when not in use to maintain trunk space. Designed in the USA. Lifetime warranty. Tailgate party season discount!

Happy tailgating!