Ready to enjoy a great time in your yard with a bunch of friends? You’ll want a cooler to keep cold beverages handy! We’re not talking about something you can sling over your shoulder here. We’re bringing out the big guns – errr, coolers – here. Let’s look at ice chests that can hold dozens of cans of beer or soda!
We’ll be looking at ice chest-type coolers. That is, they don’t provide cooling on their own. Instead, they have insulated shells where you add ice and the product you want to keep cool
Of course, these aren’t good just for beverages. They’re also great for keeping meat cold until it’s time to slap it on the grill. Or they could hold cold salads or other edibles In any case, the coolers we look at today start at 75 quarts and go all the way up to 125. They’re fantastic for camping or beach trips, too, and can keep your food and drinks cold for several days.
Choosing the Right Size Cooler
There are a few things to consider when choosing a cooler, but the first step is to narrow your choices down by size.
You want to find a model that fits your needs, but you may decide on getting different models for different activities. Obviously, you’re not going to want to drag a huge cooler for a picnic date in the park.
The coolers we’re considering here can hold from about 60 all the way up to 180 cans.
You’ll also want to add ice to chill them and keep them chilled. You need about 1.5 pounds of ice per gallon of beer or soda. A five-gallon bag of ice could be enough for about 32 cans.
There are no exact rules for how many cans and how much ice you can fit in your cooler. It will depend on how you arrange the cans and pour the ice onto them. The “official” numbers are a decent guide but don’t take them as gospel.
If you’re adding plates or trays of food, your capacity will also vary according to their shape and size.
The larger coolers we’re looking at here will definitely serve you well when you’re having a small crowd over for a cookout. They’re also great to take on the road since they can keep your stuff cool for days.
What Else To Look For In A Cooler
After you’ve decided that you need a large cooler, there are still a few other factors to take into account.
You want your cooler to be able to keep your drinks and food cold over an extended period. Fortunately, many models have quality insulation. Some can even keep ice from melting completely for up to five days.
Of course, that does require some cooperation. If the chest is constantly opened and closed, the ice will melt faster. But these units will work well for parties – even though there’s a high level of activity, they don’t (usually) last several days.
Construction and Durability
Insulation is part of the interior construction, but the exterior is also important. A cooler has to stand up to being carried, dragged, and perhaps wheeled about. Kids may even decide to sit on it – or climb on it.
Since we’re talking about a somewhat large chest, we also need it to be somewhat lightweight. So the construction has to be tough but easy to carry. After all, it’s going to be loaded up with a lot of other things, too.
Handles & Wheels
Just as important as the body of the chest are the handles and wheels you’ll use to move it.
Not every model has wheels, but they are a huge advantage. In most cases, there are two wheels. You’d use a handle on the far end to lift that end and wheel the chest around. Of course, the wheels need to be big enough that you won’t be scraping the edge of the chest on the ground. They also have to hold up to crossing concrete, gravel, soil, and whatever other surfaces you may expose them too.
Handles also need to be durable and strongly attached to the chest. Many people find it helpful if they’re long, too. This makes it easier to get your hands on them around the width of the chest.
Drains Are Helpful
A good cooler does keep ice from melting quickly, but it will still melt. And trying to empty a large chest of water can be a messy job.
A drain spout on the chest is a great feature. This will allow the water to empty slowly. No splashing. No need to try to lift the chest. Just open the spout and the water flows out.
It may seem like a given, but you want a waterproof cooler. With modern coolers, that’s rarely an issue. You don’t want water leaking out. At the same time, you don’t want rain or other water to work its way in.
Our Picks for the Best Large Coolers
Now that you know what to look for, let’s get into the details of our recommendations for coolers from 75 to 125 quarts.
This chest from Igloo checks all the boxes for what you want to look for.
The 120-quart chest holds up to 188 cans. Under optimal conditions, it can keep ice from melting for up to 5 days – even when the temperature soars to 90° F!
The handles are both reinforced and sturdy. There is a drain. It’s threaded so you can attach a hose to drain the melted water away from the area.
The outer measurements of the unit are 38.31 inches long by 17.38 inches wide by 17.75 inches high. Inside, the base is 33 inches by 13.25 by 13.25. At the top, it’s 34.69 by 14.88 by 13.25. That’s enough to let you stand a 2-liter soda bottle straight up.
It weighs a tad under 20 pounds empty – that’s a great (low) weight for this size unit. But it doesn’t give up anything in terms of durability to reach that weight.
While it largely receives fantastic reviews, there are some complaints. Usually, they have to do with low-quality hinges or sometimes a front latch that doesn’t close properly. These make up a small fraction of reviews, but it’s worth being aware of. It could have been a manufacturing problem that’s been fixed, as most of the related reviews are from a short period several years ago.
Another drawback is that there are no wheels and no way to add them.
Coleman is one of the best-known names in coolers, and this 100-quart model lives up to its great reputation.
It holds up to 160 cans. It’s even got 4 can holders in the lid. And it can support someone up to 250 pounds sitting on the lid, making it a great extra chair!
Like the model above, it can – in top conditions – hold ice for up to 5 days in 90° temperatures.
This cooler has handles for carrying. But it also has wheels and a tow handle so you can pull it around. The wheels are sturdy and big enough to get over small uneven spots.
This is a different kind of cooler but would make a great addition to your patio! It’s not something you’ll want to lug on trips, but in your own yard, it’s a fantastic addition.
This cooler with a built-in cart is easy to use since it stands above the ground and has four wheels. It’s also got a shelf underneath.
With an 80-quart capacity, we estimate it can hold about 100 cans.
There are some great features here that are functional and fun. The fold-back two-section lid is easy to easy. There’s also a bottle opener and cap disposal on the side.
The drain is on the rear of the unit.
The unit is made of metal with a powdered-coat finish. The casters on one end can be locked in place to prevent it from rolling away. Each caster measures 3 inches. We’ve seen photos where the lower part was black, but it seems to normally be red. We haven’t been able to determine if there was an alternate version.
It’s not as high as it may appear. The full height is 33.5”. It’s 30-7 long and 15.2 inches wide.
The cooler basin is 15.2 inches deep, 30.7 inches long, and 13.8 wide. It’s divided into two equal sections.
Since it’s made of metal, it’s best to bring this inside after use.
According to the manufacturer, this chest can hold ice for 7-10 days! That’s amazing and perhaps a bit optimistic – they don’t specify the conditions needed to achieve that. However, it still does a very good job holding ice and keeping your food and drinks cool for a party or even a few days.
There are two slots where you can place dividers inside the basin, but you have to buy the dividers separately.
The chest is available in white or tan.
The handles are nylon rather than solid plastic. We actually like them a lot. They seem a bit more flexible while remaining very strong. That’s important, though, as this unit is very heavy. It weighs 32 pounds, much heavier than even larger units.
The drain plug is attached to a lightweight chain to help keep you from losing it.
The outside measures 33.5 inches by 18.5 inches by 18 inches high. Inside at the top, it’s 27 by 12.
The biggest disadvantage we see is the chest’s weight. It’s a great cooler but all that weight even before filling it is a bit of a drag.
Pack up to 63 cans in this case along with enough ice to keep it cold! This quality cooler is great for keeping your items cold and will serve you well for a long time. We haven’t seen the manufacturer’s estimate for how long ice will last, but even some reviewers say it’s good for 7 days or more.
For portability, there are both grab rails and nylon rope handles. There are no wheels, which would have been a nice feature on this 39-pound beast.
Outside, it measures 37.75 inches by 17.5 by 18. Inside, it’s 29.25 by 11.3 by 12.5.
For quick draining, this model has two large spouts.
It’s also available in 50-quart and 125-quart sizes.
Bison provides a 5-year warranty on this American-made product, too, but we doubt you’ll have any issues with it.
When you like to entertain on the patio or around the pool, a big cooler is a necessity. Be sure to get one big enough for your needs. Quality insulation and ease of mobility are also important. We recommend any of the models reviewed here and we’re sure you’ll get your money’s worth out of them!