Brenna Miles | Jun 01, 2023

Cooler Buying Guide: What to Look For and More

Whether you’re relaxing at the beach or having a backyard cookout, a cooler is the ultimate companion. And if you’re on the hunt for a new cooler, then you know just how many options are out there. Soft coolers, small coolers, hard coolers…the list goes on.

Luckily, we’re cooler experts. In this cooler buying guide, we walk you through the different types, sizes, and more so you can make the right choice for you.

Table of Contents

  • Cooler Buying Guide: What Type Is Best for You?

  • What Size Cooler Do You Need?

  • Other Cooler Considerations to Make

  • Must-Have Cooler Accessories

Cooler Buying Guide: What Type Is Best for You?

Let’s start our cooler buying guide off right by talking about cooler types. To choose the right cooler type for you, there are a few questions you should answer:

  • What are you using it for? Is your cooler going to join you on camping trips? If so, a larger, hard-sided cooler might be best. Will you be chilling poolside with it? If so, a backpack cooler could be the most convenient. As you dig into the options, keep your cooler’s key uses in mind.

  • How long do you need to keep things cold? A cooler’s main job is to keep your favorite drinks cold. But the amount of time a cooler keeps things icy will differ between types. For example, if you’re taking a weekend trip, a hard-sided and well-insulated cooler is the best choice.

  • How durable should your cooler be? Do you plan on putting your cooler through it? Some cooler-worthy activities, such as hiking, result in more wear and tear than others. If your cooler is going to spend a ton of time outdoors, durability matters. Keep that in mind as you shop.

Now that you know the non-negotiable deets, let’s dive a bit deeper into the different cooler types.

1. Hard-Sided Cooler

Hard-sided coolers are probably the most popular and well-known options. These coolers feature a hard plastic or metal exterior as well as built-in insulation for keeping drinks cold.

Because of their exterior, these types of coolers are some of the most durable. For example, the BrüMate BrüTank features an adventure-proof design, complete with all-terrain wheels (yes, even compatible with sand!).

Some hard-sided coolers feature locks or clamps to keep the cool air in. Others simply have a lid that seals. Plus, many hard-sided coolers are completely leakproof and waterproof. Hard-sided coolers come in all shapes and sizes, depending on your needs (we’ll talk more about size a bit later).

2. Backpack Cooler

Backpack coolers are exactly what they sound like: Coolers you wear on your back. Featuring backpack straps, these coolers were made to be taken places. These coolers come in a wide range of materials, from plastic to polyester to stainless steel, and can be either soft or hard-sided.

Some backpack coolers feature pockets and other storage compartments (you know, for snacks). Our personal favorite coolers feature a built-in tap, like the BrüMate BackTap. This is perfect for serving up three gallons of a delicious drink of your choice. Plus, with load-lifting backpack straps, the BackTap is a great option when portability matters above all else.

Don't need the tap? Check out our MagPack 24-Can backpack cooler. Featuring our patented leakproof and insulation technology, this soft-sided insulated cooler is designed to have your back on any adventure without the leaks or lukewarm drinks.

“The tap built into the front of this cooler, along with the backpack-style straps, might make it the most versatile option on this list. Set the cooler down on the edge of a table, remove the straps (if you want), and it becomes a self-serve hydration station.” —Men’s Journal

3. Soft-Sided Cooler

The other common type of cooler is the soft-sided cooler, like our MagPack series. The MagPack comes with a soft, waterproof Repel™ outer shell and removable backpack straps for easy transporting. The IceGuard™ technology uses an antimicrobial insulation to ensure your drinks stay cool while protecting against bacteria build-up. Whether you're prepping for a multi-day camping trip, or a small backyard get together, choose between three different MagPack sizes to meet your needs:

What Size Cooler Do You Need?

It’s beyond frustrating trying to pack everything you need into a cooler that’s way too small. That’s why it’s important to consider size when shopping for a new cooler. To find the perfect size, here are some questions to consider:

  • What are you putting in the cooler? Are you filling your cooler to the brim with bottles of water, regular soda cans, or slim cans? Maybe you need to fill your cooler with all of the above. And then there’s the sandwiches and limes for those summer cocktails. Whatever you’re packing, you’ll need to make sure your cooler can hold it all.

  • How much space do you have for your cooler? Trying to fit a full-size hard-sided cooler into the trunk of your car (especially when surrounded by pool noodles or sleeping bags) can be a challenge. But if you’re packing the bed of a truck, the cooler may fit just fine. Consider how much storage space you have for both transporting and storing your cooler once you return.

  • What is your destination? Where will you be taking your cooler? Smaller coolers may be easier options when traveling on foot, while larger coolers are suitable options when you can pull right up to your chill spot. However, some coolers do have features that enable you to transport them easily, regardless of your destination. For example, are you headed to the beach? If so, the BrüTank easily rolls across sand, or strap in and set out with the BackTap.

“A cooler with wheels should be capable of rolling just about anywhere, but sadly, some wheeled coolers struggle beyond the pavement. Fortunately for you and all your friends, that’s not the case with BrüMate’s BrüTank. This heavy-duty hard-sided cooler comes equipped with puncture-resistant all-terrain tires that roll over everything from sand to sticky mud.” —Forbes

Size vs. Capacity

It’s important to note that cooler size and capacity aren’t the same thing. The cooler size refers to the actual size of the cooler, while capacity refers to how much the cooler holds. For example, the BrüTank is a 55-quart cooler (capacity), but it’s 19.5 inches tall and 19.5 inches in length (size). Make sure you keep this difference in mind as you search out your new cooler.

How Much Capacity Do You Need?

Now, how much cooler do you need? It depends. If you need to pack drinks for a few days or to please a crowd, a large, hard-sided cooler might be best. But if you need a cooler for a quick trip to the pool, a smaller cooler may work just fine.

Coolers can range in capacity from six cans (small, personal-sized coolers) to over 100 quarts (large coolers). Confused about what “quart” really means? Let’s take a look at the BrüTank vs. the BackTap as an example:

Other Cooler Considerations to Make

Cooler type and size are just two of the considerations you need to make when picking the right cooler for you. For example, you’ll also need to consider the cooler’s features, insulation, portability, and usability.


Sure, at the end of the day, a basic cooler can keep your drinks cold. But why settle for basic? Look for a cooler that has high-quality features for an even better experience. For example, the BrüTank includes a wide range of innovative features:

  • Self-tapping removable drink tank

  • 100% leakproof design when latches are down

  • Foam bench top for sitting comfortably anywhere

  • Built-in bottle opener

  • 5-year warranty

“If we could only choose one cooler, we'd have to go with the BrüMate BrüTank.”

Travel + Leisure


To keep your drinks and other tasty treats cool, pick a well-insulated cooler. For example, the BrüTank guarantees 7+ days of ice retention, and the BackTap features a stainless steel-lined interior that works to keep drinks chilled all day long.

Versatility and Usability

The best coolers are also versatile and easy to use, no matter where your day takes you. If you’re packing up for the day, your cooler should have a dry rack for keeping your lunch from getting wet. But it should also be removable for when you need more drink space. Or, if you’re headed to the tailgate with friends, a cooler with a built-in tap could be best so you can easily pour and sip. But it should also hold regular cans and bottles when you need them.


The cooler you choose needs to be easily transportable from place to place. For example, if you need a large, hard-sided cooler, you’ll also need wheels and strong handles for easy transport. If you need a backpack cooler, you’ll need comfortable straps.

Both the BrüTank and the BackTap were made with portability in mind. For example, the BrüTank features all-terrain tires that glide over everything (including gravel and sand!) as well as a convenient pull handle. The BackTap features load-lifting backpack straps and a strong carrying handle, making your journey all that much easier.

Must-Have Cooler Accessories

No cooler buying guide is complete without some talk about cool accessories (see what we did there?). There’s a wide range of accessories to choose from, including:

  • Ice packs: While regular ice is almost always needed to keep drinks cold, an ice pack can help keep your drinks colder for longer. Slim ice packs are great because they don’t take up much space in your cooler.

  • Dry racks: Dry racks sit at the top of your cooler and hold everything from sandwiches to candy bars and beyond. They’re great for keeping snacks and other things from getting wet.

  • Cup holders: Some coolers, such as the BrüTank, allow you to attach cup holders to the outside. This is super convenient, especially on beach days (no one wants sand in their drink).

  • Cooler locks: Cooler locks help keep the cool air inside of your cooler. Plus, they’re a great defense against wildlife if you’re packing your cooler to the forest.

  • Rod holders: Rod holders attach to your cooler and hold your fishing rod or an umbrella. It’s the perfect accessory for lazy lake or beach days.

  • Tie-down kits: Tie-down kits are a must-have if you plan on packing your cooler in the bed of your truck, on an ATV, or on another vehicle. These kits keep your cooler snug and secure.

If you’re looking for a cooler with all the bells and whistles, take a gander at our BrüTank bundle. With the bundles, you can take your BrüTank to the next level while saving some cash. Our bundles include a BrüTank, two cup holders, and two ice packs.

There Are No #Basic Coolers Here at BrüMate

Here at BrüMate, we take our coolers seriously. In fact, our coolers are the most unique, versatile, and durable options ever made. Grab a BrüTank for yourself by shopping our best sellers today!

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