Best Cooler for Van Life: Top Picks To Keep Food Cold

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Van life brings with it the joy of exploring new places and the freedom to travel at your own pace. However, life on the road also presents challenges when it comes to maintaining a comfortable and convenient lifestyle, particularly in the realm of food storage. Fridges and coolers are essential for van life, as they allow you to keep your food and drinks fresh, safe, and cold.

With limited space and power in your van, as well as varying temperatures and climates in different locations, finding the perfect cooler or fridge for many van lifers can be tricky. Additionally, individual needs and preferences can vary greatly, so it’s important to consider the features that are most relevant to your lifestyle when making a decision.

As a van lifer myself, I understand the struggle of finding the best cooler options for your mobile abode. That’s why we’ve done the research and have put together this article to help you navigate the vast world of coolers for van life.

Key Takeaways

  • This article covers the benefits of finding a suitable cooler for van life
  • Challenges and considerations in choosing the right cooler will be discussed
  • A comprehensive guide to help you decide on the best cooler for your needs is provided
Keeping food cold allows a much larger range of cooking options

Best Cooler For Van Life Product Reviews

Let’s take a look at some top coolers from different categories, considering factors like capacity, best insulation, durability, and power consumption.

YETI Tundra 65 Cooler – Best Overall Van Life Cooler

A hard-sided cooler with excellent ice retention and temperature resistance. Made of durable rotomolded polyethylene, it is compatible with dry ice for enhanced cooling power. With a capacity of 61.51 liters, it can hold 42 cans or 52 pounds of ice. This cooler is quite heavy, weighing 29 pounds when empty, and is pricier than other similar-sized coolers.


  • Excellent ice retention and temperature resistance
  • Compatible with dry ice for more cooling power
  • Includes a dry goods basket to keep items dry


  • Heavy and bulky, weighing 29 pounds when empty
  • Expensive compared to other coolers of similar size

Dometic CFX 95DZW Electric Cooler – Best Electric Cooler

A dual-zone 12v compressor fridge that is suitable for solar power and features Wi-Fi connectivity for remote management via a smartphone app. With a 94.5-liter capacity, it can hold up to 133 cans. However, it is quite heavy (70.5 pounds when empty) and requires a large space in your vehicle.

It’s also pricey but offers unmatched performance and functionality. I’ve had this cooler in my van for nearly a year and absolutely love it. It starts to struggle in temperatures above 90 degrees but works perfectly otherwise. It works great as an additional seating area and is quiet enough not to be disturbing while sleeping at night. It’s a big relief when you don’t need to worry about constantly restocking ice in your cooler every few days and draining water.


  • Dual-zone cooling and freezing capability
  • Compatible with solar power
  • Wi-Fi connectivity and smartphone app
  • Energy-efficient LED interior light
  • Rugged and impact-resistant design


  • Very heavy and bulky, weighing 70.5 pounds when empty
  • Very expensive compared to other coolers of similar size (although the extra cost is worth it for many)
  • Requires a large space in your vehicle
  • You will need a power source

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Zipperless Hardbody Cooler

A high-performance cooler with a unique zipperless lid for easy access. The removable Hardbody liner with Smartshelf keeps hard and soft items separate. It also offers Microban antimicrobial protection against bacteria and odors. With a capacity to hold 84 cans, it provides ample storage. However, it’s not as durable as other options in this list, but it’s budget-friendly.


  • Large capacity of 84 cans and an insulated front pocket for extra storage
  • Leak-proof, easy-clean lining and a water and stain-repellent exterior
  • Four self-draining cup holders and a bottle opener on the side


  • Does not have a USB port or Wi-Fi connectivity
  • May not keep your ice as long as some other coolers, depending on ambient temperature and usage

Igloo BMX 52 Quart Cooler

This Igloo cooler is compact and durable. This small cooler can keep your food cool for up to four days. It has a heavy-duty blow-molded construction. It also has an insulated lid and walls that provide superior cooling performance.


  • It has a stainless steel kick plate that provides added protection and style
  • It has four tie-down latches on the lid that allow you to secure the cooler


  • It is smaller than some other coolers
  • It does not have a USB port or Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Won’t keep ice cold for as long as other coolers

RTIC Ultra Light Cooler

This RTIC cooler is a new and improved version of the RTIC Ice Chest Hard Cooler, which is one of the best coolers for camper vans. This vanlife cooler is designed to be up to 30% lighter than other rotomolded coolers, making it easier to carry and transport. It also has a pressure-injected commercial-grade polyurethane foam insulation that provides excellent ice retention for days.


  • It has a large capacity of 52 quarts, which can hold up to 76 cans or 51 pounds of ice
  • It has a durable and impact-resistant construction
  • It has heavy-duty rubber T latches that keep the lid secure, as well as molded handles and tie-downs for easy handling


  • It is still heavier than some other coolers, weighing 21 pounds when empty
  • It does not have a USB port or Wi-Fi connectivity
  • No locking mechanism

Coleman 48-Quart Heavy-Duty Cooler – Best Budget Cooler

The Coleman 48-Quart Heavy-Duty Cooler is a large and durable cooler that can keep contents cold for up to five days in temperatures as high as 90°F.


  • It has a capacity of 48 quarts, which can hold up to 76 cans
  • It has a zipperless lid that allows easy access to the contents, as well as a removable hardbody liner with a smart shelf that separates hard and soft items
  • It has Microban antimicrobial protection that inhibits the growth of bacteria and odors


  • It is heavier than some other coolers, weighing 22 pounds when empty
  • It does not have a USB port or Wi-Fi connectivity

Selecting the right van cooler depends on your preferences, budget, and needs. While some might prioritize performance and durability, others may seek convenience and lower costs. Consider the pros and cons of each option to find the perfect cooler for your van adventures.

My Dometic fridge works great as additional seating

Van Cooler Buying Guide

Choosing the best cooler for your van life experience depends on your needs and preferences. There are several factors to consider when making your decision, such as the size and shape of your van, available power source and budget, frequency and duration of trips, amount and type of food and drinks, and even your personal taste and style.

To help you narrow down your options, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How much space do you have inside your van for a cooler?
  • How often do you need to replenish ice, or can you invest in a powered fridge?
  • How long do you plan to stay off-grid during your trips? How much food storage capacity do you need?
  • What kind of food do you usually store?
  • How much are you willing to spend on a cooler?

Additionally, keep these tips in mind when looking for a cooler for van life:

  1. Measure your van’s dimensions and layout before buying a cooler to ensure it fits properly and doesn’t consume more space than necessary. Coolers come in all shapes and sizes. Consider if you can use a cooler that can also double as an additional place to sit.
  2. Look for energy-efficient and eco-friendly models. Since power availability can be a challenge, finding a cooler or fridge for van life that runs efficiently is crucial.
  3. Prioritize durability and insulation. A well-insulated cooler will keep everything cold longer, and a durable build will ensure it lasts for many trips.

Remember to use this buying guide as a starting point, and always consider factors that are specific to your van life experience. By considering these questions and tips, you’ll be better equipped to find the cooler that fits your needs and preferences.

There are many ways to make your ice last longer

Tips for Keeping Ice Cold During Van Life

Keeping ice cold during van life is essential because it extends the shelf life of your food, prevents spoilage and contamination, reduces waste and cost, and improves overall comfort and convenience. Here are some tried and tested tips for keeping ice cold in a cooler:

  • Pre-chill your cooler before loading it with ice. This helps retain cold temperatures and ensures that your ice doesn’t start melting right away as soon as it’s placed inside.
  • Use large blocks of ice instead of smaller cubes. Block ice melts slower because it has a lower surface area exposed to warmer air. This can help preserve your frozen goods for a longer time.
  • Pack your food in layers with ice in between. This provides an even distribution of cold air, ensuring all of your food stays well-chilled.
  • Avoid opening your cooler too often or for too long. Every time you open the cooler, cold air escapes and warm air enters, leading to ice melting faster. Try to minimize opening the cooler and plan your food retrieval ahead of time.
  • Keep your cooler away from direct sunlight or heat sources. Placing the cooler in a shaded or insulated area helps maintain lower temperatures and prevents ice from melting quickly.
  • Add some salt to your ice to lower its freezing point. This makes the ice last longer and keeps the temperature inside the cooler even colder.

By following these tips, you’re on your way to better preserving your food, ensuring a comfortable, convenient, and cost-effective experience on the road.

Our Verdict

Finding the right cooler or fridge for your van life adventures can greatly enhance your comfort, convenience, health, and even your budget.

Remember, your choice will depend on your specific needs and preferences. As a friendly reminder, consider prioritizing your comfort and the durability of the product, as this can make a huge difference in the long run. The YETI Tundra 65 and the Dometic fridges offer excellent options when considering these factors.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to take your van life to the next level by investing in a cooler or fridge that’s perfect for your needs. Happy travels!

Photo of author


Robert Johnson is the founder of Van Simply. He spent eight months traveling full time in his converted camper van and takes frequent shorter trips to explore the world. He enjoys taking his van on surf trips, visiting national parks, and meeting up with the wonderful people he has met on his travels.

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