The kids are hungry. Heck, you are hungry! And you need something to store your delicious picnic, lunch, or day-long snack-age for family day trips. A lunch cooler is like most typical lunch bags but upgraded. Lunch coolers are usually larger with even better cooling capabilities, and a good lunch cooler should hold the food you need and keep it cool (or even warm) for as long as possible.
We are going to take a dive into the world of lunch coolers and show you our top 10 best lunch coolers that we oh-so-love and explain why. A great lunch cooler is effective, and in most cases, affordable. Though even the coolers with higher price tags are definitely justified by their awesome features (as you’ll see momentarily).
Whether you’re a mom-on-the-go, looking for something to store food in for a day trip or simply looking for a cooler to bring to work, we’ve got a lunch cooler for everyone!
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…
What to Look for in a Lunch Cooler
You might be surprised by how many options there are when it comes to lunch coolers. With a variety of sizes, insulation types, pockets, handles and more, grabbing any lunch cooler just won’t do.
Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing the right lunch cooler for you.
You’ll notice we’ll be talking about cans a lot. That’s because it’s a great unit of measure for lunch coolers. It’s easy to picture how spacious a lunch cooler is according to how many cans you can fit into it. For example, the Coleman 9-can fits, you guessed it, 9 cans, while the Arctic Titan Deep Freeze Cooler has a size option that can hold up to a whopping 48 cans!
We’ve included both large coolers that can hold food and drink for a whole family as well as smaller coolers that are perfect moms who plan on taking it to work.
There are three options when it comes to lunch coolers: a handle, a shoulder strap or both. We love the versatility of having both, but for an extra-large lunch cooler, a shoulder strap is unnecessary. If you do choose to go with a shoulder strap, make sure that it’s comfortable to wear, preferably with some sort of padding.
In most cases, the heavier and/or the thicker the insulation, the better the insulation. There’ s no denying that a durable, well-made cooler is going to provide cooling for much longer. There are coolers that can keep food and drink cool for up to 24 hours and in some cases longer. For day trips or if you’re planning on packing an abundance of food and drink, be sure to choose a cooler with excellent insulation.
Most lunch coolers are pretty affordable, however, there are some that cost a pretty penny. Is the price justified? In some cases, yes. For example, the company YETI makes high-quality coolers with insulation capabilities of over 24 hours! Meaning, a YETI cooler comes with a higher price tag.
And while the price tag might be justified, we made sure to include some budget-friendly (and even super budget-friendly) lunch cooler options. You may not get the lifespan out of the cooler as you would the more expensive options, but if you consider how often you plan on using it and what you plan on putting in it, you can determine if it would be worth spending the extra dough.
A Word on Food Safety
Bacteria growing on food is no good. It happens when the temperature is over 40 degrees, so if you are planning on keeping food that needs refrigeration out of a fridge for more than a half-hour, you need to put it in a cooler.
Here are some food safety tips to keep in mind when storing food in a cooler.
- Especially on hot days, keep the cooler in a shady spot. If at the beach, store it under an umbrella or cover it with a blanket to ensure the food stays cold.
- A full cooler will stay cooler longer than a half-full cooler. Keep an eye on the temperature and if needed add more ice/ice packs to keep it cold.
- Raw meat and seafood should be stored in a secure container and kept in a separate cooler to avoid contamination.
- Keep all food stored in tightly-sealed containers to prevent water from getting in.
- Separate food and drink into two coolers if possible. Drink coolers tend to be opened more frequently.
- Consider purchasing an appliance thermometer to ensure the cooler stays below 40 degrees. When the temperature outside goes above 90 degrees keep an eye on the temperature of the cooler to ensure the temperature inside the cooler doesn’t rise.
10 Best Lunch Coolers
So which lunch coolers made the cut? We’ve got something for every mom. Whether you have multiple kids, need something for your self, are wanting a lunch cooler for day-long trips or just for a day picnic, there’s a lunch cooler for you on this list.
1. Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler
Yes, it holds 9 cans, but for moms, that means lunch and drinks for a couple of kids (and yourself). The removable liner makes cleaning easy and also allows you to use ice in order to keep food and drink cold.
The heat-welded seams mean no leaks for this cooler. The plastic liner not only prevents leaks but is also antimicrobial, preventing anything unsavory from growing in the lunch box.
Two side handles and an adjustable shoulder strap provide some versatility on how you can carry the cooler. The pockets located on the inside and outside will help keep moms organized.
- The removable antimicrobial liner prevents leaks and germs from growing inside
- Multiple pockets to keep moms organized
- The shoulder strap is adjustable and comfortable
- Holds up to 9 cans
- Might not be big enough to hold food for more than 2 or 3 people
2. MIER Insulated Cooler Backpack
If you’ve got some serious food you need to carry and need an easier way to carry it, the MIER insulated cooler backpack is a great pick. It’s got plenty of pockets to separate food, and the large size allows you to pack multiple sandwiches, drinks, and sides with room to spare.
The main pocket is deep and can fit up to 24 soda cans. And although it can hold plenty, the backpack itself is lightweight, weighing less than a pound and half. The water-resistant material and the inner insulation features a PEVA liner to keep it leakproof.
But will it cool? Yes, it will. For hours! And it will keep hot foods warm for hours, too. The backpack comes at an affordable price and is available in 3 colors: black, camo and golden.
- Durable fabric is water-resistant
- Deep main pocket can hold a ton!
- Padded straps for comfort
- Leakproof PEVA liner
- Multiple pockets inside and outside to keep you organized
- Perfect for day trips
- May not hold up to daily use
3. Rubbermaid LunchBlox
If you just need something to keep your food cold and only need to carry a little, the Rubbermaid LunchBlox is a super affordable option that is compact and comfortable to carry.
While made to work best with Rubbermaid’s LunchBlox food storage containers, this lunch cooler will have no problem holding a full lunch and then some. The inside compartment makes it easy for you to store utensils and other small items.
Also on the Rubbermaid LunchBlox is a bottle holder located on the side and two zippers to fully open the lunch box to display everything you are carrying.
- Super affordable
- Two zippers to access full lunch bag
- Fully insulated with an internal compartment to hold utensils
- Works great with LunchBlox food containers
- Handle and adjustable detachable shoulder strap for easy carrying
- Durability is lacking. Users stated it only lasts about a year
4. Stanley Adventure Cooler
Have a full day excursion planned? Perhaps a camping trip? The Stanley Adventure Cooler is perfect for any adventure, big or small. It will keep food cold for at least 27 hours and up to 36 hours!
It doesn’t get much more durable than this. The body of this cooler is insulated with foam. The latches can handle frequent latching and unlatching, and the gasket is leak-resistant. The adjustable tie-down on the top of the lid allows you to carry extra securely.
And while the handles are super durable, a fully-loaded cooler might not be very comfortable to carry long distances. This cooler is perfect to store in the back of a car or take for a day at the beach.
- Super durable hard body exterior and foam insulation
- Keeps food cool up to 36 hours. (Cold for 27 hours)
- Durable hardware can withstand frequent use
- Leak-resistant gasket
- Comes in 4 colors
- Available in a 7-quart and 16-quart option
- Too bulky for carrying around for an extended amount of time
5. YETI Hopper Flip Portable Cooler
It’s hard to talk about lunch coolers and not talk about YETI, and as you can expect from YETI, this is a serious lunch cooler. The YETI Hopper Flip Portable Cooler a closed-cell foam that keeps food colder than most coolers on the market.
The external material is a waterproof mildew-resistant material which Yeti calls it’s “DryHide Shell”. It’s extremely durable and can handle plenty of wear and tear without getting damaged.
This cooler can hold 6 cans plus ice and has a leakproof HydroLok Zipper to prevent any leakage. The major drawback to a YETI is its higher price, but considering its superior cooling capabilities and the fact that it will last you years to come, we think it’s worth it.
- Superior insulation thanks to Yeti’s rubber foam insulation
- Leakproof zipper with a wide-mouth opening for easy access to food
- The durable exterior material is waterproof and mildew-resistant
- Great for use with ice packs or ice
- Comes in 3 colors
- Includes shoulder strap
- Very expensive
6. Hango Lunch Cooler
This lunch cooler set will keep food cool and make you look even cooler. Its stylish, classic design makes this the perfect lunch boxes for adults.
The Hango Lunch Coolers are made from high-density polyester and are available in black or red. The set comes with a large and medium-size lunch cooler, both made of the durable polyester and featuring a stainless steel zipper.
Use one or use them both, the large size can hold up to 6 cans. And the price for two is so right, you might even buy two sets.
- Stylish design
- Comes with two coolers
- Durable stainless steel zipper and polyester fabric
- Large size holds up to 6 cans
- Insulation is pretty thin. Won’t cool for as long as other coolers on this list
7. Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Cooler
If you are looking for something like the YETI, but don’t want to spend the money, the Arctic Zone is a great budget-friendly pick. The lid of this cooler has a unique flip-open zipperless lid for quick and easy access to food and drink.
The hardbody liner is leakproof and has been treated with Microban to prevent stains and odors from permeating the lining. The Rhino-Tech treatment on the exterior material makes it water and stain-resistant, too.
But does it cool? Absolutely. The high-performance insulation reflects heat, keeping food and drink cooler for longer. The front pocket is also insulated.
- Comes in 4 sizes (9-can, 16-can, 30-can & 48-can)
- Budget-friendly price
- Reflects heat to keep food cooler longer
- Adjustable shoulder strap with comfy shoulder pad
- Anti-bacterial and stain-resistant lining
- Removable SmartShelf for better organization
- The strap is on the short side
8. Igloo MaxCold Cooler Backpack
We know a lot of moms need to keep their hands free, so that’s why we have another backpack cooler on this list. The Igloo MaxCold Cooler is comfy to carry and the MaxCold insulation keeps food colder, longer.
The liner of the MaxCold Cooler Backpack is leak-resistant, antimicrobial and is easy to clean. The Air mesh straps are padded and adjustable, and the front zipper pocket for quick access to food and drink is insulated, as well.
This backpack can hold up to 30 cans, making it perfect for day trips.
- Comfy padded air mesh straps
- Holds up to 30 cans
- Insulated front pocket
- Affordable price
- Mesh pockets for extra storage
- Leak-resistant, antimicrobial liner
- Lack of durability with zippers when used frequently
9. Everest Cooler Lunch Bag
For school, work or play, the Everest Cooler Lunch Bag is easy on the wallet and holds plenty of food and drink to get you through the day. The adjustable shoulder strap makes it easy to carry around to the park or to the office.
There are not one, but two mesh storage pockets to carry food and drink that doesn’t need to be insulated. The front zipper pocket is perfect for utensils and napkins. The interior lining is pretty easy to keep clean but will leak if something spills.
The Everest Cooler Lunch Bag is available in different designs and colors to fit your style (or your child’s style!).
- Affordable price
- Spacious design
- Two mesh pockets and front zipper pocket
- Shoulder strap for easy carrying
- Comes in plenty of color and design options
- Isn’t leak-proof. Stick with icepacks rather than ice
10. eBags Crew Cooler II
This small, soft tote-bag-style lunch cooler is larger than most lunch boxes, making it the perfect size to store multiple lunches. Unlike some lunch coolers, the eBags Crew Cooler II has two main compartments, one for dry goods and the other that is fully insulated for cold food and drink.
This lunch cooler was designed specifically for flight attendants and pilots but works great for moms on the go. This lunch cooler can be carried via the shoulder strap or handles. You can also slide the handle of a luggage bag through the cooler’s “pass-thru” pocket to make traveling more convenient.
The lining is a PVC-free PEVA that is easy to clean and replace. The side mesh pockets can hold a variety of differently-sized bottles and there’s even a front zipper pocket for additional storage. And to top it off, the eBags Crew Cooler II is also available in tons of colors.
- Great for use with wheeled carry-on luggage
- Two large compartments for dry and insulated food
- Two side mesh pockets hold different sized bottles
- Large size holds plenty of food and drink
- Tough ballistic nylon exterior material is super durable
- The plastic covering on handles aren’t very comfortable to hold
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Which should I use? Ice packs or ice?
A: Both are effective for keeping food cold, but there are pros and cons to each. For lunch coolers that are smaller and used frequently, an ice pack is a great choice. Ice is a great choice for larger coolers. It’s inexpensive and effective, but investing in multiple ice packs for larger coolers is a good choice too.
Ice packs tend to stay colder longer and the obvious benefit of icepacks is they don’t melt. If you choose to go with ice, make sure the lunch cooler has a hard lining or is leak proof.
Q: How do I clean a lunch cooler?
A: Lunch coolers do need a good cleaning every once in a while. First, always check the manufacturer’s instructions. But in general, whether its a hard or soft lunch cooler, you can clean it using a mild detergent and water.
Saturate a cloth with the soapy mixture and scrub the interior and if need be, the exterior. Use another cloth with water to “rinse” the lunch box and allow to air dry.
We love the Coleman 9-Can Cooler. It’s affordable, holds enough food and drink for a couple of people, and is durable enough to hold up to everyday use. If you are looking for something a little larger for camping or day trips to the beach, check out the Stanley Adventure Cooler. It holds a ton and will keep all your delicious food and drink cold for up to 36 hours.
We hope you enjoyed our article covering the best lunch coolers!