Beginner’s Gear Guide: Best Cooler for under $100

Coolers are a staple for any camping, road tripping, or day-drinking household. And while you can drop hundreds of dollars on a Yeti (and then constantly tell people it’s SO WORTH all that money), you could also just spend about $60 and get this one.

We have put AO Coolers’ canvas cooler (36-pack size) to the test on our week-long road trip around Colorado, on a ladies’ camping trip, and on Labor Day Weekend to transport a small cache of booze. It keeps everything super cold (and can handle 20 pounds of ice), is easy to pack because of its soft sides, and you get a ton of room for the price.

On the road trip, we had to rely on the cooler to keep our food cold enough to not give us food poisoning…in insanely hot daytime weather…for multiple days. Even when the ice was more liquid than solid, it stayed so cold it was legitimately painful to grab things out of the cooler. We stored meat, dairy, and even just things we wanted to keep from melting (see: smores chocolate) and never ran out of room or confidence that we weren’t going to contract a food-borne disease.

You can even store this cooler sideways and it doesn’t leak! Really handy if you are not good at adulting.

The soft sides are what really makes this cooler truly awesome. You can shove it anywhere, and don’t have to block off an entire section of your trunk that’s the ONLY place for the cooler. The canvas is flexible enough to fit anywhere, but you don’t have to worry about anything getting crushed either.

The shoulder strap could use a little bit of padding. It’s a little uncomfortable when you’ve got the cooler packed, particularly with the 20 pounds of ice that it fits. That being said, the shoulder strap is great for carrying, especially for camping since those coolers with wheels aren’t built for off-roading.

Apparently, this was the only photo I took of the cooler’s capacity, which actually just makes it look like we subsisted off pre-made iced coffee, chocolate, and Bud Light lime. We kind of did though.

Also, if you’re the type of person that say, leaves the cooler on your deck to dry out and then forgets about it for a week and there’s a bunch of pine needles and other weird tree stuff in it, it can be a little inconvenient to clean since the top opening is a little more narrow than the bottom.

Overall, I can’t recommend this cooler enough. It’s the perfect road trip cooler since it keeps things COLD for days at a time, and is also great for everyday use since it has a huge capacity. It works, it looks good, and doesn’t break the bank. What more could you want? Quick shipping because you’re a procrastinator or insanely impatient (or both, like me)? Get it here on the ‘zon, it’s eligible for Prime shipping.

Note: While it would be totally awesome to receive things for free to review, that is not the case here. My internet researching-loving husband found this recommended on a few other websites and we needed something for our road trip.

This post does include affiliate links, but I would not hawk a product I wasn’t 100% behind. This is an awesome cooler, I didn’t get anything in return for this post, and I hope this review is helpful for you to find the best cooler for you!

Published by Laura Cardon

Laura Cardon moved to Colorado as an adult and quickly realized how difficult it was to get started exploring the outdoors in a state full of experts. She founded Outdoor Beginner in 2014 to fill the gap in beginner-friendly content for camping, hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. In addition to Outdoor Beginner, she coaches beginner trail runners and works at Runners Roost in Golden, Colorado, where she lives with her spouse and toddler.

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