Best Passive Cool Box – the Top 5 Insulated Coolers for Camping

Whether you are out camping, fishing, or simply out for a picnic, a passive cool box helps keep your food and drinks chilled so that they don’t heat up and spoil.

Passive cool boxes are extremely well insulated containers which are specifically designed so that if you put pre-chilled items inside, the heat from the sun is unable to get in and warm them up. The best passive cool box will combine a decent load space with excellent insulation and a strong lifting handle at a price point which won’t break the bank.

A passive cooler can store everything from drinks to light meals and even cooling patches in case of injuries. The best part about an insulated cooler is that it keeps your items chilled for long periods without requiring electricity – we’ve had success over a week of camping after simply pre-chilling our food and having access to a freezer at the campsite to freeze our ice packs periodically.

Passive Cool Box vs Thermoelectric

If you are camping with access to a camping power pack or mains power then you may find that a powered electric cool box is more suited to your requirements than a passive one. An electric cool box can chill under its own steam and does not need access to ice packks – however you can still use them with ice packs if required. However they often weigh more than dedicated passive cool boxes and the insulation may not be quite as good, because it doesn’t need to be.

To help you find the best passive cool box, we’ve put together a list of five examples on the UK market today which we’ve had success with. Before you plan your next trip, you certainly want to grab one of these insulated lifesavers!

Vango Pinnacle Wheelie Cooler

Vango Pinnacle Cooler

Featuring a uniquely intuitive design, the Vango Pinnacle Wheelie Cooler is designed for picnics, camping, sporting events, and similar activities where you need to keep your food and drinks chilled.

The Pinnacle can hold a large array of goods within it’s 45 litre capacity – that’s around 66 standard-sized cans of drink. There are handles on each side makes lifting and moving relatively convenient. On top of this there is an extending handle which allows one end to be lifted and the cool box wheeled along using the in-built wheels on the opposite end. Very nice if you’re planning on venturing beyond the car or campsite for a picnic.

Vango Pinnacle Wheelie CoolerWe like the design and materials used by Vango. The green exterior really feels tough and impact-resistant, whilst the insulated interior can keep your goods chilled for up to 4 days (100 hours).

Yet, even with the large capacity on offer, the Pinnacle still maintains a relatively lightweight build, weighing 6.3kg unladen.

The Vango Pinnacle Wheelie is one of our favourite passive cool boxes on the market and is definitely worth a look for those hot camping breaks which we all so desperately desire.

Pros
  • Long cooling duration – up to 100 hours or 4+ days
  • High-density polyethene interior for high strength and impact resistance
  • Polyurethane foam insulation for longer cooling time
  • The capacity of 45 L stores up to 66 cans at the same time
Cons
  • None we can find

Coleman 50QT Xtreme Wheeled Cooler

Coleman 50QT Xtreme Wheeled Cooler

Built with a capacity of up to 47 litres, the Coleman 50QT Xtreme Wheeled Cooler features advanced insulation to match its performance. This passive cool box integrates dense premium PU insulation that fills up the entire cavity of the cooler, and it is certainly one of the best on the market in our opinion.

Coleman 50QT Xtreme Wheeled CoolerAs a result of the Premium PU material, any air gaps in the cooler are eliminated, and insulation efficiency is improved. In addition, this construction allows the cooler to last for days without losing cooling ability. The cooler has a 47-litre capacity and can store up to 84 330ml cans.

Furthermore, its newly designed shape features two integrated, rounded feet that promote enhanced space for air to flow.

To cater to the enormous load it supports, the cooler is wheeled and has a telescopic handle. Its robust and durable lid also brings convenience to your fingertips – offering four beverage holders.

Pros
  • Large capacity of up to 47 L – supports 84 cans
  • Fitted with two sturdy wheels and a telescopic handle for easy transport
  • Equipped with additional moulded carry handles on each side
  • Drain plug for easy removal of melted ice
  • Hinged lid with four beverage holders
  • Cools ice for up to 5 days
Cons
  • It can be a little wobbly
  • The lid gets too tight

 

Primus Cooler Backpack

Primus Cooler BackpackA bit of a leftfield choice here, but we recently looked at the new cooler backpack from Primus which we really like the look and feel of.

It offers a 22 litre capacity which is smaller than most of the coolers on the market, but may be all you need for a short break. Where the Primus comes into its own though is for picnics off the beaten track. By carrying your chilled food and drink on your back, you leave your hands free to clamber over rugged terrain (e.g. at the beach) to find deserted spots much easier. The bigger coolers are much more restrictive in this way.

Primus are a well known brand in the stove market, and this backpack marks a bit of a departure for them. However we think they’ve designed it well, with 30mm straps for your shoulders, a rugged carry handle and also thick EVA foam which lies between your back and the food – both insulating and comfortable. We also liked the integrated bottle opener on the buckle of the backpack. Nice touch!

Overall, we think the Primus Cooler Backpack is worth a look if you’re likely to be walking a fair distance with your chilled food and drinks. For typical campsite uses though, we would stick with the conventional passive coolers.

Pros
  • 22 litre capacity
  • Only weighs 800g unladen
  • Integrated bottle opener
  • Sturdy straps and carry handle
  • Well insulated and comfortable
  • Strong handle for easy transport
Cons
  • Smallish capacity
  • Stops you wearing a rucksack with your conventional gear in it!

Connabride Passive Cool Box

Connabride Passive Cool Box

If you are cash-strapped, the Connabride Passive Cool Box is a viable option. Despite its low price, the cool box provides excellent quality and performance. This simple yet resourceful cool box is perfect for keeping food and drinks fresh during long summer days.

Connabride Passive Cool BoxMeasuring about 40 cm long by 25 cm wide by 39cm high, the cooler container features a 24 L capacity. Typically, the cooling container can store up to 24 x 330 ml cans. Furthermore, its sealed top lid keeps them cool for about 2 to 3 days.

To make transportation easy, the cool box is equipped with a thick and robust handle. Additionally, the ice box’s lightweight build makes transport, handling, and storage easy too.

Pros
  • Stores up to 24 330 ml cans
  • It is lightweight and designed for ease of use, transportation, and storage
  • Cools items for up to 2 to 3 days
  • Equipped with a thick lid to seal it effectively
  • Affordably priced
  • Strong handle for easy transport
Cons
  • There is no drink holder
  • One choice of colour

 

Coleman Polylite 48QT Cooler Combo

Coleman Polylite 48QT Cooler Combo

The Coleman Polylite 48QT Cooler Combo comes as a three-piece set. The set includes the Polylite 48QT cooler box, a Performance 6 Personal cooler box, and a ½ Gallon Performance jug. 

Coleman Polylite 48QT Cooler ComboThe large cooler features high-quality patented poly-lite construction – allowing it to store ice for up to 2 days. The ice cooling box has a capacity of up to 47.7 litres and weighs only 3.9 kilograms. Also made from HDPE, the smaller six-person cooler box is filled with PU insulation and keeps ice for about a day.

Weighing about 800 grams when empty, the cooler has a capacity of about 4.7L. With a capacity of about 2 litres, the ½ Gallon Performance jug cools ice for almost a day. However, the jug only weighs 700 grams when empty.

 

Pros
  • Set includes the Polylite 48QT cooler box, a Performance 6 Personal cooler box, and ½ Gallon Performance jug
  • Patented quality Poly-lite insulation for a long-lasting cooling effect
  • Moulded beverage holder on the large cooler
  • The jug is insulated to cool beverages
  • It is made of HDPE for a long-lasting and robust finish
  • Coolers have a carrying handle to make transportation easier
Cons
  • Only one colour option
  • Some issues with durability

Coleman 28QT Xtreme Cooler

Coleman 28QT Xtreme Cooler

Built with premium insulation technology, the Coleman 28QT Xtreme Cooler can hold ice for several days to make it a perfect companion for overnight trips. With a 26 litre capacity, this cooler is smaller than the other options we’ve reviewed, and is more suited to short breaks for individuals or couples at the most.

Coleman 28QT Xtreme CoolerThe Coleman 28QT can hold up to 36 standard cans of beverages and a 2-litre bottle height. In addition, the lid features two inset cup holders which offers somewhere to place a bottle or can. Unfortunately they’re not large enough to take a mug of tea.

The strong lid design also allows the cool box to double as a sturdy seat, allowing it to support loads of up to 113 kilograms. Furthermore, the upright position of the cooler makes it easy to load and store anywhere, while the handle allows for reliable carrying.

Be under no illusions, the Coleman 28QT is a great passive cooler, but you have to be sure that you won’t need to store more provisions than it can handle. In our view, if you are taking a car then it may be worth going slightly bigger.

Pros
  • A strong lid allows the cooler to double as a seat – supporting loads of up to 113 kgs
  • Stores ice without melting for up to 2 days
  • Capable of holding 36 standard cans and a 2L bottle
  • Lid moulded with cup holders
  • Designed with an easy to clean surface
  • Upright design for easy transportation and storage
Cons
  • The lid can be tight to squeeze on to the body
  • The handle can dig into your hands when carrying over a long distance

Buying Guide – How to Buy the Best Cool Box

When selecting the finest cool box for your next outdoor activity, there are a few factors to consider. This guarantees that you get the right cool box for your needs, regardless of size or cooling capability. We’ve created a detailed buying guide below, including all of the essential characteristics to look for.

  • Capacity And Weight

Size is a key feature to look out for since it determines how much your cool box can support. Passive or non-electric cool boxes have a size range of between 1 L to up to 100L. For example, a 28L cool box can carry up to 36 330ml cans. A 57L cool box, on the other hand, carries up to 75 cans.

However, you will have to spend more on larger cool boxes. Furthermore, you should expect extra weight with a large-sized cool box – although weight is impacted by the material as well.

This weight is also significant since it affects how you handle the cool box. Regular carrying handles, for example, would be insufficient for a fully loaded 57L cool box. The big cool box’s wheels make transportation easier and more convenient.

  • Cooling

Different cool boxes come with varying cooling capacities. For passive cool boxes, the cooling effect is prolonged as the size increases. Typically, cool boxes maintain their effect for about 12 to 100 hours. So, you certainly want to go for a large box with at least a 2-day cooling effect for overnight camping trips.

When choosing the best cool box, you want to pay close attention to the insulation as well. Fillings such as those made from polyurethane offer a longer-lasting effect – which, in turn, allows the cool box to maintain low temperatures for longer.

  • Materials

The best cool box should be made from high-quality, robust, and impact-resistant material. This allows it to survive harsh conditions and rough rides. Generally, you can find cool boxes made from plastic shells such as polyethene or those made from fabric with hard foam underneath.

You can also find premium quality coolers made from rubber which improves their grip and cooling retention. Regularly designed cool boxes (mostly made with outer fabric) typically last a few hours. Similarly, plastic coolers will last anywhere between a day or two. If you want a cooler that lasts for up to 5 days, a premium quality plastic or rubber-covered cool box will be more suitable.

  • Contents

You can store most items in a cool box. After all, it functions as a portable fridge. With adequate ice blocks to maintain the correct temperature, you can store meats, vegetables, and dairy products. Additionally, you can also store first aid items such as ice packs.

  • Other Features

You should look out for extra features to enjoy the best value from your cool box. Different cool boxes have a variety of additional features. Some of the features to look out for include beverage holders or wheels. If you opt for smaller or medium-sized cool boxes, go for one with a shoulder strap.

The shoulder straps help relieve your hands, so you don’t get fatigued from carrying the box with your hands for a long time. Larger cool boxes, on the other hand, are sometimes fitted with side handles. This design allows two people to carry the box together. Some cool boxes are even equipped with a robust lid that doubles as a seat.

If you buy a large cool box, be sure it includes a drain plug. Melted ice is easily disposed of in cool boxes with drain plugs. Furthermore, you don’t have to fumble around with the contents to get rid of the melted water.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What Are the Pros and Cons of Non-Electric Coolers?

Also known as passive cool boxes, non-electric coolers simply use frozen blocks to keep the contents cold. The best part about using cool boxes is that they don’t need any power sources. Yet, you can still find options to last you anywhere between a day and three.

Additionally, non-electric coolers tend to be cheaper and relatively lightweight. However, the disadvantage of these coolers is that they don’t stay cool indefinitely, as the blocks eventually melt.

2. What Cool Box Size Do I Need for Camping?

The size depends on your needs – based on the number of people you will serve and how long you will be out. You also want to consider your space, whether you have a small salon car or a truck. To easily choose the size, think of the standard cool box capacity. For example, a 28L cool box fits up to 36 cans.

3. Are Cool Boxes More Efficient Than Cool Bags?

Yes. Cool boxes are generally built to be more effective and efficient than cool bags. This is because, first, cool boxes have a higher capacity, which allows for more air circulation and a cool effect. Additionally, their thicker insulation and sealed construction mean that they retain more coolness.

4. How to Improve the Efficiency of Your Cool Box?

Improving the efficiency of your cool box is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is pre-chill your items in a fridge to increase their cooling duration. Then, fill up the cool box to the top to prevent cold air from escaping. Finally, pack it up with as many ice blocks as you can fit in and shut the box tightly to prevent even the tiniest amount of air from escaping.

Conclusion

By investing in the best cool box, you can enjoy the outdoors as if you were at home. After all, these passive coolers still operate the same as your fridge at home. So, you can stuff them with all your favourite foods and drinks to enjoy them outside. In fact, passive cool boxes are ideally designed to suit the cool UK weather.

Their most prized gift is their affordability and power-free operation – meaning you can use them in most areas. However, you have to remember to opt for a cooler to fit your size, needs and cooling duration. For example, you don’t want to find yourself camping for two days with a 12-hour cooling box. So, make the right decision, and choose the best cool box for your needs from our recommended list above.

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