Buying the Right Size Cooler for Boating

The size of the cooler you select should depend upon the intended use, the number of your boating party, and how long you will need it.

Our go-to day cooler is the Yeti Hopper Two 20

Cooler capacity is generally stated in quarts or capacity in 12-ounce cans. One quart equals about 0.75 cans, so a 24-quart cooler will hold about three six-packs or 18 cans.

Another way to gauge capacity is to divide the capacity in quarts by 30, so a 60-quart cooler equals two cubic feet. When selecting a cooler, remember that about 30-50 percent of its capacity will be taken up with ice.

For three people on a day trip, a 40-quart cooler is generally fine. For the same group on a weekend camping trip, a 50 to the 60-quart cooler is good. Try not to buy a cooler that is too large, as tightly packed coolers keep food colder for longer. Purchasing a jumbo-sized cooler and filling the excess space with ice might seem OK, except for the expense and extra weight you will have to carry.

Conversely, an excess of air or open space inside an overly large cooler makes the ice melt faster. An exception to this conservative approach is offshore fishing coolers. How big are the fish you plan to catch? We can’t answer that, but we can say that most anglers would be loath to cut their trophy-sized catch in half to bring it home.

Lastly, don’t buy a cooler that will be too heavy to carry and if you need the extra capacity, consider purchasing two—one for food and one for drinks.