Do you have a company picnic around the corner? Maybe your home team is in the Super Bowl and you’re ready to celebrate. Either way, no party is complete without a good portable cooler!

Which types of coolers are out there? What are some of the most popular brands? Break the ice at any event by finding the right style for you!

Are Hard or Soft Coolers Better?

Coolers are made from either soft materials, like vinyl or cotton, or harder materials like plastic or metal. Generally speaking, any style can keep your food and drinks nice and chilly. The main difference comes down to why you need the cooler, how well it’s insulated, and how much you store inside.

Coolers can be made from the following materials:

  • Hard plastic
  • Metal
  • Canvas
  • Cotton
  • Neoprene
  • Nylon
  • Polyester
  • Polypropylene
  • Styrofoam
  • Vinyl

Hard Plastic
Coolers made from durable plastics are well-suited to outdoor events. They typically come equipped with an easy carrying handle or wheels.

Aluminum and stainless steel are the most popular metals for coolers. This style is heavy to carry, but great for large events like family reunions or weddings.

The beautiful thing about canvas is it won’t get damaged from moisture. This makes for a great cooler to bring along to lunch meetings or networking events.

Cotton is another fabric that’s moisture-resistant and lightweight. If you need something simple for a picnic in the park, this is the cooler for you!

Pack a lunch for your next water park visit or trip to the amusement park in an easy-to-clean neoprene cooler!

Nylon is insanely strong, meaning you don’t have to worry about any wear and tear. This durable material is a good choice for long road trips that require soda and bottled water.

The best part about polyester is it dries quickly and is super easy to clean. Are you packing a lunch for messy kids? This material is your new best friend!

Soft and hard coolers can be made from polypropylene. The rigid design makes this material great for hiking expeditions or camping trips.

Most coolers are meant for outdoor events, but Styrofoam is better for indoor use. Since it isn’t recyclable, it’s best to avoid getting this type of cooler too dirty or gunky.

Are you on a budget? If so, a vinyl cooler is for you! This style is great for one-and-done events like music festivals or town fairs.

There’s no wrong choice when it comes to choosing a cooler. All of these options have a rich history of keeping things nice and chilly. Add as many as you can to your personal collection!

How Much Can Fit in a Cooler?

Coolers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. You’re able to fit anything from a small snack to a full buffet, depending on the capacity. If packed correctly, small coolers can fit about 5 to 10 items, medium can fit roughly 15 items, and large anywhere from 20 and beyond.

Does food mean more to you than numbers? If so, this is a general idea of how many snacks you can get packed!

Different Cooler Sizes


Budget Cooler Bag

6” x 8” x 6”

6 soda cans


A couple sandwiches & bags of chips


Package of cookies


Koozie Picnic Basket

11” x 19” x 9.75”

10 to 15 bottles of water


Subs with fruit & veggies


Box of cupcakes


Coleman Classic Cooler

16.5” x 24” x 14.5”
(13.5 gal.)

3 or more 2-liter bottles


All the ingredients
for burgers


Whole pie for dessert

Every cooler and food package is built differently, meaning there’s no right answer to how much can fit. Plus, if you play a little Tetris anything is possible! The more creative you are, the more space you’ll end up saving, no matter what the cooler’s size.

What Are Some Styles for Portable Coolers?

When you think of a cooler, you probably picture a box fitted with a white lid. You might even imagine wheels to make it easier to lug around. It turns out, those are only a couple of the portable coolers currently on the market. You can also find the following styles:

  • Duffel bag
  • Backpack
  • Tote bag
  • Drawstring bag
  • Picnic basket
  • Bucket
  • Collapsible
  • Wine bag
  • Standing
  • Multi-compartment
  • Car organizer

Keep in mind not every cooler is suited to every event. For instance, a standing cooler would be awesome at your kid’s birthday party, but you can’t carry it with you to work. With that in mind, it’s definitely worth investing in a variety of coolers to fit the occasion!

These styles are unique and work for a variety of occasions, whether it’s hosting a pool party for all your neighbors or carrying drinks to a family reunion. Add as many as you can to your collection!

What Are the Most Popular Cooler Brands?

There are a variety of popular coolers on the market. As it stands, these are the brands that are keeping things the coolest at tailgates and backyard barbecues:

  • Igloo
  • Coleman
  • Yeti
  • Bison
  • Orca
  • Canyon
  • Orion
  • Pelican
  • Engel
  • Otterbox
  • Grizzly

Igloo, Yeti, and Coleman are the biggest brands in the bunch. In fact, combined they have an estimated annual revenue of over $1.5 billion. Still, that doesn’t mean the other brands aren’t awesome as well. Orion features cool tie-dye options that are perfect for any free spirit, while Orca has bright, trendy colors and designs.

No matter what, there’s a cooler out there that matches your personal style! Look into the brand that works best for your budget.

Adding a Personal Touch to Your Portable Coolers

The best part about portable coolers is you can customize them for your event. All it takes is the right print method to add a design, name, or message right on the front. It’s well worth taking this extra step to make your cooler unique, especially for the right occasion!

Are you having an outdoor wedding? Print your initials on the front of all the coolers you’re using at the reception.

Community Events
Whether it’s your town’s 100th anniversary or a big event at the local library, customized coolers are a great way to show community pride!

Family Reunions
Show off by coming to the reunion with a cooler featuring your last name. At the very least, it’ll help Great Aunt Carol remember who you are!

Trade Shows
Your booth will be the one to visit if you hand out branded coolers. These giveaways will stand apart from all the pens and stress balls out on the trade show floor.

5Ks or Marathons
Those runners are going the distance! Keep branded coolers full of bottled water, energy drinks, and protein bars at every mile.

Whether you’re dancing at your wedding or running your first marathon, a branded cooler brings a personal touch to any event!

The Bottom Line

There are many choices out there when it comes to portable coolers. It’s all about finding the one that reflects your style, fits within your budget, and above all keeps things nice and cool at your event!


How to This and That. (2015, October 22). The Pros and Cons of Different Canvas Materials. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from

Esmerio’s. (2019). Pros and Cons When it Comes to Nylon. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from

Sewing Parts. The 411 on Cotton Vs. Polyester: The Pros and Cons. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from

The Essential Chemistry Industry. (2019). Polypropylene. Retrieved February 5, 2019, from

AZO Materials. (2019). An Introduction to Vinyl. Retrieved February 5, 2019, from

Owler. (2019). Yeti, Igloo, & Coleman Annual Revenue. Retrieved February 7, 2019, from

Dahl, T. (2018, January 11). The 10 Best Coolers for Keeping Things Chill. Retrieved February 7, 2019, from

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.