What are two cooler names that come to mind when you imagine all the coolers you’ve owned and all the ones your friends have owned? There’s a good chance that at least a handful of those had either the Coleman or the Igloo logo.
These two ubiquitous brands have been in business forever and fulfill a budget niche for people who aren’t about to drop hundreds of dollars on a specialty cooler. They need solid performance for the afternoon soccer tournament or their backyard party but don’t want to sell their firstborn to invest in a cooler.
If you need a backup cooler or you just aren’t ready for extreme performance just yet, Coleman and Igloo both have excellent options to fulfill exactly what you need at a price that allows you to breathe. Let’s compare the two to see which one should have your dollars in our Coleman versus Igloo review.
About The Brands
Both brands occupy the same niche, but they aren’t exactly the same. Let’s keep a few details in mind as we go along because you may find one to be the deciding factor in your choice. Here’s a quick peek at what’s coming.
Why We Like It
- good ice retention
- very affordable
- classic design
Why We’re Skeptical
- poor hardware
- limited high-end choices
- Why We Like It
- excellent hardware
- lots of style options, including high end
Why We’re Skeptical
- lower ice retention rates overall
- more expensive on average than Coleman
Coleman and Igloo Comparison
As far as budget coolers go, you’re probably ready to graduate from one-time use Styrofoam, but that doesn’t mean you have to go crazy. Both Coleman and Igloo use a double wall, durable plastic body with at least one to two inches of insulation in most of their hard shell coolers, plus a variety of styles and capacities. They both also have soft-sided coolers and a few specialties like ice buckets or drink dispensers. Let’s break it all down.
How Are They Similar?
Because they both occupy the same niche, they do have a few things in common regarding the materials, design, and overall aesthetic of most coolers. They also have a reasonably similar price range and are available both online and in a broad range of retail stores.
For their hard shell coolers, both Coleman and Igloo use a durable plastic that resists UV damage and cracking. They won’t last through a hurricane or when encountering a grizzly, but if that’s your natural weekend environment, these aren’t going to be what you’re looking for. They do both offer a top of the line model with manufacturing similar to roto-molded coolers and designed to mimic that durability without the super high price tag, however. These could be an excellent middle ground between a casual cooler and something like the Yeti.
Most of their interiors include one to two inches of insulation to help hold in the cold. The interiors are food safe and resist mold and mildew that can cause odors. Common weak points for many coolers are reinforced for most models, including molded-in hinges, reinforced handles, and better latches on models that have them.
Many of their soft-sided coolers use durable polyester materials with high denier counts to resist tearing and UV damage. The interiors are often heat sealed to prevent leaks, and a few have removable hard shell liners to convert the cooler to an ice chest.
Both companies produce a wide range of products, but the overall design for the vast majority of what they offer reflect a decidedly vintage mentality. Many come in classic colors such as blue, white, and red, with many in neutral, outdoor style colors.
Their casual offerings don’t have latches, making them perfect for afternoons at the game when latches would just get in the way. Molded lids that fit into the body help reduce leaks and maintain temperature consistency.
Most have a rough or matte finish that resists scratches and is easier to clean than some slick surfaces that show fingerprints and dirt plus every little scratch and ding.
Capacities And Styles
Both companies have a wide range of capacities from small, personal-sized coolers to larger, party bar style coolers. They also have a variety of styles including wheeled coolers, drink dispensers, lunchboxes, and vintage coolers in steel.
If you consider precisely what you want to carry and exactly how you’d like to move it, there’s a good chance that either Igloo or Coleman have what you’re imagining, and they probably have it in a retail store where you can look at it in person. That’s a comforting thought for those of you who have a hard time visualizing things like size and processing weight just from a number.
They’re neck and neck in price because they both have ultra-budget options and more advanced, higher end coolers. None of them are going to be as expensive as truly high-end coolers, however, so affordability is part of their mission. Even the higher end coolers are significantly less than coolers like Yeti without sacrificing too much performance or durability. Again, if you’re encountering bears on a regular basis, you’ll want to upgrade, but for your child’s sports game, these fit the bill.
How Are They Different?
There are some subtle differences in the types of coolers they offer and where you’re likely to find them. Also, in their higher end models, the companies have gone a different direction from each other, so we’ll take a look at those more closely. The most significant difference is a matter of hardware durability versus ice retention.
Ice Retention Versus Hardware
Coleman coolers seem to be better designed and equipped to hold ice longer. Many of the models have a higher bottom which helps keep them from coming in contact with the heat of the ground as you store the cooler, giving them extra lift for ice retention. They also feature better construction through the lids, reducing leaks and temperature inconsistencies.
The flipside of that is that Coleman’s hardware is pretty terrible. Although it’s always possible to get a good one, they have plenty of reputation for hardware that just falls apart after any consistent use. You can buy replacement hardware, but you’ll have to decide what you’re willing to spend on a budget cooler.
Igloo has the opposite problem. Their hardware is much better quality and can last through some wear and tear, but you may be sacrificing some retention, especially in the lower budget models. If you don’t really need the ice to last more than the afternoon and evening, you may want to beef up your hardware, especially if you’ve got a crowd constantly.
Your choice could depend more on whether you have 100 people constantly opening the cooler (hello, soccer moms!) or if you need the ice to last longer overall (hi fisherman!) Again, you may find that different models don’t necessarily have this problem, but overall, that seems to be the consensus.
Igloo’s high-end options begin with the IMX. It’s an injection molded body with two inches of insulation, and it mimics the design of Yeti or Pelican at about half the price. It has Igloo’s classic, durable exterior as well. The BMX is another option that keeps ice cold for about five days like the IMX but with a lighter material that resembles what a cooler and a Jeep might look like if combined.
Other choices are the Ultra Tough, meant to stand up to a variety of environments and the Marine line, something explicitly designed for the harsh elements of boat life and feature ice retention of up to seven days with the right preparation.
Coleman has one model that mimics a higher-end line, but this choice is pretty limited. The Extreme line can offer up to six or seven days of ice retention with the right preparation, and it comes in a bit cheaper than any of Igloo’s options. Their Marine option is also built to hold ice for up to six days while maintaining integrity in the harsh environment of boat life.
A Note About Prepping Your Cooler
For lower end coolers, preparation really isn’t necessary because the insulation can’t hold on to temperatures for very long. If you go with Igloo or Coleman’s high-end line, however, you may need some prep to get the most ice retention.
Higher density insulation can absorb temperatures over time. If you keep your cooler stored in the heat of your garage, it may absorb that heat and release it the next time you fill your cooler with ice. It can take time to cool back down to the right temperature. In the meantime, it’s melting your ice until the insulation catches up.
Prepping can help you get the most from your cooler. The night before you need your cooler, fill it with ice and close the lid so that the insulation can absorb the cold. In the morning, drain excess water and top off with fresh ice. You should be able to get close to the full estimation for ice retention although if your temps are soaring into the triple digits, this could affect longevity.
Our Favorite Models
We’ve chosen two of our favorite models to showcase. They offer excellent ice retention but won’t break your wallet in return. Both are suitable for a wide variety of users and should be able to solve most of the average cooling problems you have. Let’s take a closer look.
The Coleman Xtreme is a very affordable cooler option that keeps ice cold for up to five days. It has wheels and a retractable handle for better handling and more convenient transport. A leak resistant drain helps you clean the cooler without having to tip it.
The walls are a durable, molded plastic with two inches of insulation and a tightly fitting lid. The cooler can function as an extra seat in a pinch, and the tow handle is reinforced for better transport. It’s attached to the side of the cooler rather than the top, so you have the option of pushing or pulling it to get it into position.
It has some basic cup holders molded into the top, but there aren’t many accessories included with this particular model. The upside is that it’s under $100 for a 62-quart cooler that can keep ice for up to five days with preparation.
What Customers Like:
- highly affordable
- excellent ice retention
- wide handle
- not many accessories
- wheels and hinges tend to break down with consistent use
Here’s an excellent example of cold retention versus hardware. With Igloo, you have the option of some seriously loaded cooler options, but you may end up paying more without getting the same ice retention. The Trailmate has an estimated retention of about four days and costs nearly three times as much as the Coleman Xtreme above, but here’s what you get.
A durable handle that retracts and can handle serious pushing and pulling. Durable, treaded wheels that can glide over rough terrain including sand and rocks, but rest well when it comes to a stop. It has a butler tray option, bottle openers, tie-down loops, and a storage pocket on the front.
You sacrifice a bit in the price and ice retention category, but you get a fully functional, durable cooler that won’t ever quit on you.
What Customers Like
- sports oriented design
- ultra durable
- plenty of accessories
- fewer ice retention days than Coleman Extreme
The Right Cooler For You
You’ll have to decide if the functionality of Igloo is a better choice or if the overall performance of Coleman is what you’re after. We recommend that you consider what your situation is and make a decision based on these factors.
Get An Igloo If:
- you need long lasting hardware
- you want something more sports oriented
- you need a durable finish
- you don’t mind paying a little bit more
Get A Coleman If:
- budget is your primary concern
- you want better ice retention above all else
- you like a classic styling
- you don’t mind replacing hardware
Both of these budget companies offer a wide range of products that can fulfill your cooling needs. Make sure you decide what’s most important to you, including your budget line, and decide on the right product from there. Both make excellent backup coolers or transitions between your day use cooler and a more extreme, high-end cooler. Either way, you’re the MVP of the sidelines.