Coolers Quick Guide

A Refresher on Coolers 101

You find yourself in the market for a brand new cooler, but are a little rusty on what to look for. Use this handy guide to get the cooler that best suits your needs.

Hard-sided Cooler


  • Most current models have a tough roto-molded construction
  • Usually larger capacity than soft-sided options
  • Good for sitting on while at camp (some manufacturers even make a compatible dense foam cushion)
  • Are considered dry-ice compatible


  • Usually heavier/not as readily maneuverable

Soft-sided Cooler


  • Updated models use cold-retaining closed-cell rubber foam
  • Usually lightweight and compact
  • Easier to stow in confined spaces (think kayak hatches and your car’s backseat floorboard)


  • Won’t hold as much food or drinks

Cooler Features Worth Considering

  • Backpack-style straps for easy carry: Great for hike-in campsites, walking a river while fly fishing and other highly mobile activities
  • Wheels and extended handles for easy maneuvering to and from your car
  • Molded-in handles for easy gripping while carrying
  • Bear-resistant certified: See explanation here
  • Add-on components: Some brands offer specialized components for their cooler, like the YETI® Rod Holster, which grabs a hold of your fishing rod for dear life. YETI® also sells a Cable Lock and Bracket set, so you can lock up your cooler in the back of your truck bed or leave it at camp

Cooler Capacity

  • The industry standard for volume is measured in quarts

Can Capacity

  • Typically measured using 12-oz. cans
  • Formula: 1 qt. = 0.75 cans; so a 12-qt. cooler holds approx. 9 cans
  • Note that some manufacturer’s measure can capacity with ice and some without

Food-to-Ice Packing Ratio

  • Varies by manufacturer, but YETI® uses the following:
    2/3 ice
    1/3 drinks and food

Size Comparisons and Usage

  • 90-qt. or Larger: Ideal for extended camping trips, hunters preserving meat after large-game hunt and offshore fishing in remote locations
  • 50- to 60-qt. Cooler: for 2-3 people on weekend camping trip
  • 40-qt. or Less: Great for day trips

Ice Retention

Cooling Tips

  • Pre-chill the cooler by placing ice inside it a few hours before you pack it
  • Pre-chill or freeze your food before packing it inside the cooler
  • Line your cooler with frozen water bottles (which are great to drink from when thawed)
  • Use cubed ice along with dry ice to extend the longevity of the cubed ice

Dry Ice Benefits

  • Offers 3Xs the cooling energy per volume than regular H2O
  • Provides more than 2Xs the cooling energy per pound of weight than regular H2O
  • Extends the cooling energy of cubed ice, plus is lighter

Dry Ice Tips & Fun Facts

  • Only use it in hard-sided coolers. Do not store it in glass, metal or soft-sided containers
  • Use (1) 10-lb. block of dry ice per 15″ length of cooler space
  • Did you know it’s really carbon dioxide (solid form) frozen to -109°F?
  • Dry ice sublimates, it doesn’t evaporate
    • Sublimation: Transition from solid to gas
    • Evaporation: Transition from liquid to gas
  • It sublimates at a rate of 5-10 lbs. every 24 hours
  • Since it sublimates quickly, buy your dry ice immediately before your outing
  • Most grocery store chains sell dry ice. Buy it at the Customer Service counter
  • It’s sold in 1- to 5-lb. blocks
  • A 1-lb. block costs between $1-$3

Special Handling Instructions

  • Never handle dry ice with bare hands. Wear protective gloves when handling to prevent burning your skin
  • When storing, make sure the container is not airtight, which may lead to carbon dioxide buildup and a potential explosion
  • Wrap the dry ice in newspaper to provide an extra layer of protection while handling, and to make the block last longer

Nothing Cooler than the Guide Gear® Cooler

Now that you’ve refreshed yourself in coolers 101, consider making the hard-sided Guide Gear® Cooler your go-to camp cooler for your next outdoor adventure. Here’s why:


  • Features super-strong roto-molded material
  • Has built-in UV stabilizer that won’t break down in the sun
  • Is dry-ice compatible
  • Went through rigorous Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee testing to become certified bear-resistant. That means you can use it on public hunting lands inhabited by grizzly bears

Which Size Fits Your Needs?

Get yourself a Guide Gear® Cooler >> Shop Guide Gear® Coolers

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