How to Pick the Best Cooler for You

Do you find yourself frequently replacing non-biodegradable Styrofoam coolers? Maybe you’re just really excited for National Cooler Day on May 27th and want something new to celebrate with! Or have you been disappointed that your ice melts after a couple of hours in the cooler that your family has used since you were a young explorer? If so, it’s time for a cooler upgrade. 








Like technology, sleeping pads, and water bottles, coolers have come a long way thanks to brilliant material and outdoor experts. From weatherproof outer materials to excellent insulation techniques, coolers are now made to suit your lifestyle. They keep your contents cold for days when you are out camping and some are even built to be bear-proof, yes bear-proof.

So whether your adventures take you near or far, bear country, or the beach, there is a cooler to fit your needs. Check out our guide below to find the cooler right for you!

How will I use the cooler?

Are you a big camper? Do you find yourself going on a short day hike and wishing you could’ve packed a small lunch and some ice-cold beverages? Do you like to hunt or deep-sea fish? If you answered yes to any of those, a new cooler will be your best sidekick. Depending on what you are using the cooler for, there are multiple styles and sizes for you to choose from!

What to keep in mind:

  • Material (soft-sided or hard cooler)
  • Size
  • Weight (empty and filled)
  • Portability
  • Ice and temperature retention

Do I need a soft or hard cooler?

Due to the difference in weight between the two styles, your activity and usage for the cooler will determine which one is best for you. 

Soft-sided coolers are more portable because they are lightweight. If you plan on going more than a short distance, a soft-sided cooler is recommended- more specifically a backpack cooler. Do not let the fabric outer layer mislead you, though. The best coolers are constructed with durable fabrics that are waterproof and resistant to mildew, punctures, and UV rays.

So go ahead and take it to the beach, take it through some treacherous trails, it’s sturdy. Do they really keep your contents cold and ice from melting? YES! With leak-proof sealed zippers and added insulation, these can keep ice cold for days under the right circumstances and elements.

When to use a soft-sided cooler:

  • Hiking 
  • Kayaking
  • Walking any substantial distance to your destination (backpack coolers are great here)
  • Lunch bag for work

Hard-sided coolers will keep your contents colder for a longer time because they are better insulated. The rotomolded plastic constructed with insulation makes these nearly indestructible and built to stay ice-cold even in the hottest conditions. Fun fact: Yeti hard coolers are grizzly tested, and bear-proof. So on your next camping trip to bear country, make sure you keep your food in a Yeti Tundra.

When to use a hard-sided cooler:

  • Hunting or fishing 
  • Backyard BBQ
  • Car camping 
  • Tailgate
  • Boating

What size cooler do I need?

By now you have been able to determine what you want to use the cooler for, where you are going with it, and if you are interested in either the soft or the hard cooler. Now you can decide what size you will need. See below for a comparison chart to determine what size you need.

Shop –> All Coolers

Tips and tricks for maximum cooler performance

  • Pre-chill your cooler. Either with ice, ice blocks, or if it will fit, in a freezer. 
  • Ice blocks will keep your food and beverages colder longer as they have a longer melting time.
  • Use ice cubes to fill the spaces and holes around your content that your ice blocks can’t reach.
  • Use twice as much ice as your contents.
  • Less opening of the cooler will give the cooler a better performance and keep your contents cooler longer. 
  • Don’t drain the water!
  • Dry ice is best but ONLY for hard coolers. 
  • Keep your cooler in the shade when possible or cover it with a towel.


Get Ready for summer with fresh new arrivals for all of your adventures. Alabama Outdoors wants everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

2022 Graduation Gift Guide

If you’re on the hunt for some graduation gift ideas, we’ve got you covered. Whether your grad is planning an epic summer road trip or just wants to relax at home, we’ve put together a list of items that are sure to make their lives easier.


Gifts for an endless summer on the water

Make this summer one to remember with the perfect gifts to hit the beach or the lake. Wherever they are, these gifts are perfect for days in the sun and near water. A Yeti Cooler is perfect for short distances and long hours when they are packing snacks and cold beverages for the dog days of summer. Pair it with a Yeti Tumbler, and their Yeti game will be strong. For the gals hitting the beach, the Bogg Bags are the perfect carryall for all of the necessities. Top it all off with a classic pair of Goodr Sunglasses for stylish sun protection and they’ve got everything they need to hit the road.


For the traveler

Whether they’re headed across town or across the world, graduates need useful travel accessories to keep them organized. A duffel bag can be used as a carry-on in most airlines’ cabin baggage restrictions and comes with plenty of pockets for toiletries and electronics. We love the Base Camp Duffel from The North Face. A leather wallet can also help organize their money and cards while on the road, check out this one here from the Flint Leather Company. The next item on our list are travel accessories. These items are perfect for anyone who loves to be prepared when they go on vacation or have a long flight ahead of them. You never know what kind of weather or situation you’ll run into while traveling, so having these items on hand will make all the difference when it comes to staying safe and comfortable during your trip! From packing cubes to a RFID neck pouch, to packable towels, we have you covered. Shop here.


For the thru-hiker adventurers 

The trail-loving graduate in your life is ready for the next step. Whether they’re planning their next backpacking trip or traveling abroad, a tent can be an essential part of any adventurer’s gear list. We recommend a lightweight tent, sleeping pad and compass to start out with. If they’re joining a trail crew or going on a long trip they’ll need something more durable. Not to mention, a good headlamp that can be worn around the neck is essential for reading at night or doing any task that requires hands-free lighting. These are some of our favorite picks. The North Face Stormbreak 2 Person TentNEMO Astro Sleeping Pad – 20RSilva Ranger 2.0 Compass, and the Black Diamond Storm 400 Headlamp


Those ready to hammock + chill all summer

An Eno Hammock is the ultimate gift and relaxation tool, this hammock is lightweight and easy to set up — making it perfect for lounging on the trail or in the backyard. The Nomadix Pack Towel is the perfect companion. It dries quickly and is lightweight enough for any adventure. Goodr Sunglasses will protect their eyes from harmful UV rays with these stylish sunglasses that are both stylish and functional. An ICEMULE Cooler keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hours, so your graduates can keep themselves hydrated all day long.


For the Weekender

For the grad who loves a quick adventure, get them the weekend trip essentials. Starting with a technical daypack, the CamelBak Rim Runner 22L Daypack is perfect for 2-3 day trips. Its built-in water bladder and the hip belt keep them hydrated and comfortable on any trail. Ensure they’ve got all their hydration needs covered with an insulated Owala FreeSip 32oz Water Bottle. This bottle features triple-wall stainless steel insulation and a combo straw and spout lid for versatility. Top it all off with a classic pair of goodr Sunglasses for stylish sun protection and they’ve got everything they need to hit the road.


In case of emergencies

If your grad doesn’t need any extra camping gear, get them something to keep them safe in the outdoors. From extra lighting to emergency supplies, there’s plenty of gear that they just can’t get enough of. Get them a Black Diamond Storm 400 Headlamp for late-night exploring. Or help them prepare for anything with the Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Hiker Medical Kit, with all they need for backcountry first aid. And if they’re heading out and need to avoid local insects, check out the Sea To Summit Mosquito Pyramid Net Shelter. It’s perfect for locking out bugs all night long.


On the go all summer 

For the grad that is on the go all summer, get them a supportive pair of shoes! Check out super-comfy sneakers like the Men’s and Women’s On Cloud 5 Shoes, perfect for throw-and-go adventures. If they need top-tier running performance, get them a pair of Men’s or Women’s Hoka Clifton Arahi 6 Running Shoes. These supportive trainers are lightweight yet comfortable and perfect for next-level training. Don’t settle this summer, get your grad the perfect pair of shoes for anything and everything!


Preparing for campus

Don’t send your grad off to campus without all the essentials. For warm-weather style and superior comfort, get them a pair of iconic Birkenstock sandals. These sandals combine subtle style with a super-supportive footbed making them perfect for campus-crossing or relaxing outdoors. If they need something sportier for going from class to the gym, get them a new pair of Men’s or Women’s On Cloudmonster Running Shoes! The perfect pair of sneakers for anything, they do everything in low-key style and unrivaled comfort. And keep them hydrated the whole time with a new Hydro Flask Standard Mouth 24oz Bottle. With triple-wall stainless steel insulation and a durable screw-top, this bottle keeps them hydrated and ready to learn!



Find the perfect graduation gift for your high school or college senior at Alabama Outdoors. We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time.  Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors