Styrofoam coolers are very popular due to their lightweight construction and ability to keep contents cold when packed with ice or ice packs. They are very common for packing meat, fish and other heavy items that need to be kept cool for transport. While some companies give away styrofoam coolers with large purchases, most coolers are purchased from local stores or companies. Buying a cooler is rarely hard, but the quality of the cooler will vary greatly by store.
Check local sporting goods, hardware or camping stores, which are likely to have a supply of coolers on hand for fisherman and hunters who may field-dress their finds. Look for a sturdy cooler with a sturdy carrying strap or handle.
Visit local supermarkets and convenience stores. While sporting goods locations usually have higher quality goods, these stores will have better prices. Carefully inspect the coolers for cracks as they may have been mishandled and any cracks will lead to leaks.
Purchase the right size of cooler for the job at hand. The larger the cooler is, the more ice you will need to pack inside to keep the contents fresh. More ice results in more cost and a heavier cooler, which can spell disaster for backpackers or off-trail hunters.
- Cracks may appear in the handle, strap or the cooler itself over time. Replace damaged handles or straps quickly to prevent accidental spills. Cooler cracks may be patched with duct tape when on the road, but the entire cooler should be replaced as soon as possible.
- Many areas prohibit the coolers in national parks or on public lands. This is due to the likelihood of their being left behind and becoming litter or a hazard to wildlife. Check with the National Park Service at NPS.gov for rules before departing.