Off-road side-by-sides, which some call UTVs, are some of the hardest working tools that we’ve got. They’re used for full days of labor in the great outdoors, and often get called upon to haul some pretty precious cargo. Sooner or later, a side-by-side owner is going to realize they need a cooler to fully enjoy their vehicle experience. These are just a few of the reasons why you need to look into the best choices for a UTV cooler. Cooler price points for some brands can be quite steep, but as with most outdoor gear, you get what you pay for. Another thing to think about is the weight of the cooler. It’s not that your side-by-side can’t handle it, just that some models are better off being loaded after they are attached to your UTV rather than before, and that can become a problem. Some models come with both the cooler and the mounting system, while others do not, in fact some models do not even have side handles. Mostly it depends on what you ride and how you use it. There are certainly some options here that will fill the bill for what you own. You can choose from multiple different bands, styles, and types thanks to the manufacturers that have foreseen the needs of the SxS-owning outdoorsman.
What’s the Best Cooler Type for Side-By-Sides?
Whether they’re roto-molded or injection molded, hard-sided coolers are by far the most popular since hauling food, drinks, and ice with a side-by-side can be tough on certain types of equipment. They’re sturdy, come in a ton of sizes, and will do an above average job of holding temperature for several days if needed.
Soft-sided coolers are much better suited to store under seats and in tight areas since they tend to be smaller and easier to pack than the others. They suffer from the worst ice retention of the bunch, but technology has been improving and they’re getting better and better. If you have a ton of stuff to keep cold, a soft-sided cooler might not be perfect. But if you’re carrying a couple drinks for you and your riding partner, it’s the best choice.
Electric coolers have come a long way since their inception and are well suited for car camping and other uses, but asking them to stand up to the rigors of off-roading is a bit much. We aren’t saying it isn’t doable, but it may be too much of an investment to risk damaging in a cargo bed of a side-by-side.
Some side-by-sides may not be as cooler friendly as others and you may need to invest in a cargo basket carrier. With that in mind, a simple set of tie down straps is the most obvious way to keep your cooler strapped securely. Look for a cooler with tie-down attachment points.
Remember, different brands have varying sizes, color options, and ice retention levels. Weigh these things according to your needs.
Best All-Around SxS Cooler
RTIC Ultra-Light Cooler
This “overbuilt” model, as RTIC likes to put it, comes with heavy duty rubber T-latches, molded tie down slots, a freezer-style lid gasket, heavy duty rope handles, and an innovative injected molded design. The 52-Quart Ultra-Light Cooler comes in a variety of colors (even a green and purple Mardi Gras version!), it is easy to clean, and the three inches of closed-cell foam makes ice last up to 10 days.
Best Lesser-Known Brand
SuperATV Heavy Duty Insulated Cooler
This AuperATV model is big and watertight so you could even carry some clothing or extra gear that needs to stay dry. It comes with three inches of thick insulating foam, heavy-duty rubber latches, and a tight lip seal that keeps everything safe. It is a higher-end item costing more than $300, but it does its job well. When you’re bumping and bouncing down the off-road trail, knowing that your cooler is made to fit in your cargo area makes a big difference.
This is purported to be one of the strongest and most insulted coolers out there. The T-Rex Lid Latches constructed of heavy-duty rubber are listed as bear resistant, letting the mind ease for those who travel in bruin country. We’re plenty familiar with YETI, and are proud to be another Austin-founded company, and think highly of all their gear.
Best Brand-Name Cooler
Polaris Off-Road Northstar
Leave it to Polaris to come out with a cool cooler just for those who are already riding one of the side-by-sides. This IGBC Certified Bear-Resistant cooler has an integrated tie-down cleats which easily secure to any off-road vehicle, boat or truck. The Northstar also comes with aluminum pin latches and hinges for long lasting durability.
Best Fit for a Small Cargo Area
Kemimoto 26-Quart Cooler
The Kemimoto is made specifically for the Polaris RZR, and the way it fits into the cargo bed is just so satisfying. Plus, it has one or two features that most coolers just don’t have such as a built in bottle opener, molded-in can holders, and an integrated fish ruler right on the lid. It has four included tie down straps to keep it where it should stay while you ride.
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READ MORE: CAN-AM BUILDS A DEFENDER MAX INTO THE TOTAL WATERFOWL UTV
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