Which are the best passive cool boxes? Keep food cold

When camping, we often consider items such as tents, bedding, and cooking facilities as the most essential items to buy. We often forget that we need to keep food cool and edible to avoid becoming sick or throwing food away as it has gone rotten.

Choosing the type of cool box suitable for your trip is essential. You don’t want to spend a fortune and regret it later, as it’s not big enough and your food has gone off quickly.

What are passive cool boxes?

Cool boxes are non-electrical containers or bags insulated to EN 12546-2, designed to keep food cool and used for picnics, lunch bags or camping. They are airtight, keeping food cool over a specific period. However, it does depend on outside ambient temperatures as to how long it will maintain its coolness.

Although the passive cool boxes are insulated, they often require additional cooling items such as freezer blocks or bags of ice. These will need to be swapped frequently to keep food fresh or frozen if you are camping. Campsites offer an accessible freezing facility to place freeze blocks to use later.

Top 6 passive cool boxes

1 – Vango Pinnacle Cooler 57L

Vango Pinnacle Cooler 57L
  • Expect to pay £69 – £82
  • 57 L capacity
  • Holds 75 x 300ml cans
  • Plenty of room to divide food and drink
  • Dimensions 61.3cm (L) x 41cm (W) x 42cm (H)
  • Side tap to release any water inside; you will need to dry any excess with a cloth.
  • Up to 80 hours to keep food cold, depending on outside ambient temperatures and how often it is open.
  • Sturdy casing, and very hard to damage
  • Easy to wipe clean inside and easy to clean corners where dirt gathers
  • Not for overnight camping trips
  • Suitable for a week’s holiday
  • Difficult to carry if you are on your own

The Vango Pinnacle Cooler is an excellent quality passive coolbox by a well-known camping brand.

Plenty of storage can be used during a week’s camping trip; however, you will need to rotate freeze blocks every other day. It is advertised as keeping food cold for up to 80 hours. With this in mind, it does depend on outside temperatures. I have used the cool box in which the maximum temperature is 29°C / 85°F. I did rotate the freeze blocks using the campsite facilities and freezing cold bottles of water.

I don’t use the cup holders, although they are handy if you are short of table space outside. I tend to keep the coolbox inside the tent out of direct light. Otherwise, it will reduce the period for keeping items cool.

They are available to buy from Amazon and currently selling for £69.99. Winfields Outdoors sell for £72.50 but offers a price match to purchase at a lower price.

The quality of the coolbox and the design is one of the best I have used. However, the only fault is the difficulty in handling it if you are alone. It is a large coolbox, bulky to carry, and when fully loaded, it is heavy. However, if there are two of you, it can easily be carried by the handles on either side, which are easy to grip.

If you are on your own, you can use a camping trolley to help transport quickly. Decathlon has two different types of camping trolleys. I prefer the basic foldable trolley for £19.99, which can be stored easily when not in use and folded in the car for transport. Plus, I use this for moving other heavy objects when I am not camping.

They have another foldable trolley for £69.99, which allows you to move more items at once. However, it is expensive, but so far, it seems impossible to break, no matter how much you load into it.

2 – Vango Pinnacle Wheelie Cooler 45L

Vango Pinnacle Wheelie Cooler 45L

Hardshell 45L cool box

  • Expect to pay £84.99 – £106.99
  • Heavy-duty passive cooler
  • Easy to use because of the soft grip handle for pulling on wheels
  • Additional soft-grip handle for the aid of lifting
  • Dimensions 59.5cm (L) x 28.3cm (W) x 49.2cm (H)
  • Up to 100 hours of cooling, depending on outside temperatures and location for storage.
  • Can store 66 x 330ml cans – plenty of room for standing bottles, and food
  • No tap to remove excess water from inside
  • Ideal for a weeks camping trip

Compared to the Pinnacle 57L cooler, the Pinnacle Wheelie cooler is much easier to handle when full because of the tilted wheel system and handle. However, the handle is not extendable, so you catch the back of your shoes when you pull.

The upgraded design from the 30L Pinnacle Wheelie regarding the position of the handle makes it easier to pull. Although if they had kept the extendable handle and placed it on the 45L, my score for this cool box would have been 10/10, and it would have been my number one recommendation.

The maximum temperature we have used is 38°C / 100.4°F, and it did keep our food cold for up to 2-day,s not the 4 days as advertised. However, this could be due to the high heat and me being over cautious and worrying about keeping our food cool in the heat.

It is a very robust cool box and looks bulky visually, but it is sleek, especially with removing the cup holders, which I felt were not worth having. They have replaced this with a clip-down holder, giving you small areas to store items. Not massive things, but if you want to keep small spoons, napkins or keys, it is ideal.

It is currently on offer at Amazon and Winfields. Winfield’s is more expensive, but they do a price match, so you can purchase the same price on Amazon or find an offer elsewhere.

3 – Colemans 70QT Extreme 66L

Colemans 70QT Extreme 66L

Passive hard shell 66L

  • Expect to pay – £121.99 – £139.99
  • Dimensions – 79cm (L) x 41cm (W) x 44cm (H)
  • Removal rigid lid
  • Airtight lid
  • Water drainage tap
  • Will keep food frozen for up to 5 days
  • Need two people to carry when full, as difficult to carry with side handles on your own
  • Waterproof

The Colemans Extreme is an excellent passive cool box for long camping holidays, especially if there are a large number of people in your group. The insulation keeps food cool for up to 5 days, and I have found with all of Coleman’s Cool boxes are not as good at maintaining temperatures as low as Vango’s cool boxes.

However, they are sturdy and frozen items, provided you keep topped up with ice blocks, or bags of ice will keep things cool. You are preventing food from going off or defrosting.

The lid is airtight and has a strap to hold it in place to avoid finding a clean area to lay down when removing. The cover is more sturdy than the Vango, and you can sit on the cool box if you want.

When using the water drain tap, you cannot drain fully. It would help if you tipped to remove excess or wipe with a cloth. Effortless to clean as you do not have to work in a small area.

They are currently on sale at Winfield’s for, on average, £121.99, so it is a bit more expensive than the Vango chest cool box. However, you will not need to shop whilst you are away, and if you pack carefully, you can store drinks, frozen food, and fresh food inside.

4 – Coleman 60QT Performance Wheeled Cooler 56L

Hardshell passive cool box

  • Expect to pay – £82.99 – £99.99
  • Extendable handle that pushes down into the back of the cool box
  • Dimensions 57cm (L) x 44cm (W) x 45cm (H)
  • Can store 95 x 220ml cans – plenty of room to stand a bottle and food
  • Solid wheels for moving when full
  • Sturdy outer casing
  • Water drain plug on the side
  • Push down the lid to shut
  • Estimate up to 3 days of cooling depending on outside temperatures

The Colemans 60QT Wheelie is similar to the Vango Pinnacle Wheelie cooler box. Except that it has an increased capacity of 11L at 56L. The insulation is only sufficient for 3-days, and on average, it has lasted 2-days only in similar temperatures.

The extendable handle is solid and ideal for avoiding hitting the back of your shoes when pulling behind you. It is tough to pick up with the side handles when it is full, and it is easy to drop as your hand slips due to lack of grip.

In comparing prices, you are paying for the increase in compacity compared to insulation.

The lid is a clip lid and fits securely, so there is no chance of knocking the cooler and the cover sliding off. Several people have stated that the top is not airtight, but I have not found this.

The Colemans 60QT is on sale at Winfield’s for £82.99 and Amazon for £84.99.

5 – Quechua Camping Rigid Cool Box – 24L or 32L

Hardshell passive cool box

  • Expect to pay £34 – £45
  • Rigid design
  • Polyurethane foam insulation
  • Ideal for camping trips without EHU
  • Food cold up to 14 hrs without freeze blocks if kept out of direct sunlight and ambient temperatures.
  • For long use will need to use freeze blocks
  • Max temperature range 32°C / 89.9°F
  • Available in 24L and 32L
  • Camping Rigid 24L Cool Box – Non-Electrical (Passive)
  • Cost – £34.99
  • Can hold 6 x 1.5 Ltr bottles
  • Camping Rigid 32L Cool Box – Non-Electrical (Passive)
  • Cost – £44.99
  • Can hold 8 x 1.5 Ltr bottles

The Quechua Camping Rigid cool box is basic compared to the Vango Pinnacle coolers. It is available in two sizes, and you can stand a 1.5 bottle inside the 24L and 32L.

It keeps cool for up to a day; however, you need to be on a campsite with freezer facilities so you can keep rotating them. Otherwise, you will have issues with keeping your food cold. It can be frustrating, but the Quechua coolers are good value for money for the lower-end price.

The 24L Quechua cool box restricts how much food you can store, and you need to be smart about how you pack it. Or be prepared to visit a couple of stores for food whilst you are away. However, I had to decide on priorities, such as food instead of cool drinks.

The 32L Quechua cool box is slightly larger but not massively. However, you notice the difference when packing your cool box ready for your trip.

They are both awkward to carry when full, and the handles are uncomfortable. If you have many heavy items inside, it feels like the handle is cutting into your hand, but it is not. I wrap a tea towel around the handle to resolve the issue.

They are both excellent cool boxes for camping holidays at a reasonable price.

6 – Quechua Collaspable Cool Bag 30L

Quechua 30 L collapsable cool bag

Soft Cool Bag

  • Expect to pay – £29.99
  • Similar to lunch cool bags
  • Ideal for picnics or day trips
  • Inside, waterproof and insulated
  • Easy to wipe clean
  • Needs Freeze blocks to keep food cold
  • It will keep food cold for up to 8-9 hours depending on outside ambient temperatures and if you have access to freeing facilities to rotate freeze blocks.
  • Lightweight and easy to transport
  • Shoulder strap and side pocket
  • Must be wiped clean after usage
  • Dimensions – 36cm (W) x 33cm (D) x 35cm (H)
  • Storage Dimensions – 36cm (W) x 33cm (D) x 19cm (H)

The Quechua Collapsable cooler bag is ideal for overnight camping trips or car camping. It is not suitable for longer unless you want a bag specifically for storing drinks.

These are different from solid cool boxes but ideal if you have limited storage while camping or at home. Like all cool boxes, you need to cool the internal temperature before use, and a soft case cool bag is easy to place inside a fridge if you have room. There are no worries about cooling using freeze blocks.

It is waterproof and for cleaning, easy to turn inside out. Although the outside is also waterproof, it is harder to clean if it gets marked.

The Quechua is also great for picnics; once you have finished, you can collapse it and place it inside your rucksack. It is very versatile in its usage. The Quechua costs £29.99 from Decathlon, which may seem expensive for a soft case cool bag compared to others. However, it does keep food cool for up to 8 hours, which is excellent for a day out.

Key takeaway

  • Consider how long you want food to stay cool
  • Are there food stores that you can visit easily
  • How many people are in your group
  • How much food do you need to store
  • Consider your budget

Not sure if a passive cool box is what you need? Where you aware that there are 4 types of camping cool boxes? An electrical cool box is ideal for camping and can be purchased at a reasonable price. A compressor similar to your home fridge and absorption is ideal if you want off-grid camping, but not for tent camping.

Related questions

What is the difference between a collapsable and hardshell cool box

There are two non-electrical passive cool boxes, collapsable and rigid cases. The softshell is typically for picnics or just one-day usage. At the same time, the rigid cool box for more extended periods.

Materials coolboxHardshell cool box
Soft collapsable shellSolid, robust case
Aluminium foil lining insideCasing is insulated
WaterproofSolid carry handle
Material long strap for carryingWaterproof
Zip to closeCan have long-handle a wheel for ease of transporting
It will not stay cool for long due to a lack of insulationKeep cool up to 5 maximum
Difference between passive cool box: Material and hardshell

What affects how long food will stay cool in a cool box?

Several factors will affect how long your food will remain cool inside a cool box.

  • Quality of insulation
  • Passive or electrical coolbox
  • Too much space trapping air inside will decrease coolness
  • Storing in direct sunlight
  • Placing warm food or drinks inside without cooling first
  • Not pre-cooling the cool box before putting food inside
  • Opening and closing allowing warm air to enter
  • Not using freeze blocks to help reduce warmth inside.


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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