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Which Styrofoam cooler is best?

No day at the beach or next to the pool is complete if you don’t have a trusty cooler to keep your drinks or snacks chilled. But traditional hard-sided coolers are bulky and can often be very heavy. Then there is the issue of washing them out properly before use every time as well as finding a storage spot that’s large enough.

However, a simple solution is to use a cooler made from polystyrene foam. While it’s lightweight and inexpensive, it has excellent insulation properties. Many refer to a container made from polystyrene as Styrofoam, but it’s actually a trademark brand owned by DuPont. The Cambro Black Cam Go Box is an excellent foam cooler option for the beach, pool or game day.

What to know before you buy a Styrofoam cooler

It’s an excellent insulator

Around 98% of polystyrene is air, which makes it inefficient at conducting heat or cold. However, that gives it excellent insulation properties, as the elements are trapped inside the container between the molecules. It also means that external temperatures penetrate the container at a much slower rate, which ensures that the contents stay hot or cold. The high concentration of air also makes the container much lighter than a traditional cooler.

You’ll only get a few uses from it

Hard-sided cooler boxes can take a beating before getting chipped, cracked or broken. However, polystyrene foam isn’t nearly as durable, and you must take care when handling it. With only a small amount of force, the sides and lid can easily snap in half, and the foam is highly susceptible to open flames and sharp edges. That means if you aren’t careful, you can damage your foam cooler after only a few outings.

There is a way to make it last longer

If you’ve ever wondered what is inside a hard-sided cooler, there is a good chance that it’s polystyrene foam. Generally, in between the cooler box’s walls is foam or plastic that slows down the circulation of hot air. So essentially, a beverage cooler is just a polystyrene foam container with a hardened plastic coating. But there is a way to make your polystyrene cooler last longer: A simple solution is to buy a foldable cooler bag and place the polystyrene box inside.

What to look for in a quality Styrofoam cooler

The thicker, the better

While it depends on what you want to keep cool, it’s always best to go for a cooler that has thick walls. The more insulation you have, the longer your perishables will remain at the desired temperature. But it’s not just about maintaining the internal temperature, as thicker walls mean it will be more durable. If you do accidentally bang it on something, you’ll have less of a chance of damaging it.

Carry handles

Even if you are only keeping a few cans and a snack in your cooler, you don’t want to juggle it together with your beach chair and towel. To make the trip easier, a good-quality foam cooler has a carry handle (or two, if it’s large). The handle can be a length of rope through the walls, but ideally, hand grips should be carved into the sides.

Tight-fitting lid

The key to regulating the temperature is only to open the cooler when necessary. As you lift the lid, hot air can enter and change the cooler’s properties. But what’s even worse is when the lid doesn’t close properly. A good-quality cooler has a sturdy lid that leaves no gaps for hot air to enter or the cold to escape.

How much you can expect to spend on a Styrofoam cooler

The average price of a polystyrene cooler depends on the size and the manufacturer. A small cooler with a detachable lid large enough for a few cans costs $5-$10, while a large cooler with handles and extra insulation costs $40-$60. A separate cooler bag in which you can place a foam box costs $15-$25.

Styrofoam cooler FAQ

How do you safely dispose of a foam cooler?

A. If your foam cooler is no longer working as it should, you might want to get rid of it. Any kind of foam is a hazard to the environment, and you should never discard it with your household trash. The best solution is to take any excess foam to a recycling center or a site that uses environmentally friendly destruction methods.

Can you repair a foam cooler?

A. Typically, it’s not possible to repair a foam cooler, as the material melts away under extreme heat. It will be incredibly difficult to plug a small hole or crack without worsening the problem.

What’s the best Styrofoam cooler to buy?

Top Styrofoam cooler

best Cambro Black Cam Go Box

Cambro Black Cam Go Box

What you need to know: Made for catering or delivery companies, it will keep your poolside drinks and snacks chilled just as well.

What you’ll love: This large cooler has two handles on the sides, and the lid comes off completely. The internal space can hold 12 gallons and will keep your drinks chilled for up to four hours.

What you should consider: The carved-out handles can make it cumbersome to carry.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top Styrofoam cooler for the money

best Flambeau Outdoors Double Opening Foam Cooler

Flambeau Outdoors Double Opening Foam Cooler

What you need to know: Initially designed for storing live fishing bait, this cooler is perfect if you only have a few items you need to keep cool.

What you’ll love: The double-opening lid design makes it easy to grab drinks from the top or the bottom with the lid and base held together with string.

What you should consider: If you forget about the double opening, your drinks might fall out.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

best Cambro Cam GoBox Full-Size

Cambro Cam GoBox Full-Size

What you need to know: This lightweight insulated carrier is eco-friendly, dishwasher-safe, and 100% recyclable.

What you’ll love: This cooler has a large storage compartment, is CFC-free, and can store and preserve food for at least four hours.

What you should consider: It is pricey, but you can expect value for your money.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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