What Is The Difference Between An Icebox And A Cooler?

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Jay Elliott

Chief Camping Officer

What Is The Difference Between An Icebox And A Cooler?

When I first started researching different types of iceboxes and coolers, I found it hard to know the difference between the two.

In reality, there is no dictionary definition, and people may argue with me on the following definition, but I think it captures the broad differences between the two classes of products.

So keep in mind this is very much a general statement, and there are likely to be exceptions, but hopefully, it helps create some different categories in your mind. 

Icebox and a Cooler: What is the difference?

In general, iceboxes are designed to keep cooler for longer. To do this they are often bigger, and have much more work put into the insulator capabilities.

What many might refer to as an Esky, which is a small plastic box with a lid and carry handle that can fit some drink and food into, would fall into the ‘cooler’ range.

Coolers tend to be designed to keep ice for a day, and sometimes multiple days, but not much beyond that.

As a result, the insulation they use (if any) is not as effective as the heavy-duty high impact foam that is often used in iceboxes.

Iceboxes tend to be bigger than coolers, given coolers as more suitable to single outings or very short trips. As a result of this decreased performance, and simpler construction, coolers tend to be a lot cheaper.

There would be many different cooler options, for less than $100, whereas you will not find a decent quality icebox for less than $100. 

Many coolers also come in a softer bag style, like this Coleman model pictured below.

Even though most coolers tend to be a bit cheaper than iceboxes, the premium Yeti cooler bags still come with a premium price and cost between $100 and $500 depending on the size.

>> Check the latest price and user reviews here.

Are all coolers Esky’s? 

No, Esky is a brand, and they make coolers. But so do many other brands like Coleman etc. 

Do Esky make heavy duty ice boxes?

I can’t find any evidence of an Esky Icebox (by the normal definition), so looks like Esky focus on serving the cooler market, with more affordable less intensive units.