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5 Best Coolers for Your Backyard Deck

Hosting an outdoor party on your deck? Here are some tips to help you decide what size cooler you'll need for the occasion, along with suggestions on ice maintenance and the best coolers for the job.

5 Best Coolers for Your Backyard Deck

A cooler with an attached bottle opener, such as the Legacy Stainless Steel 54-quart Cooler from Igloo, is a great cooler for your deck – especially if you plan to serve beverages with pry-off caps. (Photo courtesy of Igloo Coolers)

When you want to get outside to go hunting or fishing but can’t, hanging out in your backyard is the next best thing. Drinking ice-cold beers in your backyard with friends, even better.

Whether your backyard get-together is planned or a spontaneous BBQ with the neighbors, you should always have cold drinks for your guests on hand. If you have an outdoor kitchen area or grilling station with a built-in mini-fridge, you can keep beverages in the fridge, but if you don’t – use a cooler. A quality cooler is the perfect way to keep beers and other beverages cold and is a must-have for any deck gathering.

Coolers come in different shapes and sizes. Some coolers have wheels, some have bottle openers, and some have speakers. When it comes to choosing the right cooler for your deck though, the most important factor to consider is size.

What size cooler is best for your deck get-together?

The size cooler you need depends on how long you plan to entertain and the number of guests you'll have. If you tend to keep parties small (under 10 people), then a small- to medium-sized cooler will be sufficient. But if you like to host big shindigs in the backyard (with 10 or more people), you'll need a large or extra-large cooler to keep refreshments cool (and the party going).

When preparing to host a backyard party, follow this general rule to determine how many drinks you'll need: Plan to serve each guest two drinks within the first hour and approximately one drink each additional hour. So, for example, if you will have 5 guests for 4 hours, estimate serving 25 drinks total. I recommend using this formula whether you are serving alcohol or non-alcoholic beverages (or a mix of both). You can also use an online drink calculator to determine the appropriate number of drinks for your party.

Once you know the number of drinks you need, you can choose which cooler size is best for the occasion.

Permasteel 14-Quart Picnic Cooler
A small cooler like this yellow 14-Quart Picnic Cooler is great for 1-4 people, and it comes in fun bright colors. (Photo courtesy of Permasteel)

Small Coolers

A small cooler (20 quarts or less) is the ideal size to use when you're solo grilling on the deck or when you have parties of 2-4 people. You can fit up to 20 (12-ounce) cans with ice in a small cooler, and they are lightweight and compact enough to set on a patio table or outdoor kitchen island. Put a 6-, 12-, or even an 18-pack in a small cooler with some ice and keep it by the grill or place it on the patio table for easy access.

Small coolers to consider:

Medium Coolers

Medium-sized coolers range from 20-40 quarts and can store up to 50 (12-ounce) cans with ice. If you’re expecting 5-10 people on your deck, use a medium cooler to keep refreshments cool.

Medium coolers to consider:

Large Coolers

The larger the party you have, the larger the cooler you’ll need. Large coolers generally have 40- to 100-quart capacities and can hold up to 100 (12-ounce) cans with ice. A large cooler is an excellent vessel for cold drinks when you have 10-20 people on your deck.

Large coolers to consider:

Extra-Large Coolers

Extra-large coolers (100 quarts and up) are for serious partying on the deck. These behemoths will easily keep more than 200 cans ice cold and keep the party going. Extra-large coolers can be quite heavy, so if you’re worried about being able to lift and move the cooler, choose one with wheels or purchase a cooler wheel kit.

Extra-large coolers to consider:

small cooler
medium cooler
large cooler
extra-large cooler

Tips on Ice Maintenance

  1. Pre-chill the cooler and its contents. Loading up a warm cooler with room-temperature beer will quickly melt the ice. To keep the contents in the cooler colder for longer, pre-chill both the cooler and the items that will go inside of it. Store small coolers in a deep freezer or fill with ice, frozen water bottles, or ice packs the night before. Fill empty milk jugs with water and freeze to use in larger coolers. Refrigerate any beverages that will go inside the cooler overnight.
  2. Fill the cooler to its capacity. Do not leave any air gaps inside. Check the contents of the cooler throughout the party and add more ice and cold drinks if needed.
  3. Don’t drain the cooler. As the ice melts, do not drain the water from the cooler. The cold water will help insulate the rest of the ice in the cooler.
  4. Keep the cooler out of the sun. Find a shady spot on your deck for the cooler, out of direct sunlight. If you have a roof over your deck, place the cooler underneath it. If your deck is uncovered, choose a location that is shaded, such as under a tree or patio umbrella.

5 Best Coolers

So, what are the 5 best coolers for your backyard deck? Here are my top picks.

Orca 20-Quart Cooler (Small)

If you need a small cooler for your deck, this is the one to get! The Orca 20-Quart Cooler is perfect for small get-togethers and will keep your drinks ice cold for the duration of the party (and longer). It's big enough to hold 18 cans or 15 bottles, yet small in size and compact. You can easily carry it using the stainless-steel handle and because it weighs only 18 pounds, you’ll have no issues lifting it onto a table when it’s fully loaded. | $199.99

Yeti V Series Cooler (Medium)

Want to add class to your deck party? Consider the Yeti V Series, a medium-sized cooler that is not only stunning, but also has superior cold-holding power. It can hold up to 46 (12-ounce) cans with ice or 65 pounds of just ice. This retro-chic cooler will surely be the conversation starter at your backyard gathering and is a great choice when you have company up to 10 people. | $800.00

Wet Sounds Shivr-55 (Medium)

With the Wet Sounds Shivr-55, you can keep beverages icy cold while blasting your favorite tunes. Featuring a Wet Sounds Stealth 6-speaker system with an internal 200-watt DSP amplifier, Bluetooth capabilities, auxiliary input/output, and a built-in lithium-ion battery, the Shivr-55 is the ultimate cooler-speaker combo for your deck. | $899.99

Permasteel 80-Quart Rolling Patio Cooler (Large)

From its large insulated basin to its bottle opener and cap catcher on the front, the Permasteel Rolling Patio Cooler is perfect for outdoor entertaining. It will keep up to 110 canned beverages cold and features extra storage underneath. The split lids open separately to prevent cold air from escaping so no need to worry if the cooler is being opened and closed frequently. Load up the Permasteel Rolling Patio Cooler with drinks, wheel it where you want on the deck, and you're party-ready! | $199.99

Igloo Party Bar Liddup 125-Quart Cooler (Extra Large)

This extra-large cooler is the ultimate party cooler! Interior LED lights, removable wheels, a built-in bottle opener with a bin to catch bottle caps – the Igloo Party Bar has it all. It includes two dividers and a wine caddy and is tall enough to store 2-liter bottles upright. Use the dividers and caddy to organize the cooler contents or take them out for more room. The cooler can hold up to 158 (12-ounce) cans with the dividers in or 212 cans without. | $249.99


A backyard deck is a great place to socialize with friends and family while keeping things casual and enjoying the fresh, outside air. To keep guests outside, where all the fun is, be sure to have a cooler filled with refreshments on the deck in an easily accessible spot.

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