A cooler is essential for any outdoor activity where you want to serve perishable food or cold drinks. To choose the best cooler, consider how you'll be using it and how many people you want to serve.
For taking food or beverages to a picnic or potluck, a soft-sided cooler is a good choice. Soft-sided coolers are light and easy to transport, but they don't provide the long-lasting insulation offered by hard-sided coolers, which are better for road trips, camping trips and other longer-duration activities. For stationary activities like backyard entertaining or tailgating, you may want a serving cart cooler, which is elevated above the ground and can serve as a temporary prep table or serving table when closed. For serving a single beverage at a picnic or large outdoor gathering, a beverage cooler with a spout is a good choice. Keg coolers are specially designed to hold kegs of beer.
What size cooler you'll need will depend on how many people you expect to serve. A four-quart cooler is usually large enough to hold food for a picnic for two, but you may need up to a 50-quart capacity to provide for a crowd. It's also important to consider how long you need to keep the cooler's contents cool: if you need them to last a long time, you'll need room for extra ice.
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