Best Ice Chest – Reviews & Comprehensive Buying Guide
Partying, hiking, or arranging a picnic – you’d probably need a few drinks to get things going. And to make the most of it, they have to be served cold, there’s no other option. You should consider the fact that warm beer bottles can be serious party-poopers – they’ll spoil the fun in no time. Or maybe, you work long hours with no access to a refrigerator and wondering how to keep your lunch, breakfast, dinner or snacks chilled to take with you on the go at work. To overcome these unfortunate consequences, you’ll be clever enough to invest in an ice chest. In fact, that’s why you’re here! So, let’s help you find the perfect cooler.
Best Ice Chest - Our Picks
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Even the Chest Has a History
Richard Laramy, a resident of Joliet, Illinois, USA invented and patented the first cooler in 1953. Since they appeared on the market, people started using them to keep their food and beverages cold for picnics, traveling, fishing trips, overnight camping, trekking and hiking, poolside parties, sports events, and the backyard patio or deck. Anywhere something cold is desired, coolers tag along. Or as the evergreen Vanilla Ice put it – ‘‘Ice ice baby, Too Cold !’’
Buying an Ice chest used to be an easy decision. You could walk into any store, find just a few models available that were almost equal in terms of appearance, performance, and price, choose a size that suits your need, and be on your way. Now buying an ice chest means being inundated with a myriad of varying choices, price points, and marketing claims. Suddenly instead of making a quick cheap purchase, you’re considering spending big bucks for a fancy foam box that might become an heirloom for your grandkids. The ice chest market has expanded in recent years with a multitude of new brands and designs. So, dear consumer, finding the right one is not so easy anymore. Some brands rule the market, while some hardly live up to their boisterous claims.
Types of Ice Chests
Traditional models are the usual designs that many of us presumably remember pulling drippy ice pops out of during family vacations and camping trips as a kid. These good ol’ day models generally consist of foam-insulation with covers made of plastic glued onto the exterior. Handles and hinges are connected to the main insulator by screw. Lids generally secure via a tight fit externally or have an internal latch that clicks closed. These coolers are not very efficient in the age of coca-cola, and they represent the lower end of the price spectrum.
High-end, i.e. costlier and more reliable models were not introduced in the market, until fairly recently, with the first one making appearance in 2006. High-end models take the generic design of traditional coolers and attempt to reboot the old Macintosh while adding a few bits here and there, exceeding performance. They often come with thicker walls featuring foam injected insulation and lids with rubber gaskets. These lids, in turn, maintain a tight seal via large external latches. These models are manufactured using a roto-molding technology, a method that essentially puts melted plastic into an industrial tilt-a-whirl. This process produces a hollow plastic mould without seams. It also makes it easy to attach the hinges and handle points into the main body. This method is more advanced, and results in increased durability. High-end models come at a price you have to pay, and they definitely don’t sell cheap.
The biggest bonus feature of the soft models is obviously their portability. They tend to be smaller than hard ones and, can be easily carried over the shoulder or in backpack fashion, depending on the model design. These dudes excel for shorter trips where you’d like to be able to move around, such as hiking or days at the beach.
Electric models have come up with a mechanism that has internal power cooling technology. This allows one to keep things unquestionably cool without having to rebuild ice frequently or deal with the moisture issues. So, this is as close a cooler can get to a refrigerator, with one obvious drawback that you must always have consistent power source to keep it running. Most of these models can be plugged into both a wall plug-in and a car cigarette burner, making them ideal for long exhaustive road trips where you might have access to an outlet at the destination.
So, How Big an Ice Chest Do You Need?
The size you choose will mainly depend on how much storage capacity you need, but increase in size will affect the issue of portability and insulation performance as well. However, I choose to recommend on ice chests in the neighborhood of 70 quarts, with sizes ranging from 60 to 75 quarts for personal and home use. This size range is the most widely accepted and versatile. Models within this size range are large enough to serve a family of four over multiple days or a hunter trying to transport a large chunk of meat, but are small enough to be carried by two people when fully loaded.
What to Look for in That Dream Ice chest of Yours
No matter what anyone tells you, size matters. And your ice chest is no exception. So, the first thing that you should look for in an ice chest is its capacity. They come in sizes ranging from collapsible six pack coolers to 50 quart plastic chests. When considering on the size do remember the golden rule that ice cubes invariably tend to take up more space than ice packs. When looking at a camping ice chest, remember therefore that about one quarter of the space will be taken up with ice.
No, I don’t mean how well it would fare against a bear attack in case you were attacked while camping. Rather on how exactly you wish to use it and to what end. An ice chest that is used for the odd picnic lunch at the park will not need to be as durable as a ice chest that is taken on week-long camping trips several times each year. Naturally, the more durable the ice chest, the more expensive it is. When looking for a plastic ice chest, you should look for strong handles, lids that seal like trusted lips, and if purchasing a wheeled cooler, look for large wheels made from tough plastic.
You will need to keep in mind that insulation performance of an ice chest will also be directly affected by the size of it. As a rule of thumb, when similarly packed, a smaller model will not retain ice as long as its larger sibling. Also, ice chests are much more efficient when they are fully loaded. So, simple math says, a fully loaded smaller design will usually hold ice longer than a half empty larger one. Therefore, you will look forward to choose a size that you will fully load at the beginning of your trip to maximize insulating capacity.
Now what families fail to consider is that on most camping trips a fully loaded ice chest will be the single heaviest item out of the lot, therefore portability is a major factor to keep in mind. Obviously the smaller the ice chest the easier it will be to carry around, so you will want to get the smallest model that can fit your storage capacity needs. If your storage needs warrant a larger model you will want to seriously consider how easy it will be to carry. This is almost exclusively determined by the design of the handle. If you happen to be an Olympic weight lifter (which is more often than not) you could probably lift one of these fully loaded models with ease, but for mere mortals it would require a superhuman effort and/or the chugging of questionable amount of protein shakes beforehand. Hence choose carefully. Thou hast been warned.
Popular Ice Cooler Brands
And thus arises the million dollar question. How many ice chests brands do you know of? For all we know, Apple and Samsung never fought over them, neither did HP and Dell, or indeed McDonald’s and KFC. So, what prevents the shopkeeper from passing some second grade product as the Apple of his eyes, eh? Get it?
So, before we list out a few suggestions of products, here’s a list of some popular brands.
The following brands though very different in their outlook and approach, tend to have one thing in common - they are all reputable brands.
Coleman coolers are best known for their insanely effective insulation. Their Xtreme Coolers line features their trademark insulation technology that makes sure ice remains ice for five days, even in warm temperatures. Coleman thus has an affordable range of products at various sizes.
Igloo has been a part of this business since 1947. Igloo coolers come in a range of sizes unmatched by any of the other competitors, from personal ice chests to ones you can use in business endeavours. Igloo’s line of products features the popular Kool Mate 40, which is one of the most popular selling ice chests in the world.
Yeti coolers have a reputation of being extremely durable, period. A popular choice with hunters and fishermen though obviously not limited to them, Yeti ice chests are designed to withstand the highest of Hills and lowest of Vales. The Yeti Tundra cooler line even features bear-proof lid locks (Red Riding Hood, anyone?) for those ready to tackle the most adventurous outdoors experience.
Conclusion – Is There an Invincible Ice Chest?
Sadly, No. While most of the ice chests do tick off most of the boxes, no single ice chest is able to function perfectly in every category. A large model with the insulating capacity to handle a week long camping trip tends to be invariably too heavy. More mobile models are generally not known to have the insulative zest to get through a longer trip. However, I believe this article shall in turn help you to choose an ice chest as per your needs, and will ensure every cooler purchase you make is the correct one. For while one can’t have the best of all worlds, one can always have the Orca Extra Heavy Duty or the Yeti Tundra 65.