Coolers are everywhere. From the cabin to the fishing boat, or the campsite to the backyard barbeque, it’s tough to go more than a day in the summertime without spotting at least a cooler or two.
However, in most cases, the coolers that most consumers buy to keep their cold cuts and beverages cold for a boat trip or an outdoor party aren’t the ones that die-hard hunters or campers are willing to invest in. The average cooler is fine for keeping drinks cold for an afternoon, but for a long camping or fishing trip, superior ice retention (preferably between five days and two weeks) is what’s necessary.
That kind of long-term insulation is only provided by the rugged, heavy-duty coolers created specifically for camping, fishing, or hunting obsessives, a market niche that has been dubbed as the “ice chest” market in many circles.
For campers, hunters, anglers, and virtually any other type of outdoor hobbyist or enthusiast, Yeti is a name that has long been at the forefront of coolers and ice chests. Perhaps the finest example of the company’s commitment to excellence is housed within its acclaimed Tundra series.
It may not look like much more than a slab of thick white plastic from the outside, but with thick walls and a damn-near airtight lockdown system, the Yeti Tundra is the perfect cooler for buyers who need ice to stay cold for days at a time. The rugged design is built to last, and can take a beating over years of camping and fishing adventures without ever offering less-than-stellar ice retention. The sizes range from 35 to 420 quarts, and the prices are steep, but when it comes to heavy-duty ice chests, there’s no better brand than Yeti.
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Most ice chest or cooler comparisons start with a wide range of different competitors, but almost invariably come down to a shooting match between Icey-Tek and Yeti. If you spend much time researching different ice chests online, you will read a range of different opinions on which brand is better, but the truth is, you can’t go wrong with either.
Icey-Tek coolers come with their own rugged designs, insulated walls, powerful latches, and other features that will catch the eyes of many a cooler shopper. The company also boasts “the largest range of cooler sizes and colors in the industry,” meaning that buyers will have plenty to consider before settling on a purchase. Prices for Icey-Tek coolers are more or less comparable to their Yeti counterparts, but you can certainly spend more on an Icey-Tek thanks to the brand’s willingness to venture into 600 and 760-quart territory.
A slight step down from the winner’s circle of Yeti and Icey-Tek, but a solid cooler with impressive ice retention nonetheless, Engel’s “DeepBlue” line of ice chests has won over plenty of believers among the camping, fishing, and hunting communities.
Engel’s advertisements for the DeepBlue cooler line show hungry grizzly bears trying – and failing – to break into the ice chests, and buyers will notice a stamp on their coolers that states “IGCB Certified Bear Resistant Container.” Frankly, not much more needs to be said about these incredibly durable ice chests.
Speaking of grizzly bears, the company that named itself after the species offers its own set of durable and thoroughly insulated coolers.
Advertised as an alternative to Yeti and Engel ice chests, Grizzly coolers have four primary selling points. The first, perhaps obviously, is durability, and Grizzly claims that its coolers can stand up to a lifetime of use. The second are the strong brass latches and integrated hinges that work to keep Grizzly cooler tops tight and strong. Third is the unique two-inch drain feature that Grizzly includes on all of its coolers, which makes purging and cleaning the cooler easier than it is for many other brands.
And last but not least is cooler color. Grizzly prides itself on offering a wide range of unique colors that “stand out from the mainstream,” and those looking for a bright pink or vibrant lime green cooler might see the brand’s devotion to those kinds of choices as a big selling point.
Though not quite as well known in the rugged ice chest market as Yeti, Icey-Tek, or Engel, Canyon is a brand whose coolers – with their nearly three-inch thick polyurethane walls – deserve attention.
The company offers a variety of cooler lines that range in size and design. The “Outfitter” line – which includes small one or two person coolers as well as bigger and longer ice chests – is probably the most popular, but smaller and more compact coolers from the “Pro Cubes” and “Expedition” lines may catch the eye of campers or fishermen planning an outdoor adventure with smaller scope.
It would be tough to be disappointed in an ice chest from Yeti or Engel, but if you are on a budget, or if you view fishing, hunting, camping, and other outdoor activities more as casual hobbies than die-hard pursuits, the truth is that you might not need a cooler that could withstand a nuclear blast (hyperbole intended).
Companies like Coleman, Igloo, and Rubbermaid have been satisfying consumers for years, from beaches to campsites to soccer fields. The Coleman 58 Quart Xtreme 6 Cooler in Gray, a 50-quart cooler with wheels and an easy-pull handle, is a great choice as far as more mainstream coolers are concerned.
It won’t have the ice retention or durability of the other coolers on this list, but for under $100, the Coleman Xtreme offers solid portability, insulation, and space.