The 20-liter Renegade from Calcutta Coolers pleasantly surprised us with its capabilities and ingenuity.
There's little reason to settle for a cheap styrofoam cooler these days. Those of us who know we're going to be outside for extended periods have all but given up trying to pinch pennies. Paying a respectable amount for an effective cooler is something we've long since accepted.
But where do you direct your attention, and eventually your money? The high-performance cooler class has become a crowded marketplace, and every brand strives to boast about their capabilities and bang for your buck.
To help diversify our own experience and relay what we learn to you, we gave the Renegade from Calcutta a thorough test, and feel like we've stumbled on one of the bright spots in the battle for cooler supremacy.
Calcutta Renegade Coolers
We got a chance to use the Calcutta Renegade 20-Liter cooler over the course of the last few months, and the verdict is already a positive one. Through the hottest portions of the year so far, in a state known for high temps and outdoor rec, the Renegade has held its own (and a lot of drinks).
It has a lower price than nearly every other similar-sized cooler in its class, and so far has held up as well or better than the coolers we've gotten experience with in the past.
The super-tough, roto-molded Renegade would be great not just for the angler or camper who needs a reliable cooler, but also for tailgaters, hunters, boaters, and backyard BBQ throwers.
Flood of Features
Of course, the ice retention is going to be the primary need-to-know spec, and from what I've found so far, the Renegade stacks up to any YETI or Pelican. It operates in much the same way, it doesn't have any tricky closing or opening steps, and it keeps my stuff cold as long as I need it to. No, I haven't given it a rigorous comparison test with four other competing coolers, but it's performed as perfectly as expected for me thus far.
The non-slip feet do what they're designed to do, and the stainless steel hinge pins seem as heavy duty as can be. Everyone knows that's where ice chests first break down: the hinges. Calcutta went above and beyond.
The Anchorlok rubber latches are easy to latch, but not easy enough to pry open in transport or while being bumped around. It's good to know it's not going to come unlatched without someone really trying.
Size options vary, as you can pick from 20, 35, 55, 100, or 125 liters, and the prices range from $149 for the smallest, to $549 for the largest. There's a collection of hard-sided hydration jugs, plus a slew of soft cooler options available from Calcutta.
The soft-sided coolers have more color options, but as far as aesthetics go, the Renegade is pretty basic. I got the white cooler, and they also offer gray, tan, and a blaze orange/tan combo. That being said, Calcutta's pirate-inspired logo is about as cool as it gets, and felt extra fitting when I took the cooler to the beach.
But really, it's the lighted drain plug that really makes the cooler stand out among the competition.
Light It Up
The oversized drain plug that Calcutta has devised doesn't just fill its obvious role, but it's also an LED light, operated from the outside, that shines through the bottom and gives you a good view of the contents, even in the darkest of nights.
And that's the whole point, right? Unplugging from the grid and getting to places where darkness actually means something is what Calcutta's encouraging. Living life without some adventure just isn't really worth it, and I get the feeling it's a company that cares about its legacy. It's a hardworking brand, and therefore the gear works hard.
And it's got a few surprises, like the innovation of the LED drain plug light. Who would have thought?
It isn't a huge cooler, but the 20-Liter Calcutta Renegade is pretty much ideal for the uses I'm getting out of it. It doesn't have a large footprint, meaning I can take it most anywhere without the need of a truck bed or massive cargo space.
The opportunity to test out the cooler has been great, and I'd fully recommend trying one yourself if you're considering spending the money on a quality piece of gear.
So far, Calcutta's been nothing short of quality.