So what's the best ice chest you can buy? As of late, there's been an explosion in the ice chest market, and one that not many people understand. What more could be done to an ice chest from those we are so accustomed to? With the hefty price tags that these new ice chests demand, I thought this would make for a good article, as I too have been in the market for a new ice chest for both marine and hunting/camping use. In addition, from my research, I've decided to jump into this new style ice chest and try it for myself, in which a full review will soon follow this article.
The first thing that jumps out with these new and improved ice chests is obviously the price. Last time I bought a decent ice chest in the 120 qt range the price was right at $100 bucks, so the price was a bit of a shock, and thus made me want to see what the heck was going on. I kept seeing a lot of Facebook chatter on the Yeti brand, so I decided to search for the most popular ice chest brands and do a little comparison. I won't list all the details, as you can find those on each companies site, but will list the aspects I thought were of value when deciding which to purchase in the 125 Qt sized Ice chest. Keep in mind that this is from my point of view as a consumer looking to purchase, and I have not touched any of these coolers to date.
Before I go further, let me explain a term called roto-molded, in which is the process that all the ice chests below are made by, with each using polyethylene plastic. Roto-molding is a more cost effective solution to blow or injection molding, and is the process of continually rotating a hollow mold with a material inside while heating and cooling of the material to produce the desired shape. The material bonds to the mold and produces a one piece part with no seams, thicker corners, and can be easily altered. Whitewater kayaks are made by the same process and from the same material used in the ice chests below, so they are indeed strong and durable.
Yeti Ice Chest - Since Yeti kept popping up all over Facebook, I checked out their product first. This is their Tundra 125 qt ice chest.
My initial thoughts: It's a nice looking product and I like the rope handles, lock and tie downs, and the massive 3" thick lid, but within the realm of roto-molded coolers I really didn't see any special user friendly features that jumped out from the rest in the group, and lacked some important features. A few things that concern me are the lid latches being made from rubber. In the marine world, soft rubber dries and cracks pretty fast, and at some point I'd think it would stretch and lose the ability to seal properly. I'd be worried that UV exposure, fish blood / guts, oil from the skin, or sun block and tanning lotion would find it's way onto the rubber and speed up the rotting. I did a quick search and found replacement handles widely available, and a video from Yeti showing how to replace them. $15.99 a pair. The lid gasket is a freezer type gasket, and though i don't know the chemical makeup of it, I've had freezer gaskets harden and crack on coolers, and garage kept refrigerators. The rubber padded feet are good for boats and transporting in trucks, but I can't imagine trying to slide it into a covered vehicle, or under a boat bench. However, they do offer skid rails for an additional cost. Personally I'd rather have a slider and lock it down when need be. Given the price and what I can see, I think there are better options within this group of new ice chests.
Canyon Ice Chest- 125 Qt Outfitter.
My initial thoughts: I like the thickness of the lid, as this takes the brunt of UV exposure, weight, and seems it would help retain the temp inside. The hardware being all marine grade certainly is a plus since I'm a boater, with no worries of rotting, stretching, or breaking. Being that Canyon recessed the hardware, that sure cuts back on nasty scratches, ripped clothing, and damaged material in your vehicle or boat. I've had a few igloo bites over the years and tossed an ice chest or two overboard. The lid gasket is made of neoprene, which is what wet suits and many other insulators are made of. It's waterproof, isn't affected by heat or cold, has great UV resistance, springs back to normal shape, won't rot, has much better abrasion and wear resistant, and better tensile strength than silicone, so I think the gasket on this ice chest will outlast the others with silicone freezer gaskets. At $399, it's got my vote over Yeti.
Engel Ice Chest- 123 Qt Deepblue
My initial thoughts: It's a good looking ice chest with plenty of nice add-on options, and a unique self draining sloped floor, but my first thought goes to the I beam support on the lid. They state this is for added strength and to stop the lid from warping. My first thought is to compensate for a thin lid under 2". The latches are flush mounted, but the only stainless is the hook and pin, while the main latch handle is rubber, but it's not a snagger. As I stated with Yeti, my concern is with the rubber rotting and stretching. The lid hinge is a dual pin, which looks sturdy, and is made of aluminum. I'm also not sold on the silicone lid gasket as mentioned above, and the tie down options are a little confusing. The add-ons are really nice, but at $202.98 for bottom sliders, $39.98 for tie-downs, $72,98 for a hanging tray, and $62.98 for the bait companion, you'll wrap up some big bucks! At $459.99, the only way I would be interested in this ice chest is with all the options listed above, but then the cost would be $838.91 plus tax and shipping, thus putting you close to the $1,000 mark. Overall, it looks great, has a few flaws in my opinion that could very well shorten the life of it, but has a lot of nice features that could make it a fun ice chest to own if the quality holds up.
K2 Ice Chest - 120 Qt Glacier ( Not much in-depth details available on company site, or other sites) That's too bad, as I really liked the potential in this ice chest.
My Initial thoughts: Again, a very nice looking ice chest, and like the Canyon, it has a neoprene lid gasket which is a plus. As with the others that have rubber latches, I simply don't like them for reasons mentioned above. The R value greatly changes between 2 and 3 inches, which correlates to the ice retention, and there is no details on this aspect either. While I like the non-skid base feature, overall I would rather not have it so I can slide the ice chest around easily. If K2 wants my money, they might want to put up some important details, especially when they are trying to sell a $439 ice chest. Sorry K2, but you lost my vote for the lack of details.
Moeller Ice Chest - 125 Qt Ice Station ( Come on Moeller, we know you make great tanks, but put some details on your ice chest!)
My initial thoughts: I'm very disappointed in Moeller on this one. They make great fuel tanks, so one would assume the ice chest would be as well. Unfortunately, with no specs I can not make a decision, so I will not be buying this ice chest. My gut tells me it's a pretty good ice chest, but not worth the asking prices.
Pelican Ice Chest - ProGear 95 Qt Elite (Not much details available on this product either)
My initial thoughts: What a beast of an ice chest weighing in at 54 pounds! I'm not sure where the weight is coming from, but suspect it's high density foam and a thicker shell. That's certainly intriguing. I like the stainless lock hasp and sloped drain, but it all ends there. The ABS latches look weak with too many working parts to break. The water bib looks cheap, and the handles will likely crack over time as many do. A bit more R&D and Pelican may have a competitive product, but at $479.95 I doubt they get much market share.
Grizzly Ice Chest - 150 Qt ( Not much detail available on company site, or other sites)
My initial thoughts: Like the Pelican, it has the weight to fall back on, but that's about it in my opinion without more details. After looking closely at it, I really don't like it much. The molded in handle design that protrudes from it is not an efficient design, especially for a boat with limited space. I guess they don't want to show the interior, as I couldn't find a single images with the lid open. Again, I don't like the rubber latches for fear of rotting and stretching, nor the rubber feet, as it won't slid into tight places easily. At $499.99, with the current design and lack of details, I don't imagine they are selling many to boaters.
Orca Ice Chest - 140 Qt ( Not much detail available on company site, or other sites)
My initial thoughts: I really don't know what to say, other than it's a nice looking ice chest with no details for anyone to make an informed purchase, ensuring I will not buy one. From what I can see in the image, it has nice ergo rope handles. The rubber latches seem to be a running theme and I just don't feel comfortable with those. At $599, they might want to give potential customers better details. Had this ice chest had the details found on the Canyon, Yeti, and Engel, It might have a chance to compete.
As it stands, with the ice coolers above, I would have to rank Canyon 1st, Engel 2nd, Yeti 3rd, and the rest failed to give details so they are not worth adding in the group. Being that I need to get two coolers to our hunting camp by Novemeber, and two on my boat, I am going to buy 4 Canyon's and see how it goes. REVIEW HERE (coming soon).
UPDATE: I have had many people inquiring about other brands of coolers, and either at the time of writing this, their product website did not have enough information to compare, or I just did not know about them. New updates will be on our new review site at www.ReviewWarehouse.com