Ice Chest Review Roundup

Best Ice Chest Review

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.

  • Proprietary insulation called PermaFrost with 2" insulated body and 3" lid
  • Freezer gasket (most likely silicone) on lid with full length lid hinge and self stopping hinge
  • Rope handles, non slip rubber padded feet, lock down lid, anchor points for tie down
  • Screw in gasketed drain plug.  Ice retention claim: Not stated.
  • Weight 47 pounds / 5 year warranty - normal wear and tear not covered.
  • Price $499.99

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. 

  • 2.75" of injected closed cell polyurethane high density insulating foam walls, 2.25" in the lid, and 2" in the floor.
  • 1/2" neoprene gasket seal on lid with marine grade stainless steel pinned hinge.
  • Rope handles, drag friendly bottom skid pads, lock down lid, anchor points for tie down, recessed marine grade latches.
  • Tethered screw in "no leak" drain plug. Ice retention claim: 9 to 20 days.
  • Weight 43 pounds / Bumper to bumper 1 year commercial - 4 year non commercial warranty.
  • Price $399.99

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

  • 2" of polyurethane optimal density foam throughout construction, with I beam support on lid and integrated hinge with aluminium pin.
  • Food grade silicone freezer gasket on lid with 3 marine grade flush mounted latches and backer plates.
  • Rope handles, non-skid feet, slots for crimped locking cables, lock down lid, offers optional dividers and add-on accessories
  • One twist drain plug. Ice retention claim: 8-10 days
  • Weight 45 pounds / 3 year limited warranty
  • Price $459.99

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.

  • Site says 2" to 3" inches of SNOWblown insulation whatever that is. Rubber lid latches.
  • Neoprene gasket on lid.  Lid hinges integrated and appears to be same plastic as cooler.
  • Rubber non-skid feet, rope handles, integrated handles, screw in drain plug, anchoring points, lid lock holes
  • Weight: N/A, but I would assume about 40-45 lbs.  Ice retention claim: Not stated.
  • Price $439 / 7 year limited warranty

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!)

  • No clue on the thickness.  Sites says it's made with Medium Density PE
  • No clue on gasket material, hinges, etc. Latches appear to be rubber. Dual drains.
  • Weight: A bit on the light side at 38 pounds, which leads me to think it's a thin walled cooler may 1.5 inches
  • Price not available on Moeller's site, but Internet $546.95 to 389.99

 

 

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)

  • 2" of polyurethane insulation throughout with silicone lid gasket, and ABS push button latches
  • Rubber feet, tie downs molded in, sloped drain inside, plastic water bib style outside, plastic handles
  • Stainless lock hasp molded in
  • Weight: 54 pounds / Ice retention claim 7-10 days
  • Price $479.95

 

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)

  • No details on thickness, sealing gasket, insulation.  Molded in stainless steel pin hinge.
  • Rubber feet, rubber latches, and molded in handles.
  • Not sure it even has a drain!
  • Weight 54 pounds / Lifetime
  • Price $499.99

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)

  • No clue on the thickness, lid gasket, insulation, or hinge.
  • Latches are rubber. Sloped drain. Rope handles.
  • Ice retention claim not stated
  • Weight: 50 pounds
  • Price $599

 

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

Comments 

 
+2 #1 Bob Sanders
I've been looking at getting one of these new style coolers and after researching I couldn't make up my mind. By putting the coolers next to each other in this review really helped separate and narrow them down. I agree with your ranking, and if Engel was cheaper I might put that one on top for all the extras. Nice review and great way to make an informed decision when buying blind. Thanks for the help. I'll wait for you to buy one first and let us know how you like it! :lol:
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FIA REPLY

Sure, let me be the test dummy! lol I was having a hard time deciding, and actually started this article on paper just to compare, and thought that other people must be having the same trouble so I posted it. Stay tuned and thanks for the comment.
 
 
0 #2 Big Mike
You nailed it with the top 3 on this list, not sure on the order though, but you left out the Yukon Cold Locker. It's very similar to the Grizzly above with formed handles that stick out, but it's a pretty good cooler...so I've heard from a few of my hunting buddies.

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FIA REPLY:

I'll add the Yukon in there shortly, but after going to the site I am finding the same issue with the bottom coolers on the list...no details on insulation type, hinge, thickness, etc. Thanks for the comment.
 
 
0 #3 Shelly
Too rich for my blood. Tried and true Igloo here. Good read though ;-)

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FIA REPLY:

I hear ya Shelly. They are a bit painful in the wallet, or in your case, the purse perhaps (really hope you are female :) ). I've used Igloo for many years, but I'm looking for more durability and longer ice retention, and from what I gather, this style is where to find it. I think it's mainly the thickness of the insulation that makes these superior, and then the material and way they are built makes them more durable. Thanks for the comment.
 
 
+1 #4 Shelly
Yes FIA, I am female so you are safe on that comment! :P
 
 
+1 #5 Pam
There really is no need to spend an outrageous amount of money for a cooler. I found this site: ***Forbidden Link [Omitted]*** that makes an insulation insert that increased my ice life time by over 30%.
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FIA REPLY:

There's a bit more to the rotomolded coolers beyond just keeping items cold or hot, which they do very well, but toughness and durability is the other part. As an avid angler I can tell you I've gone through many regular coolers, and it's usually the handles and hinges that go first. The problem I see with wraps and inserts are several; they absorb odor and liquids and are soon a throw away item, and the R value just isn't there like rotomolded. Thanks for the comment. If you are the seller of these inserts, I'd be willing to test a few out and write a review if my thoughts are incorrect.
 
 
+2 #6 mike
You may also look at the techniice. It has 2 gaskets, and almost 3in walls, and lid.

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FIA REPLY:

Thanks for the tip Mike. I've never heard of that brand. My testing is over for now. I'm pretty happy with Canyon coolers.
 
 
+1 #7 Dave
The above was excellent for my research for a new cooler.

I researched the Internet for several days on various reviews, in fact, I even checked out Consumer Reports and incredibly they have never done a test on coolers.

Anyway, I wrote Orca an email asking how thick, in inches, are their cooler lids. I got a response that stated they are a minimum of 3 inches thick.

I then called the sales office in Nashville and asked how thick are their cooler lids and was told they are 3 inches thick and that they are thicker than "their competition."
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FIA REPLY:

Glad I could be of help Dave. I haven't finished the review yet, but I've got a lot of marine use and hunting use on these coolers and I'm very happy with them. I'll have my final review up in the near future. Let me know how you like yours after you get some use on it. Cheers~
 
 
0 #8 Ted
I've had exposure to a lot of the coolers listed. I think you missed the mark on the Pelican. The latches and handles to me really set it apart. And if by chance something breaks, they offer a lifetime warranty...no questions. Had a buddy involved in an accident and his 65qt flipped out the truck. Nothing broke and it remained closed. I just bought the 80qt with wheels. Can't wait to put it to use.

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FIA REPLY:

Hi Ted, thanks for you comments. As I stated in the article, my review was initially just from a consumer standpoint looking to buy without ever laying eyes on them. The canyon coolers I purchased have been holding up really well and doing a fine job, and at the price savings, I still think I made the right choice. I haven't had a chance to get my hands on the Pelican, so I can't compare in that aspect. They are all pretty close from what I am seeing, so it comes down to the add-on items and quality of them for me, along with the overall price. In that respect, I still feel Canyon has the best price point to quality.
 
 
0 #9 Steven
Nice article, FYI rotational molding can produce a hollow part which is than seamless, if use a XLinkHPDE than have ultimate in strength for plastic shell. Cost wise it takes a bit more to roto. Blow molding is a bit faster, though can have seam,

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FIA REPLY:

Thanks for the comment.
 
 
-1 #10 dennis
how about Ozark trail? saw one at wall-mart 52qt $147. it looked pretty good.

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FIA REPLY:

After looking at the ice chest you mentioned above, and while it looks pretty nice, the first thing that I noticed was the latching system. This looks to be a weak point, as the molded body is not being used as latching brackets as most do, but rather attachable brackets held on with screws. After further research, according to many reviews by customers, this is indeed a weak point in which the screws are coming out on nearly all of them. They use both upper and lower screw on latches. This alone would make me not buy this ice chest. It also looks like customers have been sending them back due to warped lids and bad sealing gaskets. Great price, iffy design = buy for occasional use and expect repairs.
 
 
0 #11 Boots
I agree with Steven, Only criticism of your articla is " Roto-molding is a more cost effective solution to bldoes ow or injection molding.." Unforunately thats not accurate. Rotomolding is typically slower than other molding processes, making it less cost effective. Thats why rotomolded items are typically more expensive than their blow or injection molded counterparts. But the process does lead to a more consistent, durable product in the end. Thanks for the article - I enjoyed it.

FIA REPLY: Thanks for the comments. From what I am told by several manufacturers, roto tooling is cheaper due to no interior core, and making the product is also cheaper. They say it's cheaper b/c it's faster to produce, and smaller runs can be made, among other aspects. The cost is expensive because it's a better product and warrants the market value. Most sites do say roto is cheaper.