For Father’s Day this year my wife gave me an Ozark Trail 52 quart cooler. Awesome gift! With all the hype around Yeti brand coolers, and a myriad of other rotomolded* coolers that claim to retain ice for days and days, I decided to hold my own cooler comparison. I put my 62 quart Coleman Xtreme cooler (which I’ve had for many years) up against the new Ozark Trail 52 quart cooler to see which one retains ice the longest. *rotomolded refers to the type of cooler construction used by Yeti coolers and its competitors. To learn more about rotomolding click here.
In order to replicate what is my real-world cooler use I will have the coolers outside in the weather 24 hours a day, but they’ll be in the shade as much as possible. During the day at the campground I move my cooler around often to keep it in the shade. What will not be like my real world use is the fact that I’m only going to open each cooler once a day. I’ll do this at around 11:00am each day to check the ice situation. Typically my cooler is being opened many times a day, and by different members of the family. Many of the cooler ice retention tests I’ve seen are performed keeping the coolers closed except for one allowed opening per day to check the ice situation. This methodology is flawed if you were to ask me. Opening a cooler one time per day does not represent actual cooler use at all to me. My disagreement level with that testing method is not why you’re reading this! As it is the way most cooler tests are conducted, it is what I’ll be doing for my comparison.
To conduct the test I filled each cooler with a brand new 22lbs bag of ice. In addition to the large ice bag, I evenly split a 10lbs bag of ice between the two coolers. The coolers were then placed outside on my covered porch at 11:00am to begin the test. They were never in direct sunlight. Again, this represents my real world use. I strive to keep my coolers in the shade.
Before I get in to the nitty-gritty of the test, let me say this was a real eye opener for me. I learned quite a bit. Coolers claiming 7 days of ice retention? Really?? They just might… but I’ll be glad to give you my two cents. For anyone who has any questions after reading this or just wants to geek out over this topic, hit me up on Instagram @robtalkscamping.
After 24 hours, 11:00am
At the 24 hour mark I opened each cooler for the first time. Shoving the ice out of the way to see the bottom of each cooler, there was a little bit of water visible. The water was less than an 1″ deep in each cooler, so there had not been a large amount of ice melting in the first 24 hours.
After 48 hours, 11:00am
At the 48 hour mark I opened each cooler again. While lots of solid ice remained in each cooler, there was no need this time to move any ice out of the way to see water. It was also unclear which cooler was leading the way. Both were neck and neck at this point.
After 72 hours, 11:00am
This is when it got ugly. On day three, there was quite a bit of water in each cooler. Serious amounts of ice had melted by this 72 hour mark. I measured how deep the water was in each cooler. Admittedly, this is not completely fair. The coolers are different shapes and sizes, still, I measured it. **After I closed the Ozark Trail I realized I forgot to snap a picture. As I was only going to open each cooler once a day, I didn’t open it again to get a pic. You’ll have to trust me when I say it wasn’t looking much better than the Coleman.
After 96 hours
After 96 hours only made for a nice subhead here. Actually I let the test go until the end of day four, and checked the coolers at about 10:00pm. At that time I declared a winner.
And the winner is! …
The Ozark Trail! Not by a large margin. To show how I declared a winner, below are the final tallies.
After four days, neither cooler still had any loose ice from splitting the contents of a 10lbs bag. What remained of the once-new 22lbs bag of ice was:
4.6lbs of ice in the Ozark Trail and 3.0lbs of ice in the Coleman. Advantage Ozark Trail. (The cold water -representing melted ice- was a tad over 4″ deep in the bottom of the OT cooler and it was just barely under 5″ deep in the bottom of the Coleman.)
[The end of this test was a true aha moment for me. I expected the OT to blow away the much cheaper Coleman, which is not a rotomolded design cooler. The fact is, it didn’t. If I didn’t really like the quality and size of the Ozark Trail I might return it and continue using my Coleman. That’s how close the finish was in this comparison. It’s up to you to decide if the rotomolded cooler movement is hype or legit advancements in cooler technology. My $60 Coleman hung in with gusto against an example of the new rotomolded cooler design costing three times as much. THAT, I did not expect. I’ll be honest, I like the rotomolded look. The rotomolding build process also has definite advantages over the old school coolers. From this test, I also can say with confidence you don’t have to go buy a Yeti to improve over the cooler you might be using now. ]
The end of this post means it’s time to give a reader tip! This one may seem like a no-brainer but it bears repeating. When at all possible, keep your cooler in the shade! It will keep the contents colder and make your ice last longer. Seems obvious, right? It is. However, when I’m at a campground and I take a walk around I see plenty of coolers sitting out in the blazing sun when there is shade not far away. Don’t make your cooler have to work so hard and save money on ice, put it in the shade.