Ice-Chest Throw-down by Field & Stream
We tossed 12 top-end chests off a speeding truck. Check out which ones kept their cool
Three buddies and I first measured each cooler’s true capacity by weighing them, filling them with water, weighing them again, and doing some math. We then filled each with 1 pound of ice per quart of true capacity, put them a temperature-controlled room, and monitored them remotely for 10 days. We charted when each hit 32 degrees (the point that ice starts to melt), 40 degrees (when meat starts to turn), and 42 degrees (when beverages taste warm). That done, we timed how long it took 5 gallons of water to drain, and then measured the residual H2O. Each cooler was then tossed from a pickup truck going 45 mph to gauge durability. We compared features and handling, and, finally, we combined the length of the warranty and whether or not the cooler was made in the U.S.A. to arrive at a service score. Ice retention was given up to 50 points, features 30, durability 10, and service and handling 5 points each, for a total possible score of 100.
The Cabela’s Polar Cap $250
TOTAL SCORE: 87
1-year warranty, made in the U.S.A.
The Polar Cap kept ice longer than any other cooler and didn’t hit our warm-beer threshold of 42 degrees until eight days, 20 hours. Its molded-in handles were a tester favorite, and the single-pin hinge was near bulletproof. The drain, too, was excellent and attached with a metal wire lanyard.
HITS: Testers liked the pressure release valve, which makes the lid easier to open when tightly sealed, as well as the glow-in-the dark rope handles that snap to the cooler’s side, out of the way. Latches double as bottle openers.
MISSES: One tester felt that the rubber latches were too stiff to manage in the cold, especially for older or arthritic hands. The warranty is less than stellar.
THE SKINNY: A rugged chest that keeps cool longer than the competition, all at a fair price.