By Andrew Middleton
A new generation of portable coolers has moved the game beyond the el-cheapo examples you can pick up at the local supermarket. For anglers, hunters and budget campers, these are worth a look if a compressor fridge is impractical or still beyond reach…
A compressor fridge is a great thing to have, but they are bulky, need to be plugged in or to run off a dual-battery system, and they don’t much like to be thrown about – so you can’t haul them out of your truck, into the boat filled with beer and/or bait, and back again filled with fish. Best not…
And especially not when you are planning a short trip, rather than a fully-geared crosscountry exploration. Way back, when Land Rovers still came in square shapes, and Jeeps had CJ prefixes, all you needed was one of those polystyrene cooler boxes filled with dry ice, and a strict regime of keeping it closed except for the single transfer of that day’s provisions to a smaller cool box.
That’s changed with today’s profusion of coolers that come in a range of shapes and materials, with the best heavy-duty examples in rotomoulded plastic. These you can literally drive a truck over, or throw them off a two-storey building without their showing much damage, so they can take the knocks that come with camping and boating duties. They also claim, in some cases, to keep ice still visibly ice for up to 12 days. In addition to the plastic coolers, there are still a few hardy suppliers of the old-school fibreglass examples made popular by river rafters and fishermen, and these remain of a high standard. Some people will use nothing else.
The bottom line here: we’ve tried to present a range of high-end, invariably more expensive brands, that offer a product that is strong, will take a few knocks, and will keep your food and drink cold for up to a week if you keep the lid closed as much as is practical.
You’ll very easily find coolers for under R300, but bear in mind that these will not possess anywhere near the thermal efficiency of a larger, more expensive unit.
The handmade fibreglass Safari Chillers are produced in South Africa and offer a competitively-priced alternative to traditional plastic and rotomoulded designs. A large variety of sizes is available and the flat-topped lid is designed for bait preparation for fishermen. The 45-litre size will not accommodate a standing 2l bottle, though the narrower 38l and larger 60- to 85-litre sizes will.
Campmaster Safari Cooler
If you need a heavy-duty, long-lasting cooler that’s tough enough for sustained abuse but doesn’t break the bank, the Campmaster Safari range may be the ticket. With 50mm thick walls, Campmaster claims ice retention of up to five days.
Römer offer a high-quality, durable, rotomoulded cooler for an extremely competitive price, and in three colours: olive green, grey and Kalahari sand. Like most others on this list, the Römer has 50mm walls filled with refrigeration-grade polyurethane. Cooling efficiency is competitive, but the no-frills feature list ensures the price stays keen.
Coleman 70QT Extreme Cooler
A well-known brand with a good reputation is always a safe bet. The Extreme Series is Coleman’s range of high-end coolers, offering good value for money.
Like the Safari Chiller, Evakool offers a massive variety of sizes, each with its own unique features. Evakool even offers customised branding and colour options for your cooler.
Igloo SPortsman 55QT Cooler
The Sportsman is Igloo’s high end, rotomoulded range and delivers the goods with a lid that pressure-seals thanks to its T-handle closing mechanism. The Sportsman includes a fish ruler. The 55Qt Sportsman is Igloo’s largest rotomoulded cooler; big enough for most overlanding needs.
As the price and five-year warranty suggests, Wild Coolers are a premium product. They offer the ultimate in cooler-box performance and a host of features that no other cooler offers. These are a credible do-it all alternative to a fridge, and, thanks to various internal compartments, offer a practical sorting and storage solution.