Gear: Cooler Box Buyer’s Guide

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VIEWS

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.


Safari Chiller

Safari Chiller

 

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.

Specs:

Construction Fibreglass shell with polyurethane core

Capacity Available in 12 sizes from 4l – 85l

Dimensions 63.5×43.5x38cm (45l)

Weight 8.9kg (45l)

Features Stainless-steel foldaway handles, and stainless-steel latches and hinges for effective sealing

Claimed ice retention N/A

Warranty Contact the manufacturer for queries

Price R2090 (45L)

Retailer
Email:
Kingfish@iafrica.com

Website: www.safarichiller.co.za


Campmaster Safari Cooler

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.

Specs:

Construction Impact-resistant plastic

Capacity 45/60l

Dimensions 60x40x44cm (45l)

Weight 11kg (45l)

Features Foldaway carry handles

Claimed ice retention 5 days

Warranty 1 year

Price R1 199 – R1 499

RETAILERS:

Builders Warehouse Website: www.builders.co.za

Makro Website: www.makro.co.za

Game Website: www.game.co.za


Römer Cooler

Römer Cooler

 

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.

Specs:

Construction Rotomoulded plastic

Capacity 45l/65l

Dimensions 76x43x48cm (65l)

Weight 12kg (65l)

Features Foldaway carry handles, rubber T-handle latches

Claimed ice retention 10 days

Warranty 2 year

Price R1590 (45l); R2035 (65l)

RETAILERS:

Animal Gear Website: www.animalgear.co.za

Takealot Website: www.takealot.com

4×4 Mega Website: www.4x4megaworld.co.za


Coleman 70QT Extreme Cooler

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.

Specs:

Construction Hard plastic

Capacity 66l

Dimensions 72x40x44cm

Weight 6.1kg

Features 4 beverage holders, 2-way handles for easier lifting and carrying

Claimed ice retention 5 days

Warranty N/A

Price R1999 (smaller 28QT and 50QT coolers are also available at R1199 and R1799)

RETAILER:

Cape Union Mart Website: www.capeunionmart.co.za


Evakool Icekool

Evakool Icekool

 

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.

Specs:

Construction Rotomoulded Polyethylene

Capacity Available in 17 sizes between 10l and 67l

Dimensions 68x 37.5x38cm (47l)

Weight 8kg (47l)

Features Stretch-down loops for effective sealing, foldaway plastic handles on boxes 25 litres

Claimed ice retention 6 days

Warranty 5 years

Price R2395 (47l)

RETAILER:

Evakool Website: www.evakool.co.za


Igloo SPortsman 55QT 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.

Specs:

Construction Rotomoulded high strength plastic

Capacity 47l

Dimensions 77x46x42cm

Weight 12.2kg

Features Large 4.4cm drain, rubber T-handle latches, large foldaway plastic handles for easy carrying

Claimed ice retention 5 days

Warranty 5 years

Price R5 995

RETAILER:

Outdoor Warehouse Website: www.outdoorwarehouse.co.za


Wild Coolers

Wild Coolers

 

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.

Specs:

Construction Rotomoulded polyethylene

Capacity 40l/60l/80l

Dimensions 61.6cmx 69.9cmx77.1cm (45l)

Weight 11.5kg (45l)

Features Foldaway carry handles, silicone gasket, lockable lid, partitions, tape measure, internal basket, tie-down slots, 75mm-thick lid for extra cold retention.

Claimed ice retention Up to 12 days (60l)

Warranty 5 years

Price Wild 40 (R4995); Wild 60 (R5995); Wild 80 (R6995)

RETAILER:

Wild Coolers Website: www.wildcoolers.com

Fast Facts:

The cooler was originally invented by Richard Laramy of Joliet, Illinois, in 1951. Shortly after that, the Coleman Company introduced a galvanised cooler and developed a process to make plastic coolers. Coolers are usually made by sandwiching hard foam, or injecting an expanding polyurethane foam, between two layers of plastic (or metal, or fibreglass) to provide insulation.

In general, the hard-shell cooler boxes are more efficient than their soft-shell counterparts. Fibreglass has, in the past, been a popular construction material, but it is labour-intensive, and has largely been replaced by plastic rotomoulded coolers.

Rotomoulding is a process in which plastic pellets are placed in a heated hollow metal mould that is rotated around two perpendicular axes. The process allows a perfectly even and thick coating of plastic on the mould, which, in the case of coolers, improves insulation. This is still a relatively expensive process because of the high cost of the moulds, among other factors, and is therefore reserved for only the most highend coolers. However, it also results in the most efficient product.

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