Finding the Right Cooler: Keeping Food Cold while on the Road
Originally published: July 6, 2018
Now that I have my mobile cabin, I’m slowly preparing it for my traipsing around road trips. One of the must-haves when taking an extended road trip is a cooler. Or, if not a cooler something to keep the food cold. I didn’t want to purchase and install a refrigerator because currently, I don’t know enough about them and how to run the electricity. I have a much better understanding of a cooler. You add ice, add your food and you’re good to go. Just make sure the cooler is the right size and the ice doesn’t get food soggy.
There’s a World full of High-End Coolers Out There
I never knew there was such a wide range of coolers. Back when I was a kid, we used Skotch Plaid coolers. Fast forward to raising my family we used Igloo and Coleman. Let’s face it, as long as my water, wine and cheese are cold, there was little else I cared about. Years ago I cared about sandwiches and juice boxes, but my kids are grown and it’s a whole different story now.
Not knowing how long I’d be on the road, I wanted a cooler that would keep things cold for several days. I really didn’t want to worry about buying more ice or draining the melted ice. Here’s where the high-end coolers come in. The names that were bandied about in my research were Yeti, Otterbox, Thermik and Rtic (later on I discovered Pelican and Monoprice). As such, I spent quite some time becoming familiar with the brands and what they offered.
Yeti vs Rtic
In essence, Yeti was/is the gold standard for coolers and they price their products accordingly. Rtic has similar quality to the gold standard but offers their products at a cheaper price. I also read that there was a tussle between the two companies in the form of a lawsuit. Apparently, Rtic encroached upon Yeti’s design and thus had to make modifications to their coolers to stop stepping on Yeti’s toes.
I didn’t want to get caught up in the drama. I just wanted a quality cooler. However, after reading comments on the Amazon website about Rtic’s 30-day warranty, I had to do a little more investigating. The 30-day cooler warranty wasn’t accurate. According to the Rtic site, they warrant their hard coolers for 1 year, while Yeti offers a 5-year warranty. If I spend $250 for a cooler, I want a long warranty.
Upon further snooping around I came across Thermik. Thermik not only offers a 5-year warranty but some of the add-ons that I would have to purchase separately with either a Yeti or Rtic, are included with the Thermik cooler. In addition to having the food basket and cutting board, Thermik coolers have built-in bottle openers and a cup holder. The Thermik technology is similar to Yeti and Rtic. From what I’ve read, Thermik holds its own in comparison tests.
What clinched the deal for me was reading the Amazon reviews. It just seemed like Thermik's customer base was happier than their competitor’s customers. There were fewer negative reviews and proportionally higher positive reviews.
I didn’t know the Otterbox cooler existed until I was strolling in Best Buy one day. I took a look at the cooler and it reminded me of my cell phone case. The pricing was in the same ballpark as the other high-end coolers. I assumed it was of similar quality as the Yeti, Rtic and Thermik, but I didn’t delve into its pluses or minuses.
Since I already had a cooler, it wasn’t on my “must investigate” list. In writing this post, however, I did find that Otterbox comes with a limited lifetime warranty
Monoprice and Pelican Coolers
I came across these two coolers about a week or so after purchasing my Thermik. Monoprice and Pelican, just like Otterbox, offer lifetime warranties. Pelican also has a pretty awesome commercial where they pit the Pelican cooler against two grizzly bears. The Pelican cooler won.
Bottom line, I believe all of the above-listed high-end coolers perform exceptionally when it comes to keeping food cold. Some have extra features such as the cutting board and cup holder. Others have the vacuum seal release option, while some offer bottle openers or top-side cupholder options. The various features will appeal to people differently. However, if you’re the rugged type and know you’re going to put the cooler in high-risk situations (such as having grizzly bears attacking it), then the lifetime warranties are definitely the way to go (Monoprice, Otterbox or Pelican).
In my case, I bought the Thermik because the included cutting board was a nice feature. I do not, let me repeat, I do not intend to put myself or my cooler in situations where we need to defend ourselves from bears. I’m just a grandma looking to travel around and be able to cook a few meals here and there. For my purposes, the Thermik is just fine.
Keeping Things Cool - Ice vs. Cooler Shock
Now that I’ve settled on a cooler, I had to address one of the annoying issues I’ve always had with coolers... melted ice. No matter how I wrapped food and secured it in “leak-proof” plastic bags, the food always got wet. In an attempt to prevent that problem, I opted to forego traditional ice cubes and go with Cooler Shock.
Cooler Shock creates ice packs for coolers. What impressed me with these ice packs is they were originally designed for use to transport blood. On their website, they have an efficiency comparison of using ice vs. Cooler Shock. The chart was impressive, but all I want is cold non-soggy food. If it reduces the sog factor, I’m sold!
According to Cooler Shock’s calculations, I’ll need 3 large bags (or 6 medium bags) to properly chill the food in my cooler. So, I purchased 3 large and 4 medium-sized bags. I filled the bags with the appropriate amount of water and sealed them in accordance with the instructions. I put them flat in the freezer for 48 hours in preparation for my Thermik cooler.
Cooler Testing Delay
I so wanted to test out the Thermik cooler with the Cooler Shock. There's only one problem. The Thermik cooler is in my mobile cabin. My mobile cabin is at the automotive shop getting a good looking over. After purchasing the 1999 Chevy Express, I wanted an expert to go over it with a fine-toothed comb. I forgot to take the cooler out before I brought my van to the shop. Oh well...stay tuned. I'll share my cooler results as soon as I get my mobile cabin back.
About the Author: Felicia likes to traipse around and write about her traipsings. In her mind, she lives in an RV and gets to travel to beautiful places far and near. However, in reality, she traipses around in her mobile cabin, Faith, a 2005 Chevy Express Conversion van. With Faith, she’s slowly (and I mean slowly) transitioning her mind to leave the ‘safe world’ of bricks and sticks in favor of the unpredictable world of van travel.
Last Modified: 10 May 2021
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