Regardless of whether you are a hardcore outdoor enthusiast or just like hosting barbecues, you can benefit from owning a cooler. I primarily use coolers when I am hunting. I will go into the woods for days at a time and I need my perishables to last as long as possible. Also, once my game is harvested I now have a place to keep the meat cool while I transport it prior to processing (if we don’t process in the field).

Recently, I decided I wanted an upgrade to my current cooler. My knee-jerk reaction was to go with the top-of-the-market Yeti coolers. These coolers are badass. Looking at my needs specifically, I decided to concentrate on the Tundra model(s). The Tundra is Yeti’s original heavy-duty cooler. According to their website, “The Yeti Tundra is a rugged, all-purpose, large cooler that comes in a variety of sizes for wilderness expeditions, hunting, fishing, tailgating, and more”.

Sounds perfect right? The Tundra model(s) range from $299-$1399.99, depending on accessories and the size you want. This got me thinking. Typically, when I leave the campsite for the day, I leave my cooler behind. Would I be comfortable leaving something worth this much money alone while I am out hunting? I don’t want to be worrying about something while I am hunting as I need to concentrate on the hunt at hand. Sorry Yeti, perhaps our paths will cross again one day.

So, I began to look at other companies. Ice retention, sound construction, practical parts, and wallet-friendly were my main goals. After a lot of shopping around I decided to go with a Coleman 120 Quart Xtreme 6 Cooler. Regularly $99.99, however, my local hunting store was having a tent sale and I got this cooler for $69.99. My previous cooler was a Coleman also, so I am pretty familiar with their products.

A Cooler for the Everyday Man
120 Quart Xtreme 6 Cooler. Image courtesy of Coleman.com.

Features (Directly from Coleman.com)

  • Keeps ice up to 6 days at temperatures up to 90f
  • Xtreme technology uses an insulated lid and extra insulation in the walls for longer ice retention
  • Holds 204 cans
  • Leak-resistant channel drain for easy draining without tilting the cooler
  • Have-a-Seat Lid supports up to 250lbs for a place to sit and rest
  • Comfort-grip no-crush handles for easy, pinch-free carrying
  • Cup holders molded into the lid to keep drinks close
  • EZ-Clean top uses a smoother surface that easily wipes clean
  • Low CO2 insulation for a reduced carbon emissions from foam manufacturing
  • Made in the USA

Pretty fancy features right? The first chance I got to test this cooler was during a barbecue that I hosted in honor of my Ranger buddy visiting me. We loaded it up with cubed ice, beer, and took it into a centrally located spot in my yard (in semi-direct sunlight). Throughout the barbecue, we added drinks that people brought, and there was almost always someone opening and closing it. At one point, I found one of my kids sitting in it (don’t tell the wife), most likely fatally wounding my extremely-scientifically-accurate, ice retention experiment.  I wasn’t to be deterred, the experiment went on through the rest of the night.

A Cooler for the Everyday Man
The start of the experiment.

The next morning I went to check the cooler.  Most of the ice had melted, however the beers were still extremely cold. I started to do some research on how a company could realistically claim 6 days of ice (there are some companies that claim longer)?  What I discovered are some awesome tips and tricks to help maximize your ice retention.

Ice Retention Tips

  • Start with a cold/cool cooler.  If your cooler is stored in a warm place the ice wastes cooling power first cooling your cooler.  If possible pre-cool your cooler with a bag of ice that you know will just melt away.
  • Only use cold ice.  This sounds funny but if you place ice in your cooler that is already dripping water it wont last long.
  • Block ice will last longer than cubed ice, however cubed ice will help cool your items off faster.
  • Try and reduce the voids (large areas of air) from inside your cooler. Either add a cloth, or more ice.
  • Don’t drain the water inside, it is extremely cold. This can be challenging if you have cardboard containers (milk) or meat that isn’t inside some kind of water proof bag.
  • Limit cooler access. This is also includes reducing the time you let your kids sit in it.
  • Keep out of direct sunlight, if possible.
  • Think about using dry ice if you have access to it. 

I will be taking this cooler with me deer hunting (9/1) and I plan on conducting a second experiment using the tips I mentioned above. Hopefully the results will be better than they were at the barbecue, because I need my food to last at least four days. In all seriousness though, I have never had a problem with any of my Coleman coolers. What is nice about Coleman is that they have tons of designs and there is most likely something created for your specific needs (lunch, fish, hunt, etc.). Easy accessibility to parts, and reasonable pricing makes it hard to go wrong.

Regardless of your choice of coolers, give the ice retention tips a try to see how your cooler does. 

Get your Coleman 120 Quart Xtreme 6 Cooler here.