At first glance, the Deluxe Canvas Cooler seems quite ordinary. The thermal protection the cooler offers, though, is far from ordinary. We packed it halfway with ice, and after 24 hours, 44 percent remained. Packed full with no air gaps, the cooler will easily keep its contents cold up to 48 hours. The shell is made of a nylon canvas and comes in solid colors with two dry side pockets. The soft, flexible insulation makes the cooler just about completely collapsible. Its capacity makes it a great size for lunches, small picnics, and day trips.
Arctic Zone packed a lot of features into this 36-can Titan Guide, which makes it a fairly good value. Nylon strapping at each corner of the cooler provides multiple tie-down points for activities like boating or off-roading. We appreciated the sturdy molded bottom panel that helps the cooler maintain its shape and stabilizes it on uneven surfaces. But our favorite feature might be the top, which is a molded panel with can-shaped depressions in the corners and elastic straps that prevented our beverages from tipping when knocked or jostled. The lid also features a small access hatch, which we used to reach for a cold one without unzipping the whole lid or removing the drinks placed in the corner can holders.
Best for Day Trips
The aptly named Jaunt, from IceMule, is just about the perfect size for a day trip. It can hold up to 15 12-ounce cans, or 8 and lunch for two. The Jaunt has very basic, padded backpack straps that we found quite comfortable and convenient—more than adequate for the weight the cooler can carry. The simple roll-top closure, with a buckle, is very effective and watertight—just like a dry bag.
Bison’s 24-can SoftPak is a soft cooler in the truest sense: It’s completely collapsible. Initially, that made it seem a little flimsy, but the soft foam insulation conformed to our back and side and acted as a cushion, making it very comfortable to carry with the shoulder strap. The flexible nature of the cooler makes storage convenient too since it can be squashed to fit into tight spaces. It has an outer shell made from 1,000-denier vinyl, which is UV- and tear-resistant, as well as easy to clean. The zipper closure isn’t leakproof, so be careful about tipping it too far once the ice starts to melt.
A couple of unique features set IceMule’s 25-liter Traveler apart from other coolers. It comes with an easily removable, padded butterfly harness that goes over both shoulders, sort of like a backpack. The harness is looser than a backpack though, and we were able to keep the cooler low on our backs—just above our hips—which made the weight more comfortable to carry when the cooler was full. The wide, “Bowhead Top” made loading the cooler, and dumping out ice/water, super easy.
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Brad Ford has spent most of his life using tools to fix, build, or make things. Growing up he worked on a farm, where he learned to weld, repair, and paint equipment. From the farm he went to work at a classic car dealer, repairing and servicing Rolls Royces, Bentleys, and Jaguars. Today, when he's not testing tools or writing for Popular Mechanics, he's busy keeping up with the projects at his old farmhouse in eastern Pennsylvania.
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