Hands on Review
You can’t really know how something works until you get behind the wheel, kick the tires a little and take it for a test drive. Car metaphors aside, we put this cooler through its paces on a four-and-a-half day camping trip to determine if it was really as good as everyone was claiming.
With so much space in the cooler, we gathered a five-person crew and threw the cooler onto the back of a pickup truck to take to the woods.
This was probably the easiest to predict. You could just tell by lifting the cooler and looking at it up close that it was going to be amazing at insulation. The walls are really thick; the lid fits like it has an airtight seal and it just looks like a cooler that is going to keep everything really cold (or hot if that’s what you need).
In this case, the cooler still had between 60% and 70% of the ice that was put into it on day one when we got it home. That means that after 96 hours, the food was still cold (although mostly gone) and the drinks were like they had been stored in a snow bank in Antarctica. The manufacturer specs say that it keeps things ice cold for 10 days, and we would agree with that.
Next up was durability. First of all, the construction of this cooler is really solid. The hinges are thick nylon and don’t look as if they are going to wear out anytime in the next dozen or so camping trips, even with everyone opening and closing it every fifteen minutes or so.
It sustained the bumpy ride up to the campsite in the back of a pickup truck, sliding from one end to the other occasionally. The handles don’t feel as if they are going to break when you pick it up, even when it’s full of 12-packs, steaks, hot dogs and everyone else we stuffed in there.
At first, it was a little tempting to complain because the hinges and handles are mostly nylon rather than plastic. However, as the trip went on, it was clear that this material was much stronger and more durable than plastic would have been. So, there’s really nothing to complain up with durability.
Ease of Use
When it comes to ease of use, there is really only one thing to be aware of. You may remember the earlier complaint that the lid closes unexpectedly. This is a problem for three reasons. First, it comes down pretty hard, and if it was a little hand that was trapped under the lid when it came down, it would probably hurt.
Second, it’s a problem because it is really inconvenient. When you are trying to pull stuff out of the cooler, and you keep coming back to find it is closed, it is kind of irritating. We ended up holding the lid the first night when we pulled almost everything out trying to find the steaks (which were at the bottom of course)
Third, it’s loud when it comes down. If the rubber was sticking out a little more it would probably be okay, but it’s the plastic of the lid that sticks out the farthest, and it slaps the plastic of the lip. At night, if someone gets a bottle of water out and forgets to close it, it will wake you up if you’re a light sleeper.
However, as far as the rest of the factors that fall under “ease of use” – the drain works well and doesn’t leak and there’s nothing else to complain about at all.
This cooler is pretty big, and the walls are thick, but for some reason, this is still a really light cooler to carry. Plus, because of how much slack there is with the nylon handles, one person could easily carry it if they had to. There is a rubber grip on each handle so that the nylon doesn’t dig into your hand; it could be improved by adding wheels.
When it comes to camping equipment these days, you can find all sorts of features, and even with coolers. There are coolers out there that have a phone charging station built-in, some that have water tanks with spouts outside the cooler to fill up and even coolers with lighting or speakers.
This one is pretty basic. The only real features are the two places where you can put a padlock if you want to lock up something in the cooler and the net attached to the side that will store a small amount of stuff.
|Gear Capacity (L)||58 liters|
|Gear Capacity (cu. in.)||3,539 cubic inches|
|Dimensions||18.5 x 12.3 x 13.375 inches|
The only limitations on this cooler are the fact that it gets pretty heavy when it is completely full of food and canned stuff. For the average person, this probably won’t be a problem. The average guy (or strong girl) can carry it himself if necessary, and it is quite comfortable with two people. For someone who doesn’t have much upper body strength, this might be a problem.
Probably the best applications for this cooler are guys and girls going on a camping trip, or families that don’t have really small kids that could get their fingers mashed when the lid comes down. It probably wouldn’t break them or anything, but it would definitely hurt.
Those with disabilities, the elderly or people who just don’t have the ability to lift and carry (one on each side) a range of 50 to 100 pounds should probably get something that has wheels and is more mobile.
You can’t say that this is an incredible value for the money, but it isn’t that bad. It depends upon what is important to you in a cooler. If you want insulation more than anything else and aren’t too concerned about additional features like phone charging stations, then this is definitely a good buy. It is definitely a good brand, and many camping experts laud it as one of their top choices for coolers. It’s worth the money you pay for it because it will last for a really long time.
Other Versions & Accessories
There aren’t really any accessories for this unless you count the net attachment, which comes included. There are a few other options you have with this cooler.
First, you have a choice of four colors: an army green, pink, white and tan. It’s rumored that ORCA donates a portion of their profit to an organization based upon the color (pink = breast cancer awareness for example), but it isn’t listed on their website so it may not be true.
BEST CAMPING COOLER
Canyon Cooler Outfitters 55 Quart
When it comes to insulation, both of these coolers are pretty amazing. As mentioned, the ORCA cooler lasted for 5 days on the test, and the manufacturer’s description says it will last for 10. The Canyon comes close here, and there is not much in it, but the Orca just gets the nod here. They are also really close on durability, but the Canyon wins it here again because it is a little tougher than the ORCA. In fact, Canyon offers a lifetime warranty on their cooler.
When it comes to ease of use, the Canyon is the clear winner here, because the lid stays open and will not close arbitrarily while you are getting stuff out like the ORCA does. But the ORCA cooler wins in portability because the Canyon has stiff plastic handles and it is easier for one person to carry the ORCA.
They are both about the same when it comes to features, with no major advantages over the other one. When it comes to value, the Canyon leaves the ORCA in the dust because not only is it the superior product; it also costs less than the ORCA – a lot less in fact. So, the winner here is the Canyon 55-quart, hands down.