Extreme Coolers

Doug-Stange-Shore-Lunch-Lead-In-FishermanThroughout much of the 1970s and early 1980s, a green, 54-quart Coleman Steel Belted Cooler was the centerpiece of our family camping trips. Mom packed every cubic square inch of it with essential food items. We four kids were rounded up into the International Travelall with the Holiday Travel Trailer in tow for parts unknown, typically someplace close to water with a great view of the stars and far removed from electricity.

Used and abused, that cooler was an under-appreciated fixture that not only kept our food fresh and beverages cold, but also doubled as a bench, table, and step stool. After we graduated from school, the Coleman survived high-school parties, sporting events, and other activities. Battered but never broken, it kept its cool before being retired to a corner of the garage when we kids moved away.

Steel Belted coolers were offered by The Coleman Company from 1954 to 1994 and were the pinnacle of cooler technology. Strong, functional, and durable, many of these original gems are still in use. Coleman has reintroduced the Steel Belted Cooler after a 20-year absence. It's back in black, red, and green color options, as well as stylish stainless-steel. The design has been improved with a stainless steel lid, case, and hardware to ward off rust. Insulation has been upgraded for enhanced performance. Stainless-steel handles with comfortable rubber grips make it easier to carry, as does its relatively lightweight construction.

For those looking to jump to the heavyweight division of coolers, 2006 ushered in an explosion of "extreme" coolers to the market with the advent of high-performance Yeti ice boxes. Because some may say that one rotational-molded cooler looks like all the rest, let's hit on some of the distinguishing features each major brand offers.

Coolers often are taken for granted in outdoor activities, and until recently, they've underachieved to some degree. Today's extreme coolers have raised the bar and ushered in a new era in cooler performance. You can extend that road trip, push deeper into the wilderness, and have confidence that everything's going to be cool.

Tips for Staying Cool Longer

'¢Condition the cooler by chilling the interior for several hours prior to packing.

'¢Cool or freeze the contents prior to packing.

'¢Keep the cooler full and eliminate dead space. Light weight bubble wrap works great as filler.

'¢Use quality clear ice or blocked ice, either alone or with dry ice, and place on top of the contents because cold air sinks.

'¢Keep the lid closed securely and limit visits to the cooler.

'¢Pack contents in chronological order; with items to be use first packed toward the top.

'¢Don't drain meltwater from ice as icy water has the same cooling effect as ice and occupies space that won't require chilling.

'¢Keep the cooler out of direct sunlight.

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