Test results for 11 soft and hard, small to medium sized day trip coolers priced from $27 to $120.
Now is the perfect time to enjoy an outdoor picnic, but no one wants warm drinks, a leaking cooler (affectionately known as the esky, after the brand), or most of all, finishing a great day out with a bout of food poisoning.
We found big differences in performance! And a number of models were not leak-proof, so if there’s a spill or you’re using ice to cool, then you could end up with a wet car boot with your warm drinks. We also give you the better product options if you intend to use your cooler for storing food.
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- California Innovations 30 Can Zipperless Hard Body Cooler 1-97301-95-00
- California Innovations 50 Can AT Rolling Cooler 1-21606-77-09
- California Innovations 30 Can Zipperless Hard Body Cooler with Ice Station 1-97301-95-00
- Coleman 47L Wheeled Cooler 3000000188
- Esky True Blue 50L ES501522BR
- Esky True Blue Hamper 36L ES0360BL
- Thermos Cayman 48 Can Wheeled Cooler C93048CDN
- Thermos Traditional 48 Can 32048
- Willow 35L Wheelie 4315
- Willow 55L Wheelie 2146
- Xtracool Premium Plus Cube Box
Our tester, James Thomson, tests the coolers by loading each cooler with drink cans to 35% of its capacity. Both the cooler and drink cans are preconditioned to 22°C. He then fills each cooler with ice equivalent to 15% of the coolers’ volume, closes them and places them in a temperature-controlled room at 35°C. James measures the time taken from when the average temperature inside the cans rises by 3°C to 8°C. The slower the warm-up time, the better the performance score. We don’t open the coolers during our test; they’ll warm up more quickly with regular opening.
Ease of use
James assesses how easy each cooler is to carry, load and unload, and how easy it is to open and close the lid.
Strapped for picnic food ideas?
Try Fiona and Gene’s Cook’s CHOICE creations, such as their egg and dill salad with crusty bread, potato and tomato salad, or watermelon with kaffir lime syrup.
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