By Michael Vatalaro
No matter what size boat you own, coolers are essential onboard equipment, even if your boat has a dedicated icebox or refrigeration. Coolers come in all sizes, and are built to differing specs with a variety of users in mind. Here's a look at similar-sized models, with different intended uses, insulation ratings, and prices from a wide spectrum of brands.
Engel Deep Blue 80
When you're serious about keeping stuff cold, you build a cooler with thick walls, an equally thick lid, and airtight gasketing, just like your freezer at home. Engel's Deep Blue coolers are made with roto-molded polyethylene, two inches of injected foam insulation all around, a gasketed lid, and stainless-steel hinges and backing plates. They're tough enough to earn a bear-resistant rating, and will hold ice for eight to 10 days. They've also been designed with a sloping floor to improve drainage, a "one-twist" drain plug that lets water out without having to be removed all the way, and even feature holes in the lid and corners for a padlock, should you really want to keep your fishing buddies out of your cold drinks. Engel has even built nonskid, non-marking feet, that keep the cooler raised off the deck for easy cleaning. $319.99 for the 80-qt. model at West Marine.
Moeller Ice Station Zero
Moeller makes a variety of marine aftermarket accessories, and they designed their Ice Station Zero line with fishermen in mind. Made of FDA-approved polyethylene inside, so it won't absorb odors, with seamless double-walled boxes so your fresh catch can bounce around inside without damaging the cooler. The lid undergoes a 24-hour pressure fitting process to improve the seal, giving this cooler a five-day ice rating. Add stainless hinges and rope handles, and you've got a cooler ready for your next fishing trip. $279.99 for the 94-qt. model at West Marine.
Coleman Xtreme 5 Marine Plus
The Coleman name might conjure up images of a campsite for many of us, but they also have a line of marine coolers. Like the Igloo, the Xtreme 5 has been optimized for onboard use, with a UV and infrared fighting exterior, antimicrobial liner, and stainless hardware. The lid has four, molded-in cup holders. It's also rated to hold ice for five days and you can buy cushions to fit the top, turning it into a handy seat, as well as a tie-down kit separately. $95.99 for the 70-qt. model.
YETI Tundra 75
YETI focused on building the most durable cooler they could imagine, designing the Tundra series to address weaknesses common to less expensive models. The lid and body are both one piece, roto-molded polyethylene. The hinge is molded into the lid and body, and the two are joined around an aluminum bar. The latches are rubber "T-stops," basically unbreakable. Even the handles are built tough, with marine-grade rope slipped through a textured-rubber grip. The result is a bear-resistant rated cooler, with three inches of foam in the lid, plus at least two in the sides. Add a full gasket around the lid and you've got a cooler that will keep ice a long, long time. It also has feet to raise it off the deck, and holes to lock down the lid if you're in bear country, plus it comes with a dry goods rack, like the one in your home freezer, to keep your sandwiches from getting soggy. $399.99 for the 75-quart model.
Igloo Marine Elite
One of the most familiar names in coolers, Igloo offers a large line of portable chest coolers for marine use, up to 162 quarts, but we're going to focus on the more average-sized 72-quart model. Built with UV inhibitors to guard against sun damage, molded, comfort-grip handles, stainless latches, liners that resist bacterial growth (and thus odors and stains), the Marine Elite is ready to go boating. The tough polyethylene exterior even has infrared technology that keeps the surface of the cooler, well, cooler, making your ice last longer. The 72-quart model is rated to hold ice for five days. The largest two models feature airtight rubber lid gaskets, which boost ice-holding performance to eight or nine days. $84.99 at West Marine for the 72-qt.
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