Trailering Magazine Archives - Featured Articles
2005 comes to a close as one of the warmest years on record according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Because boaters, and their ice chests, were on the front lines of the heat, it's a good time to look at the business of keeping cool. Besides, it's December.
Igloo and Coleman, the two major ice chest manufacturers in the United States, have increased both the number and the size of available coolers in 2006. Igloo, which supplies many of the coolers for West Marine and BoatU.S., builds the highly popular Marine Series of coolers designed specifically for use on boats. One can choose from 11 different coolers in sizes ranging from 25 qts. to 162 qts.
"The Marine Series is the most durable and is available only in white," says Igloo Product Manager Marq Sanchez. "This is done so the cooler reflects the heat of the sun. In addition, these coolers have increased ultraviolet light inhibitors to keep the color from fading after years of use and are made with our special ultratherm insulation which keeps the contents cool for an extended length of time. Every Marine Series cooler has a fish keeper scale molded into the lid. On the larger sizes (128 qt. and 168 qt.), the lid doubles as a cutting board and the handles are attached with rivets as well as rope to accommodate the extra weight."
In addition, the Igloo Marine Series has the following features: In 36 qt. coolers and larger, there is a drain plug in each unit. The 72 qt. coolers and larger have a threaded drain plug. A tie-down kit is available for mounting screws and adjustable straps allowing the cooler to be secured to either the floor of the boat or to the wall or floor of the tow vehicle. Seat cushions are available on the 48 qt. - 162 qt. models in the Marine Series.
A general cooler rule: Anything smaller than 50 qts. is going to be sufficient for keeping contents cool for a day on the water. Coolers between 50-150 qts are designed for two days and above 150 qts, the cooler will keep contents cold for as long as 3 days. The Igloo Ultra Cold Series is designed with 25% more insulation and has maintained ice cubes for as long as five days in 90-degree temperatures.
Coleman has introduced three new coolers in 2006 (50 qt., 58 qt and 82 qt), which can be used as a fish well or a bait container if it isn't going to contain food. Igloo has more than 50 different sizes and styles of coolers that can be used on boats.
Hard, Soft and a Little of Both
Both companies offer hard and soft-sided coolers. Soft sided are less expensive and smaller but won't maintain the temperature as long as hard sided coolers.
"Hard-sided coolers are more efficient at maintaining contents chilled," says Coleman spokeswoman Ann Walden, "and this makes them better in situations where high performance is needed (long trips, hot days, etc.) They don't leak, so they can hold melted ice. They can be used for extra seating on the boat. They are more durable and generally come in larger sizes."
The downside is that hard-sided coolers take up more space when not in use, they are heavier and they usually cost more. More and more,hard-sided cooler design is taking from the rolling suitcases commonly seen being rolled through airports. Igloo offers eight different models with wheels in 2006 while Coleman has five coolers on wheels ranging in size from 40- 62 qts.
One of those with wheels is the Igloo Ice Cube Ultra Roller (pictured). It can hold a two liter bottle upright and has a pair of detachable drink holders that will fit snugly in the lid. This cooler has a 60 qt. capacity (enough to hold 90 12 oz. cans) which will easily accommodate 4 people. The telescoping handle allows the cooler to be stored. With a recessed drain plug and two molded-in handles for carrying when not rolling it, this cooler has a cubical shape making it easy to lift and carry.
In 2006, however, it will no longer be a choice between either hard or soft sides. The West Marine Cold Fusion Cooler, made by Igloo specifically for West Marine, will have a durable base and a soft sided exterior. "We're building it in a 40 qt. size," says Sanchez of Igloo, "and it will have the benefits of both the hard and the soft sides. It can be easily stored when not in use, but it also will provide the needed strength found in hard sided coolers."
Block or Cubes or Water OR...?
Ice is ice, right? Not when you're packing your cooler. Block ice tends to stay cool longer than ice cubes. As a result, it's the preferred cooling element to be used in your boat's icebox or ice chest. But block ice isn't always available and if it is, it isn't always going to work in a cooler. That's why cubes are popular. But keep in mind that a bag of ice cubes will probably last for the better part of a day and not much longer. If your cooler is only going to contain beverages the combination of ice cubes and water will keep the cans colder than just ice cubes alone. Whether you select block or cubed ice, cooler manufacturers suggest covering the cooler with a blanket to be used as insulation from the sun. While many coolers are designed with a white color to reflect the sun's rays, a blanketed cooler that is kept in the shade (i.e. in the cabin) is going to keep the contents cold for a longer period of time than one left out in the sunlight.
In addition, ice packs (also called gel packs) are commonly used with soft-sided coolers. The packs can be reused (simply refreeze them) and are appealing to many with a small soft cooler because the pack can be frozen in such a way so as to take the shape of the cooler. Still, other boaters will simply fill a few ziplock plastic bags two-thirds full of water, freeze them overnight and use them for ice packs.
Igloo, however, will offer "Natural Ice" in the spring of 2006, which is water packaged in one- and two pound bags. After freezing for a few hours, Natural Ice can be wrapped around the contents in a cooler and, like all ice packs/gel packs, can be used for an afternoon. Unlike ice blankets that are available, the Natural Ice can be cut to fit your cooler.
"Ice will never go away for use in coolers," observes Igloo Product Manager Marq Sanchez, "but I think you're going to see a transition to products like Natural Ice, instead of constantly stopping at the convenience store to buy another bag of cubes. Reusable products are going to become more common for boating."
Both Coleman and Igloo offer thermo electric coolers that operate with a cigarette lighter attachment to the boat's battery. While this precludes the need to fill a cooler with ice, it is commonly agreed the technology needs to improve before temperatures can be maintained as well as in coolers with ice. In fact, studies of thermo electric performance indicate temperatures are only 30-40 degrees below the ambient (outside) temperature.
No Longer an Accessory
Coolers are quickly becoming standard equipment on boats. That is, they are installed at the factory. The new Malibu 21LSV for example, comes equipped with a cooler that can be easily removed. Four Winns includes a 36 qt. cooler as standard in a number of models in its Funship and Sundowner line of boats. On the Sundowner, the cooler sits below the port stern seat cushion. On the Funship, it is set beneath seating on the bow.
And then we come to the "Crusin Cooler." "It combines the two necessities of life," says inventor Kevin Beal, "the ability to have cold food or a beverage handy along with the means to get somewhere without walking." He got the idea while working at a NASCAR event in Indianapolis and noticed the many people walking with coolers in tow orcarrying coolers, and thought why can't they be riding? He went to work and the result is a cooler that will run on gas ($399) or electricity (500 watt motor is $499 and a 300 watt motor is$349). It can reach speeds of 13 mph and can carry 610 pounds. There's also an available trailer for hauling supplies (the tow capacity is 800 lbs).
- It's a not-so-hot idea to put warm beverages into the cooler and then add ice. Refrigerate the cans (and anything else that will go into the cooler) over night. A cooler is designed to keep things cool, not make things cool.
- Pack the cooler first with the items you want cooled. Then add the ice. Cold air goes down.
- Freeze a few bottles of water before leaving on a long trip. One bottle can be kept in your car or on the boat and will be ready for use within a few hours. The other can be taken out of the cooler later on. Best of all, while it's in the cooler, it's keeping everything else cold.
- If there is room on the boat, and if you are going to do a long trip (i.e. overnight) consider using a pair of coolers-one for beverages that is frequently opened, and the other for larger items (sandwiches, dinner). The cooler loses its efficiency the more it is opened.
- If you are using ice blankets instead of ice packs or gel packs or ice cubes, place two layers on the bottom of the cooler, add the contents and follow with two more layers of ice blankets. This will guarantee a cold environment.
- Both Igloo and Coleman stamp the manufacture year on the bottom of the cooler.