Published on January 9th, 2018 | by Greg0
Flexible, Insulated Coolers: Polar Bear’s Backpack & H20
This might not be the best time for those in North America to think carefully about the best way to keep their food and drinks cool. But for those in, say, Australia, the time has never been better. And even if you’re needing regularly defrosting every opportunity that you come back indoors, let’s spend a moment imagining summer- beaches, warm sun, bare skin, a conspicuous lack of frostbite. Now dream about grabbing a cold drink during your picnics or your tailgate parties.
The Polar Bear Cooler company has been manufacturing soft-sided portable for over a decade, and we’ve taken a few weeks during recent vacations to test out two of them- their 24-Pack H20 Waterproof Cooler, and their Nylon Backpack Cooler (with capacity for up to 18 cans). We’ll start with the first one, which claims to be the “most well insulated soft-sided cooler ever made” and boasts one-inch thick closed cell foam insulation and a rubber bottom skid resistant saddle. But the main claim to fame is that it is waterproof, which means your cold water can’t leak out and rain won’t get in. Solid zippers help seal it tight, and the Dura Temp liner ensures you’ll be able to enjoy your beer or soda or sandwiches hours after putting them into the cooler.
We’ve seen other high-end coolers before, but they tend to be hard-sided, which makes for longer insulation times but also adds weight (and bulk). These are more portable, which helps whether you’re boating or hand-carrying to a concert or sporting event. And they still offer plenty of chill-retention performance, rated as keeping ice from melting for up to 24 hours in 100-degree heat. The handles are sturdy and the wide-mouthed zippered opening is placed in the middle for convenient opening for easy access to your drinks. Expect to spend around $129 online and in stores, available in blue or tangerine.
If you’re looking for a little less carrying capacity but a more comfortable bag, then check out their Backpack Cooler- top grab handles and thick, cushioned shoulder straps give you options, and it can fit 12-16 bottles and plenty of ice to keep it all ready. The liners held up to bottle caps even when moving around during a hike, and though it definitely gets heavy, the load is manageable with a little careful packing. A couple of extra pockets are nice additions, and we liked the zipper with a bottle opener. This one is not watertight, though, so keep that in mind. But it’s affordable, at $89.95, in black, orange, or camouflage.