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Works but Breaks - be prepared
on March 31, 2010
This review is for two similar Coleman Xtreme coolers, which are virtually the same size on the exterior: the 70-quart, 5-day, BLUE cooler and the 56-quart, 6-day, GREEN cooler. By the way, these coolers do not come equipped with a plastic shelf to keep food suspended above the melt water.
First, let me say that Coleman made its reputation years ago with its workhorse, white-gas cook stoves and lanterns. Today Coleman mostly makes products for backyard use and casual family camping. Coleman generally does not make quality products for avid outdoors people operating in rugged or demanding conditions, so you can't expect too much when purchasing a Coleman product.
That said, I went through Amazon.com to purchase a Green Coleman 6-day cooler because I didn't want to shell out hundreds of dollars more for a tougher product and because I needed a cooler that would fit comfortably between the gunwales of our canoes. So far, I have used this cooler on two river trips, the first of which lasted seven days in southern Utah during September, 09. The weather was hot, but could have been hotter. Our block ice lasted 6 days, and on the 7th day we had plenty of ice water, so the cooler achieved its 6-day rating.
This was followed with a 4-day trip in October, which wasn't long enough to test the cooling performance of the cooler, but did reveal the cooler's low-quality construction. On the second day out, one of the handles came off when its plastic retaining pin fell out. A member of our party had with them a smaller Coleman Xtreme cooler, and both of its hinges were broken off and useless. So, if you plan to use this cooler much, I would suggest taking the preventive measures described below. And then try to be gentle with it.
A few weeks ago I purchased a 70-quart, 5-day Blue cooler at Wal-Mart for $30. At this price I couldn't pass it up. Apparently the store had a few of these left over from last year, and they were being sold at a deep discount because Wal-Mart is featuring a different Coleman Xtreme product line this year. I haven't used this cooler yet, but I can describe how the two Xtreme coolers compare physically.
NOTE: See my "customer images" available under the main product photo to see what I am describing here.
On the exterior, the two coolers are indistinguishable except for the colors. Same cheap plastic hardware on both. On the interior, the 6-day green cooler has noticeably thicker walls implying more insulation, and thus 20 percent less volume than the blue 5-day cooler.
Here are the fixes I have adopted in an effort to overcome the flimsy hardware issues. When I got home from the second river trip, I used a screwdriver to pry out the plastic retaining pins on the two handles (two pins each) and glued them back into place with Gorilla glue. This I expect will hold the pins in place for a while. On the newer cooler, I removed the plastic handles altogether and replaced them with rope handles. This type of handle has the advantage of remaining in a fixed position (unlike the original sliding plastic handles) allowing me to run a strap between them to secure the lid in case of a canoe upset.
On the interior of each cooler, I have screwed into place a short nylon strap between the lid and the side wall. The strap is long enough to allow the lid to open beyond 90 degrees and remain in an upright and open position, but the strap is short enough to prevent the lid from extending backward far enough to place excessive strain on the hinges. I am hoping this will keep the hinges from snapping anytime soon.
2014 Update: We have used both coolers on several canoe trips. My son took them on a trip this summer and one of the plastic handles came off the green cooler--even after I had glued the retaining pins in place with Gorilla Glue a few years ago. I'll just go ahead and replace the plastic handles with rope, which has worked great on the blue cooler. No broken hinges on either cooler yet.
Here's a tip for fanatics who want to maintain a cold, refrigerated cooler for a week or more--for me, the longest period so far has been 8 days. The blue 70 gal. cooler is a perfect size for holding about five or six of my wine-bladder ice blocks. Here's how it works. After finishing off a box of Peter Vella's chardonnay in the 5-liter box (Almaden would probably work too), I remove the bladder from the box, use a largish flat-blade screwdriver to twist and pry out the plastic valve (careful--it's easy to slip and stab your fingers with the screwdriver), rinse out the bladder, and let it air dry. Save the box. Then, about a week before a canoe trip, I fill the bladders with water, put them back in the box (leave room for expansion), tape the box shut with duct tape, and place them flat in our chest freezer. You want the bladders to assume a flat shape when frozen, not a convex shape that bulges in the center.
When ready to leave on the trip, I remove the bladders (now blocks of ice) from their boxes, and arrange them side-by-side in the blue cooler, which is now the ice chest. I also place a couple of sheets of 1/4" inch thick, bubble type, flat insulation (available from hardware store) above the ice blocks. On the river, we pull ice blocks from the ice chest as needed to refrigerate the other cooler which serves as the refrigerator. After a hot week on the river, we still have ice cold beer. Sweet. Bonus feature: when the ice blocks melt, they provide clean drinking water. My son paddled with a thirsty group of friends this summer, and by the end of the trip, their water jugs were empty, and they were relying on back-up water from the bladders. The water tastes more natural from bladders that have held chardonnay (white) than a red cab. And the bladders can be reused until they eventually develop a leak between the double walls of the bladder. Cheers.