Coleman Xtreme cool box review - The challenge of camping for more than a few days without an electric hookup (EHU) (especially with a family) is how to keep meals interesting, easy and cost effective. OK, so there are plenty of dry/tinned/jarred alternatives such as pasta, noodles, hotdogs, beans, sauces etc. and you can use UHT or powered milk.
We love pasta and sauce as a quick and easy meal, but it wouldn’t be the same without some pan fried diced fresh chicken tossed in there. Also, Mrs TentLife hates UHT milk and wherever we stay she always likes to buy some locally produced tasty full fat milk which needs to be kept cool.
And who doesn’t like a nice cold beer!!
So other than a 12v cool box which come with their own challenges like size and how to power, the only option for decent food when camping is a decent cool box.
This brings us on to Coleman cool boxes, in particular their Xtreme range of coolers. We’ve now tested a couple of cool boxes, and during our numerous conversations with other TentLife Facebook group members, they are arguably the best out there, especially for the price.
We tested the cool boxes on 4 camping trips over the rather warm school holidays in 2018 (not both at the same time). Here are our findings.
Cool boxes we tested
70QT Xtreme Tricolour cooler.
This is a big 66ltr cooler. It’s the walls filled with polyurethane foam as the insulator. It is a very good looking cooler, we really like the orange and dark grey colouring as it makes it look very smart.
When empty, the 70QT Xtreme cooler is lighter than it looks and can be moved about easily. The handles on this cooler are very strong and robust. The handles lift up when being carried, which makes it more comfortable when you have a ot of food in the cooler. We’ve carried it full of food on many occasions and it has withstood many trips in the back of our van.
50QT Xtreme Wheeled Tricolour cooler.
This is a slightly smaller 47ltr cooler with a couple of very handy features. The cooler has 2 sturdy wheels at the back, along with a a telescopic handle for moving it around. It uses the same foam filler as the insulator and the same clip tight lid.
Slightly different handles on this cooler as it is smaller and also has a different way of moving it around where possible (wheels/handle).
It is easy to see that these coolers are designed to be minimalist, uncomplicated and just work. They have very few moving parts and are uncomplicated, the lid has a great design whereby it clips firmly shut and the lip design helps contribute to keeping your lovely food nice and cool for when you are ready to use it.
Just so that you know, there are a couple smaller cool boxes in the Xtreme range that have a capacity of 26ltrs. These smaller boxes are ideal for those weekend escapes for one or a couple wanting to enjoy the outdoors.
How long did stuff stay cool for?
The Coleman website states that their Xtreme cool boxes “will keep the contents cold on ice for up to five days”. This doesn’t mean that it will keep ice solid for 5 days, it means that it will keep contents cold for UP TO 5 days. We tested these cool boxes in the baking heat of the summer of 2018, where people couldn’t stay in their tents because of the temperatures.
Any claim based on how good a product works, should always be looked at realistically and based on other surrounding factors. It would be unreasonable to insist that these Xtreme coolers should keep stuff cold for 5 days on the surface of the sun and march them back to the retailer for a refund.
It also depends on how much stuff is in there. Pack it full of chilled food and the it will stay cooler for a lot longer than trying to keep a lone pack of sausages cold whilst say in a virtually empty cool box.
We were very pleasantly surprised – using common sense regarding the heat, both of the cool boxes worked much better than we were expecting. Storing them out of direct sunlight, in the shade or throwing a towel over them, meant they kept their contents cold for many many days. As the camping trips were coming to their conclusions and the food was diminishing, we would pack it all closer together and sometimes put it into carrier bags to help keep it chilled.
Apparently, the reason why the Coleman coolers are so good is because they inject the polyurethene foam into the cooler casing so there are literally no gaps. This method is not used by most other manufacturers who just use polystyrene, which isn't as efficient and leaves gaps which allow heat exchange. Coleman also did a lot of research into what shapes stay cooler for longer, and it's actually a circular sphere shape that stays cool the longest (least surface area). Obviously for practicality this doesn’t work for boxes whichis why they made the edges curved and elevated the bottom slightly off the floor – all small ways in which their coolers perform a lot better than others.
You probably already know that cool boxes won’t cool your food, they are designed to slow down the warming up of it’s content to the ambient/outside temperature. So you need to reduce the internal temperature first and then try and keep it down using freezer blocks. We purchased our freezer blocks from our local Ultimate Ourdoors store, but you can get them from lots of places like Argos and plenty of places online.
We also chilled the cool boxes before we filled them with the freezer blocks and the food (see the cool box tips below).
So we have concluded that these Coleman Xtreme cool boxes really do work and will help you and your family have many wonderful camping trips. The 70QT is ideally suited to larger families, and the 50QT with it’s wheels and expanding pull handle still has adequate room inside and is very easy to manoeuvre around or to take on a picnic.
They helped to reduce the number of shopping trips we had to make – if we did need to buy food whilst we were away, the cool boxes allowed us to buy more fresh food and plan more meals as we had somewhere cool to store the ingredients.
I tell you what else these cool boxes also did – they opened up the number of places that we can now go camping. For example, we got ourselves a beautiful coastal view on a non-EHU pitch at Aberafon (Wales) during our Romantic TentLife getaway in the Vango Rosewood.
The decision is yours.
Where to buy
COOL BOX TIPS
Use some frozen bottles of water to lower the temperature inside the cool box before your trip and before you put your freezer blocks and food in.
Make and freeze some meals in advance. A pre-made chilli frozen in your home freezer will help contribute to keeping the inside of your cool box cold and should stay frozen/chilled for a few days before you need to use it up.
Most campsites have freezers available for the sole purpose of refreezing your freezer blocks, so it is always a good idea to have enough blocks to rotate i.e. some to use in the cool box and some to be frozen at the same time.
Buy your freezer blocks in the winter, where the cost of them will be lower than in the summer months.