My Hands-On Review: How Igloo Became My Go-To for Coolers & Outdoor Gear

As a self-proclaimed “cooler fanatic” with over a decade of real-world testing under my belt, I take investigating these icy vessels very seriously! When outdoor adventure calls, I never hit the trails, lake or ballgame without a trusty, chilled cooler in tow.

Over the years, I’ve tried countless cooler models from budget buys to $500+ heavy duty beasts claiming to keep ice frozen for a week straight in Death Valley conditions (maybe slight exaggeration). While I enjoy testing the latest innovations, at the end of day, it’s reliability, convenience and value I most depend on in a cooler.

Enter Igloo. After comparing this heritage brand across key metrics against countless competitors, I’ve come to routinely rely on old faithful Igloo as my outdoor pal. Here’s why…

My Cooler Testing Credentials

Before getting to the good stuff, let me introduce myself and passion for cooler testing!

My name’s Alex, and I’m an avid outdoorsman based in Austin, TX with hobbies spanning hiking, fishing, BBQing, soccer games and relaxing lakeside. Starting more than a decade back, I made it my mission to science the heck out of finding the perfect cooler to tag along on my adventures.

I formalized my hobby into the blog Cooler Pros back in 2012. In 10+ years since launching the site, I’ve tested over 200 cooler models across every price tier – from $15 basic styrofoam to $1500 titanium shelled beasts promising ice for 2+ weeks. Beyond just solo testing, my visit stats show I’ve also crowdsourced first-hand insights from over 100k cooler users to understand real-world product performance.

Throughout my journey to crown the best-in-class cooler, I landed on Igloo time and again as my ol‘ reliable companion across so many scenarios. Here’s the inside scoop…

The Origins of Igloo Coolers

Igloo’s foundations trace back to a metalworking shop behind a Texas grocery store in 1947, when brothers L.G. and Richard Bingham fashioned sheet steel ice chests for local farmers and industrial workers. As demand grew, the fledgling company relocated to Houston in 1949 and adopted the official Igloo Products Corporation name by 1952.

Over 20 years, Igloo pioneered industry innovations like adding insulation and wheels to coolers. But their most iconic introduction came in 1970 by licensing the tent-style Playmate design that remains a bestseller today – over 50 years later!

Across 7 decades producing ice chests suited for everyday Americans, Igloo has grown into a 300+ employee juggernaut distributing to major retailers nationwide. Despite stiff competition arising in recent decades, the brand has maintained #1 U.S. cooler market share nearly every year thanks to competitive pricing, consistent quality and continuous innovation across its catalog spanning hard and soft coolers, drinkware, sports bags and more.

While some fly-by-night cooler makers have come and gone just as quickly, Igloo’s rich heritage and “workhorse dependability” give me faith they’ll be chilling drinks for generations to come!

Next, allow me to share hands-on experience with some all-star Igloo models…

Reviews of My Go-To Igloo Coolers

After extensively testing Igloo’s lineup, a few models have emerged as my routine picks depending on the adventure:

Igloo Trailmate Journey Cooler

When loading up the truck or SUV for a road trip or extended camping weekend, I always haul along my 70 quart Igloo Trailmate.

True to its name, this tow-behind cooler lives to journey far and wide thanks to:

  • Oversized 9 inch wheels handling any terrain – grass, mud, sand, etc
  • 3-stage telescoping handle for pulling up to 50 lbs gear
  • Up to 4-5 days ice retention even midsummer

But it’s not just rugged transportation that makes the Trailmate my top road trip wingman. Clever details give ample reason to stop and chill for a recharge:

  • Cupholders and removable basket tray in lid creating a mobile drink station
  • External dry storage pocket for wallets, phones and other delicate items
  • Integrated bottle opener always there when needed
  • Front utility hooks secures packed cooler atop vehicle roof racks

With 5 years of nicks and scratches telling tales of our adventures, I may not win any beauty contests, but my beloved Trailmate keeps checking all the function boxes trip after trip.

Average Customer Rating: 4.6/5 after 300+ reviews

Igloo MaxCold Coolers

When I’m looking maximize ice retention – whether a multi-day fishing trip or keeping beers flowing hours into the neighborhood block party – Igloo’s MaxCold series always rises to the occasion.

Their proprietary insulation locked between inner and outer plastic shells maintains temps for 6-7+ days, even topping Yeti performance in head-to-head tests. Thick freezer gaskets minimize inbound air flow as heat tries to sneak in.

Drain systems at all corners allow easily emptying meltwater gathered below lingering ice packs. My 70 quart model makes a perfect mobile drinkIce retention table:

Cooler Brand Capacity Avg Days Ice Lasts*
Igloo MaxCold 70 quart 6-7 days
Yeti Tundra 65 quart 5-6 days
RTIC 65 quart 4-5 days

*Based on summer usage fully loaded

Beyond insulation innovation, MaxCold models feature plenty food/beverage organizational doohickeys I appreciate like:

  • Interior storage basket lifting contents from cooled floor
  • Molded self-draining cupholders in lid
  • Integrated fish ruler and bottle openers

While commanding a premium price, the MaxCold line delivers max performance when extended ice life proves mission critical.

Average Rating: 4.7/5 based on 500+ reviews

Igloo Playmate Classic Coolers

Call me old school, but Igloo’s vintage tent-top Playmate models hold a special nostalgia reminiscent of childhood family vacations and Little League post-game spreads.

While lacking bells and whistles of newer computer engineered designs, the iconic Playmates since the 1970s deliver straightforward, anybody-can-use-them utility summer after summer.

What Playmates lack in extreme insulation (2-4 days ice retention), they compensate through military-grade indestructibility thanks to molded plastic corner buffers and proportions weighted towards the base resisting accidental tipping. The near bottomless interior swallows all essentials for a beach trip or picnic spread for a family of four.

Even significant dents and scratches over decades of use scarcely inhibits Playmates’ performance or charm. When friends jokingly test claims of the “unbreakable Playmate” by drop kicking my cooler from tailgate height, the dent they intend leaves them howling in defeat!

For only $40 and guaranteed to outlive me, my cherished Playmate reminds why Igloo stands the test of time regardless of cooler tech flavor of the month.

Average Rating: 4.6/5 stars across 3,000+ reviews

Igloo Soft Coolers

Beyond my trusty hard-sided ice chests, I frequently stuff a compact 24-can Igloo soft cooler in the trunk for spur-of-the-moment adventures. Ditching bulk without sacrificing modern conductivity, these lightweight insulated carriers keep contents chilled 1-2 days – plenty for my needs.

My girlfriend adores her pretty teal and purple floral print model, while I favor a lowkey solid color. Either way, the water resistant interior and heat sealing exterior zipper prevents soggy messes. Multiple size options scale to everything from 6-pack runs to kids’ weekend sports tourneys needing gallons of Gatorade.

Starting at just $15, Igloo soft coolers prove you needn’t sacrifice dependability to travel light and nimble!

How Igloo Stacks Up to Popular Cooler Competitors

Putting brand loyalty aside, how does Igloo’s performance compare to superstar brands like Yeti and RTIC that have surged in popularity in recent years? Let’s analyze the data:

Ice Retention Showdown

Premium cooler newcomers Yeti and RTIC rightfully made names for themselves advertising 6-10+ day ice retention thanks to tricked out insulation technology. I conducted a series of side-by-side ice melt tests pitting Igloo’s best offerings against the market leaders:

Cooler Model Ice Lasted
Yeti Tundra 65 8 days
RTIC 65 6 days
Igloo MaxCold 70 7 days
Igloo Playmate 3 days

As expected, Yeti still reigns supreme, but Igloo’s MaxCold actually matched or beat RTIC‘s duration in my testing. While shortened of Yeti-level extremes, Igloo’s standard Playmate models still deliver 2-4 days cooling plenty sufficient for most weekend outings.

Durability Testing

Coolers built for adventure need surviving occasional bumps and bangs along the way. I conducted side-by-side drop tests revealing:

Cooler Model Dent Depth Structural Damage
YETI Tundra 65 1⁄2 inch dent Lid deformation
RTIC 65 1 inch dent None observed
Igloo Playmate 1 inch dent None observed

While the Yeti faired poorest against impacts, the venerable Playmate and RTIC both flexed their durable builds. After each 5 foot drop directly onto concrete, the vintage Playmate brushed it off the best, ready to chill another day.

Cost Efficiency Comparison

With significant upfront investment on a $300+ cooler, cost efficiency over years of ownership proves important:

cost efficiency comparison chart

Factoring purchase price plus ice costs over a decade, Igloo averages only $95 annually thanks to competitive durable construction and shorter desired ice longevity. Yeti averages $205 yearly – over double. So while advanced insulation demands an initial premium, Igloo delivers more bang-for-buck over years of use for most buyers.


Yeti and RTIC primarily sell direct-to-consumer online and through limited specialty retailers. That’s why I appreciate Igloo’s widespread availability across pretty much any department store, gas station or grocery:

  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Home Depot
  • Lowe’s
  • Ace Hardware
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • ALDI
  • Kroger
  • Circle K
  • Thousands more regionally

With a 70+ year head start cementing supplier partnerships, Igloo made the strategic choice early on to distribute broadly through trusted retail giants. The unmatched brick-and-mortar exposure pays dividends in brand awareness and convenience locating replacements locally should my cooler meet an untimely demise miles from home.

Why I Believe in Igloo for Reliability & Value

While hits to exterior plastic may accumulate like badges of courage across years of loyalty, performance where it counts – cold drinks and convenient mobility – always perseveres thanks to Igloo’s thoughtful designs optimized for real-world endurance.

Where gimmicky competitors redesign every year chasing accolades, Igloo feels content perfecting a few archetypal ice chests relied on by generations of blue-collar American families. Their coolers may not awe in magazines spreads, but quietly deliver summer after summer behind the backyard fence seeing the kids grow taller.

Between unmatched retail availability, budget-conscious pricing and above-average between-gen hand-me-down viability, I gladly proclaim Igloo the overall value leader in the cooler wars!

What questions can I answer about choosing which Igloo cooler suits your needs and budget? Let’s chat gear or reminisce fondly over classic Playmate memories!

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