Orca Cooler Review

Our new Orca 58 Quart cooler has been the right cooler for us!

After nearly a year of researching and pricing coolers, we finally pulled the trigger on a new hard side cooler.  You may be one of those people that think that paying upwards of $300 for a cooler is crazy.  I thought the same thing at one time.  But, before you run out and buy a cheaper model that is "just as good", stop and do your homework.

If you are camping in a pop-up camper, you already know that your fridge space is super limited.  A small 3- way fridge that would fit into a 1.9 cubic feet space would cost nearly $600.  A standard mini fridge will cost a fraction of that, but you are still paying a couple of hundred dollars and will be limited on space.  No matter what, you are still going to be using a cooler at some point.  So, why not get a really good one?  A great roto-molded cooler is an equivalent of buying a second fridge.  Consider it an investment.

The ORCA 58 Quart Cooler is just the right size for us.

Cooler Shopping

Buying a cooler on the cheap can be costly in the long run and won't always safely store your food.  These two factors drove our shopping process.  We were looking for a cooler that:
  1.   Is American made.  We want to support American workers.
  2.   We wanted the best warranty available to ensure that we would get our money out of our cooler.
  3.   Thick walled construction that would retain ice and ensure stable food temperatures for safety.
  4.   Drainage plug to make it easy to drain water as needed when traveling when the ice did melt.
  5.   Less bulky construction so that we could pack and store in our tow vehicle without so much wasted space.
If you camp in bear country, you can use a lock for added security with your cooler.
We purchased the Orca 58 Quart Cooler.  This cooler is made in America.  It has a lifetime warranty.  It has thick roto-molded constructed walls.  There is a drainage plug at the bottom that is easily accessible to drain as needed.  We also liked the handles and exterior construction.  Some cooler models were really bulky on the exterior making them seem to have a lot of wasted space.

The drainage plug on the cooler unscrews for easy access and draining.

If you are moving from the cooler you have now to a roto-molded cooler, consider that these coolers are not always that roomy on the inside.  They are big but the walls are thick.  Previously, we had an RTIC 40 Soft-side cooler.  My husband and I had nearly enough room in that cooler for all of our things.  We measured the interior space of both the Orca 58 Quart against the RTIC 40 and decided that we would have just what we needed.  And we were right.  Going up a size was the right thing for us, but going up to a larger size beyond that would have just been too much. 

The thick-walled construction keeps your items cool, but it also means that the exterior size is deceiving.  Be sure to check both the interior and exterior measurements when deciding on a size.

How did this cooler perform?

The night before our camping trip, I did what I would call a "pre-chill".  I packed the cooler with some of our "non-perishable items".  This was canned drinks and ice.  I wanted to just get things into our cooler to get it going.  

The next morning, I packed the cooler with more ice and the remainder of our cold items.  During our trip, I kept the cooler closed except when we needed to get them out of the cooler.  I did add some ice each day from our portable ice maker to just ensure that we had plenty of ice in the cooler.  This was mainly because I didn't pack a ton of ice in the cooler, to begin with. 

Tbe rubber latches make a tight seal around the lid when closed.

When we returned home on Sunday night, there was still ice in the bottom from the initial ice that I packed on Thursday.  

During our stay, food was cold the entire time that we were there.  I would check food periodically as I was pulling things in and out of the cooler.  Therefore, I feel confident in the cooler's ability to perform in the high heat temperatures of the summer.

Packing and Cooling Tips

To ensure that you get the best performance out of your cooler, below are some tips to help you maximize your cooler performance.
  1. Pre-chill your cooler the night before you leave.  
  2. The size of your ice does matter.  Larger pieces melt slower.  So if you are using small ice cubes and pieces, they will melt faster.
  3. Pack your cooler with pre-chilled and frozen items.  I typically freeze meats and other items that I can allow to thaw in the cooler while traveling to help keep things colder longer.
  4. Pack your cooler with plenty of ice.  
  5. Add ice as needed on your trip.  I use a portable ice maker for this on my trip.  I also make larger ice cubes to add to my cooler.
  6. Drain water from the bottom of the cooler as needed.
  7. Keep your cooler closed.  Don't allow the lid to remain open even if the top is closed, secure the latches.
  8. Keep the cooler in a shady spot out of direct sunlight.
We added the basket to our cooler to keep items that we wanted out of the ice dry while traveling.

So was our Orca cooler worth the money?  Yes.  I think so.  In another year, I can tell you more.  But, I love it so far.   It has given me plenty of room to store all of our food nice and cold.  There is no way our small fridge in our camper can accommodate everything we need.  I still like having a fridge, but a great cooler is perfect.  And if you are torn between buying a new fridge and a cooler, you might want to spring for the cooler.  It may seem like a lot of money, but if you treat it like a fridge the cost seems less shocking.  It's really more like an appliance that you don't plug in.  You just have to change the way to think about it, and you have fewer parts and maintenance.  

If you have purchased a premium brand cooler, I'd love to hear from you.  Everyone seems to have an opinion on this topic.  You can read all about the research went into this purchase - Hard Side Cooler Comparison.  

Until next time...

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