I’ve been seeing sponsored posts on Facebook promoting an affordable rotomolded coolers by Blue Coolers. Sure enough, it caught my attention and piqued my interest. I searched high and low for Blue Coolers reviews but could not find any, so this may be the first.
Who is Blue Coolers?
Blue Coolers is relatively new to the premium roto-molded cooler market. They are a mail order, direct to consumer company based in Salt Lake City, UT. Their mission statement, as quoted directly from the “About Us” page of their web site, is:
“At Blue Coolers we believe best-in-class quality does not have to be tied to high prices. As such, we set out to deliver a cooler that can provide high quality 10-day ice at half the price of the competition. We are proud to say we have done exactly that.”
Depending on which manufacturer you compare Blue Coolers to, the pricing statement is not exactly accurate. Grizzly’s new, made-in-the-USA, Kenai 45 quart cooler is $190 while Blue Cooler’s 50 liter Ice Vault bundle is $200. RTIC’s rise to fame was also their low price points, but they have significantly increased their prices since.
Blue Coolers’ roto-molded cooler line, for now, consists of only two sizes: 25 liter Companion and 50 liter Ice Vault. For this review, we’ll be looking at the larger capacity 50 liter Ice Vault cooler (about 53 quarts). The net price for the cooler is $200, about $150 lower than the YETI Tundra 65 and $100 lower than the YETI Tundra 45.
The starter bundle includes a 30 oz. tumbler and an extra drain plug. The blue colored cooler looks pretty cool and the two videos on their web site are pretty convincing.
Blue Coolers claim that their coolers can hold ice up to 10 days and is backed by a 100% money back satisfaction guarantee. They are available in competitively priced bundles, and with optional flexible payment plan?
What’s the catch?
I received the cooler bundle in two days, shipped via UPS from Salt Lake City to Southern California, so the company and product is legitimate. The cooler was wrapped in clear plastic and arrived in an inconspicuous SKU inventory box slapped with a shipping label. Clearly the cooler was made overseas and bulk shipped to a warehouse by container. No packing list, invoice or receipt was included.
Nevertheless, the cooler at a glance, is one gorgeous looking cooler just as I envisioned it.
No fancy re-packaging means minimal in marketing costs. The 30 oz. tumbler was bubble wrapped in a box of its own inside the cooler. The extra drain plug was stashed inside the cooler.
The price points of the coolers by Blue Coolers are a fraction of the well established brands. This alone will attract new buyers that were initially turned away by pricing barrier. Price point is definitely Blue Cooler’s competitive advantage. As of this writing, the Blue Coolers 50L Ice Vault cooler starter bundle is $200 while their 25L Companion starter bundle is $160. Both starter bundles include a cooler, a 30 oz. tumbler and extra drain plug.
A game changing approach, in addition to competitive price, is the 4x payment plan that Blue Coolers offer with their cooler products. In order to acquire a pricey high performing roto-molded cooler, one must fork out $300+ in one shot. Blue Coolers’ payment plan divides that into a four monthly installment of $45~$55, depending on cooler size. This makes acquisition of high performing roto-cooler much more accessible to outdoor enthusiasts who were on the fence of buying one. I think Blue Coolers is on to something here. Some may argue that if you need to finance a cooler, you shouldn’t be buying one in the first place. We can spend half a day debating this but it is beyond the scope of this article. Payment plans have both pros and cons, but they also have their place.
Quality, Inspection and First Impression
The build quality (not to be confused with craftsmanship, more on this later) of the Ice Vault cooler seems to be on par with the well established premium roto-molded coolers. The Ice Vault cooler is spacious and the material is sturdy and rigid. The lid has a matte texture with an 18″ ruler imprint molded on.
It feels heavy and capable of supporting extended weight and may even double up as a cutting board used in conjunction with a flexible cutting mat.
The Ice Vault 50 also has integrated tie down slot on the sides, which is a plus if you want to securely strap it down during transport.
The cooler weighs about 35 lbs and all the seams are sealed, no leakage. The craftsmanship of the cooler on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired.
The cooler arrived littered with minute scratches and blemishes:
The locking holes on the cooler have strands of material left over from drilling during manufacturing, which could’ve been removed:
Scratch on the tab on the metal locking bracket:
Leftover Molding Material
Residual excess molding material during the molding process can be seen across the seams:
Swirls and Stains
It also appears that the cooler was shipped straight from the manufacturing factory without any cleaning procedure and minimal quality assurance. As you can see when viewing the cooler from an angle, stains and oil swirls run rampant:
Nothing a spritz of 409 multi surface cleaner can’t handle, after all, it’s a heavy duty cooler and meant to be beaten up not babied or hard parked in the garage. But when you plop down $200+ for a cooler, you expect it to arrive in pristine condition.
The Companion 25 fared no better, as a matter of fact, its condition is worse than the Ice Vault 50. This time with very noticeable finger prints and dried up water from the molding process (see metal photo of metal latch). It arrived in a similar unmarked shipping box and riddled with swirls, micro scratches, finger prints and blemishes that the Ice Vault 50 had. In addition, the top left corner of the “blue” logo was partially peeled. I had to use a heat gun to permanently reattach it.
The Ice Vault 50 arrived with an extra complete drain kit with cap and pipe. The Companion 25 only included an extra cap. No extra drain pipe.
Blue Coolers 30 oz. Tumbler
The 30 oz. tumbler seems to be on par with my YETI 30 oz. Rambler. At a glance, the two tumbler appears to be identical, except for three things. One, the lid on the Blue Coolers tumbler is cheaply made and is very apparent by touching it.
Two, not only that, the lift tab on the lid broke off during shipping on the tumbler that came with the Ice Vault 50:
Fortunately, the dimension of the Blue Coolers 30 oz. tumbler is identical to my YETI rambler and the lids are interchangeable. This means I can order a new YETI magnetic lid and use it on the Blue Coolers tumbler.
The Blue Coolers logo stamper needs to be re-calibrated as the Blue Coolers logo just looks awful and cheap:
Finally, three, there is a significant weight difference between the YETI and the Blue Coolers tumblers. The YETI weighs close to a lb. at 14.3 ounce while the Blue Coolers weigh 12.2 ounce, a significant difference of 2.1 ounce.
The coating on the Blue Coolers feel smoother and I’ll have to admit, nicer to the touch than YETI’s DuraCoat.
Closing Thoughts On Quality
You will never receive a product with the aforementioned imperfections from a company like YETI, Grizzly or Orca. There is a reason why their roto-coolers and tumblers cost as much as they do and why Blue Coolers products cost a fraction. Manufacturers like YETI take pride in their craftsmanship, and owners of YETI and other premium brand coolers take great pride in their ownership. Can I say the same with Blue Coolers? Eh, at the moment, not yet.
The time tested axiom, “You get what you pay for,” still holds true and Blue Coolers has long ways to go if they want to continue promoting their coolers as “best-in-class quality” and comparing themselves to the bigger and well respected players in the industry.
BUT if performance is the only bottom line you are concerned with, continue reading.
Performance Test – 10 Day Ice Challenge
Besides cosmetic irregularities, the true test after all, lies in its performance. I can forgive the blemishes and invisible oil swirls if the Ice Vault can compete with leading roto-coolers and hold ice for 10 days or longer.
So does the Ice Vault 50 and Companion 25 live up to their 10-day ice claim backed by Blue Coolers’ video? Let’s find out.
I placed the cooler outside, day and night, instead of inside our home or in the garage as to simulate a camping trip. During the duration of this test, it receives the daily morning dew at dawn, the sun treatment 12 hours a day, the heat treatment between 11 AM to 4 PM, the 4 PM daily ocean breeze from the west and then the cold overnight treatment.
Day-by-Day Comparison Ice Vault 50
Here is the day-by-day result. I mounted a camera on a tripod so I can take photos of the cooler at the exact position and at the same time (6 PM PST) everyday. This way, we can see how fast the ice melts.
At 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time on a Monday evening, I unloaded a 20 lb. bag of ice that I picked up from a nearby 7-Eleven. I used a 20 lb. bag of ice to simulate real world usage. The drawback is the Ice Vault 50 cooler is only 1/4 filled with ice while the Companion 25 is 1/3 filled, instead of completely full. When I use my cooler, I do not fill it even half way with ice because I actually pack food and beverages in it. A cooler full of ice leaves little room for anything else.
The ice finally completely melted at the end of day 6. The drain plug works efficiently and drained the water quickly and easily. If I added 2 bags of ice for a combined total of 40 lbs. of ice, or filled the cooler completely with ice like the comparison video at the Blue Cooler web site, there is no doubt the ice will last well past 10 days in the Ice Vault 50. But who uses a cooler just to fill it with nothing but ice?
Tumbler Performance Test – YETI vs. Blue
As far as performance goes for the tumblers, both were filled with 16 oz of ice and 2 cups of water each. This ensure that both tumblers receive the exact amount of ice and water and neither has an unfair starting advantage.
The tumblers were then allowed to rest for 30 minutes in order for the temperature to stabilize. A Weber iGrill2 digital thermometer was used to continuously monitor and graph the gradual temperature drop.
Here’s how they stack up against each other.
Surprisingly, the Blue Coolers tumbler kept up with the YETI and at some point, held temperature up to 6° cooler, ±2°, than the YETI. The test continued for 15 hours.
While the results are close, the Blue Coolers tumbler edged out the YETI rambler by about 6° .
So how did the Ice Vault from Blue Coolers hold up? It held up very well, even with only 20 lb. of ice filling the cooler only 1/4 full. By the 3rd day, water has accumulated from the melted ice and the ice cubes have fused together into one rectangular ice block. Total water formed at the end of the 3rd day amounts to about 2 cups or approximately 5% loss of ice. By end of day 4, the water level continued to rise but the ice block remained solid, about 3″ thick all around. On day 5, the ice block shrank to 2″ thick. Our Igloo cooler would have turned into 75% water by the end of 24 hours.
The 20 lb. of ice finally turned completely into water at the end of the 6th day. And even at this point, the temperature of the water was still a chilly 40°F when I drained the water on day 7.
I believe if I placed frozen ice packs at the bottom of the cooler before pouring in the ice, or filled the cooler with 40-60 lbs. of ice instead of just 20 lbs., the usable ice would last well over 15 days, that’s over 2 weeks! (but no one realistically uses a cooler like that).
If you’re in the market for a high performance roto-molded cooler and:
- you don’t care for brand names,
- premium priced roto-molded cooler is not in your budget,
- you could live with minor blemishes and scratches, and
- performance is the ultimate bottom line that matters to you,
then the coolers by Blue Coolers may be right for you. Fortunately, the Blue Coolers arrived at a time when we will be hitting the road more often for outdoor activities.
What is the Bottom Line?
If our 50 L Ice Vault and 25 L Companion coolers hold up for three months or more and surviving long road trip rides in our Yakima OffGrid rooftop basket, I may have to sell our Grizzly 60 to make room in our garage. I like how the Blue Coolers look, its durability and functionality so far.
Bottom line: Great high performing rotational molded cooler that performs well on par with the leading roto-molded cooler brands at the fraction of the price. Available flexible payment plan makes Blue Coolers very accessible to the general populous. Manufacturing inconsistencies and quality assurance issues strictly associated with exterior appearance are the only downside but assured by Blue Coolers’ 100% money back satisfaction guarantee. If you’re okay with paying for a refurbished YETI cooler at Blue Coolers’ price points, you’ll be a happy camper with a brand spanking new Blue Coolers roto-molded cooler.
As with any premium roto-molded coolers of similar capacity, the Blue Coolers 50 L Ice Vault weighs a good 35 lbs empty, which is standard. The weight easily adds up when you factor in a 20 lb bag of ice, beverages, and food. That 35 lbs is now 65 lbs. The Companion 25 is more forgiving coming in at about 25 lbs. It can get really heavy really quickly if you plan to travel with it on a rooftop cargo basket like us. And with no mobility wheels, you’ll need two people to transport it back and forth. Unless of course, you’re strong enough to lug it yourself, but even then, it’s quite a task. Just make sure you do not have any shoulder ailment.
Blue Coolers. It’s new, it looks cool, it’s a fraction of the price of leading brand roto-molded coolers and it gets the job done. Thumbs up to Blue Coolers. I will be keeping an eye on their product line for future product expansion.
Sometimes it’s cool to be different.