I learned that my old plastic $30 cooler I've been rolling around the last ten years just doesn't cut it anymore. We were camping in August on Voyageur's National Park in a remote boat-in only campsite.

I had packed two blocks of ice and a couple of bags of ice along with some limited food items that needed to be kept cold along with some beverages in our old cooler. This particular cooler said it could hold ice at 90 degrees for 4 days. That was a blatant lie, as we ran out of ice the second day. It was hot, but considering the amount of ice I had in there we should have had something. That's when we decided it was time to get a real cooler. So the search began.

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I'll give the credit to my wife on this because she said she wanted to get me a new cooler for my birthday that was coming up. Of course, the first thought we went to was a Yeti cooler. They are the most well known and are no doubt a very good cooler. The problem was we didn't want to spend $300 on a cooler. I honestly don't know if they are worth the money because I haven't ever used one.

She began looking at alternative options when she found the RTIC brand. They're motto is "Overbuilt, not overpriced." She picked the Ultra Light 52 model and she got in on sale I believe for less than $149.99. As RTIC claims, that's $200 cheaper than the competition.

Initially you can tell that it is a quality product. It's well built and it has some nice features. Inside it has a divider that goes vertically down the middle so you can separate food from beverages, or ice from food, etc. The divider is actually a large freezer pack that you can also use as a cutting board. There is a basket as well that you can put items in that you don't want to get soggy when ice eventually does melt. I love the fact that this model has a drainage hole with cap on both sides of the cooler. They are also secured with wire so you can't lose the cap. I have long hated those darn plastic tabs that break off and then you no longer have a drain plug. It's a real nice design.

The next weekend I headed out to a cabin and brought my new cooler to see how it would do. I loaded the cooler with three 6 pound bags of ice on Friday afternoon. This was a guys weekend so it was mostly just cold beverages in the cooler. I left my RTIC cooler on the tailgate of my truck all weekend. I didn't attempt to keep it in the shade. Temperatures reached the low 70's both days. By Sunday afternoon we had gone through a bag of ice for mixing drinks. They didn't melt, it was firm the whole way through. That left two full bags of 6 lbs of ice left in Sunday afternoon for the trip home. I did drain some water out of the bottom, but not much at all.

When I got home Sunday night I still had all this ice in the cooler, so I figured I'd just let it ride and see how long it would last. It was kept indoors around 70 degrees. Monday evening I checked it again and it had melted a bit more, but there was still probably about 50% of ice in the bag. By Tuesday evening there was just a few cubes left. Everything was cold, but the ice had melted.  So, we got about 4 days worth of ice. Now, that being said it's important to note that this was cubed ice and not blocks of ice, which tend to last longer.

For the money, I'm happy with the cooler. I'll be sure when I go on an adventure to put some block ice in it. I don't think there is any reason to go to a more expensive cooler. This one seems to be performing quite well for a reasonable price. Nice job, RTIC.

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