Field Test- Ozark Trail 52 Quart High-Performance Cooler

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I’ve purchased a ton of Ozark Trail product. I would venture to say 75% of the time I go to Walmart I purchase at least one Ozark Trail item. I am such a sucker for cheap priced stuff that I want but don’t need. Luckily I believe in the motto: “It’s so cheap, I can’t afford not to buy it”.

So you name it, I have it. Vacuum Insulated Tumblers (I have about 10), a tent, multiple camp chairs, backpacks, pots/pans, lanterns, flashlights and shoes. I even bought their shoes for crying out loud. And I love them. The quality for the buck really is tough to beat.

All of that being said, the one thing I shied away from buying, the one thing that scared me from even going down that aisle, was the Ozark Trail cooler. The Walmart nearest me keeps them on an aisle with other coolers but not on the same aisle as all of the other camping stuff that I love to buy. This has been my saving grace. It wasn’t until I visited another Walmart store that I got caught. All of the camping stuff (including the coolers) was on the same aisle. I didn’t even notice it at first. The general notions such as bug spray, hatchets, propane all lined the first half of the aisle. The other end of the aisle was all devoted to coolers and tumblers and stainless steel cutlery. I didn’t even notice until I was halfway through the second half of the aisle. And there they were.

I’m not even sure what my issue was with getting a cooler anyway. The one reason might have been the cost. Even the smallest hard shell version of the Ozark Trail is over $100. Not that it isn’t a great deal (about 60% cheaper than the Yeti), it’s just I can buy a cartful of their other products for that cost. I like to buy a bunch of cheap, single items because I feel like I am saving money.  And indeed I may be saving money on those items by buying them at the dollar store, but because I didn’t need 90% of those items I actually lost money because I will never use them. I once spent $134 at the dollar store. Do you know how hard that is to do? You have to go down EVERY aisle REALLY slowly to pull that off. Even then it’s damn near impossible.

The other reason for concern was the possibility of being disappointed. I was certain that the Yeti’s lived up to the hype and that there was no way the Ozark’s could compete, or even live up to their own hype.

But once I found myself in front of them my instincts took over and I had the //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=thechronicl06-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B01JTXYBTE&asins=B01JTXYBTE&linkId=4f036fe167937b1a52575130a6c4ae64&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff my hands and was walking to the register, leaving my wife and kids to fend for themselves back in the kitchen items section.

Review:

Weight: It’s a bit heavy. It’s 36lbs with nothing in it. My same size Coleman is half of that weight. So you can either fill it up where you plan on keeping it or plan on getting someone to help you carry it to it’s destination.

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Size: 52 Quarts was the largest I was going to get. We store this in the camper when we are going down the road and when the slides are in there isn’t a ton of room to stick on the floor. They do offer a 26 Quart version and a 73 Quart version as well as a couple of versions of the soft bag.

Durability: So far so good. The latches and handles are durable yet I have read some reviews where the latches are breaking and spare parts are tough to come by. I’ve had mine a year and have used it 20 or so times and have yet to have an issue.

Cooling:  This is where it gets tough to review. Full disclosure, the first two times I used it  I did not know about pre-cooling the cooler the night before (or even 48 hours before) and the first bag of ice was melted within a few hours. I immediately watched a couple of YouTube reviews after my first trip and learned that you have to pre-cool all of these coolers, including the Yeti’s. I have pre-cooled it with a bag of ice every time since and the performance has gotten much better.

But much better doesn’t compare to what I have read both in the description from the manufacturer and the other reviews I have read. I saw some state as much as 4-5 days in the blazing sun and even longer in the shade. In my experience I max out at a couple of days as far as the ice melting. But I do believe much of this has to do with the amount of times it is getting opened during the day. Between the kids pulling out drinks and me pulling out beers or a bottle of wine, I would guess it gets opened 20 times a day. So in that respect having the ice last for two days is probably pretty good.

So before my last trip I decided to run a test before we filled it up for the trip. About a week before I added one 10lb bag of ice, strapped it down, and let it cool for 24 hours. When I opened it I had a good bit of melt. Probably two-thirds of the ice was now water. I emptied the cooler and then added two 10lb bags of ice and closed it back up. I didn’t open it again until 3 days later before we packed for the trip. This time it had very little melt from the two bags. Probably only 20% of the ice was gone.

So this supports all that I have read that as long as it isn’t opened many times a day the cooler will keep ice for many days. Unfortunately with my family and the way that we use it, that is not possible. Additionally it supports the idea that you must first pre-cool the cooler 1-2 days prior to use. It is kind of annoying to spend the money on ice that you know is just going to melt but it is better than spending the money and ice AND food and having the ice melt and the food either go bad or go soggy.

All and all I am very happy with the cooler and even after a full year it is still going strong. Yet every now and the I find myself pulling out the old Coleman for ease of use for the shorter trips.

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