Reviewing an ice chest sounded like a pretty easy gig, so I said, “sure” when my editor offered to send me one to check out. The next day I realized that I really had no idea of how to rate ice chest performance other than, “yes, I put ice in and it got cold” or “no, I put ice in and the whole thing exploded, severely injuring my rat terrier, Dieter, in the blast”. Unrealistic I know, but what else is there to say about an ice chest?
After doing some research it turned out that there is more to say about an ice chest and that quality is determined by how long they kept ice from melting. I was surprised to learn that some of the bigger ones will hold ice for a week or more if kept closed. Not one to spend prolonged periods of time away from refrigeration, or without access to more ice should mine melt, I wasn’t sure if ice longevity was a selling point for me. In the end, I decided on basing my review on whether or not I’d be willing to buy the $139.99 ice chest. As someone who has multiple ice chests of different sizes and various states of decay scattered around my boat and garage, my guess was that the answer would be no.
The UPS guy dropped off the Canyon Coolers Quest Backpack Soft Cooler and my first impression when I opened the box was that it was bigger and more durable looking than I’d expected. The straps were all sturdy, the latches were substantial and the body of it felt thick and insulated. The company’s website described it as a “25 qt. soft-sided backpack cooler with tough-as-nails, raft grade 800 denier RF welded PVC shell, closed cell AirCore insulation and lined with a newly upgraded, closed-cell IceSkin that provides days of ice retention in an easy to transport, comfortable backpack.”
I tried it on and it fit great even though I’m a bigger guy. The straps were adjustable enough that it even fit well on my fishing buddy Logan who is almost a foot shorter and 150-pounds lighter than I am. I was going to take a picture of it next to Dieter for scale, but he’d retreated behind the couch for fear that the thing might actually explode when I filled it with ice. It didn’t. I put some ice in it the day it came to see how long it would last, but forgot about it for over a week so all I learned was that it didn’t leak when filled with water.
The following week I took a trip up the coast to Cambria with my wife Rachel and brought the cooler. I threw a 7-pound bag of ice in before hitting the road in the morning and the cooler was big enough that I added a second bag to go along with a couple bottles of wine and a bottle of Maker’s Mark. By that afternoon the ice was still all frozen and the wine and whiskey were ice cold and I had plenty of cocktail ice. I’m pretty sure its illegal to drink on the beach so here’s a picture of Rachel enjoying an ice cold glass of “water” from the backpack.
We only spent a couple days up there but there was still plenty of ice left in the cooler at the end of the trip. I did however use the little spigot on the side of the cooler to drain any water. This usually helps to keep the rest of the ice from melting.
The following week I took a trip on my buddy Jimmy Decker‘s boat and decided to try the cooler out as the dry bag it’s also advertised as. I forgot to take a picture on the trip so here is a dramatic reenactment of what I packed (please pardon my dirty boat and empty Plano tray). The bag easily held a 3700 size deep Plano box, a bag of swimbaits, leader material, foul weather gear, sunglasses and sunscreen.
If you pack smart you can carry everything you need for a day of fishing on a friend’s boat.
Taking home fish is something I’m rarely prepared for when fishing on a friend’s boat because we usually practice catch and release. On the rare occasion we do catch a yellowtail or some other delicious fish I usually pass on taking any fillets because I don’t want to hassle with finding something to put them in and keep them cool during the drive home. With the Quest I can just take my gear out, throw in a bag of ice and keep the fish cold and my truck clean on the way home. I even stuffed a couple of grocery bags in with my gear so that I can use them to carry it home in case I need to transport fish.
After a month of using it I can say that the cooler ended up being a lot handier than I expected. I read online that it also keeps things hot, which has me imagining a warm breakfast on a cold tournament morning. That alone is worth the $139.99 in my book. If you’ve been considering picking one of these up, I can honestly recommend it.