Well, the summer concert season for 2015 is over. As someone that covers a number of day-long and multi-day festivals, eating the food at the concession stand can be daunting, of poor nutrition, and hurtful to your wallet. I tried to start off the summer concert and festival season with the mindset to be more healthful with my eating habits. Eating granola bars can only get you so far. So I looked high and low for a portable cooler to carry my food items without sacrificing performance. Enter the Polar Bear Coolers. Disclaimer: Polar Bear Coolers sent me a 12-Pack Nylon Soft Cooler for testing purposes and for my unbiased review.
Polar Bear Coolers is a Georgia-based company that designs and manufactures high-performance coolers in compact sizes. The 12-Pack Nylon Soft Cooler I used for my review is designed to hold 12 cans of your favorite beverage, and 1 bag of ice. The cooler is made of a heavy-duty 1000-Denier Cordura Nylon outer shell, making the cooler lightweight and easily malleable. The inner part of the cooler is comprised of heavy-duty foam and has durable YKK #10 zippers. All of their coolers are reported to be PVC-free, leak-proof, and sweat-proof. This cooler has 4 plastic tie-down buckles that are useful if you are on a motorcycle, bicycle, or boat.
Summers in Chicago average air temperatures in the 80s. This summer, several festivals were held in temperatures that hovered in the 90s. For all of the festivals, I took the Polar Bear Nylon Soft Cooler with me and took measurements using a laser infrared thermometer. For control purposes, I took measurements of the air temperature by reading the temps on pavement in the shade and temps inside the cooler on the surface of the interior (not directly on the ice or cold pack inside). I measured the temperatures over a week. The temps measured 46.9°, 54.6°, 45.1°, 44.7°, and 42.8° over the week. The average outside air temperatures this particular week ranged between 83-85°F. The temperatures in my car, where I kept the cooler for at least 5 hours in direct sunlight with the windows closed, ranged between 127.5-127.6°F – talk about consistency! I took measurements of the temperatures inside the cooler outside in the shade and a few times inside my office to get a better smattering of readings. The readings inside the cooler after at least 5 hours in a closed car ranged from 43.1° to 69.8°F. I only used an ice pack from the freezer for the entire testing period to maintain consistency. The absolute warmest the interior of the cooler measured was 69.8°, and that measurement occurred on the day the start temperature was 54.6°F. That is a 15.2°F drop in 5 hours of subjection to 127° heat and direct sunlight. Not too shabby. Also of note, the cooler never leaked ice when I used ice inside of the cooler that was not contained in a plastic bag, and condensation never formed on the outside of the cooler. Another thing that was great about this cooler is that it is made of soft, flexible materials, which means that it never got crushed under heavy items, and was easily able to fit in tight spaces when packing my car heavily.
I continued to use the cooler as a lunch box for the remainder of the summer and found that the Polar Bear Cooler performed admirably. I’m curious to see how it holds up to other coolers, but in itself, it performed as well as I wanted it to. My food and liquids always stayed cold. I have yet to jam 12 cans with ice in this cooler, which I think would be a great indication of how well this cooler can perform. For more information, visit Polar Bear Coolers’ website here.