You Don’t Really Need a $400 Cooler
Have you ever looked at one of those really expensive coolers and thought "Boy, it would be nice if I could keep ice in a cooler for six weeks if only I bought that." No, of course not.
Before anyone gets sensitive about how great, amazing, high-quality, solid, professional, whatever adjective you want to use to describe your fancy cooler, I am not saying those coolers are bad or don't do a fantastic job at what they do. I'm sure they are all they are cracked up to be. I am merely presenting an alternative to the "best" coolers.
I went antelope hunting in Harding County a couple of weeks ago. Since the temp was approaching 80 every day we hunted, and I was hoping to be putting the meat of two doe pronghorn on ice as soon as possible after harvest, I needed to bring all the ice with me and hope it stayed frozen all day. Meat that doesn't get cooled down can become undesirable.
The cooler I bought last year for large animal meat cooling storage was a Coleman Xtreme 6 that has a capacity of 120 quarts. I only put one bag of ice in it and while it was cool inside, it was almost all melted. So I figured if I put a bunch of ice in it it would stay frozen longer. That sounds pretty "duh" but I've never needed to just keep ice intact for hours.
I bought 78 pounds of ice. Three 20 pound bags and three 6 pound bags. Three days later the vast majority of the ice was still in the cooler, which stayed under the tonneau cover of my truck in temps that got as high as 82 during the day and down to the low 40's at night.
While I did not have any antelope to cool down, because I struck out, I was amazed when I got home to Sioux Falls and most of the ice was still frozen. There was only an inch and a half of water in the bottom of the cooler. I was pretty happy.
What made me even happier, the cooler cost me $59.99 plus tax a year ago at Walmart.
A fancy cooler of similar capacity would have been close to a mortgage payment. That particular model, at least in name, costs a fair bit more this year but there are other options for 120-quart coolers that cost around $60 - 80.