Ultimate Ice Challenge Results

After running three in depth cooler ice retention tests across almost all name brand coolers, we’ve come up with some very interesting results. It turns out there is a lot more to cooler performance than simply concluding one cooler is better than the next. It’s not that easy. Many variables come into play. In this post we will break down the results and reveal the true ice retention ability of these high end roto molded coolers. (Video Embedded In Post Below)

Jump To⇒ Watch Ice Challenge Video
Jump To⇒ Results Of Test

Results: Ice Retention Times At End Of Post

Coolers On Sale Ice ChallengeUltimate Ice Challenge Results

Afternoon Temps

Lid Temps Regularly Over 100°

The Ultimate Ice Challenge is our most in depth test to date. After airing our Five Day Ice Challenge, which has now been viewed over a million times (watch here), we received countless comments, emails, messages etc about how we could make the test even better. We did just that. Taking into account how much ice each cooler could hold, internal and external temperatures, sunlight exposure, and many more factors. We attempted to make this cooler challenge as scientific as a cooler challenge should realistically be. In this test we matched up coolers between 40 and 60 quarts in size. We did this to try and narrow the gap of size, as many viewers/readers felt that smaller 30-40q coolers were at a significant disadvantage to a 80 quart cooler, especially when coolers were filled to capacity with ice. It’s worth noting that this theory that many have is not entirely true, and we’ve proven than, but more on that later.

For those that have not yet watched the Ultimate Ice Challenge, it can be seen below. Although the video is packed with information, we have included a “jump” so that those who are short on time can jump to the results. Or, you could continue reading, scroll down and view the results in the table below.

WATCH: Ultimate Ice Challenge

More UPDATED Videos⇒
Before we get to the results, we ought to lay the ground rules of this test for those that have not viewed the video in its’ entirety.

  • All coolers were pre-chilled for 24 hours. Many cooler manufacturers asked we do this to achieve optimal ice retentions times
  • Coolers were then topped off with ice (filled back to capacity after 24 hours) with the same ice type which was stored in standby coolers
  • All ice came from the same fish house on the same day (even the “top off ice”)
  • Coolers were rotated in position throughout the test to give equal sunlight exposure to each cooler
  • Five beverages (bottled water) which were NOT pre-chilled were added to the top of coolers at beginning of test
  • Beverages were rotated three times a day (from top to bottom and vice versa) to simulate actual cooler use
  • Coolers remained on dock throughout the test


Coolers Tested & Ice Challenge Specs & Results

Below you’ll find the coolers listed in an interactive table (sortable based on ice retention, weight, etc). For those viewing on a mobile device, you may want to rotate to horizontal orientation to reveal the entire table.

Ultimate Ice Challenge Results

CoolerIce HeldIce Retention PriceDry WeightFull Review
ORCA Coolers 58Q
50 lbs

7 Days

$$$$32 lbsFull Review
Engel Deep Blue 50Q
42 lbs

6.5 Days

$$$24 lbsFull Review
Orion 45Q

39 lbs

6.25 Days

$$$$31 lbsFull Review
K2 Summit 50SummitGreen

48 lb.

6.25 Days

$$$26 lb.Full Review
Yeti Tundra 45(37Q)
33 lbs

6 Days

$$$23 lbsFull Review
Pelican ProGear 45Q
39 lbs

6 Days

$$$37 lbsFull Review
Grizzly Coolers 40Q- Tan
39 lbs

5.5 Days

$$$$22 lbsFull Review
Igloo Sportsman 40Q
39 lbs

5.5 Days

$$22 lbsFull Review
Grizzly Coolers 40Q-White
39 lbs

5.5 Days

$$$$22 lbsFull Review
Pelican Tailgating 55Q
45 lbs

5 Days

$$$$46 lbsFull Review
Siberian 40Q
27 lbs

4.5 Days

$$19 lbsFull Review

Interpreting The Results

Cooler Test Temperature Differences

Darker Colored Cooler Lids 40-50 Degrees Warmer In Sunlight

As the table shows, when the coolers above are filled to capacity, almost all of these roto molded coolers can maintain ice under moderate usage for five or more days. Every day of the test was 90+ degrees ambient, with cooler lids reaching temperatures over 150 degrees (especially the darker colored coolers) Surprisingly, cooler color did not have as much as an impact as I would expect. The Grizzly 40Q cooler in white lasted just as long as the Grizzly 40Q in tan. These are two identical coolers which differ in color only. The tan Grizzly lid was consistently 30+ degrees warmer during the afternoon hours. In fact all darker coolers experienced this. Take a look at the difference between Engel and Orion coolers above, nearly a 50 degree difference.

Foam Explanation

Cooler Insulation

Even more powerful is the fact that the Orca 58, one of the darker colored coolers won the ice challenge! We can say this is no fluke, as the Orca 58 was the strongest performing cooler in our previous Five Day Ice Challenge. Actually, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise considering the fact that many of these coolers are utilizing 2-3″ of insulation. Therefore, the inside of the cooler is more than protected from the external elements.

Does Cooler Size Matter?

Pelican Tailgating Lid

TWO Lids On Pelican Tailgating Cooler

Well, kind of….but not as much as some assume. When it comes to cooler size, size matters to a certain extent. More important than size is cooler manufacturer and cooler model. For example, the Pelican Tailgating 55Q cooler was the second biggest cooler in this ice challenge and was the second cooler to run out of ice. If cooler size was as important as many think, then the Pelican 55Q should have been one of the longest lasting coolers. Having said that, the Pelican Tailgating cooler has two lids. Lids are a warm air entry point, which causes ice to melt.

The Yeti Tundra 45 (actually 37Q) was the smallest cooler in this test and it finished 5th out of 12 coolers. Beating out larger coolers like Black Rock 52Q & Pelican 55Q. From this we can conclude that size does matter, but again does not carry as much weight as a contributing factor in ice retention times.

Small Cooler Ice Challenge

Small Cooler Ice Challenge

However, it is worth noting when comparing cooler sizes that are drastically different, cooler size is much more important. By drastically different we mean nearly double in size from one cooler to another. This factor is further influenced by the amount of ice placed inside the cooler. For example a 20lb bag of ice will fill a Grizzly 20Q or Engel Deep Blue 25Q cooler to capacity, yet hardly puts a dent in an Orca 58.

Watch: Small Cooler Ice Challenge⇒

20 lbs of Ice Challnege

20lb Ice Challnege

In a more recent 20lb Ice Challenge we tested this theory. Out of 17 coolers, including the Orca 58 which proved to be the superior cooler in previous ice test, the Grizzly outlasted the Orca by more than two days! Again this is only 20lbs of ice is used. On the other hand, if both coolers are filled to capacity, which equates to 20lbs in the Grizzly and 50lbs in the Orca,  the Orca will surely outlast the 20-25Q coolers. Therefore, the ratio of ice to cooler is just as important as the size of the cooler.

Best Cooler For Ice Retention


1. Orca 58 Q – 7 Days

2. Engel Deep Blue 50 Q – 6.5 Days

3. K2 Summit 50 Q – 6.25 Days

4. Orion 45 Q – 6.25 Days

5. Yeti Tundra 45 (37Q) – 6 Days

6. Pelican ProGear Elite 45Q – 6 Days

7. Grizzly 40 Q White – 5.5 Days

8. Igloo Sportsman 40 Q – 5.5 Days

9. Black Rock 60 (52Q) – 5.5 Days

10. Grizzly 40 Q Tan – 5.5 Days

11. Pelican Tailgating 55 Q – 5 Days

12. Siberian 40 Q – 4.5 Days

Final Thoughts

Cooler needs are not universal. Each and every person will prefer one cooler over another, and maybe not only for performance reasons. This is not to say picking one cooler based on name alone is a bad thing as coolers have become quite a novelty item in addition to their functionality. If you’re one who insists on maximum ice retention refer to the list of top performers above. Orca and Engel have performed among the best in multiple ice retention test. Therefore, it is safe to say that they are both solid coolers. However, that is not to say that picking any one of the coolers above is going to leave you disappointed. All of these coolers tested perform better than the run of the mill big box retail cooler, and our Five Day Ice Challenge has proven this true.

See Our Full Comparison Chart (All Coolers)⇒

Get The Latest Reviews!

* indicates required