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Welcome to our Kelty folding cooler review. You may have heard about Kelty before as it's a pretty well-known outdoor gear company, making tents, shelters, sleeping bags, backpacks, and child carriers. They’re also known for making some of the best collapsible coolers on the market.
Of course, being a cooler review blog, we wanted to take a look at all the coolers Kelty has in the offer, so there you go, here's our very own Kelty coolers review.
When Kelty set out to build these coolers, they were trying to solve a problem that has bugged hard cooler owners for ages: the problem of storage.
Hard coolers are great and all, but they consume an awful lot of storage space when they’re not in use, making them a seasonal cooling asset and a perennial storage liability.
As it turns out, the solution Kelty came up with (this one) is interesting, stylish, and does the job well for the most part. Let’s dive in!
Kelty Folding Cooler Review
Design and Build
The first, and perhaps most impressive thing about this cooler, is how simple the design is. It looks like a hard cooler, although it’s soft-sided, and folds.
It’s like having a hard cooler that you fold and put away when you don’t need it. The design is very cool and fresh, while the build quality is high.
It’s made of 300D polyester, which is pretty impressive for a new and imported product on the market.
The cooler comes with instructions, which you can use to set it up. Getting it to fold and unfold feels a little like you’re playing Transformers with your cooler, but the clear instructions mean it’s easy to get the hang of it and set up the cooler in no time.
The soft walls are insulated, and there is a collapsible polyurethane foam on the inside.
On the outside is a rubber bag that covers the whole contraption. The rubber bag and the insulated walls are then attached with the help of some tough Velcro.
On the outside, we have the 300D polyester which covers it all up. On the top is a nice molded cover with 4 cup holders that completes the package with a zipper that you use to seal the cooler.
Insulation and Ice Retention
Now, the very first thing I noticed is that the soft side and the zipper implied an efficiency sacrifice.
After all, without an airtight seal on top, and no thick insulation on the sides, you can expect some heat to seep through on the sides and some air to get in through the zipper. This means ice retention isn’t going to be as high as what you would get with a hard-sided cooler.
And yet, even with reduced ice retention, the Kelty cooler still does a commendable job of retaining ice. We tested it on a 90-degree day and it managed nearly 2 full days while full of ice.
Your mileage may vary, depending on how much ice you put in, whether it's cube ice, ice pack, or block ice (we used a mix of cube and block ice), how frequently you open the cooler, what the temperature is where you are and so on.
The rubber bag that covers the soft insulated walls is waterproof and makes sure no leaking happens through the side. There is some leaking through the lid when you put the cooler upside down, however.
This is because the zipper isn’t airtight, so when you flip the cooler upside down some of the water from the melted ice is bound to seep through. This shouldn’t be a big problem if you don’t let your cooler get flipped upside down.
The good news is that it’s not hard to tell which side is right side up since the lid has 4 beverage holders. Besides, I actually think there might be a bit of an advantage to the zipper. With a hard cooler, flipping the cooler over means spilling all of its contents.
With this cooler, flipping it over simply means you’re going to get leakage and nothing more since the closed zipper holds everything in place (assuming you’ve closed the zipper, of course).
The bottom of the cooler does have a tendency to get damp due to condensation. This would be a problem, except the cooler has 4 non-slip feet on the bottom, which ensure there is always some clearance between the bottom of the cooler and the ground.
I still wouldn’t advise you to place it on a car seat, though, just to avoid possibly making the seat damp.
By the way, the zipper pulls out also doubles as a bottle opener, which is a nifty convenience for those who don’t like having to carry a separate bottle opener with their cooler.
The cooler also has handles on the side, which make it easy to carry when it is full.
The handles are made of tough fabric, and are a little too tight for my liking (I have big hands), though they’re certainly of a quality build and are likely to be pretty durable.
On the inside, the cooler has a slip and a zippered pocket, both for extra storage in case you want to carry something you wouldn’t like to get wet.
I thought it would have been better if they had put the extra storage on the outside instead, but that’s just a small niggle of mine.
This bag comes in two main sizes: 25L and 45L. The 25L bag will fit about 40 cans of beer while the 45L can will fit about 70 cans (ice not included).
You can check them out at Amazon here, along with other customers' reviews.
That said, there are another model listed at Amazon that we've found, available in three sizes (small 17-liter, medium 27-liter and larger 55-liter), with pretty good reviews, though it's not listed anywhere on the company’s website.
We’re guessing this is a previous iteration of the product, while the 25L and 45L coolers are the newer available iterations.
There’s only one color per size available at the moment, which is gray with an orange zipper for 25L option and navy blue with the same orange zipper for 45L option.
The older iteration we mentioned above (17L/27L/55L capacity) has a blue zipper.
Kelty Folding Cooler Video Review
INFO: This is a previous iteration, but you will get an idea of how it looks and works
Alternatives to Kelty Folding Coolers
As it turns out there are a few alternatives to the Kelty folding cooler on the market, in case you want to do a bit of shopping around before you make a purchasing decision. Here are 3 of the best alternatives currently in the market:
Clevermade Cooler Bag
Clevermade is a cleverly made collapsible bag. It’s basically a tote bag with snap hinges on the side, which structurally supports the bag when it is open. When you want to close it, you simply press the snap hinges inside and it collapses flat.
The bag has a 30L capacity, a top handle that’s pretty comfortable, and a lower price than the Kelty. It also comes in 5 different colors, so that’s definitely something to consider.
The ice retention, however, is lower than the Kelty’s, since it only lasts about a day or two.
Coleman Collapsible Cooler
The Coleman Collapsible is a great alternative to the Kelty foldable cooler. It has 4 different available sizes: the 9-can, 18-can, 34-can, and 54-can, as well as 3 available colors.
The back also has plenty of pockets (on the outside) for extras you might want to carry and a comfortable shoulder strap and two side handles, making it super portable.
It folds pretty easily when not in use, making storage easy. Again, the main downside is ice retention, which stands at 32 hours for this bag.
Flip Box Cooler
This one isn’t a soft sided cooler, but rather a briefcase-looking collapsible cooler box. It is by far my favorite alternative, for the unique design alone. It is made out of 100% recyclable materials, making it eco-friendly, and is easy to collapse.
It comes in only one size (60-can) and one color (gray/black), so there isn’t much variety there. It also retains ice for only about 30 hours. It can, however, also keep food hot for about 4 hours, making it dual purpose.
Kelty Folding Cooler Review – Rating and Conclusion
And with that, we come to the end of our Kelty folding cooler review. As you can see, Kelty are carving their place out in the market for folding coolers.
Their product could certainly do with a few improvements here and there, but we’re excited to see where it’s going in the future, especially with so much stiff competition coming from other manufacturers.
Kelty Folding Cooler Rating
- Ice Retention
Kelty cooler folds great and takes little storage space when not in use – this alone is one good reason to get it. Sure, these coolers are not perfect and things like the zipper could be improved, but overall this is a solid cooler that you'd be happily taking to the beach or for a day-long picnic. Overall a pretty decent value for the money.
User Review( vote)
Last update on 2021-10-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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