Coleman Performance 48-Quart Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Coleman Performance 48-Quart is a plastic cooler with CO2-filled walls for insulation. It has a pair of plastic handles and an internal height of 13" that fits most average-sized wine bottles and 2L sodas. It features a drain with a leashed plug.
If you're hunting for a cooler to keep your food safely chilled all weekend, the Coleman 48 is not our first choice. In our insulation testing, it provided just 2.3 days of sub-40 degree temperatures (F). And that's without ever opening it, as you surely would need to do on a camping trip or fishing adventure. It held onto sub-50 degree F temps for another few hours, providing a total of 2.6 days of refreshing beverage temperatures. This doesn't quite live up to Coleman's 3-day claims for this model, but there are also ways to extend the life of your ice beyond our efforts during our insulation tests. However, this cooler can't live up to the intense insulation achievable by rotomolded and thickly insulated models. The Coleman 48 is made of plain plastic (not rotomolded), and the walls are insulated with carbon dioxide — yes, just with gas. It also lacks a seal around the lid to keep cool air in longer.
This is another area in which the Coleman 48 is unimpressive. Not only does this thin plastic cooler fall short of the many robust, rugged models it's up against in this test, but it's also rather underwhelming on its own. A complete lack of a seal around the lid easily lets air seep through and water slosh out. Sitting on the lid lets out a noisy whoosh of air, and no part of this cooler is made to be yanked on. The hinges are made of thin plastic screwed into the lid but only attached to the cooler's body with a single plastic piece that looks about ready to bust out of the back with even a moderate amount of pressure applied. We didn't actually push very hard on the open lid, but we're certain that we can pretty easily rip it off the cooler's body without too much effort. The handles on either end are held on by mobile pegs that allow the handles to flip over and over again. While this is very convenient to use, they're not particularly sturdy or strong. We have significant doubts about their ability to withstand exceptionally heavy loads or years of UV ray exposure. And though we didn't break anything during our testing of this cooler, we also were nicer to it than most others because we feel it's far more fragile than most the others we tested. We also read user testimonies online describing exactly the damage we feared happening to this cooler happening to other people's.
Ease of Use
The Coleman 48 has a simple, no-frills design that makes it uncomplicated and straightforward to use. The lid just pressed closed and lifts open without the use of any latches. Though at first, the lid refused to stay open for us, we were able to stretch the plastic hinges enough to get it to stay open for easier loading and unloading. The interior is low and wide and has a maximum internal height of about 13 inches thanks to the indented lid. This makes it easy to fit most average-sized wine or 2L soda bottled standing upright. We also measured its capacity closer to 49 quarts than its advertised 49 quarts, making it a comfortable medium-sized model. The Coleman 48 does have a drain that can be easily popped open with one hand, but it's not a great drain. It's located too far above the cooler's bottom to drain the inside without being tipped completely. Left on a flat surface, nearly an inch of meltwater remained in the bottom after it stopped draining.
At just 7.3 pounds, the Coleman 48 is one of the lightest coolers we tested. Of course, once its 49 quarts of internal space is filled with heavy food, beverages, and ice, it's not that light anymore. This moderately-sized cooler is narrow enough for a single person to carry, though, like any cooler of this size, it can quickly become too heavy for one person to do more than lift it in and out of the car. Simple plastic handles on either end can be used by two people to co-carry it for a short distance. However, they're too narrow for you to comfortably fit more than one hand at a time (unless they're on top of each other), and they're also skinny enough that their hard plastic spindles quickly start to dig in uncomfortably to your fingers. But no cooler of this size is meant to be taken too far, and its starting weight is impressively low.
As we've stated previously, the Coleman 48 is a pretty bare-bones model. It doesn't come with some of the features other models include, though its drain plug is attached by a plastic leash, so you'll never have to worry about misplacing it while you're emptying the meltwater. But if you appreciate the straightforwardness of an elementary design, this may appeal to you. If not, Coleman does make a host of other coolers (a few of which we've tested) and add-ons that you can adorn your ice chest with.
The Coleman 48 rings up well under the price of most other models we tested, making it a very tempting purchase. If you're in the market for a cooler to get you through a single day of meals on a budget and you don't need something sturdy and robust or full of features, the Coleman 48 is a solid option for short-term cooling. If you're searching for a rugged camping cooler to take on adventures in the woods or long weekends at the lake, this medium-sized ice chest is not one we'd recommend, regardless of its enticing price.
The Coleman 48 offers a simple solution for simple needs. It's not a super tough cooler that can take a beating while keeping your food chilled all week, but it is an inexpensive moderately-sized option that can easily get you through a hot summer day at the park and bring home your ice cream without letting it melt.
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