Hands-on Gear Review

Ice Mule Pro Review

Top Pick Award
Price:  $100 List | $99.90 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Relatively inexpensive for the whole package, extremely easy to carry when full
Cons:  Awkward if not fully packed, not as insulative as other coolers
Bottom line:  This easy-to-carry option is a bit awkward when not fully packed and lacks some insulation.
Editors' Rating:   
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Style:  Backpack
Capacity:  18 cans
Exterior Fabric:  Mule SkinET heavy duty rubber
Manufacturer:   IceMule

Our Verdict

Getting out to where the adventure or the party is is what a soft cooler is all about. Pack-ability and portability are really what makes a soft cooler stand out. The Ice Mule Pro brings all these features together into one easily transported package. A spacious design with a wide-mouth roll-top opening makes the Ice Mule a breeze to fill with your favorite beverage and ice, and the backpack straps makes carrying the load easy and comfortable. Unlike most other coolers in this category such as the YETI Hopper Two 30, the AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas Cooler, or the Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack Soft Cooler, the Ice Mule Pro forgoes the usual bag style handles and an over the should strap for a padded and ventilated backpack setup. This all but eliminates the awkwardness of a long haul. During tests our reviewers carted the Ice Mule on multi-mile hikes, out to remote climbing areas, and threw it in and out of a truck with ease. Through it all the roll top stayed securely closed and our beverages wonderfully cold. The simple ease of use in a comfortable and affordable package has earned the Ice Mule Pro a Top Pick Award for carrying long distances.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Andrew Schurr

Last Updated:
Wednesday
March 23, 2016

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The Ice Mule Pro is the day tripper's dream. It couples sturdy construction with amazing portability and easy to use features. If you are out for the day, or maybe even longer, this is a great accessory for your adventure. The backpack setup, which was unique among our test coolers, allowed testers to embark on journeys that would have defeated other coolers. Just as at home on the trail, in the boat, or at the crag as it is in the park, at the beach or at the game, the Ice Mule is a great and cool accessory. For the occasions that just don't suit a shoulder bag style cooler, and ones in which warm beer just won't do (which are most occasions, really) the Ice Mule Pro is an easy and comfortable solution.

Performance Comparison


Brian Russell enjoys a cold one while out for a day climbing. The Ice Mule made it easy to carry beverages to the crag.
Brian Russell enjoys a cold one while out for a day climbing. The Ice Mule made it easy to carry beverages to the crag.

Insulation Value


While the Ice Mule didn't hold ice as long as the Yeti Hopper Two or the Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack Soft Cooler, it managed to maintain enough ice after 24 hours to keep testers' beers plenty cold and even held on to some ice after 48 hours in our head-to-head test. On long days out exploring the desert, at least these things could be sure: the beers would be cold, and your back wouldn't be sore, or too sweaty, from carrying them.

The Ice Mule in action.
The Ice Mule in action.

Ease of Use


The backpack system provides one of the easiest to use soft coolers in the category.
the Ice Mule Pro's backpack straps and back panel.
the Ice Mule Pro's backpack straps and back panel.

While full, the Ice Mule Pro was a breeze to carry and the padded shoulder straps and ventilated back panel made longer hikes comfortable and easy. We were initially nervous that carrying what amounted to a heavy rubber bag around would lead to some seriously sweaty backs. But thanks to the back panel design, we were pleasantly surprised. Truth be told, it was not much different than carrying a regular backpack. It handles weight well, providing testers with a full complement of beverages and lunch on long day hikes, and when empty it rolls up or can be stuffed into a corner for easy storage. Filling the Ice Mule was equally as easy. A wide mouth roll top provided exceptional access and made it easy to get all your ice and whatever else inside the cooler. It comes equipped with a screw vent air valve to allow you to squeeze extra air out to reduce carrying size and help to better secure loads, which is a convenient addition.

The Ice Mule Pro air valve made it easy to keep the pack as low profile as the contents would allow.
The Ice Mule Pro air valve made it easy to keep the pack as low profile as the contents would allow.

To top it off, even when throwing the Ice Mule in and out of a truck with rough handling, if closed properly and fully, leakage was not an issue.

Durability


At first glance testers were a little worried about overall durability issues. The straps and the attachment points were of particular concern, and were a potential point of weakness.

The Ice Mule Pro's backpack straps held up and were solid.
The Ice Mule Pro's backpack straps held up and were solid.

However, testers were consistently surprised by just how sturdy the Ice Mule was. Constant hard wear and use didn't seem to faze it. Hard hikes, tossing it around, and even using it as a great backrest didn't faze the Ice Mule.

Bouncing around in the back of a truck in the desert is enough to put anything, let alone a cooler, through its durability paces, but the Ice Mule just kept on trucking and was none the worse for wear. It is a refreshing and easy product to use and out-performed testers' expectations, living up to its mule namesake.

Portability


As mentioned above, the portability of the Ice Mule is what makes it shine. In fact, time and time again the easy portability of the Ice Mule is what made it a favorite of testers. When it's full, throw it on your back and go. When empty it rolls up into a neat and small package. The only drawback testers were able to find is that when not completely full. the Ice Mule suffered a little in carry comfort due to a scrunched back panel that pulled the straps to weird angles. This could be remedied by allowing more air to stay in the main body of the cooler rather than releasing it through the valve, but that made smaller, heavier loads a little more unruly.

Value


Price is another area in which the Ice Mule shines. At a non-wallet busting $99, the Ice Mule Pro falls right into a moderate price range. With models like the Yeti Hopper Two 30 coming in at a whopping $350, the affordability of the Ice Mule Pro coupled with the easy to use and carry design is worth the loss in insulation. What you get is an easy and fun to use ice chest for a reasonable price. It's a win all around.

The Ice Mule Pro.
The Ice Mule Pro.

Conclusion


To be a Top Pick winner, a product needs to excel for a specific application. With exceptional portability in backpack form, the Ice Mule Pro fits the bill. It is just as easily taken on long hikes or out to remote locations as it is heading down to the park. The true beauty is it allows you to keep your hands free but still carry everything you need cooler-wise, even if you plan to hike for over a mile rather than just move from car to picnic table. You won't find yourself needing to constantly switch shoulders or carrying arms due to fatigue, and you will enjoy all the ease a backpack brings. No longer will the long approach trail to the climbing crag, the secret swimming hole, the perfect campsite, or top tier of the stands at the game be a daunting climb with cold beers. When factored in with an amazingly affordable price tag, the Ice Mule Pro is a winning combination of user friendly design, portability, durability, and insulating power for any of your soft cooler needs.

Through and through the Ice Mule surprised testers and delighted them at the same time. It was so easy to use that it received the most extensive testing of any of the models. Throughout rigorous testing, the Ice Mule didn't disappoint. It was thrown around, worn hard, filled, emptied, overfilled, and emptied again and it continued to perform. At the end of the day if you are looking for a durably utilitarian cooler that will help you get your cold beverages from point A to B, be that the crag, the beach, the campfire, or any other adventure destination, the Ice Mule is your best bet. You may sacrifice a little insulation and have to replenish your ice a little bit more often, but what you lose there is easily made up for by just how easy it is to use. This is why the Ice Mule has earned the distinction as a Top Pick.

The Ice Mule Pro
The Ice Mule Pro

Accessories


Ice Mule also offers a series of accessories, mostly dry bags and packs, to complement their cooler line.

Ice Mule Pro Pack
Ice Mule Pro Pack  great for storing your everyday items like a phone or sun glasses.
  • Great for storing everyday items you need to keep dry - $24.95

Ice Mule Dry Pack
Ice Mule Dry Pack
  • A burly 10L dry bag made to fit your Ice Mule Pro - $19.95
Andrew Schurr

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Most recent review: March 23, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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5 star: 100%  (1)
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