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Igloo Reactor Portable 30-Can Review

A watertight cooler that's convenient to use, with above-average insulation for a below-average price
Igloo Reactor Portable 30-Can
Photo: Amazon
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $100 List | Check Price at Amazon
Pros:  Watertight fabric and zipper, good insulation value, great size to capacity ratio, convenient top handle, great value
Cons:  No external storage options, plastic D rings twist, doesn't come with zipper lubricant
Manufacturer:   Igloo
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 10, 2021
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 15
  • Insulation Value - 30% 7
  • Ease of Use - 25% 7
  • Portability - 25% 7
  • Durability - 20% 8

Our Verdict

The Igloo Reactor 30 proves itself a worthwhile contender at a comparatively low cost. This simple yet effective messenger style cooler fits 30 cans without being too large to carry easily. We appreciate its leakproof fabric both inside and out, and its watertight zipper — though we wish it came with zipper lubricant. What it lacks in bells and whistles, it makes up for with useful simplicity, including a top handle, adjustable padded shoulder strap, and above-average insulation performance. While other, similar models edge above the Reactor in their details, this high-value unit can be snagged for a fraction of the cost.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award   
Price $100 List$239.99 at AmazonCheck Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$249.99 at Amazon
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Pros Watertight fabric and zipper, good insulation value, great size to capacity ratio, convenient top handle, great valueVery durable construction, excellent insulation, useful handles and features, comfortable shoulder strapDurable design, comfortable to carry when full, good capacity, relatively inexpensiveGood insulation, extremely durable, top opens wide, no zipper to worry aboutUnique leak resistant lid, no difficult-to-use zipper, good insulation, external pocket, included bottle opener/multitool
Cons No external storage options, plastic D rings twist, doesn't come with zipper lubricantZippered exterior pocket not waterproof, very largeLearning curve for best use, not 100% leakproof, no extra pocketsMagnetic closure won't stay open, difficult to load alone, huge, picky shoulder strap arrangementMore rigid shape, heavy, no top handle
Bottom Line A watertight cooler that's convenient to use, with above-average insulation for a below-average priceWhen it comes to the best performance, this model takes home the well-chilled trophyThis backpack-style cooler is our favorite model to carry over longer distancesThe upgrade from zipper to magnetic strips comes with some usability struggles, but if you need a massive soft cooler, this one deliversAn easy opening cooler that offers pretty high-quality insulation in an interesting design and comes with its own multi-tool
Rating Categories Igloo Reactor Portable 30-Can Engel HD30 IceMule Pro YETI Hopper M30 OtterBox Trooper 20
Insulation Value (30%)
7
9
7
9
8
Ease Of Use (25%)
7
7
8
6
7
Portability (25%)
7
7
9
6
6
Durability (20%)
8
9
6
9
8
Specs Igloo Reactor... Engel HD30 IceMule Pro YETI Hopper M30 OtterBox Trooper 20
Measured Capacity (qt) 26.5 qt 32 qt 25 qt 30.5 qt 19.5 qt
Measured Capacity (cans with no ice) 30 cans 48 cans 39 cans 50 cans 28 cans
Carry Style Messenger Bag Messenger Bag Backpack Messenger Bag Messenger Bag
Internal Maximum Height (in) 9.5" 13" 17" fully closed
23" max
13" fully closed
15" max
12"
Fits Standard Wine Bottle Standing Upright? No - will fit on side Yes Yes Yes Yes
Shelf Life of Food (Measured Hours Below 40ºF) 51 hr 73 hr 52 hr 78 hr 57 hr
Days of Cold Beverages (Measured Hours Below 50ºF) 54 hr 79 hr 55 hr 88 hr 70 hr
Measured Weight (lb) 3.1 lb 5.9 lb 3.0 lb 7.1 lb 6.8 lb
Exterior Fabric Unspecified water resistant polyester exterior, nylon interior Abrasion-resistant fabric Mule SkinET 1000D ripstop tarpaulin/vinyl/nylon 840D double-sided thermoplastic urethane TPU coated nylon
Closure Method Zippered flip top, watertight zip Zippered top, watertight zip Roll-top Magnetic seal and over-the-top clips No-zip flip top
Handles and Straps Shoulder strap, end handles, top handle Shoulder strap, end handles, duffel handles Backpack straps, sternum strap Shoulder strap, end handles, top handle Shoulder strap, end handles
Additional Storage No Yes; 1 larger exterior zippered (meant to be waterproof but isn't) No; exterior shock cord panel No; webbing attachment loops Yes; 1 medium zippered exterior, daisy chain on back, 2 attachment clips for additional accessories
Removable Liner? No No No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Igloo Reactor is a medium-large messenger bag style soft cooler with an adjustable shoulder strap, side handles, and a top handle. It lacks external storage options or additional features but has a watertight zipper and both interior and exterior are made from leak-resistant fabric.

Performance Comparison


Side handles make it easy to grab a fully loaded Igloo Reactor and...
Side handles make it easy to grab a fully loaded Igloo Reactor and head out.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Insulation Value


The Reactor 30 performed well above average in our insulation testing, lasting 51 hours at temperatures below 40° F, keeping food fresh for over two days (on par with Igloo's claims for this model). It then continued to maintain temperature under 50° F for a total of 54 hours, again offering above-average insulation for refreshing beverages. Though these aren't top-scoring marks in the lineup of coolers we tested, they are well above the group average and offer plenty of ice-keeping power for most casual soft cooler uses.


Upon closer inspection, it's easy to see why this cooler does well. It's constructed of waterproof material both inside and is sealed shut by a tough watertight zipper. Thick insulation fills the walls, bottom, and lid of the Reactor, helping to prolong the lifespan of the ice (or ice packs) within. Overall, we're impressed by the waterproofness and insulation of this medium-sized soft cooler.

The performance of large models (over 20L) in our insulation testing.
The performance of large models (over 20L) in our insulation testing.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Ease of Use


The Reactor 30 is advertised as fitting 30 cans inside and that's exactly how many we were able to fit when we tested it. Its clever design is rounded in ways that make it a smooth, easy-to-use shape, while still rectangular enough to pack smartly. The flip-top lid is an obvious plus, as it stays open easily while you load it on the kitchen counter and unload it at the picnic site. Three easy grab handles adorn its outside — two on opposite ends for heavy lifting and one on top for quickly grabbing it to go. It's tough to understate how useful we find the inclusion of a top handle on soft coolers. Messenger bag models — like the Reactor, for it also has an adjustable shoulder strap with padding — very frequently end up sitting on top of their shoulder straps when set down. By including a top handle, it makes it simple to grab it and go. Models that don't include this handle end up feeling a tad clunky to us, as we find ourselves constantly needing to fish out that shoulder strap from under the cooler before we can really pick it up and head out.


As a cooler with a waterproof zipper, it's tough to open. Even compared to the many other waterproof zippers we tested (which are all tougher to open than traditional zippers), this one is pretty challenging, and nearly always requires two hands to operate — one to hold the cooler while the other zips it open or closed. It doesn't come with a tube of zipper lubricant, but by using some from another soft cooler in our arsenal, we were able to make it easier to operate. If you're a fan of extra pockets for things like bottle openers or loops for attaching extra gear, the Reactor is a very spartan model that offers none of those frills. If you frequently like to pack wine/champagne/other tall bottles along for the ride, you'll need to put the sideways inside the Reactor — its maximum internal height is just 9.5 inches. We also noticed that the D-rings holding on the shoulder strap flip sideways nearly every time we use them. Though we don't love that look, it doesn't seem to make a difference to the overall experience using this model.

We adore the top handle on the Reactor, which seems like such a...
We adore the top handle on the Reactor, which seems like such a simple feature, yet goes such a long way toward our happiness using it.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Portability


The Igloo Reactor weighs just over 3 pounds empty, which is on the light end of average weight for a cooler of its capacity. All three handles and the shoulder strap are fairly comfortable to use, even when we're fully loaded with refreshments for the party. The handles are made of thick, folded-over webbing that offers a smooth but strong grip for even sweaty hands. The shoulder strap is adjustable and is long enough for some of our testers to comfortably wear cross-body, though we most often found ourselves with it on just one side. It has a section of padding on it that does a solid job of cushioning our shoulders.


Comparing portability among such different types of bag coolers can be challenging. While backpack models and small, personal-sized options are clearly more comfortable over longer distances, we're pretty impressed with the performance of the Reactor. The thick insulation within provides enough rigidity to the body of the bag that you'll never feel something poking through into your hip or side. However, rounded corners and softened edges, as well as a consistent flexible surface all the way around, make sure that it's not jabbing into you or leaving corners and edges to bash uncomfortably on your body with every step. Among coolers of this general size, shape, and carrying method, the Reactor 30 is quite pleasant and easy to carry around.

The only part of the Reactor we aren't totally thrilled about are...
The only part of the Reactor we aren't totally thrilled about are the D-rings, which are a touch thinner than we'd like to see and have the annoying (yet functionally inconsequential) habit of flipping sideways every time we pick up the cooler.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


While the specific make-up of the Igloo Reactor is not disclosed, its water-resistant polyester exterior and slick, waterproof nylon interior rank near the top of the pack when it comes to their ability to perform well. We had no issues with leakage or seepage. The watertight zipper combines small, tightly spaced teeth with a rubbery cover that seals and offers protection from damage to the zipper. The zipper pull has a tough rubbery T-grip that helps when using the cooler.


The only components of the Reactor 30 that we aren't stoked on are the D rings holding the shoulder strap. We didn't have any problems with them (other than their propensity to flip sideways every time we picked up the cooler), but they're just not quite the same thickness and burly build of so many competitors. Again, we didn't notice them bending or doing anything alarming during our extensive testing, just observed that they're not quite the same caliber as many other soft coolers we tested. However, all the handles and the shoulder strap are thick and sturdy, with reinforced stitching. The bottom of the cooler also has a reinforced coating helping to further protect it from repeated scrapes across hard surfaces.

The bottom of the Reactor is reinforced with a thick...
The bottom of the Reactor is reinforced with a thick, abrasion-resistant layer.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


With a solid performance that's well above average across the board, the Reactor 30 once again proves its worth through an impressively low price tag. We've tested numerous soft coolers over the years that offer inferior performance but cost the same or even several times as much. If you love a great bargain find, the Reactor is that gem in the rough.

Conclusion


The Igloo Reactor 30 performs well above average in every test across every metric, outperforming many others two or three times its price. It's simple but efficient, with a shape that maximizes both space and comfort, a design that's lightweight and easy to carry, and durability that's right up there with some of the top competitors in this category. It's hard to pick on this cooler for its lack of features and difficult to use (yet watertight) zipper when it's such a great value.

Beach day on a budget, with the Igloo Reactor.
Beach day on a budget, with the Igloo Reactor.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg