Igloo Reactor Portable 30-Can Review
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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