Hands-on Gear Review

Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack Review

Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack New
Best Buy Award
Price:  $90 List | $84.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Amazing insulating power for the price, relatively inexpensive
Cons:  Not very durable
Bottom line:  Amazingly insulating considering the low price point this model snagged our Best Buy award.
Editors' Rating:   
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Style:  Shoulder Bag
Capacity:  24 cans
Exterior Fabric:  Nylon Canvas
Manufacturer:   Polar Bear Coolers

Our Verdict

As one would expect, there is a range quality in soft coolers. The higher-end coolers like the Yeti Hopper Two 30 live up to their brand names. What was unexpected was how well other inexpensive soft coolers could rise in comparison. The Polar Bear 24 Pack was the proverbial little cooler that could, and it stood up to the competition. The Polar Bear 24 kept our beer cold on hot days, was just as easy to carry as most other models, and had only a slightly smaller capacity than the Yeti Hopper Two 30, and it surprisingly held ice for almost as long. To top off the surprising performance, the Polar Bear 24 Pack comes in at a price that won't cut into your beer funds. For these reasons and a few others the Polar Bear 24 Pack Soft Cooler has earned the Best Buy Award.

Product Update
This cooler has received some updates this year. Scroll down to learn more!


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Soft Coolers of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Andrew Schurr

Last Updated:
Tuesday
November 29, 2016

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The Latest Version of Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack


The updated version of this cooler features double coated nylon for the interior liner and updated side buckles.

There were no major aesthetic updates; the cooler still looks very similar to the old model. See the new version on the left and the older model that we reviewed on the right.
Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack New


Here's a summary of the key differences between the new model and the previous version:
  • New Liner — The new liner is made of TPU double-coated nylon.
  • Updated Buckles — The cooler has been updated with YKK side-release buckles.

While we haven't had a chance to test the new model ourselves, we expect it to perform in a similar fashion, if not better, than the model we reviewed here. The text in this review still refers to the older version.

Hands-On Review


When comparing soft coolers a few important features come to mind: portability, capacity, and how well they work; meaning how cold will they keep your beverage of choice. To find out our reviewers put a selection of coolers through their paces, carrying them to parties, picnics, campfires, and just out for the day.

Every so often when you are using a piece of gear you get surprised. The Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack was one of those pieces of gear. It has the same look and basic design as the AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas Cooler, and at first glance appears to be like just about any other middle-of-the-road soft cooler, but when compared to side-by-side with significantly higher priced products, it was up to the challenge. Amazing insulation value, solid performance, and a surprisingly durable build at an affordable price earned the Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack Soft Cooler a Best Buy Award.

Performance Comparison


The Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack. The corners clip down for a more secure and compact package.
The Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack. The corners clip down for a more secure and compact package.

Insulation Value


When testing the Polar Bear 24 Pack, testers expected it to perform like other coolers in its price range and hold ice for maybe 24-36 hours like the Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler or the AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas Cooler. However, we were pleasantly surprised with how well the Polar Bear 24 Pack performed. After 72 hours in an unlit and un-insulated shed it held onto nine ounces of ice from the starting seven pounds. By comparison, the Editors' Choice winning Yeti Hopper Two 30 held onto 14 ounces of ice, and none of the other coolers had anything left. For that matter, none of the other coolers even had much left after 48 hours. Our Polar Bear kept drinks and food cold and out-performed our expectations. Even just the feel of the insulation is a step up from others in the Polar Bear's price range. The insulation is thicker and the internal liner feels much more durable than others of a similar build, size, and shape, like the model from AO Coolers.

The Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack and the Yeti Hopper 30 both held plenty of ice after 72 hours.
The Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack and the Yeti Hopper 30 both held plenty of ice after 72 hours.

Ease of Use


The Polar Bear 24 Pack is simple and utilitarian. It has the standard top zipper and comes with a shoulder strap and handles much like the very similarly constructed [AO Coolers 24 Pack]. Testers didn't find anything special about it, but that said, this didn't detract from its overall usability. For shorter distances, it is easy to carry and could indeed carry 24 beers (or your canned beverage of choice) plus ice pretty well. The shoulder strap has a movable pad, as opposed to a rubber piece like the AO, and is overall better constructed. For longer hauls, it is a little awkward, unlike the Ice Mule Pro with its backpack straps that is super easy and comfortable to carry. This was to be expected, and truly longer carry distances doesn't seem to be something the Polar Bear 24 Pack is designed for anyway. But much like the AO Coolers 24 Pack, there are side buckle straps that allow the cooler to assume a lower profile square-ish shape. This is nice and helped packing the thing in a car a little better, but made opening and closing the zipper difficult when they were in use. Testers found that the external pocket wasn't really big enough to be very useful, much like the pocket on the AO, but that the included bottle opener on the zipper could open a bottle and is super convenient.

The Polar Bear 24 Pack  the underdog in our ice retention test. It has a standard familiar style  a reasonable price  and surprising insulation performance.
The Polar Bear 24 Pack, the underdog in our ice retention test. It has a standard familiar style, a reasonable price, and surprising insulation performance.

Durability


Durability was a question. With a nylon canvas exterior, repeated jostling could cause problems. After significant time bouncing around in the back of a truck and being thrown around, it did look a little "well-used." However, it held up pretty well overall. For what it is designed for, everyday use and short distance carries, it should hold up really well. The zipper on the front pocket, which really isn't big enough to be terribly useful, did have some problems. It is a small tooth "sealed" zipper that didn't seem to catch every time. This could be a fluke on our testing model, but that was the only real durability complaint testers had for normal use.

Portability


With the standard bag handles and a shoulder strap, the Polar Bear was just as portable as other coolers of its type in this category. When hopping from the car to the beach, or down the street to a potluck, the Polar Bear will get you by. If you are looking for something to take a few miles out or on that moderate to long approach, this may not be your bag. Other options like the Ice Mule Pro can give you that ability with features like backpack straps and a padded and ventilated back panel. Packing the Polar Bear 24 Pack into a car or truck is easy enough, and the ability to clip the corners down and turn it into a rectangular package, rather than an inverted wedge, made it easier to fit into small spaces.

The Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack Soft Cooler comes equipped with handles and a shoulder strap.
The Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack Soft Cooler comes equipped with handles and a shoulder strap.


Value


This is the shining glory of the Polar Bear 24 Pack Soft Cooler. At a reasonable $90 you get similar insulation value to a competitor nearly 4 times the price. It doesn't quite have the durable construction of the Yeti Hopper Two 30, but it does keep things cold almost as long. And for only $20 more you get more than twice the insulating power of the very similar and same size AO Coolers 24 Pack. You also get more insulation than the $99 Ice Mule Pro. You may not get the same durability as the Yeti, or the same easy usability and carry-ability of the Ice Mule, but what you do get is an easy to use, basic soft cooler that will keep your stuff cold at an affordable price.

Conclusion


It's not often that someone can give Yeti a run for its money when it comes to a cooler. This is for good reason. Yeti has established itself as the preeminent leader in the industry, coupling bombproof construction with high insulating power. That is why testers were so excited and surprised by the Polar Bear 24 Pack Soft Cooler. While it still couldn't hold a candle to the durability of the industry leader, it made up for all of that with incredible insulating power. This little guy held its own against much more expensive and storied competition. The simple fact that the Polar Bear was able to keep only slightly less ice than the Yeti Hopper Two 30 in our tests and costs almost $220 less, justifies the Best Buy Award given to this little cooler that could.

If you are looking for something for the long haul or that will put up with serious abuse, this may not be the cooler for you. The Polar Bear 24 can't stand up to the Yeti Hopper Two 30 or the Ice Mule Pro on those fronts. But if you are after something simple that works and are not looking to break the bank, this is a great choice.
Andrew Schurr

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Most recent review: November 29, 2016
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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