REI Co-op Cool Haul 18 Review
Cons: Exterior and zipper not waterproof
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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REI Co-op Cool Haul 18
$110.00 at REI
|$129.95 at REI|
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$85.95 at Amazon
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|Pros||Soft cooler body, good pockets and features, comfortable shoulder strap||Durable design, comfortable to carry when full, good capacity, relatively inexpensive||Watertight fabric and zipper, good insulation value, great size to capacity ratio, convenient top handle, great value||Simple and easy to use, decent insulation, folds flat for storage, duffel handles||Comfortable to carry, convenient design, good features, tons of dry storage|
|Cons||Exterior and zipper not waterproof||Learning curve for best use, not 100% leakproof, no extra pockets||No external storage options, plastic D rings twist, doesn't come with zipper lubricant||Shoulder strap a little short, zipper and exterior fabric are not waterproof, less durable materials||Zipper not leakproof, thin insulation, less durable, loose sternum strap|
|Bottom Line||A solid combination of usability, decent insulation, and a reasonable capacity||This backpack-style cooler is our favorite model to carry over longer distances||A watertight cooler that's convenient to use, with above-average insulation for a below-average price||A solid performer that's simple to use, easy to carry, and costs less than most||Though not as hardy as some others, this design combines cooler space and dry storage for an all-in-one pack|
|Rating Categories||REI Co-op Cool Haul 18||IceMule Pro||Igloo Reactor Porta...||AO Coolers 24 Pack...||REI Co-op Cool Trai...|
|Insulation Value (30%)|
|Ease of Use (25%)|
|Specs||REI Co-op Cool Haul 18||IceMule Pro||Igloo Reactor Porta...||AO Coolers 24 Pack...||REI Co-op Cool Trai...|
|Measured Capacity (qt)||18 qt||25 qt||26.5 qt||24 qt||13 qt|
|Measured Capacity (cans with no ice)||28 cans||39 cans||30 cans||39 cans||16 cans|
|Carry Style||Messenger Bag||Backpack||Messenger Bag||Duffel Bag||Backpack|
|Internal Maximum Height (in)||11" insert
|17" fully closed
|9.5"||11" fully closed
|Fits Standard Wine Bottle Standing Upright?||Yes||Yes||No - will fit on side||Yes - some flex required, no zipper strain||Yes - some flex required, no zipper strain|
|Shelf Life of Food (Measured Hours Below 40ºF)||61 hr||52 hr||51 hr||55 hr||32 hr|
|Days of Cold Beverages (Measured Hours Below 50ºF)||75 hr||55 hr||54 hr||63 hr||37 hr|
|Measured Weight (lb)||4.3 lb||3.0 lb||3.1 lb||2.7 lb||2.4 lb|
|Exterior Fabric||Ripstop nylon, polyester shell||Mule SkinET 1000D ripstop tarpaulin/vinyl/nylon||Unspecified water resistant polyester exterior, nylon interior||1000 x 1300D heavy duty polyester with vinyl coating||Recycled ripstop nylon outer/polyester inner|
|Closure Method||Zippered flip top||Roll-top||Zippered flip top, watertight zip||Zippered top||Zippered flip top, dry storage cinch and clip|
|Handles and Straps||Shoulder strap, end carry handles||Backpack straps, sternum strap||Shoulder strap, end handles, top handle||Shoulder strap, duffel handles||Backpack straps, top handle, sternum strap|
|Additional Storage||Yes; 2 slip exterior, 1 internal zip, webbing attachment loops||No; exterior shock cord panel||No||Yes; 1 very large zippered exterior pocket||Yes; top half of pack, brain pocket, 2 mesh side pockets|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Cool Haul 18 is a messenger style cooler with a flip-top lid and an over-the-shoulder strap. It features two exterior pockets, one interior pocket, and an attached bottle opener. It also comes in smaller and larger volumes.
In our insulation testing, the REI Haul lasted a respectable 61 hours below 40ºF and an additional 14 hours below 50º. Very impressive results here.
The internal insulated box (that can be removed from the body of the cooler) boasts a polyester lining and is leakproof, unless you spill water over the top edges of the cooler, of course. The zipper and body of the cooler are not leakproof, airtight, or water resistant in any way.
Ease of Use
The Haul is simple to use. Its flip-top design stays open for easy loading and unloading and its interior is an uncomplicated box shape. Unlike many of the heftier models we tested, the Haul has flexible walls, helping it to easily accommodate tall or long or oddly shaped objects better. The lid also adds more height to the internal capacity, and this cooler can easily hold an upright 2L bottle of soda or standard bottle of wine. Though the "normal" zipper looks less impressive than chunky watertight ones, unlike those zippers, this one is easy to use. Two external slip pockets on the front and back sides (one includes an attached bottle opener that actually works) allow for some additional, non-cooled storage. One final zippered pocket on the inside of the lid holds small items that may be easy to lose among the ice cubes.
We tested the Haul 18, which we think is a pretty good compromise of capacity and a size that's not awful to carry totally loaded. We measured the internal capacity of the body at 18 quarts (17 liters), not including the space added by filling up the lid, which is another few quarts. A long shoulder strap that can be adjusted on either side of the shoulder pad makes it simple to wear on one shoulder or crossbody. It can also be attached at 8 different points on the cooler's body, for a more specific fit. A handle on either end lets you easily grab your cooler and walk away. The 18 doesn't have a top handle, but it's a bit too large and flexible for one to be useful anyhow.
This is another area in which the Haul is a very sensible, functional cooler, but doesn't quite stand out from the crowd, especially when that crowd is full of some exceptionally burly models. Its ripstop nylon shell and removable liner, and all the pieces attached to them are solid and sturdy and don't give us any big fears of something awful happening a year down the road. Our only minor concern is that the liner inside the insulated section is quite floppy and a little bit awkward. It makes it more difficult to clean and takes much longer to dry all those little crevices.
The REI Haul isn't horribly expensive but also isn't the cheapest model we tested. We think it's a decent performer and fairly versatile. It costs well below the high-end coolers, settling smack in-between the expensive and inexpensive models. It has good, but not outstanding, value.
The REI Co-op Cool Haul 18 is an uncomplicated cooler with just the right number of helpful features without being over the top. It's useful and does what you'd expect from a soft cooler. It may not be a knockout, but it's a solid contender.
— Maggie Nichols
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