REI Co-op Pack-Away 24 Review
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REI Co-op Pack-Away 24
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$80.10 at Amazon
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$44.95 at Amazon
$32.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Flexible body is comfortable and convenient, folds flat, external pocket is large, easy to use, very lightweight||Simple and easy to use, decent insulation, folds flat for storage, duffel handles||Comfortable to carry, convenient design, good features, tons of dry storage||Lightweight, lots of features, inexpensive||Lightweight, easy to use, compact, plenty of extra pockets, inexpensive|
|Cons||Leaks easily, smaller than expected, unimpressive insulation||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||Not rugged, not spillproof, noticeably inexpensive||Smaller than it looks, not very insulated, less durable, not leakproof|
|Bottom Line||An easily stored cooler that leaks readily but is comfortable and useful enough to be a good solution for casual and infrequent usage||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||A simple cooler that functions well without a high price tag||Although the design of this model is tried-and-true, it's not very insulated or durable|
|Rating Categories||REI Co-op Pack-Away 24||AO Coolers 24 Pack...||REI Co-op Cool Trai...||Arctic Zone Titan D...||Coleman 16-Can|
|Insulation Value (30%)|
|Ease of Use (25%)|
|Specs||REI Co-op Pack-Away 24||AO Coolers 24 Pack...||REI Co-op Cool Trai...||Arctic Zone Titan D...||Coleman 16-Can|
|Measured Capacity (qt)||19.5 qt (cube)
34 qt (flat)
|24 qt||13 qt||21 qt||9.5 qt|
|Measured Capacity (cans with no ice)||32 cans (cube)
50 cans (flat)
|39 cans||16 cans||30 cans||16 cans|
|Carry Style||Messenger Bag||Duffel Bag||Backpack||Lunchbox||Lunchbox|
|Internal Maximum Height (in)||12"(cube)/19" (flat)||11" fully closed
|11" flex||10.5" total
(3" above shelf)
|Fits Standard Wine Bottle Standing Upright?||Yes||Yes - some flex required, no zipper strain||Yes - some flex required, no zipper strain||No - will fit on side||No - can squeeze it in but too much zipper strain|
|Shelf Life of Food (Measured Hours Below 40ºF)||26 hr||55 hr||32 hr||40 hr||27 hr|
|Days of Cold Beverages (Measured Hours Below 50ºF)||32 hr||63 hr||37 hr||48 hr||31 hr|
|Measured Weight (lb)||1.6 lb||2.7 lb||2.4 lb||3.4 lb||1.7 lb|
|Exterior Fabric||Polyester||1000 x 1300D heavy duty polyester with vinyl coating||Recycled ripstop nylon outer/polyester inner||840D polyester||Light nylon canvas|
|Closure Method||Zippered top||Zippered top||Zippered flip top, dry storage cinch and clip||No-zip flip top||Zippered flip top|
|Handles and Straps||Shoulder strap, duffel handles||Shoulder strap, duffel handles||Backpack straps, top handle, sternum strap||Shoulder strap, end handles||Shoulder strap|
|Additional Storage||Yes; 1 medium zippered exterior, 2 daisy chains||Yes; 1 very large zippered exterior pocket||Yes; top half of pack, brain pocket, 2 mesh side pockets||Yes, 2 zippered and insulated external pockets, 2 mesh pockets, top shock cord||Yes; exterior front pocket, 2 mesh pockets, top shock cord|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Pack Away 24 is a messenger bag style cooler that converts between a flat tote and a roughly 20L cube. It has an adjustable shoulder strap and two duffel-style handles. It features a medium-sized external zippered pocket and two short daisy chains on each side.
While this flexible bag cooler converts between two different configurations (with different capacities), we only tested its insulation as a cube, because we find it to be the more convenient, though smaller, way to use this cooler. As a (slightly under) 20-quart cube, the Pack-Away 24 lasted just 26 hours below 40° F, the recommended food-safe temperature by the FDA. It managed 32 hours under 50° F, which is roughly the temperature at which beer is still refreshing. This is far shy of the average performance among the models we tested. If we'd tested it as a flat tote bag, with its 34-quart volume, it would have contained more ice (we scale the amount of ice and cans in each cooler to match their capacities) and might have lasted longer. However, we chose not to test it as a tote, as we found it more than a little bit awkward to use it this way. It's also worth noting that it closes with just a regular zipper—not a waterproof one.
Ease of Use
If you enjoy using a classic, slightly floppy duffel bag, the Pack-Away is a solid choice for you. It has a removable and adjustable shoulder strap and duffel-style handles (though no way to clip the two together). Two zipper pulls allow you to open the cooler at any given point along the top. The rather flexible cooler body makes it easy to pack completely to the brim or accommodate awkwardly shaped items. A fairly large zippered pocket on the outside holds a small selection of your dry goods and has a clip for your keys (or favorite bottle opener), and four short daisy chains provide additional attachment points. The main feature of this soft cooler is that it folds flat for easy storage. We tried using it as a flat tote bag and it doesn't not work, but its elongated body and lack of a flat bottom make for a heavy, unwieldy package that jumbles everything together in transit. We prefer it as a cube, despite the loss of volume. The only real downside to using it as a cube is that by clipping corners where they need to go to make it a cube, the zipper actually runs up both ends and over the top. Since it's not a waterproof zipper, we found ice water sometimes sloshes out the sides and gets us a little bit damp.
Completely empty, the Pack-Away weighs 1.6 pounds, which makes it one of the lightest coolers we tested of any size. Even when it's completely full, it carries comfortably over your shoulder or across your body. Despite the shoulder pad being fairly small and insignificant looking, it does a more than adequate job helping your shoulder be as comfortable as you can expect, carrying a cooler full of picnic supplies. Once again, the flexible body of the cooler comes in handy, conforming to the shape of your side rather than bashing rigidly like so many other models.
Made of simple polyester, the Pack-Away isn't blowing us away with its ruggedness. The inner liner is waterproof, but the unit we tested leaks from one of the bottom corners, straight out of the box. Unfortunately, we read a lot of other Pack-Away owners reporting similar experiences in their online reviews. If it weren't for that leak, the rest of the cooler seems good enough to be a casual or infrequently used piece of gear in your summertime arsenal.
The Pack-Away 24 is one of the cheaper models we tested, and in this case, we think you get what you pay for. It does an okay job and is certainly good enough for a single day of use on the beach for a family that only needs it every now and then. This infrequent usage is reinforced by how easy it is to pack it flat and tuck it away on a shelf or in a closet. If that sounds like your ideal cooler, then this just might be right for you.
Though the Pack-Away isn't winning any awards, it's still a decently handy cooler. It's very easy to use and comfortable to carry, feeling familiar even when it's practically brand new. With a low price that's tough to beat, this is a pretty solid option for very casual cooler needs and infrequent cooler users.
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