REI Co-op Pack-Away 24 Review
Cons: Leaks easily, smaller than expected, unimpressive insulation
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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REI Co-op Pack-Away 24
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|Pros||Flexible body is comfortable and convenient, folds flat, external pocket is large, easy to use, very lightweight||Very durable construction, excellent insulation, useful handles and features, comfortable shoulder strap||Durable design, comfortable to carry when full, good capacity, relatively inexpensive||Good insulation, extremely durable, top opens wide, no zipper to worry about||Watertight fabric and zipper, good insulation value, great size to capacity ratio, convenient top handle, great value|
|Cons||Leaks easily, smaller than expected, unimpressive insulation||Zippered exterior pocket not waterproof, very large||Learning curve for best use, not 100% leakproof, no extra pockets||Magnetic closure won't stay open, difficult to load alone, huge, picky shoulder strap arrangement||No external storage options, plastic D rings twist, doesn't come with zipper lubricant|
|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||When it comes to the best performance, this model takes home the well-chilled trophy||This backpack-style cooler is our favorite model to carry over longer distances||The upgrade from zipper to magnetic strips comes with some usability struggles, but if you need a massive soft cooler, this one delivers||A watertight cooler that's convenient to use, with above-average insulation for a below-average price|
|Rating Categories||REI Co-op Pack-Away 24||Engel HD30||IceMule Pro||YETI Hopper M30||Igloo Reactor Portable 30-Can|
|Insulation Value (30%)|
|Ease Of Use (25%)|
|Specs||REI Co-op...||Engel HD30||IceMule Pro||YETI Hopper M30||Igloo Reactor...|
|Measured Capacity (qt)||19.5 qt (cube)
34 qt (flat)
|32 qt||25 qt||30.5 qt||26.5 qt|
|Measured Capacity (cans with no ice)||32 cans (cube)
50 cans (flat)
|48 cans||39 cans||50 cans||30 cans|
|Carry Style||Messenger Bag||Messenger Bag||Backpack||Messenger Bag||Messenger Bag|
|Internal Maximum Height (in)||12"(cube)/19" (flat)||13"||17" fully closed
|13" fully closed
|Fits Standard Wine Bottle Standing Upright?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No - will fit on side|
|Shelf Life of Food (Measured Hours Below 40ºF)||26 hr||73 hr||52 hr||78 hr||51 hr|
|Days of Cold Beverages (Measured Hours Below 50ºF)||32 hr||79 hr||55 hr||88 hr||54 hr|
|Measured Weight (lb)||1.6 lb||5.9 lb||3.0 lb||7.1 lb||3.1 lb|
|Exterior Fabric||Polyester||Abrasion-resistant fabric||Mule SkinET 1000D ripstop tarpaulin/vinyl/nylon||840D double-sided thermoplastic urethane||Unspecified water resistant polyester exterior, nylon interior|
|Closure Method||Zippered top||Zippered top, watertight zip||Roll-top||Magnetic seal and over-the-top clips||Zippered flip top, watertight zip|
|Handles and Straps||Shoulder strap, duffel handles||Shoulder strap, end handles, duffel handles||Backpack straps, sternum strap||Shoulder strap, end handles, top handle||Shoulder strap, end handles, top handle|
|Additional Storage||Yes; 1 medium zippered exterior, 2 daisy chains||Yes; 1 larger exterior zippered (meant to be waterproof but isn't)||No; exterior shock cord panel||No; webbing attachment loops||No|
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.
— Maggie Brandenburg