Inflatable Boat Coolers and Tie Down Systems

Recently Mike from IBC conducted an inflatable boat cooler test which included the Engel Deep Blue 65 cooler to see how it stacked up to high desert boating. When you hear “high desert” you normally don’t think boating but bear with us for a minute. Considering IBC supports military, professional and recreational boaters alike the picture starts to get a bit clearer. We wanted to see if claims regarding various coolers were all they were made up to be, so Mike went to the desert with coolers and goods for a week to see what all the fuss was about. Yes we tested other brands, but none came close to the Engel Deep Blue, not even the more expensive snow monster brand. One cooler worth an honorable mention was not what we had expected, the Rubbermaid cooler.

For the purposes of this post we are only going to focus on the Engel Deep Blue 65qt. as it was the only one that did what it was claiming.

Per cooler manufacturer’s directions for best results you need to pre chill your cooler for 24 hours with ice prior to adding any items. Mike didn’t feel this was a good test because “only the anal retentive types will do this step” (his words). Instead we just added the drinks and other goods the morning of departure then threw in one block of ice and one bag of cubes like Joe Six Pack American would do. All the coolers were loaded the same and thrown into the truck for the journey to Lake Billy Chinook from Portland, a journey that goes up and over the Mt Hood Pass or Blue Box Pass.(this will matter later) Several hours later we arrived at the Cove Palisades where temps were in triple digits, upon unloading the coolers all but two made a sloshing noise. The Rubbermaid and the Engel Deep Blue were silent so we pulled those aside for the next round of testing.

Out of the race were the Igloo, the Yeti, and the Coleman so we left them to their own devices and didn’t access them except to put in more ice or to transfer valuable cargo to the Engel and the Rubbermaid.

Phase two of the cooler test was the “Opening Test”.

Other reviewers state online how they only open their coolers a minimum amount of times per day to keep ice. Again Mike didn’t feel that this was a boating, fishing nor family worthy of a test so he put a pad on each cooler and offered free refreshments for a tick on the pad to count openings. Our daily opening average was 28 times for both remaining coolers averaged over a week. A more substantial number than those other sissy reviews I read online, and more in the spirit of a proper cooler test in average conditions of use.

One thing I’d like to add at this point was the Engel let out a “whoosh” when I opened it up for the fist time as the altitude was several thousand feet higher than the starting point. The Rubbermaid did not make a peep because it lacked the seal of the Engel’s design. Remember this for later when you can’t open the Engel at low altitude without opening the easy to use drain to “burp” in some air.

The next or third phase of the cooler shoot out was the loading and tie down phase.

For this phase we used the Bombard Commando C4R which has the Zodiac HD floors so the Engel tie down system,which would be perfect for any boat, was replaced with the Zodiac Runner Block and Strap Tie Down System for HD Floors. The Rubbermaid lacked any integrated system for securing it to the boat so para-cord filled the need for both coolers. The Engel was heavy empty and extra heavy loaded with ice and refreshments so getting it into place in the C4 Commando was difficult, the Rubbermaid made a sloshing sound when lifted and placed into the boat where it’s integrated wheels made it roll to the back of the boat. The Engel’s integrated rubber feet gripped so firmly to the Snow Camo Seadek on the floorboards that Mike had to go back and forth side to side to get it into position. Since the Rubbermaid sloshed and rolled around it was eliminated at this point from the underway testing and pulled from opening testing as well.(note the Zodiac Tie Down System made easy work of even the wheeled cooler)

Sitting, standing on, and bashing thru chop were no problem for the Engel Deep Blue, it seems to be made for abuse and torture. It never opened, moved, or leaked despite what we did in the boat. If you know how Mike runs a Commando then you know he didn’t take it easy, once 3 passengers were added he eased off and slowed it down to 30mph to “go easy on em” for the approx. 40 mile trip there and back.

Fast forward to the secret kokanee station for day 3’s activities and the Engel Deep Blue 65 saw double duty as a seat/standing pad and drinks/fish cooler. As mentioned this was the third day and no ice was added to the cooler. The boys and girls started to catch their fish and Mike would open the cooler and drop them in flopping about among the ice and drinks and get their tackle back into the water for the next go at it. At the end of this third day when the kids and the fish were dropped off at the fish cleaning station there was a small amount of blood and water in the bottom of the cooler.

All ice was removed still in bags and placed on the pavement for a rinse off along with the bottles and cans then replaced after the cooler was thoroughly washed of it’s bloody face paint. Of special note, out of the three boats we took, each with a separate brand of cooler, only the Commando C4R’s Engel Deep Blue 65 “froze” the fish. All other coolers failed miserably in this department. Also of note half of the fresh bottles of water that were added started to freeze into slush, this was a complete surprise to all who witnessed it.

The last phase of the test was the ice remaining test which was performed once we got back to Portland. The Rubbermaid which got honorable mention still had half of the block left and none of the cubes, all other coolers were mostly water at this point. When we got to the Engel Deep Blue 65 we couldn’t get the lid open no matter how hard we tried. It says it’s bear proof and we have no doubt about that, but the problem was we closed the cooler at a few thousand feet and now were at 200ft above sea level. Basically the Engel Deep Blue 65 held a vacuum until the easy drain was cracked and air was vented into it to equalize the pressure. Almost no water came out at all so we took out the ice and weighed it. We came back with 17 of the 20lbs of cubes we started with after a week in the desert and a day of mad action fishing. Probably most of the ice loss was when had to clean all the blood out of the cooler and off of the drinks in the parking lot. When we opened the lid on the Engel cooler it looked like it was full of dry ice with the icy vapor escaping ever so slowly like a horror movie effect. (note the Engel is dry ice rated but not tested in this test) Think ice cream for that sweltering night at camp!

The weight test didn’t lie neither did the icey cold beer I enjoyed as I washed out coolers in my shimmering hot Portland driveway.

This reviewer gives a resounding 5 gold stars for the Engel Deep Blue 65 Cooler, and 5 golden stars for the Zodiac Tie Down System. IBC can order a cooler in for your next boat build to help keep you cool on even the hottest of days! (we sell boats primarily but order accessories as needed)

IBC tested Mike Approved!

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Call us at IBC (503)235-2628 and we’ll order the perfect cooler for that new Zodiac or Bombard inflatable boat!