The Kawartha Cooler Bag is what the cooler always should have been. It embodies simplicity, versatility, and convenience, no wheels required. It’s an adaptable cooler bag that you can bring anywhere, from the cabin to the tailgate, from the park to car camping. Or, if you’re determined to drink in seclusion like me, even into the backcountry. And its $48 price point ices the competition.
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The Cooler Bag is actually two distinct parts: a dry bag outer, and a removable cooler insert. The insert is an insulated bubble core wrapped with a PVC plastic to keep all your goods cold. The dry bag is made of 500D PVC, which is tough and stands up to the elements, but also odor resistant (mine has been rolled down rocky trails without enduring more than a nick, and soaked with stagnant beer for weeks, without the smell being absorbed permanently). And with thermally heated seams, it’s completely waterproof. That’s important, because it means your cooler will never leak, and you’ll be able to use it as a dry bag when the cooler’s removed.
During my first test of this bag, I managed to pack in 18 already cold beers and a few frozen steaks, with ice filling in any remaining space. Packing this much does mean some of your goods won’t fit inside the cooler insert (a 12-pack alone easily will), but if you can still close the outer bag using the roll top, everything still stays pretty cold. So after a 7 hour drive to the trailhead, it was another 1.5 mile hike into camp. Though there’s no convenient way to take that much weight into a secluded site, along with your own gear, this bag makes it bearable. Like a duffel, you can sling it over your shoulder, or carry it by the side handle, which is helpful in distributing the burden of your beer across different muscle groups.
It was a slog, but it was easy compared to hauling in, as my friends had, hard plastic coolers in two person crews, or awkwardly slinging box-ey soft cooler bags over their shoulders. I practically breezed through the trail with a heavy—but still compact and manageable—bag. And true to form, by the next night of the trip, plenty of ice remained, and leftover beers were as cold as if they’d just come out of the fridge.
Since then, my Kawartha Cooler Bag has done a couple years of casual porch and park hangs, car rides, bigger backcountry hikes, and has even played a role as a dry bag while tubing. It does everything a cooler can, and it goes where a cooler can’t. And while you could complain about it not being able to carry 40 beers or whatever, another friend with another Kawartha bag solves that. Now don’t forget to pack out your empties!