ORCA makes hard side coolers that check all the boxes for camping and outdoor excursions. There are a lot of sizes and fun colors to choose from, and the long ice retention means your drinks and food are cold and fresh for days, even in hot weather.
Keeps cold for days
Easy to carry
Easy to drain
Side mesh net for accessories
Bulkier than a soft cooler
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ORCA Hard Side Cooler: first impressions
The ORCA Hard Side Cooler is made in the USA, and available in seven sizes: 20, 26, 35, 40, 58, 75 and 140 quarts. I tested the 20-quart specifically, and it's worth bearing in mind that the difference in sizes affects not just capacity, but also how long ice will last.
• List price: $235-$600 / £266-£640
• Capacity: 20qt, 26qt, 40qt, 58qt, 75qt, 140qt
• Colors: White / Lime / Tan / Seafoam / Green / Light Blue / Red / Navy / Blaze Orange / Black / Charcoal
These durable, roto-molded camping coolers are made to hold ice and stay cold for five to 10 days, depending on the size of the cooler. The 20-quart design is made to keep ice for four to five days, and those above 70 quarts can keep it frozen for around 10 days.
The lid gasket ensures a tight seal and the extendable flex-grip handles make the coolers easy to hold and carry. ORCA’s Hardside Coolers come with a cargo net on the back for added storage and feature an easy-flow drainage spout. The coolers are available in 11 colors.
ORCA recommends that you pre-chill your cooler before use for ultimate ice retention. You do this by placing a bag of ice inside the cooler and closing the lid letting it sit for 12 hours before packing your coolers. Once the cooler’s internal temperature has been lowered, remove the old ice and pack with food, drinks and fresh ice before heading out on your adventure.
ORCA Hard Side Cooler: in the field
Hot desert camping trips may offer some of the best opportunities to test gear like the ORCA Hard Side Cooler. I took the 20-quart model on an overnight to the Fruita desert in Colorado.
I didn’t pre-chill the cooler before use because it was just a two-day and two-night trip. I found that 20 quarts really means 20 full quarts with ORCA (equivalent to five gallons), and I was able to fit food for the full trip along with a six-pack of canned drinks and a bottle of wine in the cooler, no problem. I didn’t need to replenish the ice at all as the cooler kept the ice intact throughout the 48 hours away in mostly hot temperatures.
The rigid design of the ORCA Hard Side Cooler is so structured and really seems unbreakable. The foam handle and carry design makes the cooler seem lighter than its size, even when it’s full, and the mesh attachment on the outside of the cooler makes it easy to keep coozies and corkscrews right where you need them.
I especially liked the easy-flow drainage spout to remove excess water from icemelt. You don’t have to remove it all the way, so there is no fear of losing the piece, and it’s easy to drain the water without hassle.
Something that’s not mentioned by ORCA but that I found nice while camping is that the cooler can be used as a firm seat if you don’t have enough camping chairs for a meal or around the campfire.
Kim Fuller is the co-founder of Jaunt Media Collective based in Vail, Colorado. Jaunt’s family of print and digital magazines includes YOGA + Life, Spoke+Blossom and Covered Bridge. Kim started her career in media as a freelance journalist and has contributed to a number of national and regional publications, including Elevation Outdoors, 5280 Magazine, The Denver Post, Outside, Advnture, Gear Institute, SELF Magazine, Wanderlust Journal and The Infatuation. Kim spends most out-of-office hours seeking sunshine and singletrack, teaching yoga around town, dining with friends or planning her next adventure. Stay connected through @lifeinfull on Instagram and scope the mags at jauntmediacollective.com.