In 2019, I picked up a 55-quart Lifetime Cooler from the destroyer of consumer hopes and dreams, Walmart. After a year, I guess it’s time to review this high-performance cooler and let the world know my thoughts on it. But before you wonder why is MilkyWayPhotographers.com running a food cooler review, one of our goals is to cover all aspects of night photography. That means we’re going to bring you ideas that you’re not going to find in other Milky Way Photography related sites. We want you to have the best experience possible when you’re out photographing the night sky.
In 2008, the world of recreational coolers was turned upside down when Yeti brought to market a new type of outdoor cooler. Featuring a hard shell and insulation that promised to keep food and drinks cold for days on end, the company was able to secure a foothold with its unique products. Yet, the price of a Yeti cooler was prohibitive to a lot of people. Soon though, tons of knock off coolers would flood the market.
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Even during my time covering off-road races, usually in the warmest times of the year, I was content buying a new bag of ice every couple of days if need be. I finally bit the bullet last year when I saw the Lifetime brand coolers at Walmart for a fraction of a Yeti. I decided to pick up a 55-quart model and go forth with it. The maiden voyage was my trip to Arizona and Utah.
FEATURES OF THE LIFETIME COOLER
Featuring a hard shell, rubber straps, and a rubber seal that mates the lid to the main body, this is not your 1970’s foam-lined Coleman cooler. Lifetime the company has been around since 1986 but did not introduce a line of coolers until 2018.
If you have a habit of traveling into bear country, the Lifetime 55 Quart cooler sports the hardware you want. You can physically lock the lid so Yogi cannot get away with your lunch.
THINGS TO KNOW
I should go ahead and throw out several disclaimers for this review. No one paid me. I spent hard-earned American currency on this particular cooler. The testing I conducted was far from scientific. In fact, I am going to mention one real-world test done by someone else. Everything else is going to be real-world what I have seen since owning this cooler.
HOW IT’S MADE
Rotomolding is how many coolers are made these days. This process produces a heavier, yet better-insulated cooler than in previous generations. The old coolers that some of us know where insulated by foam sandwiched between plastic. This foam broke down over time, and one could go through ice pretty fast on warm days.
I paid in the neighborhood of $100 for my 55-quart Lifetime cooler. Other brands can be had for around the same price. Also, some brands will gladly take twice your money for the same sized product.
Even though I did not expect to use the cooler as much as I have, it is getting a workout. I use it regularly; it is packed with food and ice for 3-4 days a week right now. The best thing technique I have used has been to throw some large blocks of ice 12-24 hours before I use it. Luckily I have a large freezer in my garage. I had several gallon milk jugs that I have converted to ice. By doing this, the interior of the cooler cools down.
To retain the cold, it is best to pack your cooler as full as possible to eliminate any air pockets. Even though the cooler has a drain plug, I prefer to use the small blue artificial ice packs. I will load everything I need for a trip into the cooler. I also usually toss in a couple of gallon blocks of ice to help take up space. By the third or fourth day, the cooler has plenty of open space.
SO HOW DOES THE LIFETIME 55 GALLON COOLER DO?
Like I mentioned previously, there is only one scientific test I found. The Lifetime cooler actually did pretty well.
As for the real world, I have not been disappointed yet. I recently had a 4-day stint where the cooler sat in the 4Runner for all four days in temps that hovered around 100° every day. I was able to keep the windows down, but in those temps, that’s a pretty tall order. By Day 4, the blocks of ice were still there but were at least 50% water. The small blocks of artificial ice were still cool but had taken a beating.
I did have a thermometer with me, so I tossed it into the cooler for a bit so I could see where it stood. 51°F was the answer. I was honestly surprised but happy.
Honestly, I am a big fan of this cooler. The buy-in is a whole lot cheaper than other popular models out there, but the cooler does what I expect. Yes, it does get heavy when fully loaded, but the rope handles make moving it a breeze.
All 55-quart coolers are large. The Lifetime 55 Gallon High Performance Cooler measures 27.00 x 17.60 x 17.30 Inches. If you are in anything smaller than a 4Runner, you may want to look at getting a smaller version. I will say that since my Milky Way photography trips are relatively short, the cooler does not get packed with food and drink. In those cases, I just throw in as much ice as I can. Lifetime does have a 28-quart cooler in their lineup.
Money well spent.
The old adage “you get what you pay for” sometimes is a miss, as it is in this case. I do not have to worry about buying a bag of ice almost every day for a cheap cooler. I am glad I purchased the Lifetime Cooler.
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