Speedbox Coolers may be new to the market but they come with an already proven pedigree. You are likely already familiar with the Speedbox line of bomb-proof, rolling totes that make carrying and palletizing gear easy. It is already in use by countless sportsmen but also the military which was its original intended market. So, when Speedbox’s manufacturing partner was looking to push their already proven coolers into potential military markets, it made sense to collaborate.
Speedbox’s manufacturing partner is also the group behind other well known, best in class, roto-molded products like Jackson Kayaks and Orion Coolers. In fact, the Speedbox Coolers are basically Orion Coolers with Speedbox branding and exclusive colors… and, if you know coolers, you know that is a good thing.
The Speedbox Cooler-65 is the subject of this review. It is their mid-sized cooler with a 65-quart capacity. It should be said that it has an ACTUAL 65-quart capacity (actually just over 65 quarts) which is notable because many coolers on the market fall short of their named capacity.
The cooler is roto-molded from the same plastics used in kayaks (which we put to the test in a very fitting way). It features a minimum of 2″ of insulation on all sides which is a major aid to its performance (which we also tested). It also includes a drain plug, lift points molded into the sides, additional removable handles, bottle openers at each corner, multiple tie-down points, aluminum and rubber cam latches, and a lockable lid.
All of the above makes it sound like a typical Orion Coolers Core model but it is all the extras (and exclusive color options) that set the Speedbox Coolers apart. They include the excellent slip-resistant foam stand/sit pad for the top of the lid, a sliding internal organization tray that is removable, and Gear Track channels for attaching other compatible gear. These are all included with every cooler.
Finally, the Speedbox Coolers are certified to be bear-resistant Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee when used with locks on the lid (not included).
When it comes to high-end coolers, I am looking for two things: performance and useful features. In my experience, this cooler has both in spades. I’ll cover the performance testing first.
Ideal Conditions Ice Test
In order to test performance, I did an ice test. There are already ice tests for Orion Coolers out there on the web but they are often conducted in summer heat and direct sun to get the point across. It’s winter in Idaho where I am located so that kind of test is out of the question. Instead, I executed the test in a way that I have never seen done before – more of an ideal situation test.
I started by pre-chilling the cooler outside in the cold with some ice packs in it. This is a hunter’s trick to help a cooler keep ice longer. There is a lot of ice lost initially to cooling the interior of the cooler so pre-chilling ensures you keep more of your ice. Once the cooler was chilled, I added 6 bags of ice, moved the cooler to an interior space that would be kept between 62F and 65F for the duration of the test, and noted the time. The test plan was to open the cooler to check the status of the ice and move the ice around 3 times daily to simulate use.
During this time, I checked the exterior of the cooler with an infrared thermometer and found the exterior was the same temperature as the exterior of a cabinet that was next to the cooler – in other words, room temperature – on all surfaces. The slim gap where the lid sits on the body of the cooler was less than a degree cooler than the rest of the cooler indicating that the gasket works very well. The drain plug was the only part of the cooler that was appreciably cooler than room temperature at 10-11 degrees cooler than ambient temperature. Even the bottom of the cooler and the floor beneath it registered at room temperature.
The Speedbox-65 held ice for more than 14 days, with the last bit of ice melting a few hours short of a full 15 days. This cooler held ice for more than 2 weeks! That is an amazing performance but do keep in mind that this cooler was given the very best chance of this kind of performance and you can count on seeing different results in different conditions.
We decided to test the durability in a spectacular but totally appropriate way given the kayaking pedigree of this cooler. We floated it down a creek that was filled with snowmelt, fast-moving, and very rocky. This creek has enough water moving quickly enough that it is difficult to stand up in but it is also full of glacial bulders making almost all of it impassible to boats. It is 3-4 feet deeps in spots but rushing over and around boulders in others.
The creek did its worst. It rolled the cooler and dragged it across rocks. It flipped it on its side and spun it around, over and over again, until it reached the point where I was waiting with a large stick to catch it (the stick was so I didn’t have to wade into the freezing cold water above the height of my boots). In all, it bobbed, tumbled, and bashed its way down about 200 yards of creek.
We took the cooler out of the water and inspected it. Various surfaces of the coolers were scraped from rock impacts though not deeply. Given that is made the same way premium roto-molded kayaks are made, I wasn’t surprised that it shrugged this off.
This was actually a bigger test for the gasket because as the cooler bumps down the creek and stops on rocks, it has the full force of the creek pressing on it… especially when it flips on its side. There was some water ingress but it was minimal at about 2 tablespoons. That gasket is designed more to keep cold in (or more accurately to keep heat out) and maybe prevent sloshing meltwater from leaving the cooler. This was test went way beyond that and yet it did surprisingly well.
Observations from Use
This cooler comes loaded with some solid features which I will try to summarize, starting with the excellent handles, since this review is already longer than usual. I thought I would remove the accessory handles in favor of the integral lift points… That would have been a mistake. The integral lift points are fine but the accessory handles are extremely comfortable to use as they allow your hand to be up above the cooler and make it much easier for two people to carry the cooler. These comfortable and grippy rubber handles make this cooler much easier to transport than coolers with just fixed lift points.
The Speedbox Cooler-65 has several tie-down points which make it easy to find a way to secure this cooler. It can be locked to a boat or truck fairly easily with a cable lock. If you are like me, you probably already have cable locks laying around from trail cams or bikes. A cable lock can also be used to lock the lid closed though, if you need the bear-proof rating, you may want to pick up a pair of long shackle locks.
The cam latches for the lid are excellent. My daughters can use them easily which is not the case with some cooler latches. They also sit fully flush with the exterior of the cooler when latched which means there is nothing to snag or catch.
The included foam pad turned out to be one of my favorite features on this cooler because of how it enhances the usefulness of the cooler. Most people don’t buy these coolers just to store food. They’re going to use it as a casting stand, use it as a stool to reach their roof rack, and use it as a chair in camp. The foam pad ensures that the cooler is comfortable and slip-resistant when used in this way. My daughters used it as a stage which may or may not be useful to you.
The included organization tray is a GREAT feature. It keeps the interior of the cooler organized and lets you store items out of the ice water which can be nice for some types of packaging. It features a drain hole so that if meltwater does manage to slosh into it, it will end up back in the main well below.
There are a lot of reasons to own a cooler like this. The most obvious are for use on a boat, camping, or for transporting meat when hunting. However, I think there are preparedness and convenience reasons too. For instance, it can be used to store food in a power outage that lasts more than 24 hours, allowing you to keep your main refrigerator closed. It is also a great way to store food for road trips… even really long road trips.
Finally, I want to point out that there is a great benefit to this cooler’s pedigree. Orion Coolers already has a huge ecosystem of available accessories for their coolers and the Speedbox Coolers are compatible with all of them. They have everything from dividers that double as cutting boards, wheel sets to turn this into a cart, and even a seat back that turns this cooler into a comfortable seat with back support.
The Speedbox Cooler-65 is not inexpensive but it is loaded with features and offers excellent ice holding performance to justify its price. It is also made in the USA. This is a rugged cooler may be new to the market but it comes with a proven pedigree.