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Esky buying guide: How to choose the best esky for you

Keep your food chilled for longer by buying the right cooler.

Updated

Fact checked
Multi-ethnic friends enjoying the beach

Quick facts about eskies:

  • An efficient esky or cooler is one of the best ways to preserve your food and keep your drinks at an ideal temperature
  • Coolers come in hard and soft materials and can be as cheap at $15 or as much as $500.

Hard vs soft eskies

Choosing between a hard or soft esky depends on how you want to use it. Soft coolers are usually lighter, easier to transport and collapsible so they take up little space when not in use. This makes them handy for short or day trips, such as taking lunch to work or bringing a smoothie to the gym.

Hard eskies are more durable, offer more storage and typically keep items cold for longer, but they can be bulky. These eskies are ideal for longer trips and outdoor use. However, even if you’re taking a long trip, you might want to consider bringing a soft cooler or two in case you want to take food on day trips or hikes. When you’re not using them you can fold the coolers up so they don’t take up precious space in your car or campervan.

How much do eskies cost?

Esky prices range from $15 to $500 based on size, material, insulation and brand. Cheaper eskies are typically small and can only keep food cold for a few hours. These eskies are handy for short activities like afternoon trips to the beach.

If you need an esky for an extended trip, you will need to pay more for an esky that offers multiple days of ice retention.

How to choose an esky

When buying an esky, the main factors to consider, aside from cost, are the size of the esky and how long it can keep ice frozen for.

Size

You need to look at both the internal size and storage capacity as well as the overall dimensions of the cooler. While a large esky might seem ideal to take on a camping trip so that you can bring as much food as possible, the esky will be useless if it doesn't fit in your car.

Larger eskies typically keep food colder longer because they can hold more ice, but they cost more than small coolers. Eskies also work most efficiently when they are fully packed, so choosing a size that is right for your needs is important.

Ice retention

The amount of ice retention you need will depend on how long you want to use the esky for and how hot the environment is where you'll be using it. Generally, look for eskies with thick insulation in the walls and lid.

If you want to take your cooler on multi-day trips, choose a cooler that can keep your food cold for a week or more when used correctly.

Additional features

When choosing an esky, look for the following additional features:

  • Wheels for easier manoeuvring.
  • A drain plug that allows you to remove melted ice from the bottom of your esky without tipping it over.
  • Sturdy and easy to grip handles so that you can lift your esky without straining.
  • Latches and lids that are durable enough for outdoor activities and don’t come undone if the esky moves around or tips over.
  • A lifetime warranty or a warranty of more than one year.
  • Additional outer storage pouches.
  • Easy to clean surfaces.

8 additional tips for keeping your food cool

Australians are spending more time camping than ever before. Here are 8 ways to make your esky more efficient on your next trip:

  1. Cool the inside of your esky for at least a few hours before you pack. This way, the esky will already by the right temperature when you start loading your food and will stay colder longer.
  2. Use ice blocks instead of cubed ice. Ice blocks melt more slowly and help keep your esky cold for longer.
  3. Freeze water in plastic bottles in advance. You can place them in the cooler to help keep things cold and drink the water when the ice melts.
  4. Pack the coldest, most frozen items on the bottom of the esky and fruit and vegetables on the top. If you are packing raw meat, make sure to wrap it well and place it below any fresh foods.
  5. Keep your esky out of the sun and limit the time your esky will spend in hot environments like the boot of your car.
  6. When your ice melts, don’t drain the water. The cold water will help to keep your food cool better than air would. If you have to drain the water, try to fill the empty space with more ice.
  7. Open the lid as little as possible. Every time you open the lid you let out cold air. If there are certain items like drinks that you want to access regularly, consider putting them in a separate cooler.
  8. Limit the amount of air space in the esky as air is not efficient at keeping food cool. Pack your items with as few air gaps as possible.

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