All coolers are not created equal.
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In 1637, Sir William Berkley, the governor of Virginia, was given a patent to keep and store snow in caves and pits to prevent it from melting. Thus, began the long history of the ice chest, the chilly bin, the esky, the cool bin, the cooler.

Keeping things cold since that time has been an important part of our life, but it wasn’t until 1951 that the first portable ice chest was created by Richard Laramy in Joliet, Illinois of all places. Fast forward a couple of years and Coleman ran with Laramy’s creation. Soon, Coleman coolers littered the garages of homes and cabins everywhere.

Today, no fishing trip is complete without some type of cooling mechanism to keep our food fresh and more importantly our beer cold. Enter the age of the cult cooler.

It’s no secret that today the way we look at the cooler has changed. Growing up on a lake in rural Wisconsin, the Coleman and Igloo coolers were stacked in our garage for easy access on the boat for the nightly ride around the lake. No one thought twice about which cooler you had. Coolers were not status symbols; they were merely a means to an end. They weren’t fashion statements. They weren’t standing platforms. But, they did keep your food cold; relatively speaking.

Now, by some magical force I still don’t quite understand, YETI has taken a common household item and made it a status symbol, with a cult following to match. With many other companies following YETI’s lead, you can now find coolers of all shapes and sizes, stickered and stood upon every place you look. Here are a few of our favorites and why.

The YETI Flip
This is my favorite YETI product to date. I think this was one of Yeti’s solution for those of us who liked the YETI Hopper but didn’t love it because of what I’ll talk about below. The Flip reminds me of the lunch box I used to take to school when I was a kid. It is not nostalgia talking when I say that when I’m headed to a campfire or to a friend’s house, or a short day trip on the water and don’t need a large hard-side, this is my goto. As far as a soft-sided cooler goes, it's my opinion that this one beats the others. It’s easy to get into, it holds more than you’d think it would and it keeps my beer cold. Done and done.

The YETI Hopper
I personally have a love-hate relationship with this cooler and here’s why. I love the size and the shape of it. It’s comfortable to carry with the wide shoulder strap and the inside is actually quite large inside. It’s great to pack as a carry-on when you travel to a warm climate because, well, you have a great cooler with you all the time. It does keep things cold as far as a soft-side is concerned.. The two things I hate about it are the zipper and cleaning it! Don’t misunderstand me, the zipper works great. The problem is it chews up your hand every time you try to put something in or get it out. As for cleaning it, well this isn’t your usual dump everything out cooler. The way this is fashioned, makes it a bit difficult to drain (due to the small tight zipper) and if something explodes inside of it, well wear gloves or you’ll chop your hands up trying to clean it up with that zipper thing again. (As a note, I just noticed that YETI just came out with the Hopper Two with the zipper on the side, which may solve the zipper problem, so stay tuned for that update!)

The Orion
YETI may have made the first cult hard-sided cooler, but Orion beats them on all levels if you ask me on this one. Built with a fly angler in mind, the Orion is in my humble opinion the best boat cooler on the market. First, let’s get the important part. Recently, I took my 65 on a road trip from Tennessee to Texas. I packed it on a Wednesday early evening with 40# of ice then added food and beverages. I left it in the car overnight. The next day I drove to Texas where I unpacked the cooler from the car in 80 degree weather and stuck it inside a big tent inside my booth. I opened it throughout the next four days, took a lot of beer and food out and replenished it with more food and beer, and drove home in the heat. I then left it in my car again overnight. The next day, when I emptied the cooler there was still about 30# of ice in it and my leftovers were cold and fresh.

Now, as if that isn’t great enough, this cooler has rounded sides with bottle openers on all four corners (brilliant), nice rope handles that hang out of the way when you’re casting and fasteners that are flush with the front so you don’t have to worry about your line tangling as you’re standing on it and cast. (If you think YETI on this one, you’ll realize that the black rubber handles on a Yeti stick out and catch your line unless you do the 15 minute “adjustment” to the handles. I’m just going to say, if I’m paying this much for a cooler, it should already come “adjusted.”) Lastly, have you seen the colors? Ah…the colors. One to match any kind of angler. And…if you’re a kayak angler, then you already know that Jackson Kayak makes the Orion cooler, so you can mix and match the color of your kayak to your cooler.

So, as we end I have to ask … what’s in your cooler?

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