Calcutta Cooler Review
Calcutta is a Florida-based brand that sells a variety of products including sunglasses, snorkel gear, kayak accessories, and of course coolers. They actually sell both hard and soft-sided coolers in various sizes and configurations. In this review, we will be trying out their lineup of hard-sided coolers. We will also discuss their soft-sided cooler lineup (with a full review on their soft-sided cooler potentially in the future).
The table below will give a rundown of the important specs of their hard-sided coolers. If you wish to read our full review, simply scroll below!
- 1 Calcutta Cooler Review
- 1.1 Calcutta Cooler Lineup
- 1.2 Calcutta Cooler Features/Build Quality
- 1.3 Calcutta Cooler Ice Life
- 1.4 Calcutta Cooler Aesthetics
- 1.5 Calcutta Cooler Cost
- 1.6 Calcutta Cooler vs. Yeti
- 1.7 Calcutta Cooler Review
Calcutta Cooler Lineup
As we mentioned above, Calcutta sells both hard and soft-sided coolers. They come in a few different size options which we will break down in this section.
Calcutta Hard-Sided Coolers
At the time of this article, Calcutta currently offers 20 liter, 35 liter, 55 liter, 75 liter, 100 liter, and 125 liter hard-sided coolers. In addition to this, they also have a couple of sizes of water jugs (5 gallons and 10 gallons).
Calcutta has dubbed their various hard-sided coolers the Renegade Series. For instance, the Renegade 100 will have 100 liters of storage capacity. Their water jugs also follow suit, being called the Renegade Hydrate Jug.
The Renegade Series is the newest models offered by Calcutta. However, Calcutta has been around for a while and sells a variety of hard-sided coolers in older designs.
The available sizes span across just about every target market that we can think of. Calcutta has a cooler for those after a small, portable unit and all the way up to an enormous 125L cooler that has enough storage capacity for a huge gathering. And you will find that the overall design approach is very similar across the various sizes. As is typical, the smallest 20L model has an overhead carrying handle while the larger models will utilize more traditional side handles (we will go into greater detail of the various features in the next section).
Calcutta Soft-Sided Coolers
While this particular review will be focusing mostly on Calcutta’s hard sided coolers, we did want to briefly mention their soft-sided coolers as well. At the time of this writing, there are several models to choose from. These include the Renegade 15, Renegade Prym1 15, Renegade 25, Renegade Prym1 25, Renegade 30L Backpack Cooler, Renegade 35, Renegade Prym1 35, and the Renegade Roller 45. Calcutta also has a lineup of lower-quality soft coolers that are more affordable. They include the 12 pack, 20 pack, 24 pack, and 36 pack.
Similar to Calcutta’s hard-sided cooler selection, the soft-sided cooler selection is also quite diverse. There are small handheld models such as the 15L which are perfect for an individual or small group. And this scales all the way up to the robust 45-liter model which has adequate storage volume for a much larger group.
We recently got our hands on a Calcutta Soft Cooler and wrote up a review on our testing of it. You can read about that review here.
Calcutta Cooler Features/Build Quality
Before getting into the details of the various features, it is worth noting that Calcutta has appeared to put their product line through a pretty big facelift. Their older cooler models will have totally different features and even come in some particular sizes that are no longer offered. For this review, we will be mostly focusing on the “new” models and their respected features.
Due to the ever-growing number of cooler companies that are hoping to compete in the competitive cooler world, it is important that a brand brings something to the table that makes them stand out from the masses. Not only that, but it is almost mandatory these days for a premium cooler to utilize a laundry list of features associated with build quality.
And all of this starts with the material and manufacturing process of the cooler. The holy grail of manufacturing processes is rotomolded construction. This one-piece design takes away potential weak points in the body that can occur on cheaper coolers that have multiple walls pieces that are glued together.
Calcutta has utilized rotomolded construction in all of their hard-sided coolers. This, combined with the thick walls, make for a very resilient ice chest. Depending on the specific size and wall that you are looking at, you can expect wall thickness to fall in the 2 to 3” thick range. This is average if not slightly above average compared to other premium coolers that we have tested.
But having quality cooler walls is only the first step. You also want the various metal hardware pieces that are used to attach the lid to the body to be equally resilient. Calcutta understood this and decided to go with a stainless steel Durahinge. By using stainless steel as opposed to a cheaper metal, the hinge is more resilient to corrosion and cracking due to fatigue after extended use.
And by using high-end components, Calcutta is able to stand behind their product. You will enjoy a 5-year warranty on all Calcutta Renegade Coolers.
Arguably the most important components after the cooler body and hinge are the sealing and latch system. As is typical of today’s high-end coolers, Calcutta went with a freezer-grade gasket that is embedded into the bottom face of the lid. This gasket seals inside the extruded groove on the body of the cooler. One interesting aspect of the gasket used here is that it actually comes in white. In nearly all other brands that we have tested, this gasket is usually black. The material appears to be essentially identical, however.
The latching system is also pretty standard but with a couple of notable exceptions. The rubber T-latch approach is the gold standard these days from a vast majority of coolers. The latch is stretched and catches a molded-in groove on the coolers. This provides good closing force, which really helps to squeeze the freezer gasket discussed above. It is worth noting that the latches on these coolers can be a bit stubborn. You may find yourself having to push pretty hard to release and re-close them. That is simply the price you pay if you want a strong latch force, however.
While nothing about this process is new, we did find that the latches that Calcutta uses to be a bit different than most. First, there are actually two wider areas on the latch. The higher up one is what actually engages the cooler itself and allows the lid to be closed. The lower one doesn’t really seem to serve much of a purpose. You can see what we are talking about in the above image.
Secondly, the rubber latch is actually attached to the cooler lid via a bolt system. In most coolers that we have tested, the latch is secured by resting in a molded groove on the lid of the cooler. In this case, however, Calcutta attaches the latch to the cooler via threaded bolts instead.
And if you happen to come across one of Calcutta’s older hard-sided cooler models, you will see that the latch attachment approach was even funkier. There were actually three bolts used and the latch was secured shut by sliding through the bottom of the three bolts. When it comes to stuff like this, we typically think that keeping things simple is the best idea so we are glad that Calcutta decided to simplify things with their newer models.
For transport, there is an overhead carrying handle on the small 20-liter model. And for all other sizes, you will find pretty standard side rope handles with comfortable rubber grips.
At the base of the cooler are non-slip and non-marking feet. This means that you can throw a Calcutta Cooler in the back of your truck bed without worrying about it scratching your paint or easily sliding around.
At this point in time, you are probably not seeing any features that make a Calcutta Cooler stand out from the plethora of other premium hard-sided coolers on the market. And you would certainly be on to something! None of the features mentioned so far are really all the unique. In fact, most of them are essentially mandatory features these days.
But there is one feature that Calcutta has implemented that is very unique. In fact, we can only think of one or two other brands that have thought to do something similar. And this feature would be what they called their “Floodlight”.
The Floodlight is a 100-lumen white LED drain plug. There are actually two drain plug slots on all Calcutta Cooler sizes other than the 20 liter (which just has one). And with every Calcutta Cooler that you purchase, the top drain plug will actually have an LED bulb build into it. This provides internal lighting for your cooler. This can come quite in handy when it is dark outside and you are trying to find your favorite beer or soda from your ice chests.
You can turn the light on and off by simply pushing the power button located on the center of the drain plug. What a cool idea!
There is also a dry good basket that comes with every cooler in addition to a fish scale that is located on the inside of the lid. You can see the dry goods basket in the image below. And in the image of the gasket earlier in the article, you can easily see the fish scale.
So as you can see, outside of the lighted drain plug, dry good basket, and fish scale, Calcutta has taken a pretty safe approach with the design of their new Renegade model coolers. There are some other features missing that we wouldn’t mind seeing in future models. These include things such as pressure release valves, bottle openers, cup holders, etc. But in terms of overall build quality, Calcutta Coolers are right up there with the very best.
Calcutta Cooler Ice Life
In determining whether a cooler is a viable choice or not, the subject of ice retention is typically one of the first things that are discussed. And on paper, Calcutta seems to have all of the qualities that we look for in an ice chest that hopes to enjoy long ice life. This includes thick rotomolded walls, a large rubber gasket, and strong latches for sealing.
But what sort of ice performance should you expect? To get to the bottom of this, we deiced to try it out ourselves. We filled up our test cooler with a recommended amount of ice and opened it from time to time to emulate more real-life usage. We then applied our results to other sizes following our proprietary methods. The chart below should give you a rough idea of the sort of ice life that you can expect.
And for snapshots of our actual testing, check out the image below.
As you can tell, we were on the high end of ice life for the 35L model that we tested. This had a lot to do with where we stored the cooler. We kept it indoors in an air-conditioned room. If you were to fill this cooler up with an equal amount of ice and leave it outside in the summer heat, your ice life would likely be towards the longer end of the estimated ice range.
Overall, we are pretty content with the results. Compared to other high-end coolers that we have tested, Calcutta Coolers are right in the mix of things. While there are a few models that have even better ice life, for most people these results are plenty good for your typical applications.
On the lower end, the small models such as the Renegade 20 and Renegade 35 should hold ice for anywhere from 2 to 4 days. And for those who need longer ice life (and more storage space), the enormous Renegade 125 can offer a week (or more) of ice life in optimal conditions.
In our testing, we actually found our results to be on the higher end of the spectrum. But this is largely due to the fact that it is currently quite cold outside so we had to leave the coolers indoors. In the summer months, if you were to test this cooler outdoors, you would expect ice life results to be on the lower end of the range.
Calcutta Cooler Aesthetics
Depending on who you ask, the looks and styling of a cooler might be a high priority for some and a mere afterthought for others. No matter which side of the spectrum you fall on, it is still worth discussing in a full review of that particular brand.
As we mentioned earlier, Calcutta has gone through a bit of a facelift in recent memory. And part of this facelift was some subtle styling changes to their products.
That being said, the overall look and feel of their hard-sided coolers are still conservative.
You will find some subtle vertical grooves on the face of the cooler. This does help them to stand out some from the masses of other cooler brands but it is by no means eye-popping. And between these vertical grooves will be the Calcutta logo. We must admit that the logo along with its skull and crossbones is pretty menacing looking.
The most noticeable styling feature will be the dual drain ports and, when opened, the fact that one of the drain plugs actually lights up.
You are also quite limited in color choices. We only found two colors to pick from: tan and white. This is a very underwhelming selection when you consider that there are other brands out there that have dozens of colors to choose from including multi-color schemes.
Also, we couldn’t find any options for custom color schemes or for specialized ice chests with decals, team logos, etc. These type of things are becoming more and more common with other cooler brands and we hope that Calcutta decides to expand into this realm in the future.
Calcutta Cooler Cost
We are used to premium coolers fetching a premium price tag. Using high-end materials and quality manufacturing processes isn’t cheap! However, there can still be quite a variance with asking prices between the “cheap” premium coolers and the “expensive” ones.
In the case of Calcutta, they tend to fall more towards the expensive side. While not quite as pricey as a Yeti Cooler for its MSRP, Calcutta Coolers are still pricier than a majority of the high-end coolers that we have tested.
Now just because something cost more doesn’t necessarily mean that it is always negative. If there is a noticeable improvement in performance, features, quality, etc. then sometimes the more expensive ice chest is actually the better value.
But in this case, we aren’t really seeing it. Sure, these coolers are extremely tough. And their ice retention values are more than enough for most people. But it isn’t anything that we haven’t seen many times before. And outside of the light up LED drain plug, there really aren’t any features that stand out to us. And finally Yeti may be more expensive than most but it does carry a name recognition attribute that few (if any) other coolers brands can compare to. And that just isn’t there with Calcutta Coolers.
Calcutta Cooler vs. Yeti
And that brings us to the next topic of discussion. What is better between a Calcutta Cooler and a Yeti Cooler?
There are certainly pros and cons to both.
Yeti is the clear leader when it comes to size choices, available accessories, color options, and overall reputation. However, they are extremely expensive.
Calcutta has few size options, colors, and accessories but they do have the light up LED drain plug, a strong warranty, and a bit lower price point (but not by much).
As for performance, ice retention, and overall build quality, both brands are essentially equal as far as we are concerned.
In this comparison, we are actually going to side with Yeti by a hair. While you may pay a bit extra for Yeti, the difference isn’t huge. And the huge improvement in color and size options helps to justify the price point. Plus you get to enjoy owning a cooler by one of the most reputable and notarized cooler brands in the world.
But no matter which brand and model you decide to go with, you will get to enjoy a quality cooler that should last for many years to come.
Calcutta Cooler Review
Pros: Good ice life, LED Drain Plug is quite clever, 5-year warranty
Cons: Very expensive, Limited color choices, Not a lot of notable features
Features: Light up LED Drain Plug, Gripped rope side handles, Dry goods basket, Anti-skid feet, Additional high-flow drain port, Rubber gasket, T-latch, Internal Fish Scale
Calcutta brings to the table a small lineup of hard-sided coolers of various sizes. These ice chests follow a proven approach of using high-quality rotomolding polymers in conjunction with quality hardware and design. The result is a tough competitor that has adequate ice retention for this tier of coolers. However, it does come at a very high price point and lacks many color choices.
Features/Build Quality –
In terms of construction, Calcutta is doing all of the right things. Their hard-sided coolers utilize thick walls along with quality components. The result is a very resilient ice chest that comes with an impressive 5-year warranty. You can put this cooler in most outdoor settings and it should handle it without issue.
The list of features is a bit lacking, however. The most notable features (which we love) is the LED drain plug. This allows you to illuminate the inside of your cooler so that you aren’t digging around for your desired drink in the dark. In addition, there is a separate drain port to help quickly empty out melted ice. The rest of the features are pretty standard, however. And many of the more specialized features that we are seeing more and more in premium coolers are nowhere to be found here.
Ice Retention –
Ice life is quite good. This comes thanks to the thick walls (2 to 3” in most places), premium rubber gasket, and effective T-latch system. Depending on which cooler you go with, how much ice you put in, and the outside conditions, you can anticipate around 2 days of ice life all the way up to well over a week. At this range, Calcutta Coolers can be used for a host of applications that span a long weekend and up.
Visual Appeal –
The overall shape of these ice chests is pretty standard. Calcutta Coolers have gone through a minor facelift which included adding some vertical channels on the face of the cooler along with stamping the Calcutta logo (which is really cool by the way) on the face of the cooler.
However, we do have an issue with the severe lack of color choices. We only found 2 colors to pick from (white and tan). Furthermore, we didn’t see any sort of custom logos of color schemes available.
That being said, the usage of the LED drain plug does make the cooler stand out from the masses at night.
The asking price for these ice chests is well into the premium price range. In fact, outside of a small group of cooler companies (Yeti and potentially Pelican to name a couple), Calcutta Coolers are among the most expensive products that we have tested.
Sure, performance and build quality are great. But does the super high asking price justify them? We have our concerns. There are plenty of other high-end cooler brands that can deliver equal ice life, equivalent build quality, arguably better features, and many more color/size options.
Overall Rating –
We feel that Calcutta Coolers certainly meet the mark when it comes to performance and ice retention. And the LED drain plug is extremely clever and something that we have seldom seen other brands do. But the asking price on them is higher than we would have liked to see. And we also had to take off some points due to the severe lack of color choices.
Don’t get us wrong: there is nothing inherently bad with Calcutta Coolers. In fact, you will likely be pretty dang happy with one if you decide to go with it. But for those on a budget, there are quite a few other brands that deliver just as much but with a smaller impact on your wallet.