Kong Cooler Review
We were recently introduced to Kong Coolers. Like many of the premium cooler brands coming out on the market these days, Kong Coolers is hoping to get a portion of the market share that big companies such as Yeti, Orca, Engel, RTIC, etc. have enjoyed for many years now.
And on paper, Kong seems like a great candidate to do just that. They are one of the few remaining companies that offer American-made and American-assembled coolers. They also stem from a tradition of understanding how plastics work. Their parent company, Elkhart Plastics, has been designing various plastic parts for marine, food processing, and other industrial applications for over 30 years.
But how well does that translate to making actual coolers?
In this huge review, we will go over the available Kong Coolers. We will discuss their features, analyze their build quality, put them through ice tests, and ultimately tell you if we feel that they are a good purchase or not.
If you are in a hurry and just want to see a brief overview of the essentials, you can check out our table below. If you wish to read our full review, just scroll on down.
So let’s get started!
- 1 Kong Cooler Review
Kong Cooler Lineup
Kong Coolers appear to be focusing on just hard-sided coolers. Their current production selection includes the Kong 25, Kong 50, Kong 70, and Kong 110. While this certainly isn’t the largest selection of sizes that we have seen a brand offer, it does manage to hit all of the typical sizes that people are after. The small Kong 25 is great for individual use or for a small group and this scales all the way up to the enormous Kong 110 which is large enough to take care of a family’s food/beverage storage needs for a week.
Like many cooler companies, the name designation for a particular model can be a bit vague. However, we suspect that it is supposed to semi-accurately represent the amount of liters of storage volume that model has. For instance, the Kong 70’s internal dimensions measure 26.375” x 12.125” x 13”. Translated to liters, this comes out to about 68 liters. And for those of you who prefer to deal in quarts, that is around 72 quarts. So if you take the average of those, you get right at 70!
No matter which size of Kong Cooler you decide to go with, all models come in very similar layouts. This is a bit out of the norm in regards to the smaller sizes. With many other hard-sided cooler brands, the smallest model (typically a 20 or 25 quart model), will have an overhead carrying handle. However, Kong has decided to utilize side handles in the same way as their larger sizes.
We will go into more details about the various features in the next section.
Kong Cooler Features and Build Quality
Kong has many of the features that we like to see in modern premium coolers. They also bring some unique ones to the table to help them stand out from the competition.
The foundation of any high-end cooler are the walls. These are vital not only for durability but also in ice retention (which we will discuss in the next section).
Kong Coolers utilize quality FDA-approved polyethylene. They implement a rotomoloding manufacturing process but with a twist. According to their website, they use proprietary techniques to create a strong, laminated bond between the foam insulation and the polyethylene. This helps to stop delamination from occurring. They also say that this process is more expensive but they are willing to spend a bit extra in the manufacturing process to ensure a quality product comes out of the other side.
The wall thickness is above average compared to other models in this tier. Depending on the model and the specific wall that you are looking at, you can expect wall thickness to be anywhere from 3 to almost 4 inches thick. These are some thick walls!
Another essential part of any high-end cooler is the sealing component between the lid and the body. We typically call this a gasket. Kong calls theirs the “Insulated Super Seal”. The seal used is very similar to the oversized rubber gaskets that we are used to seeing in a vast majority of high-end coolers on the market today. It has a proven track record and we have no complaints about it.
And the mechanism that provides the closing force between the lid and the body (and which squeezes the gasket) is the latching system.
Most brands stick with a traditional approach: rubber T-latches. These latches operate by having a lip at the base of the latch that you stretch in order to fit under a small ledge, holding it in place. The stretched rubber then provides the closing force.
Kong, on the other hand, takes a really clever approach that we absolutely love. They call it their “Cam Action Latches”. They are made from 3/16” thick nylon and have stainless steel hardware. They operate by moving the latch downward as opposed to having to pull them outwards. This means that you are able to open and close the cooler without being forced to lift the lid. They are also better for accessing in small corners with limited space.
When closed, they provide an excellent bite that really helps to put some squeeze on the gasket. Not only that, but they look more professional and “high end” compared to typical rubber T-latches.
As we mentioned earlier, you will transport your Kong Cooler thanks to the side handles. Kong has decided to forgo using rope handles and instead stick to plastic. Specifically, the handles are made of 3/16” webbed nylon. By going with a rigid design instead of ropes, you will help to avoid the swinging sensation that can occur when transporting a cooler that has rope side handles.
Kong also mentions that the plastic handles have the added benefit of not getting caught on fish hooks and that you don’t have to worry about them unraveling over time (which is quite true and something that we never thought about!).
These handles also have a comfortable rubber grip on them that is helpful when carrying in wet conditions.
Other standard features include a high-flow drain plug (that has two large holes) for fast and easy draining, no-slip feet, and various helpful attachment points for securing your cooler.
Many of these features we are used to seeing in some form or fashion in other brands. But Kong does have some other features up their sleeves that help them to really stand out.
One of our favorite examples of this is their Stay-Put Lid. This technology allows you to open the lid to a 45-degree angle while the cooler is backed up against a wall or other flat surface. This is super helpful for being able to access items stored in the cooler without having to open the lid all the way. We have all experienced times when space is limited and being able to access cooler items without moving everything around can help save huge headaches.
Another really cool feature lies with their storage dividers. Kong Coolers come equipped with a storage divider. While there is nothing inherently unique about that, these dividers can also be used as a shelf, a cutting board, or a side table that mounts directly to the cooler! You will have to purchase the kicker accessory to achieve some of these, but the fact that a “normal” divider can be so versatile with minimal effort or additional costs is extremely impressive.
We definitely need to elaborate a bit more on Kong Cooler’s overall toughness as well. These ice chests are extremely well made. They are proudly made right here in the USA and utilize proprietary manufacturing techniques that only a company that has been in the plastics business for many decades would know.
All of the components are made of great materials. Most pieces of hardware are made of stainless steel and plastic components and thick and robust.
And Kong stands behind their products. These coolers are Grizzly Bear Certified by the IGBC. In addition, they come with an impressive lifetime limited warranty (few other brands can match that).
Kong Cooler Ice Retention
The toughest and most feature-rich cooler in the world still doesn’t amount to much if it can’t retain ice for long periods of time. And Kong aims to lead the pack in that regard as well.
The key to long ice life lies in multiple areas. A cooler needs to have thick walls with few (if any leak paths). It needs to have a strong sealing system between the lid and the body. Finally, it needs to have a robust latching system that provides plenty of force to squeeze the gasket shut.
And on paper, Kong meets all of these criteria with ease.
But how does this translate to real-life results?
To test this, we put our Kong Cooler through our own in-house testing. This consists of filling it with a recommended amount of ice, leaving it outdoors in the Texas heat, and occasionally opening it. Now that Spring is upon us here in Texas, temperatures are increasing. This means that the coolers that we are testing are starting to be pushed harder than they were in the Winter months.
So how did the Kong Cooler fare?
You can check out our chart below for the results.
As you can clearly see, ice retention numbers for Kong Coolers are extremely impressive. We test a lot of coolers here at TheCoolerZone and Kong Coolers are among the very top when it comes to ice life. It is obvious that the extra thick walls and impressive gasket system is paying off.
We did notice that Kong discusses ice retention numbers on their website. And why we didn’t quite get the numbers that they did, we assume that it may have to do with our more challenging testing. Kong stated that they filled up their cooler to the top with ice, left it in 70 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, and only opened for 2 minutes once per day. We only filled our cooler up around halfway to 2/3 with ice, left in daytime temperatures that were closer to 80F, and opened the cooler up multiple times per day. We personally feel that our scenario is more indicative of “real life” usage. But no matter how you cut it, the results are impressive either way.
Kong Cooler Aesthetics
With some many cooler brands on the market these days, it can be tough for one brand to visually stand out from another. However, Kong has managed to still find ways to do so despite having so much competition.
The overall design of the coolers is very nice. They are modern and come with some nice edges and curves. On the face of the ice chest, you will find some subtle extruded ridges and in the center is the Kong Cooler logo (which we think is really sweet looking!).
Another way that Kong Coolers stick out is from their unique latches and handles. Most cooler brands are going with rope handles and rubber t-latches. Since Kong has decided to go with plastic rigid side handles and their snap latches, this instantly sets them apart from the masses. When you see Kong Cooler sitting next to many other brands, you will quickly notice that something is “different” about it.
As for color options, there are currently 5 different colors to choose from on all sizes. These colors include Bomber Blue, Gorilla Gray, Rugged Red, Tactical Tan, and Winter White.
While this certainly is not the largest selection of colors that we have seen, there is still enough variety to make most people happy. We also like that Kong decided to throw in a couple of multi-color schemes.
We didn’t see any sort of custom shop being offered by Kong. When we refer to custom shop, we are talking about the ability to print custom logos, decals, etc. on the coolers. This is something that some of the larger operations have implemented but it is by no means a deal breaker if a particular company doesn’t offer it. Perhaps this is something that Kong will look into doing in the future.
Kong Cooler Price
Seeing how Kong Coolers are made in America, utilize proven manufacturing techniques, and incorporate high-quality materials into their construction, we weren’t expecting these to be the most affordable ice chests around. And sure enough, they will fall into the premium price tier.
That being said, there are still quite a few brands out there that don’t offer as impressive of ice life, have fewer features, and have less impressive warranties that cost much more.
Considering this, we feel that the asking prices for Kong Coolers are actually quite fair. This is a perfect example of “you get what you pay for”. You may spend a bit more upfront here but you will enjoy a cooler that is designed to last for a lifetime. So in the end, you are actually being more frugal!
Kong Coolers vs. Yeti
The age-old debate that we are constantly asked about is how a certain brand compares to Yeti. Yeti has been the most recognized name in the premium cooler industry for many years now. So if someone is interesting in buying a cooler in the high-end market, they always wonder how it compares to Yeti.
In this case, comparing Kong Coolers to Yeti is actually a really good source of discussion. Both take very similar approaches: they are made in America, offer up impressive ice life, and stand behind their products.
In terms of size and color selection, Yeti has an edge over Kong. Yeti has literally dozens of different sizes and colors of hard-sided coolers. And few other brands have the capabilities to compete with that.
Beyond that, however, Kong makes a strong case to be better than Yeti.
In terms of ice life, Kong has a slight edge. In our testing, Kong was among the coolers with the longest ice life that we have tested. While Yeti is no slouch, it was a bit behind.
We also like Kong’s features. The snap-latches and plastic handles help to make it stand out. And we like the clever approach that they took with turning their dividers into side tables and cutting boards as well as the Stay-Put lid that allows you to open it 45 degrees.
We also find Kong’s overall style to be a bit more attractive. Yeti does have an edge in color choices, but we feel that Kong Coolers still look better.
And the big factor that comes to play is price. Yeti has and continues to be one of the most expensive brands out there. And while Kong is certainly not cheap, there is a clear gap in asking price between similar sized coolers from the two brands.
And did we mention the warranty?! Kong Coolers come with a limited lifetime warranty. Few other brands can compete with that.
With all that being considered, we have to give the edge to Kong. Both brands produce fantastic coolers but Kong is clearly a step above the rest.
Kong Cooler Review
Pros: Incredible ice retention, Lifetime warranty, Clever features, Nice styling
Cons: Good value but still expensive, Limited size options
Features: Cam-action latches, No-slip feet, Stay-put lid, Insulated super seal, Plastic side handles, High-flow drain plug, Divider that can turn into table/cutting board
Kong Coolers are an American-made brand with many years in the industry. They feel that they have what it takes to compete with the very best when it comes to ice retention and overall build quality. There are currently 4 different cooler sizes to pick from. And all sizes utilize similar designs and techniques.
Features/Build Quality –
We are very impressed with the overall build quality that you get with a Kong Cooler. The walls are extremely thick and all of the various components are made of extremely high-quality materials. You can tell that a lot of attention to detail went into the design of these coolers. Many of the features that we are used to seeing such as high flow drain plugs, anti-skid feet, and an oversized rubber gasket are present. But there are also some features that we aren’t used to seeing such as the plastic side handles, multiple uses for the included divider, cam action latches, and the stay-put lid.
We also really like that Kong stands behind their products. These coolers come with a lifetime limited warranty and are Grizzly Bear Certified. These coolers really are designed for life.
Ice Retention –
Ice life for Kong Ice Chests is among the longest that we have tested from any brands. This level of success can be attributed to the extremely thick rotomolded, the quality seal, and the strong latches the provide plenty of squeeze. Specific ice life numbers will vary depending on which model you go with and the conditions that you put it in. However, you should expect anywhere from 3 days to well over a week of cooling performance in optimal settings. At these numbers, you can use a Kong Cooler for anything from a weekend trip to the lake all the way out to a weeklong camping excursion for a large group of people.
Visual Appeal –
We find the styling of Kong’s products to be modern and tasteful. They are able to stand out from the masses thanks to clever designing around their handles and latches. On the face of the cooler is their really clever logo and it all meshes together so well. There are 5 color options to choose from. We wouldn’t mind seeing a few more color choices and potentially a custom shop in the future but these are only minor complaints.
Since these coolers are made of the highest quality of materials and utilize American-made ingenuity, they aren’t the cheapest. However, they are still quite competitive in price when you consider just how impressive their ice retention, features, and overall durability are. When you buy a Kong Cooler, you are buying something that will be with you for many years to come.
Overall Rating –
We are extremely impressed with Kong Coolers. They really checked all of the boxes of things that we look for in a premium cooler. Their ice retention numbers are great, the features that they offer are plentiful and clever, and they stand behind their products. They are also quite attractive. Sure, they will cost a bit to buy but when you look at the “big picture”, they could still be considered a bargain when you look at everything that you get with one. We highly recommend adding Kong Coolers to your short list of potential brands to check out when you are shopping for your next rotomolded hard-sided cooler.