nICE Cooler Review
Our friends over at nICE Coolers sent us a few different products to test out. This huge write-up will be focusing on their lineup and how the nICE coolers fared in our extensive testing and analysis. After reading through our review you will have a better idea how this brand compares to the traditional “heavy hitters” such as Yeti, RTIC, etc. and see if nICE is worth checking over those guys.
nICE is a new name to us but after digging around it appears that they are a rebranded form of Meadowcraft coolers and also share great similarities with MILEE coolers (from an aesthetic and feature perspective). We actually never had put our hands on a Meadowcraft cooler before this but had heard of them through various retail stores such as Walmart. nICE isn’t the first (and certainly won’t be the last) manufacturer to go through a rebranding and we don’t have an issue with this. In fact, we welcome it as it shows that they are striving to be another viable competitor in what can be a very competitive premium-level cooler market. And when there is more competition you, the consumer, are the one that benefits from it!
The nICE Cooler Lineup
nICE offers up a selection of hard-sided coolers as well as a can holder and a couple sizes of tumblers. One interesting point of note is that nICE currently do sell any soft-sided coolers. This came as a bit of a surprise to us as soft-sided coolers have become increasingly popular and we are seeing more and more companies manufacture them. However, nICE does have some items that make them stand out from most of their competition in their Cannon and thermafoam can coolers. While these don’t really fall under the traditional coolers that we test, we did receive a thermafoam can cooler product to evaluate as well so we will go over our thoughts on it below.
nICE Hard-Sided Coolers
The nICE hard-sided coolers come in three sizes: The nICE 20, nICE 45, and nICE 75. It is worth noting that we also received what we will call a “nICE 22” that is a slightly larger version of the nICE 20 with a few noticeable differences in design including a different handle, built-in bottle openers on the latches, and a slightly larger storage volume. However, we don’t see this particular cooler for sale on nICE’s website and the performance aspects are so similar to the nICE 20 that we decided to combine them in this article for the sake of brevity. These three sizes (20, 45, and 75) fall comfortably in our small, medium, and large categories, respectively. These are very popular sizes that should meet most people’s needs so it is no surprise that nICE decided to base their collection around them. They are missing some huge size options (100+ quarts) as well as personal sizes (16 quarts and below) but, from our experience, people after those sizes are the minority.
The smallest size, the nICE 20, takes advantage of an overhead padded carrying handle while the larger sizes, the nICE 45 and nICE 75, utilize more traditional padded side handles to move them around. Also worth noting, the nICE 75 comes with some rather robust rubber wheels on one side that can make it much easier to move by yourself.
The number designations in each cooler’s name represent the storage volume in quarts. We filled up each cooler with water and the posted sizes are very accurate. There is also a sticker on the front of each cooler that displays the conversion into liters for those more familiar with that unit of measurement.
As mentioned above, nICE also has a few drinkware options. Primarily being a cooler review site, we haven’t tested them but it was worth mentioning them so you can get a full picture of what all is available. According to their website, they appear to have a 12oz can holder as well as 20oz and 30oz tumblers. These products are made of stainless steel, utilize double-sided insulation, and are available in a few different color choices.
nICE Cannon and Thermafoam Can Cooler
The nICE Cannon and their thermafoam can coolers are unique products and something that we personally haven’t tried out before this review. The Cannon seems to be inspired by the manufacturing process of the tumblers, as it utilizes double-walled stainless steel construction. It comes in two sizes: the SINGLE3 and the SINGLE6. As the name suggests, they are designed to hold 3 and 6 cans, respectively. Another cool feature is the spring-loaded end that allows for much easier can dispensing. With the inclusion of the puck insert, nICE advertises that they can keep cans cold for 24 to 48 hours. This is quite impressive! For mobility purposes, there is a built-in handle on the side of the SINGLE3 and a large strap attached to the ends of the SINGLE6.
We personally received a thermafoam 6-can cooler to try out. Rather than utilize stainless steel similar to tumblers, it is made of foam similar to what your favorite childhood pool toy, the noodle, was made of. The primary differences that we can see between this 6-can cooler and a normal noodle pool toy are that the middle of the thermafoam 6-can cooler is hollowed out with a larger diameter to allow for traditional 12-ounce cans to fit inside. There is also a threaded drain plug that you can screw in to keep your cans in place as well as a removable carrying strap. Finally, nICE also states that the material is thermafoam and is designed to keep your cans cooler longer.
nICE Coolers Ice Life
We test the nICE coolers in the typical method we use on all products. In fact, we had time to test them in two different scenarios: storing them indoors and not opening them and also storing them outdoors in the Texas sun and opening them occasionally (which is more representative of real-life applications). Also, “ice life” is very subjective. Do you keep the timer going until there is not a single ice cube left? Or do you stop it once a significant amount of ice is gone? Or do you keep it going even after the ice is melted, as long as the stored water is still cold?
All of these are viable approaches but we personally go by timing until all the ice is melted.
Also, the amount of ice you fill a cooler with obviously has an effect on how long ice will remain. Putting a couple of cubes of ice in an empty cooler vs. filling it to the brim with ice will have totally different results.
To keep things consistent, we filled each cooler up halfway with ice. This is a relatively accurate representation of how it would be done in the real world since contents such as beer/food/etc. would need room as well.
But before we get into how the nICE Coolers performed, let’s discuss what features they have in place to keep things cool.
As is the norm for premium coolers, nICE coolers come with thick, roto-molded walls that are not only tough but also provide an excellent barrier from the ambient air. We measured the walls in various places and saw thicknesses that varied from around 1.75” up to 2”. This is plenty thick and competes well with other premium coolers that focus on long ice life.
This is about average thickness for premium coolers and is a happy medium between maximizing ice retention ability and also keeping the overall size and weight in check (remember that thicker walls equal a bulkier and heavier cooler. And if you set the cooler to a given maximum size then thicker walls reduces storage volume).
Other helpful features include the thick rubber gasket. We like to see large gaskets on coolers as the larger the gasket, the more squeeze you get. And the more squeeze you get, the harder it is for cold air to escape. nICE uses freezer-grade gaskets and it performs quite well.
The final important component is making sure that this gasket is able to be squeezed tightly and this falls under needing strong latches that have a good bite. We will go into more details about the specifics of the latches below but overall they do provide a nice bite which helps to make the most of the large gasket.
We test all three hard-sided nICE coolers both in optimal settings and real-life settings and the results are as follows:
Real-Life: 40 hours
Optimal: 60 hours
Real-Life: 60 hours
Optimal: 85 hours
Real-Life: 90 hours
Optimal: 140 hours
So how does this compare to other premium coolers?
Overall, nICE performed adequately in regards to ice performance. As is typical of other coolers we have tested, the largest size tends to have the biggest variance. This is due to having significantly more storage volume. When you open the larger coolers and allow the cold air to escape, the ice has to “work” much harder to cool that big volume back down.
While we didn’t see some of the crazy high numbers present in the largest Pelican and Grizzly sizes, nICE performed just fine when directly compared to a cooler of equivalent size. We have no doubt that if they decided to roll out a 150-quart cooler that it would reach very high ice life numbers as well. For most, this level of ice life is more than suitable for most of their applications. A weekend on the lake? A tailgate? A BBQ? Any of those environments would be easily handled by nICE’s larger cooler sizes.
nICE Coolers Toughness
Being Certified Bear Resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee is sort of the gold standard that many premium cooler manufactures strive for and nICE can proudly state that their hard-sided coolers are, in fact, bear-certified. While we don’t think many of you will ever have to test this theory out, it is good to know that the toughness is there. The primary ingredients to a tough, bear-resistant cooler are thick walls, premium hardware/components, and careful construction.
As we mentioned above, nICE’s walls are plenty thick for most applications and should hold up most traditional wear and tear that your typical cooler goes though. This includes things such as being occasionally dropped, scraped, and even exposed to harsh weather conditions.
As for the hardware and components, nICE takes a simple but effective approach here. The hinge hardware holding the lid and body together is fully enclosed and is designed in a way to minimize the likelihood of accidentally opening the lid up too much which can damage and even break the hinge on lower-quality products.
The latch system is also very simplistic. We have seen other brands have a more elaborate latch mechanism that utilizes several moving parts and can resemble something you may find on a fishing tackle box or tool chest. While it may look nice, more parts = more potential failure points. nICE instead opted for simple heavy duty rubber T-latch that you physically stretch to close (similar to how Yeti and RTIC do it). This is simple and effective and these rubber latches tend to last for quite some time before you need to worry about replacing them.
The handles used (whether you go with the overhand handle on the nICE 20 or the side handles on the nICE 45 and 75) are plenty robust and feel sturdy while holding. We lugged these products up and down many flights of stairs while testing and the handles felt secure and were also quite comfy to hold with plenty of grip to go around.
As for construction, we noticed that the boxes that these products came in mentioned that they were made in China. We have received several emails asking about coolers “Made in the USA”. This may be a turnoff to some people but do you want to know a little-known secret? Almost every single premium cooler brand imports many of their products from Asia! We have tested enough coolers to be able to confidently tell you that imported coolers can and do perform just as well as coolers made in the USA (and typically for a fraction of the price)! Another bonus that we liked to see was that there was a quality inspection checklist located inside the cooler that showed that a quality check was performed after the manufacturing process and before shipping to us. This is actually something that we don’t see many other cooler brands do and it gives nICE huge bonus points in our eyes.
All of the above combine for a lineup of coolers that are plenty tough in our eyes and will hold up to just about anything you can throw at them.
nICE Coolers Features
nICE hard-sided coolers come with all of the standard features we like to see and also have a few additional ones that are quite unique and help them stand out from the crowd. We already mentioned some of the features above that double that play significant roles on the toughness and durability of these products (T-latch system, quality handles, enclosed hinge, etc.) but nICE also has several features that directly contribute to a better overall user experience as well.
The most notable features and the one that you will probably notice first and foremost is their pressure-releasing button. This button essentially normalizes the internal pressure with outside when pushed. You may be wondering what the actual purpose of this. If you have been around coolers very long you will likely notice that sometimes a cooler lid can be really tough to open. This can be because the inside air (which is obviously much colder) is essentially sealed off thanks to the gasket. The cold air coupled with this closed internal volume can create a vacuum which can make it more difficult to open. This issue can be multiplied when you are dealing with a large gasket and very cold air (both of which you will typically find more often than not in a premium cooler).
Other great and useful features include the stainless steel locking plates with built-in bottle openers on the corners, anti-skid feet, quick drain system with threaded drain plug, molded measuring ruler on the lid, built-in cup holders, and the inclusion of rather robust rubber wheels on the nICE 75. Really the only features that are noticeably lacking are internal shelves and storage baskets (which are somewhat common additional features on other cooler lines).
We did have a bit of an issue with the metal chain that holds the drain plug on getting in the way when trying to unscrew the drain plug. You need to make sure that it is extended out of the way or else it will catch on the drain plug and not allow you to completely remove it. On the nICE 75, this isn’t a problem as the drain plug is placed in a different location.
In summary, the features available are more than adequate and compete well with other cooler brands on the market. You will also get to enjoy the pressure release feature which is a unique feature that few brands outside of nICE can state that they have.
nICE Coolers Visual Appeal
Looks can be subjective but we try to look for coolers that have some atypical design features that can help them stand out from the crowd. nICE coolers have some aesthetic curves and contours on the shell that make them somewhat unique but every brand tends to take this approach. What really makes them pop is the bright red pressure release button that instantly draws your eyes to it.
At a BBQ party we recently had there were a series of coolers lined up from various manufacturer outside. Multiple people inquired about the nICE coolers, asking what the “big red button” is. There molded ruler on the lid also helps to make the unit “pop” a bit more.
As for colors, there are currently 5 to choose from. They include beige, gray, light blue, seafoam, and white. This color selection falls about the middle of the road compared to other brands. Some of the larger, more established cooler companies can offer up dozens of colors and even do custom colors and team logos. As far as we can tell, nICE hasn’t ventured down this path yet so if you are somebody after a custom look you may be a bit disappointed.
That being said, we understand that an ice chest’s styling isn’t high on many people’s priorities and may not play a positive or negative role in deciding which cooler to go with.
nICE Coolers Price
A major selling point of nICE Coolers is that they are trying to compete with many of the other premium cooler lines on the market but at a fraction of the price. On a quarts per dollar basis, they are noticeably cheaper than Yeti, Pelican, and several other high-end brands. You will find their asking prices much closer aligned with RTIC, Grizzly, etc. While these are still by no means “cheap” coolers, they offer similar performance at a fraction of the price. As you can tell from the breakdown of the features, the durability, and the ice life, nICE definitely can hang with many of the pricier options out there.
nICE Coolers is a relatively new player to the ever-growing premium cooler market. They offer up a small lineup of hard-sided coolers, drinkware, and some rather unique products in their Cannon and thermafoam can coolers.
After extensive testing of the hard-sided coolers, we are overall very impressed with what nICE has done. Their coolers perform suitably in all of the important metrics that we evaluate: ice life, toughness, features, looks, and price.
Specifically, the ice life is right on par for what other premium coolers are offering for given sizes. You should enjoy multiple days of ice life no matter which size you go with and the larger sizes can offer closer to a week’s worth of ice in optimal settings.
All of the components of a tough cooler are present: roto-molded constructed, premium hardware, and a bear-proof rating.
There are also plenty of features we like to see and also some new ones that aren’t common on other coolers such as the pressure release valve, built-in bottle openers, and molded measuring ruler on the lid.
Finally, all of this comes in at a very reasonable price that resides on the lower end of the “premium price” spectrum. Yes, these still are expensive coolers but they are designed to last and outperform most products in the budget and mid-priced tiers.
We definitely recommend checking out nICE coolers if you happen to be in the market for a small, medium, or large sized cooler. While they may not be quite as well-known as some of some of the other brands we reviewed we can confidently say that they are just as good, if not better than many of them in the areas that count.
We summarize our thoughts below:
nICE Cooler Review
nICE coolers are a rebrand of Meadowcraft coolers and believe that they are able to offer a lineup of products that perform great and do so at a reasonable price. Loaded with features and embracing all of the tough components that make for a long-lasting cooler, nICE coolers are targeted at competing with the “big boys” of the industry. The hard-sided coolers are available in 20, 45, and 75-quart models.
Insulation Ability –
Ice life is about on par for similar-sized premium coolers. As expected, the larger sizes sustain ice quite a bit longer but every size should be able to handle 90% of normal applications. This is thanks to suitably thick insulated walls, a large gasket, and latches that provide excellent squeeze. There are a lot of variables at play but you can anticipate anywhere from 40 to 140 hours of ice life.
Mobility and Durability –
Many of the features that make for long ice life also play a role in toughness. Thick walls and premium hardware mean that this cooler should last for many years of typical wear and tear. It is also Certified Bear Resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) which is always a good sign that it is a tough competitor.
As for usability, helpful features such as the built-in pressure release valve, comfortable carrying handles with good grip, and oversized wheels on the 75-quart model make these products user-friendly. They are still quite heavy and bulky when full but this is the price you pay for having a large cooler. Really the only minor issue we had was some struggles unscrewing the drain plug due to the metal chain but this was quickly resolved.
Visual Appeal –
Styling on these ice chests are pretty standard but the bright red pressure release button does “pop” and we got a lot of questions about it. You have 5 colors to choose from which is about average compared to what else is out there. The only thing noticeably lacking is any sort of customization options such as team logos/colors/initials/etc.
These coolers fall into the premium-price range when considering $/quart. However, they are still significantly cheaper than many other premium coolers. Consider them a “budget” premium cooler! While still expensive, they are much more obtainable by the average person on a budget and offer up very similar performance and features of many of the more expensive and established brands.
Overall Rating –
nICE coolers were a new brand to us but we left this testing very impressed with them. The products they offer up are solid both in quality and performance and have many great features that allow for an easy user experience. Ice life is acceptable and they are built to handle many years of use without issue. They also have some cool features such as the pressure release valve that help them stand out from the pack both in features and visually. And all of this comes in at a respectable asking price. We highly encourage you to add nICE coolers to your list of potential brands the next time you are shopping for a new cooler.