friends beach esky

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING AN ESKY

An esky is a crucial piece of kit to have when camping and fishing. There’s a lot of difference between a really good esky and an esky that’s just fairly good. A decade or more ago, an esky that was designed to last and would keep your food and drinks cold for days used to cost an arm and a leg. They also used to weigh a whole lot more than they do today. I’ve got this old girl that still does the job but is a struggle for two people to move around. It’s practically an old freezer box without a motor and compressor. That makes it a little impractical. I am sure one day I’ll use it for something else, like an anchor.

These days, it isn’t as hard to find a great esky within a reasonable price range. It’s also pretty easy to find something, that well, looks good for a while but doesn’t do the job quite as well as you want, and doesn’t stand up to the rough and tumble of extended touring.

The Esky brand has been so synonymous with coolers in this country so much that we’ve started to call coolers eskies and rarely use the word cooler for so long. Esky is now in the dictionary. Thankfully, we have a whole lot more choice these days. First, let’s take a look at some of the key features to look for when looking for an esky that will do the job.

HIGHER PRICE DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN BETTER

It’s very easy to spend a couple hundred dollars on an esky if you don’t take a good look around. If it doesn’t do the job, you’re the one that will be getting hot and bothered. There’s nothing worse than losing to food to hot weather except food poisoning. In my experience, higher quality does normally cost more but that is not necessarily a given. There are a lot of factors that go into the price of an esky, especially a retailer’s final decision on pricing. I mean, it always pays to look around and compare prices. There are loads of specials throughout the year and just like everything else, planning a purchase makes a whole lot of sense.

That all being said, generally speaking, higher price will mean more quality but you should still make sure.

WHAT SIZE TO GO WITH

It is easy to get tempted to go with something really big. Now, we all know we want to be able to get an esky into the car but have you thought about picking it up. You will think about that once you have to do it a few times. Eskies that are narrower and smaller are much easier to pick up. I prefer to have two smaller coolers than a large esky because I can separate what I put in them.

Another issue to think about is height. It’s nice to be able to put bottles in an esky and have them stand up. Some models have recessed lids that allow you to put more in them but that also allows those areas to become warm space.

At the end of the day, you need to be able to move an esky around with ease. So, my advice is to put that issue at the top of your mind when you are deciding on what to buy.

ISSUES OF INSULATION

Insulation has improved a lot over the years. You can generally tell if an esky will perform well because it has great insulation backed by a great brand name. There is so much out on the market, especially online, it’s easy to get tricked into thinking they are all the same. I will tell you now, they aren’t.

Thicker walls really add to better insulation. My “testing” is based on my own experience. I’ve made the mistake of thinking that I could save a few dollars by getting something that looked great and had an extraordinarily low price from a brand name I’d never heard of. Eskies like that tend to become a plastic packing box that takes up way too much space without having much room to store anything in – yes, not really an esky at all. Either that or they are only good for using as a large ice bucket when you are serving drinks at a party.

If you are buying online, you can’t touch the esky, and so going with a brand name you know is reliable is the best way to know you are getting excellent insulation. The only other way to get an idea that the insulation good is to look at how much the esky compresses when you put the lid on. You can tell there is more air in the lid and the walls because there is a whole lot more flex.

In summary, the only way you can test insulation outside of the lab is to use an esky. The simple solution to guarantee you are getting great insulation is to go with a quality brand name. It just makes a whole lot of sense.

SEALS KEEP OUT THE HEAT

Just like your fridge at home, seals keep openings tight when they are closed. Seals on the lid and other openings like the drainage plug to release water after the ice melts need to do the job well and do it over the distance. Better seals keep the hot air out and the coolness in.

KEEPING AN ESKY CLEAN

Watch out for white textured lids because they can be hard to keep clean over time. The texture might be designed to keep items from sliding off the top of the esky but they are a real dirt trap. Good care and cleaning each time you use an esky will also make it look better for longer. Whatever the case, white looks good and reminds us of a cool space but is obviously easier stained. I steer away from white tops where possible.

BE CAREFUL WITH DRY ICE

You should check with your retailer or the manufacturer’s instructions before you go throwing dry ice in your esky. Dry ice is great fun, especially for parties in the backyard to add a bit style to your gathering but it can damage your esky. You should always make sure dry ice does not come into direct contact with your esky’s insides.

STRONG HANDLES, LATCHES AND LIDS

If you’ve ever lifted up an esky full of your favourite food and drinks and ice, only for a handle to bust and then you lose all your foods and drinks (and ice) to the dirt or half of it sliding off the jetty, you will really appreciate strong handles. That’s another reason why I prefer to use slightly smaller eskies and have more of them. There is definitely less chance of the handles breaking. Another reason why handles may break is because you overload your esky with too many heavy items. Again, better brands tend to do handles better because they have the experience. Keep all of these points in mind when you are shopping around and when you have your esky in your hands.

Straps are great for smaller eskies but don’t really fly when you have a larger item in your hands. It’s very hard to carry a larger esky on your shoulder anyway. It always makes sense for two people to carry a larger esky when it’s loaded up. The last thing you need is to put your back out when you are meant to be enjoying yourself. With that in mind and while we are on the topic of handles, always bend your legs and not your back when picking up larger and heavier items.

Thicker lids keep in the cold. Latches that only require one hand are definitely the easiest to use. Hinged lids can actually be very heavy (like my old box that has a permanent place in the garage now) and they can actually cause the esky to fall over unless it is a really heavy duty unit.

SOME TIPS TO USING YOUR ESKY

FOOD SAFETY

Food that you store in your esky needs to be kept at under 4 degrees or you risk becoming ill. And you will become ill for days. Food poisoning is no laughing matter. It’s not just a belly ache for a day. Food poisoning lasts for around 5-7 days and can kill. Food also needs to be kept above 60 degrees. Forget the idea of rare steaks when you are having a bbq on a camping trip. Always cook your food well to be on the safe side.

PACKING

Ziplock bags are great for packing food and mixes because they are more flexible than bottles. They also stop cross contamination not to mention they are just easier to use all around. Especially if you think about packing per meal. Now that can be a lot of plastic. Always get as many uses out of your ziplock bags as possible. There’s way too much plastic in the oceans as it is.

Always try to pack your ice in tight. Breaking up your ice will mean that it gets into all those tight spaces. Place items on the top you need regularly. This brings me back to using more than one esky. Just like your fridge door, you want to keep it shut as much as possible. That’s why I use at least 2 eskies. I use one for items, such as drinks, that I want access to as much as possible. I keep the other esky loaded with meats and other items I only want to get to when it is time to make a meal. Think about what you need before you get it out so you are not opening and closing your esky willy nilly.

Always keep your esky in the shade whenever possible and make sure it is the last thing you pack before you set off on your adventure – that just makes good sense.

 

 


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Madeleine Park
madel@dinga.com.au

Madeleine is a real green thumb and spends most of her time outdoors in her garden if she is not outdoors somewhere else.