Pro Review: The Kelty Folding Cooler

By Outdoor Prolink Pro Brad Miller

 

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When Kelty designed their Folding Cooler they set out to solve the issue that is the bane of all coolers everywhere: wasted space. What they came up with is an interesting piece that starts out about the size of a briefcase and through a few simple steps unzips, unfolds, and transforms into a soft cooler to keep those post (insert epic activity here) brews frosty. Once done the unit can be folded down to about one third the height and stored away until needed again.

 

 

When I received the cooler I was first impressed with the simplistic ingenuity of the design.  Although I had been skeptical on the overall concept itself, the build quality and cool factor surprised me. Plus it even comes with a bottle opener and two beverage cozies!  Using the provided illustrated instructions, learning to Optimus Prime the briefcase into cooler-mode only took a few minutes and we were soon off to the races.

 

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The unit uses soft insulated walls covered by a rubber bag which all attaches together using strong Velcro. The outer fabric sides then slip up and the molded cover complete with four built in beverage holders zips the top shut.  The soft insulation sides and zippered top means the cooler is not as efficient as its standard hard cased counterpart, but even so it did a good job. To test this I loaded the cooler with some cold, eh, cans of soda, dumped in a standard small gas station bag of ice and left it in a 110 degree car while hitting the crag. Even in the hot car the ice easily lasted through the day and well into the evening.

 

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The waterproof rubber bag that creates the cooler-well did a good job and we never had leaking except when a tester tipped the whole unit over thus revealing one design issue. Because the top zips on and does not create a water tight seal, if the cooler falls over water will breach the top of the well and leak through the zipper. This is a mixed blessing because although a hard cooler may be better at keeping water in, if the top pops open, out comes the dreaded icy beer can tidal wave.  The Folding Cooler will leak if tipped but the zipper also prevents any catastrophic failure.  We also noticed that the bottom of the cooler would sometimes become damp with condensation which could be a problem if left on car seats.  A final small detail that came up was that the carry handles are a bit too short so your knuckles rub the side when transporting your frosty cargo which is a small nuisance.

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In the end we decided that the Folding Cooler fits really well in situations where you want to keep things cold occasionally but don’t want to sacrifice the space a hard cooler will constantly consume.  A few good examples would be multi-day float trips,  rafting, canoeing or fishing where once the ice is gone the cooler can be collapsed for easier stowage and handling. Dirtbags may also take interest; those folks on perpetual road trips who sometimes need to chill food but can’t commit to a bulky molded unit that will otherwise claim too much precious real estate. For my part, living in 575 square feet of domestic Boulder, Colorado condo glory, it’s nice to be able to pack this model on a small closet shelf when not in use, thus saving much needed storage for my gratuitous pile of climbing gear.

 

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