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Cool box buying guide

A proper cool box keeps food ready-to-eat even during the warmest days of the year. Here we’ll help you choose between the wide range of cool boxes on the market.

The advantage of a cool box is that you can keep your food and drinks fresh for longer. More basic models without their own cooling system keep the food cool with the help of ice packs or cubes. More advanced models that use electricity or gas cool more efficiently, and some also have a warming function.

A large capacity cool box can fit more food and drinks, but having said that, the price will also be higher. Around 15-20 litres capacity is a common size, and is often enough to take on a trip.

If you have to bring a lot of food, we recommend a model with wheels that saves you having to carry it by hand. However, if the cool box stays at home, you might be better off choosing one that can fit more food. Remember that the larger models use more energy to cool down the food.

Most cool boxes today are electric and use 12 volts, 24 volts, or 240 volts. Some use gas. Most common are the thermoelectric and compressor based models. There are also a small number of cool boxes that use the absorption technique.

  • Absorption: These cool boxes use energy supplied by electricity, gas, kerosene or solar heat to transfer heat out of the box. They make the least sound but are the least efficient at cooling.
  • Thermoelectric: These transmit heat through a cooling element that transfers heat from the inside to the outside. On the outside is a fan that blows away all excess heat. Thermoelectric cooling boxes can also keep the food warm. These have less efficient cooling power and lower efficiency than compressor models.
  • Compressor: The most efficient choice if you want even and low temperatures for a long time. These work like the freezer you have at home, but in a portable format. They are generally more expensive than the other options, and can sometimes freeze food instead of just keeping it cool.

If you want to control the temperature, choose a cool box with a built-in thermostat. How much you can cool the food depends on the cooling method and the outside temperature. Some models indicate the exact temperatures that you can set with the thermostat. Others indicate the maximum difference between the outer and inner temperatures.

If you use your cool box in the car with a 12-volt outlet, it’s important to have a battery guard, that ensures that you always have enough battery power to start the car. The guard automatically switches off the power to the cool box or other 12-volt devices, if the car battery level is too low.

If you bring mobile gadgets like mobile phones or tablets to the picnic, then cool boxes with USB sockets can be useful. You can charge your gadgets while, at the same time, keep your food cool and fresh.

Not all cars have a 12-volt socket in the luggage compartment. Therefore, you should consider the cable length when selecting a cool box. The cable should be about three meters for 12 volts. For regular connection at home, the cable could be slightly shorter.

Also, do consider how the lid is designed. Most electronics and fans are placed here. Therefore, it may be tricky to open the lid if you still have wires connected. Sometimes you have to lift off the entire lid to access the contents.