Review: Grizzly 40 Cooler

Jun. 03, 2014 By Josh Burns
We got our hands on the Grizzly 40, or 40-quart cooler, to see just how well it holds up to our abuse – and how long it’ll keep our food and drinks cold.

For campers, weekend trail explorers, and the more hard-core overlanders spending a week or more on the trail, nothing can be more important than retaining food freshness during the trip. One can only consumer so much trail mix and granola bars. For the off-road enthusiast, maybe a high-quality, compact refrigerator will fit the need, though they are costly, require power (sometimes even an auxiliary battery to help power it), and typically won’t mount outside of a vehicle. The standard cooler you could pick up from the grocery store, Target or Walmart will only retain ice for a few days, so if you’re nowhere near a convenience store or gas station to pick up fresh ice, your food and drinks will only stay cool for so long.

There are a few heavy-duty coolers on the market designed to provide improved ice retention over the conventional cooler, one such being Grizzly Coolers out of Decorah, Iowa. Grizzly has a full line of heavy-duty coolers, each of which are backed with a lifetime warranty (if you’re the original purchaser). For our review, we tested the Grizzly 40, which measures 25 inches wide, 16 inches deep, and it sits at 15.5 inches tall. Those looking for more than a 40-quart capacity can jump up to the 60, 75, 150 or even the 400. The cooler is available in a variety of colors, including blue, tan, white, green/tan and sandstone/tan.

The Grizzly 40 comes with molded-in handles on each side of the cooler, nylon-sleeved rubber handles, and 2-inch tie-down openings to secure the cooler to your rig.

Grizzly’s patented BearClaw Latches help keep the cooler closed, but it’s the internal rubber gasket that provides a solid seal to keep the cool in.

The Grizzly features a rigid, roto-molded shell to provide extended cooler life as well as extreme durability. The cooler features a molded-in hinge that use stainless-steel pins for durability to open the cooler. Molded-in heavy-duty handles provide a secure grip for loading and unloading as do the rope handle with its nylon-sleeved rubber handle. The company’s patented BearClaw Latches require no hardware to maintain a secure seal for the cooler. An interior rubber gasket provides a secure seal for the cooler, while a full-length drain will channel water down to the 2-inch drain plug for easy draining – and the drain plug is nicely designed to screw in and out for drainage and features a gasket seal to prevent leaks. Added features on the cooler include 2-inch tiedown slots that are molded into the side handles of the cooler, and fisherman will appreciate the 22-inch ruler on the lid. Our Grizzly 40 also earned IGBC Bear Resistant Certification 3369. Grizzly claims that under ideal circumstances, its 40-quart cooler will retain ice for up to 6 days, 5 hours.

Grizzly Coolers fitted rubber stops on each corner of the cooler to keep it from sliding no matter what surface it rests upon.

For easy drainage, a sturdy, screw-in drain plug is fitted on the Grizzly 40. A rubber gasket helps prevent the cooler from leaking.

There are a number of things to keep in mind to maximize ice retention for the trip. First and foremost, actually cooling your cooler prior to the trip will do wonders. An easy trick is to get a few water bottles (or one large one-gallon bottle), freeze them, and once frozen just toss them in the cooler a few days before your trip. Cooling the contents ahead of time, when possible, will also maximize the ice life, as the ice initially put into the cooler won’t get exhausted trying to cool the items in the first place. It’s ideal to fill the cooler to capacity as well – more ice is better than less. Using dry ice will also provide improved cooling since it’s actually colder than standard ice, as will using block ice vs. cubes, keeping water inside and not draining it, and keeping the cooler out of sunlight.

Whether you’re carrying food, drinks or your day’s catch from the lake, the 40-quart capacity of our Grizzly Cooler provides an interior capacity that measures 18 inches wide, 11 inches deep and a height of 12 inches. For the beer lovers out there, that means it’ll fit 22-ounce brews just fine.

We’ve used the Grizzly 40 on a number of different trips in the past few months. We’ve loaded it up with beer for camping, used it to house drinks and food for long road trips, and it’s been our primary food storage on a long camping weekend. Compared to other heavy-duty coolers we’ve tested, we were pleased the Grizzly 40 was relatively lightweight when unloaded. With molded-in handles and the option to use the rope handles, it’s also easy to get a solid grip on the cooler – whether one person or two are carrying it.

During a recent road trip where we headed out from California to Arizona, we loaded up the cooler with a few bags of ice and kept the Grizzly cooler in our truck during the entire four-day jaunt. 

After four days of sitting in the truck, with temperatures getting up to over 90 degrees, we still had plenty of ice left in our cooler to keep our drinks cold for the ride home.

The roto-molded-constructed cooler is also quite durable. We’ve accidentally knocked it off the tailgate of our truck and rolled it down the stairs and it’s no worse for the wear. The BearClaw EPDM Rubber Latch system didn’t immediately pass the eye test, as we wondered at first glance if it would truly secure the lid of the cooler properly; but color us impressed, because the simple rubber latches actually work quite well. They haven’t shown any sign of wear over the few months we’ve used them, but even if they wear out years down the road they’re a relatively inexpensive repair ($9.99 on Grizzly’s site).

We learned that pre-cooling the Grizzly cooler, or really any cooler for that matter, will improve its ice retention. Tossing in a few frozen water bottles will cool down the plastic and prepare it for extended ice retention.

The construction and durability of the Grizzly 40 is impressive, but arguably the biggest concern is how long it’ll keep ice. We went through a variety of different situations, a few in which we put non-chilled items into the cooler and simply tossed in ice. In those instances, the ice retention was pretty consistently around four days. When we pre-cooled the cooler and put in drinks and food that were pre-cooled, our ice retention was consistently five days up to five-and-a-half days.  We did not quite hit the six-day, five-hour mark listed by Grizzly on its site, though we imagine that would require the most ideal conditions and use of large, blocked ice. We used regular bags of ice you’d purchase from a liquor store or market, and we never did use dry ice – which would be ideal for meats and other frozen items for long-distance trips.

The Grizzly 40 is now the only cooler we have along for the ride for each trip we take. The 40 is just big enough to haul a good amount of food and drinks, yet it's not so large that two people are necessary to handle it.

We have been very impressed with Grizzly’s heavy-duty cooler. The construction is stout, the ice retention is far superior to standard coolers, and we appreciate the added durability built into the product. We’ve broken our fair share of coolers, or cooler lids, or cooler handles over the years. With the Grizzly, we won’t have to worry about flimsy construction, and most importantly it’s backed with the peace of mind of a lifetime warranty for craftsmanship. The Grizzly 40 runs $319.99, so it’s not probably not the cheapest cooler you’ll ever buy. Then again, the price is probably worth it if it’s the last cooler you buy.

Grizzly Coolers
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