Coolers for camp go soft

Brands bring lighter, more portable designs to campers, fishers, tailgaters and beachgoers. See what's ahead for 2015.
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Beer, meat and cheese. It’s all about enjoying the “simple” things in the outdoors. And we all know a cold brew tastes better at the river. If only it didn’t take an army of seven to lug the cooler full of goods to the outdoor dining space.

Outdoor brands have heard the cry and are focusing on portability with their latest designs, notably coming to this Summer Market more soft-cooler options.

Taking inspiration from whitewater rafts and HazMat protective gear, YETI Coolers touts its Hopper (MSRP $300) as the most portable and leak-proof cooler on the market.

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“Our [roto-molded , hard] coolers are mostly intended to be stationary products, so we wanted to find a way to offer our fans and customers the performance they’ve come to expect from YETI — extreme durability and superior ice retention — in a product they can take with them to a broader range of environments and adventures,” said Roy Seiders, YETI Coolers CEO and co-founder.

To reduce weight in the Hopper, Yeti traded the hard sides for DryHide fabric. Similar to material used in whitewater rafts, it’s anti-microbial, mildew-resistant and FDA food-grade. With technology borrowed from survival suits and HazMat protective gear, the HydroLok Zipper is completely waterproof. Turn it upside down and shake — we dare you. The deep and lasting chill of the Hopper can be credited to its premium ColdCell Insulation, a closed-cell NBR rubber foam that is 1 inch thick on the sides and 1.5 inches thick on the bottom, offering superior cold holding to ordinary soft coolers, officials claim.

Respected for its heavy-duty military standards, Pelican hasn’t been known for the most portable coolers on the market. So the company set out to create a cooler engineered with the same rugged polymer exterior walls more suited for the everyday adventure. Targeted toward fishers, boaters, campers and beachgoers, the newest Pelican ProGear Elite Cooler (MSRP $250) holds up to 21 U.S. liquid quarts. Additional tailgate- and picnic-friendly features include a stainless steel lock protector that doubles as a bottle opener, four integrated cup holders in the lid and an extra-wide pickup handle for easy team and individual carrying. Its extra-thick polyurethane foam core works with secure Press & Pull latches and a freezer-grade o-ring to deliver extreme ice retention.

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Thinking on a more defined scale, MountainSmith brings a soft cooler specific to individual outdoor necessities. We’ve all seen the glowing individuals carrying yoga mats upon their back in a dainty cross-bag. Well, The Cooler Tube (MSRP $22) offers similar graceful hauling — only you’ll be carrying six of your favorite frosty beverages. And with the essentials on your back, you’ll have more hands to carry the “less essential” things like food and water.

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Suddenly, setting up camp won’t seem so exhausting. Go ahead, tell customers to pack a little more.

--Jessica Hamel

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