Get this if: You’re in a situation where you need a cooler for a short amount of time. Ideally, you’ll have a longer-lasting reusable cooler on hand, but as the Igloo Recool becomes more common, there should be no reason to reach for a Styrofoam model again.
Why it’s great: A disposable cooler is always a backup option, but there are times when it’s nearly unavoidable, such as when you’re caught out at a picnic or having a lucky day fishing. The Igloo Recool lives up to the hype: It’s as effective as a polystyrene cooler and reusable a few times, and it composts easily. The Recool’s wood-pulp material (similar to papier-mâché), bound with a biodegradable wax called alkyl ketene dimer, doesn’t dissolve when wet. We tested the Recool and a number of cheap, comparably sized foam competitors, filling them up with ice (both types held roughly 16 quarts) and then waiting, measuring the accumulated meltwater over time. The Recool promises to keep ice frozen for up to 12 hours, but we found in our testing that the cold lasts for more like six or eight depending on how much food or drink you have in there, a result similar to what we saw in our testing of Styrofoam equivalents. As for the testing units themselves, well, they’ve disappeared now. More dirt for my garden.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: We don’t recommend getting any disposable cooler if you can buy a halfway decent hard cooler or soft cooler (such as any of the models we recommend above). A hard cooler like our top pick, for example, can keep ice frozen for a full week. Of course, the comparison isn’t quite fair. But even our soft-cooler picks provide almost double the insulation time of the Recool, up to 12 hours (from six).
Dimensions: 15 by 11 by 11.38 inches (WDH)
Weight: 1.5 pounds
Capacity: 16 quarts