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Not being in the manufacturing industry, I'll have to give Roam-It Gear the benefit of the doubt and assume that they did some testing and found the material they use offers the best compromise between insulation properties and durability.
Would I give this cooler to the Samsonite gorilla for testing? No, but I feel that this product will far exceed the durability needs for the majority of its users. I've loaded this thing to the hilt and have had no problems with the buckle or the strap as others have mentioned. Anyone with some common sense should realize that you can’t stuff 40 pounds of gear into a 20 pound sack without experiencing problems.
In my opinion, this cooler is built for moderate recreational use; it's not built for rough handling. If you handle it carelessly, or stuff it with sharp cornered items there’s a possibility that it may tear. I don’t remember seeing the manufacturer claim that it wouldn't tear or break, and they do seem to stand behind their product.
What they did claim was that it would keep your drinks/food as cold as a hard-side cooler, and that it does that without question! I've strapped this on top of our kayaks in direct sunlight and had the majority of my ice left after spending all day on the river.
Another thing to keep in mind is that people will usually only take the time to post a review or comment if they’re unhappy. So, it’s probably safe to assume that for every negative comment posted that there are several customers who are more than happy with their Ice Mule and the niche this product fills. I know I am!
As two of the reviewers here point out, despite rigorous quality control, every once in a while a cooler with a defect ends up in the hands of a customer - and we hate it when that happens. So much, in fact, that we have never refused to replace any cooler that has an issue like the ones described here. We offer a 60 day guarantee, but we've even replaced coolers that are over a year old if they fail.
As for the cooling power of the IceMule, we've run extensive side by side tests over 12, 24, and 48 hours - the IceMule full of ice versus a traditional hard cooler full of ice - in every case the IceMule is within a degree of the hard cooler across all time frames.
I really appreciate all the feedback - keep it coming!
For some time, I wondered why I was not seeing an insulated dry bag – something I could easily fit in our sea kayak hatches or on/in the sit-on-tops – that would keep our food or fishing catch safely cold. It would have to be effective without letting contaminating water either in or out of the dry bag.
Our clunky ice chests were unrelenting in the space they took up – plus there were limits to how long the ice chests keep the food safely cold. And sloshing melted ice was always a threat. The cheap insulated bags, used with the plastic ice blocks, were virtually useless for any length of time and our food became spoiled on more than one occasion. Only a better-insulated, dry bag, with real seal-ability and its soft "edges" seemed like a best, but unattainable option for our paddling interests – until I discovered the IceMule through an online search.
At first, I was a little skeptical. The elegance and simplicity of the IceMule design was obvious, but nobody else had made the effort to combine the flexibility concepts of a double-wall dry bag design with insulation in a durable, easily-portable product. Would the IceMule work in the extreme temperature and environmental demands of kayaking? Their web site cited field testing, "in kayaks crossing choppy Atlantic waters, 100 degree days on Florida beaches & 10-mile hikes in the Rockies." Tempting.
I initially proposed the question on the Paddling.net forum, but given that others seemed to have no experience with this new product, I decided to test the IceMule myself. Living in the southeast US, I hoped to test it during the hottest summer days, but unseasonal periods of rain and cool weather delayed my efforts. Nevertheless, we finally got some warm days and a chance to take the IceMule on some trips that included packing an IceMule-protected lunch down part of a choppy North Carolina river.
My experiences with this product, so far, are completely consistent with the manufacturer’s claims. It is flexible, like other dry bags, and fits into the rear hatch of our Pygmy Arctic Terns; also either in the front hatch, or on the back deck of my Native Watercraft Manta Ray fishing kayak.
It is made of welded seamed, very heavy-duty vinyl, reinforced at the bottom and with a band at the enclosure lips, on which the carry strap is mounted. The color is an attractive, somewhat translucent blue, with black trim, and the insulation technology includes a combination of foam and air. The air is introduced by opening a valve, which causes automatic filling.
Does it work? Boy, you bet it does! The first time we used it, we put in a couple plastic ice-blocks from the freezer and had the IceMule out overnight, partly in the car and partly where we were staying. When we returned, I didn’t bother to take it out of the car, since the food was out of it. The next morning, I unloaded the car and thirty (30!) hours after we had sealed in the ice blocks, we discovered that they were still icy. Any food remaining would have been preserved. This kind of performance has been consistent in other uses. None of our other coolers perform like this.
Typical, square-cornered, clunky and leaky ice chests often require the (not-so-reliable) sealed plastic/chemical ice-blocks, to avoid the soakings caused by the sloshing that naturally comes with movement. After a half-day or so, the plastic blocks are no longer effective – and for the rest of the trip, they are useless baggage, unless the opportunity is presented for re-freezing them. However, with food in sealed containers, stored in a water-sealed insulated container, water-ice cubes are ideal. When they eventually melt, the water can be poured off and more ice can be added. If ice can be acquired enroute, think expedition storage! Unlike the clunky, unsealed ice chest-type coolers, the IceMule offers the advantage of sealing in real ice so there are no leaks. We have a number of ice chests, of various designs and sizes, but almost immediately the IceMule became the default choice for every cooler-required occasion.
It’s about more than performance, though. There’s something more appealing, safer and comfortable about moving about your chilled goods in that soft-edged backpack style.
But how well does it really seal? I filled the IceMule with about a gallon of water to simulate melted ice, following exactly the closure instructions that come with it, then turned it upside down and shook it vigorously. Initially, not one drop! With a more violent shaking: just a few drops. We just toss it in the back of the wagon, not too concerned whether it stays upright – same thing with the boats – but I wouldn’t fill it with ice/water and pack it upside down over my laptop. To get it right, the reinforced lips at the opening do require a little more attention in careful folding to close this insulated dry bag, but then, you’re good to go.
Without reservation, I recommend the IceMule to the paddling community... for that matter, to anybody interested in moving to a more refined, attractive and efficient technology to keep stuff safely and comfortable chilled – whether it be drinks, food, bait or fresh catch, you cannot go wrong with this leak-proof, stash-able product!
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