Many years ago, I got my hands on my first 5-day cooler and I thought I was pretty, well, cool. Now, premium coolers are all over the place with ice retention and prices we never dreamed of. While most people think of Yeti when you mention “premium coolers”, there are other players with real innovation in this class. The Orion 65 cooler is one of them.
So what makes a premium cooler so premium?
When you move into coolers that start at $150 for the smallest and move up from there, you expect extra benefits. Coolers like the Orion 65 get their reputation from ridiculously long ice retention – multiple days during the summer heat and over a week in the spring and fall. That comes from a hard shell housing with plenty of space for insulation. The material of choice is polyurethane foam in most. It can be injected as a liquid and spreads as it cools to create inches of phenomenal insulation. No matter where you look, Orion provides at least 2 inches of insulation in every direction.
All premium coolers will have a rubber gasket around the lid and the best will create a deep, solid seal. Just like on your refrigerator or freezer, that gasket keeps cold air from escaping and warm air from entering. Orion does this well.
So How Long Does the Orion 65 Cooler Hold Ice?
The Orion 65 cooler doesn’t put a specific claim on their ice retention, which is a pretty smart call. Too many variables exist that affect how long it will last and it means guys like me get to test it out. So I put 40 pounds of ice and 36 bottles of water in and checked it once a day (roughly a 2:1 ice to beverage ratio). The result?
Ice lasted 3-1/2 days in the Orion 65 sitting in the shade on my back porch with temps reaching 90 each day. Sorry, I’m not about to leave a $500 cooler out in the open sun where someone can snag it. By the end of the fourth day, the temperature was up to a little over 40 degrees, and all the ice was gone. Granted, I filled the cooler based on a ratio and left several inches of space that would have fit another 10 – 15 pounds of ice.
If you’re going to shell out several Benjamins for a cooler, it darn well better be durable! Most premium coolers will have a hard shell capable of holding several hundred pounds on top of it. In fact, you’ll see many flats boats forgo the front casting platform in favor of a cooler like the Orion 35 or 45.
The rigidity and space around the hard shell have a lot to do with the cooler’s ability to support so much weight. It also boils down to rotomolding – another feature you should demand on a premium cooler. Rotomolding is a process used by kayak manufacturers to produce a boat with no seams and it’s moved into the cooler sector. No seams mean there’s no inherent weak link to break down.
If you’re in doubt about Orion’s ability to rotomold, now is probably a good time to tell you that Orion is the cooler brand from manufacturer Jackson Kayaks. If you haven’t heard of them, troll around the kayak forums a while and you’ll see they enjoy a very positive reputation, particularly among kayak fishermen.
Premium coolers are more than just lockable, they’re certified bear-proof. This certification offers confidence that even a grizzly bear can’t get into a properly locked cooler. And a motivated bear is going to be pretty tough on a cooler as he tries to get into the salmon you caught earlier that day. The downside is that you’ll need a longer lock rather than your standard padlock for an Orion cooler. The bottle holders necessitate a longer shackle.
So How Durable is it?
Again, Orion doesn’t make a claim as to how much weight it will support, but I can stand on it just fine and fit a friend or two beside me with no problem. We’re not lightweights, so I’m confident it will hold at least 500 pounds.
Once you get beyond ice retention and durability, the rest is just icing on the cake – and there’s some awfully sweet icing to get your hands on! We’ll start with the standard premium cooler features.
Dry Food Tray
There should be a tray that fits over the ice. After all, who likes a soggy sandwich during a slow day on the water?
Orion’s tray is pretty basic with its ABS plastic material. However, a drain hole gives your sandwich a fighting chance to stay dry if water gets in there. Some coolers use a wire basket instead, which allows small items to fall through.
Every cooler needs a drain plug, but the design of the drain plug can be an Achilles heel. Orion uses a plug that drains without fully unscrewing it. That’s helpful, but it can still be taken all the way out. This isn’t a huge point of contention, but I like my drain plug to stay attached so it doesn’t get lost. Fortunately, replacements are just $3.20 on the Orion website. Why not pick up a couple of spares when you order just in case?
Most premium coolers have nylon rope cords with a rubber handle of some sort. They also have a recess below the lid where your fingers can fit if you need to change the carry position. Orion is no different, using motorcycle-style handles that feel vaguely familiar somehow…
The handles get your knuckles above the lid so they’re not banging as you carry the load. The cooler weighs 36 pounds on it own, plus whatever food, drink, and ice you’ve got.
Like you expect at this level, the are no standard hinges screwed onto the cooler. The top and main housing are molded around a rod to create a single point of contact for the top to pivot against.
Most coolers in this category use a rubberized latch that pulls down and sets in place to lock. Orion takes things a step further with a camming latch system. The metal ends set under the latch point and hinge down to create a solid mechanical lock, requiring a small amount of effort for the resulting security. The latches are also set in so they won’t snag on things – an especially helpful feature when fly fishing.
With the ability to use your cooler to stand on, sit on, or even use as a casting platform, it’s gotta stay put. Orion’s no-slip feet do a fine job of keeping the cooler where you set it on wet boats and other surfaces that can get slick.
Each of the four corners and the rail system give you a total of six tie-down points.
Where Orion Breaks Away from the Pack
These coolers are made to stand on and Orion says they don’t think you should have to pay extra for a standing pad to make it a more comfortable platform. Barefoot fly fishermen on flats boats are sure to rejoice over that decision!
Realistically, the pad will eventually deteriorate and you can get replacements from Orion when that happens. As it is, I’m grateful for its inclusion.
A model 65 cooler holds 65 quarts, right?
Of course. Except when it doesn’t. One of the Orion 65 standout features is that it holds true to what the size says it does. Well, sort of. The Orion 65 actually holds 65.98 quarts – so you get more space than the label tells you.
No matter where you’re sitting, you’re within reach of a bottle opener. Each of the four corner mounts has one.
Of all the additional features on the Orion 65 and the rest of the lineup, one of the most popular is the Yakattack Track system. This allows the addition of several attachments – some common sense and others pretty dang innovative. And since it’s from Yakattack, you can use your imagination with other accessories that aren’t necessarily specifically listed on the Orion site.
- Seatback to create a cooler chair
- Smartphone mount
- Tumbler holders
- Drink holders
- Retractable leash
- Other Yakattack compatible accessories
The Bottom Line
The Orion 65 cooler has the durability and feature set to make a legitimate claim in the premium cooler sector. It sets itself apart from the pack by including a standing pad, bottle openers, Yakattack track system, and actually holding a true 65 quarts (actually, just a bit more). Where some users will take exception is that ice retention isn’t as long as some of the top models and, of course, the price. When you look at what you get and compare it to the other premium coolers on the market, the price is actually pretty competitive.
Since these are made by Jackson Kayaks, you can have confidence that the Orion Cooler line enjoys the same kind of attention to detail and durability as their kayaks. You also have the option of the same kind of coloration as the kayaks. Plus, you get some integration specifically designed around their kayaks with the smaller cooler models. And if you need another reason to take a look for yourself, they’re Made in the USA.
Orion 65 Cooler Specifications
- Capacity: 65.98 quarts
- Weight: 36 pounds
- Price: $499
- Warranty: 10 years