Why This Ice-Free, Recyclable Aluminum Cooler Is My New Road Trip Companion

Plus how it performed during an 8-hour road trip.

I’m far from the fishing trip-obsessing type like the perpetually frazzled father in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids but as someone who enjoys cookouts as much as the next person, I've had enough run-ins with coolers to develop strong opinions. From reaching over the car seat to fish out cold cuts and sodas from beneath a layer of ice to watching my mom pull homemade lunches from a cooler in the Six Flags parking lot because she wouldn’t buy the sky-high amusement park food for three kids, I’ve seen every possible way a cooler can be terrible. The strain of using these containers to safely transport food or keep it cold can be quite frustrating, whether it’s the awful design or the need to tussle with ice before you can even pack it. Fortunately, neither of these issues surfaced when I recently tested the The Tempo Cooler by Oyster.

If you’re okay with slamming bags of ice against a curb to break it up and put in your cooler of choice, then the Oyster and its $500 price tag may not necessarily appeal to you. But upon searching for alternatives, this number feels a bit more justifiable once you consider the fact that the Oyster doesn’t require ice at all. This is not a drill: The cooler doesn’t need your ice so there’s no need to delay the function for a last-minute gas station run. This lovely feature also allows for more storage space, plus there’s a generous return policy (the company will fix any broken parts or make an entirely new one if it gets "mauled by a bear"), and it’s recyclable–just send your old one back to the people when it’s done and pat yourself on the back for being good to the earth.

The tool-free assembly process

Prepping the Oyster for use was relatively straightforward. It took me about 10 minutes to securely attach the single carrying arm and the orange shoulder strap to the cooler. Afterwards, I placed the two included pre-filled ice packs in the freezer for the recommended overnight stay. The only thing left to do was add them to the cooler along with the contents, close the lid, and let the cooler do its thing.

A sustainable exterior

The Oyster’s exterior is as cool as it keeps its contents. Made of a matte aluminum, it’s not exactly immune to scrapes and scratches, although mine has remained like new for the three months I’ve owned and used it. There’s also the orange shoulder strap, that reminds you of the fact that you might be too cool for an ordinary cooler. If you’re in a tight spot, opening the cooler isn’t an issue as you can remove the lid on either side with the simple push of a button.

How cool is it?

The first time I used the Oyster was on a nearly 8-hour road trip. I placed the two ice packs in the freezer overnight then dropped them in the bottom of the cooler. The company says the cooler can hold up to 36 cans but for my first run, I stacked six or so 12-oz soda cans along with eight 16.9-oz bottles of water on top, along with a few perishable snacks. Not only did they fit easily, but they remained ice cold throughout the trip. I was pleasantly surprised to find the remaining bottles still freezing cold by the time I reached my destination. To test its limits (and because I was too tired and lazy to empty the cooler after driving all day) I left the packs and contents in place overnight. They were still cool (not ice cold) when I retrieved them mid-afternoon the next day.

How it handles and carries

Overall, I enjoy using (and showing off) the Oyster. Since my solo road trips, I place the cooler on the floor of the passenger seat of my car and am able to pop open the lid with little to no hassle. My only gripe is about the shoulder strap. The glowing orange hue? Amazing. The lack of shoulder padding? Not so much. It can get to be a bit heavy (specifically when it’s full) so a little support between the strap fabric would be helpful. While testing this cooler hasn’t quite converted me to a full-time camper, it’s convenient and easy enough to use that it will be a constant companion on my future road trips.

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