Best Passive Cool Box and Bags

Any links to online stores should be assumed to be affiliates. The company or PR agency provides all or most review samples. They have no control over my content, and I provide my honest opinion.

I don’t really go camping or have picnics, but recently my mother bought a canal boat, and her little fridge is far too small to keep all my beer cold. So I bought a cool bag from Amazon, hoping it would perform well enough that I don’t have to drink warm beer.

It worked brilliantly, and I now use it all the time, and I wonder why I haven’t bought one in the past. It works perfectly for any time you go to someone’s house with beer for a BBQ or party. I am always taking over people’s fridges, taking out a cold beer and replacing it with a less cold beer. Quite often, I have to resort to a short blast in a freezer. My cool bag avoids all this faff and frees up space for other people.

With the UK weather finally improving, many of us will be enjoying BBQs and picnics over the next couple of weeks, and I strongly recommend investing in a good quality cool box or bag.

Passive vs Electic Active Cool Boxes

Active cool box

I spent far too long obsessing if I should buy a normal passive insulated cooling box or invest in a much more expensive box that has active cooling.

An active cool box requires electricity to work and typically uses a thermoelectric Peltier cooler to work. These are typically powered by 12V and use the lighter socket in your car.

Thermoelectric coolers work by transferring heat between two electrical junctions. Voltage is applied across joined conductors to create an electric current. When the current flows through the junctions of the two conductors, heat is removed at one junction, and cooling occurs. Heat is deposited at the other junction.

The performance of these coolers is generally quite poor, but it is good enough to keep you food and drinks chilled for an extended period of time.

Pricing and quality range significantly. Amazon has 22L options for under £50.

There are also so some more advanced options, which have a compressor cooler and can run on 12/24V DC; these can cost several hundred.

Models with a compressor cooler work like a normal fridge, and the performance will be similar to a fridge, being able to easily cool down to 1-2°C, but the power consumption will be higher.

Cool Box vs Cool Bag

Lifewit 30L

The other big question is if you should get a hard box or a bag. I ended up getting a bag because I didn’t think I would use it that much, and I wanted something that could be compacted down for easier storage.

A cool bag will typically have a foil layer, and in between the layers, some kind of flexible foam.

A cool box is obviously ridged, so it is better at protecting the things inside, avoiding squashed sandwiches. They are bigger and heavier, but a good quality box should, in theory, have slightly better insulation than a comparable bag.

Keeping a passive cool box or bag cold

Your cold food and drinks will be insulated and stay naturally cold for a reasonable amount of time, but if you want to keep things cold for an extended period, you will need to add some sort of ice or ice pack.

I bought some flat ice packs for my back, and I normally use these as a layer on the base of the bag, with my beer on top. However, they are not very cheap, so on a long day, I also use a bag of party ice.

Cool boxes and bags should be leak-proof, just make sure you check this before you use a big bag of ice.

With the combination of a reusable ice block and a bag of party ice, I woke up the following day to find that my leftover beer was still cold, and there were still a few bits of ice left in the bag.

The Best Passive Cool Box & Bags for Summer 2022

Lifewit 30L (50-Can) Soft Cooler Bag

This is the bag I bought, so I can personally vouch for it. After spending so long trying to decide what to get, I thought I had best not spend too much money and went with the best-reviewed reasonably priced bag. I was not disappointed.

It comes in three sizes, 20L, 30L, and 40L. The 30L option had enough room for more than enough beer for me and likely enough for a few people.  

Thermos Radiance Cooler

Thermos 148864 Radiance Cooler, Navy, 24 Can/16 L Thermos 148864 Radiance Cooler, Navy, 24 Can/16 L No ratings yet £28.18Amazon Prime

Not as large as the Lifewit, but it is made by Thermos, which are one of the most reputable brands in the business. The Amazon reviews confirm it is a superb bag.

PENGDA 30L Cooler Backpack Rucksack

If you are going for a hike, or just walking a reasonable distance, then a backpack-style cooler may be a more convenient solution. This is a 30L backpack, and they claim it can hold 39 cans.

One reviewer said this worked well at Glastonbury, with the ice keeping for around 7 hours and then beer staying cold for a few more hours after this.

Coleman Xtreme Cooler

The Coleman Xtreme range of coolers appears to be the best-reviewed cool boxes on the market. The performance ranges depending on which model you choose.

At the top end, you have the 70QT, 80Qt and 100QT Xtreme, which claim 5 days worth of ice retention. Even the smaller, more affordable 28QT Xtreme has 3 days worth of ice retention.

Thermos Cool Box

Thermos Cool Box - 32 L, Sky Blue Thermos Cool Box - 32 L, Sky Blue No ratings yet £58.99

Again, it’s Thermos, so it should be good. Though it is worth noting a few people have criticised the build quality, so I’d recommend the Coleman options over this.

This comes in two sizes, either 28l or 32l.

Last update on 2024-06-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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