Ice holding, super rugged outdoor coolers that you can stand on or throw in the back of a pickup, and even some that are wild animal proof have flooded the market in the last 24 months. The biggest drawback many of them have is not functionality but price. The Vibe Element is attempting to break down that barrier with their newest offering, the Element, at almost half the price of the main stream competitors. We’ll be checking out the 20 quart version. So how did it rate?
First and foremost, the price is much easier on the wallet. A 20 quart Element Cooler will run you about $150. It has a securable lid that has a metal reinforced plate to allow a padlock or cable lock to slip through to keep your buddies out of your brew. The handle is a rigid style with significant foam so when the weather gets warm and the handle heats up, you won’t burn yourself.
I was also impressed with the ice retention. After five days of limited opening and closing, the Vibe Element had nearly two pounds of the 10 pounds of ice still formed. What about the water? That is able to be drained off via two different plugs. The smaller plug sits inside the bigger one so you can control the outflow of water. It is also secured by a chain to make sure it doesn’t get lost.
The texture on the top of the cooler is nice if you are going to use it as a standing platform in a kayak or on a SUP. It isn’t slick like many other coolers I’ve tried. It should be noted that a cooler bigger than a 20 is usually a better standing platform for most folks.
The little red button is cool. It won’t launch any missiles but it will give you access to your snacks when the cold of the cooler interior and the heat of the summer decide to vapor lock it down. The little red button is a pressure relief button. It would also work if you are traveling with your cooler on an airplane or in large altitude changes. It’s a nice touch.
Points of Improvement
Back to the top of the cooler, I’m not super keen on cup holders (or can holders) built into the top of a cooler, especially a dual purpose one. It takes away surface area to stand and I can’t remember the last time I actually set a can in a molded cooler top. The top also has a fish ruler that seems to cheapen the look of it to me. $30 coolers from a superstore have fish rulers too and maybe that’s why it strikes me as cheap.
The chain connection to the drain plug attaches to a piece of plastic. Over time I can see that breaking loose or getting knocked off when in the back of the truck. I’d like to see that reinforced with an aluminum tang or more durable connection point.
The drain also sticks out a bit which means it won’t sit horizontal in the backs of some kayaks. It worked in the Diablo Adios but didn’t work in the Vibe Sea Ghost 130 without turning it 90 degrees.
If you are looking for an alternative, rugged cooler that won’t cost you three bills but still acts like it should cost that, the Vibe Element is definitely worth a look. It comes in a 20 quart size at $160, a 45 quart size at $200 and a 75 quart for $280. They have a pre-order sale going on right now that will get you $10 off any of these coolers and a free hat as well.
As far as functionality, it has some cool features that the market has previously charged a lot more for. Ice retention is good, it has rugged construction and some situational bonuses (little red button). Definitely give this cooler a look.