It isn't often that folks get burned by a cooler, but it happened in 2014 when crowdfunded its way to more than $13 million in preorders from over 60,000 backers. With a high-end design and unique features like a built-in blender and Bluetooth speaker, the $500 cooler was crowdfunding's ultimate summer romance.
Then, things turned cold -- and not in the good way.
First came the delays.. By early 2016, only a third of backers had received their cooler, and the Coolest team was seeking outside investors to help them finish the job. At one point they even asked backers if they'd be willing in order to help finish production and guarantee their cooler came in time for summer. Some people rightfully wondered where that $13 million went, and others threatened the company with a class-action lawsuit.
Even today, with the Coolest Cooler available at select retails outlets, some backers in the comments section of the Kickstarter page that started it all say that they still haven't gotten what they paid for -- or a refund, for that matter.
All of which is a long-winded preamble to help put the newest cooler to hit the crowdfunding scene into context. It's called the Infinite Cooler, and like the Coolest Cooler that came before, it promises to be the Swiss army knife of camping trips and backyard barbecues. There's a blender attachment and a built-in Bluetooth speaker, sure, but also an integrated bug light, a wireless phone charging cradle, color-changing LED lights and, for some reason I can't quite fathom, a built-in HD camera and touchscreen controls. The Infinite Cooler website even touts a "social media-connected app." You know, for a cooler.
In spite of all of that tech, the Infinite team tells me that the cooler is designed for outdoor use, and carries an ingress protection (IP) rating of IP56, which means that it's rated to withstand jets of water with no harmful effect. In layman's terms, you won't want to dunk it in your pool, but it'll hold up to the rain. As for power, the cooler includes a built-in, rechargeable 20,000-mAh battery, plus a separate rechargeable battery in the blender.
All of those bells and whistles add up to a whopping suggested retail price of $599, but early-bird Indiegogo backers who plunk down their cash during the campaign's first 30 days can reserve one for a pledge of $229, plus an extra $50 for shipping.
The question is will they? After all, it's hard to imagine that anyone inclined to preorder an expensive, gimmicky cooler on a crowdfunding site didn't do so already back in 2014. With a good number of those folks still understandably pissed, and with years of bad press for the Coolest Cooler likely souring many more on the idea of crowdfunded coolers to begin with, is there even a market for this thing?
(This is also the part where I re-emphasize that crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are not stores, and that there's never a true guarantee that a fully funded campaign will deliver what it promises in a timely fashion, or at all. Caveat emptor, cooler shoppers.)
For what it's worth, the Infinite Cooler team seems very much aware of the uphill battle they might be facing. The cooler's press release promises "to deliver a phenomenal product to backers within a reasonable timeframe" and cites co-founders Todd E. Maddox and Leo Wang's combined 22 years in production engineering and manufacturing support in both the outdoor goods and electronics sectors. Subject line on the email pitch: "Well-Designed Smart Cooler That Will Actually Be Delivered."
Specifically, those deliveries are slated to start at the end of 2018, with early-bird backers receiving their coolers first and the rest of the coolers going out the following April. The campaign is also promising to provide regular updates along the way, as well as full transparency into the manufacturing process.
"[We] are absolutely committed to delivering to backers before any retail or the rest of the public have access to the product," an Infinite Cooler spokesperson adds.
"[We] are very aware of the problems past campaigns have had with this and do not want to repeat that."
As for the cooler itself, it boasts a 61-quart capacity that's split down the middle into two sections to help you keep things organized, or to keep ingredients that need to stay dry separate from the ice. The lid (which doubles as a cutting board and includes a number of built-in drink holders) is similarly split down the middle, with the two halves opening like French doors. That's an interesting approach, though I question if the extra seam down the center might compromise the cooling performance to a degree. The lid's seam lands over the divider and not over empty space, so perhaps that split interior helps to mitigate things.
Infinite says that it developed a special "nanopowder" insulation material that gives its cooler improved thermal conductivity and makes it much better than standard plastic at keeping the cold in. The company promises ice retention of up to 12 days.
That claim would put the Infinite Cooler on par with well-reviewed coolers from names like rotational molding, rotomolding is a simple manufacturing trick that spins the mold as the plastic is poured in. The result: Plastic that's sturdier, more uniform in density and, , generally significantly better at holding cold temperatures.and that cost hundreds of dollars -- but high-end options like those are typically built out of rotomolded plastic, and the Infinite Cooler isn't. Short for
Still, rotomolding isn't mandatory for strong performance -- I found nonrotomolded coolers can outperform expectations, too, as we saw with theand coolers. Time, and perhaps some fresh tests, will tell whether or not Infinite's nonrotomolded design can follow suit.
The Infinite Cooler's Indiegogo campaign is live as of Tuesday morning, and if you're considering pledging your support, you have 30 days to think about it before that early-bird pricing expires.
For more, check out ouryou can buy this summer.
Originally published on July 31 at 9 a.m. ET.
Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET: We have corrected the early-bird price. The cooler is listed at $229, not $199.