With strong performance and a high-quality build, the Lifetime High Performance Cooler is an excellent alternative to rotomolded coolers that cost hundreds more.
You'll find lots of fancy, expensive, "rotomolded" options if you're shopping for a new cooler. All of them promise notably better durability and insulation than their cheaper competitors, but they typically cost at least a few hundred dollars.
Another option: Spend a lot less on the Lifetime High Performance Cooler. I grabbed mine on sale at Walmart for $97. With dual latch locks, roped handles and a heavy duty design, it looks just like fancier coolers from the likes of Yeti and Orca, but it costs a lot less. It even has a built-in bottle opener, which seems like the sort of no-brainer feature every cooler should include.
Of course, the real question is whether or not it can perform as well as those pricier upgrade picks. After testing the thing out, I'm happy to report that it does, indeed, do a pretty decent job. It couldn't hold the cold as long as the Yeti Tundra 45 or the 58-quart Orca Classic Cooler, but it did manage to outlast the Bison Gen 2 Cooler and the Rovr Rollr 60, two rotomolded models that cost $329 and $399, respectively.
That's an excellent result that ties it with the Igloo MaxCold as the best performing, nonrotomolded cooler that I tested. The MaxCold is the better bargain of the two at just $45, but it's a very plain design that looks and feels cheaper than the performance would indicate. If you want to step up from there to a model that does a better job at looking the part, but you aren't prepared to dish out a few hundred bucks of your cold, hard cash for a Yeti or an Orca, then consider Lifetime as an excellent middle-ground pick.
Let's start by taking a closer look at those performance claims I just made. The graph above charts the ambient temperatures inside each cooler I tested over 48 hours in our 70-degree, climate-controlled test lab. Inside each cooler: A measly 3 pounds of ice -- not even half of a small-sized bag from the gas station. My goal? Give each cooler a challenge to see which ones can actually deliver in suboptimal circumstances. (They'll all give you at least a day's worth of cold drinks with a full bag of ice.)
Yeti and Orca's coolers were the two top performers in this test, which wasn't too surprising given the thick, rotomolded insulation of each one. The real surprises were Lifetime and the Igloo MaxCold, which finished in a virtual tie for third place, easily besting all of the other coolers that you can get for $100 or less, and holding its own against the rotomolded Bison and Rovr coolers, too.
Both Lifetime and the Igloo MaxCold managed to pull their internal temperatures down by almost 25 degrees, which is excellent, and both were able to hold the cold long enough to make it through a backyard barbecue (and again, that's with a small, suboptimal quantity of ice). All that really separates the two are value and design -- the MaxCold is the better bargain, but Lifetime's design and build quality are a lot better.
Along with the inclusion of dual-locking lid latches, roped handles and a built-in bottle opener, a big part of that superior design is a more sizable interior. The two are listed pretty close, with Igloo at 50 quarts and Lifetime at 55 quarts, but the gap widened once I put those numbers to the test by filling each one with water to see how much they could actually hold before the lid wouldn't close without overflowing. Igloo came in at 46.5 quarts, but Lifetime went above and beyond, holding a very impressive 62.4 quarts.
The extra size inside also means that Lifetime had a tougher job on its hands than Igloo during that ice retention test. I still give the edge to Igloo for costing half as much, but it makes a strong result for Lifetime even stronger in context.
All of that puts Lifetime right in the sweet spot -- not too expensive, not too cheap, and just right as far as performance is concerned. The Igloo MaxCold is the better value if you just want something cheap and dependable, and you could justify splurging on the Yeti Tundra 45 or the Orca Classic if you're willing to spend for top-notch performance, but if you'd rather stick to the middle ground between those two extremes, then the Lifetime High Performance Cooler is your best bet.