CAMPING - GEAR
The Ice Mule range of soft cooler bags and back packs rewrites the soft-cooler concept, we reckon.
We’ve had soft vinyl cooler bags over the years and they inevitably split around the inside seams and the zippers give up after a couple of months of regular use, but the Ice Mule range is built much tougher than traditional soft cooler bags.
Our test unit was a 20-litre bag that we used using mainly as a transit bag: getting shopping to our vehicle fridge and from the vehicle fridge to the boat fridge. We also used it as a picnic bag, where it kept food cool and away from flies for hours on end.
The makers say you can put fresh ice into the Ice Mule, but we find glycol-filled freezer bricks or bottles of frozen water much more user-friendly and you can drink the water after the ice has melted.
We tested the Ice Mule with six 600ml frozen water bottles in an ambient temperature of 20 degrees and found that the bottles were three-quarters ice and one quarter water after 24 hours.
After 36 hours, the bottles still contained about 50-percent solid ice and after 48 hours, about one-third to one quarter ice.
Ice Mules can float, because there’s a trapped air layer between their inner and outer skins. That air layer can be increased in volume by blowing in more air, through a valve in the bag.
With six 600ml bottles and a cold chook inside it our test Ice Mule floated quite happily.
The clip-on strap has proved strong enough to handle the bag’s normal loaded weight and it can be a simple shoulder strap, or an across-the chest strap.
We’ve also found the Ice Mule handy for stowing sensitive gear, such as laptops and cameras, when we’re transporting gear to the boat. The top section folds over and closes tightly, without the need for a troublesome zipper, making the clipped-up bag waterproof.
Unlike most soft coolers the Ice Mule can be rolled up without compromising its structure and it fits into a compact mesh bag when not being used.
The Ice Mule range includes two different back-pack-style bags that should suit hikers and fisher-folk.
Ice Mule stuff isn’t cheap – our test 20-litre bag was around $95 – but you get what you pay for.