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Hands-on Gear Review
Engel Deep Blue Review
Cons: Uncomfortable handles, expensive
Bottom line: Good overall performance, but uncomfortable handles feel like a significant drawback
Capacity (quarts): 53
The Engel Deep Blue ticks all the boxes for a high-end cooler: durable, great insulation performance, roto-molded construction, and it even has a built-in bottle opener. However, its insulation performance in our testing was just about even with that of the RTIC 65, which lists for more than $100 less. If you're going to be paying list price we think the RTIC is probably both a better choice and a better value for most people.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Deep blue performed admirably in our insulation tests, maintaining safe food storage temperatures for 5 full days and holding ice for 6 days. In our testing it rose above 40˚F just slightly before the Yeti Tundra and Pelican Elite Cooler 70. This puts it in the close-knit group of runners up that fell to the wrath of our space heater about 24 hours before the top performing ORCA 58 Quart. These results put the Engel in the 'easily handles long weekends and provides the option of venturing out on some longer trips' category. Its performance earned it an 8 on our insulation test, putting in the upper end of high-end performers, and clearly separating from the traditional models, which all scored a 3 or a 4.
The Deep Blue was one of the top scorers in our durability testing. It has solid handles, hinges, and latches. In our research we found very few user reviews complaining of durability issues. In our slosh test not an ounce of water leaked from the cooler, indicating a high degree of structural integrity in the lid and seal. This commendable performance earned the Engel an 8 in our durability testing, sharing the top spot with the Pelican and ORCA. It also well outperforms the worst scorers in this category, the Rubbermaid.
Ease of Use
The Deep Blue was also a top scorer in our ease of use testing. Its extended handles thoughtfully stop just short of the drain plug, leaving it unobstructed. The tight lid seal tends to create a vacuum when draining, but a quick pop of the lid and it drains fairly well. We experienced just a little bit of collateral spraying when first opening the drain plug, and some minimal dripping to the underside of the cooler, but less than when draining the Yeti Tundra. The Engel's latches are a slightly different design. Hard plastic levers on the body fasten to small metal hooks on the lid, then pushing down on the levers clicks the lid into place. Those small metal hooks also double as emergency bottle openers. The lid faithfully stays open, even when vigorously rummaging around for that last IPA. These factors made the Engel one of our favorite models to use. It shares the top step of the podium in our ease of use testing with the Pelican and Igloo Yukon, all of which scored an 8. The worst performers in this metric scored a 5.
The Engel scored a 6 in our portability testing. In a metric that saw scores ranging from 4 to 7, this works out to be an average score. Our testers did not find the Engel's handles, which are hard plastic connected with rope, to be particularly comfortable. They felt the grooves on the handles, which are meant to be ergonomic, were oddly spaced and created some painful pinching when carrying a heavy load. The Engel's external dimensions are relatively small, making it a bit easier to pack than some larger models, like the Pelican.
The Deep Blue is the only model we tested the includes a built-in 'emergency' bottle opener. We were tempted to give it full marks in our features scoring for this fact alone, but we refrained. It also includes a slot for an internal divider, both extended and recessed handles, external latches, and pin style hinges. This feature set earned the Engel an average score of 5 in our features test, a metric that had score between 3 and 7.
The Deep Blue performed solidly in our tests, falling close to the front of the pack of models we tested, and its list price of $370 is about average for a high-end model. This gives it a decent value, but better insulation performance can be found in ORCA 58 Quart, which just saw a price drop down to $300. And, if you don't mind the bulkiness, the Pelican Elite 70 delivers just a hair better insulation performance and much more comfortable handles at a list price that is only $5 more. Additionally, the RTIC 65 offer basically just as much insulation performance, for $130 less.
The Deep Blue sits solidly towards the front of the pack of high-end coolers we tested, and is built to provide reliable performance for the long haul. Its slightly lower price point abates sticker shock a bit, but once you've settled on spending a significant amount on a cooler this may not be all that relevant. If you can find the Deep Blue on super sale it's a great buy, otherwise you may want to consider paying a bit more for the ORCA. Unless, of course, you feel the wow factor of a built in bottle opener is worth a small sacrifice in insulating performance. In that case get the Engel and imbibe to your heart's content.
— OutdoorGearLab Review Team
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