Bison Cooler: The Lowdown on Staying Chill
Brandon F. Updated the 7th of November, 2022
Bison Coolers, which are made in the USA, aim to compete in the premium cooler market by offering a product that is both well-made and easy to use. Hard-sided coolers, SoftPak coolers, drinkware, and even hard cases are all part of their surprisingly extensive product catalog.
In this evaluation, we will be focusing on their coolers, both hard-sided and soft-sided.
White 50-Quart Cooler by Bison | 100% American-Made
American-Made Blue Bison Coolers 24-Can Soft-Sided Insulated Cooler Bag
The Lifespan of Tested Ice
White 50-Quart Cooler by Bison | 100% American-Made
Tested Lifespan of Ice
Soft-sided insulated cooler bag by Bison Coolers; holds 24 cans; made in the USA
Radius of Life Expectancy Testing Conducted on Ice
The Cooler Bison Lineup
Bison Rigid Icing Trays
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There isn't a huge selection of sizes, but there's still enough variety to accommodate most shoppers. Bison provides 25-, 50-, 75-, and 125-quart hard-sided coolers. The 125-quart model is the only one with more than two latches, but the design philosophy is the same for all sizes. On numerous occasions, we've noticed that the larger cooler sizes featured an extra latch.
Bison insulating coolers
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Bison soft-sided coolers have an even more limited selection. Bison's soft coolers are known as "SoftPak Cooler Bags," and they come in 12-can and 24-can capacities. These are roughly 18 and 32 liters in the metric system. Again, there isn't a huge selection of sizes to choose from, but what there is covers what we've found to be the most popular needs of our customers.
Bison Provide Longer-Lasting Insulation/Ice
Bison expects their second-generation ice-holding machine to be highly competitive thanks to the insights gained from their first-generation design and some helpful new updates.
The ice life posted on a new cooler brand's website is one of the first things we look for. Manufacturers of coolers are notorious for greatly exaggerating the amount of time their ice will last, as we have pointed out in numerous other reviews on this site. We're not implying that these businesses are intentionally misleading consumers, but the way they test their products rarely reflects how they'll be used in the real world.
Your cooler won't be protected from the scorching summer sun, will be opened frequently, and won't contain nothing but ice in the real world. As a result, you can expect your actual outcomes to fall short of your "best case" projections at all times.
It was nice to see that Bison wasn't just making empty promises. They claim that their hard-sided coolers keep ice for over a week, while their SoftPak Cooler Bags keep it frozen for only about that long.
Before we show you the results of our ice tests, we'd like to go over some of the features that make Bison Coolers so effective.
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Roto-molded walls provide an essential barrier between the cold air inside the cooler and the hot air outside, making them an absolute necessity for any high-end cooler that aspires to compete. Bison claims that the walls of their second-generation hard-sided coolers are 2 inches thick.
Our experiments show that these assertions are spot on. Two inches of thickness is on the thin side when compared to competing products. Commonly, we expect to see 2 walls as thin as 3 inches and as thick as 5 inches The heavier weight and possibly diminished storage capacity are inevitable results of these thicker walls.
Shark Fin" Double-Wall Gasket
Bison's thick gasket design is freezer-grade, and its name is just as clever. However, don't be fooled by the fancy name; this gasket design is already standard in the vast majority of high-end coolers on the market. The thick embedded grooves on the coolers' lids, which resemble shark fins, create a fantastic seal, and provide a satisfying rubber squeeze.
Improved Rubber Locking Mechanism
Bison Coolers have a unique latch design that sets them apart from the competition. Bison uses a cantilever design, which is stronger than the standard T-latch and provides a better closing force, which aids in squeezing the gaskets. Below, we'll go into more depth about the latch design, but for now, just know that it improves ice life in some significant ways.
So, how about those SoftPaks
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Most people don't think of soft-sided coolers as viable options for keeping ice for an extended period of time. Bison's SoftPak Cooler Bags are an attempt to rectify this. A very sturdy vinyl exterior is included in both sizes. Although this shell doesn't have much of an effect on ice retention on its own, the supplementary Including an extra 75" of insulation most certainly
Compared to other soft-sided coolers, this one has twice the insulation. Depending on the temperature, Bison claims that ice will last for about 24 hours in temperatures as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This soft cooler's ice life isn't as long as what you'd get from a hard cooler, but it's sufficient for many uses.
The Effects of Colder Ice on Bison
The ice-life results have finally arrived.
There is a lot of room for error when estimating ice life, as we point out in all of our ice life tests. Countless variables come into play, such as the cooler's location, contents, frequency of openings, amount of ice, and more. This is why you should only use our findings as a rough estimate. That's also why we give the numbers some breathing room.
In the normal course of testing, we will pack an ice chest to about three-quarters capacity with ice. The following step is to expose the cooler to the Texas spring heat by leaving it outside and opening the lid for a few seconds every half an hour. We think this accurately portrays how a cooler is used in the real world. Take into account the fact that your application will likely differ significantly from this one when evaluating the data below.
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The specific outcomes for Bison Hard-Sided Coolers were as displayed above:
Forty to sixty hours on a 25-quart bison
60–85 hours on a 50 quart bison
80-125 hours on a bison 75 quart
From 125 to 180 hours for a bison 125 quart
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Here's how things turned out for the Bison soft-sided coolers:
12-16 hours for Bison 12 Can SoftPak
SoftPak Bison 24 Cans, 16-24 Hours
After reviewing the data, my first thought was about how truthful and accurate Bison was in the ice life claims they made on their website. The stated results were nearly identical to our actual ones.
The ice in their hard-sided coolers, they said, stayed frozen for about seven days. The 125-quart model yielded results of roughly 7 days. As with the hard-sided coolers, we found that their 24-hour claim was largely consistent with our observations.
When compared to the other premium coolers on the market, these results were about par or slightly below par. You can find a wide variety of hard-sided coolers that keep ice just as long, if not longer. Additionally, while the insulation thickness of their soft-sided coolers is double that of the industry standard, RTIC and Yeti Cooler Bags still outperformed them.
We can only conjecture as to what led to a minor decline in ice-dwelling life. We do not believe that there was a problem with the gasket and latch relationship of the hard-sided coolers. However, many other brands now boast 2" thick rotomolded walls, making these seem a little on the thin side. A wall thickness of 5 inches
The performance of the soft-sided SoftPaks was aided by their thick insulation, but the coolers' zippers and general shapes were likely not optimized. Yeti and RTIC use particularly thick zippers that "squeeze" the walls together to create a seal. The cooler's general slimness and narrowness also minimize the amount of wall space next to the zipper that is exposed.
However, don't take this as evidence that these coolers have a short ice retention time. In contrast They performed admirably and their ice retention capabilities should be more than adequate for the vast majority of situations. We are just comparing them to other premium brands on the market, and we find that they are, at best, average.
Bison, Hardier and Cooler
Both the hard-sided and soft-sided models made by Bison Cooler have many of the qualities we look for in a durable and long-lasting cooler.
Bison hard-sided coolers feature roto-molded construction, as we've already established; this is the standard for all high-end coolers. The thick, one-piece construction ensures that there are no weak points, as are sometimes found in coolers that are made of multiple pieces.
Similarly impressive is the latching mechanism. Bison Coolers, like its rivals, uses a thick rubber component, but unlike its rivals, it has opted for a cantilever design rather than a T-latch. This not only increases the contact areas on the latches (which reduces the stress on the latches) but also makes opening and closing the latches much simpler.
It's also worth noting that all Bison hard-sided coolers come with a whopping 5-year warranty. This is significant evidence that Bison believes in the quality of their products, as it is one of the longest warranties available. Bison SoftPak cooler bags come with a 2-year warranty, which is respectable for its category.
Finally, all Bison items are proudly produced in the USA. We've seen imported coolers with impressive construction, but the fit, finish, and overall quality of American-made products always seemed to be higher.
Bison also has some surprises up its sleeve when it comes to the SoftPaks.
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Bison boasts that, like their hard-sided coolers, their vinyl soft-sided coolers are the only ones made in the USA. The exterior of SoftPaks is a very sturdy heavy-duty 1000 denier vinyl shell, so their construction is reliable. This exterior can withstand a tear load of up to 375 pounds and is treated with a film that blocks UV light to prevent bleaching.
Bison Cooler Specifications
Bison Coolers don't have as many bells and whistles as some other high-end cooler brands, but there are a few notable exceptions. Their second-generation products already have many of the new features. Although we haven't had much hands-on time with their first-generation products, we can tell that they were very barebones in terms of design and features, so we're relieved to see that Bison has introduced some improvements.
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The excellent rubber gasket and the cantilever latches have already been mentioned. Full-length self-stopping hinges, oversized anti-skid rubber feet, a locking lid with an integrated ruler, and an increased drain plug system (with dual drains on the 125-quart model) are also included.
The cooler's portability is ensured by the inclusion of both rubberized side rope handles and cavities in the plastic's molding for a secure grip when hauling it.
The Bison SoftPaks are extremely adaptable because they come with side pockets for dry items and MOLLE webbing for attaching specialized equipment. Overhead carrying handle and detachable shoulder strap are sewn in for convenience. Use this on your next camping or fishing trip to hang up your gear.
There aren't many other features besides these, though. Additional features like cup holders, wheels, pressure relief valves, bottle openers, etc. would be greatly appreciated.
Bison Have a Slicker Appearance
Smaller cooler manufacturers often disappoint by offering only a few basic color and personalization options. Bison has had this issue for a long time, but it has greatly improved with the release of their Gen 2 models.
They have five color options for their hard-sided coolers and four for their SoftPak Cooler Bags, which is about par for the course.
There are a variety of colors and designs available for the hard-sided coolers.
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You can choose from four different colors of Bison SoftPak Cooler Bags: black, blue, pink, and sand.
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While the available hues may not be particularly novel, Bison's extensive personalization options set it apart from the pack. Custom lid graphics on their hard-sided coolers, embroidery on their SoftPaks, laser engraving on their drinkware, and screen printing on other items are all part of the program they've implemented.
People who want to stand out from the crowd with a custom cooler can do so by having their company logo or a unique design placed on the cooler's lid through Bison Coolers.
However, the available modifications are restricted to that As far as we can tell, a two-tone or custom-colored cooler that includes both the lid and body is not an option. Although there are many commercially available cooler wrap brands that can assist you, we find it more convenient to have this capability in-house.
In terms of design, the coolers have a minimalist aesthetic that sets them apart from the crowd of high-end alternatives. Because of its sleek "x" design on the exterior, vintage latches, and the Bison logo embedded in the lid's interior. Because of how accustomed we are to the standard T latch arrangement, the latches themselves serve to subvert expectations.
When compared to Yeti and RTIC, SoftPaks look and feel most like AO and Polar Bear coolers. The former has better aesthetics, but its decreased efficiency makes it our top choice. However, Bison SoftPak Cooler Bags don't have a lot of distinguishing visual characteristics beyond their basic form and color options.
Cost of Bison Coolers
Bison's prices are obviously size dependent, but their hard-sided coolers are typically priced at the high end of the market. The prices have been viewed as falling somewhere between those of lower premium brands like RTIC and Engel, and those of higher brands like Yeti and Orca.
When compared to the soft-sided coolers offered by Yeti and RTIC, the asking prices for their SoftPaks are closer to those of Ao and Polar Bear. This makes sense, as Bison SoftPak Cooler Bags are more in line with Ao and Polar Bear than Yeti and RTIC in terms of design and functionality.
Here are some of our thoughts on the matter:
The hard-sided coolers, in our opinion, are overpriced. We would expect a more "average," if not budget, asking price within the premium cooler sector given that the ice life and available features are, at best, average.
Bison can point to a few highlights to defend their price points. Made in the USA, these items feature a lengthy guarantee. Because of this, the price is usually much higher than it would be for brands that source their coolers from China or India. It's fair to charge more because of the improved uniformity of construction and the elimination of costly international shipping for warranty repairs.
However, those seeking optimal efficiency at minimal cost will be left feeling unsatisfied. Several companies have developed coolers that outperform the competition in terms of ice retention, convenience features, and cost.
Alternatively, the Bison SoftPak Cooler Bags are less expensive than the RTIC and Yeti alternatives. However, their ice survival rates are lower. Our hypothesis was confirmed when we compared the Bison SoftPak Cooler Bag's ice retention to that of the AO and Polar Bear soft-sided coolers. Regarding those, we have been reasonably pleased with the prices.
Experimenting with and critiquing Bison's small but varied selection of coolers, cooler bags, drinks, and accessories was a blast. Bison's cantilever latches and custom graphics (including an "X" on the front of the cooler) are just two examples of the innovative design features that set their products apart.
The Cooler Bags, in particular, wowed us with their extremely thick vinyl shell and market-leading insulation thickness; the products are made in the USA, and the warranties are solid.
However, we think the asking price is a little steep for the ice life and amenities you get. Most people won't even notice the difference in performance, but in the ultra-competitive premium cooler market, standing out by providing maximum performance at the lowest possible price is essential.
Bison vs Yeti
We frequently get asked, "What's the better option?" Which Is Better, a Yeti or a Bison Cooler?
Both are excellent offerings that share some surprising characteristics. Both have excellent ice retention, sturdy construction, and both hard- and soft-sided cooler options.
The reputation that the Yeti has established over time has taken time for the Bison to achieve. Also, as a relatively modest business, they don't offer a particularly comprehensive selection of add-ons or personalization features. However, their ice life and cooler durability are virtually identical to Yeti's.
On the other hand, Yeti has been around for quite some time. Many have tried to imitate them, but none have been able to match their level of expertise. Their ice retention and durability are top-notch, and they offer more options in terms of size, shape, and personalization than any other product on the market. However, this comes at a very high cost.
Bison is the way to go if performance is your only concern and you're looking to save money. Their coolers may not have the name recognition of a Yeti, but they perform just as well in terms of keeping ice cold and withstanding abuse as any Yeti. Those who place a higher value on appearance and who wish to flaunt the best cooler available at their next tailgate or float trip can expect to pay a hefty price. the solution is Yeti
You can rest easy knowing that your cooler will last for many years and consistently meet or exceed your expectations either way.
Test of a Bison Cooler
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Bison's primary line of ice storage products are their Bison Coolers. These coolers take a tried-and-true approach to their design and dimensions, with a few tweaks here and there to set the Bison brand apart. This is all centered on a solid warranty and products that are 100% made in the USA There are 25 quart, 50 quart, 75 quart, and 125 quart options available in 5 distinct colors.
Ability to Insulate -
Bison's roto-molded coolers have a polyethylene wall thickness of about 2 inches. In terms of thickness, this is not at the cutting edge of the market, but neither is it particularly thin. Bison has upgraded their gaskets to a "double-wall shark fin gasket" with the release of their generation 2 models. While the name may be flashy, the design is identical to that of several other well-known and highly profitable premium cooler brands.
Bison's cantilever latches set it apart and give it a nice performance boost by providing an excellent squeeze for the gaskets. Depending on the use case, the ice life of their 25-quart model can be as low as 40 hours and as high as 160 hours. In comparison to other high-end coolers on the market, this performs about average. When compared to competitors, we believe that Bison Coolers' thin walls are the main factor preventing this figure from rising even further. An additional half an inch or so would probably result in noticeable enhancements.
Strength and Portability -
The lighter weight and smaller required storage space are two benefits of the thinner walls. Bison Coolers are still large, but they are smaller on the outside than the competition while still providing the same amount of storage space. There are no wheels, but there are rope handles with rubber grips and a built-in handle for portability.
Roto-molded construction, high-end components, and American manufacturing contribute to the excellent quality of this product's construction. You won't have to worry about any of the unsightly gaps or nicks that frequently come with cheaper coolers thanks to the excellent fit and finish. Bison's hard-sided coolers are backed by an impressive 5-year warranty. This is among the highest in the business, and it demonstrates that Bison is confident in the quality of its offering.
There is a noticeable lack of features. Cantilever latches are at the forefront because they offer superior grip and are much simpler to operate than standard T-latches. A large drain spout, a built-in ruler, a locking lid, self-stopping hinges, and a couple of other features are also included. There aren't any of the specialized features like cup holders, pressure release valves, cutting boards, bottle openers, etc. that are becoming increasingly common on cooler brands today.
Bison Coolers are simple in appearance, but their design sets them apart from the competition. The cooler has a stylish "X" pattern on the exterior, and the Bison logo is imprinted on the lid's interior. White, sand, gray granite, green & sand, and red are the five color options available at the time of this writing.
Bison also has a customization service that will put your logo or design on the top of the jar. However, this is only applicable to the top of the device. More options for personalizing the rest of the body (or at least better support for cooler wraps that fit) are desired for the future.
Costs are, unsurprisingly, high. We expect to pay more for roto-molded coolers, but this one seems excessively priced considering its ice retention capacity and other features. While Bison may be aiming to follow Yeti's lead and charge more due to consumer familiarity, their brand recognition isn't quite strong enough to do so as of yet.
We get that the fact that these coolers are 100% made in the USA is probably a big factor. In G3, we're crossing our fingers for new features, longer ice life, and cheaper prices from Bison.
Complete Score -
Overall, we had a positive impression of Bison Hard-Sided Coolers. We appreciate that Bison guarantees their products and that they are made entirely in the United States. The latch design, a few of the aesthetic features, and the ability to add a custom logo are also noteworthy.
However, the asking price is rather steep, and we've found that other coolers offer longer ice retention and more convenient features for the same or even less money. Bison is a pricey option, but it's worth it for those who want an American-made product that will last a long time and still look good.
An Analysis of the Bison SoftPak Cooler Bag
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Bison's contribution to the high-end soft-sided cooler market is the Bison SoftPak Cooler Bag. When compared to the trendy new Yeti and RTIC cooler bags, the classic design of these items stands out. Choosing a more conventional style keeps the price down, but at the expense of durability in the ice. There are currently two sizes (12 and 24 cans) and four color options.
Capability of Isolation -
Bison has improved its insulating capabilities. These SoftPak Cooler Bags are insulated with nearly an inch of material, which is, according to Bison, twice as thick as the typical cooler bag's insulation. Since Bison abandoned the new "thin" gasket design popularized by other high-end soft-sided coolers, this may be necessary to boost performance.
The decision to use a design with a larger face on the zipper allows for more space for warm air to escape, which is why the extra padding is so useful. The 12-can version has a performance range of 12-16 hours, while the 24-can version has a range of 16-24 hours of ice life. Compared to other soft-sided cooler bags we've tested, this is on the low end, but it works well for this style and form factor.
Versatility in Use and Longevity -
The exterior material is the main attraction. Bison claims that it is tougher than any other soft-sided cooler on the market because it is constructed from their proprietary heavy-duty 1000 denier vinyl. In particular, it can withstand 375-pounds of tension before tearing. The remaining items in the bag are just as sturdy. All of the exposed stitching is expertly done, and the zippers are thick and sturdy. The two-year warranty and American manufacturing are also major selling points. The fact that Bison is willing to stand behind their soft-sided cooler for such a long time shows how confident they are in its durability.
Bison's feature set is, shall we say, basic. There are watertight exterior pockets and modular load bearing equipment (MOLLE) webbing for attaching extra gear. There will be a fixed handle for carrying it over your head, and a detachable shoulder strap for convenience. However, this is about the extent of the list of features. Having said that, this cooler bag is meant to be carried around, and it does just that. Although the available sizes are restricted and may be too small for some, those who can make due will appreciate how portable these coolers are.
The "newer" bags that companies like Yeti and RTIC have released aren't as appealing to us as the "older" ones. However, the price of the classic look is a chill to your icy lifestyle. Bison's customization service offers four different color options (black, blue, pink, and sand) in addition to the ability to apply unique designs and logos. The bag's design is uncomplicated, and the colors and patterns used are all applied consistently and without much variety. We look forward to future construction and more color options from Bison.
Bison's SoftPak Cooler Bags, in our opinion, are competitively priced considering their features, durability, and overall quality. The asking prices are reasonable and in line with the market. The great warranty and the fact that they were "Made in the USA" are bonuses. However, we feel obligated to point out that shoppers who are interested in these bags because they believe they will provide a three-day ice life at a fraction of the cost of Yeti and RTIC Cooler Bags will be sorely disappointed. The ice does not support life at those densities. However, thankfully, the construction quality is
Generally Speaking -
The Bison SoftPak Cooler Bag is an excellent addition to the market's expanding selection of high-quality soft-sided coolers. Their cooler bags' main selling points are the additional insulation and extremely durable outer fabric, so they keep things straightforward. However, ice life is affected when a conventional layout and form are chosen. We think these are a great option for those who only need a day or two's worth of ice because of the low price, generous warranty, and high quality of construction.
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