Great Outdoors: Coleman Cooler Radio Review

Coleman Cooler Radio
Just in time for the Fourth of July, Coleman sent me a Cooler Radio — a full-size cooler with AM/FM/Weatherband radio. It’s also got an alarm clock, a line-input jack, and a pair of speakers set into the faceplate on the front. The cooler itself is pretty standard fare: a chest-style red plastic model that holds up to 46 cans of Pabst. (Other beers are not supported, at least in my cooler.) I took it for a spin outside, despite the awful NYC weather, and here’s how it went.

The Cooler Radio takes four C batteries plus a double-A battery for the clock. Putting the batteries in is a major hassle: You have to take out three tiny (and very losable) screws, and then turn the cooler on its side because the batteries won’t stay in until you screw the compartment cover back on.

Overall, the sound is fairly shrill with virtually no bass, but at least it’s fairly loud. The sound starts to distort once you crank the volume past three-quarters of the way. Reception is decent on AM, FM, and WeatherBand, though the analog frequency dial makes it tough to tune in with much precision.

When you plug in an MP3 player or portable CD player to the 3.5-mm line-in jack, the radio automatically stops playing. I got the best results (meaning the least distortion) with my iPod at about two-thirds volume.

Setting the alarm definitely requires a quick perusal of the manual, but it does work. Perfect for a quick cat nap on a picnic–or if you’re passed out at a tailgate party and need to wake up before the game starts.

As for the cooler part of the Cooler Radio, it’s certainly an effective way to keep your Pabst from getting warm, and it’s got a handy spigot on the side for letting the water out. The cup holders set into the top of the lid are standard fare, though I do question their utility given that you’d have to remove all cups from the lid before opening it.

I can see this being handy on a boat, especially if you have limited space and electricity for powering separate speakers. At about $70, it’s more than twice as expensive as models without the radio, so make sure you’ll actually use the radio and speakers before you buy it.