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Survival Equipment

Best extreme cooler | Orion 65 Cooler review

Cheap coolers are nothing more than waterproof containers with some insulation. The Orion, on the right, is a quality piece of survival equipment.
Best extreme cooler | Orion 65 Cooler review

Most of us don’t need a high end cooler. But when you do need one, it could be worth every penny of the investment. We check out the Orion 65 quart cooler.

by Leon Pantenburg

Disclaimer: Orion supplied the cooler for this review, and I will return it when the product testing is over. I was not paid to do this review, and at the time of publication, Orion is not an advertiser on SurvivalCommonSense.com.

If there is a market for a product, someone will produce it.

The Orion 65 cooler is a well-designed, tough product designed to handle extreme sports and outdoor situations.

The Orion 65 cooler is a well-designed, tough product designed to handle extreme sports and outdoor situations.

That’s what happened with coolers. Better technology produced coolers that last longer, keep ice frozen longer and are more rugged.

People started buying them. In some ways, these new, expensive coolers become a status symbol. Take one to deer camp or on a fishing boat, and it is a clear sign you can afford to drop almost 500 bucks on your hobby.

Do you need one?

Well, if you’re tailgating at a football game, taking a canoe trip on a hot day or going to a picnic, all that’s needed is a leak-proof container to carry ice to keep the beer cool. You might need a place to put fish.

But it’s a different deal on a week-long rafting trip. Or how about that isolated hunting camp, where you need to keep game meat cool for a week?

What about emergency survival needs? Suppose you have to store frozen food somewhere to keep if from spoiling after the electricity went out  Worst case scenario (think Hurricane Katrina):  It’s hot as hell, the power went out, floodwaters have isolated everything, and you have to keep vital prescription medications cool.

I have a collection of chest-size 48-gallon coolers, the cheapest ones available. For years, I would fly to Mississippi from Washington D.C or Boise,

My cooler collection came from years of flying venison home from Mississippi hunts.

My cooler collection came from years of flying venison home from Mississippi hunts.

Idaho to hunt deer.

It was cheaper to buy a cooler at a box store than flying one round trip. When successful on the deer hunt, I’d bone out the meat, wrap and freeze it. Just before leaving, all the meat that would fit went into a cooler. (A 135-pound whitetail buck would produce about 60-70 pounds of boned-out meat.)  When I got home, some 12 hours after takeoff, the meat would still be frozen solid. Excess coolers would be given away.

I killed two bucks last November in Mississippi, and that technique, as always, worked well.

But if you need to keep meat frozen for longer periods of time, you need a better cooler. That’s where the Orion can be really useful.

Here’s the tech specs of the Orion 65 Quart cooler:

Material: polyethylene
Volume: 65 qt
Dimensions: 17.5 x 32 x 18.75 in
Weight: 39 lb

It also features:

  • Standing Pad
  • 6 Tie Down Points
  • 4 Aluminum Bottle Opener Corners
  • Lockable/Certified Bear Resistant
  • Low Profile Camming Latches
  • Motorcycle Grip Carry Handles
  • Camo Colors
  • Rugged Rotomolded Shell

Made in the USA
Drain Plug
  • YakAttack Tracks / RAM Integration

Good Stuff:

  •  Sturdy: The Orion looks and feels bullet proof. The manufacturer claims it is bearproof, too, which is a definite plus in many parts of the backcountry. I didn’t have a chance to try out this aspect!
  • Size: The 65 holds 65 quarts, which is big enough to cool and haul whitetail deer quarters, plus some adult beverages. This can be very valuable if you tag your deer on opening day of a week-long hunt. The 65 is large enough to hold the quarters of a good-sized whitetail buck, along with the ice to keep the meat cool. Depending on the outside temperatures and the location of the cooler, the 65 will keep the ice for a week.
  • Insulation: The Orion has two-inch thick insulation that keeps things cool, even under extreme conditions. At the Wheeler County (Oregon) Bluegrass festival on July 4, the temperatures got well over the 100s for three days in a row. I don’t know what the temps got to in the trunk of my car, where the cooler was kept, but the ice in the Orion stayed frozen. It wouldn’t have in my cheap coolers.
  • Low-profile camming latches: This becomes important when you’re stacking the cooler in a trailer, plane or boat where space is at a premium. It also keeps someone from snagging a latch or handle on clothing or gear
  • Lockable padlock latches: Padlock latches are a great idea, if you’re leaving the cooler in the back of a pickup. But don’t necessarily plan on using this option on airplanes.  Last November, I bought a Coleman cooler with two latches for padlocks, and locked it before putting it on the baggage track at the airport. TSA cut off my locks, pawed through all the meat, and replaced my locks with one ziptie.
  • YakAttack gear tracks: These let you attach cool stuff, like cup holders or straps, a GPS, rod holders etc.
  • Flush mounted latches and handles don’t get caught.

Deal Breakers?

The Orion 65 has large capacity and really good insulation

The Orion 65 has large capacity and really good insulation.

Weight: All this quality comes with a cost. The empty cooler weighs 39 pounds. Load it to the gills with ice, beer, fish or meat, and it would easily go over 100 pounds. It will take two strong people to move it around. Know this going in, and plan on getting help to move the loaded Orion.
Cost: None of these new extreme coolers are cheap. You can plan on spending about $500 for an Orion 65 or Yeti of the same size. IMHO, this is too much for a tailgate cooler for the football game, or a beer cooler on a day trip.
Size: A 65 gallon cooler is huge. It won’t fit in just any car trunk, and it is more suited to being hauled in a pickup bed, drift boat or four-wheeler. But you know this going in. Plan accordingly.
Do you need one?
If all you do is day trips or tailgating parties, you probably don’t need to invest in a Yeti, Orion or any other extreme cooler. On the other hand, an Orion might be just what you need for a successful hunting or fishing trip where the weather might get hot. And in an emergency scenario where you need to store insulin or antibiotics in a cool area, the Orion could prove to be priceless.
You’ll decide if you need an Orion. As for me, hunting season isn’t over yet, and I hope to find out that the Orion is indispensable!
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Survival Equipment

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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