Q: A YETI cooler, which says it can keep food cold for a week, can cost several hundred dollars. What makes them so expensive and are they worth it? Are there other coolers that can provide comparable results at a cheaper price?
C.N., of Cahokia
A: Pity me if you must, but camping always has been near the bottom on my list of life’s pleasures.
Even as a child, roughing it meant sleeping on a well-padded aluminum chaise lounge on my family’s screened-in front porch near a fridge stocked with soda and ice cream. So to talk about coolers, I have to rely on company hype and consumer research. That said, let me try to give you the cold facts:
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When brothers Roy and Ryan Seiders were growing up, they were my opposites. They say they were passionate about hunting, fishing and camping, and quickly developed a love for wild game, unfamiliar territory — and high-quality gear.
“But the coolers that were out there just weren’t up to our outdoor adventures,” say the Seiderses, who, after college, started custom boat and fishing-rod manufacturing companies. “The handles would break, the latches would snap off and the lids would cave in. These cheaply built, ordinary ice chests were limiting our good times.”
So, in 2006, this frustration became the mother of invention and led to the start of YETI coolers, which, as any side-by-side comparison will show, are among the premium coolers on the market today. If you don’t believe it, go to yeticoolers.com and watch their short clip of a 500-pound man throwing a YETI off a cliff, slamming it to the ground and even jumping on it. Nary a dent or a broken hinge.
But as the Seiderers say, a cooler needs to be more than strong. It needs to keep food and drink cold for more than just a few hours. So they built a cooler with, depending on the model, 2 inches or more of polyurethane insulation in the walls and lid along with a freezer-quality sealing gasket and one-piece construction. The result is a cooler that can give your vittles the cold shoulder for a week from one load of ice.
Of course, premium construction and preservation often comes at a premium price. On its website, a YETI Tundra cooler can run you $300-$1,300. Other leading coolers, such as Engel, IRP, Yukon and Pelican also may make you shiver a little. So are there any products that can do a reasonably similar job without putting your budget in a deep freeze?
Apparently yes, according to a popular outdoors blogger named Ryanc at www.beyondthetent.com. He decided to put a $379, 42-quart Yeti Tundra up against a $65 Coleman Extreme. He packed each cooler with 20 pounds of ice and one bottle of beer. For the next seven days, he placed each cooler in direct sunlight half the time and in shade the rest, trying to re-create realistic camping conditions.
The results? After four days, the Coleman contained about 90 percent water and 10 percent ice while the YETI had 70 percent water and 30 percent ice. By the fifth day, all the ice in the Coleman was gone, although the water was cold. At the same time, the YETI still had 10 percent of its ice, which disappeared by the sixth day. As Ryanc noted, it didn’t last a full week, but he did not pack the cooler to the top with ice.
“In the end, if price isn’t your deciding factor, the YETI cooler is still an amazing cooler,” he concluded. “On the other hand, the Coleman Xtreme is an incredible cooler for the price.”
And, as people gear up for another busy camping summer, allow me to give greenhorns a few tips to get the most out of their coolers, courtesy of YETI:
Pre-cool your cooler for a few hours with a “sacrificial” bag of ice before loading it with the real McCoy. Remember that ice temperatures can vary and that warm ice (around 32 degrees) won’t last as long as colder ice. Cubed ice chills a cooler more quickly but block ice melts more slowly, so try a combination. Air is your enemy, so stuff all empty spaces with towels, newspapers or more ice. Don’t drain the melted water if you don’t have to. Consider dry ice if possible. And, of course, keep it out of the sun and open it as seldom as possible.
For another comparison, check www.outdoorgearlab.com/Cooler-Reviews.
Q: Why do actors call the place where they relax while waiting to go on stage the “greenroom”?
M.S., of Fairview Heights
A: Like most legends that go back centuries, the specific origin is lost in history, so let me give you a few of the more colorful possibilities:
Some say it dates to medieval times when traveling troupes would put on plays on makeshift outdoor stages. The actors would prepare to go on from nearby green, grass-covered areas and the idea was borrowed once the action moved indoors.
Others say that when traveling players appeared at Stratford-on-Avon in the 16th century, they used a council chamber known as the Agreeing Room as their changing room. In the local dialect, many called it the “Greein’ Room,” which later was shortened to greenroom.
Another story has it that the Blackfriars and Drury Lane theaters in London included such a room behind the scenes that just happened to be painted green. There doesn’t seem much support for the idea that the color was specifically picked to soothe the actors’ eyes.
It’s also possible that “greenroom” is a corruption of “scene room,” a room where scenery was stored and doubled as a changing room in small theaters.
And if those aren’t enough to mull over, some say it may have developed from the idea that the room was where the cast was paid (lots of green there) or accepted bouquets of greenery and flowers from fans.
Why did the dioxin-laced defoliant used in Vietnam come to be known as “Agent Orange”?
Answer to Wednesday’s trivia: In 1207, Elizabeth von Thuringen was born a princess, the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary. When she was just 14, she married Louis IV, landgrave of Thuringia. During the marriage, she began doing more and more charitable work as she learned about the ideals of Francis of Assisi. Then, when her husband died of a fever en route to the Sixth Crusade, the 20-year-old widow sent her children away and reclaimed her dowry, using it to build a hospital where she served the sick. After her death at 24, she was quickly canonized and today is the patron saint of Belleville’s hospital.