It seemed counterintuitive to head east to go west, but with fires and high temperatures near every campsite we’d planned to visit, venturing into New Mexico and Colorado before making our way to the West Coast was going to be the only way to make our annual summer road trip seem like one of our real summer road trips, when sleeping in tents and eating over a campfire supersede hotels and sit-down restaurants.
Since 2017, those road trips — with my family of four and our weird terrier dog crammed into my Subaru Outback — have covered nine Western states. Our destination, always? Oregon. But with the extreme heat in summer 2021, we knew we’d need a cooler that could keep ice icy for long stretches on a trailer, a loaned addition to the Family Truckster.
Enter Flagstaff-based Canyon Coolers’ Outfitter 75, a 75-quart, “bombproof” cooler that came with a promise to keep ice intact for five to eight days, depending on environmental conditions.
“We’re kind of a legacy holdover from the 1980s,” says Canyon Coolers CEO Jason Costello (pictured, with media and events coordinator Leah Heffelfinger). “They were building fiberglass coolers by hand for rafting trips. This was before ‘supercoolers’ were a thing. Our little town in Arizona was kind of doing its own thing. I started off sort of modifying generic ice chests meant for the Australian and New Zealand markets, and that eventually turned into us doing our own tooling and our own designs.”
But creating a cooler that can withstand extreme rapids — and big road trips — isn’t exactly easy. Insulation is key, and Costello says the insulation on several of the coolers is “probably the best in the world.” But design is important, too. As Costello says: “We want the cooler tied down, because it’s not a matter of if you flip your boat, right? It’s a matter of when you flip your boat. So, we build in rails to help the cooler get tied down.”
We weren’t on a boat, but during our road trip, it was easy to tie the Outfitter to the trailer, and it endured some heavy-duty mileage. We pre-chilled the cooler according to the recommendations in the instructions, then drove through rain and hail, on interstates and on rutted forest roads. Eventually entering Utah, then Idaho and finally Eastern Oregon meant the cooler was getting baked by intense summer sun. Regardless, when we reached our final destination in Salem, Oregon, eight days after we left our house in Phoenix, our drinks were still cold and our snacks were still icy. We could have gone another day or two.
What sets Canyon Coolers apart from other supercooler brands? “We’re really like David in the David-and-Goliath story here,” Costello says. “We’re the little guys, so we really try to focus on customer service. We do things a little differently. The people that work here and our clientele are true outdoorsmen, and we keep our ears to the ground with them. We go out into the Wild West. So, we’ve never really stopped developing our coolers, whereas some of our competitors’ products have really been the same since we remember.”
And the Outfitter 75 isn’t the only product Canyon Coolers has put to market. Smaller coolers range from 22 to 65 quarts, while larger models can hold up to 150 quarts. Soft coolers, drinkware and accessories are also available. Each of the hard coolers comes with a no-fault lifetime warranty, and some of the stories shared on the company’s website and social media channels prove how good that guarantee is.
One post on Instagram features a photo of an Outfitter with a few dents, scratches and … bite marks? The caption reads: “No other cooler company has your back like we do. Our No-Hassle Warranty is good on every product we sell — forever. Even when a Kodiak bear tries to intercept. Yeah, we cover that, too.”
No matter where your travels take you — deep into bear country, or headed east to go west — Costello and the Canyon Coolers crew are confident in their products. “I think this is probably a played-out way of saying things,” Costello says, “but we really try to be authentic and have a connection to Arizona and to our community.”