Gear Review: Orca Hardside 20


Orca Hardside 20-quart cooler


This is a review, not a comparison between the wide array of rotomolded colors available today. I’ll stick with the definitive features that stand out for Orca Hardside coolers, specifically the 20-quart model, and why I chose it for a personal cooler. 

First, and foremost, Orca coolers are 100% made in the U.S.A. These days, that stands out for many reasons, which is also why the Orca is guaranteed for life, with a warranty to back it up. 

What really might set it apart, and especially in the crowded rotomolded cooler space, are the number of available color options. There are 11 standard colors, or you can rep your favorite collegiate team from 21 schools, and if state pride is your thing, then you have 10 states from which to choose. Even the military is covered with patterns and colors available for the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy. 


I was looking for a personal cooler and that’s why I chose the 20-quart model. I can fill it up for carrying all the items needed for a day or two of work or play. I looked at other similarly sized coolers, and the Orca stood out for its interior space and space-saving size for inside a vehicle. It also fits nicely on top of my kayak.

You won’t find lots of bells and whistles on an Orca cooler, such as a bottle opener. What you lose there, you gain in Orca’s commitment to building a rugged cooler with a lifetime warranty. 

A heavier-duty gasket improves sealing of outside air, which also improves ice retention. Orca’s signature Whale Latches add to the air sealing benefits, and there’s a heavy-duty, stainless steel carry handle with a rubber grip. On the backside, a cargo net adds extra storage. 

As noted above, it’s the perfect size for carrying in my vehicle, and on top of a kayak. Is the Orca Hardside 20-quart the right size for you? These measurements can help you decide. Orca designates its colors by quart capacity, removing any confusion over model numbers that don’t specify capacity. 

Dimensions: 20 quarts. Outside front measurements: 19 inches (L/top) 16 inches (L/bottom) 14 inches (H). Inside front measurements: 13 inches (L) 9 inches (W) 9 inches (H). Side measurements: 13 inches (W/top) 11 inches (W/bottom). Weight: 18 pounds. Capacity: up to 18 cans, 15 bottles and five gallons of ice. 





There are myriad choices available for rotomolded coolers. That’s good news for shoppers, as the choices can be narrowed down to specifically fit your lifestyle. 

I now own two Orca coolers. Pictured is my first, a 26-quart hardside that I got from Orca in 2012. It’s 10 years old and has been through many off-grid, backwoods outdoor adventures. All the parts are original and in perfect working condition: Drain plug, handles, T Latches, cooler feet, gasket and mesh cargo pouch. It hasn’t been attacked by a grizzly bear, but I can confirm it’s taken spills off the tailgate of a moving pickup truck, fully filled with ice, beverages and freshly-caught fish. 

I save ice retention for last. You can go online and see test results varied results by brand. Savvy consumers know that environmental conditions like ambient air temperatures, type of ice used (cube, block, dry, packet), and the contents (bottles, cans, food), and other criteria create varied results. 

What I do know about the Orca is thicker walls and foam put it in the premium cooler class for ice retention, and my trusty 2012 model has stood the test of time. I expect the same for my 20-quart model. 

Premium coolers share similar ice retention performance and quality of construction. For me, the decision came down to a cooler made in the U.S.A., and with a lifetime guarantee. I also favor the Orca’s no-frills, heavy-duty construction and parts. There’s also it’s proven track record of dependability, durability and a wide choice of available colors that meet my needs.