Rugged smartphone case maker OtterBox is getting serious about branching out: This year the company released two brand new rugged soft-sided coolers, the Trooper 20 and the Trooper LT 30. These innovative soft coolers came out on the heels of the hard-sided Venture coolers and a series of insulated stainless steel and copper-lined tumblers that OtterBox debuted late last year.
OtterBox’s rugged smartphone cases are always some of the very best, so it’s no surprise that the new series of coolers caught our attention. To get us a closer look at the new Trooper series, OtterBox sent us a Trooper 20 review unit. This is what we learned.
OtterBox Trooper 20 Soft Cooler Review
The OtterBox Trooper 20 is awesome. There is no doubt about it. The fit-and-finish is excellent and the construction is burly. You know how you can glance at a quality product and instantly see that every line, seam and design element has been placed intentionally, all the way from the drawing board to final construction? The OtterBox Trooper 20 is perfectly constructed. Take the hinged lid, for example. The small gap around the edges are all equidistant — there is no slop, no play in the location of the lid. It goes up and then it goes down into its exact place.
Every other design element is like this, too — placed correctly with symmetry. Why is this important? It speaks to the attention to detail that clearly went into the Trooper 20. And that attention to detail is one of the reasons OtterBox has been able to excel year after year by making electronic device cases that fit right every time.
So, the first point is about quality: The Trooper 20 oozes quality. If you’re going to invest in a soft-sided cooler, you want to trust the brand. I trust OtterBox — I have for years using their iPhone cases — and I see no reason to change that.
OtterBox Trooper 20 Review: Innovative Design
You can’t talk about high-end coolers without also mentioning the high-end cooler industry leader, YETI. The basic question is why not just shell out for a soft-sided YETI cooler? Here’s why: OtterBox has innovative designs that improve usability.
The YETI Hopper Flip 18 is an excellent soft-sided cooler — and we’re fans of it, too. It’s burly, extremely well made and offers great insulating capabilities. Its waterproof zipper is cool but the zipper is also its downside: Waterproof zippers are a pain in the butt to use because they’re generally harder to pull open and closed than standard zippers. And, to open the YETI Hopper Flip 18, you pretty much need to have two free hands. Not a big deal — until you experience the one-handed ease of the Trooper 20.
OtterBox designed the Trooper 20 with a handy flip-open lid that you can open and close with one hand. The lid is insulated and it has a rubber gasket that seals it. The latch securely locks it down. This means that you can hold a sandwich in one hand and open the Trooper 20 to grab a drink with the other. If you like to play outdoors around the water, on the rocks and in the dirt — maybe even with a family dog around — you know that setting your sandwich down to grab a drink is a risky proposition.
But, it’s just a lid, right? When I go on a fishing trip while driving my pickup, I like to put a soft cooler on the backseat floor boards in the middle where I can get to it from the driver’s seat or passenger seat. You can pull over, reach back behind you one-handed and nab a soda. This is usually tough with soft-sided zipper coolers, but it’s easy with the Trooper 20.
OtterBox Trooper Series: Pockets, Bottle Openers & More
OtterBox also makes the Trooper LT 30. This larger cooler is not just a scaled-up Trooper 20 — it has a whole different design. First, it’s a backpack cooler, which is great when you have to cover a few hundred yards or more to get down to the beach. Second, the lid system is different, but it’s still easy to open and it widens to create a gaping maw that makes it easy to load the cooler and find what you want.
Both coolers have exterior water-resistant pockets, which you can use to stow car keys, phones or even just napkins and a few spare forks. You also get a mounting system that lets you customize the exterior with things like the included bottle opener or an optional OtterBox dry box.
There are also several built-in lashing points, which let you strap the cooler down on a boat, raft, ATV or pickup bed.
OtterBox says the Trooper 20 is rated to IP-65 to protect against rushing rapids or pounding waves. This will protect the interior of your cooler, but it also is connected to thermal efficiency: sealed containers keep the cold in and the heat out better than any cooler that has even minute gaps.
As for testing the 3+ days of ice claim, that’s certainly true in cold weather while you’re out skiing. Because this first-look review is happening now, we just haven’t had any hot weather to do a proper hot-weather test, but I can tell you this: The walls and lid are at least an inch thick with great padding (insulation) and I have no doubts that the OtterBox Trooper 20 will easily get most everyone through a day at the beach, if not a weekend fly fishing trip, with ease.
Of course, we’ll report back later this year and might even rig up a competitive test environment that involves drinking the contents along the way — because hey, coolers are meant to be used, not just store ice.
OtterBox Trooper 20: Recommendations
The overall design of the rugged and handsome OtterBox Trooper 20 is fantastic, and the easy-opening lid is outright awesome. The build quality is typical OtterBox — pretty much perfect. The shoulder strap is padded and the cooler is easy to carry off your shoulder, but if you want a larger soft cooler with a backpack option, we wouldn’t hesitate to head out with the Trooper LT 30. Last of all, we appreciate the color options. The Forest Edge camo pattern is cool for hunters, while the light gray and blue Hazy Harbor is classic for most anyone. Our favorite is the Alpine Ascent green with the bright orange interior — it looks great in person. All-in-all, the OtterBox Trooper 20 is outstanding. Very highly recommended.