If you’re going to be doing any sort of off-grid activities in the summer, a good cooler is key. Even road-tripping, or just having folks over in the backyard, something that can keep drinks and food cold is key. I thought I had a pretty solid option in terms of a compact hard-sided cooler, but then the Bote Kula 5 Cooler showed up (you might recall we also wrote about the larger 10 gal version)
What is it?
With the Bote Kula 5 Cooler, it’s not a stretch to see the inspiration. Take the ubiquitous 5-gallon bucket that you’ve got in your garage, and turn that into a roto-molded and insulated cooler, and here you are. And it makes sense, since some of the Bote watercraft would be useful for folks heading out fishing. And what’s easier than grabbing a 5 gallon bucket, throwing your stuff in there, and hauling it down to the short? Of course, there is a bit more to it here.
For starters, let’s talk the lid. You’ve got the stretchy latch that holds things firmly in place, and is easy to operate to open and close the lid. The lid itself? That’s a fun bit of innovation. That black surface is actually squishy, which means you can use the Bote Kula 5 Cooler as an impromptu stool or camp chair. Not bad, right? And then the big circle with the ‘M’ on it? That’s for their magnapod system, which means you can put your drink or can cooler right on the lid, and have it stay in place. It’s similar to what they’ve got in their watercraft as well, so it’s all compatible.
Next up, let’s talk bottle openers. While we’re used to screw-off caps, invariably someone shows up with some micro-brew that has the old-style caps, and no one ever has an opener, right? Well, this cooler, it’s mounted right there on the front, ready to open up your beer or pop.
Finally, let’s talk that handle. If you’re hauling around a cooler full of food, drinks, and ice (or ice packs), it’s going to get heavy. And here? This is the first hard-sided cooler that I’ve seen that actually has a padded handle, making life easier on your hands. And if you would rather sling it over your shoulder, they’ve got a shoulder strap that will clip onto the sides of the cooler, allowing you a hands-free carry.
How does it perform?
That’s the key for any cooler – how well it keeps stuff cold. And you might be doubly curious, given the round shape instead of the more traditional rectangular footprint we’ve come to expect. Well, as far as the shape goes, it makes it perfect for holding cans and bottles. You ring those around the outside, slip an ice pack or two right in the middle, and the lower level is covered. Stack more cans in, put some ice or cooler packs on top, and you’re good to go.
Now, in terms of how well it keeps things cold… Recently, we had a bunch of folks over, and we had the kids drinks in the Bote in the backyard, while the adult beverages were inside in my other (similarly-sized) hard-sided cooler. While the adult drinks had my “good” ice packs, I just put my regular ones in the Bote, figuring the kids weren’t going to be as particular about temperature. When I unloaded things that night? The Bote was 3/4 empty, but both the drinks – and the ice packs – were a good deal colder than the adult cooler that was more than half full at the end of the night. I didn’t break out the IR thermometer, but that the Bote could keep things colder – with less in it and while sitting out on the back patio – seriously impressed me. This is definitely a must-haul now for any outside picnics, adventures, or camping trips that we take.
How to get one
And it’s good that it’s that performant, because the Bote Kula 5 Cooler is not an inexpensive option. The version we checked out, that comes in at $270. If you’re used to picking up your cooler at the hardware store or gas station, that’s going to be some sticker shock. For myself, yes, it is a bit steeper than I’d initially consider. As I’ve been dealing with coolers and checking out options (as we like to camp off-grid), I’ve found that you do really get what you pay for, particularly when it comes to keeping your stuff cold for a good long time. Maybe not as important for fizzy water, but if you’ve got perishables that you’re hauling to the campsite, you’ll appreciate it.
And of course, if you’re already in the Bote family, then the Kula line is an easy path to go, as these koolers will lock right on in with the accesory straps, and be ready to go. Another interesting option they’ve got is the 2.5 gallon Kula. Along with being smaller (and a bit more affordable), it comes with a drink dispenser tap, which makes it a great option for mixing up the Kool-Aid or lemonade for the kids at the campsite and keeping it cold (just like I had as a kid with a very old-school Coleman drink cooler). The 10 gallon might be overkill if you just want a secondary cooler, but the 5-gallon option is a just-right sort of a fit, and offers a lot of versatility. Oh, and if you’re a user of ice rather than ice packs, you’ll appreciate the easy drain plug on the bottom! Check out the color range over at boteboard.com.
Tech Specs from Bote
- NEW FEATURE: MAGNEPOD™ Lid
- INNER DIMENSIONS: 11.75″ W × 11″ H
- OUTER DIMENSIONS: 16.75″ W × 14.25″ H
- WEIGHT: 13 LBS
- VOLUME: 5 GAL