AllOutdoor Review: Engel 165 High Performance Hard Cooler

   11.29.22

AllOutdoor Review: Engel 165 High Performance Hard Cooler

Rotomolded coolers are kind of a contentious topic for fishermen, some swear by them while others say they’re just a way of “flexing on the poors” and a waste of money. I say they’re more of a specialized tool that’s not for everyone but for those who need them well worth the money. I’ve used and abused this Engel 165 High-Performance Hard Cooler for two and half years now with it living its life in the back of my Tacoma. The Engel cooler has blown every other cooler I’ve used out of the water. I use this cooler for work moving food from wholesale suppliers to the restaurant in the Georgia summer, and for fishing to store my catch for days at a time as well.

engel 165

The ice retention quality of the Engel coolers is great, built with a thick floor, sidewalls, and lid the insulation quality is superb. The coolers have 2 inches of closed-cell foam insulation on all sides. The gasket is  Engel’s ArticVault Gasket, made of silicon to make a near-airtight seal that is durable and will never warp and lose shape. The latches on the cooler is different from other popular manufacturers who use rubber straps stretched through notches in the cooler. Engel’s Unity Latch System is a recessed marine-grade latch, the hardware is made of stainless steel and can double as a bottle opener.

AllOutdoor Review: Engel 165 High Performance Hard Cooler
Engel 165 High Performance Hard Cooler Specs

Now we’re past a rough covering of the specs of the cooler let’s talk about how it actually does in the real world. I’ll be upfront about this, whenever you see a cooler company saying that “this cooler holds ice for 7 days, 9 days, 11 days” take that with a grain of salt. Between three brands with the Engel included I have only matched those ice retention claims by using the cooler impractically. Starting off with using sacrificial ice to drop the temp of the cooler itself first and then filling it completely with ice. Then I would only open the coolers one or two times a day to see where the ice is at. But this isn’t a practical way of using a cooler, when I’m on fishing trips I am in and out of the cooler all day adding in warm fish or pulling bait out. Or for work I’m running the cooler only half full of ice to make space for cases of chicken thighs, pork loins, or cheeses. When used practically, expect about 4+ days of ice retention depending on use. If just transporting perishable food, easy 6+ days of ice retention in the summer. When fishing offshore and loading the Engel full of snapper and grouper expect 4+ days of ice retention.

engel 165 rubbermaid coolers

Compared to my “Bootleg Yeti” Rubbermaid Cooler  the Engel does miles better, even with upgrading the Rubbermaid it still falls short. When I used to use it for my fishing trips before upgrades, that cooler was being topped off with ice with a 20lb bag every evening probably. That added up quick on my fishing trips. Ice is expensive when you think about it, especially when you’re buying ice by the bag. Think about it a 10lb bag of ice is about 5 quarts of ice. A 10lb bag is usually $2-$3 a bag. A 165-quart cooler like my Engel can fit approximately 33 bags of ice which would cost $66 to $99 dollars to completely fill with ice. I remember pier fishing with my friend with us using a cheaper 75qt Coleman cooler for our catch for three days of camping. Even with a smaller cooler, I remember us having to refill the cooler with some ice every night on our way back from the pier. I think we spent like $40 on just ice to keep the fish covered. So it’s not crazy money but that’s at least a couple cases of beer.

engel 165
Engel next to a 150qt Rubbermaid

There are a few downsides to the Engel 165 cooler. The feet on the cooler aren’t too great, they slide a bit in the truck bed. That lets the cooler move around and then tumble on sharper turns. Another issue is the ridging in the lid of the cooler lets cold out/heat in. The molded-in cutouts in the lid that help with rigidity in the lid are also thin spots in the lid. If you look at the cooler on a humid morning in the summer you can actually see where the cutouts are through the condensation. That’s where heat transfer occurs, but compared to previous rotomolded coolers I owned had issues with the lids warping, the lid would bow up and then break the gasket seal and just let hot air seep all day into the cooler, it’s not a deal breaker. The last issue is that the footprint could be a little wider instead of the cooler being so tall, the cooler is only just wide enough for a case of boneless chicken thighs. For practical use wider would be better than taller.

Height of the Engel 165qt compared to a Tacoma Bed

The last thing to talk about is price, which honesty a big factor for these coolers. The Engel 165 retails for $769.99 now, it used to be $600 but nothing is priced where it used to be now. On sale, it can be bought around the $620 price point. I got mine for around $550 with a coupon those years back. If you’re already set on a rotomolded cooler the Engels are probably the best bang for your buck with the big brands. While the Yeti 160 is priced at $750 and just by naming it sounds like it’s only 5 quarts different in volume. When you measure out the internal dimensions the Engel 165 has about 25% more volume. So the Engel is a better bang for your buck when it comes to how much you’re paying for each quart of space.

AllOutdoor Review: Engel 165 High Performance Hard Cooler

Overall I’ll say that the Engel 165 High-Performance Hard Cooler is the nicest hard cooler I’ve ever used, it was also one of the most expensive. The build quality and design make for a rugged cooler that has withstood the past couple of years of sun and heat easily. The latch design makes for a better seal, and the fact that the Engel has three latches compared to competitors who only have two makes sure the cold stays in. The lid has groves built into the mold to help keep the lid rigid and not warp in the heat. Yes, it was the most expensive cooler I’ve ever bought, but it also has held up the best. This thing lives in a truck bed in the sun all day every day, no heat warping or UV damage at all. It’s a bit stained now but I can’t blame the cooler considering how I treat the thing. If I had to buy another rotomolded cooler I would go with another Engel cooler.

Avatar Author ID 322 - 1122998080

Fishing Writer for AllOutdoor.com An avid angler since I was little, based out of the South East United States.

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