Every cooler runs on borrowed time. It leaves for your camping trip with crisp produce and ice-laced beer that looks straight out of a Super Bowl commercial, and returns with a soggy block of foil-wrapped cheddar cheese floating in a pool of mustard water . Mother Nature always wins.
Which is probably why I was so mesmerized when I saw the EcoFlow Glacier at CES 2023. Less cold than a mobile battery-powered fridge on wheels, the sleek Electric Glacier not only cuts down on the need for ice, it will make ice for me in 18 minutes, My home fridge can’t even do that, and I didn’t even know I wanted it until now. When EcoFlow offered me to try Glacier, I imagined sipping a sweaty glass of whiskey in the tropics and accepted the occupational hazards of my job.
Keep Having lost an actual minifridge on a camping trip last year, I’m acutely aware of how inefficient they can be — the fridge in question barely lasted a weekend connected to a massive battery. Ok, the blending, boiling and microwaving I did might have something to do with it too. But the Glacier is rated to use just 300 watt-hours of power for 24 hours of cooling. That’s an amount you could realistically pull off with solar panels while camping, elevating the Glacier from an “iceless cooler” to a true off-grid fridge, a true mobile device that will keep your food and drinks warm enough. Formulated to keep cold indefinitely. Sweet, sweet sunshine
Insulated by its foam-and-cardboard cocoon, Glacier looks more like a device for chopping off organs by drones than a cooler in the year 2067, which is to say, it’s the future. And shiny in parts. Even outside, my dog’s hair immediately began working its way into every crevice. Glacier will undoubtedly require hunting a bit more than a bear-proof yeti, but that comes with the territory. It’s still sturdy enough to sit and stand on, though the top-mounted LCD will force you to watch your step.
Inside, two separate compartments can be set to temperatures as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that you can not only make ice, but also store it. And ice cream, and popsicles, and whatever other frozen delights you crave beside the fire.
The ice maker is so simple, it’s simple. It is a small water bath filled with small metal pellets that come out from the bottom of a basket. When you make ice, the cubs get cold faster, which causes ice caps to form around them. Eighteen minutes later, you pick up a basket full of tiny ice cubes from the water bath. brilliant. It’s also a power-intensive parlor trick, costing about 10% of battery life, so while you can make enough ice to toss into a glass of Glenlivet, you won’t be sporting an ice machine for the campground.
Power comes from a 300Wh brick that slides into the back of the Glacier, which is convenient for two reasons. One, you can pull it off and use the single USB-C port to power other gadgets like your phone or laptop. Two, you can pull it out and charge it without moving the cooler. Since a fully loaded cooler can push 40 pounds, this is no small convenience.
The Glacier includes both wheels and a telescoping handle, which makes it rollable rather than strictly steerable. The wheels can be quickly detached with four thumb screws, which can save the day in tight packing situations.
Since late-season snow is putting a damper on early-season camping in the Pacific Northwest where I live, I didn’t have to take the glacier out into the woods, but I did run a simulation in my backyard, because Sciencee: How long can I keep a cooler full of beer cold using only the sun and a 200-watt panel?
While the finicky spring weather here in Portland was an obvious deterrent for the solar panels, I figured the cooler weather might compensate. After loading up one side of Glacier with a beer and an ice, I parked the cooler outside, connected the 200-watt solar array on the south side, and started the timer.
The first day brought only intermittent sunshine and temperatures in the mid-50s, but by the end it was pretty cool at 99%. By the end of the second day, which was more sunny, it had dropped to 68%, and was back up to 100%. After six cloudy days in the mid-50s, when Glacier was beautiful at 99%, I have to admit: This thing is legit. With smart placement in the shade and a decent solar array, you can realistically keep food cold indefinitely.
The EcoFlow hasn’t announced pricing yet, but if the competing $1,000 Furrion eRove is any indicator, it’ll come at a premium. And that’s fine. Occasional campers should probably grab a few bags of $2.99 Reddy Ice at Safeway and call it a day. But if you’re going on an extended off-the-grid trip, a long stay on a property without electricity, or perhaps even a boon for long periods in an RV, the Glacier is one of the very few cooling devices that does its job. Packs power. And if you need to make snow off the wall, it’s in a class of its own. Just save some budget for beer.