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Reviews > Hydration Systems > Thermos Flasks > Owner Review by Gail StaisilOwner Review:
Granite Gear Air Cooler
November 8, 2010
Name: Gail Staisil
Height: 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight: 145 lb (66 kg)
Email: woodswoman2001 AT yahoo DOT com
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
For the last two decades, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight varies considerably, but my base weight is under 14 lb (6.35 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages over 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero (0 F/-18 C) temps.
The Granite Gear Air Cooler is a lightweight padded and insulated holder for water bottles or other items that need to be protected from the cold (or to preserve something already cold). It comes in different sizes but the size that I purchased was the 1 liter (1.06 qt) model which fits a 1 L (1.06 qt) Nalgene bottle perfectly. It is also available in 500 ml for a 0.5 L (0.53 qt) water bottle and the Ben&Jerry's model which the manufacturer claims is perfect for Ben & Jerry's ice cream. This last offering is shaped accordingly.
The material used to fabricate the Air Cooler is called Temptrol which is laminated to 3/8 in (94 cm) open cell foam. Temptrol reportedly is a polypropylene based non-woven perforated fabric that is metalized on one side. According to the manufacturer the "material reflects 95 percent of the radiant heat, the major source of heat transfer, to help anything stay warm or cold longer".
The outer and inner surfaces of the Air Cooler features 30D Sil-Nylon. On the back side of the holder there is a strip of Cordura material approximately 3 in (7.6 cm) wide that runs the length of the Cooler. Here is where the daisy chain and haul loop are located. All interior seams of the Air Cooler are encased in black-colored binding.
The Granite Gear Air Cooler is available in several colors. I purchased mine at a local shop where only Turquoise was available (the manufacturer doesn't name the colors on its website, this is my interpretation of the color name).
I have carried the Granite Gear Air Cooler during all months where below freezing temperatures were expected. For my area of travel that is from October through April of each year. During the last two years it has been used on more than a dozen backcountry trips during those months. Most trips were from four to six days each. In addition, I have also often used the insulated holder while doing snowshoe treks or cross country skiing as day outings.
I find it especially necessary to carry the Air Cooler during the winter months to prevent my water from freezing as the temps are almost always below freezing here. During the shoulder months (October and April) I just store my Nalgene water bottle inside the Air Cooler at the temperature that the water is taken directly from a lake or river so that it won't freeze while I am hiking or during the cold nights.
During the snowy winter months, I melt snow on my stove and then pour the hot liquid into the Air Cooler. I perform this task during each evening at camp and then I don't need to melt snow for my morning's breakfast. I store the Air Cooler usually in my bivy sack for the night so I have to detach it from my waistbelt. After breakfast I melt snow for my water needs during the day and place it inside of the Air Cooler. Water stays very hot for the first few hours of trekking and then remains lukewarm. Of course, the amount of liquid diminishes as I drink water throughout the day most likely adding to the cooling effect. Other liquids go into two small Thermos-type bottles for soups, hot chocolate etc. so that I don't have to melt any snow during the trekking hours.
I have attached the Air Cooler to various backpacks as well as to the waistbelt of my sledge harness. It has also been stowed in my sledge during the day if I have used an alternative holder on the waistbelt.
I have used insulated water bottle holders of various types throughout the years. I carry no less than two insulated holders on winter trips of which only one is the Air Cooler (it was the last one bought). I especially prefer this model as it seems to keep my water hot longer but I wish the attachment system was a bit different (more on that later).
The Air Cooler is also designed with a YKK waterproof zipper that has a rubber-type ergonomically shaped pull tab. Like most waterproof zippers they are a bit more difficult to pull so the tab allows me more grip especially during inclement weather. The zipper runs at least three quarters of the way around the unit about an inch (2.54 cm) from the top edge. The Air Cooler features a daisy chain and a haul loop so that it can be lashed to almost anything.
If I could change one thing about the Air Cooler it would be to substitute a hook and loop attachment system for its current loop attachment system. This would make it easier to detach the Air Cooler when needed. Currently I must unbuckle straps to feed the straps through the loops, or haul loop and vis versa (this is more due to my style of winter camping but would be no big deal for others who may not want to unattach the unit from their pack or sledge repeatedly).
With that said, the attachment or detachment process is easy enough the way it currently is fashioned, it is just time consuming in frigid (0 F/-18 C) conditions as it is one more thing to fumble with. Also I find I must use the haul loop to feed my waistbelt through on my sledge harness as the width of the belt is too wide for the daisy chain loops. I know I could use a carabiner for that purpose but it results in a floppy set-up (one that moves too much with every step I take) in my opinion.
Most of my trips that I used the Air Cooler during were in the state of Michigan, USA. Most of my area of travel covered hilly boreal and deciduous forests as well as frozen lakes. Elevations averages to about 600 ft (183 m) and temperatures ranged from a low of -20 F(-29 C) to about 45 F (7 C).
I find that the Air Cooler is an indispensable accessory for winter camping. Keeping liquids ready to drink makes winter hiking easier and safer.
Read more gear reviews by Gail Staisil
Reviews > Hydration Systems > Thermos Flasks > Owner Review by Gail Staisil
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