Coolers have come into their own as serious gear over the past decade. Jackson Kayak is one of the more recent manufacturers, but they come into the field with a rich history of innovation and quality in the making of kayaks, and the transition works. The roto-molded polyethylene Orion coolers are visually striking and eminently practical.
Orion coolers by Jackson Kayaks are competitive with the best in the category, and even surpass them with a few nifty details. We looked at the Orion 25, the smallest cooler in their lineup, which easily holds a case of beer or other, less important things of equivalent volume. The first thing you notice about the Orion is the color selection. No more boring white here, you can choose from a few solid color and a lot more tie-dye and camo styles. We'll stick with the Gearflogger compatible Blaze, a beautiful orange-and-white creamsicle concoction that is easy to pick out of a crowd.
The cooler-specific features include a pair of cam-lock latches on the front that are easy to manipulate, even with gloves on, an effective drain plug, and a solid – not wire mesh – plastic tray inside for small items. The cooler is easy to move around with both molded-in handles and long low-stretch rope grips. From that basic feature set Orion brings the innovations: the four corner tie-down points also function as bottle openers, and the front corners are lockable. And our favorite detail: the top of the cooler has a soft, neoprene-like pad that makes sitting or standing more comfortable. Want more? The whole thing is a certified bear canister, so if you're rafting in Alaska you're good to go. It'll take that grizz a while to get through the two-inch insulated walls.
Orion didn't stop here. They've made their cooler a platform for accessories that mount on YakAttack gear tracks on the cooler sides. These are short track strips mounted above the molded-in handles that accept a range of attachments for cameras, rod holders and related items. The beauty of this system is that you can strap the cooler down on deck and use it to mount a GoPro, as a casting platform, or to hold your fishing rod while you kick back at the tiller, and all without interfering with your constitutional right to open the cooler lid to grab a cold frosty.
We think it's the boat-builder mentality of Jackson Kayak that led to the richness of features in what could have been just another me-too product. What they've built with Orion coolers is a premium product that goes way beyond it's normal mission, in a way that's actually useful. Check 'em out, you won't be sorry.