Passive coolboxes have been around for a long time, yet despite the rise in the affordability and availability of powered coolboxes, leaps in technology mean that passive coolboxes are making a comeback. So here at Practical Caravan, we’ve put some to the test to see which is the best passive coolbox for your caravan holidays.

Of course, you could argue that there is no point in going to the bother of freezing ice packs the night before when you can simply plug a powered model into a 12V socket when you need to chill something. And, yes, that makes sense. But what if you’re going off grid? When not plugged in, powered coolboxes often heat up relatively quickly, and no one likes warm sandwiches or a not-so-ice-cold beer. Another advantage of passive coolboxes is that they don’t have ventilation grilles, thus they can be stored anywhere, but not in direct sunlight.

We put this Igloo Sportsman through our rigorous test, to see how it performs to help you make an informed choice for your caravan holidays. Retailing at £40, it is certainly a very affordable option. 

Testing the thermal abilities of each coolbox was, of course, key. They were all opened and we let the ambient temperature rise to 25˚C, before filling them to 5% of their capacity with ice chilled to -12˚C, then closing them and leaving them for eight hours in a room kept at a constant 27˚C, keeping a close eye on their internal temperatures.

A host of other factors were considered, as well. How much does it cost? How easy is it to carry? Can tall bottles be stored upright? How well built is the coolbox? Does it have a lock, drainage bungs and feet that raise it off the ground (so its temperature isn’t affected by, for example, sitting directly on hot sand). Also, as when you’re out and about a coolbox might have to function as an occasional chair, this was considered too – well, carting one less chair about is a bonus in our books.

So, what did our review team make of the Igloo Sportsman? The price – £40 – for 28 litres of storage really gives the game away here: this is very much a mass-produced standard coolbox rather than an expensive model like the Cool-Ice, Icey-Tek and Techniice. But Igloo’s experience of keeping the most demanding of home markets happy — the USA — really shows. This is one excellent all-rounder. Thermally, an average test temperature of 16.5˚C and minimum of 14.5˚C are better than those of similarly priced competitors. 

The box’s ability to keep its cool is only part of its appeal. The quality of the finish is way better than in most of the standard fare. It is deep enough to allow two-litre bottles to be stored upright. We also like the combination of the traditional handle plus two moulded-in grab points. The Sportsman borrows some features from premium players, such as a lid that’s strong enough to sit on, plus tall feet to ensure a gap between the ground and the base, allowing cool air to pass under it.

This Igloo coolbox received a four-star review, the same as the Icey-Tek Cube Box which costs more and has a (marginally) smaller capacity, and the Techniice Signature which retails for over £200. Practical Caravan’s passive coolbox group test winner was the 42-litre Waeco Cool-Ice, which will set you back £115. We also tested another product from Igloo, the Island Breeze rolling cooler and an Argos coolbox.