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Cordova Outdoors' Obsidian Recycled Cooler: Pairing Sustainability & Performance

An Aboriginal Proverb states: The more you know, the less you need.

Manufacturing things has a cost, an environmental impact. We don’t yet know how to completely negate that, but we’re learning how to do more with less, to reduce waste and minimize our consumption of raw materials without compromising on quality and durability.

Our Obsidian Basecamp Class™ hard cooler is the result of asking questions, testing, observing, refining, and repeating. Its rotationally molded, seamless shell is made from 100% reground and recycled linear low-density polyethylene – material that is endlessly recyclable in the right hands, but too often ends up in landfills and oceans. Its core is Ecofoam, the most environmentally friendly hard cell insulation currently available. Its rock-solid handles are black anodized aluminum, the most recyclable of all metals.

Our recycled hard cooler’s aesthetic is intentionally understated. It doesn’t cry out for your attention; it just does its job. That job is to provide best-in-class insulation while being rugged enough to have a jeep parked on it or survive being thrown off a roof while fully loaded.

The Process:

About five percent of the time, due to a variety of factors – ranging from a spike in the power grid to the change in atmospheric conditions accompanying an afternoon thunderstorm – a cooler lid or body shell will become defective during the molding process to the point where it can’t be used.

That part contains anywhere from four to 37 pounds of linear-low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). LLDPE is awesome for manufacturing coolers. It’s strong, but not brittle. Check out our Instagram Reels and you’ll see us throwing fully loaded coolers off the roof of our manufacturing facility onto our parking lot. The LLDPE’s molecular structure is ideally suited to absorb that impact. But it IS a plastic, refined from petroleum. So, the best case in a landfill is that, over decades, it eventually breaks down into microplastics. Not great.

While it’s arguably better than dumping into oceans and adding to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, we hate sending material to landfills. Especially material we paid for and meant to turn into great coolers.

Fortunately, LLDPE is a material that, under the right conditions, is surprisingly eco-friendly because it can be endlessly reground and recycled. So, we decided to do that and see what a Basecamp ClassTM Cooler made with recycled resin looked like and, more importantly, how it performs.


Turns out, it looks awesome. Mixing different colors of resin together yields our unmistakable Obsidian Colorway. It’s black and the cooler has a depth to it. It looks like Batman’s cooler (Christian Bale Batman, not Adam West Batman). We decided to go all-in and murder out the whole cooler. The logos are black on Scree so the Snowcap pops, and the handle side plates are anodized black. 


And its performance is right in line with our other Basecamp ClassTM Colorways. The Obsidian does absorb more heat than Snowcap, that’s science y’all, so left out in direct sunlight, the lid WILL get hotter than lighter hues, but the THICK layer of EcoFoam insulation keeps that heat from transferring into the cooler’s interior.

At the risk of over-explaining, because LLDPE is so impact-absorbent it does flex more than a rigid plastic like Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) used in things like LEGO bricks. Our 128 qt lids are over six square feet in size and that much real estate in the summer sun can get hot. When things get hot, they expand (science again) so we keep our Obsidian Colorway coolers to our smaller sizes to make sure the expansion stays within the tolerance of the cooler’s parts.

Other Eco-Conscious Considerations:

All of Cordova Outdoors’ Basecamp ClassTM Coolers are insulated with EcoFoam. EcoFoam is PFAS, CFC, HFC, and HFO/HCFO-free (we’re not trying to be alarmists – again, we recognize that manufacturing the products that allow us to enjoy an unprecedented standard of living today has a cost – but those are all abbreviations for stuff we’d just as soon not use if we don’t have to). According to the manufacturer (also our supplier), “EcoFoam (is) the clear choice for companies in search of sustainable rigid foam solutions that prioritize both performance and environmental stewardship”.

Our components are modular and designed to be replaceable with nothing more than a mallet or screwdriver. So if one part fails, the system can be repaired.

• The Goat Feet are designed to stay seated for life, but if one gets damaged or dislodged, it can easily be replaced. Just hammer the new one in. And maybe send us a pic of what you did to dislodge it – we love to see our coolers in the wild, especially when they’re put to hard use.

• Same with our Top Loader Latches: bang the bar out, slip the new latch on (soapy water helps lubricate installation), and bang the bar back in.

• The Handles are ridiculously rugged, we’ve literally hoisted over 1,000 lbs with them (check it out here!), but also replaceable. The component parts screw simply together and the foam sleeve covering the steel handle body is also replaceable, again, soapy water helps.

Thanks for supporting Cordova Outdoors and especially our efforts to produce products that minimize environmental impact without sacrificing performance.

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