Our Guide to Eskies

When it comes to eskies there are a number of different schools – the new school, the old school and the really old school.

Invented in 1952 by Australian company Malleys, eskies have been an Aussie favourite for nearly 70 years, much loved by the Aussie cricket fan back in the ’70s and ’80s when you could still bring a slab per person into the ground. Perfect as a seat or to stand on when Thommo or DK came down to Bay 13 for a break.


Your new-school esky is the “ice box / ice chest” lover – big enough to hold a small bottle shop. These bad boys will keep the ice alive for days (so long as Damo remembers to shut the damn thing – see our ‘Esky Crimes’ section below). 

When someone turns up to your house with one of these you know they’re in for the long haul. These can hold drinks for 40 people – but it takes two people to carry it into the house or the campsite… traditionally one person on each side with a freshly cracked can in the other hand.

They’ve got names like “Frostbite” and “Hypothermia” – they’re big, they’re heavy but they are awesome.

New-school eskies also include the ones with the wheels – guaranteed to become really wonky right when you have a long walk down a sandy track and no one to hold the other handle. Apart from that, they’re good enough to keep your drinks cold for a day of heat.

Then there’s the new-school eskies that take the piss. Over the last few years we’ve seen the rise of the designer esky – brands with names like “Yeti”: the perfect name for them because sightings of Yeti eskies at BBQs are as rare as Yeti sightings. No one’s sure if they’re worth the money because we don’t know anyone who’s bought one – without testing them we think you’re better off heading down to the servo for more ice.

Esky-branded eskies: It doesn’t matter whether your esky is an Esky brand or not – no one’s saying “Get me a beer from the ice chest” in Australia.  Nevertheless, Esky still make eskies and they’re a rock solid brand of choice.

Some new-school esky options:

Willow – $90-200 range

Frostbite – $300-400

Dometic – $200 – $350 

Yeti – $400 – $600

Esky – $90 – $300


No wheels. No single-drink trap doors. No mucking around.  These eskies are the ones you grew up with – usually actually Esky-brand eskies. They have a ruler on the top for measuring your fish – no fancy locks just a handle that folds over to stop the lid falling off, which is a little odd because the suction that these things generate make it next to impossible to remove the lid without losing a fingernail.

Favoured by people who have little need for bells and whistles they just want something that does the job.

Really Old-School

People in the Old-Old-School group take pride in the fact that their esky has seen more New Year’s Eve parties than they have. The type of people who still drink the same brand of beer their dad did and find everything else “too fruity”. These eskys have zero insulation left after 50 years and you’ll have more luck keeping your drinks cold in a cardboard box filled with ice – but there’s no telling these guys that.


Eleven Esky Crimes

1. Leaving the lid off/open.

2. Kids stealing all the ice / eating the ice straight from the esky. (That’s what the spare bag of ice is for, kids.)

3. Kicking dirt or sand into the esky.

4. Sitting on someone else’s esky.

5. Putting drinks on top of the esky thinking you can somehow manage to balance them when you need to get a drink out. Don’t be that person.

6. An unhealthy reliance on ice packs – don’t bother with these – just buy some ice or fill your freezer the night before.

7. Mouse-door traps: Some people swear by these – they let you get your drink out without opening the bigger door. Sounds good in practice but more often than not it’s like trying to pull a pineapple through a key hole.

8. Just don’t put things on top of the esky – it’s not a table – if you need a table get a camping table.

9. Branded eskies: Do not pay money to advertise a billion-dollar company’s product for them. The exception: free ones when you buy a slab – but just remember that you might as well carry your beers in your pockets for all the insulation you get in a free “cooler bag”.


10. Can-shaped eskies: If you’ve ever tried to pull an apple out of a barrel with your teeth you’ll know how painful these can be.

11. Eskies with cricket stumps as handles: you do not need these – there is nothing wrong with a boogie board slammed into the sand for a set of stumps. The bigger the stumps the more chance you have of getting “Backyard Bradman” Davo out.

Esky Controversy

To pour the water out or to leave it in – the cause of many heated BBQ debates. There’s always some bloke who will say that Dr Karl said to leave the water in and some other bloke who swears the water is making the ice melt faster. General consensus is that having cool water around your drinks is better than having warmer air. Leave the water in.

Three Esky Must-Haves

1. A hole. To drain the water (when the ice has melted).

2. Options. People who know their eskies know that having a variety of choices is what you really need. The big bugger for when you’re camping, supplying booze for a larger group or team (100 litres plus); your medium size for your medium-sized events (around 40-50 litres); and the over-the-shoulder number that holds 12 cans and a couple of bottles of wine.

3. Common sense. Don’t put the ice in until you have the drinks in. If you’ve ever seen someone try and put 12 stubbies and a couple of bottles of Rose into an esky filled with ice you’ll know what I mean.

And Finally…

While eskies may have evolved, they connect us with our forefathers; they’re symbols of good times and the experience of loading one – layer of drinks, ice, another layer of drinks, more ice – is a ritual we never tire of. Our dads watched their dads load one. We watched ours do the same. And today many dads remain the designated esky-loaders in the house. Long may this continue!    

The Dad Website team talk “esky etiquette” in this fun summer feature on Nine’s A Current Affair:


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