Always Travel With Beer Koozies

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Illustration: Andrew P Collins

Beer koozies, those little foam sleeves that hold 12-ounce aluminum cans, are great at keeping your bev cold when you’re drinking in the desert. (Or keeping your hand warm-ish when you’re drinking in the snow!) But they’re also excellent little protectors and organizers while you’re on the move.

“Koozie” is technically a brand. I don’t know what the un-corporate name for a can-sleeve even is, I don’t care to find out, and I’m not about to start saying “can sleeve,” so lowercase-K koozie it is. The Australians call them “stubby holders,” if you prefer that.

Anyway, the News You Can Use first: These things are great for backcountry beer drinking, as we’ve already noted, but they’re also useful for shielding and organizing the many personal electronic accessories you might be traveling with.

Look at how perfectly my Canon G7X Mark III vlogging camera fits in one! Couple penguins driving a Scout on there. Cute, right? I made these for my first wedding anniversary party. Full disclosure: it’s a composite of “borrowed” designs. (I wasn’t selling them and made an extremely limited number, so I feel like it’s OK.)

Image for article titled Always Travel With Beer Koozies

Photo: Andrew P Collins

Moving on. What about my Garmin InReach SE+ satellite communicator? How will that be kept safe while bumping along in the cab of my truck? Another koozie!

Image for article titled Always Travel With Beer Koozies

Photo: Andrew P Collins

Got a bigger camera? Some lenses fit perfectly in, you guessed it, koozies.

Image for article titled Always Travel With Beer Koozies

Photo: Andrew P Collins

And that’s just the junk I had in one arm’s reach of my computer. Koozies are cheap when you have to buy them, but you probably never will as they’re pretty common promotional swag and/or party favors.

I know a lot of light-packing travelers are abandoning some tech accessories for iPhone apps, but for those of us who still carry specialized gear, the value of the koozie cannot be overstated.

There’s also a certain social gravitas afforded to those who always have a beer holder within reach. Story time!

I was raised in New England but spent some formative time in Australia. OK, what I mean is, after college, I was lucky enough to settle my debts and buy a one-way ticket outbound to live out of a backpack indefinitely, go Kerouac on everybody’s ass, et cetera.

Fast-forward through some great and terrible times (remind me to tell you about the night shift at the frozen fish locker) and eventually I met Magnus.

Magnus was one of my primary mentors in life and is still a great friend, but first, he was an enigma to me. As imposing and grizzled as any American suburbanite might picture someone named “Magnus” to be. The Magnus I would come to know was simultaneously rough, imperturbable, and affable.

When he introduced me to his lovely British wife and three beautiful daughters, who lived with him in his barn full of dirt bikes, which was generator-powered, had an outhouse for facilities, and a hole in the wall from that time he killed a snake with a shotgun, I was even more confused.

I could fill many pages about the year I spent crisscrossing Australia leading off-road tours with Magnus, but this time we’re going to skip to the “stubby holder” section.

Obviously, I began to lowkey idolize Magnus pretty quickly and started picking up his habits. One of the things he introduced me to was the importance of beer being kept as cold as scientifically possible at all times. (Another thing we’ll have to circle back to is how I got the nickname “Ice Boy.”)

All that to say, I often ended up having a bandolier of koozies on me and realized I could use them for packing fragile things when they weren’t holding beers.

Years later, when I got back into off-roading, this time in Baja and the American southwest, I ended up under the wing of another mentor–a guy named Ron, who I’m also still buds with–and I learned he had the same reverence for koozies as Magnus did. So did (does) almost everyone in the desert racing scene.

Pulling your own koozie out at a campfire has always been a good way to get subtle nods from the scene elders. And on the flipside, pulling one out in more, uh, “civilized” company is a great way to show everyone what a goddamn pirate you are. My wife’s highly educated friends always laugh when I koozie a drink at a downtown bar, and I’m not going to deny it, I get a lot of joy from their incredulity.

At this point, I have a koozie stuffed into the pocket of almost every coat I own. You should too!

This story was originally published on January 21, 2020

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