Coolers, also known as ice chests, are a must, especially for weekend camping trips away with your friends. After all, what would a weekend getaway be without cool beers and preserved snacks and meals? Many people swear by Yeti coolers and their smaller products such as mugs or cooler backpacks are cropping up everywhere, and have even become a modern-day fashion statement.
Brand recognition is surely a reason why many choose Yeti. Previously, coolers had never been seen as status symbols. But in 2006, Yeti was created, tapping into this hole in the market and creating a new market for upscaled outdoors products. They managed to strategically educate their consumers on the need for high-end camping coolers, that are even protected against grizzly bears. But the success of the company didn’t just reside with serious outdoor enthusiasts. Their marketing was so convincing that they are now seen as the go-to for any camping cooler. But with many of their coolers going at prices from $300 – are Yeti coolers worth it for the price tag?
Before we compare and contrast some different options, to see if Yeti coolers are the best coolers, let’s first break down what you should be looking for in your cooler:
- Durability: The cooler you choose should be made from durable and robust material which guarantees a long life for your cooler. After all, this is a product which should really be seen as a one-off investment. Fashions change, but your cooler should last you for years, in any weather condition.
- Insulation: The type of insulation used in your cooler determines how long the cooler can keep cool on the inside. You don’t want all the ice melting on your first day – and your sandwiches becoming soggy on the second day of camping!
- Portability: your consideration of the portability of your cooler really depends on how you intend to use it. If you can drive to your preferred camping spot and set up camp near your car, or if you’re RV or car camping, then you can opt for a larger cooler (65 quarts+) which will keep your supplies cool for you and your group for roughly 5 days. However if you’re going to be hiking for long distances, or it’s a long walk from your car to the camp, then take a look at some of the smaller, lighter options of coolers. There are even some backpack cooler options – or some with handles and wheels – for whatever your portability needs.
- Cost: the cost of your cooler can be influenced by many factors such as quality, size, and brand. The cost of your cooler is also determined by how much, or just how you intend to use your cooler. If it’s coming out of storage just a couple of times a year, then maybe there’s not much point looking at the more expensive options of coolers. And Yeti, really, is top of the market for the price point.
So, to help you decide whether Yeti coolers are worth it, we’ve compared a Yeti cooler with many options, going from the most expensive to the least. There are many different sizes and portability options when it comes to coolers, so once you’ve decided on the brand, feel free to investigate other products they sell. But to keep it simpler, and to make the comparison more accurate, we’ll compare coolers that are all roughly the same size and capacity. These coolers are all 40-50 quartz, which is one of the most popular and convenient sizes unless you’re camping alone: sufficient to keep all the food and drink you’ll need for a weekend camping trip with two or three people.
1. Yeti Tundra 45
- The YETI Tundra 35 is portable enough for one person to haul while still having an impressive carrying capacity of up to 20 cans with a recommended 2:1 ice-to-contents ratio
The Yeti Tundra 45 is one of Yeti’s most popular products. This product is both durable and versatile. It has a capacity of up to 26 cans, with the recommended 2:1 ice to contents ratio. And one of the biggest selling factors about Yeti’s coolers, not just with their Tundra model but also with their other sizes and models, is that it’s cooler! Yeti Tundra 45 boasts 3 inches of PermaFrost Insulation. PermaFrost Insulation, according to Yeti, is in the walls and lid which have been pressure-injected with commercial-grade polyurethane. This means that often Yeti coolers keep ice from melting for longer than many other cheaper, or less well developed, options. Also, because of Yeti’s FatWall design, the extra thick walls can hold up to two inches of insulation, for ice retention that keeps it top of the market. Another feature which means the Yeti Tundra keeps cool is the cold lock gasket. Although all other coolers should have a gasket, circling the length of the interior of the lid acting as a seal to lock in the cold, Yeti uses a freezer quality gasket.
The second main selling point for Yeti is its durability. Yeti Tundra 45 boasts a one-piece roto-molded construction. This is shorthand for the manufacturing process known as rotational molding, meaning that the plastic exterior of the cooler is made in one continuous process, making it stronger and more durable. Because of this, Yeti claims that their coolers are virtually indestructible. They’re protected against bears even – they’re certified BearResistant. This feature of the cooler’s design could be a selling point for you. If you intend to use this cooler for the rest of your life, and especially if you intend to give it heavy use in multiple seasons and circumstances, then it might be worth you investing the money in a Yeti cooler. Wherever you decide to take it, and whatever riggers entailed in your adventure, the Yeti cooler is bound to stand the test of time.
There are many other features that act as unique selling points for Yeti. Firstly, they have T-Rex lid latches, in an anchor shape, made out of heavy-duty rubber. These are designed and made with Yeti patented technology, meaning that they really are unique. You’ll never have a plastic broken latch again, the Yeti latches will always move, bend and stretch due to their design and material, even when knocked. Secondly, they use an interlocking lid system in their grooves, meaning that where the lid meets the main part of the cooler acts as a barrier against the heat, with less room for temperature exchange. They also have what Yeti call a “never fail hinge system”, with two hinge pins and an interlocking design, which means the hinge is extra hardy.
Thirdly the handles of the Yeti cooler are made with military-grade polyester for extra durability. However, the part of the handles which you hold is made of hard plastic. Some of the other coolers we are reviewing have rubber ergonomic handles, which can make the cooler easier to carry and hurt less on your hands during a long journey especially considering the weight your cooler maybe once it is full. This may be a factor you should consider when deciding if Yeti coolers are worth it for you. Some of the other features which make Yeti coolers unique are the anchor point tie-down slots, which are folded tie-down slots to make it easy to mount the cooler to your trailer, boat, or truck bed. This means that the cooler won’t slide around while you’re in transit, keeping the contents of your cooler – and your vehicle – safe from harm. Combined with this, they also use “bearfoot” non-slip feet, to prevent sliding and to keep your Yeti cooler in place.
The Yeti Tundra cooler has a vortex drain system. It’s leak-proof and designed for easy draining when your ice melts. However, as we’ll see, the draining system of some other coolers on the market are thicker, with a bigger hole, and so sometimes are more effective at draining the water out of your cooler once the ice has melted. Lastly, one of the biggest selling points for Yeti, and contributing factors to their name recognition and the strong trust in their brand is their 5-year warranty. In their advertising and product descriptions, it’s evident that Yeti wants to educate us on why it’s worth investing in a cooler that will last us at least 5 years – and probably for the rest of our lives. They pitch themselves as being the best of the best, well worth investing the extra dollars in. But are they? Let’s take a look at some of the other options on the market.
- Brand recognition
- Roto molded construction
- Vortex drain system
- Bear resistant
- 5 year warranty
- Three inches of the highest quality insulation
- Hard handles
2. Pelican Elite 50 Quart Cooler
The Pelican Elite cooler is slightly cheaper than Yeti, especially seeing as you get 5 extra quarts of capacity for basically the same price. From Pelican’s advertising and product descriptions, it’s easy to see that they’re trying to access the same market as Yeti: high quality, long-lasting outdoors and camping coolers. So if you’re considering not going with Yeti, due to their high price points, then Pelican is not the option for you. However, with their hardy designs and lifetime guarantees, you might find that you get even more bang for your buck with Pelican – depending on what you’re looking for.
One of the main differences between Pelican and Yeti coolers is cool retention. We’re pretty sure that you might get an extra day of ice with Yeti, maybe even more, depending on how much you’ve filled the cooler and what the climate you’re in is like. This is mainly down to the thickness of the walls – Yeti has FatWall design at 3 inches thick – whereas the Pelican Elite cooler’s walls are 2 inches thick. However they do also use the best materials possible, polyurethane insulation, and also feature a 360-degree freezer-grade gasket to deliver extreme ice retention.
So, the Yeti cooler may keep items cooler for longer. Some features are shared between the Yeti and Pelican coolers, such as the overlocking hinge system, non-skid rubber feet, and molded-in tie-down slots. But does the Pelican option offer anything extra? The answer is yes, Pelican Elite cooler has many extra features not offered by Yeti. These include: an over-molded, ergonomic carry handle for comfort while transporting your cooler; 4 self-draining cup holders; and a lifetime guarantee; a stainless steel bottle opener; and reinforced lockable clasps. However the Yeti clasps may be more durable, seeing as they’re made out of rubber, so can withstand any knocking or bending.
One consideration that you might make when choosing between a Pelican and a Yeti cooler is aesthetics. The design of the Yeti cooler is simple, chic and timeless, with many attractive color options available. If your cooler is a necessary party accessory to keep your beers cool then maybe the Yeti option is better for you. The Pelican cooler certainly looks more utilitarian and comes in tan or khaki colors, so might look more appropriate for the more adventurous outdoors enthusiast.
- Good gasket for cool retention
- Ergonomic handle
- Cup holders
- Lifetime guarantee
- More utilitarian design
3. ORCA 40 Quart Tan Cooler
The Orca 40 quart cooler is also a slightly cheaper option than Yeti. But similarly to Pelican, it comes with a lifetime guarantee. Similarly to Yeti, Orca coolers have a root molded construction to provide maximum strength and durability. Orca doesn’t provide as much information as Yeti concerning their materials and manufacturing process, but they do boast an integrated insulation technique for optimal coolness retention which is supposed to keep ice fresh for up to 10 days.
Some of the useful features shared between Yeti and Orca coolers is the easy flow draining spout, rubber latches – in the shape of a whale tail! – which are durable and won’t break if knocked, and a lid gasket ensuring a perfect seal to keep your ice for longer. It also has some extra features above and beyond Yeti: an attached cargo net for added storage space and ergonomic handles to make carrying easier. However the insulation isn’t as effective with Orca, the design is more utilitarian than Yeti, and there are many of the features of Yeti missing in this design. Seeing as the price points really aren’t too dissimilar, and with Yeti you get instant brand recognition and trust, we wouldn’t recommend choosing Orca over Yeti.
- Root molded construction
- Cute rubber latches
- Cargo net
- Ergonomic handles
- Less brand recognition
4. RTIC Cooler, 45 qt
- The RTIC 45 - Brand New in Box
The Rtic cooler is more in the mid-range price bracket for coolers, but interestingly shares many of the same features as Yeti. Namely: Roto-Molded Construction, Heavy Duty T-Latches, Freezer Grade Gasket, Molded rubber Tie-Down Slots, 3 inches of insulated walls, Non-Slip Feet, Integrated Locking System and hinges, and it’s Bear Resistant.
It has some extra features too. Firstly, it’s rapid V-drain system operates differently to Yeti’s and has a slightly bigger hole, meaning that your water could potentially drain water quicker with Rtic’s cooler. They also have folded side handles to make carrying it a nicer experience. Some of the materials used in Rtic aren’t quite as high a quality as with Yeti, such as the insulation and the rope handles, but we think they have a similar level of durability, and impact resistance. The design is also visually very similar between the two products, the only difference is that there are more color options with Yeti. So if you’re looking for a cooler that has almost the same quality of Yeti, looks very similar, but is a lot cheaper, then the Rtic model could be the perfect fit for you.
- V-drain design
- Freezer grade gasket
- Rubber tie-down slots
- 3 inches of insulated walls
- Less quality in the materials
- High- mid-range price
5. Coleman Wheeled Cooler 50 Quart
- Xtreme Technology; Insulated lid and extra wall insulation keep ice up to 5 days in temperatures as high as 90°F
Although the quality of materials isn’t up to scratch with Yeti, the Coleman cooler has a lot of extra features which means you should consider it as an option. Firstly it has a smoother texture lid, to make cleaning a breeze. It also has folded cup holders in the lid, and a reinforced, sturdy lid that can carry up to 250 pounds, meaning that you can easily use it as an extra chair. One of the biggest selling points for a Coleman cooler is the heat duty wheels. You can roll your Coleman cooler to your campsite our outdoor location, even in rough or rocky terrain! This means that it’s far easier to transport than Yeti coolers… but doesn’t that really matter if the ice melts faster? One good thing about Coleman’s insulation is that it’s low CO2, meaning it has reduced carbon emissions from foam manufacturing. We think that when you’re venturing into the great outdoors, why not consider protecting it at the same time?
Coleman is an established and well-trusted brand. This is an interesting thing to consider, seeing as the main reason why people go with Yeti is because of brand recognition. But with the price being less than one-sixth of the Yeti cooler and a lot cheaper than many of the other options- even with more storage space and 5 full days of ice retention – and with the extra features offered: Coleman could well be the perfect replacement for Yeti in your buying dreams, especially if you want more bang for your buck.
- Very cheap
- Brand recognition
- Easy clean
- Reinforced lid so you can use it as a stool
- Low CO2 manufacturing
- Less quality in the materials
- Less attractive design
So, are Yeti coolers worth it? This question is kind of like asking whether it’s worth investing in a Mercedes or a BMW. A much cheaper car will still get you from A to B, but you won’t be driving a Mercedes or a BMW. Yeti coolers are truly excellent, they use top-notch materials, have an elegant, chic design, and have many features that you need in a cooler. But with the price point as it is, and with many other cheaper options available, Yeti coolers really are mainly a status symbol. If you’re using your cooler for a simple camping trip, maybe it’s not worth the investment. Whether you want or need a Yeti cooler is entirely up to you – we won’t judge either way!