The Five Best Coolers: Is YETI Worth It?

Coolers come in all shapes, sizes, and price points – from cheap plastic Walmart coolers to hip brands that cost thousands. Yeti is one of the top brands right now, but it’s more than that – it’s a phenomenon. It feels bizarre to live in a world where a brand of cooler is trendy, but here we are. But does Yeti actually offer anything for the money, other than a seat on the hype train? We’re looking at the world of coolers to see where Yeti fits in.

Best Cooler on a Budget: Igloo Marine Ultra Square Coolers

Igloo Marine Ultra Square coolers are perfect if you need to carry some cans for a day trip or a soccer game. You can usually get them for around $35, and the ultra-thick insulation can keep cans cold for a couple of days. They’re leak resistant, easy to clean, and have an antimicrobial lining that keeps the inside from staining or absorbing odors. The only issue is that ice inside may not stay frozen on longer or hotter trips. Plus, it may not stand up to extreme wear and tear like other coolers on the list. A lot of customer reviews mention breaking straps as a common complaint.

Best Cooler for Water Resistance: AO Coolers Water-Resistant

AO Coolers are made of vinyl. That doesn’t allow them to keep goods cold for very long, but it does make them water resistant, and quite possibly perfect for the avid boater or fisher. This cooler is guaranteed to hold ice for 24 hours in 120-degree weather. The cooler lists for $89.95, though you can usually find it for less than that. If that sounds like a steep increase, well, it is. But for your money, you get a cooler that’s a lot more waterproof, and a lot more durable.

Best Cooler for Short Term Trips: Coleman 54-Quart Cooler

Coleman was one of the top cooler brands on the market before Yeti and ORCA came along. This 54-quart steel-belted cooler is great at what it does, while costing a great deal less than Yeti. While this cooler is priced in the AO Cooler’s ballpark, you can expect it to weigh much more due to the stainless-steel construction. The weight of this cooler when it’s empty is about 19 pounds, so it’s definitely not something to trek around with. Still, reviewers love it, saying that while the walls are relatively thin, ice will remain in the cooler for several days, making it perfect for short-term trips in warm weather. Coleman fans say the latch is solid, and this thing can take a beating and still last for years. This cooler technically lists for $150, but between Amazon, Target, and elsewhere, you can usually find it as low as $80, or even $60 – especially if you’re willing to be flexible about the color.

Best Cooler for Durable Low Capacity: ORCA 20 Quart Classic

For smaller sizes, ORCA has one of the best coolers available. They’re incredibly durable, to the point that even a bear can’t break into it to steal your food. (At least, not if you padlock it.) The thick walls are designed to hold ice for 7-10 days without completely melting, depending on the environment it’s in. While Yeti is also a quality choice at this price point, ORCA’s slightly more competitive pricing makes it worth a close look. Options include 20-, 26-, 40-, 58-, 75-, and 140-quart coolers. The 20-quart classic lists for about $260, but you can consistently find it for less. You can usually grab it for about $190, or even as low as $160 if you’re willing to look around and do some waiting. YETI’s comparable cooler tends to hold firm at $200.

Best Cooler for Durable Large Capacity: Yeti Tundra

Need a large cooler that will keep for a week or more? Yeti is the best choice on the market. While Yeti offers tons of different sizes, the value becomes apparent when you get into the larger coolers. All of Yeti’s coolers are designed to avoid condensation on the outside while remaining incredibly durable. Yeti actually backs up their “bear-proof” claim with a seal from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. (You still need a padlock. Bears can figure out the latches.) While ORCA’s coolers top out at 140 quarts, Yeti offers coolers up to 350 quarts. Absolutely nothing compares to the brand at this size. Just be ready to pay for what you get. And be mindful that unless you’re serious about camping for long stretches  of time, you probably don’t actually need something this heavy-duty. You can pick up a Tundra 160, Tundra 210, Tundra 250, or Tundra 350 for a range of prices anywhere from about $680 to around $1300.