Yeti prioritizes one important thing: Making products that perform well in even the most extreme conditions. But are coolers like the Tundra 45 really all they’re cracked up to be?
Since the Texas-based company launched in 2006, Yeti has dominated the hard-case cooler market.
They’ve since expanded to drinkware, soft coolers, bags, buckets, chairs, and more, all thanks to a loyal cult following of outdoor enthusiasts and tailgaters who refuse to settle for anything less than the best.
Yeti coolers are also expensive, though.
They range from $199 to $1,299, and for some people that’s an instant deal breaker.
Even those of us who can afford a Yeti cooler cringe a little when we see the price tag, begging the big question — is a Yeti cooler really worth the money?
Why are Yeti Coolers Expensive?
To begin with, Yeti coolers are expensive because they’re made with high quality materials. Indestructible parts and materials aren’t cheap, after all. Neither is the R&D and proprietary technology it takes to bring these premium materials together to keep your drinks cold for days.
Yeti has also had several years to develop itself as a brand. Yeti coolers are made through a process called rotomolding. This means they don’t have any seams, which in turn makes them sturdy and durable. Yeti was the first brand on the market to put out this kind of cooler model, so seniority is on the company’s side.
Another reason Yeti is able to raise the price is the demographic of their target audience. Yeti’s core fanbase is composed of serious hunting and fishing enthusiasts (typically 30 to 60-year-old men). These customers are well-educated, have good jobs, and have money to spend on hobbies. Yeti can afford to sell its products for a higher price because the company knows its audience is willing to fork over the money.
Yeti coolers aren’t just for the niche market of serious outdoorsmen, though. Yeti’s products are also popular among tailgaters, from college students to NFL fans. At these social functions, Yeti has become a status symbol and something to aspire to. Owning a Yeti cooler means you have made it, and comes with bragging rights.
With this in mind, you’re also paying for the brand name with Yeti. And when it comes to coolers, Yeti isn’t just a name brand — it’s the name brand.
Yeti coolers have a long list of benefits and features that set them apart from other coolers.
First of all, they keep your drinks and food cold for longer thanks to their thick walls and superior insulation. ABC Action News did an experiment comparing a Yeti Tundra with a regular (and much cheaper) cooler. Three days after filling each cooler with ice and Diet Cokes, the “normal” cooler was full of 71-degree water and warm Coke bottles, while the Yeti still had ice and cold Diet Coke.
Consumers also appreciate the abundance of options that Yeti offers. For example, the Tundra — Yeti’s most popular hardshell cooler with two-inch-thick insulation — comes in 12 sizes. From the portable Tundra 35 to the mammoth Tundra 350, there’s guaranteed to be something for everyone.
Yeti coolers are also leak-proof and easy to carry around. Most importantly, if you drop a Yeti cooler while you’re on the go, its indestructible shell may dent but it won’t break — unless you drop it over the edge of the Grand Canyon.
Apart from astronomical pricing, there are a few downsides to Yeti coolers that are worth considering.
While they’re undeniably strong and reliable, Yeti coolers aren’t as well-made as some other premium coolers. Yetis are built with aluminum in the Philippines and the USA, while other competitors use stainless steel and manufacture exclusively in the USA.
Yeti coolers also have a three- to five-year warranty. While that’s better than many budget-brand coolers, it’s nowhere near as good as the lifetime warranties you’ll find with some premium competitors.
Back to our original question — are Yeti coolers really worth the money?
If you’re willing to pay for quality and you want to sport a name-brand cooler on your next hunting excursion, fishing trip, or tailgate party, then yes. However, if the name on the box is the least important factor in your decision, you can find more affordable coolers that are just as good from other brands.
Our Favorite Yeti Coolers
One of the most popular Yeti coolers is the Tundra 65 hard cooler. Boasting a Permafrost insulation that’ll maintain ice for days and an indestructible rotomolded construction, the Tundra 65 weighs 29 pounds and can hold 42 cans of beer. The handles on the Tundra 65 make it easily portable. It’s definitely a crowd favorite, with 4.9 stars and over 2,800 reviews on the Yeti website.
“Designed for those outdoor maniacs,” the Tundra 160 is another popular Yeti Cooler that we like. The Tundra 160 comes with a dry goods basket and can hold multiple deer or an elk, or up to 115 cans of beer. Like most Yeti coolers, the walls are about two inches thick for maximum insulation, and the rubber latches are heavy-duty and won’t break.
When you’re on a budget and don’t think you can splurge on a Yeti cooler, don’t sweat it. There are plenty of solid alternatives that’ll do the job for a lot less dough. You may not get the swagger that comes with a Yeti cooler, but at the end of the day it’s just a box that keeps things cold.
Our favorite alternative hard-case cooler is the RTIC 45. This rotomolded, indestructible cooler boasts a laundry list of premium features, including heavy duty rubber T-latches, molded tie-down slots, heavy duty handles, a rapid V-Drain system, and a traction lid that you can use as a casting platform. It can hold ice for up to 10 days, and has the capacity to chill 36 cans of beer.
The Canyon Coolers Outfitter Series 35-quart cooler is another good alternative that’s even more affordable. It holds 36 beer cans, and because of the pressure-injected foam it can retain ice for 6-18 days. This cooler is rotomolded, and certified bear-resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. It also carries a lifetime warranty — something Yeti coolers don’t have.
Of course, hard-case coolers aren’t the only way to chill your beer in the backcountry. Backpack coolers are the newest trend in the cooler industry, and yes, Yeti is a dominant player in that market, too. For a list of the best backpack coolers, check out this article: Chill Out: 7 Best Backpack Coolers for Hauling Tasty Beverages.