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YETI’s rugged, nearly indestructible coolers have a cult-like following, but are they worth the price tag? Here’s how to decide.
When YETI hit the market in 2006, they upended what had traditionally been a ho-hum industry.
The standard back then was a $40 or $50 cooler from beloved brands like Coleman and Igloo – stuff you’d find at Walmart or Target. These are still popular (and practical) options for millions of Americans hittin’ the outdoors every week.
But for avid outdoors enthusiasts, those coolers didn’t always keep up with the gnarly demands of fishing, hunting and whatever-the-hell else comes up in the backcountry.
YETI Tundra 45 Cooler
Insane durability and ice retention in the wild
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So YETI was born, the $300 cooler became a thing and nearly 15 years later, there’s still a lingering question of whether or not YETI coolers are worth the money.
Of course, this is nearly impossible to answer simply because “worth” is subjective and personal. If you get value out of something, it’s worthwhile. What you spend on a cooler depends on the value you’ll derive from it, simple as it sounds.
Worth may be subjective, but what’s not under debate, is that YETI designs – hands-down – some of the most solidly-built and expertly designed coolers on the market.
7 Reasons Why YETIs are Worth It
With any high-end brand, there’s something intangible that can’t be explained – an abstract thing that inevitably drives up the price of its products.
YETI has that, but they also have plenty of substantial features and details that make their coolers worth the money, provided you need and use those features.
1. They’re built to not break in the wild.
Brothers Ryan and Roy Seiders built YETI because of their subpar cooler experiences in the outdoors growing up.
They loved exploring outside, but coolers “available at the time just weren’t up to our outdoor adventures – the handles would break, the latches would snap off, and the lids would cave in,” the brothers said.
So they embarked on a mission to build a cooler that wouldn’t just survive the outdoors – it’d be specifically designed to thrive there. They spent years developing coolers with better construction, insulation and security mechanisms than the coolers we all grew up with from the likes of Coleman and Igloo.
Today, YETI has raving fans around the world who swear by their coolers, but the company is more than just a good story and a wildly enthusiastic community. They back it up by having really, really good products.
Without that, YETI wouldn’t see the explosive growth they’ve experienced over the last decade. And if you’re unsure about YETI’s durability, a five-year warranty on their hard coolers backs up their claim of being the most durable cooler on the planet.
Is it worth it? If you’re concerned about the quality of your cooler, it’s worth the price. If you’re looking for something cheap for the occasional day on the lake, go with a cheaper option.
2. They’re constructed for the long haul.
YETI revolutionized coolers by making solid, one-piece builds that simply don’t break. Their hard coolers are rotomolded – the same process used to make kayaks – and manufactured for consistent performance.
Cheaper coolers have all sorts of pieces that can go cattywampus, and until you’ve experienced the disappointment of a broken cooler in the wild, it’s hard to know how important this is. The side of my house is often a cooler junkyard full of Colemans that simply couldn’t last through a full Arizona summer.
The YETI’s construction is designed to take a beating, and anything that can break, like a handle or a T-latch, can be easily replaced with household tools. The bigger upfront investment for a YETI pays off in the long run, when you don’t have to buy a new cooler every year.
“I’ve used my YETI 45 for years and it has never failed me,” says one REI reviewer. “When I was a field engineer, I’d keep this in the back of my truck in the 110+ deg[ree] heat of Oklahoma. I’d only have to change ice out every 2 or 3 days.”
Is it worth it? If you see the value in paying more upfront for something you won’t have to replace for a long time, the YETI’s worth it. If you’re in the “new Coleman a year” crowd, keep doin’ your thing.
3. They’re packed with real-world features.
From a distance, the YETI Tundra 45 looks basic, but the devil – and the value – is in the details. On closer inspection you’ll find walls that are twice as thick as other coolers, a freezer-level seal that prevents cold from escaping, and commercial-quality insulation that keeps ice intact for days.
But that’s not all! (read in game show host voice)
The YETI’s trademarked technologies include:
- tie-down sleeves for boats and trucks
- interlocking lid technology
- extra durable rope handles
- NeverFail™ hinges that won’t break
- leakproof, foolproof drain system
- BearFoot™ non-skid bottom
For some users, these features are overkill. But for other folks, these are legit, real-world features that make life easier in the field. When you don’t have to worry about your cooler breaking or your ice melting, you can focus on what matters.
Is it worth it? If you’re fishing, hunting, boating or camping and need features like the non-slip feet, tie-down slats and a freezer seal, YETI’s worth it. If you’re just keeping some beers and brats cold, skip it.
4. They’re designed for superior ice retention.
YETI coolers focus on two things: durability and ice retention. Few people question the brand’s take on durability, but ice retention is different because it depends on so many factors.
“Variables that can affect ice retention include the ice quality, ice quantity, type of ice (crushed, block, cube, dry), outside environment, exposure to direct sunlight, etc,” says the company. “Which is to say there’s a lot you can do to affect the longevity of your ice.”
That said, there are plenty of stories and anecdotes of YETIs holding ice for days and weeks at a time. They offer a guide to better ice retention with tips like pre-chilling your cooler and making sure it’s actually full.
One of the biggest mistakes people make with coolers is buying one that’s too big for their everyday needs, so when they fill it with ice and there’s still lots of air circulating, ice-melt speeds up.
You can use these tips for any cooler, but the fact remains: YETI’s invested years and millions of dollars into researching ice retention, and although they can’t put an exact figure on ice retention stats, they can stand behind their cooler technology.
Is it worth it? Most coolers retain ice just fine, but it’s the long multi-day trips – think hunting or rafting – when ice retention really becomes important. If it’s a family camping trip, your Igloo will probably do the trick.
5. They’re grizzly-resistant.
This isn’t hyperbole: YETI’s hard coolers were tested by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and passed the group’s rigorous standards, including a live bear test.
The Tundra is an officially approved bear-resistant container that can be used in parks and public land where grizzlies roam wild.
Oh yeah, there’s also this video.
You can also buy additional bear-proof locks from YETI for added security.
Is it worth it? If you camp in grizzly country, sure. But if you’re keeping out dog-sized raccoons like the rest of us, a YETI might be overkill.
6. They represent something beyond a cooler.
What a brand signals can be just as influential as their actual products. You don’t need to know the specs of a Mercedes to know what it represents. The same goes with YETI coolers.
Many YETI owners care less about the technical specs of their coolers and more about what the YETI stands for: the highest standard and quality of outdoor equipment. In a way, YETI represents taking the outdoors seriously, being prepared and focusing on the experience rather than the cost of a cooler.
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That’s not to say the dude lugging around a 10-year-old Coleman cooler with a cracked lid doesn’t take his outdoor hobbies serious. He might be so absorbed in his craft that he doesn’t give two shits about expensive coolers. In all honesty, I myself don’t give two shits about expensive coolers.
Owning a YETI cooler sends out a signal of excellence, and that’s one reason they’ve grown so much in the last few years. They’ve built a community of people who understand and promote the meaning and story behind the brand.
7. They’re not for everyone – and that’s okay.
YETI’s origin came from the founding brothers’ desire to create something “built for the serious outdoor enthusiast rather than for the mass-discount retailers.”
In other words, YETI coolers aren’t built for the masses. And the company’s okay with that. They understand (and hear it firsthand) how many people think their old Igloo cooler does the job just fine, thank you.
They’re not in the business of convincing stubborn consumers; they’re concerned with making the best possible products that meet the demands of outdoor enthusiasts with elevated needs.
That’s not to say YETI can’t work for anyone, but the people who see the most value in YETI coolers are often those in the company’s target demographic. The soccer mom looking for something to tote around on the weekends doesn’t need the ruggedness of a YETI, and so might not see the value of such a high-priced cooler.
An avid fisherman who’s had coolers break on shore, on the other hand, knows exactly the value of not having to worry about a cooler in the field.
Bottom line: if you’re having a difficult time understanding why YETIs are expensive, there’s a good chance you don’t need one. Just like a Mercedes.
YETI Cooler Alternatives
Because YETI is on the high end of the cooler spectrum, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives.
They may not have the same features and technology, but if you’re simply looking for a cooler that’ll hold ice for a weekend camping trip, here are solid alternatives:
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