If you haven’t shopped for a cooler in awhile, you could possibly be surprised by how expensive a number of the latest options are. Chief included in this is Yeti, a company that broke out big by selling “rotomolded” coolers that promise exceptional performance and cost a huge selection of dollars. The business was so successful that it spawned a flood of rotomolded imitators.
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I’m always pretty skeptical of big performance claims at astronomically high prices, but rotomolding — short for rotational molding — is legit. The procedure is merely what it appears like; the mold gets rotated as the maker pours the plastic in. The effect? Plastic that’s sturdier, more uniform in density & most importantly to the cooler category, better at insulation.
As such, I expected the Yeti Tundra 45 — which costs a princely $300 — to execute well in my own tests. And boy, achieved it ever. Out of 12 coolers tested, it had been by far the most notable performer, retaining ice longer compared to the competition and keeping ambient temperatures inside nice and low, despite having minimal ice. It isn’t easy and simple cooler to transport, and at 38 quarts, I hate that it is 15 percent smaller compared to the name suggests, but if performance is everything you care about (and if you are ready to spend), then search no further.
Available in a range of colors (I went with a limited-edition shade of salmon), the Yeti Tundra 45 is one of the hard-bodied Yeti coolers available for purchase. The look is clean, simple and strong as hell, with smooth, high-quality construction, roped handles and a hinged lid that locks shut with a set of thick, rubber latches.
The thing’s a tank, which is excellent if it’s likely to be banging around in the rear of your truck on a road trip. Carrying it really is another story. At 23 pounds when empty and with walls that are in least an inch thicker than most coolers, it’s a bulky haul even without beer in it, even though the roped handles look appropriately fancy, I much prefer rigid handles that don’t sway backwards and forwards as I’m lumbering along. Fortunately, the Yeti also contains rigid handles like this right above the roped kinds — to each their own, I assume.
Those extra-thick walls may also help make for an inside that’s not as spacious as the merchandise name suggests. Many shoppers will understandably assume that the Tundra 45 holds 45 quarts, but they’d be wrong — I was only in a position to fill it with 38 quarts of water prior to the lid wouldn’t close without overflowing.
Given that I’ve said all that, please let me gush about how precisely well this cooler keeps things cold. Inside our tests, I packed each cooler right into a 70-degree climate-controlled room, added a measly 3 pounds of ice (not half a small-size bag from the gas station) to each one, then tracked the ambient temperature inside on a minute-by-minute basis for 48 hours. And, putting it simple, the Yeti flat-out smoked your competition.
To be specific, the Yeti brought the temperature inside down lower and held it for longer than any other cooler I tested. Towards the end of the first day, it had been the only cooler that still had ice in it at all. Towards the end of the next day, it had been the only cooler that still hadn’t returned to room temperature. At 38 quarts, it had been the tiniest of the 11 coolers I tested, so that it had minimal work to accomplish, but regardless if you handicap it because of its size, those remain outstanding results.
Ultimately, that blend of performance and toughness make the Yeti an advisable investment for anybody who uses their cooler a whole lot and who are able somewhat of a splurge. But consider the Orca Classic Cooler, which also costs $300, aswell. Though it didn’t retain ice so long as the Yeti did, it still were able to bring the temperature right down to the same threshold, rendering it the runner-up inside our performance tests. And despite being the same price as the Tundra 45, it’s notably more spacious at 58 quarts (and unlike Yeti, that capacity claim organized when I double-checked it).
If both are very costly for you personally, don’t worry — there are many other good options that don’t cost practically as much. But if you are simply looking for the cooler that’ll hold your ice the longest, that is it.