Yeti coolers are, well, cool. They also are high end and wallet shattering. They claim to keep things cold longer, and they can (within reason). We purchased our Yeti Tundra 35 for a cross-country road trip, a six-week tour of the western states national parks, some additional meandering, and hopefully fifty more years of faithful service. That begs the questions: Did it live up to the hype? Was it worth it?
Before I get to answering the pertinent questions here, I’d like to give you a rundown of why a cooler is a necessity for us when we travel. After all, couldn’t we just eat fast food on our cross-country trip? Let’s just say that for strict health reasons, we don’t eat fast food and try to avoid restaurants altogether. My diet is strict, but even if yours is not, it’s very expensive to eat out all the time. Restaurants typically aren’t available when you’re camping, and it’s healthier for everyone to eat homemade, minimally processed food (Okay, off my soap box now). Using a cooler is simple, right? Actually, there’s more to it than you think. If you are thinking about making the investment, there are some things to consider.
There are five parts to preparation: 1. Plan your meals (what refrigerated items will you need, and what quantities). 2. Purchase your refrigerated items in sizes that will fit in your cooler with your block of ice in place. 3. Pre-chill your cooler (this is super important). To pre-chill the cooler, I bag up the ice from my icemaker starting a few days in advance so I can put them in the cooler to cool overnight prior to use. This way the ice you use for the trip isn’t wasted trying to get the cooler down to temp. Trust me, this makes your ice last much longer, it is critical. 4. Locate block ice. Depending on where you live, finding block ice these days can be a challenge. Not many stores carry it anymore, so you may have to do some research to locate it. It is worth it to get block ice. Bags of cube ice (party ice) won’t last much more than a few days, whereas a block of ice last substantially longer. 5. Pack your cooler in such a way that you can easily access what you need without leaving the lid open for any significant duration.
Our Yeti is the Tundra 35, so you probably wouldn’t guess that it has a capacity of 28.2 liters, or 30 quarts. I’m not exactly sure why it’s called the 35. A block of ice will take up a bit more than one quarter of the cooler. Wait, what? You heard me, you aren’t going to be able to fit as much in there as you thought. Yeti lists that the cooler will hold 20 cans of “beverages” and “plenty of ice”. Of course, “plenty” is subjective, and yes you can fit 20 cans of something in there, and some ice, but not a block, and if it’s not a block it won’t last very long. That said, it will do just fine for a day on the lake, or the river, with some ice sprinkled on top of your favorite beverage, but for multi-day use, not so much.
When your block of ice is in there and you have wedged what you can in with it, you will be tempted to take it back and get a larger Yeti. Granted the Tundra 35 is the smallest of their Tundra line, but think carefully before going bigger. These things are heavy. I mean really, really heavy. They are built like tanks. The Tundra has three-inch-thick walls and weighs nearly twenty-pounds with nothing in it. Put a block of ice, squeeze in your food items, and boom, this thing is a brick that either requires two people to move or a trip to the chiropractor. I don’t mind telling you, I use a hand truck to wheel it out to the Jeep. We just keep it in there where we can reach it without moving it around.
It’s not just heavy, it’s heavy duty. This is a quality product that is built to survive the apocalypse, and is as efficient as a cooler can be. We recently took ours on a ten-day camping trip, and our block of ice lasted eight days. Keep in mind, we were in the redwoods where the sun only broke through a few hours a day, the temps were low, and we only open the cooler a few times per day. All-in-all, I’m happy with eight days and feel that this is why we bought the Yeti. Does it live up to the hype? I’d say yes.
Not the Average Bear:
There are quite a few imitators out there now, and honestly, I hear good things about many of them. Most of the copy-cats use similarly thick insulation and hearty construction, so they are bound to be competitive in efficiency. That being said, I don’t think they all are Certified Bear Resistant, or as super tough as the Yeti.
One Last Thing:
When we purchased our Yeti, we thought it made sense to get their own brand ice packs. “Yeti Ice” comes in one-pound, two-pound, and four-pound sizes. It’s like the old “Blue-Ice”. I’m not sure what’s in it, but it works fine for same day use. Where the “Yeti Ice” packs fall down (like any of its kind), is on multi-day trips. The ice pack will have thawed after about 12-16 hours and then what are you going to do with it. If you’re camping, you can’t re-freeze it, so it becomes dead weight. For anything longer than a day, get a block.