To Yeti, or Not to Yeti ?

Whoever thought we’d even consider one of those “ridiculously expensive” coolers.  What ever happened to the good old days where you walked into WalMart and walked out with an Igloo cooler for $19.95?   But our Igloo cooler finally bit the dust — after using duck tape for hinges for the last several years of its useful life.  RIP.

Our friends Yeti Roadie 20 - in fairness, the smaller coolers are not reported to do as well as the larger versions, so our

Our friends Yeti Roadie 20 – in fairness, the smaller coolers are not reported to do as well as the larger versions, so our “test” was flawed from the beginning.

Now we’re trying to decide if we invest in a cooler we’ve always made fun of, choose something in between, or wait until we’re back in the land of WalMart and get one then.

We borrowed a Yeti Roadie 20 cooler from another boat and put it through its paces to see if it really performs that much better than a standard cooler.   First we filled it with warm drinks and ice.  After reading everything online we could find, one of the reasons coolers don’t last is if you fill them with warm drinks – both the inside of the cooler and the warm drinks melt the ice quicker than ideal, so it’s important to “precool” any cooler and items before loading them in the cooler.

Precooling warm drinks and ice inside - needless to say, the ice melted quickly, but it did cool down the drinks.

Precooling warm drinks and ice inside – needless to say, the ice melted quickly, but it did cool down the drinks.

Day 1:  After precooling, we covered the entire contents with ice.  The photo below shows the contents under ice and ready to begin the test.

Ready, set, GO!

Ready, set, GO!

Day 2:  exactly 24 hours later we opened the cooler to determine the success … or not … of the Yeti Roadie 20 keeping ice.  Keep in mind, it’s sitting inside the cockpit, in indirect sun most of the day and the daytime temperatures here in Key West were approximately 80 degrees.

Yep it's the same cooler (might be minus a couple of the original beverages)

Yep it’s the same cooler (might be minus a couple of the original beverages)

Surprisingly enough, even though alot of the ice has turned to water, David swears his coke and beers were colder Day 2 evening than ever in our boat refrigerator….. not sure what that says about the fridge…   🙁

Close up of the same 24 hour test.

Close up of the same 24 hour test.

Day 3:  OK the third morning, the ice is mostly gone, but the beverages are still ice cold, interestingly enough.


This test has a few faults – first the cooler wasn’t totally full with ice and drinks to start the test — as I understand it, the fuller the cooler, the longer the ice lasts.  Second we were using standard crushed ice that you buy from the marina – larger blocks of ice last longer.  And lastly … as you can see, this cooler is mostly empty of stuff.  I wonder if it would have lasted longer had we restocked with a chilled version of whatever we took out so the contents wouldn’t have diminished so radically.

However, in real life, the contents of a cooler are likely to diminish over a few days.  So our conclusion is that yes, the Yeti Roadie 20 holds ice longer than our old Igloo $19.95 cooler, BUT it’s not nearly as long as some of the claims made by Yeti and other manufacturers.  So will we buckle and “invest” in a premium cooler, or go back to the standard WalMart Igloo …  stay tuned, we haven’t decided yet.  🙂

Any input on any of the premium brands?  We’ve investigated the Pelican, Engel Deep Blue, YETI and Grizzly so far …  Anyone out there own one?  What’s your input?  THANKS!  Jan


  1. In a fun experiment instead of a bag of ice I put 2 1 gallon jugs of salt water ice in our ice chest. That kept the boat’s ice box between 18° and 30° for 2 days at which the temp would rise to 38° on 3rd, 44° 4th then rising rapidly. The number of days the box kept below 40° did not change using salted ice water! I can do the same # days, without freezing my food, using regular ice.

    If you don’t do this already, you can put half a box of salt in a gallon of water to turn an icebox into a freezer for few days. Talk about cold beer!

    • PS To state to obvious, salt water freezes at a much lower temp than plain water. The salt water, when frozen, was not extremely hard like water ice using the ratio above. When the plastic bottle is squeezed, the ice inside breaks fairly easily.

      But it is much colder when it does freeze, giving an insulated container much lower temps than regular ice. I thought that would translate into a longer duration of icebox temps below 40, but it did not in our icebox.

      When the salt ice melts, it liquifies when it is still well below 32° so don’t toss it as it still is colder than plain ice. Use a thermometer in the icebox to determine when it’s done.

      • Thanks Jim! We’re going to try this … next time we have a freezer that will freeze salt water… in the boat, it’s not possible, but maybe the travel trailer freezer will … here’s hoping! Cheers! Jan

  2. Hi,

    We have an engel deep blue cooler. We are a little disappointed… we got much the same results you had in this post. However, ice last a lot longer and the cooler does much better if kept out of the sun… keeps ice for about a week. I agree that a big block of ice would work well but I kinda think that the smallest of the powered engel coolers is probably a better solution even if it does cost a lot more and use amps.

  3. Gary Lanton says:

    This test is not valid.

    First, you used a 20 quart yeti with crushed ice.
    The other coolers were much larger.
    Second, you put large blocks of ice in the bigger coolers.
    Shame on you for this bogus test.

    • Gary – I’m sorry if I mislead you. Our experiments were nothing more than trying to see under real world circumstances if there was any validity in us spending the money for a premium cooler. As you can see, the answer for us was yes and we chose a Grizzly Cooler. The 20 Qt. Yeti was loaned from a friend so we could get some idea of what the premium cooler craze was all about. And no, we did not put a large block of ice in the Yeti because it wouldn’t have held anything but the block. Cheers! Jan

  4. Michael Mitchell says:

    Has anyone tried or reviewed Orion Coolers?


  1. […] We made the plunge and bought a “premium” cooler even after our less than ideal test with the Yeti – click here for test results. […]

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