A Cooler Test – Coleman vs. Ozark Trail vs. YETI

And the winner is – YETI! Are you surprised? Me neither. We ended up purchasing a YETI but let me tell you how we got there. We really tried to buy a cheaper cooler but the universe wanted us to buy a YETI. Remember last summer when we spent over $100 on ice for our two week trip to Montana? If you would like to read about how not to pack a cooler click here to read about it. $100+ on ice alone. Plus all the food that we were continually throwing away. It’s such a waste on so many levels.

After our trip last summer, we decided we need to invest in a better cooler if we want to keep taking long road trips. We had heard about a company called RTIC that makes coolers comparable to YETI for only half the price. The downside is they are always on backorder so you have to wait a couple weeks to a couple months for your cooler.

Earlier this year while standing in line at an REI Garage Sale, I was talking to the guy in front of me about coolers. He said his buddy had purchased an Ozark Trail cooler from Walmart and it held ice longer than a YETI. I was rather excited to hear that, as I didn’t want to wait months to try an RTIC.

Several weeks ago we finally purchased an Ozark Trail 52-Quart High-Performance Cooler from Walmart. I was so excited to get it home and run a test to see if it really holds ice longer than my Coleman 60 Quart Performance Wheeled Cooler. We purchased four bags of ice – two for each cooler – and got started. The Ozark Trail held ice one day longer than the Coleman and in general, the cooler felt cooler inside than the Coleman. Unfortunately, the deal breaker is that it intermittently leaked water from the drain spout. Prior to purchasing the cooler I had read several reviews that said this cooler collects condensation around the drain spout. I didn’t think much of the comments until I saw the amount of water leaking from my cooler. I’m not sure if it was condensation or a leak. Either way, that’s not going to work for us. We tightened the spout and it leaked three more times over two days, so the cooler went back to Walmart.

Ozark Trail drain plug leak

Our Coleman has been used and abused and has never leaked. Depending on what you’re using the cooler for, the leaky drain spout might not be a big deal. For us, however, we keep our cooler in our car while traveling and we often camp in bear country. I don’t want any cooler water intermittently leaking and leaving food smells. The other downside to the Ozark Trail cooler is that it weighs 31 pounds empty. It’s definitely heavier than its more expensive friends on the market.

As soon as we realized the Ozark Trail was not going to work I got online and ordered an RTIC. RTIC Coolers can only be purchased from their website, which is why they say their price point is much lower than YETI. I made this purchase nine weeks prior to our vacation and the cooler is scheduled to arrive only days before we leave. That’s a little closer than I’d like but we need a better cooler. Unfortunately, I realized a little too late that I purchased the wrong size and the larger size won’t be available until after we leave for vacation.

So now we’re to the YETI. See, I told you I tried to purchase a cheaper cooler first. REI had a member sale over Memorial Day weekend and we were able to save 20% on our cooler. We still spent more money than I’d like but at least we saved 20%. Just as with the other cooler test, we purchased four bags of ice and put the Coleman and YETI Tundra 65 in a head-to-head test. The result – welcome to the family, YETI.

Here is a summary of our two tests. The first test was Coleman vs. Ozark Trail.

Each cooler started with two 10 lb. bags of ice. The weather was in low 90s during the test, the coolers were in full sun for most of the morning, and we opened them several times throughout the day. The ice melted in the Coleman in 39 hours and the Ozark Trail in 73 hours. The water turned warm in both coolers fairly quickly after the ice melted.

The second test was Coleman vs. YETI.

Each cooler started with two 10 lb. bags of ice and two gallon bottles of water. The weather was in the high 90s during the test, the coolers were in full sun for most of the morning, and we opened them several times throughout the day. The ice melted in the Coleman in 24 hours and the YETI in 48 hours. What I found most fascinating about this test is that the water in the YETI stayed cold for three additional days after the ice melted. The water was cold enough that had the gallon jugs been milk, we would have been able to drink out of them for three days after the ice melted. All-in-all, the YETI lasted for five days and the Coleman for one day.

The majority of coolers on the market claim to hold ice for an extended period of time. The reality is that it is dependent upon so many factors. Temperature, how many times the cooler is opened, whether or not the cooler was pre-cooled, the type of ice being used, the type of insulation in the cooler, ect. If you plan to live out of a cooler for a long period or regularly use it for longer periods, I would suggest investing in a rotomolded cooler like a YETI that is truly made to keep food cold for longer periods of time. If you’re on the fence about spending the money, consider how long you will be gone and what it would cost to add ice to your cooler everyday. For us, while a YETI required a larger initial investment, we will save money (and use less water) over time. Many companies and sporting stores make or sell rotomolded coolers. If you are interested in purchasing one, considering waiting for a sale, like the REI 20% off member sale.

Lastly, here is our list of pros and cons for the three coolers we tested:

Coleman

Pros: Works well for day or weekend trips; has wheels so it’s easy to move around; lightest weight and lowest price point of the three; easy to open and close.

Cons: Ice needs to be replaced daily.

Ozark Trail

Pros: Held ice longer than Coleman; cheapest rotomolded cooler on the market.

Cons: Drain plug either leaks or collects condensation intermittently; heavier than Coleman, Yeti, and other rotomolded coolers; does not have wheels; the latches were tough to open and close.

YETI

Pros: Held ice longer than Coleman and Ozark Trail and stayed cooler inside for significantly longer; latches are fairly easy to open and close; ideal for any length trip.

Cons: Heavier than Coleman; does not have wheels; most expensive of the three tested.

I hope you found this cooler test/review to be helpful. For a long time I have been wanting to know what the YETI fuss is all about and now I know. If you have any cooler tips or recommendations, please free to share in the comments!

2 replies
  1. Paula
    Paula says:

    For future information, RTIC Coolers are always on display in large quantities at the Buc-ees Convenience stores in Texas!! No need to special order or wait for delivery.

    Reply

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