Yeti may be the biggest name in coolers right now, but a few challengers may change your mind about how you feel about Yeti. RTIC’s coolers cost a lot less than your standard Yeti but are they worth it?
RTIC’s business model allows them to sell coolers at a fraction of the cost of Yeti, but they aren’t as widely available as Yeti. Let’s break down the two to see which one may be your next cooler obsession in our RTIC versus Yeti review.
About The Brands
Before we get started, let’s keep a few things in mind. Here’s what we love and don’t love about each brand.
Why We Like It:
- more affordable
- durable exterior
- soft and hard cooler options
Why We’re Skeptical:
- not a wide selection
- limited purchase options
Why We Like It:
- highly durable
- nine-hour ice retention
- available retail and online
Why We’re Skeptical:
- more expensive
RTIC And Yeti Comparison
They do have a lot of similarities, but there are some significant differences in a few places that could determine your choice.
How Are They Similar?
Let’s start with what they have in common.
Both companies use a process called rotational molding to manufacture their coolers. Rotomolded coolers use a method in which the mold is rotated during the pouring of the plastic to create a stronger layer with fewer weak spots. This keeps the coolers crack resistant and helps hold in insulation better than standard plastic coolers.
Both use pressure injected, commercial grade insulation within the cooler walls. This insulation has complete coverage with no temperature inconsistencies, creating ice retention times of over a week if you prep the cooler and in ideal circumstances.
For their hard-sided coolers, they use reinforced hinges and latches, common weak points with cheaper coolers. These can stand up to heavy use without breaking, meaning you can keep your coolers a lot longer than you would that cheap store brand one. Both use molded handles for many of their sizes or reinforced stainless steel for some of the smaller sizes.
Their soft-sided coolers both have antimicrobial liners that resist mold, mildew, and odor. Durable, high denier exterior material resists tearing and creates a waterproof layer between your food and the elements.
Both use a vintage styling for their hard shell coolers. Both have rounded edges with softer curves and come in a variety of neutral and vintage colors as well. RTIC has more colors available, but overall, the styles are comparable.
The lids for both are a freezer-style gasket that seals tightly especially with the latches in place. They use interlocking tabs to reinforce the hinges and prevent them from snapping with consistent use. Tabs for both are a blend of rubber instead of pure plastic, giving them better resistance to cracking.
They both feature drains within the coolers to help reduce lifting and make it much easier to clean the coolers out. The drains themselves are clog-resistant, and water flows smoothly from the bottom.
Their soft-sided coolers are just as reliable as the hard-sided coolers and offer at least a day or two of insulation, and some even more. They have backpack styles and lunchbox styles in addition to their classic icebox options.
Both offer a good range of capacities from small personal coolers to massive options built to hold enough for whole teams of people. Yeti’s range is a little bit bigger than RTIC’s, but they both have enough variety to satisfy most customer’s needs with little trouble.
RTIC’s soft-sided options are more varied than Yeti, but both Yeti and RTIC have similar capacities with traditional soft-sided styles. RTIC does have lunchboxes where YETI doesn’t, but both have a backpack style as well.
How Are They Different?
And now, the good part.
One main difference is the way RTIC handles business. They’re a direct to consumer company, so they only offer products through their website or through Amazon. They are the only authorized retailer of their products, even on Amazon, so beware anyone who claims to sell RTIC.
This model allows them to offer products at a more affordable rate than other retailers because they’ve cut out the middleman. The downside is that if you need a cooler this afternoon, you’re out of luck. Your only option is the internet and waiting for delivery.
Yeti has authorized retailers in a much fuller range than RTIC. You won’t experience the savings, but you can find deals and discuss costs with specific retailers to find the best price. Plus, if you’re the type to want to put your hands on a cooler before purchase, it isn’t that hard to find a store that sells Yeti.
Types Of Coolers
Although they have the same basic styles, there are a few differences.
Yeti sells a few different models of a hard cooler. Their original, the Tundra, is their most well-known, but it has the broadest range of capacity. You can get a Tundra as small as just under 35 quarts to just under 350. The Roadie is a little personal sized cooler great for bringing your own beer to a function while the Tank is an ice bucket style meant for holding everyone’s beers. There’s even Yeti’s version of a drink dispenser with a no-clog tip and days and days of cooling.
Yeti’s soft pack coolers are a bit more limited. The Hopper flip is their most common style with a full zip top, but they also have a more traditional soft-sided cooler style. There’s one backpack with a flip top that gives you access to the interior and holds about 20 cans.
RTIC’s hard-sided coolers are much more limited in both style and capacity. They use the classic icebox style in five sizes ranging from 20 quarts to 145 quarts. There’s no other option for drink dispensers or different styles of coolers, but the look is classic.
Their Soft Pack coolers are soft sided with a nearly full zip top to allow better access to the interior. You can get those in four capacities ranging from eight to 40 ounces. They also have lunchbox style coolers in five capacities from six to 28 ounces plus a freezable lunch bag. There’s also a backpack style soft sided option as well.
Yeti’s going to hit your wallet hard, but you should remember that many of these coolers are for life. Yes, you’re going to drop more money in the beginning, but how much will you save not having to buy coolers every year just to keep up with your use. Plus, you’ll never have food go bad again because you couldn’t get an ice refill after the first day or two.
RTIC’s coolers are about a third cheaper than Yeti, which could be good news if you’re on more of a budget. You’ll get similar high-end features without paying full retail markups for the same style of cooler although you’re trading some range of choices.
Our Favorite Models
Let’s take a look at two of our favorite cooler models from these brands.
The Roadie is an adorable personal sized cooler for carrying food for two people or maybe some snacks. It holds about 14 cans with the recommended ice ratio and would fit great on a little fishing boat or next to you at the big game.
It features rotomolded exterior with three inches of pressure injected insulation within the walls. The freezer gasket style lid keeps in the cold without leaking or causing temperature inconsistencies. It has a reinforced steel handle with comfort grip, and T style latches are easy to operate.
The hinges and latches are reinforced, which is good news if you’ve ever worn out a cooler in those areas. No slip feet prevent your cooler from sliding all over the place, and for some of you, it can also function as an extra seat in a pinch. There are even molded tie-down slots and a drain for better cleaning.
Why Customers Like It:
- easy to carry
- excellent seal
- reinforced latches, hinges, and handle
- heavy for the size
RTIC’s 20 quart is an accurate measure. Unlike Yeti’s measurement system, this one actually holds 20 quarts. Its rotomolded exterior is highly durable and resists cracking even when dropped. Three inches of commercial grade insulation create an even layer and prevent temperature inconsistencies.
The gasket style lid seals in cold and T style latches prevent the lid from coming open or breaking the seal. The hinges are no-fail, with overlapping tabs to add durability even with heavy use. The top can be used as a seat in a pinch for most of you, and the handle is reinforced with a comfort grip.
No slip feet help keep the cooler in place while molded-in tie-downs secure it tightly to your truck or boat. It’s great for personal use and can hold about 24 cans plus the ice to go with it. Since RTIC’s coolers are true to size, you can fit a bit more in a comparable size than the Yeti. It gives you up to nine or so days of ice retention, and the drain makes clean up easy.
Why Customers Like It:
- pretty affordable, especially if it comes directly from their website
- excellent ice retention
- true sizing
- not available in stores
- seal tends to get stuck (good for ice retention, bad for getting drinks)
The Best Cooler For You
So, which one should be your final decision? Both companies offer a lot of options, but the final choice may depend a lot on your individual situation. Let’s look at a few scenarios where you might choose one over the other.
Get A Yeti If:
- you like to handle a cooler in person before you buy it.
- you want a cooler that lasts close to a lifetime.
- you need an extra-large cooler (think more than 145 quarts).
- you need an ice bucket style or a drink dispenser.
- you have the budget and want to upgrade.
Get An RTIC IF:
- your budget is smaller
- you don’t mind a cooler that you can’t try out before you buy it.
- you need a classic icebox style cooler.
- you don’t need anything bigger than 145 quarts.
- you want a soft sided cooler that comes in a lunchbox style.
RTIC’s direct to consumer model gives customers savings they couldn’t get with a retail model. If you don’t want to sacrifice the higher end styles of coolers, but you can’t quite swing Yeti prices, this could be a way for you to have the best of both. You save your wallet and your drinks on that triple digit day.
You will sacrifice some availability, however. You’ll have to trust that you’ll love the cooler once you get it and you won’t have quite the same range of product as you would with Yeti. If you want a standard size, this could work in your favor. However, if you’re looking for a different shape or a much larger than average cooler, Yeti is going to be your best bet.
Yeti’s coolers are still the first cooler that most people think of when they think of higher-end models, but it may take some time to get used to the price point. Remember that Yeti is an investment. You aren’t going to be replacing your Yeti every other year the way you might with that cheaper, off-brand model you get from a big box store. That alone could save you money if you’re hard on your coolers.
Regardless of the one you choose, we think you’ll be happy with either company as long as you know what you’re getting into. Do your research and consider our scenarios above so you can get the cooler that fits your situation. Settle it and stop worrying about how many trips for new bags of ice you’ll be making. Stop missing the fun and get back to what you love.