Our Gear Guy Tests the $800 Yeti Cooler
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Late last year, Yeti released the new V Series cooler—and it costs a whopping $800. For that price, it should outperform the $400 Tundra Haul, right? Joe Jackson, Outside’s Gear Guy, did the hard work and found out.
JOE JACKSON: Yeti has built an empire around creating some of the strongest, most thermoregulating coolers on the market. This culminates with the V Series, an $800 stainless steel cooler. And it begs the question-- is it worth the money?
So the question that I get asked the most as Outside Online's gear guy is if Yetis are worth the money. In order to see if the V Series is worth the money, I put it in a head-to-head test against the Tundra Haul. This test had three parts. We tested thermoregulation, we tested usability, and of course, we tested durability.
In order to test these coolers head to head for thermoregulation as well as ice retention, I went to my local grocery store, got some Rainiers and two 7-pound bags of ice. I measured each of the 7-pound bags of ice on my kitchen scale and then put them in with six Rainiers, closed it up, and let it sit for 48 hours. And it actually ended up being more like 48 hours and 2 minutes.
I strained out the ice to make sure there wasn't any water left in it, and then I used the same kitchen scale to weigh how much ice was left. I also saw how cold they keep a six pack of beers. So when I opened up the coolers at the end of the 48-hour period, I checked the temperature of those beers in comparison to their temperature when I first put them in.
They performed pretty similar. The Yeti V Series lost 26% of its ice. The Tundra Haul lost only 23% of its ice. The amount of difference you'd notice over the course of a weekend as an adventurer yourself probably would be imperceptible. But the reason this is of note is because I was assuming, based on what I was told, that the Yeti V Series was going to be way better at ice retention. And the fact that these two were performing quite similar in my backyard test says that it likely isn't significantly better than its counterparts in the Tundra series.
Ease of transport is often overlooked when people talk about coolers, and I think that's a really big mistake, because when you have your cooler loaded down with food, ice, beer, everything you need for a weekend, it gets really heavy. This is especially the case when you have insulated coolers like these two which are heavy with nothing in them. In order to test ease of transport, we took both of these coolers to a local playground and set up an obstacle course that we did three times with each cooler while they were loaded down with beer and ice.
That slow-mo fall would've been epic.
I actually really underestimated the test, and there were a few times when I was on that high log where I was actually wondering if I was going to need to bail and throw the cooler to one side. Thankfully, I never had to, and the test ended up being great. I was expecting the V Series to do a lot better in the carry test because it has these really cool handles that are sturdy and have a nice rubber grip. But actually, it turned out that the Tundra Haul was a little bit better. Part of that was that it's lighter, but another part of it is that the handles, which are integrated into the body of the cooler, actually kept the cooler close to my body so that whenever I felt like I was getting a little bit off kilter, I was able to bring it in close, and I felt a lot more balanced.
Honestly, the largest takeaway that we got from this test was from the 1/8-of-a-mile walk from our car to the playground. My filmer and I each had one of the coolers, and he was laughing about how incredibly easy it was to roll this one while I was huffing, puffing, and sweating getting this one to the playground.
The Yeti Tundra Haul did better than the V Series in all three categories that we tested. In terms of durability, it really won. The overarching question, is it worth the money for everyone-- it's a little bit tougher to answer. The V Series is an objectively better-looking cooler. It's beautiful. And if you're looking for something that's going to be, say, one piece decor, one piece gear that's going to live in your backyard, yeah, it absolutely could be worth that much money.
But if you're like me and you're a rafter, and you're the type of enthusiast that's really hard on your gear, particularly coolers, I think you'd be better off spending your money on something way less expensive that's still in Yeti's line from the Tundra series.
How'd you throw out your back, Joe?