Purchasing a cooler can be an important long-term investment since an ice chest or cooler can be a permanent purchase for many years. Hence, it can be a good idea to do the right research according to your needs and preferences, so that you are sure that you are making an informed choice since you definitely would not like to end up with a cooler that does not have the features that you need or requires you to compromise on quality.
You will need to take into consideration multiple variables if you wish to buy a cooler for yourself or get one as a gift. Whether you want to buy a simple cooler for your workplace lunch needs, or you need to buy a plastic premium cooler, you will need to research all the information available online and make your choice from a wide variety of options.
Some types of coolers are good for keeping your items cool for just a couple of hours, whereas some other types of coolers will keep them cold for even a week or more.
In addition to this, there are a host of other features that you need to explore if you want to buy a cooler. One example of such a feature is whether or not the cooler is waterproof in case you get caught in the downpour and do not wish for your perishables to get wet, or you are carrying ice within the cooler that will inevitably melt, and leak out of your cooler into your vehicle.
These depend on a lot of things such as whether or not you need more storage space that comes with the cooler to store other items that are not perishable and whether or not you want an easy-to-access lid, what kind of terrain you are going to carry your cooler across, whether you are going to carry it with a handle, strap, wheels or other similar methods.
This is obviously not all the features you need to consider. There are a lot more features and you will want certain preferences for features yourself. This is one thing you will need to look into, but if you wish to be sure, we have compiled a really handy list of features below that can help you make an informed decision for yourself.
First, we will explain each set of criteria we need to take into consideration in detail, the options available to you in general in the market, and then see how both these cooler companies hold up against each criterion. This will lay out in a clear and concise way what the common and recommended considerations are when you research a cooler.
If you have a better idea of what to look for, you can have a much better and easier buying experience and save money and effort in the process as well, since you will be able to naturally filter out all the options you don’t want. Then we will talk about the final verdict and who is the clear winner here.
Range Of Features Available
Today, no matter what kind of cooler you are looking for, you are bound to get a wide variety of choice in the matter, and you are bound to get confused about what cooler to get.
This is why it is helpful if you are very clear about the kind of criteria you want so that you can filter out the kind of coolers you don’t think will give you what you need, so you can find one that fits your needs and preferences perfectly. Given below, is an example of the necessary criteria you need. Feel free to go through to narrow down your choices.
This is the most important and the most straightforward consideration to make. However, even within this, there are subcategories, you will have to make a further choice on the basis of two metrics to consider. First: you need to choose from the size with respect to the storage capacity. And second, you will also have to find the cooler with the right overall dimensions that the cooler itself is made up of, in case you need to fit it in your vehicle.
Let’s look at the storage capacity of the cooler first. This is calculated on the basis of the volume you want. You need to ensure that the right volume will fit your needs, and measure according to the inside of the compartment as the insulation barrier can take up a significant amount of the storage area and volume.
Just because a cooler claims to be able to store 50 quarts of volume, does not mean it can store that much amount of volume of items that require to be cold. For example, it is common in soft-sided (fabric-made) coolers to have two separate compartments within the coolers where you carry chilled and nonchilled items.
However, if you need a cooler exclusively for carrying perishable items, then it is useful to look up exactly how much the capacity is and whether all of it applies to the chilled area so that you are not paying extra money for wasted space.
Another issue you will need to take into consideration is the actual shape of the storage container and its insides. If you want to maximize space in your cooler, but the shape of the container inside itself is a random shape like a hexagon, then you will not be able to use the cooler to your advantage.
If, say, you want to carry along item and your cooler is shaped to be square and does not allow the long item to fit inside comfortable because of its dimensions, then that is not the right choice for you. This is something you will have to look into depending on the type of items you are carrying and make sure that the ice chest you are looking at will be able to hold the items comfortably without needing any kind of adjusting.
In addition to this, there is yet another issue you will have to consider. This is the extra space that ice packs you place inside the container will require to keep your icebox cool for longer, to help maximize the ice chest’s life. This ice will, unfortunately, require significant insulated volume from the inside container.
This means that you will need to plan ahead and figure out which kinds of items you will need to carry, and how much you need to maximize your cooler’s life accordingly so that you can have the best possible results. Going for one size too big in this situation is a much better idea, rather than having to compromise with your requirements at the last minute.
This might also mean that carrying around a bigger compartment will be a bit inconvenient, but that is a much better deal than having no space for the things you need.
The more durable the cooler, and the longer it promises to preserve your perishable items, the thicker its walls will be. That combined with the required space you need to accommodate all your perishable items as well as some leeway for the ice packs that you will need to include will result in quite a huge cooler.
This is why you need to make sure that the place you will be carrying or storing your cooler in has adequate space to fit it. It is important to consider how big the cooler itself is, and whether or not it will fit into the vehicle that you need to transport it in. Coolers come in all sorts of sizes making their transportation and storage quite cumbersome. Make sure you are buying the right size for your needs, as buying a cooler that is too large may create space concerns if it cannot fit in your vehicle itself.
Soft-sided coolers are coolers whose shape can contort to fit your requirements easily, so it can take up less space when you don’t need to fit too many items in it. Because of the above issues causing inconveniences to people, they have become quite popular because of their versatility. By the time you near the end of your vacation, the container will become empty enough that you can simply push it away so that they aren’t taking any space at all.
These days, there are far more options because of the online market and technological advancements in preservations that even within each type of material, there are different subcategories from which you can make your choice.
First, let us look into metal. Metal is used in manufacturing coolers, but it is significantly less common than its plastic counterpart. Usually, you will get metals in the hinges, handles and other hardware used with the cooler. You can have metal zippers that can be pulled back or metal handles. However, metal is quite an expensive material to use and so you will generally only find it in the higher end brands.
Now let us look at plastic, which is the most popular material used to make coolers. It is the most ubiquitous universally preferred choice for hard-sided coolers. It is tough, lightweight, cheap and definitely waterproof. In addition to that, it does a great job at insulation, far better than other variants. All these features of plastic make it the obvious choice for manufacturing coolers.
However, within plastic coolers too, there are many manufacturing processes that produce different types of plastics that can affect the kind of insulation you get, the budget as well as the weight, however. The most premium coolers will advertise that they are constructed in their rotomolded method.
This method involves a singular piece of plastic being molded into the preferred shape, as opposed to attaching different pieces of plastics together. This results in a waterproof, seal-proof cooler that does not have any weak points or stress areas where it could potentially break.
This is the highest quality of plastic coolers you will get in the market, as this is the stronger and better-performing device, and both Igloo and Yeti coolers have this special feature making them a very high-ranking cooler in the market.
To add to that, many of the plastic coolers that are cheap come with plastic hardware and hinges instead of a stronger material. This can sometimes create problems as they are not as strong as metals. All this is determined by what life you want from your cooler and what your budget there is.
Now let us look at some materials used in soft-sided coolers. The fabric is the most popular soft-sided cooler material, and coolers of this sort are made of several types of fabrics on the outside of the box. Fabrics differ greatly in each kind of criteria such as strength, waterproofing ability, insulation ability, and other criteria.
You might have already seen fabric insulation on the cheap lunch tote bags or coffee bags that you get for just a few bucks, however, these will have fabrics that will break easily through wear-and-tear and also offer mediocre insulation. However, some high-quality fabrics will offer the kind of strength that is comparable to even rubber. This is because they often come with stronger types of textiles interwoven into them, such as nylon and other plastic blends, which can also provide great insulation.
Another common material is rubber, which is implemented by most soft-sided coolers. However, most of the times it is only implemented in the most strategic areas. Generally, however, rubber is seen as an accessorizing material and won’t be used to make the larger box itself.
For example, rubber seals can help create far stronger insulation and an air-tight barrier between the insides of the box and the outside. Rubber is also used to assist in gripping or to create slip-resistant handles for easier access, rubber wheels if your cooler comes with wheels, and also rubber plugs if your cooler has a drain underneath.
This is perhaps the most important criterion to consider since this is the main reason you would even use a cooler – to keep your stuff cool! While it can be great to opt for a cooler that keeps things as cool as possible for as long as possible, you don’t need to invest in a cooler that keeps things cool for a week if you only need it for a short day trip to the beach.
You will need to determine how long you need to keep your items cool and make your selection of coolers according to your requirements. Once you make sure of how long you need your items to be cool, you can filter out the coolers with the unnecessary or inadequate features and make the right choice for you.
With coolers that keep your stuff cool for a few hours, you will likely not need to carry any ice, so this is a good thing to take into consideration while opting for coolers according to size. Aside from the cheap and soft-sided tote bag kind of coolers, most coolers should manage to keep your perishable items cool for about a day.
Only the most high-end coolers will give you the performance to keep your perishables cool for more than a few days. Most of these will be constructed from high-quality materials, have rotomolded manufacture, and have metal hardware, rubber insulation, and other high-performing features.
This is an important criterion to make sure of before you buy your cooler as most coolers are simply not waterproof. You do not want to end up in the downpour in the middle of your camping trip or trip to the beach and end up finding out that all your perishables are drenched in water. If the ice inside melts, will it soak up your belongings completely or will it hold the water inside? This is something to consider. Most premium coolers will not have any problem handling this especially rotomolded coolers like the Yeti and Igloo cooler.
It is no easy feat to be carrying a cooler from one place to another all by yourself, especially when it is full. Most of the times, you will need another person to assist you in lifting it so you can carry it to wherever you need it. This is both because of the weight of the container itself as well as the sheer size of it making it cumbersome to use.
Some of the largest sizes of coolers can be as big as several feet, which is why it is necessary to look into the types of handles that it offers that will make carrying it more convenient for you without giving you a backache.
The most common types of handles are, for example, side handles that can be carried by two people at a time. These are usually added for bigger containers and simply put, are handles placed on either side of the longer ends of coolers to allow one or more people to carry it.
Smaller coolers can easily be carried by only one person, but with larger coolers, it is helpful to take help from another person to carry the cooler. These side handles are attached to the container with pivoting handles, built-in cavities that are molded into the plastic itself on the sides, or sometimes even ropes with plastic grips.
A shoulder strap can be an extremely convenient way to carry a cooler, especially while hiking or camping, which allows the user to be completely hands-free. This can be great for someone who wants to carry multiple items but does not want to make several trips back and forth. In addition, your hands will not get tired and you will not have to switch between each hand to ease the fatigue. This option is usually available with soft-sided smaller coolers.
A lid handle is another type of handle on the top of the cooler where the lid is closed that is meant for only one person to carry. This is usually used for smaller coolers and is useful since it allows the user to leave one hand free and carry it along with their side instead of in front which can make carrying it easier.
However, the single handle is not as fail proof or as strong as other methods, which means it is restricted to smaller coolers and comes with coolers than insist on lightweight containment only.
Wheels are another way to ease carrying the cooler around. Most of the large hard-sided coolers come with wheel configurations that are optional to use. This can be very useful to prevent fatigue from carrying an extremely heavy and large cooler by hand and allows for a large cooler to be transported by only one person.
This way you can simply push or pull the cooler, making heavy ice chests very easy to transport. This, however, can prove to be a problem on rough terrains, or even in sands, as wet sand can get lodged in the wheels and prevent them from working properly.
This is probably the most subjective criteria that may or may not matter to you. However, you would agree that looks do play a part in deciding which company’s cooler you would like to go for, particularly when you are paying the sky-high price to obtain a premium cooler that will last you many years. This is, however, a difficult criterion to make an objective choice in since multiple people will have a different opinion of what is aesthetically appealing.
Personally, for example, I do not think sports team logos are a great idea to go on a cooler, but I’m sure many people would disagree with me. Some people might prefer a very aesthetically cool looking cooler, while some others are more than willing to forego looks for utility. There is, however, a wide variety of choices for you to choose from if looks are an important criterion you need in your cooler.
They may come in a wide variety of colors and designs, and some may even come in your favorite team colors! Also, if you wish to buy a very stylish tote bag that can keep your items cool while you work in your office that will match your attire perfectly, then this is something that you can consider.
You would be surprised to know just how expensive a premium cooler can be. Some of them go up to several hundred dollars, and some can even go up to a thousand dollars, making this a very important factor to take into consideration while measuring up these companies.
This makes your budget an important enough criterion that we had to include it in our list here. This is something that would be your primary criteria if you are looking for an office lunch bag since it doesn’t make that much of a difference. But when you are going to invest in a big Polar container, we recommend you go for the one with the best features, so that you don’t have to compromise on quality.
This is a corollary of insulation, but it is a separate feature, however. This is dependent on how much ice needs to be packed in with the storage items, and how much of a difference that makes to its cooling capacity.
Even though you may have no real use for arbitrary features that come with your cooler, it is nice to show off new features to your friends that they might not have seen before in coolers. These features have easy replacements, so don’t put too much emphasis on having them with the cooler you decide to buy, but treat it like a bonus.
These include fishing equipment like rulers to measure your caught fish, detachable water bottles, cup holders, built-in can openers and bottle openers, lights, drain plugs, cutting boards on top of the lids, base risers, grooved slots to stick in your ice packs, free included silverware with silverware slots, and so on. The list of features that your cooler provides can be endless and the more money you spend on your cooler, the more interesting and cool features you will get with your cooler.
Igloo is one of the most well-known and popular cooler lines in the cooler industry and they have a vast collection of coolers and accessories for you to choose from. Whether you are looking for an affordable and compact personal lunch bag to take to work, or you need something for your big camping trip to keep all your friend’s food chilled for days, Igloo offers something for everyone and you will certainly not find yourself disappointed irrespective of what your needs or preferences are.
As you can see, Igloo offers a huge variety of cooler sizes that can be used in all kinds of environments and applications. They possibly have the most impressive line-up of coolers in the industry, from simple, lightweight lunchboxes to huge Polar coolers that can store enough food and water for an entire classroom full of people.
In addition to that, they also have a wide variety of soft-sided containers that are intended for school or work. With such a large collection, we are sure that you are bound to find something or the other that will fit your needs.
These products are extremely affordable and this is consistent across all categories. The products are competitively priced which gives you the assurance that you are getting the most for your buck, so to speak. And in spite of this affordable pricing strategy, Igloo does not compromise on making you a sturdy cooler with high build quality. All their products are high-quality and great to use, and they are designed to last you many years. This is a buy-it-for-life type of company which means you are getting the most out of the money you spend.
Igloo is one of the oldest companies in the world. It was founded in 1947, which gives them an experience of over 70 years old! This also makes them one of the most trusted brand out there, and one whose products you can definitely rely on.
Igloo makes intelligently built coolers with good accessories that adhere to exactly what the customers need from them. Most of their coolers come loaded with unique and great accessories that are designed to make your life easier and help you. They add convenience and functionality and show you that this is really a company who is really invested in making a product that is about the whole experience of using a cooler, and not just pawning off a cheap product to earn the most money.
These coolers combine acceptable ice life with awesome mobility, tons of features, and an attractive look. We really like how Igloo managed to cram so many cool accessories into this cooler while still maintaining great build quality and a decent asking price.
Yeti Cooler Overview
This is another big giant in the cooler industry. Yeti offers a wide variety of coolers of all different sizes and shapes both in hard-sided and soft-sided varieties and has been around for a very long time, making them a formidable competitor.
YETI Roadie series is designed for smaller trips where mobility and weight is a more important priority than storage size and maximizing cooling. The YETI Tundra is the bigger model designed for longer trips with larger coolers, with a broad range in sizes from very small (size Yeti 50) to enormous (size Yeti 350).
Yeti’s soft-sided coolers are called the Hoppers. Since they don’t have plastic hard walls, the Hoppers are much more compact, lightweight and convenient to use than the traditional harder ones. However, as we talked about in the previous segment, you will also get a reduced ice life and reduced durability with soft-sided models as well, so you will have to figure out which ones are better according to your needs.
Yeti coolers are known for their coolers that have a lot of good qualities. However, pricing isn’t one of them, as these coolers are some of the most expensive in the market. Yeti coolers are extremely expensive, and some articles on the internet insist that they may just be the most expensive coolers in the industry.
This naturally puts them at a great disadvantage with respect to cooler comparisons since coolers that are extremely expensive will simply be ruled out by a large number of customers. For most customers on a tight budget, Yeti will simply be too much of a financial burden to take on.
Yeti, fortunately, has begun to cut its prices in recent years, since more and more brands entered the cooler market and began to compete. While their name definitely brings them a large customer base still, it will be quite some time until Yeti cuts its prices enough for most of the customers to turn to them for their cooler needs.
Choosing a better company for coolers between these formidable opponents is nearly impossible. Both companies bring a lot to the table and have a wide variety of closely competing for features. Because of this, both companies end up giving the consumer the best features available in the market at great prices, which is great for you. We found that Igloo coolers are far more reasonably priced, and there is definitely a wider variety of options to choose from.
There is also a wide margin with respect to the aesthetic appeal, with Igloo coming out with a wide variety of interesting designs and styles, while Yeti still lags behind with their somewhat bland and repeated styling. If aesthetics are important to you, then you would be better off going with our review and purchasing an Igloo.
However, if you wish to buy the very best in the market irrespective of pricing, Yeti has been around for longer and is a much bigger name. But this comes at a very high asking price that may be more than what most people would want to spend on their cooler.
We would suggest you research all the criteria you need to make your choice, and you might just realize that considering all other things are very equal between Igloo and Yeti coolers, the excessive price hike may just not be worth it just for the brand, especially considering you are also compromising on the style and aesthetics part.
However, you cannot deny the fact that Yeti brand has a symbolism that many people would not like to forego. And you can be assured that if you do decide to go for a Yeti ice chest or cooler, you will definitely be able to justify the high cost with the unparalleled quality and durability of the product.
Did you agree with our verdict? What do you think about it? We would love to hear from you, so feel free to tell us what you think in the comments below.
The All-Outdoors Guide team is comprised of enthusiastic experts that enjoy helping others that aspire to be better at outdoor fun. Part of that is making sure you have the right gear and information when it’s time to go out and have fun. Some of our team have accomplished amazing feats like climbing 6000 feet to the top of mountains, others have explored every dirt trail they could find and we even have some people that have backpacked solo on various continents. No matter what our readers want to learn and do, our team is here to help them accomplish those goals.