RTIC vs YETI – Choosing The Best Cooler for Your Needs
Roto-molded coolers have really made the mark in the industry the last couple years, with two brands of ice chest in particular at the forefront, RTIC and YETI. These two brands have extremely similar designs, and according to the courts, a little too similar (more on that further down).
Want to see how these two popular coolers stack up against the competition? be sure to check out our article of the best coolers of 2019
But what is actually the difference between these two coolers? And (more importantly), which one is better?
We dig into every detail and put the YETI and RTIC to the test so that by the end of this article, you should be able to make an informed decision and get the one that suits your needs best. We have reviewed both hard and soft models in full further down in this article under the following criteria: design, quality of materials, sizes available, ice retention, warranty and price. but if you want to skip that and make a quick decision just scroll down a little to our quick recommendation tables below.
Quick Note: RTIC and YETI are both awesome products, but our favorite cooler is actually ORCA, for a few reasons. Check out our comparison of YETI vs ORCA if you’re interested in having a look at an alternative option.
RTIC vs YETI: The Top 3 Models Compared
|RTIC 65qt||YETI Tundra 65|
|2 different colors||4 different colors|
|Good build quality, though significantly heavier||Manufactured with premium materials but still lightweight|
|Holds ice a little longer||Great ice performance|
|Warranty isn’t great||5-year warranty|
Companies & Reputation
YETI is a company from Austin Texas, founded in 2006 by two brothers, Ryan and Roy Seiders. The Seider brothers grew up extremely active and involved in hunting and other such activities and found that the quality of coolers available was severely lacking. And thus, their new high-end cooler company was born. Since then, YETI has grown to a multi-million dollar company with sales of more than $470 million in 2016. The company is endorsed by several pro athletes such as Cameron Hanes and Flip Pallot.
RTIC is a much younger company, established in 2014 also by two brothers, James and John Jacobsen. These two entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to stake their claim in the roto-molded ice chest market and took it. They starting producing coolers very similar to YETI, at a lower price, with the actual slogan, “A Yeti for half the price.”
Unfortunately, the likeness was a little too striking, and YETI filed a patent infringement lawsuit against them. Which, isn’t that surprising when you see the two side by side. The two companies have since reached an agreement, which has led to RTIC being required to cease all sales of their coolers and to redesign any future coolers. Fortunately, there are still many of these coolers available through Amazon, so you can still get your “YETI for half the price” (if that’s ultimately what you decide on).
RTIC vs YETI Hard Coolers
RTICs attempt to undercut YETI began with the now classic roto-molded cooler design. When comparing the two coolers, the design is extremely similar. However, we did notice a few differences in the quality of materials. RTIC skimps on their quality in a few areas, most notably in the unsealed gasket which can potentially peel off (these are fully sealed in YETIs) and the foam handles which are rubber on the YETIs. RTICs warranty is honestly just sad and confusing, while YETI stands by their hard coolers with a 5-year defect protection agreement. As far as ice retention is concerned, the coolers are essentially equals, which we found interesting. Where RTIC is typically the winner is in the price, although since the lawsuit requiring RTIC to alter their design and cease manufacturing, the original RTICs have also risen in price as supply is now limited. If you can find a good deal on an YETI we’d definitely go with one based on the quality issues of RTICs. But, if you find an RTIC at a reasonable price you’ll get the same performance at a fraction of the cost. If you want more details check out our full comparison.
Design & Quality of Materials
As you’ve seen, the two coolers look almost identical. We won’t go into too much more detail about the similarities between the two, so be sure to check out the full cooler review articles (links above) if you want to learn more. They both have the thick, rubber latches, drain spouts, rubber lid gasket, non-stick feet, thick insulation, lockable corner slots, tiedowns etc. Here’s the key differences and what you really need to know.
As far as the quality of plastic of the coolers, both brands are very similar. Which isn’t surprising, since it’s just plastic, molded over insulation. From a durability standpoint, both brands can take a real beating and won’t crack easily.
The rubber on the RTIC is slightly less quality. The latches are a little easier to snap into place, so it’s possible that over time the rubber could wear out enough to compromise the seal of the lid. It’s not very noticeable and you can always replace them should the rubber wear to that point. In addition, the rubber lid gasket is slightly thinner and more flimsy than YETIs. In addition, the gasket is not sealed/joined, so there is a small gap where the two ends meet. If you go RTIC, we would recommend filling the gap with some superglue or epoxy to prevent any issues with it coming off the ice chest.
RTIC coolers are available most commonly in tan, or white, while YETI has a tan, white, seafoam green and a light blue colour available. If you aren’t all about the classic desert tan, and don’t want your white getting dirty, you may want to consider the green or blue.
The rope handles of the YETI definitely feel like better quality compared to its counterpart, and the handle is actual rubber. RTICs handles are made of foam, and we could see it degrading over time.
Some folks have received their RTICs with scratches and other blemishes already on the cooler when receiving. These are possibly due to damages during shipping, or from reshipping returned coolers that were returned within the 30 day window. It’s a rare issue, and purely cosmetic since it won’t impede on the cooler’s performance, but it’s also something to keep in mind.
Despite being designed in the USA, both brands of ice chest are manufactured in China. Regardless, we still notice that YETIs quality surpasses RTICs in pretty much every fashion. If you’re looking to pick up your own, we typically see the best prices for these coolers in online stores since you avoid the retail markup.
Sizes and Colours
As far as sizes go, YETI definitely has the upper hand for selection. They have way more sizes available (10 total), from the 20 quart model up to a massive 350 quarts (designed for fishermen and hunters). These larger models, dubbed the YETI Tundra, are some of the highest quality and highest capacity coolers that are made in the entire industry. The most popular model of YETI Tundra is undoubtedly the 65 quart. It’s so versatile – great for fishing, camping, hunting or even just beverages during a BBQ if you need it! The smaller 20 quart YETI Roadie is a great option for smaller trips to the beach since it’s lightweight and easy to lug around with the folding handle. But, we often recommend going with a YETI Tundra due to the versatility – just keep in mind they’re a little heavy, and more expensive.
RTIC coolers only come in 20, 45 and 60 quart models. In addition, their coolers all have (slightly) larger dimensions, despite the supposed same number of quarts. Here’s a great video that compares the capacity of the two 65 quart coolers. The larger dimensions of RTICs coolers is also due to the plastic and the insulation are slightly thicker. However, the thickness also bumps the weight up. For example, comparing the 20 quart models of the YETI vs RTIC: 15lbs vs 25lbs. As a resut, one of the most popular options is the YETI Roadie, the smallest one available. So, If you’re trying to keep the size and weight (and cost) of your cooler down, YETIs likely your better option.
Finally, we get to what (arguably) really matters. Which cooler actually performs better? If you’re going to be spending between $200-400 (possibly more) on a roto-molded cooler, it had better work and keep your ice frozen.
Surprisingly, when comparing RTIC vs YETI, the less expensive RTICs are more effective at retaining ice. Remember how earlier when we were talking sizes, we noted that the the RTICs are larger in general, with thicker walls and plastic? This is the key factor that ultimately contributes to RTICs better performance.
Although we have found RTICs to provide better ice capability, it’s important to note that the difference in performance isn’t that extreme. Both coolers are great at keeping ice cold, however it is very interesting that the RTIC at half the price can actually do a better job.
One feature that a YETI cooler can boast that the RTICs can’t, is being certified bear-proof. They actually filled the coolers up with yummy treats and let grizzly bears go at it and try to get in. With a padlock in the designated hole at the corner of the lid, you can lock the coolers up tight keeping your stuff safe from wildlife.
This is a great feature for when you’re camping, or if you have valuables or liquor in the cooler at the beach. Although RTICs don’t have the certification, we’re pretty sure they would hold up very similar, since they do have the same padlock-hole. But sometimes it’s nice to have the certification.
As we’ve touched on briefly, and as you probably already know, these two brands are mostly separated by own small thing: the price tag. Why is a YETI cooler so dang expensive? It’s hard to say, really. Partially, yes it’s the marketing. They were arguably the original roto-molded cooler, and people will pay for that fact, just like they will pay for being “officially bear-proof certified.”
That being said, we’ve seen that an RTIC cooler can preserve ice just as well (or better), at often literally half the price. Yes, RTIC coolers are made with slightly less quality materials in some cases: the rubber latches and gasket, rope and foam handles. However, the plastics and insulation being used are nearly identical, so it’s up to you if these small features are worth paying for. The only other thing to consider is the warranty and if that’s worth the steeper price tag.
So, let’s do a quick recap and see which cooler wins in each category
Design & Features: Tie they’re basically identical
Quality of Materials: YETIs materials are slightly better quality
Size & Weight: YETI coolers are lighter and smaller
Sizes available: YETI has more size options (10 vs 3)
Colours available: YETI tan, white, blue and green RTIC: tan and white only
Bear-Proof: YETI only (technically)
Ice Retention: RTICs surprised us with better performance
Warranty: YETI, hands down
Price: RTIC, by a wide margin
So, while YETIs dominate the categories we have evaluated these in, a few of the features have more importance than others, most notably size & weight, ice life, warranty and price. At the end of the day, we can’t pick one for you, since every person reading this will have different buying values. If you value quality, a trusted brand and a product that should last you years, then YETIs probably for you. If it’s more of a two or three summer use then replace you’re after, RTICs a better and more economical choice. Usually these coolers are more expensive in stores because of the retail markup so we usually recommend buying online for the best prices.
RTIC vs YETI Soft Coolers
After successfully crushing it in the hard cooler market, these companies turned to redesigning soft-sided coolers. Soft-sided coolers have a few noticeable benefits that roto-molded coolers lack.They are smaller, lighter, easier to store and to carry. But, they won’t hold ice as long simply because the insulation just isn’t as thick. RTIC and YETI both produce a great soft cooler, all that being said. But, if we had to choose a favorite, we’d go with YETI in this case. RTIC only makes a flip top cooler, while YETI makes flip tops and a handbag style ice chest which we much prefer. The shape and flexibility of the design makes it ideal to pack and carry, as well as store, compared to the boxy RTICs.
Design & Materials
While RTIC has opted for a more traditional style soft cooler in their SoftPak line, with a flip up lid, YETI makes a similar cooler and also one that’s more unique. The YETI hopper is a duffel bag style cooler.
RTIC took the traditional design and the attitude of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in designing their flip top model. It’s great because although the insulation is soft, it’s still rigid enough to have the entire cooler have a stiffer structure and a uniform shape. So even if you’re shoving your cooler into the car with the rest of the camping gear, your sandwiches and other more delicate delicacies won’t get crushed. However as a result, you can’t really fold it up to store it quite as small as the YETI. We also find it less comfortable to carry this boxy style cooler than than the YETI.
The YETI Hoppers are more of a duffel or purse style bag, with the zipper located near the top of the cooler. The style makes it much easier to carry around your shoulder making it great for fishing, camping or the beach. Technically, this cooler review is the Hopper Two, and one of the most notable improvements from its predecessor is the location of the zipper, which used to be at the very apex of the bag. The zipper being at the very top limited the size of the opening making access more difficult and also scratching your hands. Now, it’s slightly off center allowing for a larger and easier access option. This may not seem very significant, but it’s a great improvement. The flexible insulation is still rigid enough to give structure to the bag. But, it really crams down to a small size when empty to make storage much easier. There are still many originals available and besides the zipper location, they’re basically identical if you opt for the original Hopper.
The YETI Hoppers are composed of a very tough high-density fabric that is completely waterproof. The “DryHide” shell is also puncture resistant, mildew resistant, and UV-ray resistant, which can often degrade the outer materials of many coolers. And the 100% leakproof zipper keeps water out and – worst case scenario – if something spills on the inside, will keep the mess inside rather than get all over your things. The inside of the cooler is super easy to clean and you can just hose out any messes. The carry handles and anchor points are a nice bonus too. The thickness of the insulation paired with the waterproof materials also prevents any sweating.
This RTIC cooler is made of a very similar outer material to YETIs that is also waterproof, puncture resistant, and anti-microbial. It’s a heavy duty nylon material that has a bit more of a rubber feel to it. It’s more like a rubber rain jacket vs. a Goretex ski jacket which is more like the YETI material. While the RTIC is a decent cooler, we’ve seen a few issues with them that we don’t with the YETIs.
While they claim to be sweat-proof, we do often see these coolers sweating in higher temperatures. In addition, similar to the hard coolers, there are some discrepancies in material and manufacturing quality. The seams are not very well assembled and is one of the major areas we see these coolers fail. In addition, the plastic buckles, nylon straps and other features are all of a lighter and less quality manufacturing and we see buckles breaking and straps falling off fairly often.
While both RTIC and YETI have features on their roto-molded hard coolers that can make them bearproof, unfortunately neither of these soft coolers have been granted this designation. You’ll want to take care to hide or elevate your cooler while camping to avoid any wildlife getting into your things and tearing up your cooler. While the outer materials are tear-resistant, it wouldn’t stand a chance against a hungry animal so keep that in mind.
Sizes & Colours
The RTIC soft-sided coolers are available in three different sizes, measured by the amount of cans (plus ice) they can carry: 20, 30 and 40. The RTIC SoftPak 40 is actually our preferred choice – although it’s the biggest of the three, it’s the most versatile. It fits lunches for the whole family, beer for the whole crew or is a great weekend camping size. The 40 is honestly quite large, which we love since we always like to overpack (who wants to be hungry or thirsty?). It’s also available in several colours including some really slick looking camouflage designs.
As we mentioned earlier, while YETI does make a comparable cooler to RTIC in their flip-top lid, we actually prefer the hopper style over the boxy flip-top. They also makes the Hopper in the same three sizes an RTIC cooler does: in 20, 30 and 40 can capacities. However, they only hold 16, 23 and 34 cans respectively, in a 2:1 can to ice ratio. If you are doing a weekend trip or have a large family, you will want the Hopper 40. The Hopper 20 is definitely on the small size for more than two people (lunch and drinks) and the Hopper 40 can be a pretty big cooler to lug around, and the 30 is a perfect middle ground but for many will still be too small. There are only two colors of the Hopper available – grey, and silver, so you definitely can’t make as much of a fashion statement as compared to with an RTIC.
Simply based on the fact that the insulation just isn’t nearly as thick as their hard coolers, both of these coolers will not provide the same ice life you’d expect form their roto-molded cousins. That being said, the closed cell foam insulation does a decent job of holding ice compared to the type of soft cooler you typically have used in the past.
The exact time your ice will stay frozen depends on several factors – the temperature of your cooler before you put ice in, the temperature outside, how often you open the lid, what size of ice you use, etc. IN GENERAL, we find that the YETI Hoppers hold ice slightly better than the RTIC soft-sided coolers. If you did a test and were vigilant at keeping the coolers closed, you can get up to 72 hours of ice from the YETI and up to 62 hours of ice from the RTIC. That being said, these coolers are often used in scenarios where it’s quite hot out and you open and close the cooler often throughout the day – like trips to the beach, the park and the like. So, realistically, we usually see about 20 hours of ice from the RTIC and about 32 hours of ice on an average summer day.
Keeping consistent with RTICs business model, these products are no exception to the price discrepancy between the two brands. The Hoppers can be 2-3x more expensive than the RTICs. For example, last time we checked, the RTIC SoftPak was just over $100 while the Hopper 20 were running for around $250-300. Despite YETIs slight brand markup, judging on all of the quality differences we’ve run through above, we think YETIs are the clear buy here. The RTICs just have too many material issues we see over time.
One important detail that many folks look for when buying new products such as a cooler, is the warranty. Should something go wrong, it’s nice knowing that you can quickly replace a defective product. This is another area where the two cooler brands differ.
RTICs warranty is… confusing. They offer a 30-day return window, but it has to be in perfect, unused condition upon receipt. Warranty returns are where it gets confusing, because they don’t actually state what the guidelines are. If you apply for a warranty return/exchange due to manufacturer’s defects, but if they deem the defect as not covered by warranty (the details to which they don’t provide) they’re going to charge you for it. Otherwise, their customer service is pretty average.
By comparison, YETI has much better warranty system in place. They offer a 5-year limited warranty to cover any manufacturer’s defects. If by some chance an item is damaged in shipping, you must immediately return the cooler in its original packaging to be eligible for a replacement. Despite the great warranty, they do still reserve the right to refuse warranty should they decide whatever damage you are submitting for was your fault. On top of the larger warranty, the customer service we’ve experienced from YETI has been top-notch.
Are you the type of person that will pay for the trusted brand, regardless of the price difference and mark-up, knowing you get quality materials with a warranty that backs it up? YETIs are probably for you.
Are you the type of person that is all about functionality and frugality, and as long as your stuff stays cold, you don’t mind if a few things degrade a bit quicker. RTICs are a good choice then.
Regardless, both YETI and RTIC are quite impressive and you can’t go wrong with either one.