For you, being outdoors might not be about being the coolest, but for your food and beverages, staying cool is the name of the game. In this RTIC cooler review, we'll go over all the reasons why an RTIC cooler is the only way to chill outdoors.
If you haven't heard of RTIC coolers yet, the train is about to leave the station. And this is one that you don't want to miss. At least, if you like cold beverages and solid food storage for long trips in the backcountry, camping with the family, or just tailgating at the game.
If you own a YETI cooler, you're already familiar with just how cool cold can be these days. However, that's just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
Although YETI has been at the top of the cooler game for over two decades now and offers an impressive lineup of products, they are quickly being overtaken by the young brand RTIC which started in 2014. And the thing is that their whole business model is based around direct competition with YETI. They're not shy about it, either.
The truth is even beyond RTIC coolers there are tons of other great YETI like coolers out there that don't have a YETI like price tag.
So, the question to be asked is: RTIC vs YETI...what is the best cooler?
If you are new to RTIC coolers, you'll definitely want to read this in-depth RTIC cooler review before deciding on which brand to buy.
After all, doesn't RTIC sound like they are a force to be reckoned with? We certainly think so, and although YETI will always hold a special place in our hearts, the times they are a changing.
And trust us, you're going to want to change with them. So sit tight, we're going to cover all the reasons why RTIC coolers are the best option out there today. We'll go into detail about the types of coolers they currently sell and just how RTIC vs. YETI coolers stack up in each category.
All this talk about ice might get a little chilly though. So go grab a hot cup of coffee and let's get started on this RTIC cooler review.
Types of RTIC Coolers: Roto-Molded, Soft Cooler & Backpack Coolers
RTIC offers three basic types of coolers with size and style variations in each category. We will cover each in this in-depth RTIC cooler review. Each type of cooler is best used for a different type of chilling, so you'll want to make sure you choose the right one to match your lifestyle. Although RTIC also sells insulated drinkware, travel bags, and accessories (to directly compete with YETI), we're going to focus on coolers today.
RTIC Roto-Molded coolersRTIC roto-molded coolers are the very top of the chilling food-chain. Outperforming even YETI roto-molded coolers by marginal amounts, these are the real deal. If you're trying to keep your beers cold all weekend, protect meet from the summer heat, or keep your family fed in the woods, these coolers are the business. Roto-molding has been around since the 40's but recent innovations have led to great strides in viability and performance.
The reason why these coolers are the very best is because roto-molding allows for seamless construction out of the highest quality plastics. That means no spaces for cold air to escape through. It may sound like a small difference, but in practice, these coolers can hold ice for up to two times as long as the average cooler.
The only downside to roto-molded coolers is their size and weight. These are for serious business. Not the kind of equipment you want to have to carry for long distances.
These coolers are best in the bed of your truck, in the foyer of your tent, or on your back patio. RTIC rotomolded coolers come in a variety of sizes from 20 to 145 quarts. However, since the YETI vs. RTIC lawsuit, RTIC has had to redesign many of their coolers and has yet to re-release the larger models.
RTIC Soft Coolers
Much more practical for personal use, soft coolers have come a long way since you carried that old lunchbox to school every day. It might have been good enough to keep your juice box and bologna sandwich from heating up, but now that you're grown up, you need a grown up cooler, for doing grown up things.
That's why RTIC soft coolers are specifically designed to fit the maximum possible number of cans inside. This is one arena where RTIC holds an undeniable advantage over YETI.
Many of YETI's soft coolers are designed with a zipper closure that compromises the can-friendly shape of their coolers. Therefore, although YETI vs. RTIC coolers may be of comparable sizes, yet RTIC soft coolers will hold up to two times as many cans.
RTIC soft coolers are made from puncture and tear resistant nylon. They have an antimicrobial liner to keep mildew out so that your cooler never develops the smells of cooler funk. Even if you forget to clean it out after your last camping trip.
The fabric on these coolers is also waterproof, along with the zippers and welded seams. RTIC soft coolers are even sweat-proof. So they won't get you or your tent wet as it does the hard work of keeping cool.
RTIC Backpack coolers
The most personalized option for on the go refrigeration is an RTIC backpack cooler. These are the ultimate for keeping it cool on the trail, the river, or anywhere else you find yourself.
I mean, sure, you could try to carry a big, bulky roto-molded cooler out to the river, or you could shoulder your new RTIC soft cooler. But then how are you going to carry your surfboard, fishing pole, kayak, or whatever other essential gear you've got to bring along?
The answer is to strap your cooler to your back and go hands free. RTIC backpack coolers are designed with these exact types of adventures in mind. They have no zippers to allow maximum waterproofing. T
he nylon exterior, just like their soft coolers is made to be puncture and tear resistant as well as entirely waterproof. What's even better, these coolers float! So if you're spending the day out on the water, you can throw it right in with you and strap it to whatever you're working with.
The RTIC backpack cooler comes in a couple different colors and one size option. You'll be able to fit 40 cans (yeah, you read that right) or 35 quarts into one of these coolers.
And you may think that because it's a backpack, it won't be able to hang with the big dogs like roto-molded and soft-shell coolers. And, although they aren't roto-molded, an RTIC backpack cooler will keep your ice all day, even in the blazing sun.
What Kind of Cooler Do You Need?
Needless to say, each type of cooler is best suited to a different style of adventure and will achieve a different level of chill. So depending on where in the wilderness you find yourself, you'll have to carefully consider what cooler to bring along.
If you're looking for a camp cooler that can hold your beverages and perishable foods for the weekend or longer, a roto-molded cooler is your best bet. Since you won't have to carry it far to camp from your car (at least in most instances).
Use this cooler as your home base. If you need to take refrigeration farther than a few minutes down the trail, you're going to want to size down to something more portable. These coolers do great if they have a dedicated home.
They work great for storing your fresh caught fish on the long drive home. If you're regularly out on a boat, that's a great place to bolt one of these down. Roto-molded coolers also make a great fixture for the bed of your truck or around your property. After all, when you're out grilling with friends late on warm summer nights, it's nice to have cold drinks readily at hand.
These are best for people who never know where they're going to need to crack a cold beer. Any outdoor sport such as surfing, climbing, biking, skateboarding, all go great with a portable cooler. If you're going to be on the water, then the backpack is definitely the way to go due to it's superior waterproofing, durability and it floats.
RTIC Cooler Reviews
The RTIC roto-molded cooler is among the highest quality cooler on the market today and that's why figured we needed to do a in-depth RTIC cooler review. Unless you've got connections at NASA or through the military, you're not likely to find a better cooler. Although it comes in several sizes, the RTIC 45qt model makes the perfect camp companion. It's sturdy enough to take some serious abuse, or to be used as a bench or even a cutting board. These coolers have an ice life of at least 10 days, far longer than most excursions that will require a cooler.
RTIC knows exactly what a heavy duty cooler needs to do. With no extra bells and whistles to compromise the space where you keep the cold ones, this cooler outsizes the comparable offering by YETI. It also undercuts the price by a huge margin.
With a nonslip base, heavy duty rubber T-latches, and molded-in side handles. Everything about this cooler is designed for maximum functionality and durability. There are molded-in tie-down slots so you can easily attach your cooler to any surface you want.
The drain is specially designed to let extra water out quickly while keeping the ice in. This cooler is even designed to be bear proof. Seriously. You could keep your thanksgiving leftovers for up to ten days in bear country and Smoky could never get to it.
The craziest thing, is that I haven't even told you about all the features yet. There are so many smart aspects to the design of these coolers that I can't go into all of them here. Really, when it comes down to it, a lot of us gear heads have been comparing the RTIC vs. YETI roto-molded coolers.
Although both are of supreme quality, the RTIC outdoes YETI in nearly all functions except for the company warantees and customer service where YETI is the clear winner. When it comes to the actual coolers, though, RTIC is not only significantly cheaper, it's actually a better cooler.
RTIC vs Yeti Cooler Comparison
So we've gone into it a bit by now in this RTIC cooler review. But lets really break it down, because everyone wants to know what this new brand RTIC is all about, and why it's so much cheaper than YETI.
To most people, that would be a strong sign that they must be of lower quality. Yet, as we've already covered, that's far from true. By the metric most important to making the best hardshell cooler, overall ice life, RTIC actually outperforms YETI. This in itself is reason enough to go with an RTIC cooler over a YETI.
However, the differences don't stop there. RTIC, as I'm sure you already know, undercuts the prices of comparable YETI products by huge margins. We're not talking about a twenty dollar difference here. We're talking about half or a third of the price.
When it comes to the 45 models in particular. The RTIC 45 is currently retailing for $190 on their website, the YETI Tundra 45 goes at $350 direct from their website. That's $160 difference. With that much cash, you could buy a lot of extra gear. Or, you could stock your cooler with the most expensive beer in the store and still have money to spare. One more reason why RTIC is the clear choice.
There is one arena, though, where YETI really puts RTIC to shame. When it comes to your warranty, there's really no competition. RTIC has flip-flopped repeatedly over it's warranty. Many people who bought a cooler with a seven year warranty have had that pulled from beneath their feet and now RTIC only offers a 1-year warranty on all their products. That's put to shame by YETI's five and three year limited warranties.
It's not just the warranty that wins a point for YETI, but also in their customer service department which is reported by most to be top notch. That's as opposed to RTIC's customer service which in many cases is non-existent. This likely comes down to the wild and rapid success of the RTIC brand, as they are having a hard time keeping up with demand. In the coming years, we may see things shift into RTIC's favor as they get a handle on their own success.
The RTIC SoftPak cooler works even better than it looks. When it comes to softshell coolers, there's really no comparison, this is the peak of human ingenuity to date. It's inherently difficult to make a cooler both lightweight and durable, exceptionally cold and highly portable, spacious and affordable. Yet, somehow, the RTIC SoftPak coolers are all of those features and more.
Just like all of the coolers made by RTIC, this one is waterproof, non-sweating, and lined with thick closed-cell insulation. Although not bear-proof like the roto-molded cooler, the SoftPak features puncture and rip resistant nylon, high strength buckles and straps and a beefy, waterproof zipper. Remember, we're not talking about your average softshell cooler, these things are designed for serious adventures and extreme conditions.
When it's empty, this Pak weighs three pounds. When it's full, you can stuff 20 of your favorite beers into it, just as the name suggests. Ice life comes out to almost 75 hours, which is pretty damn impressive for a softshell cooler.
What's more, RTIC knows that coolers can get pretty stinky if not well treated. All the grit and grime that get inside of a cooler when you're out in the woods can cause bacteria to grow and your cooler to smell. But not this one! The SoftPak is made with an antimicrobial liner to prevent cooler funk from developing. But you should still clean your cooler out after each time you use it.
How Does it Compare: RTIC SoftPak vs Yeti Hopper
Just as you might expect, RTIC vs YETI is a contentious issue when it comes to their softshell coolers. And just as before, RTIC clearly matches or outperforms YETI by almost every metric. When it comes to overall ice life, the softshelled models come in at just about the same score. They each fit the same amount of ice and it melts at virtually the same rate. However, due to the volumetric design, the RTIC SoftPak is able to fit a couple more cans than in the YETI Hopper 20.
When you compare other qualities like durability, design features, and looks, they come out pretty well tied. For the most part, RTIC has duplicated each of the features that made so successful in the first place. The major difference between the two coolers is that RTIC chose to go with a wide, flip-top lid for easy access that secures with a heavy duty and waterproof zipper. The YETI Hopper is also sealed with a bombproof zipper, but rather than a lid, uses the zipper to join the two upper walls of the cooler. Although this design looks cool, it reduces the can capacity of their coolers compared to the RTIC SoftPak.
RTIC Backpack Cooler Review
The RTIC Backpack Cooler is one of the coolest pieces of backcountry gear on the market today, which is also why it was our favorite product in this RTIC cooler review. As someone who is frequently out in the woods or on the river hanging with my friends, this thing is my personal favorite cooler.
Although it has nowhere near the capacity of a roto-molded cooler, nor the durability, it packs in a number of features that are absolutely priceless to certain sorts of outdoor enthusiasts.
When it's empty, the RTIC Backpack cooler weighs six pounds. That is twice as much as the SoftPak, but that's because the requisite strapping and material to put your cooler on your back adds a bit of extra weight. However, that extra weight is well worth it.
This cooler fits better than most regular backpacks and can keep 30 cans plus a bag of ice cold all day, even in the hot sun. Throw out the ice and you can make that forty cans. This pack is surprisingly roomy.
And I know you're thinking, "if I take out the ice, how will my beer get cold?" Well, there's an easy answer, throw the Backpack cooler in the river and let it chill al-natural. That's made possible by the roll top, zipperless closure, super-waterproof fabric, and floatable design. That's right, it floats. I'll be honest with you though, this backpack is so well insulated, that it may take a while for the cold to penetrate to your drinks.
How Does it Compare: RTIC Backpack Cooler vs Yeti Backpack Cooler
When it comes to differences between RTIC vs YETI products, the backpack cooler is the one model that sets two companies apart the most. When we set out to review all RTIC cooler models, the backpack cooler was the one we were most excited about.
Surprisingly YETI doesn't actually make a backpack cooler yet, but look for this to change soon. The most comparable YETI model is actually called the YETI Panga Duffel 50, but the problem is it's just designed to be an outdoor gear bag, which means it's not insulated. Sure it's waterproof, so it won't leak if you fill it up with beer and ice, but it's insulating performance is poor.
YETI's Panga line are designed to be outdoor travel duffel bags with backpack straps. True to the ingenuity that skyrocketed YETI to the top of the refrigeration game in the first place, the innovative design of the Panga allows it to fit your back like a pack or ride beside you like a duffel. You choose.
The YETI Panga duffel is also made in two larger sizes, which makes it a versatile gear bag for any adventure. The YETI Panga features a zipper closure as opposed to the roll top.
On the flip side RTIC went with a classic backpack cooler design. This cooler backpack features a roll top closure. I'm not going to lie, I feel a lot better about the roll top than a waterproof zipper when it comes to keeping water in or out. There's a reason why dry bags used by water enthusiasts the world over feature the same roll top closure as the RTIC Backpack Cooler, it's just the most reliable way. Now, that's not to say that the YETI's zipper leaks, because it doesn't. It's tough as nails. However, a zipper will fail a heck of a lot faster than a roll top closure.
Furthermore, the two bags feel very different on your back. Personally, I prefer the feel of the RTIC on my back, but think that the YETI is a more sensible shape for other travel applications. Just like all other YETI products, you'll pay over $100 dollars extra to get your hands on the YETI Duffel. Other than the price, there's no metric where the YETI will come in above the RTIC. To me, that makes it a clear winner. Unless you specifically want the duffel bag design or a zippered opening, the RTIC Backpack cooler is the clear winner here for it's insulating performance.
RTIC vs Yeti - Who Makes the Best Cooler?
So if you haven't caught on by now, the competition of YETI vs. RTIC is pretty fierce. You've probably also noticed that RTIC is playing a cut-throat game and quickly toppling YETI from it's perch at the top of the portable refrigeration industry.
Their strategy of skipping distribution channels and shipping directly to their customers keeps all of their prices so far below those of YETI that you need to have some serious cash to even consider getting a YETI vs. RTIC cooler. We knew this from the start when we set out to review RTIC's coolers
That being said, if you forget about the prices, the coolers these two brands produce are nearly identical in performance. Certainly, the roto-molded coolers offered by RTIC hold an edge over YETI's comparable coolers. However, for the most part the two companies are evenly matched and using the same technologies to produce parallel products.
As a matter of fact, you may remember that we mentioned a lawsuit between the two brands at the beginning of this article. That was serious business and it came about because RTIC had virtually copied YETI's designs spec-for-spec. After all, if it aint broke, don't fix it. Just make it for half the price and undercut the leading brand.
Even with a massive lawsuit thrown at them, RTIC has barely slowed down. They are currently redesigning their product line to comply with the ruling and are still being ordered out of stock on a regular basis.
So who makes the best cooler? Well, both of these top brands make virtually identical coolers. Small stylistic differences make for slightly different products, but in the end, the big difference that makes a big deal is the price. When it comes down to it, unless YETI does something to match RTIC's price points, we may see a shifting of power in the industry sooner than later.
What Are RTIC Coolers Made Of?
RTIC coolers, though made from a wide array of materials, are all sourced to be of the highest quality. Their Roto-molded coolers are made from high-grade rotation-molded plastic. The insulation in all of these coolers feature high-tech, closed cell foam which does an exceptional job of insulating. Handles and straps are made from high-strength nylon, or marine grade ropes.
Their softshells and backpack coolers are made from high-strength nylon, resistant to tears and punctures. All of these products are treated with the best waterproofing technology there is. The closure buckles on RTIC's roto-molded coolers are made from heavy duty rubber- not plastic. That way they won't break or shatter if a Grizzly gives them a hard time. Even the hinges on the roto-molded coolers are single, full length, interlocking hinges that will basically never fail.
If you don't get the picture yet, let's make it simple. These coolers are made from only the highest quality materials and components to be basically indestructible. These aren't budget coolers for you to dip your toes into the cold water. They are serious pieces of equipment for the outdoor hardcore and they're built to last a lifetime of serious use.
Where Are RTIC Coolers Made?
It's a common question. Where are RTIC coolers made? And as you might expect, for such a common question, you'll find a common answer, made in China. After all, how could it be any other way? Even their competitor's products which cost significantly more are made in China or the Philippines. That's just the nature of the global market we exist in today.
Don't let that scare you into thinking your cooler will be of poor quality either. Although there are certain product categories that come cheap and flimsy from China, RTIC coolers aren't among them. Overseas manufacturing is critical to RTIC's mega-low prices and therefore, their booming success.
RTIC Cooler Prices: How Do They Stack Up?
Now, we've been over this already, and we'll say it again. When it comes to price, RTIC blows it's competition (YETI) way out of the water. In fact, YETI is so far from the water it forgot how to swim. That's been the secret to RTIC's success right from the start. When we set out to write an RTIC cooler review we knew this price point was going to be a huge factor.
If we get down and dirty about it, you can expect to pay anywhere from $140 to $310 for a roto-molded cooler from RTIC, depending on which size you get. To buy the comparable cooler from YETI, you're looking at paying one and a half to two times the price.
When it comes to softshells, the price gap only widens. RTIC SoftPaks run anywhere from $110 to $165. For the comparable products from YETI, you'll be paying between two and three times as much. That's crazy!
Although we haven't reviewed RTIC's other offerings like drinkware, the savings there are as much or more. Basically, YETI doesn't stand a chance and the only thing that's keeping them in the race right now is the fact that RTIC is not offered in most major box stores. However, that has recently changed and RTIC equipment is making it's way onto the shelves, at prices way below YETI's. Only time will tell, but right now, the market is looking pretty grim for YETI.
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RTIC Coolers History
RTIC has been in the cooler game since 2014. And they immediately made waves in the cold water. Their whole business model is based around direct competition with YETI. They're not shy about it, either.
RTIC actually just settled a lawsuit with YETI which forced them to redesign several of their products which were too similar to comparable ones designed by YETI. Although they lost the lawsuit, RTIC's coolers are still very similar to those produced by YETI. And that's a good thing. Because these two brands certainly make the highest quality coolers the world has ever seen.
So how has RTIC been able to so quickly compete with such a successful brand like YETI? Well, they're brand strategy from the start was to bypass the standard retailer channels and sell directly to consumers.
Although this forces them to rely largely on word of mouth advertising, it allows them to undercut YETI's high prices by a very significant margin (in some cases RTIC's products cost less than a third of the YETI counterpart.)
Next, you might ask how YETI has been able to stay in business with such icy competition. Is it that they are higher quality than RTIC coolers? Although that would seem logical, the more expensive product is not always better.
In the case of RTIC vs. YETI, this is most certainly true. By almost all comparisons, particularly ice life, RTIC coolers perform at or above the level of YETI coolers. So what's keeping YETI in the race? Well, I'd bet there are some important folks over at YETI asking themselves the same question right now.
Essential RTIC Cooler Accessories
In addition to all the coolers we've reviewed above, RTIC offers a wide array of accessories, drinkware, and replacement parts that will elevate your experience to the next level of chill. Here are a couple of the most essential extras that you should pick up and add to your cooler-kit.
I don't care how messy your room is, your cooler is no place for clutter. That's how cans get shaken, sauces get spilled, eggs get crushed, and all hell generally breaks loose.
I mean, just because your cooler comes with an anti-microbial coating to keep it from growing nasty cultures doesn't mean it's immune to becoming a nasty cooler. So get a basket for your RTIC rotomolded cooler. They cost between $7 and $13 and are specifically designed for each size of roto-molded cooler.
Another great way to impose order upon your perishables is to get an RTIC cooler divider. Like the cooler baskets, they are specifically designed to match one size of cooler, so make sure you get the right one. These are great for keeping your meat separate from your produce, your beer separate from your food, or any other way you like to categorize your cooler.
If you want to kit your cooler out with some custom color or graphics, there are a number of companies who specialize in applying vinyl wraps to RTIC coolers. You can't get it done by RTIC itself as of right now, but don't let that stop you. After all, if you're going to be chilling, you might as well do it in style.
Although they aren't exactly an accessory as much as another great product of their own, RTIC tumblers are some of the best on the market today. After all, you can trust the cooler company to make a cold cup that works right.
They are double walled and made of stainless steel. The flip top lid is splash-proof and just see-through enough to keep tabs on how much drink you have left. They are even designed to fit perfectly with RTIC straws.
Over 500 million straws are used in the US every single day! The numbers are truly unfathomable. Eventually, a huge percentage of those straws wind up in the Ocean where they'll live longer than McJagger. If you think this is as big of a problem as RTIC does, than you'll pick up a set of their stainless steel straws.
They work great with RTIC Tumblers and will help you do your part to keep the oceans straw-free. It may sound like a small difference to make, but at just five bucks, it's a small investment in the planet. The set comes with a thin brush for cleaning your straws out of any sticky situations they may find themselves in.
The Bottom Line: What RTIC Cooler is Best For You?
Well, there you have it folks. With this RTIC cooler review you have just about everything you could ever need to know about their coolers and more. We've covered each of their top products, as well as those offered by their most direct competitor (YETI).
We checked out the bomb-proof roto-molded coolers that are the pinnacle of portable chilling. You'll recall that the roto-molded coolers offered by RTIC hold more ice for longer than their YETI counterparts, a clear win for RTIC.
Not only that, but they cost almost half as much as YETI. If you're looking for a cooler to keep on your boat, in the back of your truck, or around your property, then these make great fixtures. Just don't expect to move them around too much.
For more mobile applications, we checked out the RTIC SoftPak Cooler which comes in a variety of sizes from big lunchbox to small suitcase.
Although they won't hold ground against grizzly like the roto-molded models will, these packs are pretty damn tough. They feature a more spacious design than their YETI counterparts and retail for between one half and one third the cost. These are undoubtedly where RTIC rises farthest beyond YETI in terms of price.
RTIC SoftPak coolers are waterproof, super-durable, and lightweight. They make a great carry for any group outings where you need beverages for the whole crew. They don't match up to the ten day ice life of roto-molded coolers, but can keep it cool for up to three days in some cases.
For the most mobile of missions, grab the RTIC backpack cooler. It straps comfortably to your back and can hold up to 40 cans. The rolltop closure is perfect for keeping water out if you find yourself on the river or out at sea. You can even throw your RTIC backpack cooler in the water and let it float along beside you if you like. RTIC's backpack cooler is the product which varies the most from YETI's comparable offering. However, true to the recurring theme, the RTIC backpack cooler is about half the price of the YETI duffel bag.
When all's said and done, it's pretty clear who's making your next cooler. There's really no point in messing with those cheapo coolers you'll find lining the shelves of your average box-store. An RTIC cooler would probably hold ice better with it's lid open than one of those pieces of junk.
And if you had been planning on leveling up anyways, you're welcome for saving you from the price-trap of buying a YETI. Get the same, top quality for a fraction of the price by looking on Amazon.com and picking up your favorite RTIC cooler today.
From now on, you'll always be ready to chill with the very best of them, no matter where your adventures take you.