Many wondered how Yeti would further capitalize on its reputation for durable coolers that can keep ice cubes for a long time. Their Tundra line of coolers and Rambler line of mugs are a status symbol just about anywhere in the Southeast. Most of us didn't anticipate that they would opt for a soft-sided cooler next. However, what we're looking at here is the Yeti Hopper 30, does it live up to the Yeti's storied reputation?
When I saw the Yeti Hopper 30, my first question was how does this soft sided cooler compare to the 10 to 14 day ice retention that the Tundra enjoys. The Tundra is insulated with urethane inside the cooler's hard shell, but if it's too hard, you won't be able to put it inside a soft cooler. Yeti turned to closed-cell rubber foam (called ColdCell) as insulation for solid insulation in motion.
To make the cooler completely leak-proof, Yeti has come up with some innovative design features. Outside, you'll find the Dryhide Shell. This is a high-density fabric that is waterproof, mildew-resistant, puncture-resistant and UV-resistant. While Yeti didn't tell us the exact material used, they confirmed that it came from FDA-approved food-grade material.
Making an opening leak-proof is not as simple as installing a rubber gasket around the lid. Soft-sided coolers have traditionally used zippers, and the Yeti Hopper 30 is no exception. Yeti calls its closure the HydroLok zipper—a design inspired by lifejackets. You'll need to lubricate the zipper from time to time, and the Yeti comes with a small tube of lubricant for this purpose. The zipper pulls are oversized and rubberized for easy and secure grip.
The downside is that the opening is a bit stiff, and the zipper likes to rub against your arm when you put things in or out. It can get very annoying when you're in and out a lot.
There are a variety of carrying options around the Hopper. Two large straps on the wide side of the cooler allow you to carry it with one hand. At either end, smaller shoulder straps offer the option of two-handed carrying. I almost always default to the shoulder straps unless I'm loading or unloading coolers in the car. As you might expect, each of these straps are well reinforced in their seaming to the cooler.
Connection point grid
Sewn on the sides along the handle is what Yeti calls the HitchPoint Grid. It's essentially a MOLLE-style system that gives you the option to clip almost anything to the cooler you want. I've found it helpful to clip a few small boxes with my favorite flies and fishing gear so I don't have to carry a small backpack for the same purpose.
To get the most out of the ice, Yeti recommends a 2:1 ratio of ice to contents. With this, the Yeti Hopper 30 can hold 24 cans, six-foot subs, or four buckets of ice cream. If you only want to haul ice and plan to bring the trout home, you can load up to 30 lbs of ice. That's actually quite a lot for a soft-sided cooler that you'll want to take with you everywhere. I've found that no matter how much weight I'm carrying, I want the Hopper on my shoulders to flip onto my back. At this size, it would be awkward to carry more than a few sizes the other way.
When you put Hopper down, its wide base makes it easy to stand on its own. This is especially useful on uneven ground and when you're piloting the Hewes Redfisher through waves.
Now I know you didn't click on this review because you wanted to know about ergonomics. We all wonder how long it keeps things cold. Keep in mind that I haven't experienced a Central Florida summer where I've gotten a solid 3 day ice stay in a relatively mild spring. What's really amazing is how cold the inside of the cooler and its inner shell stay.
The leak-proof design statement also holds true. Time will tell if it lasts. So far, though, I haven't spilled a single drop, even though all my ice has turned to water. The downside, of course, is that you have to turn the cooler over, since there's no plug to help it drain. The opening is also more restricted than standard coolers, so it's a bit awkward to dry upside down.
the bottom line
So, should you choose the Yeti Hopper 30 or one of the Tundra line of coolers?
The Tundra benefits from longer ice retention, a certified bear-proof design, and is an excellent choice for the front of a flat boat as a forward casting platform. The downside is that it's very clumsy and heavy to lug around alone.
When it comes to portability for short trips, the Hopper is much more user-friendly because you can easily manage it yourself. Perfect for weekend camping trips or fishing excursions. It just doesn't hold ice for very long and doesn't offer the Tundra's rigidity advantage.
Which one is the right choice depends entirely on the circumstances of the day. I really like the portability of the Yeti Hopper 30 when I go camping, kayaking, hiking to streams or just spending the weekend. When I'm fishing or hunting from the boat, I like the rigidity and capacity of the higher tundra.
At the end of the day, I guess the only real solution is to own both cars – and then buy a Rambler just in case.
Like other products from Yeti, this premium soft-sided cooler doesn't come cheap. The Yeti Hopper 30 sells for about $250. Meanwhile, you'll be hard-pressed to find another soft freezer with this level of durability and ice retention.
- Leakproof HydroLok zipper technology is taken from the lifejacket so it's extremely strong
- Tapered body makes it easy to tow from rental to lake
- Holds 30 lbs of ice or 24 cans of beer with a recommended ice-to-content ratio of 2:1
- Mildew-resistant interior for easy cleanup and storage
- Dryhide Shell, a high-density fabric that is waterproof and resistant to mildew, punctures and UV rays
- Coldcell Insulation, closed-cell rubber foam provides superior cold retention than ordinary soft coolers
- Model: Yeti YHOP30T
- Color: Tan
- Finishes: dry leather fabric, cold room insulation
- Cooler Material: Fabric
- Cooler Type: Marine Cooler
- Country of Origin: USA
- Dimensions: 22.5″ x 12″ x 16.5″
- Internal Width: 9.5″
- Weight: 5.5 lbs
- Warranty: 3-year limited
- Price: $349.99