Yeti is probably the best known name in coolers. In Florida, it appears to be a status symbol for fishermen, hunters, and other outdoorsmen. These stickers are on nearly every truck on our roads. The Yeti Tundra 45 is the company's most popular size, with over 1200 user reviews rating it a 4.9. But is Yeti here to stay as a premium manufacturer, or is it just the latest fad fueled by hype?
Notable Features of the Yeti Tundra 45
Yeti takes cooler construction up a notch by using a rotational molding process. Often used in kayak construction, rotational molding rotates the product as the material cools to form a strong part. This eliminates the seams found when multiple components are glued together, which tend to be weak points where failure often occurs. This strength is evident in the 45's 500-pound weight capacity.
I certainly don't have any problems here. The fact that my entire family can stand on this cooler without damaging it is impressive. While I had no intention of drop testing it for the sake of review, it definitely looks and feels tough enough to handle anything I can throw at it on the job site or over the weekend.
Coolers use insulation and have thick walls, but the Yeti Tundra 45 has thicker walls than most. This provides up to 2 inches of insulation to the cooler, which should achieve that level of ice retention you may have heard of.
Yeti uses what they call PermaFrost insulation made from polyurethane (PU) foam. PU is used in a variety of products, including many of the best work boots. It is injected into the walls of the cooler and then expands to fill every part of the space.
In addition to the PermaFrost itself, a thick cryo-quality gasket (called a ColdLock gasket) is found in the lid to further reduce heat intrusion.
PermaFrost insulation adds significantly to the Yeti's weight. This is the trade off of getting killer ice retention. Yeti's ColdLock gaskets can help in this area, and they seal really well.
One of the biggest complaints I have with almost every cooler I own comes from trying to push the lid down. Usually the first thing that happens is the plastic latch succumbs to the sun's rays and snaps off. Then it was only a matter of time before the rear hinge followed suit.
Yeti solves both problems. Their T-Rex latch system is made of flexible rubber that will stand longer than hard plastic.
The NeverFail hinge system integrates connection points into the lid and body design, leaving a simple pin connecting the two directly.
In both systems, I'm not worried about NeverFail Hinge at all. It's flush with the cooler housing, and I'm having a hard time seeing a point of failure there, unless the lid is twisted somehow when it's open.
The T-Rex latch is definitely a big step forward from the plastic latches found on most coolers. It's thick enough that I'm not too worried about tearing, but I do wonder how long it takes for the sun to start breaking it down. It should last for many years to come, especially if it's not left to soak up light when you're not using it.
There are actually two designed ways to carry your Yeti Tundra 45. The most obvious of the two is using their DoubleHaul handle. As a fly fisherman, I can appreciate the name no matter how well they work. That said, the handle replaces the typical swivel plastic handle with a soft, military-grade polyester cord and a rubber slide handle to keep it secure.
Another way to carry the design is the LipGrip handle molded into part of the main housing. These simple handles are nicely hidden from view.
When carrying the weight of a cooler with two people, you will definitely prefer the dual tow handles. When the load gets heavy and I'm alone, I go for LipGrips to put my arms in a better position to carry.
When it's time to drain the Yeti Tundra 45, you can dump everything out, or make it easier on yourself with the Vortex Drain. Rather than a simple friction fit, the drain plug is threaded to give you a tight seal. Drill a hole in it and you can slowly drain it by partially opening it. This will keep the plug in place so it doesn't escape like a lost sock in the dryer. You can also remove it completely for faster drainage.
While the drain plug is at the bottom of the groove, you'll still need to towel dry the cooler completely, or let it air dry with the lid on, as not every drop of water will come out on its own. I'd like to see the plug upgraded to hold it to the cooler so there's less chance of losing it.
One of the reasons the Yeti is so popular with fishermen is the BearFoot non-slip feet. Not just a silicon tab, they're 3" x 2" long and don't look like they're going anywhere.
Because the Yeti Tundra 45 is so stable, fishermen chasing redfish, northern pike, snooker and more on the coastal plains can use the Yeti Tundra 45 as an alternative front casting platform. I've used this on carpet, tile, linoleum, and cement – it just doesn't move. I haven't personally tested it on the front of a punt, but if anyone wants to take me out, I'd be happy to show your boat in a photoshoot and buy lunch.
The Yeti Tundra 45 is certified bear-resistant. Yea, locked on both front corners, inaccessible to man and beast. What's more, it also keeps food smells at bay, so you'll never attract wild animals.
AnchorPoint tie down slots are molded into the main housing to easily secure it to your boat, trailer or truck. They aren't dimpled enough to hold hooks for bungee cords or motorcycle straps. However, some creative loops or flat clips will get the job done.
Yeti also includes a dry goods basket in each cooler. I don't know about you, but I like my sandwiches to stay cool and avoid getting wet when I'm out at sea for a day.
Yeti recommends a 2:1 ice to beverage ratio in its coolers for optimal ice retention. If you follow their advice, you'll be able to pack 26 into 45 cans.
The Yeti Tundra 45 measures 15-1/2 inches high, 25-1/2 inches long, and 16 inches wide. These sizes are one of the reasons it is so popular. It fits just about any boat, including many tandem kayaks and canoes. It can be easily stored in the trunk of a car, on the bed of a truck, on an ATV or on a suspended cargo vehicle. It's the perfect balance of storage capacity and versatile size for short trips.
We've been using the Yeti Tundra 45 all summer and it's been pretty hot. From Memorial Day picnics in Georgia to summer in Central Florida, it's been used to hitting triple digits and failing to dip below 75 degrees. Still, the drinks have been kept refrigerated with ice for up to 4 days – that's what we've been getting in them constantly to retrieve the drinks, refill them and add about half the recommended amount of ice.
Actual ice retention data are difficult to obtain. Every time you turn on the cooler, the numbers tilt a little bit. Given the way I use the Tundra, I'd put the money on its ability to easily hold ice for a week if you topped it up. I've read other users claiming that the ice in their coolers lasts up to two weeks, and I have to say, given my experience, I trust them.
the bottom line
Everything I've seen from the Yeti Tundra 45 suggests this cooler legitimately does what it claims, and the excitement surrounding the brand is certainly more than just hype. Honestly, $349 is too much for a cooler. However, it comes with a 5-year warranty and is clearly top-of-the-line performance.