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Ask the Strategist: What Are Some Yeti Cooler Alternatives?

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What about finding a Yeti-cooler alternative that won’t cost an arm and a leg?

While it may feel like the dog days of summer are behind us, this year you’re probably hoping to extend (socially distanced) picnicking season until the first frost. And if you’re going to schlep that pan bagnat–and–pét-nat lunch to the park — or the beach or campground — you’re going to want to make sure your provisions stay adequately chilled. In the past, I wrote that the Yeti cooler “is essentially a mini-fridge with a convenient over-the-shoulder strap.” That being said, the Yeti costs a pretty penny, and there are plenty of well-insulated options out there for a fraction of the price that will still keep your drinks frosty. Below, a bevy of affordable options including soft-sided coolers, hard-sided chests, and even a cooler tote.

Photo: retailer

According to REI, this soft cooler, when filled with 12 cans and eight pounds of ice, will keep everything chilled below 40 degrees for up to 65 hours, so it’s ideal for road trips and weekend getaways. Like Yeti, it sports a rugged vibe but, unlike Yeti, costs about $100. It also has a top handle, side handles, and a detachable shoulder strap so you can carry it however you find most comfortable. The cooler also sports an attached bottle opener so you can crack open a cold one wherever you are.

$145

Beloved by dads, OtterBox gives Yeti a solid run for its money. It keeps ice for up to three days and has a similarly militaristic look made with puncture-resistant, heavy-duty nylon. Usually, it would run you $200, but we found it on sale for just $145, which is $105 less than the Yeti Hopper Flip 12.

While my family are all die-hard Yeti enthusiasts — at our last Fire Island beach trip I counted no less than four of them in various sizes spread out along the sand — this Arctic Zone cooler is one we often rely on for a lightweight alternate. While not quite as heavy-duty as the Yeti, it’s easy to carry and will reliably keep your water cold for an entire day spent baking in the August sun. And we’re not its only fans: Over 5,000 five-star Amazon reviewers agree.

Or try this hard ice chest also from Arctic Zone. It features a rubber gasket and T-latches to keep the cold sealed in tight for up to four days, plus it has a nifty drain that allows you to easily dump out any water that may accumulate.

Igloo is another dependable choice that also provides a G.I. Joe–esque look (if that’s what you’re into). Empty, it weighs about 18 pounds, so while it’s not great for beach days, it’s a good pick for BBQs and camping trips.

And if you are looking for a hardshell cooler that is still schlepp-able, try this ’80s-esque, 16-quart cooler from Stanley that can hold 21 cans of your drink of choice.

For a super-affordable option, try Coleman, which is kind of like Yeti’s dad: classic and hardworking, but not exactly cool-looking. The cooler can fit 30 cans; has a hard, removable liner to keep your sandwiches from getting crushed; and has additional pockets on the front, top, and sides to give you plenty of extra snack-storage space. The lining is also antimicrobial to prevent mold and mildew. To quote Strategist writer and Coleman cooler owner Lauren Ro: “It gets the job done.”

While less portable, if you’re looking for a cooler with more storage space for longer excursions, this Coleman number will keep 204 cans plus ice for up to six days in temperatures as high as 90 degrees. And since the lid can support up to 250 pounds, it also can serve as additional seating around the campfire.

Hydro Flask isn’t just for water bottles anymore: they’ve upped their insulation game and released a line of coolers. This 18-liter option is a dead ringer for Yeti’s Hooper Flip 18 but comes in a range of fun colors. At $175 it’s not exactly cheap, but it’s nearly half the price of the Yeti and, dare we say, cooler-looking.

Photo: retailer

If you want an easy-to-tote cooler, may we suggest this actual tote from Hydro Flask that will keep food cold for up to four hours (sans ice). Just add some ice packs, and you can extend that window in case the park lunch you planned turns into an al fresco late-night hang (or you run into some VSCO girls you want to impress). The coated fabric, seen here in a zippy grapefruit color, is completely waterproof and features welded seams so there’s no need to worry about leaks or overpacking-caused tears.

For a hands-free option, try this IceMule backpack-style cooler, which comes in three sizes and a variety of colors. The largest size is 20 liters and holds up to 18 cans plus ice. The bag is zipper-free and has welded seams, so it’s completely waterproof and can even float, making it an excellent choice for water-sport enthusiasts.

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Ask the Strategist: What Are Some Yeti Cooler Alternatives?