Yeti Cooler review: Tundra 35 quart
It’s a feeling we all get everytime we are packing for a camping or fishing trip – heck, even a full day picnic: how long until I have to buy another bag of ice for the cooler. Well, in comes the Yeti Cooler company. In this review, we look at the Tundra series of Yeti’s coolers. The coolers come in capacities of 35 quarts all the way to 420 quarts….we requested their 2nd smallest cooler – the 35 quart (The roadie which weighs in at 20 quarts is their smallest)
I’ve been testing this cooler for the past couple of months now. ParkVisitor has used it during a picnic, to haul food for breakfast, a hiking excursion, driving with it through 300 miles of desert with the outside tempreture an average of 102 degrees, and lastly a 3 day camping and fising trip. Suffice it to say, it’s seen a lot. Most of this review will be about the mechanics of the cooler, with examples given from the fishing trip, as that was the last location the Yeti was tested in.
*From the Yeti Company website
- Weight: 17 lbs
- One-piece, roto-molded polyethylene construction is extremely durable
- Constructed of food-grade material that is dry ice compatible and UV resistant
- A minimum of two inches of YETI®’s polyurethane foam throughout the cooler body (3” in the lid) provides superior insulation
- Freezer-style sealing gasket locks in the cold
- “T-latch” keepers are molded into cooler body which can’t fail
- Full-length, self-stopping hinge can’t hyper-extend and break
- Padlock holes are molded into cooler body and lid
- Non-slip, non-marking rubber feet help keep the cooler where you put it
- Nylon rope and textured grip handles make carrying easier
- Recessed drain plug and rubber washer guarantee leak-proof reliability
- Tie-down points are molded into the cooler body for solid mounting
- Dry goods rack included ( prevents soggy sandwiches due to ice melt)
Lid - Everytime there is a closed cooler around a campsite, or a picnic, it gets viewed as “counter-space,” or a chair. So, it should be obvious to the reader that I did just that…and a little bit more. I sat on it. I cut up my cheeses and bread for lunch on it. Then, just for fun, I did some outdoor “box-jumps.” Seeing as i’m 6’5 and 200 lbs, doing over two dozen of these high-intesity jumps didn’t even make the cooler flinch.
On the conventional side of a lid, the cooler’s hinges are sealed and solid in the back. It lifts with ease and stays open when extended to its limit with no chance of falling back down because of a gust of wind (like most conventional coolers). That’s a great thing if you need to rummage around for your food.
“Gasket” lid seal - The seal of the lid is the place that causes the most cool-air loss. That’s why Yeti has installed a gasket like seal all around the inside lip of the lid. When you close the lid and lock it up, the silicon rubber seal locks in all the cold air, and keeps it circulating. More on this later in the article.
Lid-Locks - This is the best example of how Yeti stands apart from conventional coolers and their competition in the new generation of coolers. There are no plastic locking parts. According to the company website: “ T-latch keepers are molded into cooler body which can’t fail.” Well, then, don’t mind if we test that theory out…
The locks worked out fairly well. They are easy to use, and seem almost industructable. I felt a bit skeptical since there was no locking sound or mechanism that ensured that the lid was sealed. OK, so the latches close the lid…but do they securely lock them down? More on that in the Yeti vs. Bear Country section below
Insulation - This is by far the most important part of a cooler. Every cooler, even those blow-molded plastic ones for $20, are injected with foam. But quality matters…after all, the WHOLE purpose of a cooler is to…yup, keep things ‘cool.’
Hard-shell - “One-piece, roto-molded polyethylene construction is extremely durable,” according to the company’s website. What is roto-molded you may ask? It means that liquid plastic sits in a mold (the shape of the Yeti cooler) and is spun around so that the liquified plastic fills in every crevice of the mold – basically a surefire way to guarentee there are no holes, bubbles or weak-points in the shell.
As mentioned before, the shell of this cooler (like the lid) is solid and immensly strong. I was confident when I took a couple of large campfire logs and tossed them at the box. I then “accidently” tipped it over from the edge of the table it sat atop of…with difficulty. Why difficulty? Well, because….
Non-Slip rubber feet – Just like the gasket lid seal, the bottom of the cooler is lined with rubber! You may think this might be uneccassry, but when you’re going up a winding road and your cooler isn’t snug between your camping equipment and tackle, prepare for some sliding and crashing.Not with these rubber patches.
Rope handles - Not the plastic handles we’re all accusstomed to; these handles are made out of think nylon rope. There is also a sliding foam bar running half the length of the nylon handles so that your hands don’t get clamped down by the weight on the rope. The only thing about these were that the rop is not in a set position. The foam bar that comes with the handle can slid and one side of the rope handle might have more weight on it than the other. Nothing a little adjusting can’t ‘handle,’ but it is a change from the conventional cooler handle.
Dry Rack – Yeti has invented a great addition to the cooler that campers have been waiting for for a long time. Finally, a second level absent of hovering ontop of other foods to place delicate items like eggs, butter, and glass-jars (in the case of sauces – if you’re into that sort of thing). The dry rack allowed for me to fit: 12 eggs, 2 sticks of butter, Armenian stringcheese, a bag of olives, and a bottle of plain mustard.
Water-drainage spout - There is some controversy in the Gear testing department about this one. I didn’t like the spout because the pour acted as to spill onto itself and the cooler instead of stream the water out with a “male spout.” Other users of the cooler (ones that accompanied me on the fishing and camping trip” didn’t see it as a big deal as it does its job and drains.
The spout has a gasket and silicon ‘O-ring’ that seals in the water, ensuring no leaks. The spout operates on a threaded cap instead of a plug. That’s good. But, since the cap must be screwed open, the water just falls all over, sometimes not so convenient if you use your spout as a water station to wash hands. Not a big deal, but something to consider.
Weight: 17 lbs
Outside Length: 21″
Outside Width: 15.5″
Outside Depth: 15.5″
Inside Length: 14.625″
Inside Width: 10.5″
Inside Depth: 11.25″
Yeti vs. Bear Country
My fishing trip’s destination to test out the Yeti was Big Pine, CA in the Sierra Nevada mountains. My dad Harry and oldest brother William were going to meet me at camp later in the day, so I had to load up a cooler full of goodies to sustain myself and haul up some extras so that their car wasn’t too weighed down with the food cooler. Here was what I took with me in the Yeti Tundra 35 qt.:
- 12 eggs
- 1 lb Armenian String cheese
- 1 lb breakfast sauseges
- 1 lb Greek olives
- 1 bottle mustard
- 2 sticks butter
- 2 lbs Maradella deli meat
- 2 packs Armenian Lavash bread
- 4 carbonated water bottles
- 6-pack of beer
All of this had to fit in the Yeti. When you look at it, it doesn’t look like much. To be honest, it’s pretty meager. But usually my family likes simple, and our lunches at camp are made up of fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, and olives – washed down with a light German stout. So as I started to load the beer and water at the base of the Yeti, I soon realized that I was running out of room. “This can’t be right,” I thought. I put the eggs, butter, glass of mustard in the basket since they were the most delicate, and set that aside. Then I started packing in the rest. The dry rack fit right, and everything ended up fitting, almost barely. Then I had to put ice. I unloaded a 15 lb bag of ice into the cooler, packing it into every crevice. In the end, the weight of the cooler was around 35 pounds – 17 of which belongs to an empty Yeti cooler.
Now, for any cooler that is packing it in for 3 people for 3 days, 35 lbs is nothing. But, for the list mentioned above…35lbs is just too much for the amount. Was all that plastic and 2″ inches of foam really worth it? Let’s see.
I took a log of the days and the amount of the ice that melted. Here it is, starting from Friday 9 am, after I had loaded the ice in the Yeti and hit the road at 5 am.
*Note: I had a ruler with me to measure the water level, so all the readings are accurate readings. All entries are verbatem as I wrote them in the journal
Friday. 9am – Ice still frozen, and not sweating. Beer cans are cold with no condensation, and the eggs are the same tempreture as when I took them out of the fridge. No water at the bottom of the cooler.
Friday. 2pm - Cleaned my catch (4 rainbow trouts caught from the river). Lifted out some waterbottles to make room for fish. about 1/8″ of water at the bottom. Ice at the top frozen, not sweating.
Friday. 9:30pm – All contents still cold. Ice is not sweating, and the water level seems to be below 1/4″
Saturday. 6am - First batch of eggs cooked. Yolks solid and cold. Ice near the bottom has melted, now 1/2″ of water. Ice at the top starting to sweat.
Saturday. 1pm - Deli meats in great condition, no browning on edges due to heat. Beer and water are thouroughly cold (indication that the cool air was retained and circulated properly). All the ice is sweating, but not heavily. Water level at almost 3/4″
Saturday. 6pm - Opened the cooler to grab 3 beers. Water readings slightly below 1″
Saturday. 10:30pm - Checking trout’s temprature: cold and perfect for preservation. Water level not measured.
Sunday. 7am - All ice almost completely melted. Smalle bits are floating around. Water at the base is still cold. Last of the eggs cooked, yolks cold and fresh). Water level 1.5″
Sunday. 1pm - Stopped at a gas station to buy more ice for the fish. Ice completely melted. Water cold. Drained water from cooler. Bought ice for the road.
Short of strapping on a steak to the cooler and breaking some federal and state laws, we can’t prove if the box is bear proof. But, we did bang it up with some “accidental” drops, bumps, and flips. Yeti Cooler did what we would imagine the mythical creature Yeti to do – turn and shrug. This box is tough -period.
If you’re looking for a cooler that more accurately defines the idea of keeping your food cool – Yeti’s Tundra cooler is the right fit for you. Short of an air condition unit strapped to it, this ice box keeps its contents cold! With some exceptions on the weight, spout and size of the Tundra 35, this cooler is a great tool to have in your outdoor gear arsenal.
We can’t categorize the whole Yeti company based on this one sized cooler alone, since the sized go all the way up to 420 quarts, and they have different series of coolers with various specs. But we definitely can say that if you need the contents of whatever you put in this cooler to stay cold as if you just took it out of the refridgerator at home, then this is the absolute right product for that purpose.