Yeti Roadie 20 Review: This Cooler Defies ThermodynamicsS

You have to love engineers willing to come up with the best product possible, price be damned. That's the Texas company Yeti's approach to coolers. The portable Roadie 20 can keep beer icy in brutal southern sunshine, and it's tough enough to jack up a truck. Its insulation is incredible, but it doesn't come cheap. Should you take it out tailgating this fall?

What Is It?

A $200 5.2-gallon cooler. Possibly the greatest cooler of all time.

Who's it For?

People who want portable, perpetually cold drinks on every road trip for the rest of their lives.

Design

The Yeti's 2.5-inch polystyrene insulation layer crushes a typical cooler's inch-thick walls. Stretchy bungee-style ball-and-socket clasps pull the lid shut, and a freezer gasket seals it up.

Using It

Arrange the beer. Distribute ice throughout the bottle matrix.

The Best Part

Having plenty of ice left at the end of Labor Day weekend last year, after the cooler had sat in a hot car for 72 hours.

Tragic Flaw

Heavy to haul empty. Brutal when loaded. A narrow metal handle is rough to grip, and the side smacks your knee with every step.

This Is Weird...

The walls resist heat transfer so well, they remain cold to the touch hours after the cooler is drained.

Test Notes

  • Tested over a year beginning in late summer 2011.
  • A threaded port near the bottom makes it easy to drain what little ice actually does melt.
  • The thick walls make the interior smaller than you think it would be, but a 12-pack and a tub of spinach dip fit nicely if you stagger and invert the bottles.
  • The handle is surprisingly hard to move in and out of the locked, upright position. You practically have to kick it to dislodge it when you set the cooler down to crack it open.
  • Yeti started out making coolers for boating. This is perfect for the water (but tough if the boat is paddle-powered). Its highest calling may be resting it in the back of an SUV while tailgating. Carrying it any distance, even from a hotel room down to a beach, is a pain.
  • It makes a great seat, stepstool, or campsite coffee table.

Should You Buy It?

Yes, if you can rationalize the $200 expense. The Yeti comes with a 5-year warranty, but really, it should last a lifetime. It certainly won't become obsolete. How often do you need a cooler? Throughout the summer, and for a few football games in the fall? If that's the case, then in just a few years, this investment will cost just a few bucks per use over the long term.

If this seems like total overkill, that makes sense, too. For an effective, small, flexible cooler, look into the stylish zipper-sealed neoprene models by Built.

Yeti Roadie 20

• Price: $200
• Weight: 16 pounds
• Outside Dimensions: 20 (L) x 13-3/8 (W) x 14-3/8 (H) inches
• Inside Dimensions: 13-7/8 (L) x 9-1/4 (W) x 10-3/8 (H) inches
Gizrank: 3.5

Photo Credit: Brent Adams of Louisiana, honorable mention in the Yeti photo contest.