Rtic Coolers disrupted the premium cooler market with their release in September of 2015, touting their new coolers as able to hold more ice yet at half the price of market-leader YETI. In the last few hotly contested years, the question remains: what is the best premium cooler on the market? We reviewed four popular models below while examining quality, pricing, cooling ability and more to answer that question.
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What Is an Rtic Cooler?
Rtic Coolers hit the market branded as the lower-priced but equal-quality answer to Yeti coolers. Available in several sizes, Rtic Coolers are perfect for a tailgate party, a day at the beach or a camping trip. They have earned a reputation already as sturdy and high-performing coolers that fit easily into the category of premium coolers.
Among the most highly recognized benefits of Rtic Coolers are the long cooling life, sturdy construction and lower price point. Rtic coolers are available in sizes ranging from 20 quarts to 145 quarts.
How It Compares
We picked a few similar products available on the market to see how Rtic coolers compare to the competition. Read on for a detailed description of the pros and cons of each model. Below is a list of models compared.
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Ease of Use
The devil is in the details when it comes to ease of use for a cooler.
Easy to Open
When you're ready to break into your cooler for a cold drink or snack, there's nothing more frustrating than a stuck lid. Unfortunately, a good seal, which is a benefit, can make lids tough to open. Rtic took this into account when designing its handles in a way that is appropriate for even clumsy or large hands. By extending the lid of the cooler about a half-inch around the top, Rtic made its coolers easy to grasp and open.
Another benefit of the sufficient handles is that you'll be less tempted to tug on the T-latches, thereby lessening the risk of breakage.
Assembly Is a Snap
Rtic coolers ship completely assembled, so they are ready to use right out of the box. Sent in a plastic bag to protect from scratches or dings, you only need to unpack and unwrap and you are ready to go.
Travel Tied Down
The whole point of a cooler is that you are taking your food and drinks to go, right? Rtic has you covered here, too with molded tie down slots on the side of the cooler that make it easy to secure to a truck bed or boat.
Rtic coolers get their reputation as sturdy and well-built coolers due to a number of details that render them able to stand up to heavy use and be resistant to damage. Some of these design elements also positively impact insulation, usability and lifespan.
Rotational Molding Construction
While a lengthier process than some manufacturing norms, rotational, or “roto” molding ensures that Rtic coolers enjoy an even thickness in their walls, which is vital for coolers. The single-piece form that results from roto molding also provides added strength and avoids the hazard of broken seams where plastic pieces come together.
Tough T Latches
A cooler that doesn't latch properly is of little use to anyone, so luckily Rtic doesn't skimp on this important detail. The “T” design of the latch gives it more stability on the body of the cooler. In addition, the latches are made of durable yet flexible silicone that is much less apt to crack or corrode than latches made from plastic or metal.
A Tight Seal
Technically it's the freezer grade gasket that that serves as the seal that keeps air inside the cooler cold while keeping warm from getting inside. You can see this seal around the lid of the cooler. Rtic coolers boast a quart-inch wide and quarter-inch thick gasket that prevents leaks and adds to the insulation properties of the cooler.
What's more important than a cooler's ability to cool? For obvious reasons, this factor weighed heavily in the comparison between coolers.
Commercial Grade Insulation
Commercial grade insulation makes Rtic coolers more like portable freezers than your typical cooler. This is accomplished with two-inch thick polyurethane foam that lets these coolers retain ice for between five and 10 days.
Even Sides and a Thick Lid
Lids up to three inches thick add to the long cooling ability of Rtic coolers. In addition, roto molding also impacts insulation thanks to even thickness throughout the cooler.
Referred to as “cool lift” technology, specially-designed feet lift the cooler off of the ground and away from hot surfaces, increasing cooling time.
The manufacturer's warranty for hard-side coolers is one year.
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A premium cooler that fits into a similar category as both YETI and Rtic, ORCA is an American-made cooler that scores highly for construction and cooling and comes in at a relatively modest price point.
Orca boasts about its enhanced drainage spouts which claim to make draining water easier. Located on the side of the cooler, these are easy to use for smaller models but can actually be more awkward for models over 40 quarts.
Orca cooler have the same type of handles as their competition but don't boast any additional features that help with carrying, such as extendable handles or wheels.
Orca's website claims that the coolers can retain ice for up to 10 days. These time periods can vary based on how often the cooler is opened, the amount of ice in the chest and other factors.
Overall, Orca coolers are known as high-quality, premium cooler that are made to withstand the usual wear and tear that a cooler may experience. A few premium features enhance their rating.
Like Rtic coolers, Orca coolers are constructed using rotomolding, ensuring even thickness throughout and eliminating pesky seams that can lead to leaks. The resulting evenly-thick walls are about two-inches thick, adding to its cooling time. The two-inch thick lid also helps with insulation.
A Solid Seal
There's little purpose to thick walls if cool air is allowed to flow past the lid. To prevent leakage, Orca coolers have a heavy freezer gasket that is sufficient for preventing leaks
A Whale Tale Latch
While we praised the sturdy construction of Rtic's T-Latch system, Orca has its own, equally effective spin. Shaped like a whale's tale in honor of the brand's name, the Orca latches are also made from flexible but sturdy silicone, providing a long life.
A Draining Problem?
Some reviews have identified issues with the Orca's drain plug leaking or breaking.
Orca offers a lifetime warranty on its hard-side coolers.
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YETI Coolers are a market leader since they popped onto the scene over a decade ago. The premium brand remains both a stalwart of quality and something of a status symbol at the beach.
Ease of Use
The YETI is an extremely-focused product that does the basics, and does them very well. With that said, the cooler is simple to use but doesn't boast a lot of bells and whistles to enhance usability.
YETI gained fame as a high quality cooler brand based partially on the line's very long ice life.
Keeping It Chilled
Thanks to its PermaFrost insulation which is created by pressure-injection of polyurethane, YETI has gained a reputation as a long-lasting cooling machine. The ColdLock Gasket is freezer-grade, ensuring a tight seal. YETI itself doesn't make ice retention claims, but some independent reviews put ice-life at around 100 hours.
Another one of YETI's most touted benefits is the toughness of the product and its solid construction.
Like the other coolers reviewed here, YETI coolers are constructed using rotomolding, ensuring a single-piece construction and evenly-thick walls. These walls are up to three-inches on some models.
T-Rex Latches and Never-Fail Hinges
You read that correctly. YETI calls its own patented latch-design “T-Rex” and the company claims the latches will not break. As for the hinge system, YETI's “Never Fail” system is created by two hinge pins and an interlocking design for extra strength and a longer life.
Have a Seat
YETI's were built with the avid outdoorsman in mind, and for that reason, used heavy construction that made YETI coolers able to handle serving as a seat or a casting platform.
YETI offers a five-year warranty for Tundra coolers purchased from an authorized YETI dealer.
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The most inexpensive option in this comparison, the Driftsun cooler has many of the same features as its competition while coming in at a significantly lower price point.
Driftsun offers a pretty typical cooler design, with the one nod to usability probably in the nylon handles that make carrying slightly more comfortable.
With two-inch roto-molded walls and a Thermalock Freezer-Style gasket, the Driftwood 45-quart cooler will provide about five days of ice retention, which is enough cooling for the average cooler user, though it's not as long as those boasted by Rtic or YETI coolers. The gasket is thick and creates a tight seal, which is a must in ice retention.
The Driftsun 45 offers rotomolding construction just like its peers. There are few upgrades to report.
While occupying a lower price point, Driftsun does offer some upgraded feature that impact its lifespan. Military-grade handles are tough and long-lasting.
Staying Tied Down
Because the tie-down slots are molded directly into the body of the ice chest, you can securely fasten the cooler without worrying about breakage.
Driftwood offers a one-year warranty on all of its products.
Rtic coolers took the premium cooler market by storm by insisting on quality construction, long cooling life and even fun, varied colors. Further, by coming in at a lower price point than market-leader YETI, Rtic created a stir, and, in comparison to its peers, meets the premium market's high standards with no problem.
While the differences between the models reviewed here are very slight, we found that Rtic coolers offered the most value for the money, while sacrificing almost nothing in terms of quality or use.
If there was one significant con with Rtic Coolers, it would have to be the one-year warranty, which pales in comparison to the five-year or even lifetime warranties offered by YETI or Orca coolers. However, you can take some solace in consistent reviews, quality construction and long cooling life when choosing to purchase an Rtic cooler.