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Hands-on Gear Review
YETI Hopper 30 Review
Cons: Very expensive, awkward to carry when full for longer distances.
When looking at a soft cooler, you are most likely considering a few key things: portability, pack-ability, durability, and simply how well it will keep your beer cold. The Yeti Hopper 30 excels when it comes to keeping things COLD and its tough exterior guarantees a long life of frosty brews. What you lose in pack-ability due to the relatively rigid and bulky structure, you gain in insulation value. During tests the Hopper 30 kept ice for multiple days even at warm temperatures. The water-tight zipper remained leak free even when the cooler was on its side or upside down (making sure the zipper was fully closed was a little tricky though) and the heavy duty straps feel very secure. The added weight and bulky construction make it a little awkward to carry longer distances, but for the short haul it is the perfect companion. All these features combined earn the Hopper 30 the Editors' Choice Award.
RELATED: Our complete review of soft coolers
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Yeti Hopper 30 is the highest performing soft cooler we tested. This is not surprising from the high-end cooler industry leader. Yeti has once again delivered a stellar product. Put the Hopper 30 into action in conjunction with the Yeti Tundra 45 and you have a winning combo of keep cold power!
The Hopper 30 performed the best in our head-to-head ice retention test, retaining 13 ounces of the original seven pounds of cubed ice after 72 hours. By comparison, the next best performing option, the surprisingly well-insulated Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack Soft Cooler, only held onto nine ounces and the rest had a big old NOTHING left after 72 hours. During regular use the Hopper 30 kept our beers cold for days and could be packed to the brim. Testers used the Hopper 30 as one of their primary beer holding devices for over a week during our testing period and it consistently held ice and cold beer. This is by far the most insulating soft cooler that we have tried, and that fact alone makes this model worth considering.
Ease of Use
The Hopper 30 is a no frills affair with no external pockets and only a top zipper opening. The only external features are a series of daisy chains and attachment loops that can be used to secure gear, keys, alternative shoulder strap configurations, or as tie down points.
Testers found the plethora of handles nice for when you just wanted to drag the thing around, and all the handles and attached straps feel very very solid. Using the zipper did take a little getting used to. In order to make a high quality, highly insulating, and water tight product, the zipper needs to seal and be extra strong. This is achieved, but it takes a little effort to pull and you have to make sure it is closed ALL THE WAY or you may get some leakage.
Carrying and loading the Yeti Hopper 30 was slightly more difficult than other coolers in this category, particularly the Ice Mule Pro, but this is mostly due to its heavy duty semi-rigid build and unique size and shape.
Opening the Hopper 30 wide enough to get your ice or beverages in there could be a bit of a challenge, but with time it broke in a little and became easier. The opening is quite a bit smaller than that of the Polar Bear Cooler or the Ice Mule Pro. However, testers felt that this sacrifice is worth it considering its superior insulating ability and its overall durability. Overall this cooler is plenty easy to use.
Durability is NOT something you will have to worry about with the Hopper 30. Like other Yeti products, this thing is built to last. Testers threw it around, dragged it in the dirt, and used it hard, and it barely showed any wear. You could play soccer with this thing if you wanted and it would stand the test. A heavy rubber exterior gives it more of a work or climbing haul bag feel, and the beefy nylon straps were never a worry. Even the plastic clips were built to above and beyond standards.
It is a safe bet you could strap the Hopper 30 to a rope and drag it up a rock face, across a shingled roof, or even behind a car and it would still be usable.
Portability is the only performance area in which the Yeti Hopper 30 suffered a little, the operative words being "a little." With its super rugged build and stiff materials, it just couldn't pack down into an easily transportable package when empty, and felt closer to a hard cooler when full. Meaning that unlike the other coolers we looked at, minus the Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with it's plastic insert, you just couldn't smash it down into small spaces or roll it up like you can with the Ice Mule Pro. It definitely takes up its share of space. It is also the heaviest soft cooler we reviewed, coming in at just about 5lbs 10oz. making carrying longer distances even more of a challenge. The shoulder strap is comfortable but it couldn't beat out the Ice Mule Pro with its backpack setup. But for what it is made for, it was easy to move and with all the rugged straps and external materials, you never had to worry about dragging it around or tossing it in the back of a truck, sled, or whatever.
Crossing the line at a whopping $350, the Yeti is certainly is not the cheapest option. The Hopper 30 comes in at $250 more than the next most expensive option we reviewed, the Ice Mule Pro, and more as you go down the list. This is enough to cause some people to stop in their tracks. But with a three-year manufacturer's warranty and the confidence and durability of the Yeti brand behind it, you can be sure the Hopper 30 will last and put up with essentially anything you can throw at it. Testers found the Hopper 30 to be a great addition to road trips, days out, and other occasions in which a larger hard cooler just wasn't needed.
The Editors' Choice Award is not given lightly. Testers looked at everything we could think of and every aspect of all the coolers tested. We took these things to places most people will never go. Did things with these coolers most people would never do. Seriously, how many people are going to throw a full cooler onto pavement just to see what happens? We conducted controlled tests, and even a few times just used the coolers as, well, simply coolers to keep our beer cold. Removing price considerations as a performance measure, nothing could match the Yeti. We even tried to find substantial flaws to just buck the norm, but alas we could not. The Yeti Hopper 30 has earned its keep and lived up to the brand name. Even at the substantial price, it would be hard to be disappointed. The Hopper 30 is certainly the Editors' Choice.
If you are looking for a rough and ready cooler that you can take anywhere, put through the ringer, and be sure it will keep you stuff cold, then the Hopper 30 is your best bet. It cuts out all the unneeded frills and goes straight to stay cold and durability power. It might not be the least expensive option, in fact far from it, but you can be assured that barring a fight with a wood chipper, it will last and continue to perform. The Hopper series is another great addition to the Yeti line and once again shows why this company is the industry leader in high-end coolers. Whether you are heading to the game, the beach, or on a road trip, the Hopper 30 will do its job.
Yeti offers its Hopper series in several different sizes and also with a few accessories.
The Yeti Hopper 20
The Yeti Hopper 40
The Molle Zinger
The Yeti Sidekick
— Andrew Schurr
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: March 23, 2016
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