An absurdly durable and fairly versatile personal cooler, but at a high cost
Price: $250 List | $249.95 at Backcountry Compare prices at 3 resellersPros: Durable construction, insulates well, versatile and easy-to-use features, rugged Cons: Expensive, heavy for its size, narrow handle is less comfortable, shape a bit awkward to carry Manufacturer: YETI
Consistently creating high-performance coolers over the years, Yeti has done it again with the Roadie 20. This little, personal-sized ice chest packs solid insulation with a ridiculous level of durability in a portable package. It's been officially tested and approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and is chock-full of useful features like a drain, two types of carrying handles, non-slip feet, and a flat top that works well as a seat or table. It's a bit heavy for its size, but nothing compared to most the other, giant coolers in this review. All this comes at a high price that rivals even some of the biggest coolers we tested, but if you're unwilling to sacrifice durability in a personal cooler, then it may be right for you.
This Yeti model has been updated. We outline the details below.
Our Analysis and Test Results
Updated Model: Yeti Roadie 24
Since our review cycle, Yeti upgraded this cooler to a 24L model. Its profile is now slimmer and taller, allowing you to slide it on the floor behind the seat of your car, and its new height will facilitate an upright bottle of wine. Yeti says the new model is 10% lighter and its insulating power has increased by 30%, in addition to holding 20% more than its predecessor. They've ditched the drain plug, however, so you'll have to flip it over to discard excess water and ice. Compare the two below; the Roadie 20 that we tested is shown first, and the new Roadie 24 second.
The 20L model is no longer sold, so we're linking to the Roadie 24. Be aware, though, that the following review is only in reference to the Roadie 20.
Hands-On Review of the Roadie 20
The Yeti Roadie is a rotomolded personal cooler with a top handle and indented handles on the sides. Its maximum internal height of just over 10 inches doesn't quite fit an upright wine bottle. It features a drain (novel in a personal cooler) and lockable corners.
The Roadie is constructed of a seemingly endless number of specially-designed features with specially-assigned names to describe them, like the Interlock™ lid system, Fatwall™ design, and Coldlock™ gasket. All these translate into a well-insulated little box with up to 2 inches of insulation, a rubberized seal, and an ability to maintain low temperatures. All this 'meat' went to good use in our torturous insulation testing, in which the Roadie kept our food below the FDA recommended 40º F for 2.3 days. That may not sound overly impressive compared to the 4.1 day average among the models we tested, but for a cooler intended for a single day out and about or overnight trips, we think that's alright.
For a more size-appropriate comparison, some other personal-sized models lasted a few hours longer (2.6 days below 40º) while still others didn't last quite as long (just 2 days below 40º). So the Roadie landed about in the middle of that pack of more similarly-sized options we tested. If you're not planning on bringing a bunch of raw meat and easily-spoiled food with you, but rather fill up your Roadie with sodas and beers for your beach day, we clocked this cooler at 2.6 days of 50º or colder beverages.
For anyone who's spent too much time on YouTube, they've probably seen the official Yeti videos of their coolers being slingshotted against the side of a van, lit on fire, dropped onto rocks from three stories up, thrown off a cliff, jumped on by a 500 lb man, and chewed on by an actual grizzly bear. While we didn't recreate any of these stuntman antics or convince a bear to harass the Roadie 20, we did put it through a battery of more realistic tests, in which it excelled.
This single-piece polyethylene body is substantial and has the same rotomolded construction as whitewater kayaks. The Roadie is filled with polyurethane foam and fitted with a freezer-style gasket to seal in water and out hot air. Even the "virtually indestructible" hinge and thick rubber latches, often weak points on similar coolers, are sturdy. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, in charge of testing and approving products for usage in public lands with grizzly bears, has approved this little cooler for official usage (with padlocks or bolts and nuts holding it shut). They note that this doesn't mean it's a guarantee that it is bear-proof, but our experience leads us to believe it would have to be a pretty ingenious bear to get inside a padlocked Roadie.
Ease of Use
The Roadie 20 is packed with helpful little bits and pieces that make it pretty easy to use, starting with the non-slip feet to help hold this box in place wherever you set it. It also features an easy to use screw-out drainage plug to aid in cleaning when you've concluded your adventures. Yeti has also included four tie-down points, two of which can be used to secure the cooler but still open it, while the other two double as closure anchors for padlocks or bolts and nuts to keep out bears, chipmunks, or the neighbor's dog. The Roadie also has two indented side handles just under the lid for a two-handed carry when you've loaded it down with 16 cans and 10 lbs of ice.
The regular, metal handle has a squishy pad to help make it more comfortable to carry, and it locks into the upright position between two little plastic nubs on either side of the cooler. We can't decide if we love or hate this feature, as we find it to be handy for that quick set-down-pick-up-again move, but sticks enough that we need two hands to put the handle up or down. The rubber latches are also a love/hate feature, as we think they're both incredibly useful and good at keeping the lid closed while simultaneously being so stiff that many of our testers found them a bit obnoxious to use with their two-hand requirement. So while we mostly found the Roadie simple to use, we also feel it has some little annoyances we didn't experience with several of the other coolers in this review.
It's a no-brainer that a personal cooler is more portable than a monster 100-quart beast. With both a padded handle and two different ways to easily carry this cooler, the Yeti Roadie 20 is much easier for a single person to handle than most the rest of the coolers in this review. However, compared to other personal-sized coolers we tested, the Yeti is just so-so to cart around.
Despite having one of the smallest capacities we tested, the Roadie 20 is significantly more massive for its size. It also has a thinner, less ergonomic handle and more angular corners than others we tested, all of which make for a less comfortable carry over long distances. However, if you want to carry a cooler for long distances, you might instead consider a soft cooler, which are made with portability in mind. But for a hard cooler, carrying the small Roadie isn't too bad at all.
Though it doesn't have anything extravagant like a bottle opener or can holder, the Yeti Roadie has a lot of other helpful features that we've already mentioned throughout this review. A convenient drain, two options of handles, an airtight seal, and the ability to be used as a solid seat are all great features. Additionally, the Roadie 20 can handle dry ice, due in part to its rotomolded construction. The Roadie also packs a 5-year manufacturer's warranty, just in case you do run into any issues that aren't user-caused.
Retailing for nearly the same cost as many coolers three or more times its size (and even more than some!), the Yeti Roadie 20 is impressively expensive. But you already know that, and you're wondering if it's worth it. If insulation is your number one priority, there are other personal-sized coolers available that offer better insulation than the Roadie for half the cost. But if you need a cooler that can take beating after beating for years of adventures and loving abuse, you won't be disappointed by the Roadie.
The Yeti Roadie 20 is advertised as "virtually indestructible" and we can't disagree. This impressively solid personal-sized cooler is sealed, with effective insulation and packed with a wide variety of useful features like a drain, non-slip feet, and the ability to be used as an impromptu chair. Though it's a bit heavy for its size, and we aren't the biggest fans of the narrow handle when it's loaded down, the Roadie is an impressively insulated mini-tank among coolers.
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