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Yeti Tundra 65 Review
Cons: Uncomfortable handles, messy drainplug, expensive
Bottom line: A great model that largely lives up to its pedigree
Capacity (quarts): 51
Weight: 29.7 lb
YETI essentially created the high-end cooler market and their flagship model, the Tundra 65, still offers great performance in a package durable enough to last a few lifetimes. If you already have a Tundra, you should rest assured that you have a great product. However, if you're searching for a new cooler, There are a couple newcomers that give the Tundra a run for its money. Namely the ORCA outperformed the Tundra in our insulation testing (though it is a bit smaller) and the RTIC 65 offers similar performance at a significantly lower price.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Tundra was one of the top insulation performers in our test, scoring an 8. It shared that score with the Pelican Elite Cooler 70, the RTIC 65, and the Engel Deep Blue. It maintained safe food temperatures for 5 full days, breaching the 40˚F mark midway through day 6. This is just under 24 hours less than the top performer, the ORCA 58 Quart, which scored a 9 on our insulation test. The Tundra was able to match the ORCA's performance in ice retention with both models hanging onto ice for 7 days. This performance puts it well above those of the traditional models we tested. The Best Buy Award winning Coleman Xtreme scored a 4 with 3 full days of safe food temperatures, and the worst performing Rubbermaid scored a 2 with 2 full days of ice retention. The Tundra's insulation ability clearly matches its high-end pedigree. It could easily handle long weekends in the backcountry, with the option to go even a bit longer.
The Tundra has a rugged exterior that would certainly stand up to years of abuse. Its only weak point is the lid seal. When testing structural integrity we were able to get a fair amount of water to slosh out from the lid, but not nearly as much as leaked from the Pelican Elite 70. In scouring user reviews we found a small percentage of users that received coolers with leaky drain plugs due to defective o-rings. This is more of a manufacturing defect than a durability issue, and should be covered under Yeti's 5-year limited warranty. This earned the Tundra a score of 7 in our durability test. All of the high-end models we tested scored with a 7 or an 8 on this test. The Tundra's score puts it on the slightly lower end of high-end models, but it is still orders of magnitude better than the traditional models, which scored either 3 or 4.
Ease of Use
The Tundra offers high quality, easy to use latches of the rubber pull tab variety. Our testers didn't particularly enjoy their experiences in draining this model. The handle hangs at exactly the level of the drain plug, meaning it must be held away from the stream of water to prevent splashing. The drain plug tends to spray a bit when first opening it, and water tends to hug the drain and trickle to the bottom of the cooler, soaking whatever it is sitting on. While the majority of the high-end models we tested share this issue, due to their more durable inset drain plugs, the Tundra was the worst in this capacity. The lid also has a tendency to slam shut, but at nowhere near the frequency of the ORCA 58 Quart lid. All of this earned the Tundra a score of 6 on our ease of use test. This is an average score, and separates the Tundra form the 3 high-end models that led the ease of use categories with scores of 8.
The Tundra was one of the lowers scorers in our portability testing, earning a 5. Only one model, the Grizzly Hunting or Tailgating, scored worse. This was mostly due to our testers not being big fans of the Tundra's handles, which are grooved, hard plastic tubes with rope running through them. Carrying the fully loaded cooler left their hands red and uncomfortable. However, in terms of external dimensions it is middle of the road and is small enough to fit in the smaller Yosemite National Park bear boxes. We found the handles on the Editors' Choice Award winning ORCA and the Pelican Elite 70 to be much more comfortable. Both of those models scored a 7 in our portability testing, which is the highest score we awarded.
The Tundra is the only model we tested that includes a tray to separate important food items. It also includes internal slots that can fit a divider, both inset and extending handles, and the pin hinges and external latches that are standard on high-end models. These features earned the Tundra a score of 6 on our test. This was one of the highest scores, being edged out only by the Pelican, which scored a 7.
The Tundra sits in the middle of the high-end price range. Despite some flaws in ease of use and portability it delivers great insulation performance, tying for second place in our insulation test just behind the top performer. This insulative performance is well worth the high price for demanding users, but the Editor's Choice Award winning ORCA 58 Quart delivers slightly better insulation performance with fewer ease of use and portability drawbacks, all at a list price that is only $10 more. While the Tundra is an exceptional product, we feel you can just a bit more value out of the ORCA.
The Tundra is a solid performer that will provide years of high quality use. Those who already have a Tundra on their shelf can rest assured that they've made a great investment. However, if you're in the market for a new cooler you may want to consider spending the extra $10 on the ORCA 58 Quart, which offers slightly better performance in a few areas.
— OutdoorGearLab Review Team
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