Many people have wondered how Yeti would further capitalize on its reputation of durable coolers that hold ice for a ridiculously long period of time. Their Tundra series of coolers and Rambler series of cups are a status symbol almost everywhere you look here in the Southeast. Most of us didn’t predict that they would go for a soft side cooler next. However, here we are with the Yeti Hopper 30, but does it live up to Yeti’s legendary reputation?
My first question when I saw the Yeti Hopper 30 was how this soft side cooler would compare to the 10 – 14 days of ice retention the Tundra enjoys. The Tundra is insulated with polyurethane inside the cooler’s hard shell, but there’s no way to put that inside a soft cooler without it being too rigid. Yeti turned to a closed cell rubber foam (called ColdCell) as insulation that allows for movement with solid thermal retention.
To keep the cooler completely leakproof, Yeti came up with a couple of innovative design features. Around the outside, you’ll find the Dryhide Shell. This is a high-density fabric that’s waterproof and resistant to mildew, punctures, and UV rays. While Yeti doesn’t tell us the exact material used, they do confirm that it’s from an FDA-approved food grade material.
Getting the opening to be leakproof takes more than simply installing a rubber gasket around the lid. Soft-sided coolers traditionally use a zipper and the Yeti Hopper 30 is no exception. Yeti calls their closure the HydroLok Zipper – a design that takes its inspiration from survival suits. You need to lubricate the zipper from time to time and Yeti includes a small tube of lubricant for that purpose. The zipper pull is a nice oversize and rubberized design that’s easy to get a solid grip on.
The downside is that the opening is a little stiff and the zipper likes to rub against your arm as you put items in or take them out. When you’re in and out a lot, it gets pretty irritating.
You have several carry options surrounding the Hopper. Two large straps on the wide sides of the cooler give you a one-handed carry option. On the ends, smaller straps offer a two-handed carry option. I almost always default to the shoulder strap except when I am loading or unloading the cooler to my vehicle. As you’d expect, each of these straps is reinforced well in their stitching to the cooler.
Stitched onto both sides along the handles are what Yeti calls their HitchPoint Grid. It’s essentially a MOLLE-style system that gives you the option to clip nearly anything to the cooler you want. I find it helpful to clip a couple small boxes with my favorite flies and fishing tools to eliminate carrying a small backpack for the same purpose.
To get the most out of your ice retention, Yeti recommends a 2:1 ice to contents ratio. With this, the Yeti Hopper 30 can hold 24 cans, six footlong subs, or four tubs of ice cream. If you’re interested in just hauling ice that you intend on bringing the trout home in, you can load up to 30 pounds of it. That’s actually quite a bit for a soft-sided cooler that you’re going to shoulder around. I’ve found that no matter how much weight I’m carrying, I want the Hopper on my shoulder flipped around to my back. At this size, it’s just awkward to carry more than a few yards any other way.
When you set the Hopper down, its wide base allows it to stand up on its own easily. This is especially helpful on uneven ground and when you’re pushing through waves in your Hewes Redfisher.
Now I know you didn’t click on this review because you wanted to hear about ergonomics. We all want to know how long it will keep stuff cold. Keep in mind that I haven’t had it through a Central Florida summer yet, I’ve been getting a solid 3 days of ice retention in a relatively mild spring. What’s been really surprising is just how cold the inside of the cooler and its inner shell stays.
The leakproof design claims are holding up as well. Time will tell if it lasts. So far, though, I haven’t spilled a drop, even when all my ice has turned to water. Of course, the downside is that you have to tip the cooler over since there’s no plug to help it drain. The opening is also more limited than a standard cooler, so it’s a bit more awkward to set upside down to dry.
The Bottom Line
So should you go with the Yeti Hopper 30 or one of the Tundra series coolers?
The Tundra benefits from longer ice retention, a certified bear-proof design, and is a great alternative as a front casting platform on the front of your flats boat. The downside is that it’s awfully awkward and heavy to haul around on your own.
The Hopper comes in as more user-friendly when it comes to portability for shorter trips since you can easily manage it by yourself. It’s perfect for a weekend camping trip or fishing excursion. It just won’t hold ice as long and doesn’t offer the Tundra’s benefits of rigidity.
Which one is the right choice completely depends on the situation of that day. When I’m going camping, kayaking, hiking out to the stream, or just away for the weekend, I really like the portability of the Yeti Hopper 30. When I’m fishing from a boat or hunting, I like the rigidity and higher capacity of the Tundra.
At the end of the day, I guess the only real solution is to own both – and throw in a Rambler for good measure.
As with other products from Yeti, this premium soft-sided cooler comes at a premium price. The Yeti Hopper 30 will set you back roughly $250. At the same time, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another soft cooler with this kind of durability and ice retention.
Yeti Hopper 30 Cooler Key Features
- Leakproof HydroLok Zipper technology was taken from survival suits, so it’s tough
- Tapered body makes it easy to haul from the lease to the lake
- Holds 30-pounds of ice or 24 cans of beer, with the recommended 2:1 ice-to-contents ratio
- Liner is resistant to mildew for easy cleanup and storage
- Dryhide Shell, high-density fabric is waterproof and resistant to mildew, punctures, and UV rays
- Coldcell Insulation, closed-cell rubber foam offers far superior cold-holding to ordinary soft coolers
Yeti Hopper 30 Cooler Specifications
- Model: Yeti YHOP30T
- Color: Field Tan
- Finish: Dry hide fabric, Cold cell insulation
- Cooler Material: Fabric
- Cooler Type: Marine Cooler
- Country of Origin: USA
- Measures: 22.5″ x 12″ x 16.5″
- Interior Width: 9.5″
- Weight: 5.5 lbs
- Warranty: 3-year limited
- Price: $349 .99