Lifetime coolers are one of the best and cheapest alternatives to the Yeti cooler. They are even made in the USA!
But are Lifetime coolers roto-molded like Yeti or do they use some other manufacturing techniqu?
Lifetime coolers are NOT roto-molded like Yeti coolers. Instead they are blow molded which is a cheaper process and gives it a thinner exterior shell. However, the Lifetime cooler is still certified bear proof and is still extremely durable.
So what are the differences between blow molding and roto molding to help you better make a decision on which cooler you should buy.
What is Blow Molding?
Simply put, blow moulding is a manufacturing process for making plastic in bulk. It’s a process that uses heat and pressurized air to fit a heated plastic tube to a mould.
Once the desired shape is reached, the parison is then clamped between two moulds. The parison is then inflated with air until it takes the shape of the desired inner mould.
The plastic then sets fairly quickly and the next item can be made.
Lifetime are a plastics company that specializes in blow molding plastics so it makes sense that they would apply this to coolers given they already have the manufacturing facilities in the US.
Roto-Molded vs Blow Molded Coolers
Roto-molded plastics are thicker and more durable than blow molded plastics. They also leave no seams which again adds strength as there is no one weakest point.
Yeti (and other similar coolers) are roto-molded to give thick exterior shell and then insulation is pressure injected into the mold.
Lifetime coolers have a thinner shell when compared to roto-molded coolers which means they aren't quite as strong. However, they are still extremely strong and durable enough for all but the most extreme cases.
The blow molding also doesn't affect the ice retention performance of the cooler.
When Lifetime coolers were tested side-by-side with rotomolded ones (see my Lifetime vs Yeti comparison), they performed just as well and sometimes even better. Don’t be so quick to underestimate the Lifetime cooler because it is blow moulded.
Here are some benefits and reasons why blow-moulded coolers are just as good as roto-molded ones.
Why Are Lifetime Coolers Blow Molded?
Of all the high end coolers like Yeti but cheaper Lifetime coolers are the only major brand cooler that is blow molded instead of roto-molded.
So why have they gone the blow molded route while all other companies have opted for the more durable roto-molding?
Blow Molding is Significantly Cheaper
When it comes to manufacturing plastics blow molding is one of the absolute cheapest ways to make plastic containers in bulk.
It's quick, easy and uses less plastic than roto-molding.
The heating and spinning and cooling process of roto-molded takes significantly more time and thus more expense.
By blow molding their coolers Lifetime was able to make the cheapest alternative to Yeti on the market and in my opinion has made the best value cooler on the market today.
2. Lifetime Already Had Blow Molding Manufacturing Facilities
Lifetime as a company started in 1986 and have since grown to have over 1,500 employees and a facility that occupies a huge 2.2 million square feet (200,000 metres squared). They also have vertically integrated manufacturing facilities in China.
Their focus and area of expertise – blow molding plastics!
So it made sense that they saw the prices people were paying for coolers like Yeti and thought about how they could make a similar but cheaper version by using blow molding instead of roto-molding.
3. They Can Make Their Coolers in The USA
Due to the expense of manufacturing roto-molded coolers Yeti and other big brands like RTIC, Canyon, Engel etc have been forced to outsource their manufacturing to overseas locations in China, The Philippines and other places where labor is cheaper.
However, Lifetime is able to make their coolers locally in the USA because blow molding is so much more affordable and less time intensive when compared to roto-molding.
In my articles on are Lifetime coolers made in the USA I look into this in more detail.
4. Blow Molding Makes Coolers That Are More Than Good Enough
Sure it's great that a 500 pound man can't break a Yeti cooler no matter how hard he tries. But most people (myself included) aren't going to put their coolers through this kind of intense punishment.
For me I use my coolers for camping trips or weekends away in my campervan. My cooler isn't really exposed to extremely harsh conditions.
For these people the blow molded Lifetime cooler is more than good enough and more than durable enough. Having a roto-molded cooler is just an extra expense for durability I don't actually need.
Would I Still Recommend Lifetime Coolers?
Given Lifetime coolers are blow molded would I still recommend them?
ABSOLUTELY I WOULD!!!
I personally own a Lifetime cooler and can attest to how good it performs and how good it is. The ice retention is similar to Yeti but the cost is significantly less making it much better value for money for most people.