There are a lot of expensive cooler options out there that cost hundreds of dollars. But do these more expensive coolers actually keep ice longer than a regular cooler?
If so how much longer do expensive coolers hold ice for and why do they hold ice for longer than a regular cooler?
Expensive coolers like Yeti keep ice 2-5 times longer than regular coolers. They can do this due to thicker insulation, insulation in the lid (regular coolers don’t have that), thick plastic construction, rubber gaskets and raised feet.
In this article we’ll look at how much longer expensive coolers like Yeti, Orca, Techniice and Kong keep ice when compared to regular coolers as well as what technology is used to achieve this.
I’ve also done an article on how do Yeti coolers keep ice so long if you’re specifically interested in Yeti coolers.
How Much Longer Do Expensive Coolers Keep Ice?
A regular cooler will only hold ice for approximately 0.5-1 days with regular use. Sometimes if you're lucky you'll still have ice on the second day.
Expensive coolers on the other hand are able to hold ice much longer.
Smaller expensive coolers like the Yeti Roadie are able to hold ice for 2-3 days.
Large sized coolers above 75-Quart can hold ice even longer again. For these you are looking at ice retention from about 5-14+ days.
When packed correctly and used properly a Yeti cooler or similar expensive cooler can still have ice in it after 2 weeks. This would never happen with a regular cooler.
Expensive Coolers Have More Insulation
This is the biggest factor in why expensive coolers keep ice longer than regular coolers, they have A LOT more insulation.
Insulation is what makes coolers work because they stop “thermal conduction” or to explain it more simply they stop heat from the outside getting into the cooler and warming up and melting your ice.
Insulation does this because it has the particular property where it doesn’t allow heat to move through it easily.
And generally speaking the thicker the insulation the more resistant to heat transfer it is.
Expensive coolers have 2-3 inches of insulation in the walls and base whereas regular coolers have 0.5-1 inches of insulation. All this extra insulation keeps out a lot more heat.
By keeping out more heat there is less energy to be able to melt your ice, thus your ice lasts longer.
Why Sometimes Expensive Coolers Don’t Keep Ice For Long
Sometimes people have an expensive cooler but it doesn’t keep ice longer than 1-2 days. Assuming the cooler doesn’t have manufacturing defects this can happen for a number of reasons.
The main reasons this happens is that when not in use expensive coolers can actually absorb a lot of heat into the insulation. Putting ice into a cooler that has warm insulation will cause the heat from the cooler to melt the ice really quickly.
For this reason it’s always best to prechill your cooler before use with a sacrificial bag of ice or with some frozen water bottles the day before using it.
Other reasons involve putting in warm food/beverages which adds heat into the cooler melting the ice or if you’re not using enough ice and there is lots of space for warm air then ice can melt quicker. If you’re having this problem read my article on why ice is melting so quickly in your cooler.
Believe it or not but regular coolers have ZERO insulation in the lids.
This image shows a cutaway of a cheap cooler and you can see that the lid is completely empty and only filled with air.
This lets a lot of heat in through the top, especially when the cooler is out in direct sunlight.
Expensive coolers on the other hand have fully insulated lids. In fact, the lid is usually the most insulated part of the entire coolers having 2-3 inches of insulation.
This extra insulation helps to keep out warmth from the sun and from the outside air, which helps the ice stay cold for longer.
Thick Plastic Construction
The thick insulation is the main thing that helps expensive coolers keep ice longer but the thick plastic construction also helps them to be better insulators.
Expensive coolers like Yeti are roto-molded and have a thick plastic shell. The thick plastic shell is itself an insulator and helps to keep out heat.
Regular coolers are blow-molded instead of roto-molded. This manufacturing process is much cheaper and faster, however it leads to a much thinner cooler shell. This thinner plastic shell doesn’t keep out as much heat.
Freezer Grade Gaskets
Expensive coolers have freezer grade gaskets on the lids. These are a rubber gasket much like what you would see on your fridge.
When the cooler lid is closed this rubber gasket creates a tight seal and keeps the warm air out and keeps the cold air in. The better the rubber gasket and seal, the better the ice retention.
Techniice is one of the few coolers that has 2 rubber gaskets on the lid instead of just one and it is one of the highest performing coolers when it comes to ice retention.
These rubber gaskets are rarely 100% airtight or watertight so they don’t work perfectly but they work so much better than regular coolers which don’t have any rubber gaskets at all.
Pull Down Rubber Latches
Expensive coolers have pull down rubber latches or something they have a cam latch system. These latches are designed to hold the lid of the cooler tight to the main body of the cooler.
While the latches don’t add ice retention themselves they help create that tight seal on the rubber gasket so air can’t get in.
I remember when doing an ice test and comparing Pelican to Yeti coolers the Pelican cooler latch didn’t hold down the lid tight to the body of the cooler.
Regular coolers don’t have any latches and the lid is just held in place with friction. This makes it much easier for the warm air to get in and melt your ice.
Raised Off The Ground
Expensive coolers generally have non-slip rubber feet. While these rubber feet are primarily designed to stop the cooler sliding around in your car, truck or boat they also happen to raise the cooler off the ground.
Heat is transferred from one object to another much easier when those objects are touching. This is because air is a natural insulator.
Think of when you’re cooking and you put some food in your hot frying pan. The heat from that frying pan transfers quickly to the food and cooks it.
The same principle applies for coolers. If the entire base of your cooler is directly touching the hot ground or the hot surface of your truck cab or boat then it is going to absorb that heat into the cooler.
Some of that heat will get through the insulation and melt your ice. By raising your cooler off the ground less heat is transferred into your insulation, which means less heat gets to the ice, which means your ice lasts longer.
If PreChilled The Cooler Insulates Even Better
We talked about it earlier but if prechilled you can add 1-2 days of ice retention to an expensive cooler.
Let me use another example. You know when you go to a restaurant and they bring out one of those sizzling dishing on a cast iron plate? Well that cast iron plate holds heat and emanates it slowly keeping the food sizzling.
The same happens with a cooler that is left in a hot place like your garage or car when not in use. It absorbs a lot of heat and will let it out slowly.
However, if you take the time to cool down that insulation it takes even more effort for any outside heat to get through the insulation and warm it up enough before it starts warming up your ice.
Placing the cooler in a large walk in freezer overnight is the best thing to do, but most of us don’t have access to that so using a sacrificial bag of ice or some frozen water bottles or milk jugs the day before using your cooler will take a lot of the heat out of the insulation and make it last longer.
Which Expensive Coolers Keep Ice The Longest?
Chances are you’ve heard of Yeti coolers as they are the most popular expensive brand of cooler.
Yeti coolers do keep ice for an extremely long period of time. In this ice test my Yeti cooler was able to keep ice for 10+ days. But regular use you can usually hold ice for 3-7 days in a Yeti cooler.
They are great coolers (I own one myself) and I highly recommend them.
Yeti pioneered the expensive cooler market when they released the first roto-molded cooler back in 2006. However, since then a lot of other cooler companies have come out with coolers that hold ice longer than the Yeti.
Below are three brands that consistently outperform Yeti in terms of ice retention. If maximum ice retention is what is most important to you then you’ll want to check out these coolers.
ORCA coolers are an American made cooler that looks extremely similar to the Yeti but can hold ice for longer.
ORCA Coolers are extremely high quality and come with a lifetime guarantee.
Read my full ORCA Cooler Review
Orca Cooler 40-Quart:
Techniice Coolers are a cooler brand out of Australia that have only recently hit the market. They aren’t very well known yet but over time they may be.
They are extremely high quality and they keep ice longer than Yeti and even longer than ORCA coolers.
They have thicker insulation than Yeti coolers and they have a double gasket as well as raised feet which help it stand higher off the ground.
All this combined makes it one of the best coolers at holding ice.
Kong Coolers are another new entrant into the market and are a USA made cooler with some pretty cool features.
They cooler is really well made and ice retention is similar to that of the Techniice.