Yeti coolers are expensive coolers that claim really good ice retention. But how long does a Yeti cooler stay cold and what affects how long a Yeti cool can keep items cold for?
With regular use a Yeti cooler will stay cold for 2-4 days but it has the ability to stay cold and keep ice for 7-10+ days given enough ice and the right conditions.
I personally own a Yeti 45 cooler and have done my own ice tests on it plus I lived in a campervan and used the Yeti 45 as my primary cooler/fridge so I have a good idea of how long it can stay cold when it is used everyday and multiple times a day.
In this article we'll look at theoretically how long a Yeti cooler can stay cold for in great conditions. This is good if you are looking to go off grid on long trips and if you can be extremely prepared to maximize your ice retention.
We'll also look at how long a Yeti cooler can stay cold for if you're using it regularly. I am talking using it for a camping trip where it is getting opened multiple times a day and warm items are being added to it on a semi-regular basis.
What Is The Maximum Time a Yeti Cooler Can Stay Cold?
When companies advertise their ice retention they often talk about how long the cooler can stay cold if it is completely filled with ice.
I personally did an ice test with my Yeti 45 where I completely filled it up with ice (plus 6 prechilled beers) and kept it in the shade in moderate temperatures to see how long it could keep ice cold for.
When completely filled with ice a Yeti cooler can stay cold for over 10 days.
A larger Yeti cooler can stay cold even longer than this. With the extremely large commercial sized coolers able to keep things cool for over 2 weeks when prepared and packed correctly and not opened too often.
A smaller Yeti Roadie will only hold ice for 2-4 days at a maximum. It's just too small and you aren't able to put enough ice in it to keep it cold for much longer than this.
How Long Does a Yeti Cooler Stay Cold With Regular Usage?
If you're using your Yeti cooler regularly then your Yeti isn't going to stay cold or hold ice for as long as if you completely fill it with ice.
Yeti state that you should use a 2:1 ice to drink/food ratio when you're using this cooler. However, I found when I was using my Yeti on a regular basis a 1:1 ice to food/drink ratio was more realistic, or even a 1:2 ice to food/drink ratio where I had twice as much food as I did ice.
The problem with filling your cooler two thirds with ice is that it doesn't leave much room for all the drinks and food that you need for a camping trip away. So having about half your cooler filled with ice is a more likely scenario.
Add to this the fact that you're going to be opening the cooler multiple times per day, plus you're going to be adding room temperature items like beers, sodas, fruit and vegetables as well as cold but not frozen items like milk, meat etc.
In real world usage I found that Yeti coolers keep things cold for about 3-4 days.
Obviously as you get towards day number 3 and 4 there is more water and less ice so top ups may be required to keep everything in your cooler completely cold. But the 3-4 day mark was pretty consistent and this was also during warmer months.
How Does Size Affect How Long a Yeti Cooler Stays Cold
When I did my research into which coolers hold ice the longest I found an interesting relationship between cooler size and ice retention.
A larger cooler will hold ice longer than a smaller one only when filled to capacity. If both a small and large cooler have the same quantity of ice the smaller cooler will hold ice longer.
Empty space in your cooler is your enemy if you are trying to keep things as cold as possible for as long as possible.
The air in the empty space of a larger cooler will cause the contents of the cooler to warm up faster. For this reason it's important to get the right sized cooler for you.
So if you just have a small amount of items and a small amount of ice then get a smaller cooler. Something like the Yeti Roadie is a good option.
If you have lots of items that you want to keep cold for a long period of time then using a larger cooler and using a lot of ice is going to give you the best results.
How To Make Your Yeti Cooler Stay Cold For Longer
There are a lot of different things you can do to keep your Yeti cooler cold for longer, but the below tips will give you the best results. For more advice of keeping items cold in your Yeti check out my article on how to keep ice longer in a cooler.
Pre-Chill Your Yeti Cooler
The biggest thing you can do to maximise the ice retention of your Yeti cooler and to keep things cold for longer is to pre-chill your cooler.
Yeti coolers have 2-3 inches of thick polyurethane insulation. While this is a great insulator it can also absorb a lot of heat.
If your Yeti cooler is stored in a warm place or even at room temperature it is going to take a decent amount of ice to cool down the insulation.
If you don't pre-chill your Yeti then items won't stay cold for long because the ice will melt just bringing the cooler down to temperature.
So pre-chill with a sacrificial bag of ice the night before or with dry ice or frozen water bottles.
Pre-Chill The Items You Put In Your Cooler
The same goes for items you put in your cooler. Pre-chill your drinks, food, meat, milk and anything else you're putting in your cooler before you put it in.
Putting room temperature items into your cooler will melt your ice more quickly and things won't stay cool for as long in your Yeti.
Where you can freeze meat, food, water and anything else you can before putting it in your Yeti cooler.
Don't Leave Empty Space In Your Cooler
As mentioned above air space is the enemy of keeping things cold in your Yeti. You may need to use more ice or get a smaller cooler to make sure there isn't a lot of empty space.
Buy Yourself a Yeti
Yeti coolers are great at keeping things cold for a long period of time. I personally own a Yeti 45 and have had it for years and it still works great.
If you're considering a Yeti I would highly recommend them. There are also a bunch of other good quality brands out there that you can consider if you are looking for something on a budget. See the cheapest alternatives to Yeti coolers