Yeti Hard Sided vs Yeti Soft Sided Coolers: Which Is The Better Buy?

When looking to buy a Yeti cooler it can be difficult to know whether you should choose a hard sided cooler or if you should go for a soft sided cooler instead.

Both look like great coolers how do you know which one is the better buy?

Ultimately everyone’s usage of these coolers is going to be different. You’re going to use your cooler for different things than I’m going to use mine for and what you use it for will determine which cooler is best for you.

Someone who is going deep sea fishing and their cooler will stay mostly stationary on the boat all day is going to get more use out of a hard sided cooler. Someone who wants to keep their lunch cool at work each day or take a few beers to the local sports game wouldn’t want a big chunky hard sided cooler but a portable soft sided cooler would be much better.

In this article we’ll look at the difference between the hard and soft sided Yeti coolers so you can pick which one is going to be best for you.

Soft Coolers Are More Portable

Yeti soft sided coolers are much lighter and more portable than their hard-sided counterparts.

They are specifically designed to be lighter and have carry handles and a shoulder strap for easier carrying. The BackFlip 24 also has backpack strap for even more portability.

Below you can see the different in weight of some of the soft sided coolers compared to the hard sided coolers. See weights of all Yeti coolers.

Soft-Sided Coolers

Hopper Flip 8 – 2.8 lbs
Hopper Flip 12 – 3.1 lbs
Hopper Flip 18 – 5.1 lbs
Hopper BackFlip 24 – 5.3 lbs
Hopper M30 – 7.0 lbs

Hard-Sided Coolers

Roadie 20 – 15 lbs
Tundra 35 – 20 lbs
Tundra 45 – 23 lbs
Tundra 65 – 29 lbs
Tundra Haul – 37 lbs

As you can see the soft sided coolers are significantly lighter than the hard sided coolers.

Carry Straps For Easy Portability

The Yeti Hopper Flip and M30 coolers have a strong and reinforced top handle so you can carry the cooler with 1 hand or they have an adjustable shoulder strap so you can hang it over your shoulder and take it with you.

The Yeti BackFlip 24 has a top handle also but instead of a shoulder strap it has 2 backpack straps so you can wear it like a regular backpack and have both hands free.

Hard-Sided Coolers Are Hard To Carry When Full

Yeti hard sided coolers are too heavy to have a shoulder strap and instead have either a rotating metal handle (for the Yeti Roadie) or two nylon and rubber rope handles on the sides.

However, given the large size of these coolers and the heavy starting weight anything above the Yeti 45 is very difficult to carry by yourself when loaded.

Hard Coolers Keep Ice Longer

Yeti Cooler Ice Retention Test

While the hard-sided coolers may be heavier they also pack a lot more insulation allowing them to keep ice significantly longer than their soft-sided versions.

Yeti hard-sided coolers have a thick roto-molded plastic shell and 1.5-2 inches of insulation in the walls and 2-3 inches of insulation in the lid. They use a pressure injected polyurethane foam which is extremely good at keeping heat out.

Yeti hard-sided coolers also have a freeze grade gasket in the lid and pull down rubber latches which helps keep the cold air in and keep the warm air out.

Compare this to Yeti soft sided coolers, which use a cold cell foam and only has about 0.75-1 inches of insulation in the sides and in the lid.

This means hard sided coolers can easily keep ice 4-6 days, and even over a week, whereas soft sided coolers can only hold ice for 2-3 days maximum. My Yeti 45 held ice for over 10 days

If you’re just going on an adventure for the day and only need to keep things cold for 24 hours then the soft sided cooler will be fine. If you’re going camping, or living in a van (like I was), or going off grid for a while the 2-3 days ice retention of a soft sided cooler just won’t cut it.

Soft-Sided Coolers

Ice Retention – 1-3 days

Hard Sided Coolers

Ice Retention – 4-6+ days

Soft Coolers Are More Expensive Per Quart

You would think that the smaller a cooler was the cheaper it would be, but the soft sided coolers are actually more expensive per quart when compared to the hard sided coolers.

The smallest hard-sided cooler is cheaper than soft-sided coolers with less capacity. This likely comes down to how much it costs to make the products and it seems more goes into making a soft sided cooler and thus they are more expensive. Click here to learn how much it costs to make a Yeti coolers.

Below you can see price comparison between the Yeti soft-sided coolers and the Yeti hard-sided coolers. You’ll see that while smaller, the soft-sided coolers are still quite expensive.

Soft-Sided Coolers

Yeti Hopper Flip 8:

Yeti Hopper Flip 12:

Yeti Hopper Flip 18:

Yeti BackFlip 24:

Yeti Hopper M30:

Hard Sided Coolers

Yeti Roadie:

Yeti Tundra 35:

Yeti Tundra 45:

Yeti Tundra 65:

Hard Sided Coolers And Stronger And Will Last Longer

Hard-sided coolers are much tougher than soft-sided coolers and can handle almost anything.

They are made from a thick roto-molded plastic shell. This is an impact resistant plastic and is the same sort of plastic they make kayaks out of. Learn more about what Yeti coolers are made from.

I have seen plastic throw these coolers around, jump on them, drop them out of high speed vehicles and even seen them being attacked by bears and they still hold up.

The soft-sided coolers are still very tough for a material cooler. They are made with 840-denier nylon that is water resistant as well as scratch and puncture resistant. They also have a reinforced base so you don’t have to worry about the bottom breaking open.

The hard-sided coolers comes with a 5-year warranty and the soft-sided coolers come with a 3 year warranty but they should both outlive their warranty and last you a lifetime if you take good care of them.

But overall the hard-sided coolers are much strong and more durable.

Soft Sided Coolers Are Harder To Load, Access and Clean

The soft sided cooler have either zippers or magnets at the opening which make them harder to open. The zippers are waterproof but take a lot of force to open and the magnetic top in the Hopper M30 won’t stay open by itself.

The Yeti hard sided coolers on the other hand have a hinged lid that opens up and stays open giving you full access to the cooler and everything in it.

You Can Sit On a Hard Sided Cooler

Hard sided coolers can double as a seat and they are more than strong enough to hold a person’s weight.

Soft sided coolers don’t have the strength to be used as seats. They are airtight so if zipped shut the air pressure can help it keep its shape and give it some strength so you can sit on it, but generally speaking it’s not a good idea to sit on the soft sided coolers.

The lid for hard sided coolers is also able to be used as a cutting board.

Soft Sided Coolers Aren’t Bear Proof

Yeti Cooler Bear Proof

Hard-sided coolers are certified bear proof which means that a bear can’t get into it. If you’re camping in bear country then protecting your food from bears, so the bear doesn’t hang around your campsite, is a good idea.

If this is you then a soft sided cooler may not suit you.

Hard Sided Coolers Come In Larger Sizes

Yeti 350

The smallest soft sided cooler is the Yeti Hopper Flip 8 which is 8-Quart largest soft sided Yeti cooler is the Hopper M30, which holds 30 liters or about 31.7-Quart.

The hard sided coolers come in much larger sizes. They start at 20.8-Quart with the Yeti Roadie and go up from there.

The Yeti 45 is 37.6-Quart, the Yeti 65 is 57.2-Quart and it goes all the way up to the Yeti 350 which has a whopping 316.4-Quart capacity. See all Yeti cooler capacities

If you want a larger cooler then you’ll likely want to go with a hard sided cooler.

Soft Sided Coolers Are More Easily Stolen

Yeti coolers are expensive and thus they are often stolen if left unchecked.

Yeti hard sided coolers have tied down latches that allow you to securely lock your cooler to your truck or other stationary unit. You can also lock the lid down so people can’t get inside.

Yeti soft sided coolers do have tie down straps and handles you can use to lock your cooler to something. But these handles are more easily cut/broken.

There Are More Color Options For Hard Sided Coolers

Yeti often does limited edition colors for their products but it seems that the hard sided coolers get more of these color options than the soft sided coolers.

This means there is about twice as many color options for hard sided coolers when compared with soft sided coolers.

Click here to see every Yeti cooler color (hard sided and soft sided)

Ultimately It Comes Down To Size, Price and Portability

Ultimately the decision usually comes down to what size cooler you need and how portable you need that cooler to be. Price and ice retention also play a role in most people’s decision.

If you only need a smaller cooler and you want it to be easy to take with you then the soft sided coolers would be great for you.

Click here to see soft sided coolers at Amazon

If you are looking for a larger cooler and it’s going to stay mostly stationary and you don’t need to move it around as much then a hard-sided cooler is likely going to be a better fit for you

Which Soft Sided Cooler?

If you decide you want a soft sided cooler then you also need to choose which kind of soft-sided cooler you would prefer.

There are 3 different types of Yeti soft sided coolers.

The Hopper Flip

The Hopper Flip series of cooler is like a combination between a hard and a soft sided cooler. It still holds it’s rectangular shape like a hard sided cooler but it’s made from nylon and it much more cushiony and comfortable to carry.

It comes it 3 sizes with the smallest being the Flip 8 and the largest being the Flip 18. The Flip 18 is a similar size to the Yeti Roadie.

Yeti Hopper Flip 8:

Yeti Hopper Flip 12:

Yeti Hopper Flip 18:

The Hopper M30

The Hopper M30 doesn’t have a square shape like the Flip series does and instead looks a lot more like a large satchel bag.

It has a wide storage base at the bottom but then close at the top using a magnetic strip which you fold over and clip into place.

It’s larger than the Hopper Flip coolers and can hold more drinks and ice. It’s also thinner and taller which can be better for some situations.

Yeti Hopper M30:

Click here to read my full Yeti Hopper M30 review

The BackFlip 24

Backpack Coolers Are Super Practical

The Yeti BackFlip 24 is my favorite soft sided cooler because it comes with backpack straps so you can wear it comfortably just like you would a bag.

Even soft sided coolers get heavy when full loaded so the backpack straps plus hip belt and sternum support strap make it much easier for you to transport your cold drinks and food.

Yeti BackFlip 24:

Click here to read my full Yeti BackFlip 24 review

What Hard Sided Cooler?

Choosing the right sized hard-sided cooler is a difficult choice. There are so many different sizes ranging from the small and fairly portable Yeti Roadie to the super large commercial Yeti Tundra 350 which takes multiple people to carry.

Choosing the right size will depend on your needs and there is too much detail to go into in this article. If you want to learn more about what size cooler you should choose I’ve done a full writeup on how to choose the right sized cooler.

Some popular sized Yeti coolers include the Yeti Roadie, Yeti 45 and Yeti 65.

Yeti Roadie:

Yeti Tundra 35:

Yeti Tundra 45:

Yeti Tundra 65: