Since 2008, the Yeti Tundra has set the bar for what a great hard cooler is capable of. Promising days of ice retention thanks to thick, insulation-packed walls, the Tundra (and the wave of similar coolers from other companies that followed it) has come as close to cooler perfection as many people thought possible. But today, the Texas company announced its best performing cooler yet. The Yeti V Series is the first ever vacuum-insulated hard cooler.
“When I got to Yeti, there was sort of this accepted idea that the Tundra was as good as a hard cooler could get,” says Rob Murdock, the senior vice president of direct-to-consumer who led the development of the V Series. “There was a lot of conventional wisdom, you know, that other than growing the walls five-inches thick, there wasn’t any way to solve for better.” But Murdock and his team was determined to challenge that notion and set an ambitious goal: build a cooler with thinner walls than the Tundra, which are two- to three-inches thick, that could retain ice 50-percent better.
They found inspiration in the company’s vacuum-insulated drinkware. Vacuum chambers are the best known insulators, but incorporating them into a hard cooler isn’t easy and meant Yeti had to abandon its signature manufacturing process. “We’ve made a name, in part, by doing these really big rotationally molded pieces of plastic with lots of insulation inside them,” Murdock says, “and it’s really effective, but you can’t put a vacuum panel inside of a rotational mold because in effect you’re molding the whole thing at once.” Every time the designers tried to retrofit a rotomolded cooler with vacuum panels, the panels got damaged. Instead, the team created an injection-molded plastic shell that was strong enough to protect the vacuum technology inside the 1.5-inch thick walls. After a couple of years in development and more than 100 prototypes, the Yeti V Series was born.
In addition to the vacuum panels, the V Series has a layer of the same commercial-grade polyurethane foam used in the Tundra. Outside, the V Series is wrapped in kitchen-grade stainless steel and features cast aluminum details, which are durable and stylish. Stainless steel handles replace the rope versions on the Tundra, and instead of two rubber T-latches, the V Series has a single metal latch placed front and center. The feet on the bottom offer the same non-slip performance as those on the Tundra.
How the Yeti V Series Compares
For now, Yeti will offer the V Series in a 55-quart design that will cost $800. The eye-popping price presumably accounts for the luxury features and engineering that went into creating the cooler. Many people will have a hard time justifying shelling out that many Benjamins on a hard cooler, and we can hardly blame them. But we recently got to put the V Series through its paces in the Pop Mech Test Zone, and the results speak for themselves.
We compared the V Series to the Tundra 45 by measuring how well each cooler chilled room temperature cans of seltzer and retained ice after three days. It wasn’t a perfect test given the Tundra’s smaller volume and that we ignored Yeti’s recommendations on how to pack a cooler. Instead, we focused on creating a head-to-head that mimicked real world use as much as possible.
At the beginning of the test, we filled each cooler with roughly 20 pounds of ice and several seltzer cans. We continued to add and remove cans throughout the next two days, just like you would when it’s time for a refill or when you need to restock your supply. We also left the lids ajar for a few minutes every day to simulate active use of the coolers. After three days, we removed the remaining cans and drained the ice melt from both coolers, then weighed the coolers again to determine how much ice was left.
The Tundra was more effective at cooling cans submerged for 24 hours at a time, probably because it had a better ice-to-volume ratio. But by the end of the test, the staying power of the V Series’ vacuum panels became clear. The cans that stayed in the V Series for all 72 hours were nearly 2.5 degrees colder, on average, than the Tundra cans chilled for the same amount of time. Even more impressively, the V Series retained 44 percent more ice at the end of the test.
The Bottom Line
We haven’t seen a luxury cooler quite like the Yeti V Series. Yes, there are other stainless steel coolers that look great, but none that promise that performance that this one delivers. The single-latch lid is more convenient than the two-latch system on the Tundra. Plus, you can use the latch loop to prop open the lid and let the inside dry out. Other than the cost, the biggest downside of the V Series is how heavy it is. When empty, the cooler weighs a whopping 34 pounds. Still, it’s manageable to carry, and the handles are comfortable.
Yeti will start selling the V Series on December 5, but you can sign up to receive an email when it’s available.
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