Yeti vs. RTIC. Which backpack cooler would you like under the tree this Christmas? If you are reading this review you probably already know these two companies make top shelf products and their coolers may be the best on the market today. They are both headquartered in Texas and this review is not their first battle. They recently settled an intellectual property dispute, so hopefully both companies can get back to focusing on innovation and making great products for us!
Most of us already own one or more RTIC or YETI hard coolers of various sizes. No doubt, both companies make excellent products. But one thing I have learned in using YETI and RTIC hard case coolers is that their hard case coolers are very heavy. Just pick up a YETI Tundra 35 after filling it with beverages and ice and then carry it from your truck to the marina for a day of boating. It takes two people to carry it. That is because it is made to keep your beverages cold for a week! But…what if you only need to keep your beverages cold for the day and you don’t want to lug around a heavy hard case cooler? That’s where the soft case back pack cooler comes in handy.
And, that is where this review starts! In this review we are breaking down the YETI HOPPER BACKFLIPTM and the RTIC BACK PACK in a side by side review. Both coolers solve the weight problem I noted above and both are backpack coolers. When you finish this review, you should know which backpack cooler is best for you! If you still can’t decide after reading the review, buy both and let us know what you think after a few weeks!
Here is our review roadmap. We based our review on the following features:
- Frame structure/strength/flexibility
- Packability (compartments, etc.)
- How it handles when fully loaded
- How it performs in keeping items cold, when fully packed and when barely loaded
- Ease of cleaning
- Quality of straps, zippers, etc.
That first factor, style, was not on our original criteria, but the YETI design/style was so sharp we had to add it. Don’t worry, we added another factor as well, which is price. We did so because the RTIC price was so unbelievable we had to add price. It looks like I just gave away two factors of our review before we even started breaking things down. If you are only concerned with style and brand, buy the YETI. On the other hand, if you are only concerned with price, buy the RTIC. If the other listed features intrigue you, read on!
YETI HOPPER BACKFLIP TM 24 SOFT COOLER
Right out of the box this cooler catches your eye. It has a nice clean look! It comes in charcoal, navy, and sagebrush green. The Hopper BackFlip™ was YETI’s addition to its Hopper Flip® by adding a means to carry the cooler. This is YETI’s first backpack cooler and they hit a home run in style. According to YETI, this cooler was designed to efficiently distribute the weight of your goods, while the ergonomic shoulder straps make the journey more comfortable. Even more, a removable chest strap and waist belt are included for added stability and security. YETI claims this cooler promises superior cold-holding, a 100% leakproof zipper, and a tough DryHide™ Shell. The shell looks amazing. If this were a fashion show review, YETI would win…but it is not. So, we tested those other two claims, cold-holding and leak proof zipper, among a number of other features to make it a fair fight.
We based our review on the following features:
- Style – The YETI Hopper Backflip has a very clean, streamlined look. The cooler does not look bulky and has a traditional backpack strap system for the shoulders. The Backflip comes in three colors, Charcoal, Navy and Sagebrush Green. All three colors look amazing. The exterior is a high-density waterproof fabric that YETI calls the DryhideTM The exterior has what YETI calls a Hitchpoint grid, which is great for attaching items like bottle openers, jackets, etc. The Backflip also has handles on each side near the top and also a handle on the lid to assist with opening the lid. YETI is a pricy brand that has a certain “clout” to it. So, it is fitting that YETI has done a great job adding its logo in prominent and not-so-prominent locations on the cooler. The zipper on the Backflip is almost one half inch in width which gives the lid portion a nice sturdy look. All in all, the styling on the YETI Backflip makes you want to throw this backpack cooler on your back.
- Comfort – The Backflip is easy to wear as a backpack and is surprisingly more comfortable than I thought it would be. It seems YETI has spent some time engineering the functionality of the backpack system on the cooler to fit a variety of body sizes. I give this cooler a thumbs up for comfort.
- Frame structure/strength/flexibility – the frame is a soft cooler made of insulation between the inner compartment and the exterior shell. The Backflip is sturdy yet flexible. The straps are plenty strong to hold the weight of the cooler.
- Capacity – YETI claims the backflip can hold 24 cans or 25 pounds of ice. That has proven to be sufficient in most instances and we were easily able to fit 24 cans during our test!
- Size/Weight – The Backflip weighs 5.2 lbs empty and stands just over 19 inches in height. The cooler is 8.5 inches deep not including the backpack straps and 13.75 inches wide. The inside is 15 inches tall, 6.5 inches deep and 15 inches wide.
- Packability (compartments, etc.) – the Backflip is no frills when it comes to compartments. There is only the one compartment which is the main compartment where you place your ice and drinks. As noted above, the cooler has the Hitch-point grid for attaching items to the cooler. The cooler is 6.5 inches deep and a can of soda is under 5 inches so there is room between the side of the cans and the cooler side for ice. Or, you can pack fewer cans and use a re-freezable YETI ice block.
- How it handles when fully loaded – the Backflip performed great fully loaded. The backpack is comfortable to wear and does a great job distributing the weight. The pack system is designed to make it easier to pack around a cooler and it performs excellent with that function in mind.
- How it performs in keeping items cold – we loaded a 10 pound bag of ice in the Backflip, zipped it up and let it set for 20 hours in the house (temperature ranged from 68 at night to 72 during the day). About two-thirds of the ice was still in the cooler when I opened it. I measured 7 cups of water from the melted ice.
- Ease of cleaning – the Backflip is very easy to clean. Just rinse it off and wipe it down with a cloth or towel.
- Quality of straps, zippers, etc. – the zipper is very heavy duty. YETI calls it the toughest, highest-performing cooler in the world. It feels tough when using it.
- Warranty – 3 year warranty
- Price – The YETI Hopper Backflip is priced at $299. The Backflip is definitely priced rather high for what it is. However, most people have come to trust the YETI name which comes with a high level of quality so people are willing to pay the price.
RTIC BACK PACK COOLER
RTIC just recently entered the back pack cooler market and they made a solid cooler right out of the gate. The RTIC Back Pack cooler is a soft cooler designed for the same target market as the YETI Backflip. This cooler comes in blue/grey and tan. Both colors look sharp. The RTIC cooler is roomy, looks like it is made of dry-bag material; it is 100% waterproof and it floats. The cooler has a fair amount of padding on the back and on the straps to improve comfort when loaded. The zipper top opening is sleek and the zipper is easy to operate. This cooler catches your eye and makes you want to throw it on your back to test it out.
We based our review on the following features:
- Style – the RTIC Back Pack portrays a bold and rugged look. This cooler looks like it is overstuffed and solid. It gives the impression your ice will never melt in this cooler. The RTIC logo is prominent on the front and the top of the cooler. The exterior is a material that looks like dry-bag material and all sections that attach to the cooler are affixed to another layer of material that makes this cooler look like it is reinforced. The cooler has straps on the side, front and back, and also has back pack straps for the shoulders and the waste belt. This cooler looks tough and looks comfortable.
- Comfort – The RTIC Back Pack comes with serious padding on the back of the cooler and on the straps, including the waste strap. The cooler looked much more comfortable than it actually was when I first put it on. After spending some time adjusting the straps, I found that for the waste belt to fit properly I had to loosen the shoulder straps more than I would prefer. It seems to me that RTIC has some work to do on the strap system to make the cooler Back Pack fit a variety of body sizes. I give this cooler an “ok” for comfort. I am not sure you need such large waste straps on a back pack cooler. Save those for backcountry backpacks. However, once I loaded the cooler with 34 cans of soda, the comfort improved. Not as much as comfortable as the YETI, but definitely better than empty.
- Frame structure/strength/flexibility – the frame is a soft cooler made of insulation between the inner compartment and the exterior shell. The Back Pack is very sturdy, in part because of the thickness of the insulated walls. The Back Pack is also flexible should you need to compress it for whatever reason. All of the straps are sewn on and are strong enough to hold the heaviest of loads in the Back Pack. This cooler appears to be rugged and up to the task.
- Capacity – RTIC claims the Back Pack can hold 30 cans and a bag of ice. This thing has plenty room for drinks, food, and ice. We were able to pack 34 cans in and had room to spare, plus plenty room for ice.
- Size/Weight – The RTIC Back Pack weighs 4.5lbs empty (lighter than the YETI) and stands just over 20 inches in height. The cooler is 10 inches deep not including the backpack straps and 15 inches wide. The inside is 17 inches tall, 7 inches deep and 13 inches wide.
- Packability (compartments, etc.) – the RTIC Back Pack is also no frills when it comes to compartments. There is only the one compartment which is the main compartment where you place your ice and drinks. The cooler does have a cord netting on the front to attach clothing or gear and has a short strap and loop on each side to attach accessories, such as a bottle opener. Because the cooler is 7 inches deep and a can of soda or beer is just under 5 inches, there is plenty room in the cooler for ice. However, when the ice melts the cans may shift around a bit given the extra space.
- How it handles when fully loaded – The RTIC Back Pack handles a full load with ease. We had no problem packing in 34 cans of soda and still had plenty room. We loaded it on our back and tested it out. The pack easily handles the load but you can really feel the weight on the top side of your buttocks even when the straps are adjusted. The pack was actually much more comfortable loaded than it was empty, but I still had trouble finding the right fit. But, for packing drinks to the boat or your favorite fishing hole, this cooler handles great!
- How it performs in keeping items cold – we loaded a 10 pound bag of ice in the Backflip, zipped it up and let it set for 20 hours in the house (temperature ranged from 68 at night to 72 during the day). About two-thirds of the ice was still in the cooler when I opened it. I measured 7.75 cups of water from the melted ice.
- Ease of cleaning – the Backflip is very easy to clean on both the inside and the outside. Just wipe it down with a cloth or towel.
- Quality of straps, zippers, etc. – the straps are solid and sewn into the body of the cooler. They are made of nylon and they are stout. The zipper is relatively small yet functions quite well.
- Warranty – 1 year warranty
- Price – the RTIC Back Pack cooler is priced at $149. This cooler is half the price of the YETI.
COMPARISON AND CONCLUSION
Here is how the two coolers stack up in comparison (White is Good, Green is Great):
In summary, the YETI wins in style, comfort, ability to retain cold and warranty. The RTIC wins in the categories of capacity, weight, and price. The differences between these two coolers are rather subtle for sure; except for style and price. I noticed the lid on the YETI stays open when unzipped and has a handle on the lid. The RTIC comes with an extra strap to easily carry the cooler by your side if not on your back. If I were to choose one of these coolers to use on a daily basis over the summer and to list as our Top Shelf choice I would go with the YETI. However, at $149.99, the RTIC is very compelling.