Cooler Ice 'Death Match' Challenges with 90-Degree Heat

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August was a scorcher here at GearJunkie HQ, with temps in the 90s and the humidity running high. We used the ambient heat last month as a gauntlet of sorts for three cooler models in a head-to-head ice death match — the cooler to keep its ice longest would win, straight up.

After a summer of using these three models on camping trips, for backyard BBQs, and other adventures, we wanted a final showdown. It was two high-end coolers up against an affordable option, all with pros and cons depending on the venue and food or drink type and quantity needing to be cool.

The contenders were a soft-side model from Kelty, the affordable and highly portable Folding Cooler (58 quarts, $45.95); a pricey “pro-level” icebox from Yeti, the Tundra 45 model (45 quarts, $329); and a massive tank made by Igloo, the Yukon 70 (70 quarts, $389.99), which touts “Keeps Cold For 7 Days” right on its lid.

Seven Days? Not in our test. In the August heat no cooler lasted for more than four days. We stocked 10 pounds of ice in each and let the sun and hot air do its worst. In direct sunlight for three days the coolers took a beating.

Once a day we cracked the lid to look inside at the ice and beverage cans. Below is a breakdown of what happened and how each cooler held up to the heat. —Amy Oberbroeckling

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Lined up in the heat, the Kelty, Yeti, and Igloo prepare for the “ice death match” challenge

Zero Hour:

Kelty — Lid open, we dump the ice inside. It fills about halfway up a wall in the 58-quart cooler. Zip ‘er closed and step back.

Igloo — 10 pounds of ice doesn’t go far in this behemoth. More than three-quarters of the inside area is empty still and gleaming white from the thick plastic walls.

Yeti — Pop the brown lid, dump in the frozen cubes. At 45 quarts, this is about the right amount of ice for this size case and some beverages to fit inside.

24 Hours:

Kelty — The soft-side model is struggling already to keep up with the high-end models sitting by its side. A lot of meltwater, but there’s still some ice left after a day in the 90-degree heat. Respectable.

Igloo — Cold inside. Mostly solid ice, but there is a little standing water underneath.

Yeti — Surprised to see that almost no noticeable change has occurred. A very small amount of water at the bottom is the only sign of melting. The cubes remain fused together and very frozen.

48 Hours:

Kelty — Throw in the towel. This lightweight unit put up a valiant effort but just couldn’t handle the heat.

Igloo — A little more standing water today. The giant ice chunk of fused cubes is beginning to break apart.

Yeti — Taking the lead! There is more standing water today, but it’s not as melted as the Igloo. Looks like we’ll know our winner tomorrow.

72 Hours:

Kelty — Down for the count.

Igloo — Our biggest contender put up a fight. But all of the ice inside has melted. The Yeti takes the win.

Yeti — With about half of its ice left, the Yeti looks like it could stay cold for another day or two, but we’re getting thirsty and that Hamms beer looks good.

Our conclusions after the “Ice Death Match” on page 2 of this post…