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14 Years Old and Still the King of Coolers: YETI Tundra 45 Review

In a recent head-to-head comparison, the original rotomolded cooler still proves to be the best. While the Tundra 45 doesn't come cheap, it may be the last cooler you need to buy.
Yeti Tundra in the buttermilks(Photo/Miya Tsudome)
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If you’re looking for the best-performing, mid-sized cooler on the market, you can’t go wrong with the Tundra 45 ($325) from YETI. The biggest downside is the hefty price tag, but for its excellent performance, reliability, and durability, it could be the last cooler you buy. The Tundra 45 is a great size for a weekend camping trip. It could also be your trusty, beverage-holding companion at a family barbecue.

The brand pioneered the rotational molding technique of cooler-making that many brands have adopted today, and is now synonymous with top-of-the-line insulation. Since its debut in 2008, the Tundra has dominated the high-end cooler market, with many imitators trying to match its now-classic design.

I’ve long had a YETI cooler in my quiver. I’ve brought it all over the western United States for long road trips, routinely throwing it in the back of the truck, dragging it out to picnics and swimming holes. It lived up to the hype time and time again, thanks to its superior insulation qualities and robust design.

In short: The YETI Tundra 45 remains at the top of its class in the world of coolers. Excellent ice retention and a durable build make this cooler as reliable as they come. YETI is a popular brand for a reason. The quality of its products is top-notch, and you’re sure to find them at any outdoor retailer you visit. 

To see how this champion of Ice retention stacks up to the competition, take a look at GearJunkie’s guide to the best coolers.

YETI Tundra 45


  • Capacity 37 qts.
  • Materials Rotomolded polyethylene/urethane foam insulation
  • Dimensions 25.75" x 16.125" x 15.4"
  • Weight 23 lbs.


  • Rotomolded design
  • Retained ice for the full 10 days of testing
  • Dry goods basket included
  • IGBC-certified


  • Expensive
  • Heavy

YETI Tundra 45 Review

Cooling Performance

I put the YETI Tundra to the test among the other coolers I evaluated with an ice retention test that lasted 10 days, which you can read more about here

I checked each cooler’s ice retention/melt rate once a day and recorded the time and temp for each one, noting the time once each cooler’s ice was fully melted. The YETI Tundra 45 came out in first place, retaining ice for the full 10 days, and having the coolest interior temperature for 48 hours at 27.3 degrees F. When it comes down to the most basic job of a cooler, this thing reigns supreme.

You can see in this photo comparison that the ice in the YETI Tundra 45 (right) is still in cubed form while the ice in a competitor cooler is melted into slush at the end of the 10-day ice retention test; (photo/Miya Tsudome)


The founders of YETI invented the rotational-molding or “rotomolding” design process that creates the sturdy, rounded, well-insulating coolers we know today. A heated plastic mold rotates continuously while powdered polyethylene mixes in to create a uniform thickness. This design process ensures perfectly uniform thickness, extra durability, and better insulation. The brand also pioneered the use of polyurethane instead of styrofoam as insulation, which created superior ice retention. 

The seal on the Tundra 45 also affects its cooling performance. A heavy-duty rubber gasket creates a freezer-quality seal. Two sturdy rubber latches on the front pull the lid tight, ensuring an airtight lock.  

The thick rubber latches on the Tundra 45 pull into place, effectively securing the rubber gasket seal for an airtight lock; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

The Tundra 45 kept our provisions cold for days on end. I tested this cooler in the fall months, so full disclosure: it wasn’t the sweltering heat of summer. But the temperatures were still in the mid-80s in my Bishop, Calif., backyard. The California sun is plenty strong enough to test how well this cooler could perform. While ice lasted a full 10 days in the retention test, I found that when filled with a more realistic mix of food, beverages, and ice, I wanted to re-up on the ice around day 5. 

Size and Volume

Although the stated capacity of this cooler is 45 quarts, the Tundra’s actual capacity comes out to be around 37 quarts. This slightly lower capacity is due to the cooler’s 3-inch-thick insulated walls. They end up taking up quite a bit of space.

Perhaps this cooler should instead be called a 40-quart cooler (because we all like a round number), as the stated 45-quart capacity is a bit misleading. When measured against other similarly sized coolers, the Tundra could fit three or four fewer cans inside. If this is a dealbreaker for you, look elsewhere.

But the Tundra still outperforms many coolers on the market and still lies firmly in the mid-sized cooler range, which can be anywhere from 35 to 60 quarts. 


There is a downside to the innovative rotomolded design, and that is that they produce heavy coolers. When your cooler is made with the same high-grade polyethylene as whitewater kayaks, you can expect they might feel burly. What gives the Tundra 45 its durability also contributes to its weight. That being said, at 24.6 pounds, it’s still not as heavy as some other similar-sized coolers.

The dry weight is easily manageable for one person, but the scales can start to feel pretty heavy with two bags of ice and a bunch of food and drinks. If weight is a concern, choosing an injection-molded cooler with thinner walls and less insulation could be a good trade-off. These coolers will be lighter and much less expensive than a YETI cooler, but you will sacrifice the premium insulation properties of a heavier, rotomolded design. 

Ease of Transport

The Tundra 45 employs two burly, military-grade polyester rope straps with rubber handles that allow you to carry, drag, and haul it around as needed. The rubber handles are firm and grooved, providing a solid, no-slip grip. 

The grooved, rubber handle grips on the Tundra 45 are comfortable and sturdy to carry; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

For a single-person carry, the indentations built into the cooler on either side allow for easy pickup. This mid-sized cooler is portable enough for one to two people to carry without needing built-in wheels. It’s light enough to hoist onto a garage shelf easily for storage, and not too cumbersome when full to load into the back of a car for your weekend camping trip. 


Rotomolded coolers don’t just provide excellent insulation, they also make for incredibly durable coolers. By building perfectly uniform, thick, rounded walls, plus 2 inches of insulation, these types of coolers are nothing if not burly. I took the Tundra 45, sat on it, stood on it, jumped on it, routinely threw it in the back of my truck, and confirmed that it can withstand a beating.

The hinges are a two-pin interlocking design made of the same thick plastic as the rest of the cooler, with no visible weaknesses. Hinges are often places that can fail due to their moving parts and susceptibility to different angles of force. But the hinges on the Tundra 45 seem to be able to withstand quite a lot of abuse. 

All of YETI’s coolers, including the Tundra, are also certified bear-resistant by the International Grizzly Bear Committee. This certification means that each cooler withstood attempts at entry from an actual grizzly bear.

The IGBC certification establishes the Tundra’s reputation as a great food storage container that is also safe from critters big and small; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

Other Features

One of the things I love the most about the Tundra 45 is the included dry goods basket. This small, removable wire basket rests on the inside lip of the cooler and is half the total width of the interior. Many coolers do not include such an accessory but will sell one separately, a huge bonus for the YETI. Once you know what it’s like to be able to keep some dry goods off melting ice, you can never go back. 

The included wire basket allows you to store items you don’t want to get soggy up and away from the ice; (photo/Miya Tsudome)

There aren’t a lot of other bonus features that come with this cooler, as it is a simple, robust icebox that does its job and does it well. But small details like non-slip feet, tie-down slots, a drain plug, and two places to put a padlock — if you really want to ensure it is safe from bears — make the Tundra 45 a rock-solid choice. 

Closing Thoughts

All that being said, if you only need a cooler for the occasional soccer game or barbecue, splurging on a YETI might not be the right fit. For more budget-friendly options, check out GearJunkie’s breakdown of the best coolers.

But if you are in the market for a new cooler to take on your next fishing, camping, or road trip, it’s hard to beat the Tundra 45 in terms of cooling performance, ease of transport, durability, and reliability. I can say with confidence that you won’t regret adding a YETI cooler to your gear closet. 

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