Buying a cooler seems straightforward--until you start looking. There are so many options and competing claims that you can get lost in the sea of choices.
Two popular upscale coolers are made by Engel and Yeti. Though Yeti commands a higher premium, Engel models are surprisingly close in performance. In this article, we'll take a look at Engel vs Yeti coolers and compare them in light of their price difference.
What to Look for in a Cooler
Before you start picking out exotic features like built-in speakers or pullout fish scales, here are the important basics.
One size never fits all when it comes to coolers. Major manufacturers provide an assortment of shapes and sizes, so check out their entire line. This can be a handy shopping shortcut.
Larger coolers store more, but they're harder to lug around. Remember to check whether a model's dimensions refer to the inner volume or its outer size. PRO TIP: Ice takes up space, so buy a little extra room.
One difference between cooler brands is the quality of their materials. Plastic is standard for the walls of hard-sided coolers because it's lightweight, waterproof, and strong. Plastic is also highly economical.
The fasteners also provide a clue about a cooler's quality. Cheaper makes tend to use plastic for latches and joints, which can wear out quickly. Premium coolers provide additional fastener support or use metal for durability, security, strength.
Another key element is the gasket and seal. You want a flexible, strong seal that lasts: premium coolers use high-grade rubber or silicone rather than Styrofoam.
Generally, lower-end coolers are made of separate parts joined together. Depending upon the quality of the seams and fastenings, this type of construction is prone to leakage and warping.
Engel revolutionized cooler manufacturing by using rotational molding in their construction. The process creates a seamless, single-piece body which is extremely durable and waterproof. Rotomolding has proven so successful that it's used for most modern coolers.
This oft-overlooked detail greatly impacts the usefulness—or pain level—of the cooler you purchase. Empty coolers become surprisingly heavy when filled with drinks and ice, and fighting with a flimsy handle doesn't add to the experience. This may not matter for a stationary cooler on the patio, but check out the carrying features if you plan to travel with it.
The point of a cooler is how well it keeps things cold. The average hard-sided cooler only gets about three days. Most premium coolers manage about a week, in the shade. Think about how much you need, because longer cooling capacity is priced accordingly.
Premium coolers keep their cool through well-designed seals and uniformly applied insulation. The process of rotomolding creates close-conforming insulation layers that minimize heat transfer.
Here are approximate ice-retention times:
1 day or less: Any cooler can be expected to stay cold for 24 hours, even soft-sided ones. (Well, we'd hope so.)
Up to 3 days: Budget hard-sided coolers are giving up by day three … the soft-sided models are already done.
4 - 6 days: A mid-level cooler can be expected to go four days and maybe a bit longer. Common names like Coleman and Igloo are in this range. It's enough to get in and out of a big weekend.
7+ days – Top-of-the-market coolers claim to keep ice frozen for about a week. Some will go a day or so longer.
Another important variable is how much ruggedness you need. That flimsy discount cooler looks great until you put your foot through it. Quality isn't always apparent, so a reputable brand is important.
Premium models offer "Bear-Proof" guarantees to highlight their toughness, but you don't need all that for a patio ice chest. Unless, of course, you have bears in the neighborhood.
If you plan on using the cooler outdoors, add waterproofing to your requirements list. Better units have high-grade rubber or silicone seals to keep you cold and dry.
Looks matter, even in a cooler. Some brands take a wooden crate as design inspiration, others answer the call for flashy trim and gee-gaws. Ours is a shallow world … but seriously, make sure you like the look. A quality cooler will be around for a long time.
Once you've covered the basics, add whatever you'd like. Cup holders, bottle openers, pull-out trays, non-insulated storage--these are just a sample of what's out there.
PRO TIP: Give a thought to external and/or non-insulated storage options. These come in handy if you don't want frozen sandwiches.
Yeti was founded in 2005, producing the first coolers fashioned as premium consumer products. Yeti upped the game using a rotomold design, quality materials, and built-in luxury features. The company still ranks at the top of the market.
Engel began in Japan and was established in the US in 1998. They innovated the now-standard practice of using rotational molding to make a one-piece cooler. Engel's target has always been hunters and fishermen, and there's a lot to like:
Engel Coolers vs Yeti
As the Engel vs Yeti cage match begins, let's quickly concede. Yeti's are better. They have a bit more style and, most of all, a premium name. The question is whether the Yeti premium is worthwhile … or can you get the same performance without broadsiding your wallet?
Let's match features.
Both cooler brands are rotomolded for durability and strength. Both are certified as "Bear Proof." Pro Tip: Per the manufacturers, to retain the bear-resistant guarantee you must padlock the cooler securely.
Both have extensive lines to choose from. Both use high-grade fastenings and have thoughtful design features like recessed handles and interlocking seals. They both have non-slip feet—but on to the differences.
Engel coolers are focused on hunters and fishermen. Their coolers are bit lighter and smaller than Yeti's. They are comfortable to work with, and come with a sloped floor for easy drainage.
Yeti coolers are luxury appliances. Solid construction, stylish and exacting design, convenience—these are all reasons Yeti coolers have stayed at the top of the market for years. If you have the benjies, it's a great unit.
Where Engel excels—and why it gets the nod here—is in keeping your contents cold for a long time. You may not need three extra days of frozen ice, but it's nice to have. It lends confidence to go along with the 10-year warranty.
The match-up between Engel Coolers vs Yeti is tough to call on features, because both are excellent high-performance coolers. They're both Bear-Proof, even.
If money isn't the main factor and you like the looks of a Yeti, rest assured you've made a good choice. The savvy shopper, however, can find a bit more performance with an Engel's cooler, and save a few bucks too.