The lowly cooler is the last thing I would have ever expected to become a hipster status symbol. But Yeti has managed to make it happen, by transformingthe beverage chiller from a utilitarian device into a fashion accessory.
The Yeti Hopper Flip 12, like the rest of its Hopper line, is a soft-side cooler, which makes for a generally more comfortable userexperience than a typical hard-side cooler. As with all coolers of this sort, the Hopper Flip 12 closes witha zipper instead of a traditional flip-up lid. This introduces someplusses and minuses. With 12 quarts of capacity, this is Yeti’s smallest Hopper, a “personal” cooler with room fora 12-pack of soda, water, or beer, depending on the size and shape of the bottles andyour choice of chilling systems.
There is plenty to like about the Flip 12. It is well built and looks as good as any cooler I’ve ever toted. The lining is mildew-resistant, food-grade plastic, and the zipper is as heavy-duty as they come. Fill it, zip it, and flip it and it doesn’t leak—provided you zipitall the way. (Yeti includes a vial of ChapStick-like lubricant to make the last inch of thatoperation easier.)
You can fill the Flip 12 with ice, or use one of Yeti’s custom ice packs. This isn’t a bad move, as the four-pound Yeti Ice pack ($30) perfectly fitsthe bottom, providing a nice base upon which to build. Just note that a Yeti Ice pack itself won’t keepyour IPA cold, but it will keep the ice cold for longer.
I tested the Flip 12 againsta similarly sized, garden-variety hard-sided Igloo you can find for $13 at any Wal-Mart. I placedthe same amount of ice and the same number of sodas in each, and waited. The Yeti did a great job keeping beverages cold—not the“ice for days” the company promises, but it was a day and half until the ice meltedfully. But the $13 Igloo offered almost identical performance.
That’s a problem, because the Flip 12 costs $280, or 20 times the cost of the Igloo. Now, I won’t arguethat Yeti coolers aren’tbuilt to high standards. They may well be the most durable soft-sided coolers in the world. However, I will argue that I will never go through 20big box store coolers. Coolers get lost and bits break off, yes, but $280 coolers surely get stolen. Ultimately, this is one more thing that you’ll have to keep an eye on when you’re boogie boarding, because Yeti’s iconic colors makeit a particularly eye-catching to thieves.
The zipper is also a somewhat thorny topic. To make it waterproof, it mustbe tough, whichmakes it tough to operate. It requires a huge amount of effort to open and close the Yeti—to the point where my kids had trouble operating it. Mmaybe that’s a good thing, depending uponwhat’s inside.
5/10 – Recommended with reservations.