Review: RTIC 45 Hard Cooler: Top-Tier Quality for a Low Price

RTIC gave us this product to try, however, the review is of the writer’s own opinions.

You’ll be able to keep your food and drinks colder for longer with this durable, surprisingly affordable hard cooler from RTIC.

As with their Hard Cases, RTIC’s Hard Coolers offer unbeatable quality for the price, with ice retention and durability that’s comparable to much more costly offerings from widely-acclaimed cooler brands like YETI.

Given that I’ve used YETI coolers for years and they’re the main competition in this market, I’ll be reviewing the RTIC Hard Cooler and compare it to my experience with using my YETI. I also recently tested the RTIC Waterproof Hard Case 18 during this camping trip and wrote a review here.

RTIC Cooler 45 Qt Product Specs:

  • Price: $199
  • Capacity: Up to 36 cans
  • 45 quarts / 11.25 gallons of liquid
  • Ice capacity: Approximately 40 pounds of ice
  • Weight: 29 lbs
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In short, this 45 qt cooler is nearly identical to the YETI Tundra 45, which has arguably held the top slot in the high-end ice chest market for several years now. However, with this cooler from RTIC, you’re getting a nearly identical product to the Tundra 45 ($299) for a significantly cheaper price ($199).

RTIC isn’t coy about their strategy here, either. They copy YETI’s style and design almost exactly. The molded tie-down slots, traction lid, non-slip feet, rubber t-style latches, padlock slots, hinges, drain spout it’s all basically identical. 

The comparisons even stretch down to nuances like the engraving on the interior of the lid and the “45” emblazoned on the sides. From ten feet away, it’s hard to tell this cooler apart from my YETI.

That’s not really a bad thing, however. RTIC copied a quality, reputable product, and they managed to produce their iteration for $100 less than their competitor. That’s just good business.


How Many Days of Ice Retention

RTIC 45 cooler to holds  up 36 cans of beers
Ice cold beers and camping at Roaring Fork River, Colorado

This ice cooler managed to hold ice for about four to five days in an 80-to-90-degree Colorado summer heat camping trip. When compared to my YETI Tundra (and that’s with opening and closing the numerous times during the day), the ice lasted about the same amount of time.

That’s significantly less than the “10 Days” advertised on the RTIC website, obviously, but if you kept the lid closed the ice retention would stretch much longer. 

All told, I couldn’t really see a major difference between the RTIC and the YETI in terms of ice retention.


RTIC Hard Cooler Build Quality

As mentioned above, you’ll find all the necessary features here. Rotomolded build, bearproof design, a freezer-style lid gasket, heavy-duty rope handles, 3” thick walls. I could go on, but you can find all these features on the product page. In short, it’s a well-built product, with all the features you’d expect in a premium hard chest cooler. 

The RTIC does offer a couple of minor benefits over the YETI Tundra. 

Notably, it features two drain plugs instead of the Tundra’s single drain plug. In addition, the second drain plug on the RTIC is both larger and slightly higher up on the opposite side of the cooler. Thus, making it easier to drain large quantities of water from the cooler quickly. 

The main lid opening is also much more pronounced on the RTIC, making it easier to grab when opening and closing the cooler.


Any downsides?

For the price (as is usual with RTIC products), there aren’t a whole lot of downsides. As mentioned above, it’s nearly identical to the 45-quart Tundra cooler from YETI (which, at $299, is $100 more expensive).

There are a few minor drawbacks with the RTIC, however. First, the sturdy rope handle grip is made of foam instead of the grooved rubber rope handles on the YETI.

This makes the RTIC handles more comfortable to hold. But the foam material is almost guaranteed to be less durable than YETI’s rubber over time. 

RTIC 45 hard cooler ice packs melted over 5 days

In addition, the rubber t-style closure latches are both less sturdy and snug than those on my YETI, offering a fit that isn’t entirely as secure. Finally, the YETI latches take a fair amount of force to open, while the RTIC latches slip on and off easily and just feel flimsier.

On that note, the only real overarching difference here is that the RTIC Cooler feels a bit less stout all-around than the YETI Tundra. I can’t say how well it will (or won’t) hold up over time, but when knocking both coolers around together, the YETI feels more durable and sturdy.

Make of that what you will. For $100 off, almost all the same features, and comparable ice retention, I personally see almost no reason not to go with the RTIC.


The Verdict 

Buying a cooler For $100 off the YETI Tundra 45’s price, the RTIC 45 Qt Hard Cooler is a stellar deal. It’s a blatant copycat product, but the quality doesn’t suffer for it.

Naturally, there are a few nitpicky features where the YETI edges ahead, such as the latches. Still, RTIC has its benefits, such as the larger lid opening and the extra drain plug. 

All told, the ice retention is nearly the same. There are dozens of customers online who have had this RTIC cooler for years without any complaints about its durability. So save the extra $100 and buy yourself some steaks and beers to put in the cooler! If you’re not a beer drinker and prefer the water, we have recommendations on the best water bottles for hiking.


Owen Clarke is an American action sports and adventure travel journalist, with a particular focus on mountaineering and adventure motorcycling. Among other roles, he is a Contributing Digital Editor for Climbing and Gym Climber magazines and a lead writer for the adventure film company Benegas Brothers Productions, the producers of ESPN Adventure.

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