The new YETI Hopper M30 soft cooler ditches the typical burly zipper design and replaces it with a waterproof magnetic seal. The result is a 50 percent wider opening, easier access, and a new level of durability.
To get us a closer look, YETI sent Man Makes Fire a review unit. This is what we learned:
YETI Hopper M30 Soft Cooler Review
If you’re not familiar with YETI, here is the quick hit: YETI makes ultra-rugged, super high quality hard-sided coolers, soft-sided coolers, and a variety of outdoor-focused accessories and gear, including waterproof bags, waterproof backpacks, gear boxes and drinkware. It’s all high-end gear, but it all tends to perform very well and lasts for years, resulting in solid price-to-value ratios. We’re generally big fans.
However, we never recommended the previous version of YETI’s satchel-style soft cooler. Why? The waterproof zipper tended to scrape arms, wasn’t the easiest to use, and there were better alternatives.
I’m happy to report that the new YETI Hopper M30 is far better than the previous version — it’s pretty awesome, in fact.
The New ‘HydroShield’ Magnetic Closure
Part of the problem with waterproof zippers on soft coolers is usability. They are always somewhat difficult to open and close — so people have a tendency to leave them open during use. That lets warm air in and cold air out and reduces the effectiveness of a soft cooler. The new magnetic closure system on the YETI Hopper M30 fixes both problems.
Magnetically sealed and buckled down.
The two gripper tabs let you easily break the seal (when unbuckled).
First, the opening of the Hopper M30 is sealed with two strips of magnetics. To open it, you pull it apart. To close it, just let go. The shape and position of the HydroShield magnets automatically snaps it shut. Boom, no extra loss of cold air. If you have kids, this system will help save your ice. So cool.
Better yet, the closure is waterproof. Plus, it’s low maintenance. Most waterproof zippers require a bit of lube every now and then to keep them working well.
There is one con to this style of soft cooler, and that’s accessibility. What you gain in vertical capacity and portability you lose through the opening. How so? Zippered flip-top lids like the excellent YETI Hopper Flip series open completely and stay open, letting you organize your food, drinks and ice. The Hopper M30, on the other hand, automatically closes the instant you let go. When you first get the Hopper M30, the system is pretty stiff, but it softens up a bit over time. The advantage is that it’s faster to open and faster to close.
Still, how do you work with this design in the real world?
Most often you’ll push one side open with your hand from the inside, then drop your forearm across the top of the other side. This keeps the mouth open, letting you organize and retrieve food with your other hand. Works pretty well.
Sometimes, though, I’ll prop the Hopper M30 open with a can or bottle — this technique works surprisingly well, too. In fact, I’ve considered rounding the edges on a short dowel to leave in the M30 all the time just for this purpose. Yup, a prop stick. Aside from the entry/exit benefits, you’ll need a prop stick to prop the M30 open to let it air dry after use. Or you can wipe any moisture out with a paper towel, which I rarely do.
Ice retention is always a factor of insulation, the amount of ice you use, and outside temperatures and direct sunlight. Inexperienced cooler users will toss warm drinks into their coolers, throw some ice on top and call it good. Then complain when their cooler is full of water the next day.
If you’re smart with your items and use a reasonable ratio of ice or cooler packs, the YETI Hopper M30 is capable of keeping food and drink cold for up to 3 days. I took the Hopper M30 out on several different trips in September — granted, not the hottest part of the year. I had no problem enjoying cold beer and Gatorade well into day three.
The YETI Hopper M30 uses more closed-cell foam than in previous similar offerings, and the instant-close magnetic opening seems to help ice retention in real-world usage, too.
All that said, most people will use the YETI Hopper M30 as a day-tripper and overnight soft cooler.
I’ve come to appreciate the upright rectangular design of soft coolers like the Hopper M30. It has plenty of vertical space to let you stack cans, keep tall bottles upright, and even drop in an entire frozen gallon jug of ice. It can hold up to 20 cans plus ice.
The flat bottom is rugged, and the slight tapering shape results in great stability.
The exterior uses YETI’s super durable DryHide fabric, which resists punctures, mildew and UV rays. It’s fantastic stuff, really.
To completely seal the magnetic closure for travel . . . or an accidental drop down a steep riverbank, YETI includes two quick-release buckle straps over the top. They fold the closure over once, and it’s very secure.
The Hopper M30 has two grab handles, two handy side carry handles, and a removable shoulder strap.
A MOLLE nylon grid lets you attach YETI accessories like the MOLLE Bottle Opener, MOLLE Zinger and SideKick Dry waterproof pocket.
We wish YETI included an exterior pocket. It’s hard enough for most people to exit their busy lifestyles and get out the door these days, so when you finally hit the beach or campsite, having a pocket on your cooler for keys or a phone is too handy to ignore. YETI’s SideKick Dry pocket is the company’s answer, and while it’s super tough and waterproof, the $49.99 price point is just annoying. The same goes for the missing bottle opener (but it is technically possible to use a tie-down ring in a pinch). Still, you can nab a metal dedicated bottle opener for $9.99, but come on. Sure, this is a minor quibble, but like I said, it’s a challenge for most people to get outside with everything they need these days — the best gear should make it easier.
The YETI Hopper M30 is an outstanding soft cooler with a handsome and rugged design. The attention to detail and build quality is second to none. Plus, the new HydroShield magnetic closure works well. If you’ve struggled with waterproof zippers before, the M30 offers the best alternative we’ve seen yet. While the lack of a built-in pocket and bottle opener is annoying, it’s not a deal breaker — but it is worth knowing before you arrive at your destination . . . and it might be a reason to add an accessory to your cart at the time of purchase.
All-in-all, the YETI Hopper M30 excels as a larger soft cooler: It boasts an innovative new magnetic opening that closes automatically, plus it’s rugged enough to take abuse and keep your drinks cold for years to come. Highly recommended.
Disclosure: Man Makes Fire is reader-supported. When you buy gear using retail links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission that helps pay for our work: