This photo shows the YETI Roadie 20 cooler outside.
Chris Maxcer

YETI Roadie 20 Review: ‘Small but Mighty’

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The YETI Roadie 20 is a small, high-quality rotomolded hard-sided cooler that’s designed for day trips and weekend jaunts. At first glance, it seems like a poor choice compared to a lighter soft-sided cooler like the YETI Hopper Flip 18 . . . and yet, after putting the Roadie 20 to work, it’s clearly a fantastic cooler that’s great for fishing, picnicking, ATV riding, hunting and more.

Let’s take a closer look.

YETI Roadie 20 Review

As a portable cooler, the YETI Roadie 20 is a bit of an anomaly. For day trips, you don’t typically need astounding insulation — just enough to keep your drinks and food cold because you’re going to be eating and drinking within a handful of hours.

This photo shows the YETI Roadie 20 cooler outside on a rock.
The YETI Roadie 20 is fantastically durable and efficient.

So for short trips, it’s hard to beat a lightweight and well-insulated soft-sided cooler — check out our guide to the 12 Best Soft-Sided Coolers — but despite that, the YETI Roadie 20 might be the best day-tripping cooler money can buy.

For starters, the YETI Roadie 20 is built like a tank — it’s as tough as the company’s popular full-size Tundra line of hard coolers. Its thick walls hold up to two inches of insulation, just like the bigger models. Plus, you can still lock it to keep bears out.

With a YETI-recommended 2-to-1 ice-to-can ratio, the YETI Roadie 20 will keep 16 cans of beer cold.

On the other hand, for a relatively small cooler, it still weighs in at 15 pounds empty, which is relatively heavy. Load it up with drinks and ice . . . and it’s definitely heavy.

This photo shows the YETI Roadie 20 cooler front latches.
You get the same burly design found in the larger YETI Tundra series.

As a comparison, the YETI Hopper Flip 18 soft cooler weighs 5.1 pounds empty and will hold up to 20 cans of beer with a 2-to-1 ice ratio. So you get more volume at one-third the starting weight. And you get a shoulder strap to help carry it around.

That’s better, right?

Not so fast. The Hopper has about an inch of interior insulation while the Roadie has nearly twice the insulation thickness throughout. While we haven’t done a direct side-by-side test, the Roadie will typically hold ice longer than the Hopper, no doubt about it. You have better insulation and a rock-solid lid. While the waterproof zipper on the YETI Hopper is one of the best in the industry, if a kid fails to close it all the way, that user error will let warm air in. User error with the Roadie is reduced to nearly zero with the standard hard-lid design.

YETI Roadie 20 Review: Performance

I’ve spent much of the summer testing soft-sided coolers and soft-sided backpack coolers, and while the performance of most modern soft coolers is awesome these days, the YETI Roadie 20 is better.

This photo shows the YETI Roadie 20 lid and gasket.
The well-insulated lid includes a freezer-grade gasket to seal in the cold.

My primary experience was multiple trips while archery elk hunting from base camp in September. My hunting buddy and I would load up a few beers, some elk pepperoni sticks, some sausage dogs, a couple sports drinks, maybe even a jar of pickles and horseradish mustard (for the sausage dogs) and head out all day. For ice, we totally ignored the 2-to-1 ice-to-content ratio and stuck a frozen half-gallon jug of water in there and called it good.

Depending on where we were, the Roadie might sit in the back of a hot pickup in the sun as we hunted. Or it might go inside the cab of the pickup so it wouldn’t get stolen. Either way, the contents were always cold for lunch. And when we came out of the woods with an elk at 10:30 at night, we still had a very cold celebratory beer.

We basically didn’t pack the Roadie well at all, and it performed well for us. I’m a believer.

YETI Roadie 20 Review: Usability

At first, because I’m such a fan of soft-sided coolers, I thought the YETI Roadie 20 was clunky and awkward. As it turns out, the steel top handle fits a groove in the side and lid so that it remains standing upright. This means you can place it in the back of a pickup, drive all over bumpy backroads and reach over the side and grab the handle. The non-skid feet do a great job of keeping the Roadie from sliding around, too.

This photo shows the top of the YETI Roadie 20 cooler.
The handle snaps into place and remains standing and ready.

For use with an ATV or UTV, you could tie the rugged Roadie down to a wire basket that has the raw ends of u-bolts sticking out and not worry about anything sharp wearing a hole in it — like you might worry with a soft-sided cooler.

You can sit on the YETI Roadie20. You can’t sit on soft-sided coolers.

The YETI Roadie 20 is two-thirds the cost of the YETI Hopper Flip 18. That mean’s you have more money left in your gear budget for more gear. That’s almost always a win.

The YETI Roadie 20 is not going to wear out or break. The YETI Hopper Flip 18 is one of the toughest soft-sided coolers in the world, but if we had to choose just a single day-tripping cooler to last us 10 years, we’d go with the Roadie — no contest.

Because the YETI Roadie 20 is an investment, it makes a great hunting gift, fishing gift, or camping gift. As a backpacking gift, I like to leave a few cold drinks in a high-quality cooler in the pickup at the trailhead, waiting for us to return days later when an ice cold beer or soda becomes truly outstanding.

All that said, the Roadie doesn’t fit well on the front passenger floor of a pickup truck. And it doesn’t always fit between the front and rear seats of a 4-door pickup if the front driver or passenger has long legs. But you can throw it in the back of a pickup and not worry at all: Other gear can slide around and try to crush it, and it’ll likely survive just fine. Along with your drinks. Very highly recommended.

Get the Gear:

Shop YETI coolers at YETI and get free shipping on U.S. orders $49 and up!

YETI Roadie 20
Super rugged
Excellent insulation and ice retention
Size is surprisingly useful
It's a bit heavy
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