Maslow’s hammer, the beach, & YETI coolers

Best beach cooler isn't a YETI.

The YETI Tundra 65. Weight? 29 lbs. MSRP? $400. Going to the beach? Leave it at home.

You got that big, beautiful YETI cooler for Christmas. You proudly slapped the YETI sticker on your rear windshield. You even bought the matching YETI baseball cap, ensuring that your head stays nice and frosty. Now you’re heading to the ocean, and you’re convinced that your YETI will be the best beach cooler for your family. Ehh…you might want to rethink that.

First off…the YETI phenomenon is pretty amazing. Their coolers are a fantastic bit of engineering (and the same can be said for other roto-molded coolers, like the Orca, Engel, Pelican, Grizzly, et al.). It’s pretty mind-blowing that we can throw ice (or frozen food, or whatever) in a box, leave it outside in the heat, and still find it nice and frigid when we crack open the lid a few days later.

But what YETI has accomplished goes far beyond engineering. Think about this for a moment: people are purchasing hats, shirts, stickers, and belts to proclaim their allegiance to a cooler (a cooler!). Igloo, Thermos, and Coleman have never approached what YETI has done from a branding standpoint.

Still…that doesn’t mean you should lug your YETI to the beach. Here are four reasons why the best beach cooler isn’t a YETI:

  1. The best beach cooler shouldn’t be oppressively heavy when it’s fully loaded. Have you ever tried to lift a roto-molded cooler when it’s packed with ice and drinks? It weighs a TON. If your walk to the beach is anything like mine, you’re also going to be carrying chairs, towels, toys, and kids.  If your cooler is heavy when you leave your room, it’s going to be unbearable by the time you’re slogging through ankle-deep sand.
  2. The best beach cooler can’t be a magnet for theft. People want YETI coolers…but not all are willing to pay for them. You know what you DON’T want to be thinking about while you’re in the ocean paddling around on a kayak, snorkeling for sand dollars, or throwing your kids into the waves? Whether a couple of petty thieves are running off with your expensive cooler.
  3. The best beach cooler only needs to keep beverages cold for one day. Unless you’re camping at the beach—or you happen to be staying in a location where ice is scarce or expensive—you don’t need your cooler to keep ice for four days. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably going to load up a cooler before you head to the beach at the beginning of the day (with free ice from the freezer in your condo or from the ice maker in your hotel). Then you’ll dump the remaining ice at the end of the day to save weight on your walk back from the beach. So as long as a cooler keeps your ice on a hot beach for one day, you should be golden. Anything beyond that is overkill…and it comes at the expense of cost and weight.
  4. The best beach cooler shouldn’t weigh a ton when it’s empty. Alright…this goes hand-in-hand with the first reason, so I’m cheating a little here. But can we all agree that the walk home from the beach at the end of the day is one of the worst things in the world. You’re exhausted, you’re sweaty, you’re probably hungry…and you have a million things to carry. Keep in mind that the smallest, lightest YETI roto-molded cooler (the Roadie 20…which probably isn’t big enough to hold all of the water, Capri Suns, Go-Gurts, and applesauces your family will consume in a day at the beach) weighs 15 lbs. So…you’re essentially carrying a bowling ball (or maybe a few of them, depending on the size of your cooler) back from the beach. FUN!

No…I’m not a YETI hater. But I do know that there’s truth in Maslow’s hammer (the concept that when you have a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail). When you have a YETI, everything (including a trip to the beach) starts looking like a reason to use it. (Another example: the whiteboard guy at your office. You know who I’m talking about. The guy who has a whiteboard on his wall, and he looks for any / every excuse to scribble something on it?)

Oh…and for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve landed on as the best beach cooler: the AO Coolers 36 pack soft-sided cooler. It’s big enough for a day’s worth of drinks and snacks, it does a remarkable job of keeping ice at the beach, it’s inexpensive (compared to a roto-molded cooler, anyway), it weighs practically nothing, and it’s got a great warranty. Buy it (and yep, if you buy it through the Amazon link above I’ll earn a paltry referral fee) and thank me later!

4 Comments Maslow’s hammer, the beach, & YETI coolers

  1. Caesar

    I think you make a LOT of great points. My neighbors have had (3) Yeti Coolers stolen (1 @ Gatlinburg, 1 @ a car show and (1) from a hotel room in Orlando.) I’ve never tried to keep any drink at the beach cold for ‘days on end’; We usually take enough to get thru each day as the kids will give us enough to lug to and from the car as it is. Usually by the end of they day they are trying to be carried or ride on top of the cooler back to the car because I’ve said “No I won’t carry you” probably 75 times already. I still personally think there’s a bit of “Keeping up with the Jones’ ” going on at places like the Beach and what not with the Yeti craze. Great Blog post btw!!

    1. Scott Hancock

      Ha! Yeah…the trek back to the room or vehicle after a day at the beach with kids can feel like a death march, even without having to lug a heavy cooler. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. CJ

    Perhaps its the return on investment that drives Yeti owners to take it everywhere? (Disclaimer: I am not a Yeti owner)

    1. Scott Hancock

      That’s a fair point, absolutely! If you bought it, you’d definitely want to maximize the return on it. Another way to look at it, though, would be as a sunk cost: you’ve already spent the money, so make the best / wisest decision going forward (even if it means taking a cheaper soft cooler) without worrying about the past expense. Thanks for the comment!


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