Yeti may get all the glory for coolers, but if you can’t quite stomach the thought of spending hundreds of dollars on your cooler, you could be looking elsewhere. The real question is whether the cheaper competition is worth it.

Ozark Trail is Walmart’s answer to the high-end cooler market and offers a range of products that could solve your problems at a fraction of the cost. Let’s see if Ozark Trail can satisfy you as much as Yeti, or if you really do get what you pay for in our Ozark Trail versus Yeti review.

About The Brands

Before we get started, let’s keep a few key points in mind. Below, we’ve broken down some of our favorite aspects of the Ozark Trail and Yeti coolers to help you make a more informed decision at checkout.

Ozark Trail

Why We Like It:

  • affordable
  • a wide range of products
  • easy to find in stores and online

Why We’re Skeptical:

  • lower ice retention
  • less durable material for extreme campers

Yeti

Why We Like It:

  • highly durable
  • certified bear proof
  • ice retention up to nine days

Why We’re Skeptical:

  • expensive
  • very heavy

Ozark Trail And Yeti Comparison

Despite differences in construction and overall business model, they do have a few things in common. We’ve listed these similarities below.

How Are They Similar?

Let’s take a look at a few common points before we get to the good stuff. You’ll want to keep these similarities in mind when deciding which is best for you.

Cooler Styles

Ozark Trail may have more individual styles of cooler, but they both offer hard-sided coolers and soft-sided coolers. Both companies believe that there’s a need for both types. Their hard-sided coolers are mostly ice box style coolers in a wide range of sizes and suitable for tying down to the back of your truck or throwing on your boat for an afternoon fishing.

Soft cooler styles have highly packable dimensions, and a few have removable hard liners that can better handle straight ice. They also have a few different capacity sizes though you might find more in Ozark Trail’s line up.

Capacity

Both have a variety of capacities of coolers. If you need something just for your solo fishing trip, you’ve got smaller options for both. If you need to feed your entire middle school baseball team, they both have capacities for that as well.

Soft-sided coolers for Yeti don’t quite have the different capacities that Ozark Trail provides, but they both have a good enough range for personal use or to carry multiple meals and drinks for others.

Availability

Even though Ozark Trail is a budget brand, it’s just as easy to find them in retail stores and online as Yeti. Quite a few major retailers are now Yeti dealers, so you aren’t relegated to finding your cooler in the recesses of the internet. If you need a cooler in a pinch, you’re just as likely to find them both in stores as online.

How Are Ozark Trail And Yeti Different?

That’s about the extent of the similarities, however. Yeti and Ozark Trail take sharp turns in the opposite direction. Let’s find out which one suits your needs better.

Materials

The basic materials may be the same, but quality and type of manufacturing are different. Yeti’s are meant to last, and Ozark Trail’s are built to offer just enough to get you through without breaking your wallet.

Yeti

Yeti’s materials are top of the line and intended to last a lifetime, regardless of environment or usage. Yeti’s hard-sided coolers use rotomolded plastic, a process that involves rotating the mold to create a more even product with fewer weak spots. It’s sturdy and resists cracking. Plus, it holds in insulation better than standard hard-sided plastic.

Inside, pressure injected, commercial grade insulation helps hold in the cold and keep temperatures consistent. The liner is food safe and antibacterial. It resists both odors and mold. External hardware is reinforced and made from either marine grade aluminum or stainless steel.

The soft-sided coolers use heavyweight, high denier fabrics that are tear resistant and waterproof. Inside, closed cell rubber insulation plus heat-sealed seams prevent leaks and keep the cold in for longer than most standard soft-sided coolers. Padded straps and handles make transport a lot easier, and there are plenty of pockets on the outside to wrangle smaller items.

There’s only one wheeled option available in Yeti’s collection, which is kind of a bummer considering how much we love all the sizes, but hopefully, Yeti will roll out some other wheeled choices for us.

Ozark Trails

Ozark Trails uses a hard-molded plastic, but it isn’t roto-molded. It’s lighter weight and much more affordable, but it may crack if you drop it enough or it’s exposed frequently to UV light. Inside, commercial grade insulation provides even coverage that’s good enough for about half the ice retention of the Yeti.

If you don’t do a lot of extreme backcountry camping, this may be plenty for your needs. The hinges and handles are often plastic although Ozark Trails does offer a few options with stainless steel.

Ozark Trail’s soft-sided coolers range from tougher sports options to soft lunchbox styles that fold up and store easily.

Design

Yeti’s designing is more aggressive, but it has curved corners and edges to reduce snagging. Ozark Trails has a broader range of design options and colors depending on your preference and needs.

Yeti’s styling also helps keep in colder temperatures with a gasket style lid that seals tightly and prevents temperature inconsistencies. If you prepare your cooler ahead of time, you could experience ice retention up to an astounding nine or so days. Power users will appreciate that ice doesn’t need to be topped off for at least a few days even in the most extreme heat.

Ozark Trails’ lids aren’t quite as sealed as Yeti’s although they do perform well enough to keep ice cold for at least the entire afternoon. Some of their more sport style coolers can experience ice retention up to four or so days. This should be plenty for you casual users.

Yeti has one look, with a few classic and specialty colors that mimic Yeti’s specific aesthetic. Ozark Trail has a few different looks from traditional ice box coolers to more sporty options built for more than just an afternoon in the park.

Preparation

Yeti coolers benefit a lot from preparation beforehand. They don’t allow cold to escape easily because the insulation on the inside absorbs cold and traps it, but if you store your cooler in a garage for an extended period, that same insulation could absorb the ambient temperature of the room.

To get maximum ice retention, you should prepare your cooler beforehand. The night before you need it, fill your cooler with ice and seal the lid. The insulation will absorb the cold. In the morning, drain any bits of water and fill your cooler as needed.

Ozark Trails insulation can always benefit from preparation like this, but it won’t make as big of a difference because the insulation has slightly less coverage than the Yeti. You’ll definitely get a head start on those sweltering days, but you may find that preparing doesn’t make that much of a difference because of their design.

Performance

Most of Ozark Trail’s products have excellent cold retention for the average user. They aren’t meant for extreme temperatures or ice retention. Instead, they offer families the chance to keep food and drinks cold for lunch or the afternoon.

Yeti, on the other hand, is built for extreme use. Ice retention is good for up to nine days at a time, giving you better options for things like sports fishing or all-day tailgating in up to triple digits.  

Our Favorite Models

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite models from each company.

Yeti Tundra 35

The Tundra is one of Yeti’s classic designs. It’s a mid-sized cooler meant for just a few people. It can hold up to 21 cans or 26 pounds of ice. It’s perfect for a small crew or to put into an inner tube for a lazy trip down the river.

It uses a roto-molded plastic to create a better, stronger type of cooler. There are fewer weak spots and better housing for the three inches of insulation inside. The insulation itself is pressure injected and commercial grade. The lid is a freezer-style gasket that seals completely preventing temperature inconsistencies and leaks. It holds ice for up to nine days before needing a refill.

Common weak points of coolers are reinforced to prevent wear and tear that forces you to buy a new cooler every few years. The hinges are a never-fail system that uses a pin and interlocking tab that keep them from breaking. The latches are a rubber blend that resists cracking even with multiple openings.

The handles are molded into the sides of the cooler. The drain is a vortex system that drains quickly and avoids clogging. It also has non-slip feet to keep it from sliding around in the back of your truck or on your boat.

What Customers Like:

  • durable roto-molded plastic
  • three inches of commercial grade insulation
  • suitable for personal use or small groups

Common Complaints

  • heavier than average coolers
  • expensive

Ozark Trail High-Performance Cooler 26 Quart

Ozark Trails’ high-performance line increase ice retention to about four days under the right circumstances. This one uses roto molded style with a reinforced handle. It has a stainless-steel locking plate and T style lid closures to secure your contents.

Two inches of insulation and a gasket style lid to keep in the cold. It reduces temperature inconsistencies and leaks to give you four full days of ice retention before you need to top up. Under ideal circumstances, the ice should last plenty through the weekend or at least through triple degree temperatures in the trunk of your car during soccer season.

It has reinforced hinges and can function as an extra seat in a pinch. Cup holders are molded into the top, and the handle is reinforced with stainless steel and has a comfort grip. There aren’t any molded handle grips, but with a cooler this size, you may not miss them.

It’s quite a bit cheaper than the Yeti, but you’re going to cut your functionality in half. It is an ultra-tough cooler, but it may be a better choice if you’re needing something to stand up to your weekend drive or moderate camping activities. It’s an excellent budget alternative to the more expensive Yeti, but if you’re extreme camping, it may leave a little to be desired.

What Customers Like

  • budget alternative to high-end coolers
  • rotomolded plastic with a gasket lid
  • reinforced carry handle

Common Complaints

  • ice retention is half the Yeti (and other high-end coolers)
  • no molded handles

The Best Cooler For You

So, which cooler is the right one for you? Let’s look at a few options to answer that question.

Get A Yeti If:

  • it will be a week or longer before you can refresh your ice.
  • you experience more extreme temperatures during your activities.
  • you have the budget for a high-end cooler.
  • you want to invest in one cooler for the better part of a lifetime.

Get An Ozark Trail If:

  • you don’t need extreme cooling, just enough for the weekend.
  • you have a limited budget.
  • you need a style of cooler besides what Yeti has to offer.
  • you’d like to be able to change your style of cooler eventually without feeling guilty about the money.

Final Thoughts

Yeti makes some amazing coolers. They’re sturdy and durable, and they offer some options for more extreme camping including holding your game when you’ve had a productive hunting season.

Ozark Trail may not compete quite the way Yeti can, but it does have a few options for simple cooling needs and a more durable cooler line that allows you to hold ice for a lot longer than the standard. It’s great for entry-level buyers who don’t quite have the budget for Yeti or aren’t quite ready to drop that kind of cash.

Whichever category you fall into, entry level or ready for an upgrade, we think you’ll be happy to have a cooler that finally satisfies your needs. Cold drinks for everyone!

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