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March 3, 2012

Throw Down: Yeti Coolers v. Brute Box Coolers

I am working on an article for Fly Rod & Reel magazine right now and it's going to involve testing a lot of gear. I'm not going to have the word count in the article that I might like, so I wanted to say some things now about the Yeti 45 cooler and the Brute Box 55. (Yeti does not make a 55 quart model, or I would have compared one to one).

First off, even though there is a difference of 10 quarts volume in these two coolers, the smaller Yeti is actually quite a bit heavier (24.5 lbs. for the Yeti verus 21.5 for the Brute Box).

I think this is due to a difference in the density of the plastic material. The Brute Box is slightly softer, but not enough to make a difference. The latches on each box differ; I give the advantage to Yeti with their all-rubber version here. The Brute Box has a rubberized metal closure that I think would work just fine but isn't quite as burly.

On the other hand, Brute Box did it right with the carrying handles, which pass through the box from above rather than attaching to the sides. This makes a significant difference in swing (I rarely use the rope handles on the Yeti because it is easier to just grip the molded ones on the side and carry it as a solid, non-swinging object).

Yeti's coolers are designed to be used for standing, for poling, as casting platforms, etc. They are also bear proof and designed to last a lifetime. Brute Box has the same concept but the top of the cooler is not quite as well designed from a poling perspective; it has a strap channel passing right over the middle from front to back, which is probably no big deal but I could see it being an issue if you poled off the cooler all day. The Brute Box also makes no claims to bear-proofedness, which is probably a non-issue for most buyers.

Internally the boxes are very similar. Both have molded drain lines on the right, and both have about the same amount of padding volume (though I cannot say what the difference in the foam might be). The Yeti appears to have 2.5" of insulation versus 2.25" for the Brute Box—a difference but not a huge one.

The biggest difference between these two coolers is price. The Yeti 45 retails for $299. The Brute Box 55 retails for $199. (Again, Yeti does not currently make a 55 quart cooler, but their 50 is $329, so for straight comparison purposes the Brute Box would seem to be around $130-150 less for an equivalent).

One hundred thirty bucks is a lot of money. I would give the Yeti an A overall with demerits for weight and the swing issue on the handles. It is the better cooler. But I would give the Brute Box a B+ or even an A-; it is very very close to the Yeti and for a large price difference. (For comparison's case, I'd give my 10-year old Wal-Mart special Coleman a D. The only thing I can say for it is that it has lasted 10 years and given solidly mediocre performance the entire time).

Brute Box coolers are just now becoming widely available; you can check out their line at http://www.bruteoutdoors.com. Meanwhile Yeti Coolers are distributed through bait and fly shops nationwide, as well as large outlets like Bass Pro Shops. Check them out at http://www.yeticoolers.com.