Gray’s Best Awards 2016

Acrylic painting of camper


Yeti HopperAlthough the universe of high-end recreational coolers is rapidly expanding, it still has a red-hot center called Yeti. Several years ago, the originator of the super-cooler/poling-platform/rotomolded-grizzly-chewtoy introduced a soft-sided version called the Hopper 30. While it followed the same overbuilt standard of Yeti’s hard-sided coolers, I found it too heavy for over-the-shoulder use. When the company scaled back to a smaller version called the Hopper 20 ($300), it quickly became a permanent fixture among my sporting accessories. I’ve used it everywhere from canoeing to beachcombing, and for icing down everything from watermelons to wild boar hams. Made from the same material as whitewater rafts, its rugged, leakproof shell is reinforced by radio-frequency-welded seams that eliminate stitching. Six D-rings offer multiple ways to carry or lash down your load. Topside, the HydroLock zipper is adapted from marine survival suits. Underneath, a molded EVA-foam foundation and tapered walls give it the rigidity of a hard cooler with the convenience of a softie. While it does not have the cold-retention qualities of Yeti’s hard coolers, the Hopper 20 keeps ice far longer than cheaper competitors. If you only need to keep sandwiches and beers cold for a half day at the beach, buy an insulated lunch box at Walmart. But if your sporting lifestyle demands the highest quality soft cooler money can buy—one that offers the best combination of size, portability, and durability—then look no further than the Yeti Hopper 20.