Tested True: Yeti’s Tundra 250

Built like a tank and designed to maximize ice retention, trust the fruits of your harvest to a YETI Tundra series cooler.

by Darron McDougal

When I shut the lid, my concerns about keeping my freshly procured whitetail venison clean and cool for the trip home drifted away. You get that instantaneous peace of mind when you carefully lay the fruits of your harvest into a YETI cooler such as the Tundra 250, which I tested during the fall 2022 hunting season.  

There’s no way around it. YETI-brand products are expensive. But so are nonresident deer and elk tags. So is fuel to reach faraway hunting destinations. And for those who hunt with outfitters, so are guided hunts. Don’t forget your hunting apparel and your gun or bow. Also, consider what losing all those pounds of meat would feel like. 

To that end, I’d like you to ponder this question: Why in the world would you trust 250-300 pounds of hard-won elk meat, for example, to a cheap cooler and risk spoilage? Don’t do it!

Starting Line

Please make no mistake; the Tundra 250 is a colossal cooler. I’ve told my wife not to waste money on a casket if I die before she does. “Bury me in the Tundra 250,” I often joke. The word is that it can fit a quartered moose, and after putting it to use, I would agree with the “word” on the hunting street. This cooler is massive and YETI hit a home run with the build. Many large coolers have walls that are too thick and take up too much space. Though this cooler has thick walls, YETI created an ice chest that doesn’t look big on the outside and small on the inside.

That being said, there are better models for you if you’re hitting one state and planning to harvest one deer; the Tundra series has more appropriately-sized coolers for that. Look to the Tundra 65 and Tundra 75 for deer-sized missions. But, if you go on deer or antelope hunts with a couple of buddies and hope to harvest, say, three bucks, I have no doubt this cooler will fit all of the meat, possibly with room to spare.

I initially requested to test the Tundra 250 while preparing for an Idaho deer-and-elk combo hunt because I knew it would contain the meat from two such animals. I also often hit two to three states during the whitetail rut. If I’m a good steward with ice and draining the little bit that melts, I know that meat from one deer would keep for a week while I try to punch another tag or two.  

Another practical application for the Tundra 250 is on fishing-charter boats, whether on Lake Michigan for salmon or off the Florida coast for various deep-sea fish. You could load this thing with a nice bed of ice, add a heap of fish, and still have room for bottled drinks off to the side. 

Finally, a small deer or antelope outfitter who doesn’t have the proper setup for a walk-in cooler could fit several animals boned out or quartered in the Tundra 250. In it, they could keep clients’ meat nice and cold for the duration of their stay or until the meat is transferred to a processor.  

Built Like a Tank

I mentioned that YETI products are expensive. But, I firmly believe that you get what you pay for, and you can’t argue with the Rotomolded construction of YETI coolers such as the Tundra 250. Rigged with the interlocking two-pin design, the Neverfail Hinge System prevents breakage at a point where many other coolers commonly experience issues. The Grizzly Bear Committee also approves the Tundra when paired with extra-long shank Master Lock Padlocks. Finally, the patented T-Rex Lid Latches are wildly rugged and made to last for the cooler’s life. 

Those construction aspects are all readily identifiable, but why can the Tundra 250 retain ice for long durations? A few reasons. First, the Fatwall Design accommodates up to 3 inches of pressure-injected Permafrost insulation to help maintain temperature. A freezer-grade Coldlock Gasket and the Interlock Lid System also create a positive seal upon closure — heat can’t enter, and cold can’t escape. Even in extreme temps, the cooler can maintain a temperature. And during fall hunts, when temperatures dip, a natural cooling effect happens, and the cooler can retain ice for extended periods. 

When I put the whitetail buck meat I mentioned at the beginning into the gigantic Tundra 250, it didn’t matter that the cooler had lots of empty space around the meat and ice. The ice melted very slowly, and the meat stayed very cold. I should mention that I also transported an entire Illinois doe (field-dressed and skinned with head and legs removed) in the Tundra 250. It easily fit, and I had the same experience as with the buck. The ice and meat stayed cool despite the space inside. That’s a testament to the attributes mentioned in the previous paragraph. They aren’t merely fancy marketing points but real solutions that deliver as YETI claims they will. 

Pickup trucks are meant to be somewhere other than downtown Chicago or Atlanta. They haul stuff. They go off-road. They’re meant to be used and put to the test. Coolers are like that, too. Although cheap coolers can withstand an occasional camping outing, most can’t withstand day-after-day, year-after-year abuse that sportsmen and sportswomen impose upon them in wild, unforgiving places. YETI Tundra series coolers are designed to withstand all of that and more. 

The Tundra’s Doublehaul Handles feature military-grade ropes, and the Lipgrip Handles, which are integrated into the molded construction, provide a second way to carry the cooler. Coolers can shift in a truck bed or a boat while in transit. YETI equips the Tundra with Bearfoot Non-Slip Feet to provide traction and prevent sliding. The Tundra also features Anchorpoint Tie-Down Slots so that you can secure it for transportation. Lastly, the YETI includes a dry-goods basket, which is movable and even removable.

Finish Line

One of the biggest problems with inexpensive and even some expensive coolers is that the drain plug breaks or is easily misplaced. The Vortex Drain System completes the Tundra’s rugged design. It’s leakproof, extraordinarily durable, and user-friendly. Whenever I have meat on ice, I take a moment to pull off the road when necessary and let any melted ice drain out so that my venison isn’t swimming in a bacteria cesspool. Ice melt is minimal with the Tundra, but the Vortex Drain System simplifies the duty of draining melted ice. 

If you love options, you’ll be fond of the fact that you can customize the Tundra with add-ons. At additional costs, you can outfit it with a Wall Mount Bottle Opener, Tie-Down Kit, Security Cable Lock and Bracket, Rod Holster, Beverage Holder, and Bear Proof Locks. You can also buy YETI Ice, which is available in 1-, 2- and 4-pound sizes and is scientifically designed to enhance the life of your regular ice. If you don’t go with YETI ice, I do recommend if you’re going to be hunting, camping, fishing, etc., on hot days, you add ice to the cooler for several hours to chill the inside of the cooler before heading out on your trip. Doing this boosts ice life even in torrid temps. 

For meat longevity, the name of the game is keeping it cool, clean, and dry. I spend too much time, money, and effort on my hunts to risk meat spoilage. Plus, my wife and I rely entirely on wild game to sustain ourselves daily. I trust YETI’s Tundra series coolers to maintain the cool, clean, and dry standards until we can process the meat. Try one, and I bet you will, too.


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