The YETI Hopper M20 backpack cooler is the best soft side cooler we’ve seen

I understand why YETI includes the amount of cans you can fit in a cooler to help describe its volume, but I can’t really imagine a scenario where I take an 18 pack of beer, soda, canned wine, what do you have, in a backpack. However, I can imagine plenty of scenarios where I bring a few plastic containers of food, a few canned drinks and some fruit to feed the family on a day trip. It’s probably harder to market a backpack cooler that way, I suppose.

But that’s what I’ve mostly used the YETI M20 Hopper for in the six months or so I’ve had it. Is the family heading out for a day exploring our local trails? M20 will be the food/drink box. Or maybe we are going on a car trip of several hours – the M20 is filled with snacks and drinks and becomes the fridge in the car. I’ve ridden my bike with it on my back to pick up oysters while staying overnight in Bodega Bay, and hauled five large tufted Dungeness crabs with it on a 15-mile round-trip dirt bike ride from my house to a nearby farm stand. .

It’s versatile is what I’m saying. Doesn’t smell like fish inside either (I know you’re wondering).

It’s also by far the best soft-sided portable cooler I’ve ever used. The thing feels just as bulletproof as its bigger, tougher cousins. It’s waterproof and non-waveproof, as I discovered once when I dropped it in the ocean on a beach day to see what it would do (it floated, mostly).

It uses a magnetic closure system that is smart and reliable, although it is difficult to trust at first. Therefore I threw it into the brine; wanted to see if that closing system would let water in. It didn’t. It almost works like magic. You bring the two lips of the pack together and … click, the magnets snap them into place and hold them in place. It’s a bit difficult to open and hold open with one hand, so you often have to hold it open with one hand and load it with the other. A very small grip.

There are two rows of daisy chain loops on the outside of the pack that you can clip onto bottle openers, water bottles, knives, even oyster shuckers. When loaded to the brim, it’s pretty heavy, so I really appreciate the little handles sewn into the top to help lug the pack around. The back panel is a soft but firm foam that stays comfortable against your back regardless of load weight. I wish it had chest straps to keep it from swaying when cycling, but I can’t imagine YETI envisioned many people cycling with this on, so I understand why they are left out.

As with any YETI product, it’s the price that most people will wonder about. Well, it’s $325. That’s a lot. (Although you can find the purple color way for sale for $270). But for that you get a really versatile cooler that can probably withstand the blast of a nuclear bomb. Whether you need it is up to you. But it is definitely nice to use.

• BUY: $325

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