I recently had the chance to head down to YETI’s flagship store in Austin, Texas, a revamped 1930s building that’s survived the worst floods of the 20th century—symbolic of the outdoor brand’s tough reputation. The 8,000-square-foot space is both a retail store and a community hub for adventure aficionados, outfitted with an outdoor bar, a stage mounted on coolers for live local music and Austin mementos that pay homage to the hometown of founders, Roy and Ryan Seiders.
I was greeted by a giant taxidermy bear on my way inside, where sharks suspend above a fishing skiff carrying YETI’s recently launched LoadOut buckets. Just beyond that, the open bed of a pickup invites visitors to sit and test out cooler sizes, which is convenient, given that no two coolers are created equal.
I’m certainly not a cooler guru and I assume most coolers do their job just fine: They, for the most part, keep your shit cold. But just days after checking out the YETI flagship store—and touring its innovation center, where the brand carries out stress tests on products—I tried out the new Hopper Flip 8 Cooler ($200), and it proved to do its job, and then some, pretty damn well.
Where? Don’s Fish Camp—it’s allegedly a Texas hill country fave, and it operates on a massive 60-acre property on the banks of the San Marcos River. Yep, I decided to take my Flip 8 on a six-hour boozy tubing expedition—a little less extreme than what YETI’s fly-fishing, whitetail-hunting, big wave-surfing ambassadors do, but a real-life test nonetheless.
The Flip 8 was built for grabbing and going, touted as “your new day trip MVP.” First, it’s just a soft-shelled cube, so it’s easy to haul—even with six people piled into a clown car and one (somehow me) squished in the trunk with the food and booze. And while every other cooler leaked melting ice on the floor of the trunk, where I got to roll around for the entire bumpy ride, the Flip 8 kept dry.
That’s probably because it’s supposed to be 100 percent leak-proof, engineered with slabs of rubber foam insulation up to an inch thick. While small, I was still able to fill it with an 8-pack of beers and more than enough ice. And I didn’t break the HydroLock zipper in doing so, which is a problem I seem to have as an oft-horrendous packer. The easy airtight zipper coupled with a wide-mouth opening makes beers (and actual hydration) effortlessly accessible, too, the tipsier you get on a snaking river in the intoxicating Texas heat.
I latched my cooler onto a tube of its own, though it spent the majority of the day being dragged over rocks in the rapids behind me. The DryHide shell purportedly resistant to mildew, punctures and UV rays really did hold its own, and my cooler made it out unscathed… I did not, but that’s irrelevant.
Instead of stitching, the FDA-approved food-grade material has radio frequency-welded seams to keep it durable, and none of that means shit to the common consumer, but I’m here to tell you that it’s legit.
I came out of Don’s Fish Camp a little bit bruised up, a lot bit under the influence and with an in-tact Flip 8 loaded with a few more cold ones waiting to be cracked.