Is This Actually the Best Cooler EVER?

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Last Thanksgiving, my boyfriend and I were tasked with transporting three Milk Bar pies and a mound of their famous truffles from Los Angeles, California to Tucson, Arizona. During regular, non-holiday times — when it's an advertised seven hours — this task might seem easy enough, but leaving Los Angeles the seven days leading up to a holiday, prepare to tack on an extra three as you'll stand bumper to bumper well past Palm Springs.

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This is all to say, showing up to dinner with the pies not spoiled by the desert heat we'd be sitting in for 10 hours would be a challenge in and of itself.

Up until this point, I'd used my YETI Roadie 24 Hard Cooler for more casual outings. Planning a trip to the beach with friends? I'll handle cold snacks and drinks! Want to have a picnic at the park? My cooler is up for the task! But it is undoubtedly an investment piece and I felt like I'd yet to get my money's worth.

But then, I embarked on my Milk Bar-filled trip across state borders. Beach days and park picnics — both times when you eat upon arrival — are not in the same ballpark as a 10-hour drive through shadeless, 95-degree stretches of desert. But this was our single Thanksgiving assignment and we had the cooler, so we froze two ice packs, placed both on the bottom, and stacked our pies into the 13-inch-high interior.

Halfway through the drive, I opened the cooler to check on the status of Thursday's desserts. Opening the tightly sealed lid in the desert heat, I felt a cold wave come from the top of the cooler. The ice packs were still partially frozen and the pies were cold to the touch. At the next stop, we grabbed sodas to add.

The perishables and Diet Cokes (sorry Big Cola, but your sodas could last through an apocalypse) made it to Tucson not just in one piece but still cold. Had we taken them straight from the cooler to the dining room table, no one would ever have considered that they spent the entirety of their day in the backseat of a car. Suddenly the cost of the YETI cooler was making more sense to me.

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As I thought about this trip, I was reminded of other, less successful trips wherein the cheap cooler (always a last-minute buy) started leaking, soaking the trunk, and leaving food warm. I also considered how the amount of food and drink packed into this cooler would have never fit in something meant to transport a six-pack of beer.

Before, the YETI cooler had felt a bit like an extravagance. It served its purpose of keeping a meal at the beach cool and looked good while doing it. The glossy coat was a nice contrast to the more industrial, masculine coolers lining stores — which often looked more like a tackle box than something you'd want to pull out at a picnic. But at the end of the day, it felt like a cooler with a nice (like really nice) paint job.

That was until my desert, pies-in-tow road trip. If you need something chilled for extended periods and plan to pack more than a few loose cans and a Ziploc-ed sandwich, there isn't a better option. The Roadie is incredibly roomy given it's their travel cooler. Even with ice packs inside, it holds significantly more than I've seen in other, cheaper alternatives. The handle makes it easy to transport — you won't need to pause to readjust your grip every few feet — and the tightly sealed lid ensures that your cold items stay cold and that any melted ice remains inside the cooler and not on the backseat of your car.

Any YETI product is an investment, but if you're someone who travels, camps, or just wants to hold a lot of perishables, it's worth it. The investment checklist, in my mind, has two boxes: 1. Being a legitimately good product, and 2. Longevity. With the Roadie checking both, reconsidering your cooler situation might be on your next paycheck's horizon.

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Kaelin Dodge is a writer/editor based out of Los Angeles, California.