RTIC 20 Qt Hard Cooler Review: The New King of Coolers?

Watch out YETI...

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Learn more.

by  Cooler Bill Barton | Last Updated: 

The RTIC 20 Qt hard sided cooler is much less expensive than some of the other rotomolded cooler brands on the market. So what gives?

In this RTIC 20 Qt cooler review, we’ve tested and compared RTIC to the top brands to see where this cooler is crushing it and where it falls short.

My top 20 qt cooler
80
VALUE
9
score
CAPACITY
8
score
INSULATION
8
score
DURABILITY
9
score
EASE OF USE
7
score
PORTABILITY
6
score
FEATURES
8
score
True Liquid Capacity:   22 quarts
Hours Below 40º F:   70 hours
Pros:
  • I like the dual rubber gasket drain plugs and the dual padlock spaces
  • The value-for-money is tremendous compared to the most popular competitor
  • It’s fairly easy to open with a single hand and I like the locking mechanism on the handle
Cons:
  • The handle can sometimes pop out—it’s easy to pop in, but it can be annoying at times
  • The RTIC 20 is the heaviest cooler in its category

It’s time to hit the open road. 

The weather is warm. And I’m itching to head west to the Appalachian mountains (I’m in North Carolina). 

Nothing satisfies the soul quite like falling asleep listening to the sound of a rushing river. Or pulling a frosty brew out of your cooler next to a campfire. 

Well, I’ve pulled enough frosty brews out of my RTIC 20 Qt cooler to give a recommendation on whether this little tank is worth it. 

Here I’m not just reviewing the RTIC 20 Qt hard sided cooler, but I’m also comparing it to the YETI Roadie 24, the ORCA 20 Qt, and the Igloo BMX 25. You’ll get to see the data from my insulation tests, and by the end, you’ll know whether or not the RTIC 20 is right for you. 

RTIC 20 Qt Overview

The RTIC 20 Qt is RTIC’s smallest hard cooler. Their next largest size is double the capacity (the 45 Qt), so this little guy is mainly for quick weekend trips or overnighters where you don’t need to bring too much.

I picked my RTIC 20 Qt up in Tan, but it’s available in three additional colors (Grey, Blue, and White).

Compared to the other major brands in the rotomolded cooler space (YETI, Pelican, ORCA), RTIC is the least expensive. 

For a TL;DR, or quick answer on my thoughts: the RTIC 20 Qt is the one 20-25 qt cooler I’d buy again. While the YETI Roadie 24 is technically the best from an insulation standpoint, I don’t know that it’s worth the added 60% cost. 

If you prefer watching to reading, you can see my full breakdown and watch me cut the RTIC 20 in half below:

But if you’re on a strict budget, you may want to check out the Igloo BMX 25. It’s an ugly little beast, and it’s not rotomolded, so it doesn’t have the same durability. But it insulates well (not as good as RTIC, but it does fine considering the price).

I’ll explain more in depth throughout, but if you’re looking for a tough cooler that has a rugged aesthetic, the RTIC 20 Qt offers the best value-for-money. 

RTIC 20 Qt

All things considered, the RTIC 20 Qt is the best pick in the 20-25qt hard cooler category.

While the YETI Roadie 24 has more insulating power, I think the RTIC 20 is more than enough to keep your goods cold for a weekend and the value-for-money is phenomenal.

Buy Now at Amazon Buy Now at RTIC
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Things to Consider Before Buying the RTIC 20 Qt

The biggest consideration to make before buying the RTIC 20 Qt is what you’ll be using it for. Hard coolers in the 20-25 quart category aren’t very good for storing cans—they’re better suited to carrying food for a day trip or a quick overnighter. 

For a full weekend camping, you’ll probably want something larger like a 40-45 quart cooler.

And if it’s just cans you’re taking, I think soft coolers are a better choice. You don’t need as  much insulating power—even if your beers aren’t totally frosty, it’s not the end of the world. But soft coolers are much easier to transport. The RTIC 20 Can Soft Cooler is amazing for portability.

RTIC 20 Can Soft Cooler

If you're bringing beers to the party, this soft-sided cooler is a much easier way to get them there (compared to a heavier hard-sided cooler).

Buy Now at Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

I do a lot of solo camping, and I also love a day trip to the beach. So a 20 quart cooler is ideal for me and my small coup car. But if you have grander travel plans, you may want to upgrade to a 40 quart cooler. 

Why You Should Trust Me

Testing the RTIC 20 Qt, ORCA 20 Qt, and YETI Roadie 24

Yes, I’ve tested the RTIC 20 Qt extensively. But I’ve also tested the YETI Roadie 24, the ORCA 20 Qt, and the Igloo BMX 25.

Under the same conditions, I tested the insulating properties of each cooler. I placed probes in several hot dogs, poured seven pounds of ice into each cooler, and measured the internal temperature of each hot dog for 96 hours. 

When testing, I never opened the lids of the coolers, and the tests were all recorded at the same time so the ambient temperature was consistent for each cooler. 

While this test doesn’t simulate how the RTIC will perform in real life, it does give a clear idea of which brand has the best insulation for their cooler. 

I’m not just a dude who has an RTIC cooler. I’m a dude who’s rigorously tested the RTIC 20 Qt against the best 20 qt coolers in the game. 

RTIC 20 Qt Cooler Review

Value

Is this you? You want a sweet cooler, so you looked up YETI and your eyes started watering at the price. 

And then you found RTIC and want to know why the price is so much lower.

That might not describe your situation, but I’ve talked to plenty of people who’ve had that same reaction, and I totally understand why: the RTIC 20 Qt is 60% less expensive than the comparable YETI Roadie 24 (when both are at full price retail). 

The RTIC is also less expensive than Pelican and ORCA. But if it’s all about the cash for you, then the Igloo BMX 25 is the way to go. 

Igloo BMX 25

It's not the prettiest cooler, but it gets the job done.

This is my top budget pick for the 20-25 qt cooler category because it's insulating power is quite good compared to brands that are double (and even triple) the price.

Buy Now at Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

However, it’s not always about the cash. The RTIC 20 has the same rugged cool aesthetic that many other rotomolded cooler brands boast. Plus, features like the bear-proof locks, stainless steel handle, and the drain plug make this little cooler a versatile addition to your camping trip. 

Comparing all the features, and after all my tests for capacity and insulation, I think the RTIC 20 Qt offers the best value-for-money in the 20-25 quart cooler category. 

RTIC 20 Qt

All things considered, the RTIC 20 Qt is the best pick in the 20-25qt hard cooler category.

While the YETI Roadie 24 has more insulating power, I think the RTIC 20 is more than enough to keep your goods cold for a weekend and the value-for-money is phenomenal.

Buy Now at Amazon Buy Now at RTIC
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Capacity

The RTIC 20 holds 22 liquid quarts, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Compared to the other 20 quart coolers I’ve tested, the RTIC 20 has the second highest space efficiency ratio—I get this number by dividing the number of cans a cooler holds by its liquid quart capacity. 

Space efficiency graph for 20-25 qt coolers

RTIC actually undersells the amount their cooler can hold, which is unique—maybe RTIC 20 sounds better than RTIC 22. 

However, this test is only done with cans. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to pack more food into the RTIC than a YETI or ORCA. While I think the YETI Roadie 24 is a terrible beer cooler (at least compared to the RTIC), in my practical tests taking it on adventures with me, it did a great job carrying everything I needed to grill burgers over my campfire. 

How many cans does the RTIC 20 hold?

The RTIC 20 will carry up to 24 cans, and you can even add ice on top. Just be careful—24 cans in the RTIC 20 will weigh close to 40 pounds, which can be difficult to carry.

question icon

The RTIC 20 is relatively short and wide, so it’s easy to pack gear on top of it when loading your car or truck. The dimensions are quite similar to the ORCA and Pelican, though it’s shorter and wider than the YETI Roadie 24. 

I have a slight preference for the shape of the YETI Roadie 24 because it fits nicely into the back seat of my coup car, but my experience there is limited.

How much ice does the RTIC 20 hold?

The RTIC 20 Qt hard cooler can hold 25 pounds of ice, though you wouldn’t be able to carry anything else. I recommend buying a seven pound bag of ice if you want to keep the contents cold for an overnight or weekend trip.

question icon

Overall, the RTIC 20 Qt offers the second-most efficient internal space for storing your snackies, num-nums, and frosty brews compared with its compact external size. The Igloo BMX 25 is more efficient, but you lose durability and style with the Igloo. 

Insulation

The RTIC 20 is a worthy contender in my insulation test, coming in second place, but it loses out to the YETI Roadie 24. Take a look at the graph below:

In my ice test (96 hours, 7 pounds of ice, no opening, no sunlight) the YETI Roadie 24 outperformed all other 20-25 quart coolers. By comparison, the RTIC did the next best but was fairly neck-and-neck with the ORCA 20, and the Igloo BMX performed the worst. 

But let me give you the numbers and you can draw your own conclusion: the biggest milestones I care about are when the contents hit 40 degrees and 50 degrees. 40 degrees is where bacterial growth really kicks in for food, so you always want to store perishables below that temperature. And 50 degrees is where beers cease to be frosty. We like frosty beers. 

The YETI Roadie 24 held its contents below 40 degrees for 73 hours. The RTIC 20 did the same for 70 hours. That’s a three hour difference over the course of about three days. 

YETI Roadie 24

Compared to other hard-sided coolers in the same size category, the Roadie 24 has better insulation and it’s more practically easy to pack into your car and hit the road.

Plus, because it’s around three inches taller and three inches slimmer, it makes for a more convenient seat or table-top when camping.

Buy Now at Amazon Buy Now at YETI
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Of course, this is under testing conditions—not real life conditions—but the YETI performed about 5% better. 

You can see the difference in insulation more clearly in the graph below (just hours 60-96):

While the YETI Roadie 24 performed better in the insulation test, I leave it up to you to determine whether that’s worth the extra cost. 

Durability

Rotomolded coolers are known for their sturdiness—no seams to crack, and the weakest spot is a large stainless steel rod in the hinge (i.e. even the weak point is strong). 

I haven’t performed any tests comparing the durability of the RTIC against the YETI, ORCA, or Igloo. I can only make my judgements based on the feel of the details. 

Generally speaking, each of these four coolers should be able to take a lot of damage. 

The most sturdy-feeling cooler is the ORCA. Its rubber latches are downright difficult to undo on purpose, so I imagine they’d perform the best if your cooler fell off your truck. 

ORCA 20 Qt Cooler

The ORCA 20 Qt cooler performed similarly on all the major tests as the RTIC 20 Qt. However, it's more expensive. For that reason, I'd choose the RTIC 20 Qt over the ORCA.

That said, the ORCA 20 does have a hefty metal bar and an extremely sturdy build, so if you're planning on giving your cooler an absolute beating, the extra few bucks might be a good investment.

Buy Now at Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The least sturdy-feeling is the Igloo BMX 25. It’s rotomolded, but it’s made with a lower grade plastic and not the thick PU that the other coolers use. I think the Igloo would crack much easier. 

The only thing that worries me with regard to durability on the RTIC 20 is the rubber latches. In an effort to make the latches easy to do and undo, they feel a little “loose.” When I brought the RTIC out for an adventure, this was only ever a positive (opening and closing the cooler was easy), but I can imagine the latches coming undone if the cooler were to fall. 

Of course, RTIC coolers can also withstand being gnawed on by a bear for an hour, so durability isn’t really an issue. 

Portability

The RTIC suffers the most on portability. It’s not more difficult to pack in your car or truck. But it’s heavier than all the other coolers I’m comparing it with. 

The RTIC 20 weighs in at 19 pounds. Compared to the ~13 pound YETI, ~10 pound Igloo, there’s a noticeable difference. 

The Orca 20 is close at 18 pounds empty, but the RTIC has a locking mechanism in its handle that actually makes it a little easier to carry despite the extra pound of weight. 

Fully filled, the RTIC 20 maxes out somewhere around 50 pounds. An individual can fairly easily carry that 10 feet from their trunk to the campground table. But if you’re doing that 200 yard walk across a hot sand beach, it’s a workout.

Features

The RTIC 20 has a few key features I really enjoy. 

I love the dual padlock placements on either corner. While RTIC advertises this for bear safety, practically speaking, I think it does its job more often with pesky raccoons. This means you don’t have to pack your food back in your car or in a bear-safe. 

You can just lock your cooler with one or two padlocks and leave it on your camping table. You might hear some racoons scratching around, but you can rest easy knowing they won’t get to it. 

The RTIC 20 also has a drain plug on either side, so you can just untwist and drain your cooler any time. Each drain has a rubber gasket, which ensures there’s no leaking. 

The latches are rubber t-handles. I like this style of handle—it’s common among rotomolded coolers. The YETI Roadie 24 has a plastic latch mechanism that’s easier to work with one hand. The RTIC 20’s handles are much easier to use than the ORCA 20—the ORCA’s handles are so thick and sturdy, it can be a downright struggle to undo. 

Non-slip rubber feet on the bottom

Lastly, the RTIC 20 has a slim stainless steel handle that locks into an upright position when you’re ready to carry. I love the locking mechanism—it really does make it easier to carry. And there’s a foam pad on the steel bar—I’m living in luxury. 

RTIC 20 Qt Accessories

RTIC has a ton of cool accessories for the 20 Qt. The most exciting is the Hard Cooler Cushion. You can turn your RTIC 20 into a game day seat, complete with the little cup holder on the side. 

There are tie-down kits, replacement parts, cooler dividers, a dry-goods basket, and ice packs available, too. 

I appreciate that RTIC makes it easy to find which accessories will work best for your 20 Qt—they’ve categorized their offerings in a way that makes it obvious which accessory goes with which cooler (20, 45, 60, etc). 

What do Other Reviewers Say?

On the RTIC site, there are over 400 reviews at the time of writing and they average out to a 4.8-star rating—that’s pretty fantastic. 

The main positives are the insulating power. There are plenty of stories of the cooler being left in a 100+ degree car for a few days and still having ice in it. 

The negative comments I saw mostly had to do with the handle. Several reviewers mentioned the handle coming out when they were trying to slide the cooler over. The handle is easy enough to pop back in, but apparently there were scenarios where the handle was more hindrance than helpful.

I didn’t personally run into that issue while on my camping trip, but it’s worth noting. 

RTIC 20 Qt Alternatives

YETI Roadie 24

When comparing all the 20-25 quart coolers against each other, the YETI Roadie 24 is my overall top-quality pick, regardless of price. 

The Roadie 24 has the best insulating power, does a great job storing food, and is easy to carry because of its shape, lighter weight, and nylon handle. 

The only major negative for the Roadie 24 is that it’s not optimized for 12oz cans. It’s a great cooler if you’re bringing beers and food. But if you’re just looking for a beer cooler only, every other cooler is better. 

Interestingly, when I cut the YETI Roadie in half, I found out it has less insulation than RTIC, but it still performed better in the insulation tests. You can watch me cut the YETI Roadie in half below.

Of course, price may be a significant factor for you. Overall, I still recommend the RTIC 20 Qt as my top value-for-money cooler because I don’t think the boosts you get with the YETI Roadie 24 are worth that much extra money. 

YETI Roadie 24

Compared to other hard-sided coolers in the same size category, the Roadie 24 has better insulation and it’s more practically easy to pack into your car and hit the road.

Plus, because it’s around three inches taller and three inches slimmer, it makes for a more convenient seat or table-top when camping.

Buy Now at Amazon Buy Now at YETI
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Igloo BMX 25 Qt Cooler

The Igloo BMX 25 Qt cooler is my top budget pick in the 20-25 quart hard cooler category. 

On the positive side, it’s the largest of the small coolers and it’s very cost effective compared to other rotomolded coolers. It can easily tie down into your truck, it’s lightweight, and it can carry a lot of cans/food.

On the negative side, the exterior plastic isn’t nearly as sturdy as RTIC’s, and it’s also super ugly. It looks like it was designed by a kid who likes to play with aluminum trucks in the dirt (i.e. me when I was 7). 

But despite the Igloo doing the worst in my insulation tests, it still wasn’t that far off the mark, hitting 40 degrees at 68 hours (compared to RTIC’s 70 hours, and YETI’s 73 hours). 

Another way of putting that is: the YETI (best performer) performed about 7% better than the Igloo. The Igloo is roughly a quarter of the cost. 

Igloo BMX 25

It's not the prettiest cooler, but it gets the job done.

This is my top budget pick for the 20-25 qt cooler category because it's insulating power is quite good compared to brands that are double (and even triple) the price.

Buy Now at Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

My Thoughts Overall On the RTIC 20 Qt

What I Like

  • RTIC loads the 20 Qt with tons of features: I especially like the dual rubber gasket drain plugs. The two padlock spaces also make this a fantastic camping companion.
  • At nearly half the price of YETI, the RTIC outperforms in space efficiency and nearly matches in insulating power.
  • The rubber t-handles are fairly easy to open with one hand and the locking mechanism on the handle helps make it easier to carry.

What I Don’t Like

  • At 19 pounds, the RTIC 20 is the heaviest cooler in its category that I’ve tested.
  • The stainless steel handle can sometimes pop out if you’re trying to slide your cooler. It’s easy to pop it back in, but it can be a hassle.

Who is the RTIC 20 Qt for?

The RTIC 20 Qt is the best cooler for you if you want that rugged cooler aesthetic, but you don’t want to spend a fortune. If you want bang for your buck, the RTIC 20 is the way to go.

The Verdict

The RTIC 20 Qt is my top value-for-money pick amongst 20-25 quart hard coolers. 

While the YETI Roadie 24 performed the best on my insulation tests, the outperformance was marginal. The RTIC 20 held its contents below 40 degrees for 70 hours (compared to YETI’s 73 hours). 

I love that the RTIC has two drain plugs, and that both feature rubber gaskets—it’s clear that RTIC has paid attention to the details and each aspect is built extremely well. 

The biggest downside to the RTIC 20 is that it’s 19 pounds, which is pretty heavy compared to other similar coolers. This hurts its portability, but if you’re not planning on lugging it long distances, the extra weight shouldn’t matter too much. 

Considering the durability and excellent insulating power, the RTIC 20 Qt is a fantastic choice for a hard cooler. 

RTIC 20 Qt

All things considered, the RTIC 20 Qt is the best pick in the 20-25qt hard cooler category.

While the YETI Roadie 24 has more insulating power, I think the RTIC 20 is more than enough to keep your goods cold for a weekend and the value-for-money is phenomenal.

Buy Now at Amazon Buy Now at RTIC
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

FAQs

Is RTIC just as good as YETI?

YETI outperformed RTIC in insulation tests by about 5%. I personally don’t think that difference is worth the extra cost of a YETI. So while the YETI is technically better than RTIC, practically speaking, the RTIC works just as well.

Is RTIC owned by YETI?

No, RTIC is a completely different company than YETI.

No, RTIC is a completely different company than YETI.

No, RTIC products are made in China. If you want a USA made cooler, try YETI or Orca.