Bison Gen 2 Cooler, 50 quarts review: Killer capacity from Bison's high-quality, high-cost cooler

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The Bison Gen 2 Cooler (red) recorded the second lowest minimum temperature during this test, but it wasn't able to hold the cold as long as Orca, Yeti, or even the $45 Igloo MaxCold Cooler.

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Of course, you have to put performance in context by considering capacity, too. Yes, the Yeti Tundra 45 outperformed the Bison by a considerable margin, but it's also a lot smaller than the name suggests, coming in at just 38 quarts in my capacity tests. As for the Bison, it's actually about 15 percent bigger than advertised, holding 57.6 quarts of water before I wasn't able to close the lid without the water overflowing.

That makes the Yeti about 35 percent smaller than the Bison, which also means that the Yeti had a much easier job on its hands during that ice test. The better comparison would likely be the larger Yeti Tundra 65, which costs $349. Yeti doesn't list its capacity anywhere I could find, but it would probably be somewhere around 55 quarts if the dimensions are roughly in line with the 45.

That moves the needle back in Bison's direction, but there's still one problem: Orca. At $300, its big-as-advertised 58-quart Classic Cooler is slightly bigger than the Bison and a better performer than the Bison, too. If you're shopping on the high end and looking for a good mix of capacity, durability and performance, the Orca seems like the stronger purchase, and it beats Bison's 5-year warranty with a lifetime guarantee, too.

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All comparisons aside, the Bison's strong performance and rugged design make it worthy of the higher-than-average price tag, especially if you're planning on using it as a marine cooler on your fishing boat. But I'd recommend waiting for a sale given the strong competition from coolers that don't cost as much. Until then, you could do a lot worse than the $45 Igloo MaxCold, my top overall value pick in the cooler category.