You've got a growing number of options if you're ready to spend big on a heavy-duty, high-performance cooler. Yeti is probably the best-known brand out of all of them, but Orca -- short for the Outdoor Recreation Company of America -- is perhaps the closest alternative. Just take Orca's 58-quart Classic Cooler: It looks like a Yeti, it's built like a Yeti, and at $300, it's just as expensive as the popular Yeti Tundra 45.
The Orca performs like a Yeti, too -- at least to a point. In my tests, I found that Orca's Classic Cooler was able to cool things down to 25 degrees below room temperature using just 3 pounds of ice, an excellent result that ties the top-performing Tundra 45. The Orca only held that temperature about half as long as the Yeti did, however, forcing the brand to settle for the runner-up spot.
That second-place finish might lead you to pick Yeti over Orca, but make sure you consider capacity first. After measuring each cooler I tested to double-check the manufacturer capacity claims, the Orca came in right on the money at 58.1 quarts. The Yeti, on the other hand, only held about 38 quarts. That's much smaller than the name suggests, and it also means that the Yeti had an easier job on its hands in our insulation tests.
In the end, if you're choosing between the two, you're really choosing between an extra 3/4 inch of insulation (Yeti) or a 35 percent increase in capacity (Orca). Both make for justifiable splurges at $300, but only if you're certain you need something more rugged than the slew of decent options that cost a lot less -- and if you aren't, I've got a couple of recommendations that'll save you some cold, hard cash.
Like most of today's high-end coolers, the Orca Classic is made from rotomolded plastic, which means that the mold is spun when the plastic is poured in. That rotational force helps the plastic to set more evenly, which is good for insulation, and it makes the plastic a lot more durable, too. Give Orca credit for backing that build up with a lifetime warranty.
The rotomolded design also makes for a pretty hefty piece of hardware that weighs in at 36 pounds -- and that's before you start packing ice and drinks into it. With both roped and rigid handles on the sides, you'll be able to carry it however you find most comfortable, but it's still something worth thinking about if you plan on taking your cooler with you for long distances on foot.
Other than that, there isn't a whole lot to say about the fairly basic design, though I did appreciate the recessed drain inside of the cooler. It's a little thing, but cheaper coolers often have drains, meaning you'll have to pick them up and turn them upside down after draining them to get the last of the water out. That's not a problem with the Orca.
Oh, and the rubber latches that you'll use to seal the lid shut? They're shaped like whale tails.