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When you’re a serious outdoorsman, you know the importance of a durable cooler that will do its job: keeping stuff cool.

You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard, but we’ve all been there: We open our cooler to find a puddle of lukewarm water and a beverage that just isn’t quite cold enough.

Picking a suitable cooler can be challenging, especially when you’re looking at models produced by the same brand. 

RTIC is a cooler and outdoor brand that you can purchase through its website, rticoutdoors.com, or on Amazon. With its tagline, “Overbuilt. Not Overpriced”, we’re expecting rugged coolers that do the job for a price that doesn’t break the bank. 

RTIC 45 vs. RTIC Ultra-Light 52

RTIC Hard Cooler 45 QT
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RTIC Ultra-Light 52 QT
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RTIC coolers are hard-sided coolers that use roto molding technology—that is, until the company released the Ultra-Light version.

What’s the difference? And do customers prefer one over the other?

Dive with me as I compare the RTIC 45 and the RTIC Ultra-Light 52 to find the perfect cooler for you.  


Before we look at each cooler individually, let’s start with the similarities between these two RTIC coolers. 

Both coolers have a freezer-style lid gasket. This type of lid helps keep ice for multiple days because it’s a proper seal on the top, stopping ice from slowly melting. These lids are incredibly tight-sealing.

Each has two drainage holes on each side. This sounds unnecessary at first, but is actually really nice in practice.

Having two drainage holes can be advantageous when your cooler is in one place and you don’t want to move it. 

There are two options on each cooler for carrying. Both coolers have molded handles for easier carrying by a single person.

They also have padded rope handles, which makes moving as a team much more effortless. 

Both coolers are lockable and have a hole for a padlock through the lid and body. Because these coolers have a “bling” factor, you might want to lock up your cooler to keep it secure. 

Finally, both coolers are easy to strap down and keep secure while on the move. They have non-slip feet on the bottom, which means they will stay in place in your vehicle and while you’re getting your cooler off hot surfaces.  

RTIC 45 Pros and Cons

RTIC 45 was created first and is a traditional rotomolded cooler, which all sizes of RTIC offer.

This cooler has a versatile size, making it appropriate for day trips or overnight trips and as a primary or secondary cooler on week-long trips. 

Rotomolded Coolers

Rotomolded coolers are created using the rotational molding method. This plastic processing method uses high temperature and low pressure to create a hollow, one-piece product.

This process is also used to create kayaks. 

Rotomolding is an economically and environmentally friendly process because it results in little material waste. Also, excess materials can be reused in the process. 

One of the benefits of rotomolding is that it creates thick walls, strong corners, and very little stress on the product itself, making it more durable. 

Rotomolded coolers are the preferred coolers for campers and outdoors people because of their extreme durability, ability to hold ice for days, and UV resistance.

The UV resistance is significant because it prevents the cooler from becoming brittle over years spent in the sun. A rotomolded cooler should last a lifetime. 

RTIC Hard Cooler 45 QT
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Specs of RTIC 45

  • 45 Ibs empty
  • LxWxH 26.5 x 16.5 x 16 inches 
  • 36-can capacity
  • 45 Qt/11.25 gals of water
  • 40 Ibs of ice

Pros of RTIC 45

  • Great versatile size - As mentioned before, RTIC 45 is a great size for many different types of trips and activities. The size is also ideal for carrying the cooler alone.
  • 10+ days of ice - RTIC boasts that its coolers can hold ice for 10+ days when kept in proper conditions. 
  • Durable - If you’re looking for durability, you’ve found it. Rotomolded coolers are great for keeping critters out of your food. You can stand on them, sit on them, and toss them around without compromising their structural integrity. Even if a bear gets hold of your cooler, it’ll be usable afterward. 

Cons of RTIC 45

  • Longer trips may be tough - A trip such as a week-long camping expedition or a hunting/fishing excursion might be too much for this size of cooler. You might need to bring a second cooler or get a larger one altogether. 
  • It does not come with a divider or basket - You have to buy them separately, which is an annoying extra cost. Dividers and baskets are great for keeping food dry or keeping dry ice in your cooler. 
  • Super-heavy - Once filled with food and drinks, rotomolded coolers are heavy and bulky. And, yes, while this size is easier for one person to carry, you’re still looking at a lot of weight that might be too much for some.    

RTIC Ultra-Light 52 Pros and Cons

The RTIC Ultra-Light 52 is an injection mold cooler instead of a rotomolded cooler.

 RTIC released this cooler to offer a lighter version of its most popular, the 45. RTIC boasts that this cooler is 30% lighter, with all the perks of its premium coolers. 

Injection-Molded Coolers

Injection molding uses high amounts of pressure to create plastic molding into shells. These shells are then put together with an insulated foam sprayed between them.

RTIC coolers have up to three inches of foam sprayed in the walls to keep them insulated. 

The production of injection-molded coolers is much quicker, which can result in a lower price during production and for the finished product. 

The finished product will be lighter than a rotomolded cooler and will most likely have thinner walls, which means it will offer more space inside. 

The biggest downside to injection mold coolers is that they are not as durable as rotomolded coolers.

Rotomolded coolers have no seams, but injection molds do; these can become weak points over time.

RTIC Ultra-Light 52 QT
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Specs of Ultra-Light 52

  • LxWxH 27 x 18 x 18 inches
  • 21 Ibs empty
  • 64-can capacity
  • 40 Ibs of ice

Pros of Ultra-Light 52

  • 10+ days of ice - RTIC boasts that its coolers can hold ice for 10+ days when kept in proper conditions. 
  • Removable divider - This doubles as an ice pack (no extra cost).
  • Removable basket - This is excellent for keeping food dry as the ice melts, or for dry ice or fruit (no extra cost). 
  • Lots of room - Because the walls are injection-molded, the Ultra-Light 52 cooler has thinner walls, which means it has more interior capacity than other rotomolded 52-quart coolers.
  • Easy to carry - The whole purpose of the Ultra-Light is to be easier to move around and travel with.

Cons of Ultra-Light 52

  • The rubber t-latch - Customers have complained that the lid closers are not as solid and tight as those on other coolers. However, this makes it easier for kids to open the cooler, which could be positive or negative. 
  • Not as rugged as rotomolded coolers - Don’t get me wrong, this cooler is still heavy-duty and will make it through the most demanding of trips. However, rotomolded coolers have a leg up here in that they are genuinely more durable than injection-molded coolers. 

Top Pick

I despise lugging around a giant cooler that needs to be filled daily with ice. In some situations, this has been impossible for me when my car is a 10-mile boat ride away.

I need a cooler that will do its job: keeping my food safe for eating and my beer nice and cold. 

For me, there’s a clear winner here: the RTIC Ultra-Light 52.

RTIC Ultra-Light 52 QT
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The coolers are practically identical in functionality, features, and quality.

However, with the Ultra-Light, you get a larger cooler that is lighter in weight. That, to me, makes it a clear winner. 


How Does RTIC Measure Its Coolers? 

Unlike some other cooler companies, RTIC ensures that the insides of its coolers are the exact number of quarts they advertise.

So, for example, the interior of the RTIC 45 Qt holds 45 quarts. Because not all companies measure this way, a 45 Qt RTIC might be larger than other 45-quart coolers. 

Where Are RTIC Coolers Manufactured? 

RTIC products are made in China to keep the cost lower. Many coolers and outdoor products are manufactured in China. 

What Are Ideal Conditions for an RTIC Cooler?

RTIC suggests pre-chilling all food and drinks before packing your cooler. Load your cans and bottles first, then cover them with block ice.

Place a towel on hot surfaces before setting down your cooler (for example, in the bed of a truck or on the bottom of a metal boat).

Keep your cooler out of the sun and close the lid quickly after you open the cooler to get food or a drink.

Do not drain the cold water as your ice melts. Recently melted ice will keep food and beverages cold and is better than empty air. 

Is RTIC a Walmart Brand?

Some of RTIC’s products can be found at Walmart, such as its lunch boxes, cooler backpacks, and can coolers.

RTIC’s hard coolers are offered only on Amazon, RTIC’s flagship store and their website rticoutdoors.com.  

More to read:

Kendall Casey is a writer for The Camper Lifestyle Blog

Kendall Casey

Kendall is a freelance outdoor adventure writer passionate about educating those who wish to explore the outdoors. When Kendall isn’t writing, she is exploring the woods of the US Northeast on foot or kayak.