Dining With Denise Neil

Yeti or not, here they come

Leslye Woodard of Woodard Mercantile in Maize sells Yeti products.
Leslye Woodard of Woodard Mercantile in Maize sells Yeti products. The Wichita Eagle

Stainless steel drinking vessels are hardly new technology. They’ve been around forever, and as one reader recently said to me, “When I was a kid, they called it a thermos.”

But in Wichita this summer, stainless steel tumblers that are “double walled” and “vacuum sealed” are becoming a thing. It seems like everyone’s toting one around, and I’ve had several long conversations with friends lately about how icy cold our drinks remain, even the next morning.

The mugs all look the same – no handle, see-through lid, design that keeps the outside from sweating or transferring heat.

The designer brand being sold in Wichita is Yeti, and the company has huge displays of their products in sporting good stores around town. A Yeti display is front-and-center at Woodard Mercantile, 4160 N Maize Road in Maize, where owner Leslye Woodard said she has trouble keeping the mugs in stock – even though the prices are pretty steep.

But imitation Yetis, which Woodard playfully calls “Fetis,” a word she came up with by combining “fake” and “Yeti,” are everywhere. A video widely circulated on Facebook over the summer shows a test between the flagship Yeti and some of its imitators to see which one kept icy water icy the longest.

Woodard said she ran out of Yetis last Christmas and predicts they’ll be even more popular with shoppers this year. They come in several sizes, and Yeti even makes coolers, water bottles and “colsters,” which are like stainless steel koozies.

“Everybody has one,” Woodard said with a laugh. “If you don’t have a Yeti or a Feti, then you’re just not it anymore.”

Wal-Mart carries at least two versions at much lower prices. The Ozark Trail mugs, which were named best in the Facebook video I saw, are on sale now for less than $10.

Several readers told me that they have recently snatched up the inexpensive Ozark Trail mugs and are happy with them.

“I got the Ozark one from Walmart over the weekend and I am in love,” said Emily Stephens, responding to an informal poll I posted on Facebook. “I've used it every day. I fill it with ice first thing in the morning and still have ice come evening time. It's awesome!”

I now have three different brands, and I’ve found that they all work equally well.

I made my first purchase at the Midwest Beerfest, where I found the Woodards selling Yeti merchandise from a booth. They were offering a beerfest special: Anyone who purchased a Yeti that day could get free engraving. I’d sampled just enough beer that this sounded like a deal at $29.99. I bought the 20-ounce “rambler” and picked it up a few weeks later, embossed with my name. (Woodard Mercantile will emboss your Yeti for $8 if you just want your name or $12 if you want a logo.)

The Yeti stays on my desk at work for my weekday morning coffee, but I loved it so much, I wanted one at home, and I found one at Wal-Mart for $14.99. The brand was Mossy Oak, which also makes a line of hunting gear. I started using it to drink ice water at home and was shocked by how long my ice stayed icy. Even 24 hours later, the ice was melted but the water was still ice cold. Even when I let it sit by the pool on a 100-plus degree day, my new “Feti” did not fail.

Then, I heard that the revered Ozark Trail mugs were on sale at Wal-Mart, and I had to have one of those, too. My friend picked one up for me at one of the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market stores that are still open, and it works just as well as the other two.

Several other versions can be found both in town and online. Woodard Mercantile also carries a brand called Taiga, which is about the same price as Yeti. Readers also named other brands they’d found, and several exact knockoffs are sold online by brands with tough, outdoorsy sounding names like Geyser, Rtic, Rino, Titan, Grid Gear, Eskimo, New Earth and Thermite.

For the record, of my three tumblers, I like my Mossy Oak the best – only because it has a lid that twists to close the opening. The Yeti and most of its closest knockoffs have a lid with a basic opening but no way to close it up.

Having my new tumblers has made me drink more water this summer. It tastes so much better when it’s so ice cold.

And I don’t care which brand I have – though I must admit that my embossed “Denise” Yeti does bring a few extra ounces of joy along with its several extra hours of iciness.

Denise Neil: 316-268-6327, @deniseneil