"Discover the Top 8 Must-Have Soft Coolers for 2023"

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Food&Wine/Maria DeAngelis

Regardless of whether you're going on a solo hike, planning a family beach trip, or having a fishing adventure with your mates, a cooler is an essential item that must be packed with plenty of food and beverages to keep your energy levels up. Soft coolers (also referred to as soft-sided coolers) are typically lighter, easy to travel with, and can be stored easily in comparison to hard coolers. From compact options to those suitable for a family, there's a soft cooler for everybody.

After evaluating critical factors such as insulation, size, volume, and intended usage, we have identified the best soft coolers currently available in the market. Please keep scrolling to discover which coolers made it to our list and why we believe they are valuable.

RTIC Outdoors 30-Can Backpack

Pros: This appealing cooler comes in various colours, is lightweight, strong, and floats!

Cons: The zipper may prove to be problematic.

Despite being a soft cooler, this option provides excellent durability with its hard external shell. Moreover, two inches of foam are sandwiched between the hard exterior and the puncture-resistant liner, ensuring up to 24 hours of insulation. Its unique selling point is its buoyancy-ideal for a pool day or a lake vacation. Sturdy handle straps or a long shoulder strap can be used to carry it around. Alas, the only downside to this variant is its zipper, which may be troublesome to operate.

We believe that the 30-can capacity size offers a good balance between capacity and portability. However, it's also available in smaller or larger sizes, such as 12, 20, and 40 cans. The cooler can be purchased in an assortment of colours, such as bluish-grey, tan, citrus, coral, and so on.

Price at the time of publication: $130

Capacity:22 quarts Size: 15.5 x 11.5 x12.75 inches Weight: 4 pounds


Pros: This reasonably priced option boasts a large capacity and excellent insulation.

Cons: This bag can tumble or fall over if not packed appropriately.

This value pick is budget-friendly, considering that it has a 25-quart capacity and can keep your items cool for up to five days with the insulation foam measuring 25 millimetres. The waterproof exterior includes a UV-protective barrier, which makes it an ideal companion for longer outdoor getaways.

When loading up your snacks and beverages, densely pack the bottom to ensure the bag remains upright on its own. This soft cooler can be carried in two ways: either hand-held or worn as a shoulder bag with padded straps for extra comfort.

Current price:

Capacity: 25 quarts Size: 17.5 x 10.4 x 13.8 inches Weight: Information unavailable

Advantages: This cooler is great for various activities due to its leakproof, durable, and comfortable design, and its appropriate size.

Yeti Hopper Flip 18 Insulated Personal Cooler

Disadvantages: To prevent zipper breakage, ensure you regularly lubricate it.

If you're in the market for a cooler and have some extra cash to spare, Yeti is a well-known brand in this area. This soft cooler, available in charcoal, navy, Nordic blue, and Nordic purple, is worth the splurge. It features closed-cell rubber foam insulation, and the outer shell is constructed from dense fabric that is UV-resistant and prevents punctures. Additionally, both the interior and exterior are mildew-resistant, making it easy to clean. The cooler stays practical because of its HitchPoint Grid, allowing you to attach accessories like bottle openers and carabiners. Simply sling it over your shoulder, and you're good to go.

This soft cooler is unique since it has a leakproof zipper that ensures an airtight seal, but you'll need to utilize the included zipper lubricant to maintain it properly. If you have any problems, rest assured that the package comes with a three-year warranty.

Current price: $300

Capacity: Fits 30 cans or 28 pounds of ice Size: 17.7 x 11.5 x 13.8 inches Weight: 4.5 pounds

Hydro Flask Escape Soft Cooler

Advantages: This backpack cooler is great for storing lots of items, including wine bottles, as it can keep drinks cold for several days.

Disadvantages: It can be expensive, and the zipper opening might not be wide enough for bigger items.

A backpack cooler is an ultimate solution for your food and drinks. It's more comfortable than carrying everything in one hand or on one shoulder. With padded straps, a cushioned back panel, and a chest strap, you can enjoy a long hike or walk with a balanced and supported experience.

Our experts were highly impressed during our backpack cooler tests, with its leakproof seams, flawless insulation, and sleek design. This cooler is ideal for keeping wine cold for sunset picnics, drinks cold at football tailgates, or water bottles ice cold on hikes. It also features a dry pocket for maps, protein bars, or other dry items. However, the only con we have is that the zipper opening may not be wide enough for larger items, such as food containers.

Price upon release: $200

Volume: 20 liters Dimensions: 8.47 x 18.52 x 18.12 inchesMass: 2.63 pounds

L.L.Bean Soft Pack Cooler

Advantages: Lightweight and compact, good organization options.

Disadvantages: Side pockets may not fit most water bottles.

Don't want to lug around a bulky cooler on your next adventure? This soft cooler is the perfect size for packing your lunch, snacks for a picnic, or some cans for a relaxing day out. The interior mesh pocket on the lid offers additional storage space to keep your items organized. With two side pockets, you can stash your utensils in one and napkins in the zippered pockets located on the lid or back. Plus, when not in use, it can be collapsed for easy storage.

Carry it by hand or use the adjustable shoulder strap, either way, this cooler is ultralight and hassle-free to transport. It comes in black, navy, and green, so pick your favorite hue.

Price upon release: $45

Volume: 6.3 quarts Dimensions: 10.5 x 7.5 x 6 inchesMass: 0.8 pounds

RELATED: The 10 Best Small Coolers for Everything From Wine to Camp Cooking

Advantages: Ample space, attractive design, comfortable to carry.

Hydro Flask 26 L Day Escape Soft Cooler Tote

Disadvantages: Zipper may require some force, but it's leak-proof.

You won't run out of space for your family's drinks with this spacious cooler tote. With a capacity of 26 liters, you can store up to 42 cans and keep them cool for many hours due to its thick insulation, robust polyester shell, and welded seams. Plus, with its adjustable straps, you can comfortably carry this cooler over your shoulder or across your body.

Choose from gray or teal colors and enjoy the simple and sleek design that stands out from other tactical-looking options. Just be warned, the waterproof zipper may require some elbow grease to open and close, but a lubricant can easily fix that.

Published price: $180

Volume: 27.5 quartsDimensions: 13.7 x 23.6 x 9.8 inchesWeight: 3.04 pounds

Upsides: This soft cooler is highly portable, making it a breeze to stow away wherever you go. It's also buoyant and waterproof, with many color options to choose from. 

Downsides: Its super streamlined design may leave you wanting more in the way of additional storage features. 

IceMule Classic Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag

This soft cooler has a simple, collapsible construction. Don't expect fancy hooks or extra pockets - this cooler features only a padded cross-body strap and hours of ice retention. Perfect for folks with limited storage, or anyone who's always on the go, it's designed to roll right up and be stowed away when not in use. And, because it's waterproof and buoyant (thanks to the valve that adds air to the insulation layer), you can take it right into the water with you. 

Just bear in mind that, because of the top-roll closure, accessing drinks at the bottom of the cooler when it's full may be challenging. And, to avoid any leaks, make sure to roll the top correctly and securely. 

Published price:

Volume: 10.6 quartsDimensions: 9 x 9 x 18 inchesWeight: 1 pound

Upsides: You'll be able to store large amounts of food and drink in this soft cooler with its detachable cart, which is perfect for those long trips or big families.

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze

Downsides: The zipper isn't leakproof.

If you prefer to travel with a wheeled cooler, rather than a hand-carried one, this heavy-duty soft cooler is an ideal choice. It comes with a cart featuring wheels that can handle any terrain along with a retractable handle, so you can easily pull your items without any added weight on your shoulders. And if you have a day when you don't need the cart, you can easily detach it and use the adjustable shoulder straps or side carry handles instead. 

This cooler has a pair of compartments which can accommodate up to 60 cans, according to the manufacturer. It features a high-performance insulation, a radiant heat barrier, and a triple-layer base to keep your drinks and food cool for up to three days. Just remember that the zipper isn't leakproof, so make sure to keep the cooler upright to prevent seepage. 

Published price:

Volume: 60 cans; 100-pound capacityDimensions: 14.75 x 15.5 x 19 inchesWeight: 6.75 pounds"

This soft cooler has ample room, with enough space to accommodate up to 60 cans or 100 pounds of food or equipment. While it's a little heavy, it's worth the weight for its impressive cooling capabilities. 

This cooler boasts a combination of high-performance insulation, a radiant heat barrier, and a triple-layer base. While the cost is a little on the high side, this is a rugged, heavy-duty piece of equipment built to last. And though it might be a little cumbersome to carry around, the reward is ice retention that lasts for days on end. You'll want to make sure the cooler is kept upright, however, since the zipper isn't leakproof.

Our top pick for a soft cooler is the RTIC Soft Pack Cooler, which offers a winning combination of portability, performance, and durability. For those in search of a backpack soft cooler, we recommend the Hydro Flask Escape Backpack Cooler due to its stylish and thoughtful design, as well as its superior functionality.

Soft coolers vary in terms of type, number of layers, and insulation efficacy. Even if you're not an insulation expert, you can examine the manufacturer's description to see how long the cooler can keep items cool or retain ice. Manufacturers may provide an estimate in hours or days, but be aware that this can fluctuate depending on various factors such as the contents, packing, and external weather conditions. For example, if you don't require multi-day ice retention, it's perfectly acceptable for a soft cooler to maintain coolness for only 24 hours.

Determine the intended usage of your soft cooler to choose the size and capacity that will best suit your needs. Manufacturers may express capacity in quarts, liters, or the amount of cans or ice that can fit. For individual meals, you may choose a 15-quart capacity or smaller. For day trips or short adventures with several people, a 20-30 quart cooler will suffice based on your packing needs. Once you exceed the 50-quart capacity range, you'll enter into large-capacity territory best suited for more extended trips or large outdoor events.

When selecting a soft cooler, consider your intended usage to determine the ideal design. For instance, if you plan to bring cold drinks on a hike, you might opt for a backpack or collapsible cooler for ease of use and storage. Conversely, if you need to transport several drinks for a camping or tailgating experience, a tote or cooler on wheels would be a better pick. Always consider how much you'll be moving with the cooler (whether on foot or by vehicle) to avoid inconvenience.


  • Should I choose a soft-sided or hard-sided cooler?

Both types are ideal for maintaining a refreshing temperature. The decision should be determined based on your needs. Soft coolers are generally lighter and more portable, characterized by flexible materials that lend themselves well to backpack designs or collapsible designs that can be stored with ease. Hard coolers are tougher, meant for harsher weather and are made from hard plastic, guaranteeing insulation. However, they are heavier than soft coolers.

How long will my soft cooler remain cold?

Different models of soft coolers have different durations for keeping drinks and food warm. Depending on the type of insulation and materials used, the length of time varies. To keep your soft cooler cool for the longest time possible, keep the lid closed as often as you can and place it out of direct sunlight. Use cold or frozen items when packing instead of those at room temperature to keep the temperature low.

Can I put dry ice in a soft cooler?

While putting ice in a soft cooler can lower temperatures, dry ice is much colder. However, many soft coolers do not accommodate dry ice because it can damage them or pose safety hazards. If your soft cooler works with dry ice, always make sure it's in a well-ventilated area. When dry ice melts, it turns into carbon dioxide gas, which can cause negative health effects without proper ventilation.

Cindy Brzostowski, a freelance writer and cookbook publishing expert assessed and studied the market to select the best soft coolers discussed in this article. She is an avid home cook, and her writing has featured in Allrecipes, Blue Apron, The Kitchn, EatingWell, among other publications.

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