Discover the Top 8 Soft Coolers You Must Have in 2023
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Whether you're embarking on a short solo hike, a trip with the family to the beach, or fishing with your friends, every adventure calls for a cooler filled with plenty of food and drinks to keep you fueled. Compared to hard coolers, soft coolers (or soft-sided coolers) are often more convenient to travel with and store because they are lighter. From compact designs for individuals to family-sized options, there's a soft cooler to suit everyone's needs.
We've analyzed important factors like size, insulation, capacity, and intended use and have determined the best soft coolers currently available on the market. Continue reading to discover which ones have made our list and why they are worth investing in.
Pros: Not only is this colorful cooler lightweight and durable, but it also floats!
Cons: The zipper can be tricky to operate.
Although it is a soft cooler, this one features an additional layer of durability with its structured outer shell. Beneath that, you will find 2 inches of foam and a liner that is resistant to punctures and tears which keeps things insulated for up to 24 hours. One of this cooler's best features is how it floats, which means it can stay close to you if you're using it for a pool day or a lakeside vacation. When it's not floating, you can either carry it with the sturdy handle straps or by slinging the longer strap over your shoulder. One drawback, however, is that you may find the zipper difficult to open and close.
We recommend the 30-can size which offers a good balance of capacity and portability, but it is also available in 12, 20, and 40-can sizes. As for colors, there is a range to choose from: muted tones like bluish-gray and tan or vibrant options like citrus and coral.
Price at the time of publication: $130
Capacity: 22 quartsSize: 15.5 x 11.5 x 12.75 inchesWeight: 4 pounds
Pros: This affordable choice has an ample capacity and excellent insulation.
Cons: If it is not packed sufficiently in the bottom, the bag can collapse or fall over.
This value pick has an appealing price tag, particularly considering that it has a 25-quart capacity and is designed to remain cold for up to five days thanks to the 25 millimeters of insulation foam. That, coupled with the waterproof exterior's UV protective barrier, makes it a great companion for lengthier outdoor getaways.
Ensure your soft cooler stands up properly by packing the bottom tightly when adding snacks and drinks. You'll have two methods of carrying it; either hold it in your hand or use the padded straps to wear it as a shoulder bag, providing extra comfort.
Price at time of publish:
Capacity: 25 quartsSize: 17.5 x 10.4 x 13.8 inchesWeight: Information not available
Pros: Its durable exterior, comfortable carrying method, and suitable size create a leakproof and high-quality cooler suitable for various activities.
Cons: Regular zipper lubrication is necessary to keep it in excellent condition.
Yeti is a well-known brand in the cooler industry, and if you're ready to spend a bit, this soft cooler available in charcoal, navy, Nordic blue, and Nordic purple won't let you down. The insulation consists of closed-cell rubber foam, with a dense fabric exterior that prevents punctures and sun damage. The coolest part? The inside and outside of the cooler resist mildew. With HitchPoint Grid, you can spruce up your cooler by attaching accessories like carabiners and bottle openers. Slide it over your shoulder and you're ready to go.
This soft cooler has a unique leakproof zipper that maintains an airtight seal, but you'll need to apply the included zipper lubricant to keep it in top form. If you come across any issues, don't worry, as the product includes a three-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: $300
Capacity: Fits 30 cans or 28 lbs of iceSize: 17.7 x 11.5 x 13.8 inchesWeight: 4.5 pounds
Pros: The backpack cooler can hold multiple wine bottles, and your drinks remain chilled for days.
Cons: The zipper opening may not accommodate larger items, and it's pricey.
A backpack cooler is incredibly convenient. You can carry it on your back instead of using only one shoulder or your hands, minimizing effort while also being comfortable. It comes with padded straps, a cushioned back panel, and a chest strap, providing additional support and balance during long journeys.
Our experts praised this backpack cooler's leakproof seams, excellent insulation, and stylish design during our backpack cooler tests. You can use it to chill white wine bottles for picnics, retain beer or seltzers' freshness for football tailgates, and regulate ice-cold water when hiking. There's also a dry pocket for storing maps, protein bars, or anything else you want to keep dry. The only downside is that the zipper opening may not stretch to fit larger items such as food containers.
At the time of writing, this product has a retail price of $200. Its capacity stands at 20 liters, with dimensions of 8.47 x 18.52 x 18.12 inches, and a weight of 2.63 pounds. Some of its benefits include its compact yet lightweight design and ample organization options that make it quite convenient for everyday use. However, the side pockets cannot accommodate most water bottles, which may pose an inconvenience.
Are you searching for a cooler to carry your lunch or picnic food with you? This mini soft cooler may be perfect for your needs as it neither takes up much space nor weighs too much. Instead, it is just the right size to accommodate your lunch or a six-pack of cans. The mesh pocket inside the lid provides additional space for you to separate and organize your goods. Furthermore, you can tidy up your utensils, or napkins and condiments in the cooler's zippered pockets on the lid or back. Once you have finished, you can collapse the cooler and store it away easily.
Finally, you have the choice to leave the adjustable shoulder strap on or take it off and carry the cooler with your hands. Given its light weight, you should experience no problems transporting it anywhere you desire. Similarly, the cooler comes in navy, black, or green colors, allowing you to choose the one that aligns with your aesthetic preferences.
This soft cooler has a retail price of $45. Its capacity stands at 6.3 quarts, with dimensions of 10.5 x 7.5 x 6 inches, and it weighs 0.8 pounds. One of the advantages of this well-constructed soft cooler tote is that it comfortably fits across your shoulder, leaving your hands free for other activities. You can fit as many as 42 cans inside due to its capacity of 26 liters, and they will stay cool for several hours thanks to features like thick insulation, welded seams, and a durable polyester shell.
Not only is its design sleek and simple, but it also has an appealing gray color combo or teal one. The one downside may be that you need to exert some force with the zipper, but it is still excellent due to its leak-proof design. It's also worth checking out other soft coolers, and you can find the 10 best small coolers for everything from wine to camp cooking through the related hyperlink.
Price and Dimensions
Price when published: $180
This soft cooler has a capacity of 27.5 quarts.
The dimensions of this cooler are 13.7 x 23.6 x 9.8 inches.
This cooler weighs 3.04 pounds.
Pros and Cons
This soft cooler is highly portable and floatable making it a breeze to stow away. It features a padded cross-body strap, comes in many color options and can retain ice for hours.
The super streamlined design may leave some wanting more. Plus, it can be difficult to reach drinks at the bottom when it’s full due to its top-roll closure. Properly rolling the top closed is crucial to avoiding any leaks.
Price and Dimensions
Price when published:
This soft cooler has a capacity of 10.6 quarts.
The dimensions of this cooler are 9 x 9 x 18 inches.
This cooler weighs 1 pound.
Pros and Cons
This soft cooler comes with a detachable cart and is great for big families or long trips as it can hold up to 60 cans between the main and insulated front compartment. It features two wheels made for all terrains and a retractable handle for easy transportation.
The zipper is not leakproof, so it's important to keep the cooler upright to avoid any seepage.
Price and Dimensions
Price when published:
This soft cooler has a capacity of 60 cans or 100 pounds.
The dimensions of this cooler are 14.75 x 15.5 x 19 inches.
This cooler weighs 6.75 pounds.
Our top pick for a soft cooler is the RTIC Soft Pack Cooler, which strikes a perfect balance between portability, performance, and durability. If you're specifically looking for a backpack soft cooler, we recommend the Hydro Flask Escape Backpack Cooler for its chic and well-thought-out design and excellent functionality.
When shopping for a soft cooler, it's critical to consider factors such as the type, number of layers, and effectiveness of insulation. Even if you're no insulation expert, you can still check the manufacturer's description to determine how long the cooler will retain ice or keep items cool. Keep in mind that the duration of ice retention may vary depending on external factors like weather conditions and how the cooler was packed. Note that it's acceptable for a soft cooler to keep ice cool for 24 hours, depending on the intended usage.
Suppose you're planning on using the soft cooler for lunch at work or carrying food and beverages for the entire family on a camping trip. In that case, the intended use will determine the size and capacity of a soft cooler to purchase. Manufacturers may list capacity by quarts, liters, or simply the number of cans that can fit inside.
Generally, a 15-quart or less soft cooler is ideal for individual meals, while a 20- to 30-quart cooler is perfect for day trips, depending on the number of people and what's being packed. Once you hit the 50-quart mark, you're in large-capacity territory suitable for longer adventures or outdoor gatherings.
Before purchasing a soft cooler, consider your intended use to determine the best design. For instance, if you require a hands-free option to take cold beverages on a hike, a backpack or collapsible design may be most fitting. On the other hand, if you need to carry dozens of drinks for camping or tailgating, a tote or a cooler with wheels may be the best option. Always keep in mind the amount of movement with the soft cooler so that it doesn't become a burden.
- Should I get a soft-sided or hard-sided cooler?
While both coolers can keep your items cool, the choice between them depends on how you'll be using them. Soft coolers are lightweight, collapsible designs that are ideal for toting around regularly. They are perfect for sling or backpack designs, making them even more portable. They are, however, not as heavy-duty as the hard coolers, which are typically made from thicker materials to withstand harsher outdoor elements.
How long do soft coolers stay cold?
Soft coolers are made using different materials and insulation that determines how long each one will stay cold. Some can keep foods and beverages cool for 24 hours, while others last for multiple days. To keep your soft cooler cold for longer, ensure you seal it tightly and limit how often it's opened to prevent warm air from getting in. Placing the cooler in the shade and filling it with items that are already cold or frozen can also improve performance.
Can you put dry ice in soft coolers?
While it's tempting to use dry ice since it's colder than regular ice, most soft coolers aren't compatible with dry ice. Dry ice can damage the cooler or pose a health risk as it melts into carbon dioxide gas, which can cause someone to pass out without adequate ventilation. For soft coolers that are compatible with dry ice, follow the manufacturer's instructions and ensure sufficient ventilation.
Cindy Brzostowski, a professional freelance writer, and home cook with a background in cookbook publishing used her expertise and market research to help determine the best soft coolers for this article. Her writing has been featured in various publications such as Allrecipes, Blue Apron, The Kitchn, and EatingWell.
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