Discover the Top 8 Soft Coolers You Need in 2023

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Embarking on any adventure requires a sufficient supply of food and drinks to keep you energized. From short hikes to beach trips or fishing expeditions, soft coolers offer a lighter and more convenient option to their hard-sided counterparts. We have taken into account factors such as insulation, size, capacity, and intended use to compile a list of the best soft coolers on the market.

This particular colorful cooler provides a great balance of light weight, durability, and easy portability. Its structured outer shell protects the two inches of foam insulation, which can keep things cool for up to 24 hours. Additionally, the puncture- and tear-resistant liner ensures that the cooler lasts for a long time. One feature we particularly appreciated is that this cooler floats, making it an excellent pool or lake day companion. However, the zipper can occasionally pose issues.

RTIC Outdoors 30-Can Backpack

The cooler is available in different sizes and colors, making it ideal for people with varying needs. We recommend the 30-can capacity option, as it strikes a balance between portability and capacity. The sturdy handle straps and long shoulder strap provide easy and convenient transportation.

Another great option for a budget-friendly price is a large capacity cooler that can keep things cool for up to five days, thanks to its 25 millimeters of insulation. The UV protective barrier on the waterproof exterior provides additional protection from the elements. The only drawback is that, if not packed sufficiently in the bottom, it can slip or fall over.

Price at the time of publication for the colorful cooler is $130, with a 22-quart capacity, and a size of 15.5 x 11.5 x 12.75 inches, while the budget-friendly option offers 25 quarts of space.


To ensure your soft cooler stands upright, pack its base tightly with your preferred snacks and drinks. You have two carrying options; either hold it using one hand or wear it as a shoulder bag. Its customizable straps are padded to increase comfortability during longer periods of travel.

Price at time of publish:

Capacity: 25 quartsSize: 17.5 x 10.4 x 13.8 inchesWeight: Not listed

Advantages: This soft cooler is leak-proof and durable, perfect for various activities thanks to its suitable size. 

Disadvantages: Ensure consistent lubrication of the zipper to prevent damage.

With its recognizable name, Yeti has become synonymous with top-notch coolers. This soft cooler in charcoal, navy, Nordic blue, or Nordic purple does not disappoint, provided you are willing to splurge. It is insulated with rubber foam, effectively preventing any thermal leaks. Its exterior boasts dense fabric that is immune to against punctures and UV radiation. The interior and exterior are both mildew-resistant. The HitchPoint Grid allows for several accessory attachments meant for extra benefits such as a bottle opener or carabiner. Throw it over your shoulder and you are good to go. 

Yeti Hopper Flip 18 Insulated Personal Cooler

The leak-proof zipper is unique to this soft cooler. It maintains an ideal airtight seal, but to retain its efficiency, use the provided lubricant frequently. If you experience any issues, rest assured that the product comes with a three-year warranty.

Price at time of publish: $300

Capacity: 30 cans or 28 lbs of iceSize: 17.7 x 11.5 x 13.8 inchesWeight: 4.5 pounds

Advantages: This backpack cooler has a vast capacity, making it roomy enough for multiple wine bottles, and it can preserve drinks for days. 

Disadvantages: It is relatively expensive, and the zipper opening can be insufficient for larger items.

Hydro Flask Escape Soft Cooler

Carry all your items conveniently with a backpack cooler. Wearing it on your back distributes the weight evenly, thus, providing a comfortable trip. With padded straps, cushioned back panels, and chest straps, you will be well-supported during extended hikes or walks.

Our team of experts praised its sleek design, leakproof seams, and excellent insulation, making it the perfect cooler for keeping refreshments for sunset picnics, afternoons at football games, and cold water for hiking adventures. Additionally, there is a separate area designed explicitly for dry items like protein bars, maps, among others. The only drawback is that the zipper opening can be challenging to expand, meaning that it may not comfortably fit larger items like food containers.

Current Market Price: $200

Capacity: 20 litersDimensions: 8.47 x 18.52 x 18.12 inchesWeight: 2.63 pounds

Advantages: This small-sized cooler is light and compact yet offers ample organization options.

Disadvantages: The side pockets may not be large enough to accommodate most water bottles. 

L.L.Bean Soft Pack Cooler

Are you searching for a cooler to pack your lunch? No need to carry a bulky cooler designed for extended excursions. This soft cooler is the perfect size to store your lunch, picnic food, or a six-pack of cans. The interior mesh pocket on the lid allows you to organize your goods. You can place your utensils in one of the two side pockets and stash your napkins in the zippered pockets on the lid or back. For easy storage, you can flatten the cooler down. 

You can either leave the adjustable shoulder strap on or remove it for hand-carrying. The cooler is lightweight, making it easy to transport from place to place. You can choose from three color options: black, navy, and green. 

Current Market Price: $45

Capacity: 6.3 quartsDimensions: 10.5 x 7.5 x 6 inchesWeight: 0.8 pounds

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

Advantages: This deluxe and well-constructed soft cooler provides ample storage space and can be carried comfortably over your shoulder.

Hydro Flask 26 L Day Escape Soft Cooler Tote

Disadvantages: You may require some effort to open the zipper, but we appreciate the leak-proof design.

This large soft cooler tote can hold all your family's beverages, with its 26-liter capacity capable of storing up to 42 cans. The thick insulation, sturdy polyester shell, and welded seams help keep drinks cool for extended periods, even if you can't finish everything right away. While carrying more than 40 cans on your shoulder may seem challenging, the adjustable straps can help distribute the weight evenly. 

A blend of gray hues or teal color combination enhances the simple and elegant design, particularly because most soft coolers tend to have an overly tactical appearance. One downside may be that the waterproof zipper can be stiff to open and close, but this is normal for this type of zipper, and lubrication can help.

Current Market Price: $180

Storage Capacity: 27.5 quartsDimensions: 13.7 x 23.6 x 9.8 inchesWeight: 3.04 pounds

IceMule Classic Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag

Pros: It is incredibly easy to store this soft cooler due to its high portability and buoyancy.

Cons: The ultramodern design leaves users desiring additional features.

This collapsible soft cooler adopts a simple approach with no superfluous frills. It does not feature any extra hooks or pockets, but rather comes with a padded cross-body strap, various color choices, and is capable of retaining ice for hours. Given its ability to be rolled and stowed away when not in use, it is suited for people with limited storage space or are often on the move. Moreover, it is waterproof and floats, thanks to an air valve that inflates the insulation layer. This makes it ideal for carrying into the lake or ocean.

It is important to note that the top-roll closure design can make it challenging to reach drinks at the bottom, especially when it is full. Furthermore, the top must be correctly rolled down to prevent any leaks.

Current Market Price:

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze

Storage Capacity: 10.6 quartsDimensions: 9 x 9 x 18 inchesWeight: 1 pound

Pros: The detachable cart makes it perfect for large families or long trips, as it can accommodate a lot of items.

Cons: The zipper is not leakproof.

Just like when traveling, rolling luggage is more convenient than a backpack; therefore, a wheeled cooler may be preferable to one you have to carry. This heavy-duty soft cooler comes with a cart featuring two wheels suitable for all terrains and a retractable handle, making it easy to pull your items along without putting a strain on your shoulders. If you do not require the cart, simply detach it and use the adjustable shoulder straps or side carry handles instead.

The cooler has the capacity to hold up to 60 cans between the main compartment and the insulated front compartment. According to the manufacturer, it can keep ice for up to three days, which is quite impressive. The cooling features high-performance insulation, a radiant heat barrier, and a triple-layer base. However, the zipper is not leakproof, so ensure the cooler is kept upright to prevent any seepage.

Current Market Price:

Storage Capacity: 60 cans, 100 poundsDimensions: 14.75 x 15.5 x 19 inchesWeight: 6.75 pounds

The product features will be updated soon. Please stay tuned.

Our top pick for soft coolers is the RTIC Soft Pack Cooler, which excels in all aspects of portability, performance, and durability. On the other hand, if you're on the lookout for a backpack-style soft cooler, we recommend the Hydro Flask Escape Backpack Cooler because of its sleek design and outstanding functionality.

Insulation types, layer numbers, and effectiveness vary between soft coolers. Even if you're not well-versed in the technicalities of insulation, you can examine the manufacturer's details to ascertain the cooler's ice retention or cooling capabilities. Keep in mind that these estimations can fluctuate based on factors such as packing strategy, contents, and external weather conditions. However, it's acceptable if a soft cooler lasts for only 24 hours if you're not using it for extended journeys.

Do you want to pack meals for work or haul food and drinks for your family camping trip? Your intended purpose will determine the cooler's size and capacity required. Cooler capacity is often listed in quarts, liters, or cans of storage space.

For individual meals, a capacity of 15 quarts or less is good, while a 20- to 30-quart cooler should suffice for day trips. If you have a lot of people on board or are bringing more food and drinks, consider choosing a cooler with a 50-quart capacity or higher.

When picking a soft cooler, keep your requirements in mind to select a design that best suits your needs. If you want a soft cooler for a hike, go for a backpack-style or collapsible cooler so that you can stay hands-free. But if you need a cooler for camping, it's best to go for a soft cooler with wheels or a tote. Ensure you evaluate how much the cooler weighs and how much you might be carrying before finalizing your purchase.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Should I go for a hard-sided or soft-sided cooler?

Choosing to go for a hard or soft cooler is a matter of preference based on the intended use of the cooler. Soft coolers are lightweight and portable, which makes them ideal for everyday use. They have a flexible material that's great for backpacks or slings and collapsible designs are easy to store. Hard-sided coolers are tougher, and their rugged exterior can withstand harsh weather and wildlife. However, the thickness of their material increases their weight and reduced mobility.

How long can soft coolers keep food and drinks cold?

The duration for which a soft cooler remains cold varies by design. While some coolers retain insulation for several days, others maintain temperatures for 24 hours. The material used and the type of insulation incorporated determines the duration of the cooler. To ensure that your soft cooler stays cold when out, store it in the shade and limit how frequently you open it.

Can I use dry ice in a soft-sided cooler?

While regular ice in a soft cooler helps keep temperatures low, dry ice, which is colder, sounds like a better option. However, several soft coolers aren't compatible with dry ice and could cause damage or health issues. For coolers that do accept dry ice, ensure there's proper ventilation to prevent carbon dioxide gas buildup. Review the manufacturer's instructions to determine if dry ice is allowed for your soft cooler.

Cindy Brzostowski, a freelance writer and avid home cook, used her expertise and market research to identify the best soft coolers on the market. Her writing has appeared in Allrecipes, Blue Apron, The Kitchn, and EatingWell, among other publications.

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