These Are the 12 Best Portable Refrigerators of 2023
Features of a professional backpack
Excellent cold endurance
Version that is lighter than the Hopper BackFlip
No waist or sternum straps
This spring, Yeti formally replaced its infamous Hopper BackFlip 24 with the Hopper M20, and overall, we think it's an improvement. First, the M20 has the same credentials for insulation as its forerunner. We put a small bag of ice in it with some cold drinks, and even at temperatures around 70 degrees, it took 30 hours for the ice to completely melt. For about 48 hours after the ice had completely melted, our drinks remained cold.
The most noticeable improvement is that Yeti replaced the zipper with a magnetic closure. All of us support it. If you've ever used a Yeti cooler or one similar from another brand, you probably are aware of how difficult the zipper can be to open and close, especially in the first few months of use. Even though Yeti provides the zipper lube, it can still be annoying. We enjoy how simple the magnetic closure is to use. We shook it upside down and threw it down a steep hill, and we had no problems with objects flying out of the top thanks to the additional clips.
The M20's size and weight are also appealing to us because they make it easier to transport and pack into a car than the BackFlip. Our minor criticism is that there are no sternum or waist straps (which undoubtedly helps reduce weight). Without the weight distribution provided by waist straps, longer approaches are particularly uncomfortable
However, Yeti keeps winning the cooler game. We adore this cooler and are grateful that it costs a little less than the Hopper BackFlip.
Price as of publication: $325
18 cans with a 2:1 ice-to-can ratio, capacity; size: 18 5 x 9 5 x 18 75 inches | 4 pounds 8 poundsNathan Allen and TripSavvy
Lightweight, foldable, and comfortable for the shoulder
Poor cold-retention for 24 or more hours.
We highly recommend the Icemule Classic if you're looking for a foldable and sturdy option at a lower price. Comparatively speaking, it isn't as comfortable on the back as Yeti's Hopper BackFlip. Additionally, it didn't maintain the cold as well (the cooler's interior temperature increased by about 18 degrees between two hours and 24 hours after adding ice, compared to the Yeti's rise of only 7 degrees). However, our testers praised the Classic's comfort when worn on one shoulder, its lightness, and its durability.
For a robust exterior, Icemule uses a proprietary material it refers to as "MuleSkin." This is combined with a "PolarLayer," a different proprietary insulation. We discovered that this wasn't true, despite Icemule's claim that the combination will keep ice solid for up to 24 hours. Nevertheless, we don't believe there is a better soft cooler on the market for its price.
Price as of publication:
12 cans total, including ice, in size 10 25 x 10 25 x 18 inches (when closed) | N/ATripSavvy / Tamara Staples
Although more expensive options like Yeti perform better than less expensive alternatives, many people use soft coolers for such a short period of time that the additional cost for the improved performance is hardly justified. Do you need ice to last for three days if your drinks need to remain chilled until the end of the game?
Although it may not be a status symbol and it won't keep ice for days, this Igloo MaxCold soft cooler is a reliable option that won't break the bank. The removable stiffer insulative liner provides some structure and gives you assurance that your sandwiches won't be crushed the moment something bumps up against the cooler. The soft exterior holds the liner.
The 1 A 12-gallon container is the perfect size for a small group's lunch because it can hold about a dozen 12-ounce cans. This Igloo offering is lightweight—under a pound—in contrast to more expensive, multi-day soft coolers, which can weigh 5 pounds or more, making it simple to grab and go.
Price as of publication: $30
Ability: 4 5 quarts | 10 in. 5 x 10 75 x 7 75 inches | 0 pounds 95 poundsTripSavvy / Tamara Staples
Strong retention of cold
The harshest conditions for coolers can be found at the beach due to the direct sun, high temperatures, sand, and water. Sadly, the majority of beach tote coolers are not serious coolers and put aesthetics before functionality. Fortunately, Orca's Walker, which comes in a stylish over-the-shoulder soft cooler tote, performs cooling. The cooler is constructed with welded seams, a hard rubberized bottom, and a stiff canvas cover similar to an inflatable paddleboard. While soft and flexible enough to carry, the dense insulation also gives it structure so that it maintains its rigidity and safeguards the contents.
While we tested during cooler fall temperatures, the Walker provided days of ice retention as opposed to the hours we received from weaker bag-style soft coolers. In direct sunlight and high temperatures, those times would be shortened, but the Walker's thick walls are more than sufficient for a day at the beach. After filling the tote with ice in our lab, the temperature actually decreased there by 8 degrees over the course of two to 24 hours.
It's not so big that you hate carrying it, and it only weighs three pounds. It's tall enough for wine bottles and can carry about 18 cans with ice. 6 pounds empty The magnetic handle closure was also fantastic.
Price as of publication: $180
18 cans with ice; capacity; 15 x 9 5 x 15 25 inches | 3 pounds 6 poundsTripSavvy / Tamara Staples
Storage with compartments
Look no further for drink pushers. Most soft coolers are designed for carrying cans, and their capacities are measured in can increments. To mix drinks away from home, whether at camp, on the beach, or on a boat, the RovR KeepR focuses on mixology and has an open-top bar cart soft cooler. In contrast to most soft coolers, the KeepR is designed to hold the IceR double-wall stainless steel ice bucket. The IceR is encircled by adjustable pockets that are not designed to retain cold. However, for keeping bottles cold for a shorter amount of time, we advise purchasing the ChillR ice pack inserts that are sold separately.
The KeepR is a great drinks caddy, but it's also a great option for a picnic because you can still carry ice for cold drinks while using the compartments for utensils, dishes, and food for two or a small group. Even smaller SnackR food containers, which can keep food either hot or cold, are available from RovR and fit neatly inside the IceR. Our testers found it comfortable to carry by hand and appreciated how the ice that had congealed in the center helped to balance the weight.
Price as of publication: $160
Size: 12 x 11 x 11 inches; weight: 5 pounds; capacity: 10 liters.TripSavvy / Tamara Staples
If not in use, collapse
Only 24 hours of cooling are allowed.
A necessity for river trips are dry bags and large, hefty hard-sided coolers. Essentially combining the two, the Icemule Pro is an insulated, tough dry bag ideal for a day on the water. The Icemule Pro has a roll-top closure similar to a good dry bag that, according to the manufacturer, won't let water in or out and enables you to trap air inside for added insulation. When inverting the cooler, one of our testers noticed a small leak from the roll-top closure. It also has the additional benefit of making the bag float, which is significant on water.
The IceMule Pro only provides a single hot day's worth of extreme ice retention; it cannot provide multiple days' worth. It collapses much more easily when empty than stiffer, softer coolers designed to keep ice for several days—a crucial quality for saving space in a boat or on a pack. When not in use, stiffer soft coolers take up the same amount of space as collapsible coolers. We tested the 33-liter extra-large and the 23-liter large sizes, which are likely sufficient for the majority of people's day trips. We also discovered the Icemule Pro to be a great addition to grocery trips to keep chilled and frozen goods in my car, though this is perhaps not its most exciting use.
It was comfortable to carry because of the padded straps and chest and hip straps, which also helped to evenly distribute the weight. Additionally, our testers favored the water-draining spout.
Price as of publication: $100
Size: 17 x 14 x 11 inches; weight: 3 pounds; capacity: 23 liters.TripSavvy / Tamara Staples
Comparable performance to other top coolers, but more affordable
Fantastic for road trips
Although more affordable, the RTIC Soft Pack Cooler resembles and looks like a Yeti cooler. Additionally, the RTIC's performance hasn't changed much. The insulation is improved by a 2-inch closed-cell foam; in our lab test, it only increased the temperature by about 11 degrees between two and 24 hours of being filled with ice (as opposed to about 7 degrees for the comparable Yeti we tested).
We appreciate that the cooler floats in the water, is spill- and leakproof, and comes in four sizes despite the fact that our testers noted that it is big, heavy, and not the easiest to carry around. It's also the perfect size for a road trip because it can fit easily into a car while still holding enough food and drinks for a few people. On a road trip from California to the Midwest and back to California, we enjoyed using this cooler and thought of it as the ideal cooling copilot.
Price as of publication: $130
Size: 12 x 10 x 8 inches; Weight: 2 pounds; Can Capacity: 12, 20, 30, and 40TripSavvy / Tamara Staples
Powerful and tenacious
The magnetic split handle is a useful addition.
Did not hold ice as effectively as the comparable Yeti Hopper
Like RTIC, Orca has modified the Yeti Hopper's popular soft cooler design to suit their own purposes. In addition to having a nearly identical appearance to Yeti's Hopper, it also shares the latter's robust design, including thick walls for insulation, a robust denier exterior, and an attachment system. However, Orca has made improvements like the magnetic split handle and some cutting-edge welding adapted from the building of whitewater craft. As a result, we have one of our favorite coolers that could likely survive a drop from a five-story building with little damage.
Although it resembled a Yeti and had insulation that was slightly thicker on its lid (by half an inch), it didn't quite perform as well as the Yeti Hopper. In contrast to the Yeti, the Orca had some solid ice left over after our 24-hour ice test. The internal temperature of the Orca rose by roughly 13 degrees in comparison to the Yeti's 6 degree increase over the course of 24 hours. However, the Orca is a good substitute if you're looking for a cooler with the durability, good looks, and design of a Yeti but don't want to spend quite as much (we don't blame you).
Price as of publication: $200
Size: 14 | 20 cans capacity 5 x 11 x 13 25 inches | 3 pounds 6 poundsTripSavvy / Nathan Allen
Top of the line in terms of cold and ice retention.
Excellent size for a couple's overnight stay or a day trip for a few people.
The shoulder strap's padding could use some improvement, according to testers.
Among soft coolers, the Yeti Hopper Flip series is a classic. Yes, it is pricey. But if you don't drop it off the Grand Canyon's south rim, you'll probably have this cooler for a very, very long time. With plenty of ice and 20 cans, we had no trouble filling the cooler. And unsurprisingly, at the end of our 24-hour test, it had some of the best ice retention and coldest temperatures. Thanks to Yeti's infamous closed-cell insulation, which keeps temperatures inside the Hopper Flip from rising more than 6 degrees in a day,
Our testers appreciated the cooler's size and shape in addition to its capacity to maintain cold temperatures and ice for days. They also appreciated the cooler's leak-proof construction and two handles on either side of the body. The Hopper Flip's lack of padding and weight (it weighs about one pound) did not, however, impress them. 5 lbs more than the equivalent Orca Walker 20-Can)
We've gone on numerous fishing and fly fishing excursions with this cooler and a Yeti BackFlip 24. Because of its size and capacity to keep beverages cold all day, even in the hot sun, we prefer the Hopper Flip. For a group of three or four people to enjoy a few cans each throughout the day, it is the ideal companion and size.
Price as of publication: $300
20 cans with a 10 can capacity. 75 x 13 x 16 25 inches | 5 pounds 1 poundsTripSavvy / Tamara Staples
The large backpack cooler we found to be most comfortable
Incredibly tough and durable
Did not maintain ice and cold as well as the Yeti.
Although we haven't tried it (yet), we could probably throw this backpack cooler off the edge of a mountain and it would be fine. The Boss Backpack Cooler from Icemule is incredibly tough and has excellent insulation. One of our testers said, "The design reminds me of a single big backpack that people use for backpack travel." This sturdy yet comfortable backpack is made by Icemule using exclusive fabrics, welded seams, and extra-padded straps. Compared to other large backpack coolers, our testers found this pack to be more comfortable, largely because of the additional padding and chest and waist straps.
The Boss is very tough and comfortable to carry, but it didn't retain ice and cold as well as Yeti's Hopper BackFlip backpack cooler did. The Boss' interior temperature increased by 19 degrees over the course of about a day after we put ice in the coolers, while the Yeti's increased by just 7 degrees. And while the Yeti still had about half of its ice frozen, only about 20% of the ice placed in the Icemule remained frozen, according to our testers.
However, if you want a cooler that will keep your food and beverages cold while you go on a day hike and keep your shoulders and back comfortable, this is the one for you.
Price as of publication: $375
Size: 12 | Can Capacity: 24 5 x 9 x 25 inches | Unlisted weightTripSavvy / Tamara Staples
Pronounced cold retention
A design without zippers can be opened quickly.
For car camping and picnics, we adore the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze cooler. In addition to having some of the best cold-retention (more on that later), the Titan has some great features that make planning a picnic easier. We appreciate how the "HardBody" liner, which can also be used as a shelf or table, emerges from the cooler. We appreciate the side mesh pockets for storing cutlery, napkins, and other picnic essentials that don't require cooling. We also enjoy the bottle opener.
But the Titan's ability to retain cold astonished us the most. Better than both Yeti coolers we tested, the Titan's interior temperature increased by only 5 degrees over the course of about 24 hours after we added ice. Make sure the cooler remains upright during transportation because the lid's Velcro-like closure lacks a zipper. Additionally, even though it says it can fit 30 cans with ice, we were able to fit 20 cans with enough ice much more easily. But for your picnic outings, we were unable to find a significantly better option.
Price as of publication:
30 cans; 12 in. in size 25 x 8 x 12 25 | 2 | Dimensions 9 poundsTripSavvy / Nathan Allen
Outstanding cold retention
Excellent portability thanks to the shoulder strap and short handles on top.
Much fluid leaked from the zipper.
Among all the coolers we tested, Polar Bear's Original Nylon Soft Cooler was one of the most portable and best at maintaining cold temperatures. The bag's top short handles and attached shoulder strap were particularly well-liked by our testers. One tester said, "It feels like a large tote bag and carries like one." In our cold-retention test, the inch of high-density insulation performed admirably because the temperature inside the cooler only increased by about 2 degrees over the course of 24 hours and only about half of the ice melted.
One potential problem is that the cooler leaked a little bit from the zipper when being transported for lunch. When possible, we advise against holding it upside down. The cooler has four tie-down points that will assist with that during transportation in a vehicle.
Price as of publication:
Size: 20 x 15 x 6 | Holds 12 cans 2 pounds | Height: 5 inchesTripSavvy / Tamara Staples
The Yeti Hopper BackFlip 24 has established itself as the benchmark for contemporary coolers. The Hopper BackFlip 24 is one of their best, too. Yeti increases its capacity for holding cold by using closed-cell rubber foam. In addition, high-density fabric is used to further increase the Hopper BackFlip's durability. Despite their exorbitant price and among the most popular on the market, Yeti soft coolers are so well-liked due to their ability to maintain cold temperatures and sturdy construction. When we tested the temperature over a period of two hours and a day in our lab in Brooklyn, it only rose by seven degrees. The Hopper BackFlip had one of the best ice to water ratios when we were done testing.
According to Yeti, the Hopper BackFlip 24 can hold 20 cans with a 2:1 ice ratio. It was much simpler for us to pack 16 cans with enough ice. And although our testers noted that the cooler's exterior size made the interior feel smaller than it should, it still fit them securely and comfortably, especially when compared to other, smaller coolers we tested.
This cooler costs a lot. But it's worth its high cost if you think of it as your long-term cooler companion. It was appropriate at potlucks with friends and family, beaches, and camping trips that we've taken it on.Tamara Staples' TripSavvy
This cooler was a hit with our testers, Bison Coolers SoftPak (view at Amazon). We filled it to the recommended limit of 24 cans and still had room for ice and additional cans. Our test subjects liked the exterior's light color and waterproof nylon's ease of cleaning In addition, it has thick padding and a vinyl shell made of 1,000 denier. The testers favored the shape of the tote bag and how it closed on both sides. But they didn't like how the thinly padded shoulder strap dug into their shoulders.
If you didn't like the best lunchbox choice above, this less expensive Coleman could be a good backup. Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler (view at Amazon) The sturdy plastic insert, which was convenient to take in and out and helped the cooler maintain its shape, was also well-liked by our testers. They liked how it resembles a lunch bag. Additionally, they enjoyed how portable this was. But we struggled to fit more than six cans with ice, and when we tipped the container, water would leak out the side.
Our assessment of the Coleman 42-Can High-Performance Leak-Proof Soft Cooler was that you could find better coolers for the money. Not that this cooler is poor, mind you. It simply wasn't as effective as the others we tested. First, with barely enough room for ice, we could only fit up to 30 cans (rather than 42). The nylon exterior also quickly became dirty and marked up, despite the fact that our testers liked the interior's color and thick padding. When the cooler was tilted, some liquid also leaked through the zipper.
We had high expectations for this cooler bag because we recently adored Poler products and the distinctiveness and innovation in this particular bag (view at Sierra). However, we discovered that this two-in-one bag couldn't hold a camera and drinks at the same time. The thinness of the insulation and the degree of cooler leakage caused problems for our testers as well. One tester harshly described it as "comfy to carry but pointless as a cooler."
Lifewit Soft Cooler Bag: One reviewer aptly summarized this cooler as "super portable but not ideal with ice" (view at Amazon). In a nutshell: This cooler dripped a lot. When carried around our testing lab, it leaked. When slightly tipped, it leaked. If you choose to purchase this soft cooler, our tester advises using ice packs rather than loose ice to help reduce that leakage.TripSavvy / Tamara Staples
When compiling this list, we drew on our knowledge of the products, research from other websites that had already created lists of the best soft and backpack coolers, and hot products from well-known retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and REI. Some of these coolers have been used by our editors and experts for a number of years. Others we didn't know well They are all top sellers on significant e-commerce sites or have been featured on other websites.
In terms of prices, features, and specialties, we also wanted to choose a diverse list. From there, we bought the best 30 coolers we could find and brought them to our testing facility in Brooklyn.TripSavvy / Tamara Staples
In our Brooklyn testing lab, every cooler underwent rigorous testing. The coolers were then given to field testers so we could gain more knowledge. When possible, we filled the coolers to their stated can capacity and, after the cans were packed, we filled the coolers with ice. Once the coolers were full, we started testing their portability and toughness by pushing and pulling them off tables onto a concrete floor while moving them around the lab and up and down stairs.
By taking the interior temperature of each cooler two hours and 24 hours after filling them with cans and ice, we were able to measure the retention of cold and ice. Additionally, we looked at how much of the ice had melted after a day.TripSavvy / Tamara Staples
Comparing coolers can be challenging because it is difficult to compare cooling performance using a uniform metric. Some brands provide an estimate of how long ice will last, but this figure depends on a variety of factors, including the surroundings and the contents of the cooler. One company that doesn't guarantee the duration of ice in a particular cooler is Yeti. They are sincere and clear in their explanation: "We believe it is misleading to make specific claims about how long a cooler will hold ice due to all of the variables that affect ice retention, and because every adventure is different. ”
We discovered that, despite the fact that they are not standardized measurements, the majority of cooler companies' estimates of their cooling power are largely useful for rough comparison. Soft coolers that advertise 24-hour ice retention are typically less durable than those that advertise three days or longer. I find the estimates useful as a rough spec to determine where a cooler stands within the category, but you should never take these numbers as performance guarantees. You should assume that any claims about ice retention are best-case estimates and that performance will be worse in less-than-ideal circumstances, such as high temperatures and direct sunlight, because the stated numbers are frequently qualified, such as "keeps ice cold up to 36 hours."
If you've never looked for one before, the price tags on modern soft coolers might surprise you. The majority of premium products cost well over $100, and the very best ones cost $300 or more. Consider some of our more affordable suggestions if money is tight or you're not sure you need the best soft cooler on the market. Cheaper coolers are less expensive if you don't require cooling performance for several days, and they're frequently more comfortable to use and carry due to their more flexible structures and lighter weights. However, the most affordable options are generally not much better than a thick bag or backpack that you may already own because they don't always deliver much cold-retention.
A soft cooler's capacities are frequently listed in sheer storage capacity, which can be expressed in gallons, quarts, or liters. Many businesses also provide capacity information in terms of the number of cans, which can be simpler to understand.
Although the can measurement standard is useful, keep in mind that at least some of that volume will need to go toward ice. The amount of ice you put in a cooler is completely up to you and depends on the temperature you want the cooler's contents to be as well as the weather you'll be using it in. Just be sure to carefully read the specifications and assume that the maximum can carrying capacity listed is, in most cases, only for cans.
In comparison to hard coolers, the advantages of a soft cooler include flexibility, lighter weight, and portability. Even so, the advantages start to disappear as rigidity and insulation thickness are added to boost performance. Given that few manufacturers specify the thickness of their coolers' walls in their specifications, it can be difficult to determine how rigid or user-friendly a soft cooler may be from a product description. The best way to determine how comfortable and rigid a cooler is is to hold one in your hands, but you can use the listed weight as a good indicator of how thick the insulation is by using it as a proxy. The weight of many longer-lasting soft coolers ranges from 5 to 10 pounds, and it increases as you fill it with ice and heavy liquids. In order to balance weight and performance concerns in your purchasing decision, take into account how long you need a cooler to retain cold and how far you might be carrying it on an average outing.
Are soft coolers just as effective as hard ones?
Hard coolers frequently have extra-thick walls, rigid construction, and solid seals, which results in the best cold retention. Because they offer cold retention in a more convenient manner with coolers that are more flexible, lighter, and easier to carry, soft coolers are popular. Many can be carried over the shoulder or as a backpack. Heavy-duty hard coolers can only go so far without a vehicle because they typically require wheels or two people to hold them.
There is no "better" cooler. When you need prolonged cooling and don't need to carry them more than a hundred yards, hard coolers are a good option. In contrast to soft coolers, which are typically just bags, they are also excellent for use as seating when boating or car camping. Soft coolers are "better" if you need something lightweight or simple and don't require prolonged cold retention (more than a week). Some soft coolers can be compressed when not in use, saving space and making them ideal for constrained journeys where space is at a premium.
Decent ones don't The majority of contemporary soft coolers have robust mechanisms that close openings and watertight zippers and seals. The majority of high-quality soft coolers are also built without seams and other potential weak points in their construction.
However, hard coolers win the durability award, so if you have zero tolerance for leakage and want to abuse your cooler while still getting leak-proof performance, consider one for your requirements.
Action sports, health & fitness, and the outdoors are topics that Breckenridge, Colorado-based writer and videographer Justin Park covers. He depends on high-quality coolers in the field for everything from multi-day backpacking and hunting expeditions to straightforward road trips to weeks on Lake Powell in 100 degree temperatures. He currently prefers the Yeti BackFlip for on-the-go serious cooling and the Hydro Flask Day Escape 20L for quick road trips.
Outdoor gear editor for TripSavvy is Nathan Allen. He has used coolers his entire life and values their innovation, especially soft backpack coolers. Nathan has loved his Yeti Hopper BackFlip and Yeti Hopper Flip for a few years now, but the Icemule cooler packs mentioned in this roundup are quickly replacing them as his new favorites in some circumstances.
Testing was done in our Brooklyn lab by a group of editors and testers from TripSavvy and Dotdash Meredith's food-related websites, including Simply Recipes, Serious Eats, The Spruce Eats, and Liquor.
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