Traveling on a Different Path

Traditional hard-sided coolers are at the forefront when it comes to retaining ice and durability. However, for individuals who don't require a week's worth of chilled food and beverages, a soft-sided cooler can be a viable alternative. Soft coolers, in comparison to their hard counterparts, are significantly lighter, easier to carry, and often save you a substantial amount of money. In this article, we will delve into the top soft coolers of 2023, ranging from robust waterproof options to collapsible designs that conveniently fold down for storage. For more comprehensive information, be sure to check out our detailed comparison table and buying advice featured in our comparison table and buying advice section. If your primary concern is cooling capabilities and durability rather than portability, we have also compiled a list of the best hard-sided coolers for your reference, found here.

Our Expert's Recommendations for Soft Coolers

Top Pick for Soft Coolers

1. RTIC Soft Pack Cooler 30 Can ($150)

Storage Capacity: 30 cans (including ice)Weight: 4 lbs. Other Sizes: 12, 20, 40 cansWhat We Like: A well-constructed and durable soft cooler available at an excellent price point.What We Don't Like: Only available for purchase online; fewer features compared to the YETI Hopper M30.

The finest soft coolers are sufficiently lightweight for easy transportation, capable of keeping contents cold for a day or two, easy to clean, and resistant to regular wear and tear. The RTIC Soft Pack Cooler 30 Can ticks all these boxes by combining effective insulation properties with practical features in a sturdy and high-quality package. The exterior boasts a noticeably thick and heavy-duty nylon shell, ensuring structural integrity. On the inside, 2 inches of closed-cell foam provide adequate insulation for day trips or weekend excursions. Additionally, this cooler has the added advantage of being buoyant, making it an excellent choice for activities like rafting and water sports.

However, no cooler is without its flaws, and after testing the RTIC Soft Pack, we did identify a couple of drawbacks. Firstly, like many soft coolers, the RTIC requires considerable effort and the use of both hands to open. Nevertheless, the zipper is robust, highly leak-resistant, and effectively seals in the cold. Secondly, the organizational layout is quite simple, consisting of only a single front pocket, limiting the cooler's versatility for picnics or when carrying smaller non-perishable items. Finally, it's worth noting that RTIC is a direct-to-consumer brand and sells its coolers exclusively online, which means you can't physically examine the Soft Pack before purchasing. Despite these minor downsides, the RTIC Soft Pack Cooler remains an impressively well-rounded and sturdy option. Check out the RTIC Soft Pack Cooler 30 Can here.

Superior High-End Soft Cooler with Exceptional Ice Preservation

2. YETI Hopper M30 Soft Cooler ($350)

Storage Capacity: Can accommodate up to 26 cans with iceTotal Weight: Weighs approximately 7 lbs.Other size options: NoneWhat we appreciate: Remarkable ice preservation for a soft cooler and meticulous attention to detail.What we dislike: Exorbitantly priced and excessive for most users.

YETI stands as the ultimate leader in the cooler manufacturing industry and is recognized for sparking the growth of the high-end rotomolded market. However, their range of soft-sided coolers is equally commendable, encapsulating the qualities that have propelled the brand's popularity year after year: meticulous attention to detail, impressive ice preservation, and a sleek and modern design. The top-of-the-line Hopper M30 is a prime example, combining thick insulation made of closed-cell foam with a rugged and durable exterior that evokes confidence and is highly resistant to snags and tears. During our testing of the Hopper M30, we were particularly impressed by the robust feel of the opening, which utilizes strong magnets for secure closure and quick-release buckles to prevent any leaks during travel. Another notable feature is the external design that's compatible with various add-ons such as the Rambler Bottle Sling or SideKick Dry Gear Case (sold separately), making it incredibly convenient and customizable. 

However, it is unfortunate that YETI's soft coolers do not offer significant cost savings compared to their hard-sided models. In fact, the Hopper M30 is priced higher than their similarly sized Tundra 35. Although it's true that the Hopper is considerably lighter than the Tundra (weighing approximately 13 lbs. less) and much more convenient to carry, it falls behind in terms of ice preservation capabilities. Additionally, while the M30's magnet-equipped opening is undeniably sturdy, it is also inflexible, which makes loading and cleaning a rather laborious task (we prefer the wraparound zipper found on their smaller Hopper Flip models). Lastly, even when empty, the M30 remains large and bulky and lacks the compressibility found in softer and more malleable options like the Hydro Flask 20 L Insulated Tote or REI Pack-Away 24. Nevertheless, the reputation of the YETI brand speaks for itself, and the Hopper M30 is a suitable choice for dedicated day trippers and weekend adventurers who prioritize portability, durability, and maintaining cold temperatures.View the YETI Hopper M30 Soft Cooler here

Finest Affordable Soft Cooler

3. AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas Cooler ()

Storage Capacity: Can hold up to 24 cans with iceTotal Weight: Weighs merely 2 lbs.Other size options: 12, 36, and 48 cansWhat we appreciate: Compact and straightforward design that excels during day trips.What we dislike: Canvas construction is less durable and water-resistant compared to many other choices available. 

For individuals on a budget who simply require a no-frills, portable soft cooler for day trips, the AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas is the ideal solution. Priced at (on Amazon at the time of publication), it boasts a compact and easy-to-carry design, a functional zipper closure that spans the entire length of the cooler, and a spacious exterior pocket suitable for storing an extra layer or valuable items. While it may not offer multi-day ice preservation (AO advertises a maximum of 24 hours) or vast storage capacity (up to 24 cans) like many competing products, the AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas is the perfect choice for short excursions to the beach or park, providing exactly what you need without any unnecessary extras.

What compromises must one make when choosing to save with the AO Coolers 24 Pack? Initially, the canvas construction, while suitable for many informal purposes, falls significantly short of the more high-end soft coolers featured on this list in terms of durability, water resistance, and ability to retain cold temperatures. Another drawback is the lack of carrying comfort: The shoulder strap is rudimentary and lacks padding and support for longer distances. Lastly, the 24 Pack is quite basic and lacks features such as daisy chain webbing or external attachment points for accessories. Nonetheless, considering AO's affordable price, these downsides may be considered acceptable, leading us to endorse it as the top budget choice of the year.

Discover the AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas here.


Best Insulated Tote:

4. Hydro Flask 20 L Insulated Tote ()

Capacity: 20L (approximately 10 cans with ice)

Weight: 1 lb. 5.1 oz.

Other sizes: 8, 35L

What we appreciate: It is a lightweight and economical alternative for short day trips.

What we find less appealing: It does not effectively maintain the coldness of its contents for extended periods (technically labeled as an "insulated tote").

Soft coolers fit within a niche category: they are not designed to keep ice cold for longer than a few days at most. Nonetheless, they can complement larger hard-sided models or serve as standalone options for those who only require a cooler to preserve lunch and beverages for a day. In the latter case, we highly recommend low-cost, minimalist designs like Hydro Flask's Insulated Tote. With a mere cost of and weighing just 1 pound 5.1 ounces, this Insulated Tote is an extremely affordable and lightweight choice for activities such as road trips, grocery shopping, trips to farmers markets, or short visits to the park or beach. It also compresses easily for storage, can be cleaned effortlessly (simply wipe down the interior), and possesses a waterproof and durable exterior that withstands regular use.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to have realistic expectations when it comes to designs like the Hydro Flask. Advertised as an "insulated tote," this bag has limited capacity (holding approximately 10 12-oz. cans with ice) and is only capable of maintaining the coldness of its contents for up to 4 hours (the shortest duration on our list, although our testing found this estimate to be fairly accurate). In other words, the Hydro Flask stretches the definition of a "cooler." Nonetheless, for many individuals, it proves more approachable and functional for day-to-day activities compared to larger, heavier, and costlier alternatives like the YETI Hopper M30 or RTIC Soft Pack mentioned above. Additionally, Hydro Flask offers a larger 35-liter variation, which costs and weighs 1 pound 10.4 ounces.

Explore the Hydro Flask 20 L Insulated Tote here.

Top Backpack Cooler

5. Hydro Flask 20 L Day Escape ($200)

Storage Capacity: Can hold up to 36 cans without ice.Weight: Weighs 2 lbs. 10.1 oz.Other sizes: No other available sizes.Positive features: A stylish and well-constructed backpack cooler that offers comfortable carrying even during long distances.Potential drawbacks: The small opening and limited external storage.

When it comes to easy transportability, backpack-style coolers are undoubtedly the top choice. Many of these backpacks, including the Hydro Flask 20 L Day Escape, have similarities with regular daypacks. In terms of comfort, the Day Escape's shoulder straps are adequately padded and provide excellent support even when loaded with ice, food, and drinks. Additionally, the handles located at the back and sides make it convenient to put on and take off. The waterproof exterior is another standout feature that can withstand rough use, and the outer lash points allow for secure attachment to a kayak or boat. Furthermore, we appreciate the smooth-operating zipper, which requires minimal effort to open, provides a reliable seal, and is easy to realign if it separates. Overall, the Day Escape's sleek design and well-rounded functionality quickly won us over, leading us to declare it the best backpack cooler of the year.

What are the downsides of the Hydro Flask Day Escape? Firstly, the opening is relatively small, making it challenging to fit larger items such as egg cartons through the top (in this regard, designs like the RTIC with wraparound openings are more favorable). Secondly, this cooler lacks zippered storage options, although the lash points and side water bottle pocket should suffice for most users. Lastly, there is no hip belt for transferring the weight to your hips, but considering that most individuals won't be carrying their cooler for more than a mile from the car, a full-on backpacking pack is not necessary. Nevertheless, the Day Escape is a thoughtfully designed and visually appealing backpack that performs well in terms of insulation, making it ideal for short trips to your favorite picnic spot or fishing location. If you prefer not to use the shoulder straps, Hydro Flask also offers the Day Escape in 18-liter and 26-liter versions, which resemble their Insulated Tote (but provide superior insulation capabilities). Explore the Hydro Flask 20 L Day Escape here

Top Packable Soft Cooler

6. REI Co-op Pack-Away 24 Soft Cooler ($50)

Storage Capacity: Can hold up to 24 cans with ice.Weight: Weighs 1 lb. 12 oz.Other sizes: Comes in 6-can and 12-can sizes.Positive features: Very affordable and can be easily folded flat for convenient storage.Potential drawbacks:

When it comes to soft coolers, collapsibility is a key factor that attracts many people, along with weight and portability. The appeal is obvious: instead of taking up precious space in your garage when not in use, a collapsible design like the REI Co-op Pack-Away 24 can fold down almost completely flat for easy storage. The Pack-Away measures just 1 inch in height when stowed away, and it features functional clips on the side that allow you to compress it down or change its shape from a cube to a tote.

Some of the standout features of the Pack-Away include its lightweight construction, weighing only 1 pound and 12 ounces, and its wide-mouth opening that provides quick access to the interior for easy loading. The liner of the cooler is easy to clean and is seam-sealed to prevent leaks. Plus, you can carry it comfortably using the top handles or the detachable shoulder strap. The packable design of the Pack-Away 24 is wrapped in a reasonably thick shell made of recycled polyester and nylon, which is also bluesign-approved, showcasing REI's commitment to sustainability.

However, there are a couple of downsides to be aware of with the highly collapsible design of the REI Pack-Away. First, its durability is not as impressive as more premium models like the RTIC Soft Pack or YETI Hopper M30, particularly when it comes to activities involving water sports or boating. Second, the ice retention of the Pack-Away is listed at 32 hours, but in hot summer temperatures, it may not last more than a single day or less. Lastly, some users have reported that the liner is prone to condensation buildup, although this is a common issue among leakproof designs. Despite these drawbacks, considering its price point, the Pack-Away 24 offers a great mix of compressibility, easy access, and value, making it our top choice for the best packable design of the year.

Moving on to another option, the ORCA Walker Tote stands out in the soft cooler market. It strikes a balance between smaller, lighter models and high-capacity picks, delivering better ice retention and more structure than minimalist and packable alternatives. During our testing, we were impressed by its functional and well-rounded build. It is highly portable thanks to the cushioned shoulder strap or the thick handle, which magnetically secures the two sides in place. The interior is well-insulated to keep contents cold throughout the day, while the exterior features sleek and durable construction with good structure, thick materials, and a sturdy base that protects the bottom. Additionally, the wide zippered opening provides a secure seal and easy access to the interior.

However, the ORCA Walker Tote falls short in terms of its relatively basic feature set. It only has one pocket at the front, although the pocket is waterproof and accommodates items like smartphones, keys, and small valuables. It would have been better if ORCA had included additional attachment points on the outside. It's worth mentioning that ORCA's standard Walker collection includes daisy-chain webbing and D rings for securing extra gear and accessories, but it comes at a higher price point and has a wraparound zipper that's more difficult to open. Nevertheless, if you can overlook the limited organization, the Walker Tote is one of the most versatile options available and is currently the preferred choice for short day trips.

To learn more or purchase the REI Co-op Pack-Away 24, click here.See the REI Co-op Pack-Away 24

Other Noteworthy Options

7. ORCA Walker Tote ($225)

Capacity: 18 cans (with ice)Weight: 3 lbs. 9.6 oz.Other sizes: NoneWhat sets it apart: Convenient access, exceptional durability, and versatile size.What to consider: Limited range of features.

The ORCA Walker Tote perfectly fills the gap in the soft cooler market. It is smaller, lighter, and more manageable than high-capacity options, such as the RTIC Soft Pack and YETI Hopper M30, while offering superior ice retention and more structural integrity than minimalist and packable models like the Hydro Flask Insulated Tote and REI Pack-Away. During our testing, we were impressed by the practical and well-rounded design of the ORCA Walker Tote. It is highly portable, thanks to the cushioned shoulder strap and secure thick handle. The interior is well-insulated, ensuring your items remain cold throughout the day, while the exterior boasts sleek and durable construction that provides solid structure, using thick and premium-quality materials. The sturdy base further enhances protection for the bottom of the tote. Additionally, the wide zippered opening creates a secure seal and enables easy access to the interior.

However, the main drawback of the ORCA Walker Tote is its relatively basic set of features. It only includes one waterproof pocket at the front. Although this pocket efficiently accommodates items like smartphones, keys, and other small valuables, we wish ORCA had added extra attachment points on the outside. It's worth noting that ORCA's standard Walker collection adds daisy-chain webbing and D rings along the front for attaching additional gear and accessories. However, this version comes at a higher price point and features a wraparound zipper that may be more challenging to open. Ultimately, if you can overlook the limited organization, the Walker Tote stands out as one of the most versatile choices on our list, and it is currently the preferred option for short day trips.

To learn more or purchase the ORCA Walker Tote, click here.See the ORCA Walker Tote

8. Engel HD20 ($200)

Storage Capacity: 24 cans (including ice)Weight: 3 lbs. 8 oz.Alternate Size: 30L (48 cans)Positive Aspects: Among the most durable options available.Negative Aspects: Excessive durability for most applications.

YETI's Hopper M30 is widely regarded as the top-tier soft cooler, but Engel, based in Florida, offers a competitive and significantly more affordable option with their HD20. Despite a slight decrease in capacity, purchasing the HD20 will save you a hefty $150 compared to the M30. It boasts a welded construction (in contrast to the sewn constructions of most competitors) that effectively seals in cold and prevents leaks. The HD20 is incredibly sturdy with its 840-denier shell, reinforced with TPU film on the front and back. It can be comfortably carried using the thick handles or the well-cushioned shoulder strap. A small, considerate addition is the integrated bottle opener, which is not commonly found in the soft cooler market but has proven to be useful on multiple occasions. 

Engel clearly prioritized ice retention in their HD collection, evident in the welded construction, sealed zipper, and vacuum valve on the side that allows for the removal of excess air prior to use. During our testing of the larger HD30 model, which is essentially identical but currently low in stock, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the cooler sealed tightly, given its zippered opening. However, the ice did not remain frozen for as long as expected. Engel claims that the cooler can retain ice for three to four days, but during our testing in Utah, it only lasted around 48 hours. Opening the cooler requires considerable force: the zipper is noticeably stiff and requires lubrication to function smoothly (Engel provides a small tube for this purpose). Additionally, the buckle-equipped "wings" on the sides add to the effort required to open the cooler. However, these features contribute to its leak-proofing capabilities, making the Engel a particularly suitable choice for water-based activities such as kayaking, paddleboarding, rafting, and more.View the Engel HD20

9. YETI Hopper Flip 12 ($250)

Storage Capacity: 13 cans (including ice)Weight: 3 lbs. 1.6 oz.Alternate Sizes: 8, 20 cansPositive Aspects: A lighter and more affordable alternative to the M30 above. Negative Aspects: Limited capacity and still quite expensive.

YETI's Hopper M30 is the epitome of high-end soft coolers, but it may be overbuilt and overpriced for many individuals. That's where the Hopper Flip 12 comes in – it retains most of the features we love about the M30 but in a lighter, more cost-effective package. Like its pricier counterpart, the Hopper Flip 12 utilizes the durable DryHide shell, known for its exceptional toughness and tear resistance. It is also well-insulated with thick closed-cell foam and includes YETI's HitchPoint grid, making it easy to attach accessories like a bottle opener or a dry gear case. Unlike the M30, the Hopper Flip 12 has a user-friendly zipper opening that is wide, fully leakproof, and provides unrestricted access to food and drinks, making loading and unloading a breeze.

The YETI Hopper Flip 12, priced at $250, doesn't offer great value. While it is $100 cheaper than the top-end Hopper M30, its capacity is limited, only fitting about 13 12-oz. cans with ice. In comparison, the RTIC Soft Pack 30 offers more than double the storage space for a significant $100 savings, without compromising quality. The Engel HD30, which is $10 cheaper and a larger variation of the HD20, can hold a whopping 48 cans. Although the Hopper Flip 12 is suitable for a day at the beach or a quick paddle, its high price and small capacity place it in the middle of the pack.

10. ICEMULE Classic Medium 15L ()

Storage Capacity: 12 cans (with ice)Weight: 2 lbs.Other sizes: 6, 9, 18 cansWhat we like: Highly durable and completely waterproof, making it ideal for water activities.What we don’t: The collapsible design lacks structure.

ICEMULE specializes in coolers and offers a competitive range of soft-sided and backpack options. The flagship Classic series, particularly the Medium 15L model, impressed us the most. It is the perfect size for a quick afternoon outing or a full-day adventure. The cooler features a strong and well-cushioned strap for crossbody carry and is built like a robust dry bag, capable of withstanding scratches, scrapes, and rough conditions commonly encountered outdoors. Water sports enthusiasts will appreciate the integrated air valve near the top, which allows additional air to be added to the insulation layer, increasing buoyancy. (ICEMULE claims it will float even when full, although this hasn't been tested.) When it's time to pack up, the same valve can be used to release air and roll up the cooler for easy travel.

To reduce weight and materials, some soft coolers like the ICEMULE Classic lack structure. While this can make it feel a bit disorganized when improperly loaded, it can be compressed with the roll-top closure. This design choice also means it has less insulation power, although it still manages a respectable 24 hours of ice retention in its category. The 15L model may be smaller in size, but its 12-can capacity is adequate for most day trips. However, if you need more space, ICEMULE offers an 18-can variation for . The standout feature of the ICEMULE Classic is its value. It significantly undercuts most competitors in price while still delivering solid performance and functionality, earning it a respectable position in the middle of our rankings this season.

11. Hydro Flask 20 L Carry Out ()

Storage Capacity: 38 cans (without ice)Weight: 2 lbs. 8.3 oz.Other sizes: 20 cans (12L)What we like: A balanced option in terms of price and overall performance.What we don’t: Doesn't excel in terms of style or features.

The 20 L Carry Out Soft Cooler from Hydro Flask is the third design on our list this season. It sits right in between their Insulated Tote and the Day Escape backpack-style cooler. Priced at only , the Carry Out is the largest option available, with a capacity of 38 cans (without ice). Its wraparound zipper allows for quick and easy access and cleaning. In terms of insulation, the Carry Out performs admirably for its price. It can keep ice frozen for up to 24 hours, which is 20 hours longer than the Insulated Tote and only 12 hours less than the more expensive Day Escape, which costs $110 more. The Carry Out also features a durable and water-resistant exterior made from thick (600D) material, along with welded seams to prevent spills and splashes. Additionally, it has a convenient stash pocket at the front and webbing loops to attach Hydro Flask's Dry Storage accessories, making it a great value for what you get.

Overall, the Hydro Flask Carry Out strikes a fantastic balance in the soft-sided cooler market. While it is slightly more expensive than budget options from AO Coolers, Coleman, and Arctic Zone, it offers superior quality and cooling capabilities. On the other hand, if you're looking for better insulation performance and more features, premium options like the YETI Hopper M30 or Engel HD20 would be a better choice. These alternatives also provide more storage space. Compared to these designs, the Carry Out may appear less modern due to its subdued styling and limited color options. However, considering its price point, it's hard to be overly critical, and the Carry Out offers excellent value for money. For a smaller option suitable for personal use and quick day trips, you can also consider Mountainsmith's Cooler Cube, priced at $50.

Moving on to the RovR Products TravelR 30 Soft Cooler, it comes at a higher price of $250. With a capacity of 28L and weighing 4 lbs. 7 oz., the TravelR 30 offers more features and a higher-quality build compared to the RTIC Soft Pack mentioned earlier. RovR Products gained recognition in the wheeled cooler category with their RollR collection, known for their durability and ice retention. The TravelR 30 aims to make a mark in the soft-sided cooler market while retaining the sturdy build and attention to detail that made the RollR popular. Like the RTIC Soft Pack, it is well-insulated with high-quality closed-cell foam. The TravelR also incorporates heavy-duty materials to ensure longevity and features waterproof zippers and removable shoulder straps that are both comfortable and well-padded. Overall, it is a premium and thoughtfully designed cooler from the Boulder-based brand.

So, how does the RovR TravelR 30 differ from the RTIC Soft Pack 30? Firstly, the TravelR is more durable with its burly TPU base and welded seams. Secondly, it is more feature-rich, including a webbing system on the outside to secure extra gear and an antimicrobial liner for improved freshness (although it lacks an external pocket for storing small valuables). Lastly, the TravelR comes at a significantly higher price of $100 more than the RTIC. Despite the steep price jump, the TravelR is a promising addition to the market and stands out as one of the more visually appealing soft-sided coolers. It is also designed to accommodate RovR's KeepR, which is an insulated picnic basket with movable inserts for items like wine bottles, cups, utensils, and small food containers.

To learn more about the Hydro Flask 20 L Carry Out, click here: [link]

To learn more about the RovR Products TravelR 30, click here: [link]

13. Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze 30 Can ()

Capacity: The Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze 30 Can can hold up to 30 cans without ice.Weight: The cooler weighs 3 lbs. 10.2 oz.Other sizes: Arctic Zone also offers this cooler in sizes of 9, 12, 16, and 48 cans.What we like: This cooler is affordable and offers more features compared to the AO Coolers 24 Pack mentioned above.What we don’t: The build quality and cold retention are not exceptional.

Similar to the previously mentioned AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas, the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze 30 Can offers great value. Priced at an affordable on Amazon, this cooler has a spacious capacity of 30 cans, making it perfect for quick trips to the beach, local state parks, or even weekend adventures further away from home. One notable feature is the lid design, which doesn't require a zipper and opens easily for convenient access to food and drinks. Closing the lid is simple with the Velcro flap. Additionally, the cooler includes a plastic divider that effectively separates different types of items, such as cans and sandwiches or produce. The exterior of the cooler is well-equipped with zippered storage compartments, a mesh pocket on the side, a built-in bottle opener, and a bungee system on top for securing extra layers or towels.

However, it's worth noting that the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze's zipperless design doesn't provide the same level of insulation as some competitors, including the AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas. While Arctic Zone claims a three-day ice retention, many users find that the cooler only keeps items cold for up to a day in summertime heat. The cooler's overall build quality is also a compromise at this price point, with a cheaper feel and a thin plastic liner that may be prone to cracking over time. Nevertheless, considering the features and price, it's hard to find a better option. The Titan Deep Freeze is also available in roll-top, backpack, and wheeled versions for those who prefer a different style. View the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze 30 Can on Amazon

14. OtterBox Trooper 20 ($140)

Capacity: The OtterBox Trooper 20 can hold up to 28 cans without ice.Weight: This cooler weighs 6 lbs. 8 oz.Other size: If a smaller size is preferred, OtterBox offers a 16-can (12 qts.) version.What we like: The opening is generously sized, the base is heavy-duty, and the structure is good. What we don’t: The cooler is expensive, heavy, and the latch can be difficult.

As a competitor to the Walker Tote by ORCA, the OtterBox Trooper 20 aims to strike a balance between build quality, toughness, portability, and features. In our initial use of the Trooper, we quickly appreciated the spacious opening, which securely closes with a latch and allows for easy access to food and beverages. Another practical feature is the sturdy and durable base, which gives a similar feel to a hard-sided cooler (though it cannot be used as a seat like hard coolers can). Completing the set of features, the cooler includes a water-resistant exterior pocket for storing small valuable items, a built-in bottle opener, and a food-grade liner that is easy to clean. Despite its higher price, weight, and sometimes tricky latch, the OtterBox Trooper 20 delivers on its promise of quality and functionality. Explore the OtterBox Trooper 20 on Amazon

With that being said, the OtterBox Trooper 20 disappoints when it comes to its finer details. Although we appreciate its size and functionality, we found that the closure latch is quite finicky. The plastic construction tends to warp and flex when exposed to sun or cold temperatures, making it challenging to open and close. Additionally, the accessory mounting system is limited in compatibility with only a few add-ons that aren't particularly useful for most users. Furthermore, while it claims to retain ice for three days, we believe this estimate is overly ambitious. In favorable weather conditions, we estimate it can only last a day or two at most. Lastly, the OtterBox is on the heavier and more expensive end, weighing 6 pounds 8 ounces and costing $250. However, it is currently discounted significantly at $140 during the time of publication. If you manage to purchase it at the lower price, you probably won't be disappointed. But at its full MSRP, we believe most people would be happier saving some money by opting for the ORCA or one of the lighter and more collapsible designs mentioned above. [Check out the OtterBox Trooper 20 here](

### 15. [REI Co-op Cool Haul 24 ($130)](

**Capacity:** 24 cans (with ice)

**Weight:** 4 lbs. 7.5 oz.

**Other sizes:** 12, 18 cans

**What we like:** Impressive performance and features for its price range.

**What we don’t:** Does not have any standout qualities.

REI has established a reputation for delivering a remarkable balance between performance and affordability, and their Cool Haul 24 further solidifies this. For a reasonable cost of $130, you get a compact yet spacious design that occupies minimal trunk or backseat space. Its top and side handles, as well as the adjustable shoulder strap, make it highly portable. The Cool Haul 24 boasts a durable yet soft nylon shell, keeping its weight relatively light. Like many other soft-sided competitors, this REI cooler includes daisy-chain webbing for securing additional gear, as well as a convenient built-in bottle opener. The inner insulated box can be detached from the outer shell, allowing for effortless cleaning and the use of the shell as a tote.

Where does the Cool Haul 24 fall short? In a saturated market, it struggles to stand out. For instance, the AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas offers the same capacity at a lower price of around $45, albeit with slightly less impressive cooling capabilities. On the higher end, renowned brands like YETI, RTIC, and Hydro Flask provide better insulation and increased durability at a significantly higher cost. Nevertheless, the REI Cool Haul 24 is a reliable and affordable choice for small group outings. Please note that it is also available in smaller sizes, such as the [12-can and 18-can models]( ($100 and $110, respectively), for those seeking a personal cooler for work or short day trips. [See the REI Co-op Cool Haul 24 here](

Product Review: Cotopaxi Hielo 12L Cooler Bag

16. Check out the Cotopaxi Hielo 12L Cooler Bag here


12 cans (excluding ice)


1 lb. 9 oz.

Other sizes:


What we like:

Impressive packability and stylish design in a sustainably constructed package.

Where it falls short:

Pricier than expected for the features it offers.

The Hydro Flask 20L Insulated Tote is our top choice for a small soft cooler for day trips. However, the Cotopaxi Hielo 12L Cooler Bag is a popular alternative that excels in a few areas. Firstly, its design stands out with vibrant colors and a unique multi-color pattern, which is typical of Cotopaxi's renowned style. Additionally, Cotopaxi contributes to sustainability efforts by using repurposed materials in the manufacturing process, and their status as a climate-neutral, Certified B Corporation reflects their commitment to addressing social, environmental, and economic concerns. Lastly, the zippered roll-top closure of the Hielo makes packing quick and easy, even when the cooler is full to capacity.

However, the Cotopaxi Hielo 12L does fall behind the competition in certain aspects. Despite its appealing design and sustainability focus, the cooler's price of $105 is relatively high. For $40 less, the Hydro Flask Insulated Tote offers a thicker, waterproof exterior (although the Cotopaxi's liner is also waterproof). Additionally, the Hydro Flask version includes an external pocket for small valuables, unlike the Hielo, which only provides a side water bottle pocket. Furthermore, the Insulated Tote's standard straps are more practical compared to the Hielo's messenger bag-like shoulder strap and single grab handle, especially when the cooler is fully loaded. It's worth noting that neither cooler stands out in terms of ice retention. Despite these drawbacks, the Cotopaxi Hielo 12L remains a lightweight, portable, and visually appealing option for your outdoor adventures.

Product Review: Coleman 24-Hour 16-Can Cooler

17. Get the Coleman 24-Hour 16-Can Cooler here


16 cans

Other sizes:

Also available in 9 and 30 can sizes

What we like:

The most affordable cooler on our list.

What we don’t:

Not the most high-performing option.

Soft coolers can be quite expensive, exemplified by the YETI Hopper M30 priced at $350. However, if your cooler usage is limited to a few weekends during the summer, Coleman's 16-Can Soft Cooler Bag is a budget-friendly choice that can get the job done without breaking the bank. It's important to note that the Coleman cooler isn't the most high-performing option available. In terms of ice retention and durability, you shouldn't expect outstanding results. However, as long as you set reasonable expectations, the Coleman cooler will adequately keep your food and drinks cold for the day and offer good value for its affordable $25 price tag.

What caused the Coleman 24-Hour Cooler to finish last? Although many users have acknowledged that the cold retention exceeded their expectations for the price, it still falls short in terms of overall performance and build quality compared to other budget options like the AO Coolers 24 Pack and Arctic Zone Deep Freeze Titan. Additionally, it lacks the same number of features as the other coolers in this group, only having a single front pocket for storage and no leak-proofing along the liner. It's worth noting that the Coleman is the most affordable option among them (and on our list), priced around $30 to $40 less. However, we believe that most outdoor enthusiasts who use their coolers frequently throughout the season would benefit from spending a little extra.

Check out the Coleman 24-Hour 16-Can Cooler.

Soft Cooler Comparison Table

Cooler Price Capacity Weight Other Sizes Ice* RTIC Soft Pack Cooler $150 30 cans (with ice) 4 lbs. 12, 20, 40 cans 24 hours YETI Hopper M30 $350 26 cans (with ice) 7 lbs. None Unavailable AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas 24 cans (with ice) 2 lbs. 12, 36, 48 cans 24 hours Hydro Flask Insulated Tote 10 cans (with ice) 1 lb. 5.1 oz. 8, 35L 4 hours Hydro Flask 20 L Day Escape $200 36 cans (without ice) 2 lbs. 10.1 oz. None 36 hours REI Pack-Away 24 $50 24 cans (with ice) 1 lb. 12 oz. 6, 12 cans 32 hours ORCA Walker Tote $225 18 cans (with ice) 3 lbs. 9.6 oz. None 24 hours Engel HD20 $200 24 cans (with ice) 3 lbs. 8 oz. 48 cans 72-96 hours YETI Hopper Flip 12 $250 13 cans (with ice) 3 lbs. 1.6 oz. 8, 20 cans Unavailable ICEMULE Classic Medium 12 cans (with ice) 2 lbs. 6, 9, 18 cans 24 hours Hydro Flask 20 L Carry Out 38 cans (without ice) 2 lbs. 8.3 oz. 20 cans 24 hours RovR Products TravelR 30 $250 28L 4 lbs. 7 oz. None Unavailable Arctic Zone Titan 30 cans (without ice) 3 lbs. 10.2 oz. 9, 12, 16, 24, 48 cans 3 days OtterBox Trooper 20 $140 28 cans (without ice) 6 lbs. 8 oz. 16 cans 72 hours REI Co-op Cool Haul 24 $130 24 cans (with ice) 4 lbs. 7.5 oz. 12, 18 cans 65 hours Cotopaxi Hielo 12L $105 12 cans (without ice) 1 lb. 9 oz. None Unavailable Coleman 24-Hour 16-Can $25 16 cans Unavailable 9, 30 cans 24 hours *Editor's note: These times represent the claimed ice retention. In practical use and depending on specific circumstances, we have found that these times are actually lower. More information can be found in our "Ice Retention and Cooling Capabilities" section below.

Tips for Buying a Soft Cooler

Our Perspective on Soft Coolers: Functionality and Ideal Uses

Before we delve into the specifics, it's important to note that soft coolers have certain limitations. Unlike their hard-sided counterparts, which can keep food and drinks cold for extended periods of time (sometimes even weeks), soft coolers are not designed to maintain low temperatures for more than a few days at most. Additionally, they are generally smaller than hard-sided models, typically offering a maximum capacity of around 30 liters. Given these factors, soft coolers are not the best choice for lengthy outdoor adventures, but rather excel in weekend trips, day outings to parks or beaches, tailgating events, water activities, or quick errands such as grocery shopping. They can also serve as a useful supplement to larger hard coolers, providing extra space for additional food and beverages when camping with a larger group.

A selection of our preferred soft coolers

Furthermore, it is crucial to differentiate between collapsible designs and rigid soft coolers. In our experience, flexible and packable models like the Hydro Flask Insulated Tote (20 L) offer superior versatility and functionality compared to thicker, less adaptable options like the Engel HD20. Not only do rigid models lack drainage ports to eliminate excess water after the ice has melted, but they also cannot be compressed for storage when not in use (a significant advantage of soft coolers) and do not retain ice as effectively as hard-sided coolers. Additionally, rigid models tend to be more expensive than other soft-sided alternatives, raising the question of why not just invest in a similarly priced hard cooler. Granted, rigid designs like the Engel are still lighter and easier to transport than hard coolers, but it is important to consider the trade-off in terms of durability, insulation capabilities, and overall capacity when making your decision.

Rigid models like the Engel HD30 and ORCA Walker Tote occupy a significant amount of space.

Soft Cooler Sizes (Capacities)

It is important to note that not all coolers measure interior capacity using the same units. Some use cans as a basis for measurement, while others adopt liters, quarts, or gallons. Soft coolers are commonly measured in "cans" (quarts are typically used for hard-sided models), and we have used this specification throughout this article whenever possible. However, there are still some variations to be aware of, especially regarding whether or not ice is included in the estimated capacity. We have done our best to clarify this in the write-ups and comparison table above, but it is a crucial distinction to keep in mind when shopping for a soft cooler.

For reference, the largest option mentioned above is the RTIC Soft Pack Cooler, which can accommodate up to 30 12-ounce cans with ice. On the other end of the spectrum, Cotopaxi's Hielo 12L Cooler Bag is the smallest, with Cotopaxi estimating it can hold up to 12 cans without ice (roughly 8 cans with ice). In our experience, the ideal size often falls in the middle range, with many of our frequently used soft coolers providing room for approximately 18-24 cans with ice. These designs are perfectly suited for day trips or weekend getaways, manageable in terms of weight and portability, and do not take up excessive space in your vehicle or storage area.

The Insulated Tote from Hydro Flask (shown on the left) has the ability to hold approximately 10 cans with ice.

Ice Retention and Cooling Abilities

As previously mentioned, soft coolers do not excel in terms of ice retention. In ideal conditions, most soft coolers can only keep contents cold for a day or two at most. Several external factors play a significant role in this, including the temperature of the surrounding air, how frequently the lid is opened, the amount of sunlight the cooler is exposed to, and the ratio of ice to food (commonly recommended as 2:1 by most brands).

To maximize the performance of the cooler, it is suggested to pre-chill it by filling the interior with ice for a few hours before loading it. When ready to use, replace the pre-chilled packs or fresh ice in the optimal ice-to-food ratio along with your chosen beverages and food.

Most cooler manufacturers include a "claimed ice retention" specification in their product descriptions, although some, such as YETI, do not. From the examples above, the ice retention times range from 4 hours for the Hydro Flask 20 L Insulated Tote to 3-4 days for Engel's HD20 (with 24 hours being the standard). However, it is important to consider that these times provided by manufacturers may not accurately reflect real-world usage. The testing conditions may be too favorable, resulting in exaggerated ice retention times. A general estimation would be to expect approximately half of the claimed ice retention time in practical use, with some variation depending on individual circumstances.

Weight and Portability

One distinct advantage of soft coolers over hard-sided models is their significantly lighter weight, making them easier to carry around. Looking at the comparison table above, most soft cooler options weigh between 2 to 4 pounds, while larger and more durable designs can reach 7 pounds or more. For example, the YETI Hopper M30 is the heaviest model at 7 pounds, while the Hydro Flask 20 L Insulated Tote (1 lb. 5.1 oz.) and Cotopaxi Hielo 12L Cooler Bag (1 lb. 9 oz.) are the lightest options. Additionally, comfortable shoulder straps or grab handles greatly enhance portability, which will be discussed further below.

When empty, the YETI Hopper M30 can give the impression of being weighty and cumbersome when filled with food, drinks, and ice. Construction and durability are important factors to consider when comparing different soft coolers. One way to distinguish between models is to examine the denier (D), which measures fabric thickness. Rigid designs such as the YETI Hopper M30 and Engel's HD20 (both 840D) lead the pack in terms of durability. These designs feature tough exteriors that instill confidence, even when carrying sharp gear, and have proven to be highly resistant to wear and tear during testing. Another notable contender in terms of durability is RovR's new TravelR 30, which boasts a sturdy TPU base and welded seams, giving it a hardwearing feel. On the other hand, softer and more flexible options like Hydro Flask's 20 L Insulated Tote, Cotopaxi's Hielo 12L Cooler Bag, and REI Co-op's Pack-Away 24 may be less rugged and more prone to damage over time. Nevertheless, they are still reasonably well-made for most casual outdoor activities.

YETI's high-end Hopper M30 is undeniably strong and long-lasting. It is worth noting that there is often a close relationship between price and build quality. Options like the AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas, Coleman 24-Hour 16-Can Cooler, and Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze have noticeably cheaper constructions and components compared to their premium counterparts. While these options may serve adequately for day trips or occasional use, serious outdoor enthusiasts who plan to use their coolers regularly, particularly in water-related activities, will likely benefit from investing in higher-quality options.

The AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas offers decent construction for its price.

While many of the aforementioned coolers have highly water-resistant zippers or openings, only a few have fully waterproof constructions. One such exception is the ICEMULE Classic, which features a dry bag-like shape and exterior with a roll-top closure that can be fully submerged in water. This makes it particularly suitable for activities like kayaking or paddleboarding, where exposure to water is common. Additionally, it floats, providing added reassurance in rough conditions. RTIC's Soft Pack also falls into this category, and although it is not technically fully waterproof, its robust shell and leakproof design should hold up well if it gets submerged.

When it comes to price, there is a significant range among soft coolers, with prices ranging from as low as $26 for the Coleman 24-Hour 16-Can Cooler to as high as $350 for YETI's top-of-the-line M30. Spending more often correlates with increased durability, with top-tier designs such as the M30, Hopper Flip 12, Engel HD20, and OtterBox Trooper 20 featuring impressively thick and rigid exteriors that can withstand long-term use. However, even the least expensive options on our list are reasonably well-constructed and will suffice for a day at the beach or packing a lunch on the go, which may be enough for many individuals.

Engel's HD30 and YETI's Hopper M30 are two of the most luxurious designs available in the market. However, when it comes to soft-sided coolers, the difference in ice retention between models is not significant. This makes it difficult to justify spending a premium price for such models. While these high-end designs offer the convenience of portability without compromising on build quality, they are not worth the investment for most people. If you have the budget, it is advisable to go for a hard-sided model instead. Although this will add weight, the improved cooling capabilities and overall performance make it a worthwhile tradeoff for many.

On the other hand, affordable options like the REI Cool Haul and Hydro Flask Insulated Tote have their own appeal.

Now, let's discuss the various opening styles and closure systems of soft-sided coolers. Although they may not seem important, they have a significant impact on convenience and performance. The YETI Hopper M30, for example, has a magnetic opening that is rigid and requires effort to keep open while loading and unloading. In fact, there are dedicated YouTube videos discussing how to keep it open, with some suggesting using your elbow for support. Zipper-equipped options like RTIC's Soft Pack and Engel's HD20 also require force to operate the zippers, although the RTIC's wraparound design makes it easier to keep the lid open. The advantage of these styles is that they are often leak-resistant.

Some of our favorite opening styles include the roll-top closure on ICEMULE's Classic and the zipperless design on Arctic Zone's Titan Deep Freeze, which securely closes with strong Velcro. However, it is important to note that while these are easier to open and close, they provide less sealing and insulation compared to zippered designs. This makes them more prone to leaks. In the end, many people are willing to sacrifice a bit of usability in exchange for the added security, insulation, and leak-proofing of a robust opening.

The carrying straps and handles of soft coolers are another important factor to consider. These coolers are much easier to carry compared to hard-sided ones. Most soft coolers come with padded straps and thick grab handles, making it convenient to carry them over your shoulder or by hand. Premium models like YETI's Hopper M30, RTIC's Soft Pack Cooler, and Engel's HD20 have excellent cushioning along the straps. On the other hand, budget designs from AO Coolers, Coleman, and Arctic Zone have more basic strap systems, which are not as comfortable for long distances but still decently portable for short walks from your car. Backpack coolers like the Hydro Flask 20 L Day Escape offer the easiest management with full harnesses that can be worn like a standard daypack.

In conclusion, when choosing a soft-sided cooler, consider the opening style, closure system, and carrying straps and handles that best suit your needs and preferences.

We appreciate the cleverly intertwined carry handle on the ORCA Walker Tote that is secured with magnets

Backpack Coolers

When it comes to maximum portability, soft-sided backpack coolers are the way to go. These designs draw heavy inspiration from hiking daypacks and share features such as shoulder straps, padded backpanels, and exterior pockets for additional storage. Like traditional soft-sided coolers, backpack models are lightweight, easy to carry, and can be packed down when not in use. However, they do lack the impressive insulating power of hard-sided coolers. For example, the Hydro Flask 20 L Day Escape can only keep ice frozen for up to 36 hours. Additionally, backpack coolers can be quite expensive considering their relatively modest storage capacity and overall performance. The Day Escape, for instance, falls within the average price range at $200. However, if you often find yourself walking over half a mile to reach your favorite picnic spot or fishing hole, investing in a backpack cooler may be worthwhile. To learn more about this topic, take a look at our article on the top backpack coolers.

Backpack-style coolers offer unbeatable portability

Additional Soft Cooler Features

Pockets and Organization

Soft coolers come in various shapes and designs, but many of them include at least one exterior pocket for storing small valuables like phones, wallets, or keys. We have found these pockets to be incredibly useful and convenient for keeping track of our belongings, whether we're spending a day at a local state park or enjoying an afternoon at the beach. We also appreciate it when these pockets are water-resistant, providing extra protection against splashes or rain. Some models with functional stash pockets include the RTIC Soft Pack Cooler, ORCA Walker Tote, and Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze.

We adore the spacious front pocket on ORCA's Walker ToteExternal Attachment Points

Many soft coolers, such as YETI's Hopper M30 and REI Co-op's Cool Haul 24, feature daisy chain webbing on the exterior, allowing you to secure extra gear. We find this feature to be incredibly useful for keeping valuables like keys within reach (we often attach them with a carabiner). We especially like the stretchy bungee system on the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze, which makes it a breeze to secure a lightweight jacket or small towel on top.

External attachment points provide a convenient solution for securing additional equipment or gear. In addition to these, there are several other notable features to consider. Look out for integrated bottle openers and vacuum ports that allow you to add or release air. Among the options we listed earlier, the Engel HD20, Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze, and REI Co-op Cool Haul 24 come with built-in bottle openers. The HD20 also has a unique vacuum valve that enables you to extract excess air for maximum insulation power. ICEMULE’s Classic has a similar valve system, but it is used to add air for enhanced cooling capabilities and buoyancy, as well as remove air for compact storage. The Arctic Zone Titan stands out with its shelf for separating hard and soft items, while the REI Cool Haul 24 features a removable inner liner that can be used separately as a tote.

Engel's HD models come equipped with a convenient bottle opener.

In addition to these features, many soft cooler manufacturers offer compatible accessories that can be attached to the exterior of their coolers. For example, Hydro Flask’s 20 L Day Escape has thread-through points that allow you to secure one of their Dry Storage Bags. YETI offers accessories like the SideKick Dry Gear Case for their soft coolers, which attaches to the HitchPoint grid, as well as the Molle Zinger for securing multitools or bottle openers.

Soft Cooler Accessories

When it comes to ice, most people are accustomed to using crushed ice in their coolers. However, crushed ice tends to melt quickly and needs to be replaced frequently, resulting in messy and damaged food. To avoid these issues, we recommend using dedicated ice packs in your soft cooler instead. Major brands offer their own ice pack designs that work well with their coolers and can be reused without the need to drain melted ice. While ice packs can be a bit pricey, they provide a simple and mess-free solution. Another option is using blocks of ice, which take longer to melt but require more space. It's important to note that dry ice should not be used in soft coolers as it can damage the interior.

For many applications, we prefer using ice packs in our soft coolers.

Soft Cooler Warranties

Before purchasing a soft cooler, it's wise to consider the length of the warranty it comes with. Most soft coolers come with a standard one-year warranty, although some brands offer three to five years. YETI, ORCA, and Hydro Flask are examples of brands with longer warranties. It's important to note that these warranties typically cover defects in materials or workmanship and do not include damage from normal wear and tear. However, REI Co-op stands out with their full refund or replacement policy within one year of purchase for members (90 days for non-members). It's also worth mentioning that some companies offer different warranties for their hard-sided and soft-sided models.

ORCA offers an impressive 5-year warranty on their soft coolers.

Soft-Sided vs. Hard-Sided Coolers

In this article, we have focused on soft-sided coolers, which are ideal for road trips and day use due to their simplicity and portability. However, for longer trips, hard-sided coolers offer additional benefits. They have superior ice retention, durability, and larger capacities. Many hard coolers also feature drainage systems and lockable lids for added convenience and security. Keep in mind that hard-sided coolers are heavier, bulkier, and more expensive than their soft counterparts, but for serious outdoors enthusiasts, these trade-offs are worthwhile. Some popular hard cooler options include RTIC’s Ultra-Light lineup, YETI's Tundra series, and OtterBox's Venture collection. For a comprehensive list of options and considerations regarding hard-sided coolers, please refer to our article on the best coolers.

Hard coolers are generally larger, more durable, and provide better ice retention than soft models.

Back to Our Top Soft Cooler Picks Back to Our Soft Cooler Comparison Table".

Global Beer Box Market: Key Players, Trends, and Opportunities
Global Beer Box Market: Key Players, Trends, and Opportunities

Discover the latest trends and opportunities in the global beer box market. Uncover key players and their strategies to gain a competitive edge. Explore this dynamic industry and unlock potential growth.

Author: Travis Torres Author: Travis Torres
Posted: 2023-11-23 08:44:10
Unleashing the Power of Tesloid: The Ultimate Guide to Tesla Accessories
Unleashing the Power of Tesloid: The Ultimate Guide to Tesla Accessories

Discover how to tap into the full potential of Tesloid with our comprehensive guide to Tesla accessories. Maximize your Tesla experience with top-notch add-ons and enhancements for unparalleled performance and style.

Author: Travis Torres Author: Travis Torres
Posted: 2023-11-23 00:02:15
Early Black Friday RTIC Deals 2023: Unleash Savings on Tumblers, Coolers, and More!
Early Black Friday RTIC Deals 2023: Unleash Savings on Tumblers, Coolers, and More!

Score big discounts on popular RTIC tumblers, coolers, and more in the Early Black Friday RTIC Deals 2023. Discover unbeatable savings and gear up for your adventures now!

Author: Travis Torres Author: Travis Torres
Posted: 2023-11-22 00:06:27
Outdoor Camping Cooler Box Market: Analysis, Future Demand, and 2029 Forecasts
Outdoor Camping Cooler Box Market: Analysis, Future Demand, and 2029 Forecasts

Explore the thriving Outdoor Camping Cooler Box Market with insightful analysis, future demand projections, and compelling 2029 forecasts. Stay updated on the latest trends and make informed decisions for your next adventure.

Author: Travis Torres Author: Travis Torres
Posted: 2023-11-21 00:04:22
Showing page 1 of 14

How frequently do you employ coolers? You'll need to learn more details about them. Don't fret; we're here to offer assistance. Here at, we always aim to provide the most bang for you. - since 2022

Gen in 0.28 secs