While hard coolers can keep your beer ice cold for days, not every activity needs heavy-duty refrigeration. For hiking, fishing, beach days, sporting events, and road trips, soft coolers can work just as well and are often lighter and easier to carry. They come in a range of sizes fit for individuals, couples, and groups. Plus, their extra outside pockets are perfect for storing utensils, condiments, and quick snacks.
We've compiled a list of the top 10 best soft coolers, with Arctic Zone's Titan Deep Freeze taking the number one spot. This cooler has an insulated soft exterior and a hard inner liner for extra insurance against bumps and leaks. Check out the rest of our picks below and read through our buying guide for tips and information on how to pick the best soft cooler for your needs.
Our list features soft coolers in all shapes and sizes, including backpacks, tote bags, and lunch boxes. Some have hard liners, while others are fully collapsible.
|Dimensions||16.5 x 11 x 12.25 in.|
|Available sizes||9, 16, 30, 48 cans|
|Material||Thermoplastic elastomer ripstop nylon|
|Dimensions||12 x 12 x 16 in.|
|Available sizes||6, 12, 18 cans|
|Dimensions||17 x 10 x 12 in.|
|Available sizes||12, 24, 36, 48|
|Material||Polyester, polyethylene, vinyl, polyurethane|
|Dimensions||13.8 x 19.1 x 8.5 in.|
|Available sizes||20 cans|
|Material||High-density fabric, closed-cell rubber foam|
|Dimensions||10 x 9 x 7 in.|
|Available sizes||6 cans|
|Dimensions||10.5 x 8 x 8.5 in.|
|Available sizes||6, 8, 28 cans|
|Dimensions||13 x 7.5 x 15.8 in.|
|Available sizes||30 cans|
|Material||600D oxford fabric, foam|
|Dimensions||10 x 12 x 11 in.|
|Available sizes||12, 24 cans|
|Material||420D polyester, polyethylene vinyl acetate, low-density polyethylene|
|Dimensions||11.8 x 15 x 9.8 in.|
|Available sizes||42 cans|
|Dimensions||18.3 x 12.3 x 12 in.|
|Available sizes||50 cans|
Titan Deep Freeze
Original Soft Cooler
Hopper Backflip 24
Deluxe Dual Compartment Insulated Lunch Cooler Bag
Under Armour 24 Can Soft Sided Cooler
42-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner & Wheels
Tahoe Collapsible Cooler
Keep Your Food Secure With a Hard Liner
A Hands-Free Backpack for Outdoor Enthusiasts
Five Layers of Insulation for Long-Lasting Cold
Take This Rugged Backpack Cooler Anywhere
A Portable Lunch Bag for Work or School
Mesh Pouches and an Outer Pocket for Extra Storage
A Cooler You Can Pass off as a Backpack
A Soft Exterior With a Hard Inner Shell
Transport Drinks for a Crowd With This Rolling Cooler
Collapses Flat for Storage and Travel
|Style||Cooler bag||Backpack||Cooler bag||Backpack||Cooler bag||Cooler bag||Backpack||Cooler bag||Wheeled cooler||Cooler bag|
|Dimensions||16.5 x 11 x 12.25 in.||12 x 12 x 16 in.||17 x 10 x 12 in.||13.8 x 19.1 x 8.5 in.||10 x 9 x 7 in.||10.5 x 8 x 8.5 in.||13 x 7.5 x 15.8 in.||10 x 12 x 11 in.||11.8 x 15 x 9.8 in.||18.3 x 12.3 x 12 in.|
|Available sizes||9, 16, 30, 48 cans||6, 12, 18 cans||12, 24, 36, 48||20 cans||6 cans||6, 8, 28 cans||30 cans||12, 24 cans||42 cans||50 cans|
|Material||Thermoplastic elastomer ripstop nylon||Not specified||Polyester, polyethylene, vinyl, polyurethane||High-density fabric, closed-cell rubber foam||Polyester||Polyester||600D oxford fabric, foam||420D polyester, polyethylene vinyl acetate, low-density polyethylene||Plastic liner||Polyester|
There are many different factors when it comes to choosing a soft cooler, including the size, capacity, insulation, and materials. Here, we will walk you through the most important things to consider so that you can find a cooler that fits your lifestyle.
Cooler capacities can be measured in quarts, but the manufacturer will most often list how many 12-ounce cans they can hold to help you get a better idea of the size. One quart equals roughly three-quarters of a can, so a 12-quart cooler can hold around nine cans.
Items inside a cooler will stay colder if they’re packed tightly, so it’s best to go with the smallest size that will still fit your needs. For personal use, go for a six or eight-can cooler, which can hold food and drinks for one person plus a few ice packs.
A 12- or 18-can cooler can hold enough for a couple of people and retains its temperature longer than a mini cooler. For groups of three to four people or longer trips, a medium 18- to 24-can cooler will provide more room for food.
A standard cooler has a capacity of around 30 to 40 cans and can hold food and drinks for multiple people while camping, boating, tailgating, or other outdoor activities. Large coolers above 40 cans are ideal for large groups or longer trips where you want the ice to last for a while.
When choosing a cooler capacity, don’t forget to account for your ice or ice packs. The ideal ratio of ice to food and drinks is two to one, so ice should take up most of the space inside.
With smaller coolers, you can often get away with less ice since it usually won’t need to last longer than a day. However, with larger coolers, you need more ice to help maintain the cool temperature. To avoid leaks, which are a common issue with soft coolers, opt for ice packs since they won't melt into water.
In addition to the cooler’s capacity, don’t forget to consider its overall size and footprint. Check the dimensions to ensure it will fit in your car, boat, tent, or wherever you may be planning to use it.
Some soft coolers feature a hard liner and soft outer shell, which improves stability. Others have fully flexible walls that will make them easier to squeeze into tight spaces or allow you to collapse them for storage when not in use.
Thanks to their cushioned exterior, soft coolers are fairly comfortable and easy to transport. They generally come in two styles: cooler bags and cooler backpacks.
Cooler bags have a rectangular shape with a flat bottom and handles on the top. They’re usually wider than they are tall, giving you easy access to everything inside. However, because they’re a bit bulky, they’re not ideal for carrying long distances.
They’re better for activities where you stay primarily in one place, like car camping, boating, or picnics. To make a cooler bag easier to carry, look for one with a shoulder strap.
If you need a soft cooler that’s super portable, a cooler backpack is the way to go. These are great for hiking or other activities where you are constantly moving, and they feature padded straps to keep you comfortable. Some cooler backpacks are rectangular, while others have a more rounded shape.
Just keep in mind that the shape of the backpack will affect its ability to stand up on its own. In addition, they’re usually taller than they are wide, which means that items at the bottom will be harder to access. However, you can easily pack the cooler so that your most necessary items are on top.
Soft coolers use closed-cell or open-cell foam as insulation to keep the inside temperature stable. Closed-cell foam contains individual enclosed air bubbles. It’s generally the more expensive option, but it’s super dense and impermeable to water, making it a great insulator.
Open-cell foam contains interconnected air bubbles that allow air to pass through. This makes it lightweight, but also water permeable and less effective at insulating. However, it’s generally less expensive than closed-cell foam and is usually covered with waterproof material.
Not all manufacturers will specify whether they use closed cell or open cell foam, although the price is usually a good indicator. To get a better idea of the insulating power of a cooler, read reviews and look for comments about how long a cooler can hold ice before it melts.
A soft cooler needs to be durable enough to withstand moisture on the inside and the wear and tear of travel and the elements on the outside. Soft coolers are usually made from synthetic materials like nylon or polyester and linings made from plastic or vinyl. Some are reinforced with rubber for extra protection.
While all of these materials can make a solid soft cooler, the construction can make or break its effectiveness. Look for reinforced stitching for added strength and welded seams to prevent leaks. Also, check the zippers to make sure they’re solid.
For more durability, you can find coolers with reinforced bottoms. And if you’re going to be somewhere wet, make sure the outside of the cooler is waterproof. To confirm the durability of a cooler, you can always check the customer reviews.
Some soft coolers have extra features that can help make your life easier. For example, some have partitions on the inside so you can separate your dry food from your liquids.
Others have additional storage on the outside, like zippered pockets, mesh pockets, or straps that let you keep snacks, utensils, and personal items on hand. And if you’re buying a large soft cooler, you can even find options with wheels to help you easily get from one place to another.
Packing a cooler efficiently is a science, but the video above features tons of tips to break down that science easier. Learn in what order you should pack your cooler, how much you should pack it, how to keep beer at the optimal temperature, and more!
There's nothing better than an ice-cold drink on a hot summer day. Whether you're camping out, enjoying the beach, or watching a game from the bleachers, here are more of our favorite products to keep your food and drinks chilled.
With straps, handles, and flexible sides, soft coolers are made for people on the go. Small ones can function as lunchboxes, while larger ones can hold enough for your next group adventure. If you're hiking or paddleboarding, you can even get a backpack cooler to keep your hands free at all times.
Choose the minimum cooler capacity you need since items will stay colder if packed tightly together, and don't forget to leave room for the ice. Look for welded seams and reinforced stitching, and be sure to read reviews to get an idea of the insulating power. Then enjoy ice-cold drinks all day long!
Author: Melissa Jong
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