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[Tried and True] 15 Best Soft Coolers in 2023

[Tried and True] 15 Best Soft Coolers in 2023

Soft coolers are great for keeping drinks cold at the beach or campsite. They're also handy for transporting perishable foods even on hot days. With well-known brands like YETI, Igloo and RTIC, it can be hard to choose the right one for your needs.


We've compared 15 bestselling s available online and put them to the test to recommend the best soft cooler for you.


We tested each product for the following:

  • Cold Retention
  • Ease of Carrying
  • Usability
  • Leak Prevention
  • Durable Construction

Which product ended up being the best of the best? We'll also tell you how to pick the best on your own in our buying guide, so read on for more shopping tips.

Last updated 2023/03/13
Eugene Pak
Expert
Outdoor Guide/Videographer/Writer

My name is 박 (Pak). I am a first-generation Korean American who has worked in the outdoors for 6 years as a guide. Now I'm enjoying traveling around with my bicycle and spending time outdoors with my dog Gaara.

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Masaki Nishijo
Guide
Head of Outdoor Gear at mybest

As head of outdoor gear, Masaki has extensive experience testing and evaluating products for camping and outdoor recreation, including camping tables and grills. Focusing on major brands such as Coleman, Snow Peak, and Logos, Masaki has personally tested over 100 products. Driven by the philosophy of "Choosing gear even beginners can enjoy," Masaki creates content that is focused on the needs and perspectives of the user and hopes to provide valuable insight and recommendations for anyone looking to make the most of their time outside.

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How We Tested the Products

Scroll to testing method
We gathered the 15 bestselling Soft Coolers and put them through rigorous testing.
  1. Cold Retention

    Test ① Cold Retention

    The whole point of a cooler is to keep things cold, so this is arguably the first thing you'll be interested in. We tested how long the soft coolers could stay chilly using the following parameters.We filled the soft cooler with ice up to 20 percent of its capacity and left it in a 90-degree room for 24 hours. Then we measured how much ice was left unmelted and calculated the rate.Coolers with a high percentage of unmelted ice got high scores in this test.

  2. Ease of Carrying

    Test ② Ease of Carrying

    Carrying a cooler full of ice and drinks all the way to the beach or your campsite can be difficult, so we tested that too. We asked five people with camping experience to try out these coolers and imagine using them on a trip. They were asked to think about four things. How comfortable is it to hold? Is it cushioned on the straps? Does it bang against your body or feel comfortably snug? What about storing it when it's empty?

  3. Usability

    Test ③ Usability

    We wanted to see if the coolers were easy to use, so we looked at things like how they open and close, if the interior was easily accessible, if they had extra features and how it was to clean them. Here are the specifics we checked.The ease of using the zipper or other closure typesTaking things out of the coolerWiping down the insideThe number of exterior pocketsIf it has an inner compartment or trayThe various methods for carrying itIs a bottle opener built-in?Does it have a shock cord?Can the whole thing be washed?Is there a quick-access panel on the lid?Does it have an inner mesh bag?

  4. Leak Prevention

    Test ④ Leak Prevention

    It's a good idea to look for a soft cooler that won't leak melted ice all over if you accidentally drop it or knock it over. Here's how we checked if the coolers were leak-proof.Does water leak out of the closure?Do the seams seal water in?Does anything seep through the main material?

  5. Durable Construction

    Test ⑤ Durable Construction

    Soft coolers are prone to getting wet and dirty from being set on the ground outdoors. If you're going to buy one, you'll want to know that it will stand the test of many trips to the beach or campground.We asked experts to judge the build of each cooler, keeping the following points in mind.The strength of the inner lining and outer shellThe stitching on the handle and the strength of its materialThe type of zipper and its sturdiness

All product tests
were conducted in-house at mybest

Company Facility
Experts featured in this article only reviewed the content of our buying guide. They had no part in the selection or ranking of products or services listed.They had no part in the selection or ranking of products or services listed.

Is a Soft Cooler Better Than a Hard One?

We're all familiar with coolers made of hard plastic. So when would you choose a soft cooler instead? To start with, they're lightweight and easy to carry. Let's look at some of the other advantages they offer.

Soft Coolers Are Easy to Fill and Store

Soft Coolers Are Easy to Fill and Store

We already mentioned that they're more lightweight. Soft coolers are also more comfortable to carry in general than a hard cooler. Many are also foldable for more compact storage. This comes in handy for those with limited closet or garage space. 


They can't keep things cold as long as a hard-sided cooler can, however. The most you might get without changing the ice is one or two days. So, they work well for an overnight camping trip, a day at the beach, tailgating, picnics, or festivals. They also are perfect for taking to the grocery store so your ice cream gets home without melting!

How to Choose Soft coolers - Buying Guide

Here are six points you should look at before buying a soft cooler.

① Aim for Thick Insulation for Maximum Cooling Power

If it doesn't keep things cold, it won't be much use to you, so check that first! Thick insulating layers will keep food and drinks chilled even if it's hot outside.

The Thicker the Insulation, the Better It Stays Cold

The Thicker the Insulation, the Better It Stays Cold

Manufacturers use various materials for their insulation. Does the type of material really make a difference in how cold a cooler stays? 


In our tests, we found that an insulation layer of about one and a quarter inches or more was adequate. These coolers preserved 40 percent of the ice we'd put in after 24 hours in a room at 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Coolers with less than half an inch of insulation let almost all the ice melt after the same conditions. 


We didn't see a correlation between the type of material and the performance. We believe thickness to be the main factor. If you'll need a lot of cooling power for a day at the beach or on the road, pay attention to the thickness of the insulation.

YETI Was a Standout Product When It Came to Cooling

YETI Was a Standout Product When It Came to Cooling

After 24 hours in a 90-degree room, the YETI cooler we tested had retained 50 percent of its original ice. This result was quite a bit better than anything else we tested. 


Not only does the YETI Hopper M30 use a patented material, but the insulation is 1.5 inches thick. It's surrounded by air for a total insulating layer of about 2.75 inches. We found that this produced exceptional chilling power.

② Choose One That's Easy to Carry, Considering Where You're Taking It

Soft coolers come as backpacks, tote bags, boxes, and on wheels. There's no right choice, so just match the type to your activity.

For Long Walks or Hiking, Go for a Backpack

For Long Walks or Hiking, Go for a Backpack

If you'll be walking a long distance from the parking lot to the beach or setting off on a hike, a backpack is the way to go. Because the weight will be distributed across your shoulders, the heavy cooler won't swing around as you move. This makes it less of a burden to bear over longer distances. 


And since it will leave both hands free, you'll also be able to carry your beach bag or hiking staffs, too.

Try a Box Type for Road Trips and Fishing

Try a Box Type for Road Trips and Fishing

For going on a drive or enjoying a day on the lake, a box type soft cooler works well. The inside of these is easily accessible, since the interior is relatively long and wide. And the shape is also stable, so it's less likely to tip over in the car or on a boat.

A Wheeled Cooler Is the Least Difficult to Move Around

A Wheeled Cooler Is the Least Difficult to Move Around

Wheels are obviously the easiest on your body, but they only work well on a flat surface like a sidewalk or road. They are especially great if you find a fully-packed cooler too heavy


Most have a side handle so you can also carry it up stairs as needed. On sandy beaches and trails they might not work, but if allowed, they're great to bring to a stadium or city park.

For Running Errands, a Tote Bag Cooler Works Well

For Running Errands, a Tote Bag Cooler Works Well

If you're going grocery shopping or on a short picnic, a tote cooler can suit your needs. They come in various designs so it's easy to find just the right one. 


Some have shoulder straps, and most come with side handles so you can carry by hand when your shoulders get tired. You can switch it up depending on the situation and how heavy the cooler is.

③ If You Use Real Ice and Not Ice Packs, a Waterproof Opening Is a Must!

For keeping drinks chilled, regular ice often works better than plastic ice packs. But when it melts, you don't want the cooler's opening to leak if it tips over.

Waterproof Zippers Really Do Work

Waterproof Zippers Really Do Work

Not all zippers are created equal, and on soft coolers, you'll run into two types. Waterproof zippers do what they claim, as our results showed. None of them leaked when we tipped the coolers over to test them. But their sturdy construction means that they can be very stiff and take some effort to open. 


Others use what's called coil-type zippers. They open smoothly with little force, but don't create a waterproof seal. Be aware of which kind of zipper is on your cooler. If it's not waterproof, avoid jostling and knocking it over and make sure it's secured in the car. 


You'll also see a few roll-up closures on the bags in our list. We found these to be susceptible to leaks in our tests, so seal them tightly and avoid turning them upside down. As a side note, we didn't observe any bags leaking from their seams or places other than their closures.

④ Get a Soft Cooler That's Easy to Wipe Down and Has Useful Features

Some soft coolers come with additional functionality you may find helpful. And you should definitely consider how easy it will be to clean it so that it lasts a long time.

Seamless, Flat Interiors Are Easier to Wipe Down

Seamless, Flat Interiors Are Easier to Wipe Down

Soft coolers with a taut, flat inner lining make it easy to spot spills. Since you can see into and access every nook and cranny, they make it easy to wipe up, too. They also dry quickly. 


But many come with a lining that's loose, which makes it hard to wipe. It's hard for air to reach every spot to dry it, too. If you choose this type, be extra careful when washing and drying the interior.

Inner Compartments and Outer Pockets Add Functionality

Inner Compartments and Outer Pockets Add Functionality

With an inner tray or compartment, food can be kept away from melting ice while beverages can be immersed. Usually these are removable so when you're only bringing drinks, you can take the tray out for more space. 


Outer pockets are handy for keeping small items like napkins and utensils. Some coolers also come with shock cords (those bungee ties you often see on hiking backpacks). These are excellent for soft items like a jacket or wet things like a beach towel.

⑤ TPU Coatings Are Waterproof and Durable

Soft coolers get dirty easily from being on the ground outdoors, and getting splashed with water. For a long-lasting cooler that can take some abuse, we recommend one with a TPU coating.

TPU Is Tough but Flexible

TPU Is Tough but Flexible

Thermoplastic polyurethane is flexible like rubber, waterproof, and resistant to dirt and scratches. You'll often see it used for rain gear and smartphone cases. 


TPU-coated soft coolers tend to be more durable than those that don't have this coating.

⑥ Check the Size (Usually in Number of Cans) but Leave Yourself Some Breathing Room

The capacity of the cooler might be listed in gallons, quarts or liters. Often the manufacturer will list how many 12-ounce cans can fit inside. When choosing the right size for you, remember to leave yourself some extra room.

Leave Room for Ice!

Leave Room for Ice!

It can be tempting to calculate capacity by the number of cans listed. But beware: that number doesn't always account for ice! To make it even more confusing, some products don't specify if the capacity includes ice packs or only cans. 


Before you buy a soft cooler, confirm if the listed capacity includes ice or only cans. And if you can't find out, choose a size that will cover your needs with room to spare.

15 Best Soft coolers

Here are the best Soft Coolers we found after testing them. We ranked them after weighting each of our testing specs.
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Points
Ranking spec
Details
Chilling capability
Ease of carrying
Usability
Watertight closure
Construction
Width (exterior)
Length (exterior)
Height (exterior)
Width (interior)
Length (interior)
Height (interior)
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Insulation thickness
Percentage of ice remaining
Exterior material
Interior material
Style
Waterproof
With side pocket
With bottle opener
With a loop
With exterior bungee cord
Includes ice pack
With top flap
Zipper type
1

Yeti

Hopper M30

Yeti  Hopper M30 1枚目
4.06

mybest's Top Choice! Highly Durable and Stays Cold

4.45
3.74
3.60
4.50
3.99

25.2 in.

11.9 in.

17.3 in.

17.3 in.

9.1 in.

14.4 in.

6.8 lbs

20 cans

-

-

49.09%

DRYHIDE SHELL: High-density fabric

-

Tote

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Zipperless

2

Icemule

Pro XL

Icemule  Pro XL 1枚目
3.84

An Easy-to-Carry Soft Cooler for the Beach or Hiking

4.01
4.28
3.48
3.40
3.66

14 in.

11 in.

24 in.

-

-

-

2.92 lbs

24 cans

-

-

38.79 %

-

-

Backpack

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Zipperless

3

OtterBox

Trooper 20

OtterBox	 Trooper 20 1枚目
3.82

A Lot of Features That Make It Easy to Use and Care For

3.99
3.38
4.10
4.50
3.93

17.50 in.

10.25 in.

14.30 in

-

-

-

6.50 lbs

28 cans

Premium grade thermal insulation

-

38.04 %

TPU coated nylon

-

Box

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Zipperless

4

Rock Bros

Soft Cooler

Rock Bros  Soft Cooler 1枚目
3.79

Easy to Carry and Good Enough Cooling for Picnics and Grocery Shopping

4.01
3.90
3.20
4.50
3.84

25.25 in.

10.75 in.

17 in.

21.25 in.

-

14.5 in.

4.71 lbs

36 cans

Polyurethane(PU)

-

38.64 %

Nylon

Nylon

Tote

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Airtight zipper

5

ORCA

Walker 20

ORCA  Walker 20 1枚目
3.71

Easy to Care for and Highly Versatile With Moderate Chilling Power

3.63
3.54
3.95
4.50
3.66

14.5 in.

11 in.

13.25 in.

-

-

-

3.6 lbs

20 cans

Polyurethane(PU)

1.1 in.

26 %

SPEC-OPS 840 Denier double TPU

Meta-Polymer

Box

-

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Waterproof zipper

6

IceMule

Classic

IceMule Classic  1枚目
3.47

An Easy-to-Carry Cooler for Basic Use

3.29
4.09
3.40
3.40
3.60

11.5 in.

11.5 in.

18 in.

-

-

-

2.1 lbs

18 cans

-

-

17.25 %

MuleSkin ET and EV

MuleSkin ET and EV

Backpack

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Zipperless

7

Earth Pak

Loch Soft Cooler

Earth Pak Loch Soft Cooler 1枚目
3.34

Leak-proof and Easy to Maintain, but Not the Coldest

3.00
3.86
3.95
4.50
3.84

14.5 in.

10.75 in.

12.5 in.

-

-

-

7 lb

20 cans

Polyurethane(PU)

-

2.33 %

Nylon, TPU, NBR

Nylon, TPU, NBR

Box

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Waterproof zipper

8

Hydro Flask

Day Escape

Hydro Flask	 Day Escape  1枚目
3.33

Tough and Rugged Material, but We Wanted More Padding on the Straps

3.09
3.52
3.30
4.50
3.99

23.9 in.

10.4 in.

14.97 in.

-

-

-

2.92 lbs

42 cans

Polyester

-

12.31 %

Durable 600D polyester shell

Durable 600D polyester shell

Tote

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Watertight zipper

9

RTIC

Soft Pack Cooler

RTIC Soft Pack Cooler 1枚目
3.32

Doesn't Leak and Is Easy to Clean, but It's Hard to Carry and We Wanted More Cooling

3.08
3.47
3.44
4.50
3.63

15.5 in.

11.5 in.

12.75 in.

13 in.

9.5 in.

9 in.

4 lb

30 cans

-

-

12.11 %

Heavy-duty nylon shell

Heavy-duty nylon shell

Box

-

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Leak Proof Zipper

10

KULA

Softy 2.5 Cooler

KULA Softy 2.5 Cooler 1枚目
3.26

Waterproof and Cleans up Quickly, but Hard to Carry

3.00
3.36
3.70
4.50
3.84

15.25 in.

-

14.5 in.

12.75 in.

-

11.5 in.

4.5 lbs

14 cans

-

-

2.37 %

-

-

Box

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Watertight zipper

Product details
Close
No.1
Top Choice Soft Coolers
No.1 in Chilling capability
No.1 in Watertight closure
No.1 in Construction

Yeti Hopper M30‎YETIHOPM30C

Overall rating

4.06

  • Chilling capability
    4.45
  • Ease of carrying
    3.74
  • Usability
    3.60
  • Watertight closure
    4.50
  • Construction
    3.99

$489.99

Weight
6.8 lbs
Capacity
20 cans
Insulation material
-
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
49.09%
Width (exterior)
25.2 in.
Length (exterior)
11.9 in.
Height (exterior)
17.3 in.
Width (interior)
17.3 in.
Length (interior)
9.1 in.
Height (interior)
14.4 in.

mybest's Top Choice! Highly Durable and Stays Cold

Founded in 2006 by brothers Roy and Ryan Seiders, YETI has become a top brand for coolers and other outdoor gear. The HOPPER M30 soft cooler is made of waterproof TPU. Its magnetic closure makes it a great choice for everything from watersports to camping to outdoor festivals.


It has thick insulation that uses patented technology. In our tests, we measured an ice retention rate of about 49 percent.


It can be carried with one hand using the top handles, with two handles on either side or slung over the shoulder. The shoulder strap is soft and comfortably padded. However, it doesn't fold up easily, so make sure you have a place for it in your storage area.


Having a magnetic closure instead of a zipper makes it easy to access. But the inner lining is blousy and it's hard to wipe down all the surfaces. It didn't score above average in our usability test.


On the other hand, the magnet seal is so tight it's unlikely that anything will spill out, even if it tips over in your car.


With three layers of TPU, it's tough and fully waterproof. It also has thick handles and rugged stitching. The seams connecting the handles to the bag are reinforced, so it'll hold up even if it's chock-full of beverages. The magnet is also impressively strong right out of the box.


This offering from YETI boasts rugged construction, solid waterproofing, and great cold retention. It's a fantastic soft cooler for the beach, day trips, overnight camping, and road trips.

Exterior materialDRYHIDE SHELL: High-density fabric
Interior material-
StyleTote
Waterproof
With side pocketN/A
With bottle opener
With a loop
With exterior bungee cordN/A
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper typeZipperless
No.2
No.1 in Ease of carrying

Icemule Pro XL‎59417

Overall rating

3.84

  • Chilling capability
    4.01
  • Ease of carrying
    4.28
  • Usability
    3.48
  • Watertight closure
    3.40
  • Construction
    3.66

$144.95

Weight
2.92 lbs
Capacity
24 cans
Insulation material
-
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
38.79 %
Width (exterior)
14 in.
Length (exterior)
11 in.
Height (exterior)
24 in.
Width (interior)
-
Length (interior)
-
Height (interior)
-

An Easy-to-Carry Soft Cooler for the Beach or Hiking

The Icemule Pro XL 33-liter cooler is a backpack type with a roll-down closure designed to keep cold in and heat out. After 24 hours, we found 38.79 percent of the original ice remaining, which is a good result. It may have something to do with the air valve. Although this is designed to allow the cooler to float, blowing air into it also creates an extra layer of insulation.


The only carrying option is as a backpack, but it sits snugly and weight is distributed evenly. The shoulder padding is very comfortable and it should fit a variety of body types. And you'll have both hands free to carry other gear.


The inner lining is loose and the interior is deep, so it might be tricky to wipe it down thoroughly when needed. It also doesn't have extra features like a bottle opener, side pockets, or hanging loops. If it's really full, it may leak melted ice if you tip it over, so keep this in mind when moving it around.


The outer fabric is coated and the stitching is tight, so we found it seemed durable overall. But since the shoulder straps have mesh, that part seems a bit weaker. The shoulder straps and body are joined by triangular stitches. We give it a passing score in durability.


All in all, this soft cooler fits well and is easy to carry around. It's a great choice for times when you need both hands free, such as during outdoor activities.

Exterior material-
Interior material-
StyleBackpack
Waterproof
With side pocketN/A
With bottle openerN/A
With a loopN/A
With exterior bungee cord
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper typeZipperless
No.3
No.1 in Watertight closure

OtterBox Trooper 20B07SLDF9TR

Overall rating

3.82

  • Chilling capability
    3.99
  • Ease of carrying
    3.38
  • Usability
    4.10
  • Watertight closure
    4.50
  • Construction
    3.93

$99.99

Weight
6.50 lbs
Capacity
28 cans
Insulation material
Premium grade thermal insulation
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
38.04 %
Width (exterior)
17.50 in.
Length (exterior)
10.25 in.
Height (exterior)
14.30 in
Width (interior)
-
Length (interior)
-
Height (interior)
-

A Lot of Features That Make It Easy to Use and Care For

Known for their smartphone cases, Colorado-based Otterbox brings us the Trooper 20 soft cooler in two colors. With 38.04 percent of the original ice remaining after 24 hours, we gave it a good score for cold retention. It has a thick layer of polyurethane for insulation.


The construction and materials are stiff, so it's a bit awkward to carry. Although the shoulder strap has padding, it's not very cushioning. It bangs against your body as well, so it may be uncomfortable to carry long distances when full. But the interior is smooth and easy to wipe down. Features like side pockets and loops allow you to bring small items. But you won't need to pack a bottle opener, since it has one built-in!


The lid also opens with very little force. But it locks and seals tightly, so you don't have to worry about spills. The outer fabric is tough and coated with waterproofing. The shoulder strap is thick and wide and has tight stitching attaching it to the cooler shell. However, since the locking part of the lid is plastic, it could crack over time, with rough or frequent use.


But overall, we think this cooler is well-designed, with plenty of versatility built in. It's easy to care for and use not only for casual activities but also for more demanding situations.

Exterior materialTPU coated nylon
Interior material-
StyleBox
WaterproofN/A
With side pocket
With bottle opener
With a loopN/A
With exterior bungee cordN/A
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper typeZipperless
No.4
No.1 in Watertight closure

Rock Bros Soft CoolerBX-003/CA

Overall rating

3.79

  • Chilling capability
    4.01
  • Ease of carrying
    3.90
  • Usability
    3.20
  • Watertight closure
    4.50
  • Construction
    3.84

$139.99

Weight
4.71 lbs
Capacity
36 cans
Insulation material
Polyurethane(PU)
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
38.64 %
Width (exterior)
25.25 in.
Length (exterior)
10.75 in.
Height (exterior)
17 in.
Width (interior)
21.25 in.
Length (interior)
-
Height (interior)
14.5 in.

Easy to Carry and Good Enough Cooling for Picnics and Grocery Shopping

This cooler by RockBros is shaped like a tote bag, comes in two colors, and is made of nylon TPU. It has sponge-like insulation with a four-layer structure. We found it retained 38.64 percent of the original ice after 24 hours.


The area where the bag sits against your body is big, so it feels secure and doesn't shift around when walking. The shoulder strap's padding is quite comfy, soft, and highly cushioned. Even when packed full, it doesn't hurt to carry it on your shoulder. But the short hand strap is stiff and hard and can feel like it's biting into your palm after a while.


The waterproof zipper is straight, so it's not too hard to open, but it's stiff enough to require a bit of force. Make sure not to yank it too hard or it might break from the repeated strain. Also, you need to pull the two sides of the opening apart when getting things from the cooler's interior.


It doesn't feature any extra bells and whistles, so our usability rating was not superb. But we found that the waterproof zipper did do its job, and the cooler didn't leak melted ice even when tipped over. The TPU coating makes the whole exterior waterproof, too. It has a reinforced bottom shell that's semi-hard, and won't slide around easily.

Exterior materialNylon
Interior materialNylon
StyleTote
Waterproof
With side pocketN/A
With bottle openerN/A
With a loopN/A
With exterior bungee cordN/A
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper typeAirtight zipper
No.5
No.1 in Watertight closure

ORCA Walker 20W20CBGY

Overall rating

3.71

  • Chilling capability
    3.63
  • Ease of carrying
    3.54
  • Usability
    3.95
  • Watertight closure
    4.50
  • Construction
    3.66

$170.00

Weight
3.6 lbs
Capacity
20 cans
Insulation material
Polyurethane(PU)
Insulation thickness
1.1 in.
Percentage of ice remaining
26 %
Width (exterior)
14.5 in.
Length (exterior)
11 in.
Height (exterior)
13.25 in.
Width (interior)
-
Length (interior)
-
Height (interior)
-

Easy to Care for and Highly Versatile With Moderate Chilling Power

ORCA, made in the USA and based in Tennessee, gives us the Walker 20 soft-sided cooler. It's a box type with a magnetic handle and comes in two colors. With 26 percent of the ice remaining after 24 hours, it's a decent performer for cold retention. For longer cold storage, try using a bigger ice pack or chilling the bag before packing it.


Although it's a soft cooler, the body is stiff and the shape is boxy, so it's a bit awkward to carry around. The shoulder straps aren't very padded, so if it's really heavy, it may start to cut into your shoulders.


The zipper is waterproof, which means it's thick and solid, and those with a weak grip may find it tough to manage. But we found that it does indeed seal melted ice in, and you won't see any leaks even if it's filled with water. Just be careful not to tug it open too hard. This type of zipper is very waterproof, but less flexible and prone to break if forced open.


The interior is flat and you can get to every nook and cranny easily to wipe it down thoroughly. It also boasts side pockets, exterior loops, and a shock cord. It's a versatile choice for carrying all kinds of things. The outside is coated and waterproof and the straps are sewn on with an X-stitch. Durability should not be a problem.

Exterior materialSPEC-OPS 840 Denier double TPU
Interior materialMeta-Polymer
StyleBox
Waterproof-
With side pocketN/A
With bottle openerN/A
With a loop
With exterior bungee cord
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper typeWaterproof zipper
No.6

IceMuleClassic Large 20L

Overall rating

3.47

  • Chilling capability
    3.29
  • Ease of carrying
    4.09
  • Usability
    3.40
  • Watertight closure
    3.40
  • Construction
    3.60

$94.95

Weight
2.1 lbs
Capacity
18 cans
Insulation material
-
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
17.25 %
Width (exterior)
11.5 in.
Length (exterior)
11.5 in.
Height (exterior)
18 in.
Width (interior)
-
Length (interior)
-
Height (interior)
-

An Easy-to-Carry Cooler for Basic Use

This is a shoulder strap model from Icemule that has a roll-down closure and folds up compactly when not in use. We measured ice retention at 17.25 percent, which isn't a stellar result. A quality ice pack and the right ratio of food and drink to ice will be essential for longer-term cooling.


Although the only carrying option is its shoulder strap, this is comfortable. It has good padding and a balanced feel against the body. Even when full, it sits well and doesn't feel like a heavy burden.


The roll-down closure is simple to operate. However, no matter how tightly we rolled it, it sometimes leaked melted ice. Be careful how you handle the cooler when moving it around. Also, the interior has loose-fitting material, making it tricky to wipe down. It doesn't have any extra features that would have bumped up its usability score.


The shoulder strap's ring is small and it doesn't have reinforced stitching. The durable coated exterior is waterproof and abrasion-resistant. The interior is also coated, and overall it feels like a quality item.

Exterior materialMuleSkin ET and EV
Interior materialMuleSkin ET and EV
StyleBackpack
Waterproof
With side pocketN/A
With bottle openerN/A
With a loopN/A
With exterior bungee cordN/A
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper typeZipperless
No.7
No.1 in Watertight closure

Earth PakLoch Soft Cooler20-Can

Overall rating

3.34

  • Chilling capability
    3.00
  • Ease of carrying
    3.86
  • Usability
    3.95
  • Watertight closure
    4.50
  • Construction
    3.84

$139.99

Weight
7 lb
Capacity
20 cans
Insulation material
Polyurethane(PU)
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
2.33 %
Width (exterior)
14.5 in.
Length (exterior)
10.75 in.
Height (exterior)
12.5 in.
Width (interior)
-
Length (interior)
-
Height (interior)
-

Leak-proof and Easy to Maintain, but Not the Coldest

Earth Pak's Loch soft cooler is a waterproof box type. It was designed with watersports such as kayaking and paddleboarding in mind. The interior and exterior are both coated with TPU for full waterproofing. The inside can be cleaned well since it's smooth and flat.


There's a mesh inside for access to your items and dumping extra water. It also has a bottle opener and hanging loops attached. The waterproof zipper is made tough and won't leak even if knocked over or dropped when full of water. It takes some force to open, though!


You can carry it three different ways: over the shoulder, with one hand, or with both hands using the side handles. Although the body is stiff, it seems to fit well against you when you move. It doesn't swing around much when walking. The shoulder strap is wide and the stitching is strong. However, neither the hand straps nor the shoulder strap have great padding. It may get uncomfortable when really full.


We don't think it would work well for longer-term cooling. In our tests, after 24 hours only 2.33 percent of the original ice remained. If you need to chill food and drinks for a long time you might have to pre-chill the cooler. We were also a little concerned that the molded interior is designed in a way that it might peel off easily.

Exterior materialNylon, TPU, NBR
Interior materialNylon, TPU, NBR
StyleBox
Waterproof
With side pocketN/A
With bottle opener
With a loopN/A
With exterior bungee cordN/A
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper typeWaterproof zipper
No.8
No.1 in Watertight closure
No.1 in Construction

Hydro Flask Day Escape ‎SCTB426

Overall rating

3.33

  • Chilling capability
    3.09
  • Ease of carrying
    3.52
  • Usability
    3.30
  • Watertight closure
    4.50
  • Construction
    3.99

$179.95

Weight
2.92 lbs
Capacity
42 cans
Insulation material
Polyester
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
12.31 %
Width (exterior)
23.9 in.
Length (exterior)
10.4 in.
Height (exterior)
14.97 in.
Width (interior)
-
Length (interior)
-
Height (interior)
-

Tough and Rugged Material, but We Wanted More Padding on the Straps

The Day Escape soft cooler from Hydro Flask comes in two sizes, 26 or 18 liters. You can choose either a tote or backpack style. We tested the tote style. Although you have to pull the sides open to get things out, we liked that it's completely waterproof. And it can be fully cleaned inside and out.


The waterproof zipper does require some force to manipulate, but it stops leaks. Unfortunately, we didn't evaluate it highly for cold retention. After 24 hours only 12.31 percent of the original ice remained. You will probably need to use a few good-quality ice packs with this one.


The stitching is tight and the fabric is well-coated. The inner material is firmly attached and overall, it seems durable. The straps have padding, but it's on the thin side and they may get uncomfortable. In addition, the long shape may be awkward for shorter people to carry around. It also doesn't collapse for storage.

Exterior materialDurable 600D polyester shell
Interior materialDurable 600D polyester shell
StyleTote
Waterproof
With side pocketN/A
With bottle openerN/A
With a loopN/A
With exterior bungee cordN/A
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper typeWatertight zipper
No.9
No.1 in Watertight closure

RTICSoft Pack Cooler30-Can

Overall rating

3.32

  • Chilling capability
    3.08
  • Ease of carrying
    3.47
  • Usability
    3.44
  • Watertight closure
    4.50
  • Construction
    3.63

$129.99

Weight
4 lb
Capacity
30 cans
Insulation material
-
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
12.11 %
Width (exterior)
15.5 in.
Length (exterior)
11.5 in.
Height (exterior)
12.75 in.
Width (interior)
13 in.
Length (interior)
9.5 in.
Height (interior)
9 in.

Doesn't Leak and Is Easy to Clean, but It's Hard to Carry and We Wanted More Cooling

RTIC's soft-pack cooler comes with an antibacterial lining and is available in many colors. It features a box-like lid that opens fully, making it easy to grab your drinks and food. The inside is seamless, so you'll have no issues wiping down dirty areas. It doesn't have any extra features, but the waterproof zipper works well. We didn't notice any leaks when it was tipped over.


We weren't impressed with its cold retention. But it does the job with a moderate ratio of drinks to ice and a quality ice pack. We measured 12.11 percent ice remaining after 24 hours. The bag is rather hard for a soft cooler, so it tends to shift away from you when walking. Although the shoulder strap has padding, it's not much. In general, it isn't the most comfortable one to carry.


The way the bottom outer panel is attached doesn't seem incredibly secure. It feels like it might come off with repeated use or abuse. We also feel that even though the seams are X-shaped, they look weakly sewn. We aren't confident in this cooler's durability.

Exterior materialHeavy-duty nylon shell
Interior materialHeavy-duty nylon shell
StyleBox
Waterproof-
With side pocketN/A
With bottle openerN/A
With a loopN/A
With exterior bungee cordN/A
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper typeLeak Proof Zipper
No.10
No.1 in Watertight closure

KULASofty 2.5 Cooler

Overall rating

3.26

  • Chilling capability
    3.00
  • Ease of carrying
    3.36
  • Usability
    3.70
  • Watertight closure
    4.50
  • Construction
    3.84

$250.00

Weight
4.5 lbs
Capacity
14 cans
Insulation material
-
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
2.37 %
Width (exterior)
15.25 in.
Length (exterior)
-
Height (exterior)
14.5 in.
Width (interior)
12.75 in.
Length (interior)
-
Height (interior)
11.5 in.

Waterproof and Cleans up Quickly, but Hard to Carry

This unique canister-shaped cooler has a flip-up lid, and double-coated TPU fabric. It's great for watersports like fishing and paddling. The waterproof zipper is strong and wide and won't leak. The coating also performs well, making it a reliable choice for use in and around water.


Most of the ice melted after 24 hours in our test, leaving behind a paltry 2.37 percent. You'll likely need a quality ice pack and careful packing for this one to work more than a few hours.


The body is rather hard and bangs against you as you walk, and the straps don't have a lot of padding. If it's full and heavy it might hurt your hands or shoulders. The stitching of the straps also isn't very tough-looking. The zipper is pretty hard to open and takes some strength, in fact.


It does have one side pocket, and the interior is very easy to wipe down. We also like how the shoulder strap ring is large and sturdy.

Exterior material-
Interior material-
StyleBox
WaterproofN/A
With side pocket
With bottle openerN/A
With a loopN/A
With exterior bungee cordN/A
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper typeWatertight zipper
No.11
No.1 in Usability

Titan by Arctic Zone‎Deep Freeze 30-Can Zipperless Hardbody Cooler‎5-99309-23-0E

Overall rating

3.25

  • Chilling capability
    3.01
  • Ease of carrying
    3.69
  • Usability
    4.30
  • Watertight closure
    3.00
  • Construction
    3.60

$57.02

Weight
3.64 lbs
Capacity
30 cans
Insulation material
-
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
10.25
Width (exterior)
16.5 in.
Length (exterior)
11 in.
Height (exterior)
12.75 in.
Width (interior)
12.75 in.
Length (interior)
7.6 in.
Height (interior)
10.25 in.

Partitioned Storage Options, but Weak Cooling and It May Leak

The Deep Freeze from Titan is a box-type cooler that uses a Velcro closure instead of a zipper. It has a lot of features that make it popular for outdoor activities, such as its lid. It flips open firmly, making it easy to take things out. The interior is smooth and easy to wipe down. It has a compartment to prevent food from getting submerged as the ice melts. We also like the four side pockets, shock cord, and bottle opener hanging on it.


With only 10.25 percent of the original ice left after 24 hours, you will need to use lots of ice for longer-term storage. The shoulder strap has padding, but not a lot, so you may start to feel some strain after a while carrying it when it's full. But the side handles are thick and soft. We preferred these for easy lifting.


Because it uses Velcro, it's not fully leak-proof. Dropping it or tipping it over in the car could get messy. With dense triangle stitching, the shoulder strap seems solid. But the urethane coating is thin and may rub off over time. We also worry because Velcro tends to weaken with repeated use.

Exterior materialTPE
Interior materialTPE
StyleBox
WaterproofN/A
With side pocket
With bottle opener
With a loopN/A
With exterior bungee cord
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper typeZipperless
No.11

Maelstrom Soft Cooler Bag B09PD3D27J

Overall rating

3.25

  • Chilling capability
    3.00
  • Ease of carrying
    3.92
  • Usability
    4.20
  • Watertight closure
    3.00
  • Construction
    3.66

$34.99

Weight
1.98 lbs
Capacity
30 cans
Insulation material
-
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
0 %
Width (exterior)
14.8 in.
Length (exterior)
9.4 in.
Height (exterior)
16 in.
Width (interior)
-
Length (interior)
-
Height (interior)
-

Lots of Useful Features, but Not Enough Cooling Power

This cooler from Maelstrom weighs only about two pounds. The box-shaped bag can be folded down for compact storage. The shape and its coil-type zipper make it easy to open and grab your food or drinks. It also has useful features such as a built-in bottle opener, hanging loops, four side pockets, and a snack tray.


But since we found that all the ice we put in it had melted after 24 hours, don't expect to use it overnight. You may want to make sure to use a lot of ice or pre-chill the bag before loading it up. The soft material of the back makes it feel form-fitting and light to carry. However, the shoulder strap is a bit thin and might dig in if it's loaded up.


Also, it can leak melted ice, so be careful not to drop it or knock it over. We also worry that the strap may not hold up because of its stitching and small attachment ring. However, we liked that the PVC-coated interior is totally waterproof.

Exterior material600D Oxford
Interior materialFood-grade PEVA
StyleBox
Waterproof
With side pocket
With bottle opener
With a loopN/A
With exterior bungee cord
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper type-
No.13

IglooSoft Cooler With Wheels00065539

Overall rating

3.23

  • Chilling capability
    3.00
  • Ease of carrying
    4.01
  • Usability
    3.60
  • Watertight closure
    3.00
  • Construction
    3.52

$68.69

Weight
6.5 lbs
Capacity
36 cans
Insulation material
-
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
0.22 %
Width (exterior)
15.75 in.
Length (exterior)
13.58 in.
Height (exterior)
17.52 in.
Width (interior)
-
Length (interior)
-
Height (interior)
-

Wheels Make Transporting It Easy, but It Seems a Bit Flimsy

Igloo's 40-can soft cooler on wheels has a handle that's adjustable to three heights. It's easy for anyone to cart around. It doesn't feel difficult to maneuver up stairs, thanks to the side handles and soft fabric.


The zipper also opens and closes smoothly, and it's easy to add and take out items. There's even a little quick-access flap on top so you don't have to open the whole lid to get one drink out. We do wish it stayed cooler, though. After 24 hours, all but 0.22 percent of the ice was melted. Pre-cooling the bag or adding more ice packs might be called for.


Also, the inner lining is loose, which is harder to clean off, and the coil-type zipper doesn't fully prevent leaks. The stitching seems a bit weak and the outer fabric isn't coated for waterproofing. The adjustable handle is nice, but more parts mean more places for potential breakage. Treat it with care.

Exterior materialPolyester
Interior materialPolyester
StyleWheeled
Waterproof-
With side pocketFront pocket
With bottle openerN/A
With a loopN/A
With exterior bungee cordN/A
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper typeLeakproof zipper
No.14

TouritInsulated Soft CoolerTR2103035AS008-FUS

Overall rating

3.22

  • Chilling capability
    3.00
  • Ease of carrying
    3.76
  • Usability
    3.80
  • Watertight closure
    3.00
  • Construction
    3.52

$19.99

Weight
9.9 lbs
Capacity
24 cans
Insulation material
-
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
0 %
Width (exterior)
11.5 in.
Length (exterior)
7.5 in.
Height (exterior)
10.5 in.
Width (interior)
-
Length (interior)
-
Height (interior)
-

Easy-Open Lid and Compact Storage, but It Can Leak and It Doesn't Stay Very Cold

This cooler from Tourit has an inner box made of PEVA, a waterproof and tough material. The lid opens easily thanks to the coil-type zipper. Since it snaps back, taking out drinks and food is a quick process. But it has an inner lining that's the loose kind, which is a bit hard to wipe down.


Virtually no ice was left after 24 hours, so for long-term cold storage you'll need more ice or a quality ice pack. Also, the handles and shoulder strap aren't padded at all. If you load it fully, they may dig in.


It can be folded down compactly when not needed, but it can leak if tipped over. Although the construction has three layers of fabric, they're thin. We also question the strength of the handle's material. It looks functional overall but it's pretty basic.

Exterior material-
Interior material-
StyleBox
Waterproof-
With side pocket
With bottle openerN/A
With a loopN/A
With exterior bungee cordN/A
Includes ice packN/A
With top flapN/A
Zipper type-
No.14

Coleman 30 Can Soft Cooler‎2000025480

Overall rating

3.22

  • Chilling capability
    3.00
  • Ease of carrying
    4.12
  • Usability
    3.48
  • Watertight closure
    3.00
  • Construction
    3.52

$25.20

Weight
1.54 lbs
Capacity
30 cans
Insulation material
-
Insulation thickness
-
Percentage of ice remaining
8 %
Width (exterior)
12.99 in.
Length (exterior)
9.45 in.
Height (exterior)
12.20 in.
Width (interior)
-
Length (interior)
-
Height (interior)
-

Comfortable to Carry but Tough to Wash and Keep Cool

Coleman's box-shaped soft cooler folds down when not in use. It also has a mold-resistant antibacterial liner. The body is soft with no hard shell at all, so it feels like it hugs your hips when you carry it, and the handle is comfortable. The shoulder strap is also adjustable.


Its coil-construction zipper glides with ease, and its shape offers easy access. Getting your beverages in and out will be a breeze. But wiping it down may not be. The inner lining is loose so finding all the nooks and crannies could be a challenge.


And while that zipper is smooth to operate, it won't prevent leaks from melted ice. The fabric is thin but it does have a honeycomb pattern that adds strength. We wanted a more solid stitching on the handle, but overall durability seems decent.

Exterior material-
Interior material-
StyleBox
Waterproof-
With side pocketN/A
With bottle openerN/A
With a loopN/A
With exterior bungee cordN/A
Includes ice packN/A
With top flap-
Zipper type-

How We Tested the Soft Coolers

Soft Coolers Evaluation

The mybest team picked out some of the top sellers on sites like Amazon, Walmart and Target, and put them to the test to see which stayed cold longest, were easy to carry, and were easy to use. We also checked to see if they had a solid build that would likely last a long time.


Here are the points we verified in our testing:

1. How long they stayed cold inside
2. How they felt to carry around
3. Ease of use
4. If they leaked or not
5. How they were constructed

Products we tested

  1. Coleman |30 Can Soft Cooler
  2. Earth Pak|Loch Soft Cooler
  3. Hydro Flask |Day Escape
  4. IceMule|Classic
  5. Icemule |Pro XL
  6. Igloo|Soft Cooler With Wheels
  7. KULA|Softy 2.5 Cooler
  8. Maelstrom |Soft Cooler Bag
  9. ORCA |Walker 20
  10. OtterBox |Trooper 20
  11. RTIC|Soft Pack Cooler
  12. Rock Bros |Soft Cooler
  13. Titan by Arctic Zone|‎Deep Freeze 30-Can Zipperless Hardbody Cooler
  14. Tourit|Insulated Soft Cooler
  15. Yeti |Hopper M30

Test① Cold Retention

Cold Retention

The whole point of a cooler is to keep things cold, so this is arguably the first thing you'll be interested in. We tested how long the soft coolers could stay chilly using the following parameters.


We filled the soft cooler with ice up to 20 percent of its capacity and left it in a 90-degree room for 24 hours. Then we measured how much ice was left unmelted and calculated the rate.


Coolers with a high percentage of unmelted ice got high scores in this test.

Test② Ease of Carrying

Ease of Carrying

Carrying a cooler full of ice and drinks all the way to the beach or your campsite can be difficult, so we tested that too. 


We asked five people with camping experience to try out these coolers and imagine using them on a trip. They were asked to think about four things. How comfortable is it to hold? Is it cushioned on the straps? Does it bang against your body or feel comfortably snug? What about storing it when it's empty?

Test③ Usability

Usability

We wanted to see if the coolers were easy to use, so we looked at things like how they open and close, if the interior was easily accessible, if they had extra features and how it was to clean them. Here are the specifics we checked.

  • The ease of using the zipper or other closure types
  • Taking things out of the cooler
  • Wiping down the inside
  • The number of exterior pockets
  • If it has an inner compartment or tray
  • The various methods for carrying it
  • Is a bottle opener built-in?
  • Does it have a shock cord?
  • Can the whole thing be washed?
  • Is there a quick-access panel on the lid?
  • Does it have an inner mesh bag?

Test④ Leak Prevention

Leak Prevention

It's a good idea to look for a soft cooler that won't leak melted ice all over if you accidentally drop it or knock it over. Here's how we checked if the coolers were leak-proof.

  • Does water leak out of the closure?
  • Do the seams seal water in?
  • Does anything seep through the main material?

Test⑤ Durable Construction

Durable Construction

Soft coolers are prone to getting wet and dirty from being set on the ground outdoors. If you're going to buy one, you'll want to know that it will stand the test of many trips to the beach or campground.


We asked experts to judge the build of each cooler, keeping the following points in mind.

  • The strength of the inner lining and outer shell
  • The stitching on the handle and the strength of its material
  • The type of zipper and its sturdiness

How Can I Keep Food and Drinks Cold Longer?

Here are some ways to get the best cooling power out of your soft cooler.


First, use ice packs. In addition to using loose ice and starting with your drinks frozen (unless they're carbonated) you can also put in plastic ice packs. Most chill to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but some actually get colder, going below freezing temperature. Check those out if you need to keep things cold longer.


Next, pre-chill the cooler before filling it up. Put an ice pack in, and once it's cool inside you can put in your fresh ice and drinks. This will delay the ice melting and prolong its cooling power.


You can also add to the cooler's insulating properties, especially if it'll be sitting in the hot sun. Do you have some aluminum-lined insulation lying around? You can buy it in rolls, and one side is reflective, so it protects against the heat from the sun. Try laying some of this over the outside of the cooler. 


If the ground is hot, keep the cooler elevated. Hot sand or pavement will transfer its heat to the cooler when you set it down, so keep it off of those surfaces if possible. You can even get special cooler stands, which work great for camping and are useful for hard-shell coolers as well.

Top 5 Soft Coolers

No. 1Yeti Hopper M30‎YETIHOPM30C

No. 2Icemule Pro XL‎59417

No. 3OtterBox Trooper 20B07SLDF9TR

No. 4Rock Bros Soft CoolerBX-003/CA

No. 5ORCA Walker 20W20CBGY

View Full Ranking

When you purchase products mentioned in the article, part of the sales may be returned to mybest.

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