Best Cooler Reviews & GuideAO Coolers Review - Are These Soft Coolers Rough and Ready?

AO Coolers Review – Are These Soft Coolers Rough and Ready?

AO CoolersBrands

by Greg0

ao coolers review

For more than 20 years AO Coolers has been rocking the soft cooler market. With that kind of longevity, we would be remiss not to put together an AO Coolers review. Being around for a few decades helps you learn a thing or two about how to survive in an increasingly crowded market, especially against powerhouses such as Yeti (covered here), and the legions of copycats following in their footsteps.

In our AO Coolers review we will set out illuminate what makes AO Coolers a name worth their longevity. We aren’t talking your dollar bin toss away coolers, AO makes seriously hardcore coolers for the outdoor enthusiast.

AO Coolers – What The Brand Has To Offer

AO Coolers stand out from other coolers, and provide consistent performance across all of their lines, thanks to their Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) liner that makes all the AO Coolers leak and sweatproof. Each cooler is insulated with 3/4” of closed cell foam that is dense enough to keep ice solid for as long as 24 hours in temperatures that only cacti are comfortable in.

Check out this table to see how the individual models of AO Coolers differ to help line up the cooler that will best fit your needs and desires. With 9 different cooler lines to choose from, hopefully this will help you get on the path a little bit quicker.

  ao canvas coolerao vinyl coolerao carbon coolerao STOW-N-GO coolerao hybrid cooler
item-titleSeriesAO CanvasAO VinylAO CarbonAO Stow-N-GoAO Hybrid
read moreread moreread moreread moreread more
Sizes12 Pack, 24 Pack, 36 Pack, 38 Pack, 48 Pack, Backpack12 Pack, 15 Pack, 24 Pack, 36 Pack, 38 Pack, 48 Pack12 Pack, 24 Pack, 36 Pack, 48 Pack38 Pack24 Can Pack, 64 Can Pack
to-centerBest UsesFishing, hunting, boating, camping, tailgating, groceriesFishing, hunting, boating, camping, tailgatingFishing, hunting, boating, camping, tailgatingFishing, hunting, boating, camping, tailgating, groceriesFishing, hunting, boating, camping, tailgating
to-centerExternal MaterialCanvas1000 denier vinylWoven 1000 denier vinyl in carbon-fiber patternCanvas & carbon-fiber patternWelded Thermoplastic Polyurethane & molded EVA Bottom
to-centerHeavyweight Leak-Proof Liner
to-centerHolds Ice for 24 Hours (Up to 120 Degrees)
to-centerStrapRemovable shoulder strapRemovable shoulder strapRemovable shoulder strap-Removable shoulder strap
to-centerDry StorageSide pocketSide pocketSide pocketTop pocketTop pocket
to-centerLow Profile----
to-centerAvailable ColorsBlack, Charcoal, Mossy Oak, Navy, Red, Royal BlueBlack, Royal Blue, SilverBlack, SilverBlack, Carbon Black, Carbon SilverGray/Blue
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Getting to Know AO Coolers

The Company

Based out of Southern California, in the City of Corona, AO Coolers are pioneers in the heavy-duty soft cooler industry. They claim to be the first to use Thermoplastic Polyurethane as the liner for their soft coolers. Over the decades they have expanded on their successful soft coolers to include ice chests, and hybrid coolers that seek to bridge the gap between hard and soft coolers.

Product Introduction

ao soft cooler insulationAt its heart, AO Coolers is a company of outdoor enthusiasts who just want a quality piece of equipment that will survive a weekend out on the lake as easily as you survive a weekend with the in-laws. As we mentioned before, AO Coolers use TPU liners to make sure that you don’t get a leaky faucet instead of a heavy-duty cooler.

The TPU lining also creates an additional barrier between the inside and outside of the cooler to keep moisture from developing on the outside of your cooler. A great feature for making sure you don’t end up with truck bed that looks like the inside of an over-hydrated toddler’s diaper.

The outside of the AO Coolers is made from soft materials to prevent scratching up of your car. More importantly, this soft but durable outer layer won’t scratch or rub against you either as you haul it around the boat deck, beach, or mountainside.

One of the neatest features that is unique to AO Coolers is the AO Cooler Backpack forged to make carrying your cold deliciousness around all the easier. This is just one of several lines offered by AO to create a soft cooler solution for almost any occasion.

As part of our AO Coolers review, we will be going through each of the 9 lines to show how each builds on the high-performance features to satisfy your desires and uses.

All AO Coolers uses a large mouth design to make it easy to put all your stuff as well as ice into it. Securing all that in place and maximizing ice retention is easy as 1, 2, 3… just take a look:

ao coolers

Ice retention

What makes or breaks a cooler is the ability to keep your ice nice and icy. The build of the AO Coolers helps to keep ice in your coolers for up to 48-hours, as long as you are not adventuring in an oven. If you are out in weather that feels like an oven, the AO Cooler line has the capability to keep that ice frost for a full 24-hours. So, if you are like me and forget the cooler in the car as you are unloading, you know that you won’t be transporting puddles.

While the 24-48 hour range doesn’t match the hard coolers and ice chests that can keep you for a week or more, we are nonetheless impressed that a soft cooler line has this capability.

Sizes and Capacity

One of the best advantages to being in the industry for so long is that AO Coolers has learned the needs of the everyday adventurer, and provides a wide range of size and capacity options. Each series of AO Coolers comes in multiple capacities ranging from 12 to 48 can capacities.

ao coolers size chart

The new line of Everest Hard Coolers offers a powerhouse 80-quart cooler just in case you have a wilder weekend planned and need more carrying capacity.

Warranty

The build quality of the AO Cooler lines is as high as similar models, and has the durability that a rugged adventurer needs to make sure they stay hydrated for their whole trip. Even with the high build quality, AO Coolers stands behind their products, and their customers.

AO Coolers provides a limited-lifetime warranty on the cooler liners and on the Top Zipper of their soft coolers. If these aspects of the cooler fail from defect or normal use, so unfortunately if you used it for knife sharpening, bomb testing, or allowed pesky broken bottles and cans to wreak havoc on your coolers.

What is cool about AO Coolers customer support is that they are even willing to repair damages you caused from your attempts to transport flaming gasoline over stateliness. For a repair cost of $25.00 you can maintain your awesome cooler if it becomes damaged.

AO only has two rules that you must absolutely follow:

  1. Send it to them clean. No left overs, fish guts, cigarette butts, or mold.
  2. The cooler must be dry. As in no water, fish pee, or spilled beer.

AO Coolers Reviews


ao canvas cooler

ao canvas soft cooler

AO Canvas Cooler Series

  • Sizes: 12 Pack, 24 Pack, 36 Pack, 38 Pack, 48 Pack, Backpack
  • Colors: Black, Charcoal, Navy Blue, Red, Royal Blue, Mossy Oak

The Canvas line is the original AO Soft sided cooler, and laid the groundwork for the quality coolers that AO has become known for. The canvas line has sizes that range between 12 and 48 can capacities.

The Canvas cooler uses a large mouth design to make it easy to put drinks or food in the bag without feeling like trying to get jawbreakers out of a glass jar. The top zips, folds, and then clips to make sure that, even though it has a big mouth, it can shut it firmly.

You also have 6 color choices to meet your desires and needs, including a “mossy oak” camo pattern that lets you hide your refreshments from untrustworthy hunting buddies.

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ao vinyl cooler

ao vinyl soft cooler

AO Vinyl Cooler Series

  • Sizes: 12 Pack, 15 Pack, 24 Pack, 36 Pack, 38 Pack, 48 Pack
  • Colors: Black, Charcoal, Navy Blue

Just like your classic rock selection, the AO Vinyl Coolers are designed to keep you cool for years to come. The outer lining of the Vinyl series is made from 1000 denier lining, which is a fancy way of saying that this fabric is more tear and water resistant than other materials.

In addition, the nylon has been treated with a UV coating to help reduce the fading of the bag colors. This makes these AO Coolers a great companion for going boating and fishing. The SUP version of the vinyl even has suction cup anchors and straps to prevent this little puppy from jumping ship.

The Vinyl series comes in 12, 15, 24, 36, and 48 can capacities, and three color options that are glossy and fun.

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ao carbon cooler

ao carbon soft sided cooler

AO Carbon Cooler Series

  • Sizes: 12 Pack, 24 Pack, 36 Pack, 48 Pack
  • Colors: Black, Silver

The AO Carbon is your go-to cooler for almost any trip. The woven vinyl exterior is designed to look like carbon fiber, which is one of the coolest looking materials out there.

Besides looking good, the Carbon series is also adept at keeping things warm, so next time you are on your way to the company picnic you can tote your potluck item along without worrying about it getting cold.

The Carbon series is designed to meet airplane carry on standards, so even though you can’t carry lots of liquids or foods on the plane you can still travel in style and have your trusty cooler with you on your next fishing trip with the boys.

The carbon series has two color options, black and silver, that come in 12, 24, 36, and 48 can capacities.

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ao backpack cooler

ao cooler backpack soft

AO Cooler Backpack

  • Size: 18 Pack
  • Colors: Black, Charcoal, Navy Blue, Red, Royal Blue, Mossy Oak

Ok, this is one of the coolest offerings that AO brings to the table. One of the biggest issues with packing a cooler out is that you are either limited to a shoulder sling, or a top handle. The backpack series lets you throw the bag onto your shoulders and carry it in the time-tested comfortable way you learned in school, only this time you get to haul delicious yummies instead of textbooks.

This 18-pack cooler has thick padded straps to help reduced the fatigue on your shoulders as you hike across hostile forest floors to reach your deer blind. You have 6 color options to choose from, including the camouflaged Mossy Oak.

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ao STOW-N-GO cooler

ao coolers Carbon STOW-N-GO

AO Stow-N-Go Cooler Series

  • Size: 38 Pack
  • Colors: Black, Carbon Black, Carbon Silver

One of the advantages of soft coolers is that they can mold to fit in tight spaces. However, you also lose out on the available storage that comes with hard coolers. The AO Stow-N-Go attempts to bridge the gap between the two types of coolers with a long and low 38-pack soft cooler.

The Stow-N-Go looks more like a pizza delivery bag than a cooler, but it still has the 3/4”-inch insulation that will keep everything snow cold for more than 24-hours. The low profile lets you pack this puppy away while saving space, and not having to crunch or deform your cooler to do so.

The Stow-N-Go is available in black, carbon black, and carbon silver. All three options are sturdy and attractive enough to take with you wherever your journey takes you.

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ao sup cooler

ao soft sup cooler

AO SUP Cooler Series

  • Sizes: 15 Pack
  • Colors: Royal Blue, Silver

You know what sucks? Having your cooler fall off your paddleboard or kayak while you cruise the lake. AO has engineered the SUP cooler to strap down to the surface of a paddleboard or kayak to make sure that you don’t lose out on the life-giving hydration you need while out taming the wild waters.

4 eye hooks built into the 15 can body of the cooler give you options to tie down to your favorite non-motorized watercraft, or secure in the cargo hold of your favorite motorized craft. Either way, you have the ability to secure this cooler anywhere that you have the chance of losing it due to bumps and sudden shifts.

The cooler doesn’t come with the tie downs, so you have to use your own ingenuity, or you can get one of the two AO customized bungee or suction cup strap options.

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ao hunter cooler

ao hunter mossy oak cooler

AO Hunter Cooler Series

  • Sizes: 12 Pack, 18 Pack, 24 Pack, 36Pack, 48 Pack, Backpack
  • Color: Mossy Oak

The Hunter series of AO Coolers features the Mossy Oak color pattern applied to various AO Coolers 12 pack, 18, 24, 36, and 48 pack models. You can even get the Mossy Oak in the AO Cooler backpack model that gives you plenty of options for keeping your jerky and drinks cool as you stalk your prey.

AO has redesigned the pattern to make it more vibrant, and natural looking to help it match your outfit, because color coordination is a high concern when you set out to hunt.

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ao hybrid cooler

ao soft hybrid hard cooler

AO Hybrid Cooler Series

  • Sizes: 24 Can Pack, 64 Can Pack
  • Color: Gray/Blue

The AO Hybrid Cooler is designed to bridge the gap between the tough and rugged hard cooler and the quick and portable soft cooler. The Hybrid has rigid sides lined with a combination of sewn material and welded seams to add durability and leak proofing. The bottom of the Hybrid is a molded EVA tub that keeps this cooler from buckling under the pressure of your 24 or 64 can capacity.

The higher capacity and stronger structure of the Hybrid cooler make this a great option for larger parties, or to make sure you have plenty of space to bring home your catch after a long day of fishing. Weighing in at less than 6 pounds, and able to keep ice for up to two days, this is a great option for someone who wants something stronger than a typical soft cooler, but lighter than a hard cooler.

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ao Motorcycle Saddle Bag Cooler

AO Motorcycle Saddlebags Series

  • Size: 18 Pack
  • Color: Black

Initially I was hesitant about a cooler that straps to the side of my bike. If there is one area where looking good absolutely matters, it is on my bike. Fortunately, I was pleased to see that the AO Cooler motorcycle saddlebag is designed to slide into the existing saddle bags you already have.

The 15-can capacity of the saddlebag cooler is more than enough to pack a few drinks and a couple sandwiches along for a Saturday morning cruise. The bags are slanted a tapered to mold to the shape of your existing bags, and are light enough with included carry straps that you can still use them as a regular cooler when you aren’t out biking.

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AO Cooler Accessories

In order to help the use of AO Coolers more comfortable and convenient, they have designed a couple accessories specific to the AO lines of soft coolers.

AO Ice packs are gel ice packs built and designed to stay cooler longer than your average ice pack, and help to maintain a consistent temperature inside the cooler, and thus help prevent your ice from melting. These packs can be used as a standalone cooling source as well for the smaller packs.

AO also offers an accessory shoulder strap, suction cup, and bungee anchors that each help to create a more comfortable and secure user experience.


AO Cooler’s New Peak, the Everest Hard Coolers

ao coolers Everest ice chest

ao everest hard cooler


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After so much success with their soft coolers, AO has decided to jump into the heated hard cooler battle. AO has the advantage of two-decades of market experience, so they know how to build a quality cooler that is able to withstand the abuses of an active outdoor lifestyle. These roto-molded beasts are all but indestructible in the face of some the most intense hunting, fishing, boating, and youth soccer tournaments out there.

While there are no built-in wheels, a feature I like in larger coolers, the Everest has two handles that are complete with foam padded handles to make carrying easier. Ideally you still need two people to carry the full cooler, but the padded handles do make it easier to manage if you have to pack it by yourself.

The walls of the 80-quart Everest cooler are a full 3-inches thick. These walls not only keep everything cold for up to 5-days, but they also make sure that everything stays where it is supposed to instead of leaking out all over your boat deck.

When you do want to evacuate the left-over liquids from your journey, the 1” diameter gasket, screw style, drain plug makes purging and cleaning easy. This is a nice feature that means you don’t have to tip the whole thing over when draining the 40 pounds of ice this puppy is capable of hauling.


AO Coolers vs Yeti

Even though AO has been around for a long time, it is useful to compare it against Yeti, which is one of the top performers in the cooler class. Both Yeti and AO have an extensive line of soft coolers that can meet a variety of needs for both the avid outdoorsman, and the weekend warrior.

The build quality of both companies’ cooler is exceptional and won’t leave you disappointed. In this battle of AO Coolers vs Yeti, the real determining factor is down to the price point, look & feel and one’s individual preferences. The majority of AO coolers are made overseas (though they have 5 models made in the USA) so they offer their coolers at a lower price than Yeti, which feels more like a premium brand where you pay some extra to have that shiny Yeti logo embedded on a cooler.

Anyway, the result is the chance for you to get your hands on a high-quality cooler at a lower price than what you can find for a comparable Yeti. The extensive experience offered by AO coolers ensures that these coolers will definitely hold their own zipper to zipper with Yeti, although what you prefer visually is up to you.


AO Coolers for Sale – Where to Buy?

For the best all-around shopping experience, we recommend checking the selection of AO coolers available on Amazon.com. Their customer service, shipping, and return policies makes transactions easier and faster.

If you can’t find the model, or color, you want on Amazon, going to AO Cooler’s webpage is a good secondary option to get your hands-on information about getting the model and color that you want.


Sealing the AO Coolers Review – Bottom Line

AO coolers definitely have longevity on their side, and that goes a long way to making these coolers stand out among the growing list of companies making heavy-duty coolers. While they don’t offer anything new or groundbreaking, their consistent quality and performance is enough for us to give them our seal of approval.

 


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