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Ever thought about buying a collapsible cooler or a folding cooler? If so, then this is a must-read post as we'll be discussing a bunch of them. But first, folding…what? A cooler?
Well… as wise marketing genius once said:
The only thing that rivals performance… is convenience.
Actually, we just made that up. But it certainly is true in many ways – especially in the cooler world.
Think about the most hi-tech, premium-quality, best-performing coolers on the market: they’re big, pricey, heavy, bulky things that are a bear to carry, right?
Enter the ultra-convenient, ultra-portable niche of folding and collapsible coolers.
You see, not everyone cares to drop $500 or so on a high-end ice chest that they struggle to carry for more than 20 feet. Some people want convenience; something they can throw an ice pack and a few drinks in, sling over their shoulder, and stroll down to the beach or picnic spot with.
Below you'll find reviews of our personal go-to choices for the best collapsible ice chest, folding cooler, pop up cooler and collapsible cooler bag, based on a combination of value, portability, convenience, and performance.
Although they’re only intended for a few hours’ use at a time, for the right purposes these coolers really can be an extremely useful addition to your collection.
Best Folding Cooler – Our Top Picks
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|Coleman C006 soft 40-can Collapsible Cooler
|• 14” x 11.4” x 12.3”
• holds up to 40 cans
• heavy-duty 420D nylon
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|Kelty Folding Cooler
|• 16.5" x 9.5" x 12.25"
• Collapsed 5.5 in
• holds up to 20-60 cans (depends on size)
• 600D ripstop polyester
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|Arctic Zone Ultra Collapsible Rolling Wheel Cooler
|• 15.5” x 14” x 14.25”
• hold up to 58 cans
• detachable rolling cart
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|Picnic at Ascot 24-can Collapsible Pop-Up Cooler
|• 13.5” x 9 (open)
• hold up to 24 cans
• ‘easy access’ opening
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|CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag
|• 18. 25"L x 12. 25"W x 12"H (open) and collapses flat to 3"
• up to 50 cans
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|Hap Tim Soft Collapsible Cooler Bag
|• 16.53" L x 9.84" W x 10.23" H
• Holds 40 cans
• FDA approved
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|Rachael Ray Jumbo ChillOut Thermal Tote
|• 22” x 8” x 17.2”
• 600D polyester
• fold completely flat
Collapsible Cooler Reviews – What To Know Before Buying
Coleman C006 soft 40-can Collapsible Cooler
While this soft 40-can collapsible cooler is no exception to that, there’s a lot we actually really like about it, and it’s super convenient if used for the right purposes and with the right expectations.
For the size (14” x 11.4” x 12.3” – holds right up to about 40 cans), don’t expect to find a more packable or collapsible ice chest than this one. It folds down flat to the size of a small telephone book, which makes it excellent for travel or if storage space is tight.
Also, for the price we were surprised to see that it’s constructed of a heavy-duty 420D nylon – dont worry about this thing tearing, even if you’re carrying it loaded down with ice and drinks.
One thing we will say about this cooler, is don’t expect it to hold ice for more than about three hours on a hot day. And once the ice does start melting, don’t be surprised to find that it will probably leak a little water through the bottom.
Comes in three colors: Red, Navy and Grey.
Kelty Folding Cooler
With a more rigid top and bottom, it’s a little bulkier and more awkward to carry than the Coleman. However, the added rigidity allows for some cool extra features such as built-in can holders on the lid, and the ability to use it as a foot rest while chilling out in your camping chair.
This would be a great folding cooler for picnicking or car camping, where portability is a must but you still want something that can perform and have some added functionality.
- Release toggles and unzip the collapsed cooler to open
- Fold upward and velcro together inside foam panels
- Pull waterproof liner up and velcro in place
- Pull up exterior fabric and velcro to foam panels
Available models and sizes:
- 25 or 45 liter holding 40 and 70 cans respectively.
- 17, 27 or 55-liter models, with a bit different design (it's probably an earlier iteration). The smallest one is approx 18-qt, measures 16.5″ x 9.5″ x 12.5″, hold up to 20 cans with room for ice, weight: 3lb 4oz / 1.5kg. The largest one is approx. 38-QT, measures 19.3″ x 10.5″ x 14″, hold up to 36 cans with room for ice, weight: 4lb 3.5oz / 1.9kg
For more information, check out detailed Kelty folding cooler review here.
Oh and lastly, one of our favorite features – it comes with 2 Kelty can cookies!
Arctic Zone Ultra Collapsible Rolling Wheel Cooler w/ Mesh Bag (58 cans)
It features a detachable drawstring mesh bag that you can use as a backpack or sling, two can/cup holders built into the lid, a fully padded sling for comfortable carrying, and front and side mesh pockets and zip-up storage compartments. Not to mention, a 100-lb capacity rolling cart with heavy-duty wheels that the cooler can fully detach from, giving it 2-in-1 capabilities (cooler/sweet transport device).
Although the rolling cart is an excellent idea, we did have some trouble with it performing solidly over sand and other non-smooth terrain.
If you plan on trying to roll it over beach sand, for example, you’ll find yourself doing a lot more dragging than rolling. Also, unless the rolling surface is smooth, the cooler can (and will) fall off the cart quite easily. They really should have thought about adding some secure straps that fasten the cooler snugly to the cart.
Performance-wise, the cooler will hold ice for about 3-4 hours before melting, in our experience. It doesn’t perform quite as well as the Kelty folding cooler, but all the extra features make for a tempting compromise.
This is a pretty large cooler at 15.5” x 14” x 14.25”, with a capacity to hold 58 12-oz cans.
Picnic at Ascot 24-can Collapsible Pop Up Cooler
It pops up to 13.5” x 9”, and is a great option for travel (pop it in your suitcase), beach use, or picnicking.
It features a velcro ‘easy access’ opening built into the lid, as well as a clip-on corkscrew for the wine aficionados out there. (Actually a pretty good idea – we’ve all been there where we go to pop open a bottle of wine, only to realize no one has a corkscrew).
Materials-wise, it is not as well-constructed as any of the previous coolers, and you’ll find that ice will start melting after probably a couple of hours. With a seamless, one-piece PEVA interior lining though, leaks should not be an issue.
This pop up cooler is available in variety of colors:
- Black / Apple
- Black / Grey
- Black / Red
- Navy / White
CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag
The CleverMade cooler bag is remarkably storage-efficient – when collapsed, it’s a mere 1.25 inches thick, which is better than most cooler bags on this top. And what’s even better is that it’s not a small cooler – sized at 8 gallons (32 quarts), it’s quite a bulky model and an excellent choice for one-day beach trips, picnics, or workplace snacks.
When this cooler bag is open, it’s supported by patented SnapHinges – once the cooler is empty and ready for storage, you only need to push the side hinges for the bag to collapse. The CleverMade cooler bag has a solid board base and a wireframe top too – they make the bag pretty sturdy and should keep your items safe inside.
On the outside, the CleverMade cooler bag has a few features for added convenience, including a bottle opener on one of the straps and a front zippered pocket for small items that need dry storage. This cooler is leakproof as well, so moisture should neither escape nor get inside it.
In terms of colors, this cooler is more limited than others on this list. You have 3 options:
- Heathered charcoal/black.
- Light grey/denim.
- Steel blue/cream.
They still look cool, but it would be nice to see more.
Hap Tim Soft Cooler Bag
The Hap Tim soft cooler bag is a little cheaper than the CleverMade bag, and it lacks some features. Most importantly, it doesn’t stay as rigid because it doesn’t have a wireframe at the top of hinges like in the previous cooler, but it does have a solid board at the bottom.
With that said, the Hap Tim cooler does a pretty good job of retaining its shape, so as long as you don’t put anything heavy near or on top of it, it should be completely fine.
The Hap Tim cooler is a little larger than the CleverMade bag – 30 liters (about 31.7 quarts). Not only that, but it may retain ice better thanks to the small flap in the closure – with this flap, you don’t have to open up the entire cooler to get what you need, which should minimize heat leaks.
When collapsed, the Hap Tim cooler bag is 4.7 inches thick – much thicker than the CleverMade cooler, but it’s still pretty nicely sized. When fully extended, it’s slightly bigger, but that’s expected since it has a higher capacity.
The Hap Tim cooler bag comes with a front zippered pocket, a bottle opener, and a leakproof interior, so it’s similar to the CleverMade bag feature-wise. In terms of colors though, it’s even more limited – you have only 2 color options – grey and dark grey – so if you want something eye-catching, you won’t find it here.
Rachael Ray Jumbo ChillOut Foldable Cooler Bag
At under 30 bucks, its efficiency and multi-functionality make it a fantastic value buy, or an awesome gift idea.
It can fold completely flat for convenient storage, and the high-quality handle can convert for either vertical or horizontal use.
For the price, construction is of respectable quality, and the foldable cooler bag boasts some seriously impressive materials including high-performance foam insulation, a ‘Therma-Flect’ radiant barrier for carrying hot/cold items equally well, and a 600D polyester exterior.
At 22” x 8” x 17.2”, the bag is a decent enough size to fill up with plenty of food, drinks, snacks or groceries, yet still compact enough for no-hassle storing. We know many people that like to just keep one in the car at all times – you’ll find yourself using it a lot more than you’d think.
Collapsible Coolers – The Bottom Line
As we stated from the get-go, the aforementioned folding and collapsible coolers are certainly not the best-performing coolers on the market. In all reality, you’re making a sacrifice for convenience over performance.
That being said, though, use these things in the right way and have the right expectations for them, and they’ll provide you with plenty of carefree, convenient use and fun afternoons.
If you want to see more products similar to ones we've just covered then check out all folding coolers currently listed at Amazon.
Last update on 2024-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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