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If you are looking for the best soft sided cooler, you are lucky – soft coolers are exactly what we are going to be talking about today!
In This Article
Soft coolers are increasingly popular these days thanks to their lightness and increased portability over bulky ice chests.
However, there are dozens and dozens of options on the market to choose from, which, needless to say, makes shopping for the best soft cooler quite a challenge.
To help you pick, we’ll showcase 10 great soft coolers below, as well as will explain to you what makes a good soft cooler and what you should be paying attention to when searching for one.
In a Hurry? Our Top Picks
How Did We Choose Our Top Picks?
To make things easier for ourselves and you, we’ve divided soft coolers into two groups:
- High-end soft coolers with days of ice retention and years of longevity.
- Affordable soft sided coolers designed for everyday use. These are practical for lighter needs, but they have weaker insulation (which is completely fine for their purpose).
We tried to choose distinct coolers from over 25 brands to hopefully provide our readers with more options to choose from.
But more importantly, we strived to pick coolers that are well-performing and offer good value for their money – no matter the price point.
Best Soft Cooler – High-End / Performance Category
Best Soft Sided Coolers – Our Top Picks Compared
|item-title||YETI Hopper||Engel HD30||Otterbox Trooper||RTIC Soft Pack||Polar Bear Deluxe|
|to-top||• Closed-cell rubber foam insulation|
• Dryhide™ Shell
• Hydrolok™ Zipper
• Wide-Mouth Opening
|• 840D Thermal Plastic Urethane (TPU)|
• Closed foam insulation
• Vacuum valve technology
|• Leakproof seal|
• Water resistant exterior pocket
• Premium grade thermal insulation
• Solid, heavy-duty base
|• Waterproof StarDryu material|
• Puncture- and tear-resistant nylon shell
|• CLOSED-CELL foam insulation|
• PVC-free and FDA food grade
• SplashGuard zipper
Soft Cooler Reviews – What We Think Of Our Picks
YETI Hopper Soft Coolers – Best Overall
YETI is the best-known cooler brand on the market – so much that nowadays, their coolers are more about lifestyle than practicality.
This applies to their Hopper soft coolers as well. Hopper soft coolers offer great durability, insulation, and simple yet attractively sleek design.
At the base of this cooler’s durability is the DryHide shell that is resistant to punctures, water, mildew, and UV rays. The zipper is also notable – named HydroLok, it’s tough and waterproof. For insulation, Hopper employs the ColdCell closed-cell rubber foam that offers up to 3 days of ice retention (according to our own tests).
A notable feature in Hopper coolers is the HitchPoint Grid that allows you to attach any accessories of your choosing, like a flashlight or bottle opener.
And finally, the Hopper series also comes in several sizes (from 8 to 18 cans) and styles (tote and BackFlip backpack coolers).
- Why we like YETI Hopper
YETI Hopper continues YETI’s tradition of making premium, high-quality, and excellently-insulated coolers.
- Who YETI Hopper is for
YETI Hopper is perfect for YETI-heads, as well as those who expect to put their coolers to heavy use.
ENGEL HD Coolers – Best Soft Coolers For Keeping Ice
ENGEL HD-series coolers offer the best ice retention among the reviewed soft coolers. During our independent tests, we got 3 days out of the bigger HD30 cooler!
The insulation is pretty interesting in HD coolers – ENGEL HD coolers have fully welded seams, which allows the foam insulation to do its job more effectively. The zipper is likewise welded and waterproof. Additionally, HD coolers have a vacuum valve via which the air can be sucked out from the lining, adding an extra layer of insulation.
Durability is top-notch here too – the shell is made from tough 840D polyester laminated with a TPU film for higher strength and puncture resistance.
ENGEL HD coolers are available in two sizes – 22 quart and 32 quarts. Both have the same features & benefits along with an eye-catching, somewhat futuristic design that we really like.
- Why we like ENGEL HD
The insulation definitely is the highlight of the ENGEL HD – it will take a lot before succumbing to outside heat.
- Who ENGEL HD is for
ENGEL HD models are rather pricey, but if you want maximum ice retention, you will struggle to find anything better.
Otterbox Trooper – Best Feature-Packed Cooler
The high-end Otterbox Trooper series has 3 sizes, and unlike the previous two coolers, each size has different design and features.
The 2 smaller coolers (12 and 20 quarts) are bags, while the largest 30-quart model is a backpack cooler. Apart from that, the two soft cooler designs differ in their opening mechanism – the smaller models have a rigid lid, while the 30-quart backpack has a soft, wider, and perhaps more convenient opening.
Besides, note that the 12-quart cooler doesn’t have an accessory mounting system, while the larger coolers do (they also come with an accessory bottle opener).
Apart from these major differences, Trooper coolers share the same basic features, including exterior pockets, leakproof sealing, quality insulation (keeps ice for up to 3 days in the 12QT cooler and 3+ days in larger ones), the puncture-resistant rigid bottom (perhaps the most important feature in these coolers), and a TPU-coated nylon shell that is a puncture-, water-, UV-, and chemical-resistant.
- Why we like Otterbox Trooper
Trooper coolers share the same basic features but offer dramatically different designs, allowing for higher variety for buyers.
- Who Otterbox Trooper is for
If you want a cooler that will easily take heavy use, then the Trooper line is excellent, particularly thanks to the bottom that won’t get damaged or punctured easily.
OtterBox Trooper 30 Overview:
RTIC Soft Pack Series – Best Cooler For The Money (Best Value)
RTIC’s Soft Pack coolers are some of the most cost-effective soft coolers available out there. Soft Pack coolers are very similar to YETI Hopper coolers but cost half the money!
RTIC Soft Pack coolers feature closed-cell insulation that, according to our own tests, can hold ice for up to 3 days. But with proper packing and storage, this cooler may even be able to go to 4 or even 5 days!
For durability, Soft Pack has the waterproof StarDry material along with a puncture- and tear-resistant nylon shell and a waterproof zipper.
All in all, Soft Pack soft coolers are similar to YETI Hoppers, but a more or less major difference from Hopper coolers in Soft Pack models is that they don’t have anything like the HitchPoint Grid accessory system.
Note that RTIC Soft Pack coolers are available in 4 sizes – from 5.5 to 35 quarts.
- Why we like RTIC Soft Pack
Roughly half the price of YETI Hoppers, RTIC Soft Pack offers nearly the same feature set and build quality.
- Who RTIC Soft Pack is for
If you like YETI coolers but don’t think their premium pricing is worth it, you probably won’t find a better alternative than RTIC Soft Pack.
Polar Bear Deluxe Series
Up until just recently, Polar Bear have been known exclusively for their soft coolers (they started making hard coolers only this season) that are priced rather reasonably.
As premium soft side coolers, Polar Bear Deluxe models feature closed-cell foam for over 3 days of ice retention, as well as a waterproof, heavy-duty tarpaulin outer shell coated with TPU for puncture resistance and added durability.
What’s also notable in the Polar Bear Deluxe coolers is their 2 side release buckles that double as bottle openers, 8 tie-downs (not available in the backpack cooler), and bow-tie daisy-chains for accessories or additional pouches.
Polar Bear Deluxe coolers are relatively steeply-priced, but not as high as YETI coolers, for example. Boasting basically the same features and convenience, Deluxe coolers are a better buy if you want something cost-effective.
- Why we like Polar Bear Deluxe
The tie-downs are the highlight of Deluxe coolers – other coolers on this list don’t have this rather important feature.
- Who Polar Bear Deluxe is for
If you are planning to take your cooler on a boating trip, then the Polar Bear Deluxe bag coolers will be perfect thanks to their tie-downs.
Best Soft Sided Cooler – More Affordable Options
Best Soft Side Cooler – Comparison Table
|item-title||Cordova Traveler||Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze||Carhartt Deluxe||Igloo Marine Ultra||Coleman Soft|
up to 2 days
up to 3 days
up to 1 days
up to 3 days
up to 1 days
|to-top||• Waterproof zipper|
• Durable 1,000D nylon shell
• UV protection
• 2 inches of foam
|• Zipperless Lid|
• HardBody liner with SmartShelf
• Triple Layer ColdBlock Base
|• Holds a 6-pack|
• Top handle and shoulder strap
• Rain Defender material
• YKK zippers
|• MaxCold® insulation|
• Top hatch lid
• Cool Riser Technology®
• Leak resistant
|• Holds 30 cans|
• Removable hard plastic liner
• Easy-to-clean permanent, flexible, soft PEVA liner
Top Rated Soft Cooler Reviews – Affordable Everyday Coolers
Cordova Traveler Soft Cooler
Cordova is very frequently featured on our tops. We love this brand since we've first reviewed it, because no matter what you are looking for, Cordova likely has what you need – and for a pretty attractive price!
This applies to soft coolers as well – the Traveler cooler is a great choice if you want a quality cooler at a good price.
The build and quality in the Traveler coolers are excellent thanks to features like a waterproof zipper, durable nylon shell (1,000D!), UV protection, and 2 inches of foam that should be good for a day or two.
What’s also very nice about the Traveler is the front and back accessory loops – Hoppers had something similar, while RTIC soft coolers did not. With that, Traveler will often comparable convenience to Hoppers at a much lower price.
And while we are comparing the Traveler to Hoppers, notice how similar the two soft coolers are. It’s clear who Cordova has been inspired by, right?
- Why we like Cordova Traveler
The Traveler is nearly identical to YETI but comes at a dramatically lower price!
- Who Cordova Traveler is for
Cordova Traveler is excellent if you want a YETI Hopper but can’t afford it – Traveler is very similar in convenience and durability (not in insulation though).
Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Zipperless Hardbody Cooler
Titan Deep Freeze budget coolers are among the most popular models available on the market – for some perspective, they have nearly 5,000 reviews at Amazon as of this post's writing!
As Titan Deep advertises, Deep Freeze coolers have several layers of insulation with a heat-reflective layer at the very top. Rather than simply block out heat, Deep Freeze soft coolers reflect it to facilitate cold retention.
Another interesting feature is the thick 3-layer bottom insulation – air is trapped between the insulation layers, serving as an additional insulator. Combined, the 3-layer insulation and heat reflection allows for up to 3-day ice retention!
Another interesting feature in Deep Freeze coolers is the FDA-compliant HardBody liner that has two compartments for food and drinks.
The lid is distinct as well – it’s similar to lids in hard coolers and thus allows for quick access to your items while ensuring good insulation.
- Why we like Titan Deep Freeze
Deep Freeze is extremely cheap yet offers a nice set of features – more than we would have expected for the money.
- Who Titan Deep Freeze is for
If you want a cheap cooler with good insulation, then Deep Freeze is most likely for you.
Carhartt Deluxe Dual Compartmen Soft Cooler Bag
The Carhartt Deluxe soft cooler is again a budget cooler, but it’s simpler than Titan Deep Freeze – particularly with the insulation.
However, its organizational abilities are still very good thanks to the dual-zone design with a large main compartment for drinks and a mesh top dome for food.
The main compartment is large enough for a beer six-pack. Additionally, the Carhartt Deluxe insulated lunch box has a front zippered pocket for small items.
The interior of the Carhartt soft cooler is also protected from outside water via a water-repellant lining, while the heavy-duty outer shell should be able to take the challenges of weekend picnics or short camping trips.
This cooler is pretty light too, but it still has a top carry handle along with a strap for convenient transport. It’s available in a single size as well but has 4 color options.
- Why we like Carhartt Deluxe
This cooler is exceptionally simple and very inexpensive – a perfect fit for short weekend trips or snacks at the job site.
- Who Carhartt Deluxe is for
If you just want a cooler that can keep food and drinks cold for a day, then Carhartt Deluxe may be the best soft cooler for you.
Igloo Marine Ultra Soft Cooler Series
Igloo is a reputable brand with thousands of satisfied customers, and we rather often feature their products on our reviews. For this post, we’ve decided to pick the Marine Ultra Soft cooler series.
The first thing to catch the eye with this line is the variety of sizes and styles – Marine Ultra Soft coolers are available in backpack, bag, and duffel bag configurations.
Unlike some other soft coolers on our list, most Marine Ultra Soft models also have rigid top lids for easy access and possibly better insulation. Aside from that, one model – Marine Ultra Dual Zone – comes with removable dividers to allow you to keep food and drinks separate.
All Igloo Marine Ultra Soft coolers also have front pockets, and most additionally have side mesh pockets.
As for the build, it’s nearly identical in all Marine soft coolers – they all have antimicrobial liners, a leak-proof outer shell, adjustable straps, as well as decent insulation that should be good for a day or two.
- Why we like Marine Ultra Soft
Ultra Soft’s highlight is variety – no matter what your needs are, you are highly likely to find the best soft side cooler from this series.
- Who Marine Ultra Soft is for
Given the variety of the Marine Ultra Soft line, it’s pretty difficult to recommend it to some buyer category specifically, but overall, we think these coolers are great if you want a not too expensive cooler with a good amount of insulation and convenience.
Coleman Soft Coolers – Best Soft Sided Cooler With Removable Lining
Finally, we have the Coleman soft cooler line which we think has the best soft coolers with removable liners out there. Coleman soft coolers are cheap, sturdy, and have decent insulation and organizational capabilities.
As you might have guessed, the highlight of this cooler is the removable plastic liner that allows for added storage-efficiency when the cooler’s not in use. The liner also allows the cooler to retain its shape and protect items inside.
The interior liner is resistant to odor, mold, and mildew, as well as meets FDA food safety requirements.
To allow you to keep your stuff more organized, the Coleman cooler also has a pair of side mesh pockets along with a front zippered pocket.
All in all, Coleman coolers are very simple but do the job – for weekend trips or lunches at the office, this model is likely to be ideal for you.
- Why we like Coleman soft coolers
Coleman soft coolers are exceptionally simple yet versatile in use thanks to their removable plastic liner and good organizational abilities.
- Who Coleman soft coolers are for
If you are looking for one cheap cooler for all your use cases – picnics, very light hikes, or camping – Coleman coolers should be versatile enough to meet your needs.
What To Look For When Shopping For The Soft Sided Cooler
Now that we are done with our top rated soft coolers, let’s talk a bit about the key features to consider in a soft sided cooler.
First up, consider insulation.
The cheapest and most basic coolers typically have basic thermal insulation that allows them to store ice for up to half a day or a day. These coolers are good as weekend or lunch coolers.
In contrast, high-end soft coolers have thicker insulation – usually up to 1-2 inches thick closed-cell PE/LDPE or rubber PU foam. These coolers can store ice for up to 3-4 days and are as best as you can get.
The very best soft coolers have insulation not only in the walls but also in the bottom and the lids. Besides, they have leak- and waterproof zippers, while a few may even employ unique features like vacuum valves (like ENGEL HD coolers).
Some manufacturers may also experiment with zipper-free lids – an approach that shows promising results in insulation and convenience.
Pay attention to whether the cooler has a hard or soft lid. This may not matter for insulation, but it may matter for convenience.
A hard-lidded cooler may retain its shape better and keep your items secure, but it won’t be as space-efficient as a cooler with a soft lid (since it won’t fold easily).
Consider zipper-less lids as well (like in Otterbox Trooper) – these will be easy to open in tight spaces since you won’t have to reach for the zipper.
Materials, build quality, & durability
Carefully consider materials as well – tough, quality materials will not only impact longevity but also ensure that your cooler’s insulation stays just like new even after months or even years of use.
Among the things that would be nice to have are:
- TPU coating. TPU coating imparts puncture and abrasion resistance along with added strength to the cooler fabric.
- High-denier outer shell. The outer shell of your cooler should be heavy-duty. Some manufacturers provide the denier (unit of measurement of fiber thickness) of their cooler fabrics – higher means better durability and strength.
- UV protection. Not all coolers have UV-resistant outer shells. Those that do will not degrade or fade under sunlight.
- Inner liner with antimicrobial properties and FDA compliance. Since the interior of your cooler will come in contact with organic matter, it should be food-safe and should not develop any odors, mold, mildew, or become breeding grounds for bacteria.
- Heavy-duty, waterproof zippers. If your cooler does have zippers, then they should be tough, as well as water- and leak-proof. For added smoothness and water resistance, some brands (like RTIC or YETI) include a special zipper lubricant with their coolers.
Try to determine how much food or drinks you will be carrying with you and pick a cooler size accordingly. But remember that large coolers will be less space-efficient and heavier, so you’ll need to find a good balance between storage space and weight/size.
Portability is extremely important to consider with soft sided coolers since they are mostly intended for carrying or wearing. Ideally, your cooler should have carrying handles and at least one shoulder strap no matter its size and capacity.
If you are intending to carry a lot of stuff with you, then strongly consider a backpack cooler. Backpack coolers are more comfortable in carrying and are ideal for large amounts of food and beverages.
This is mainly because backpack coolers will distribute their load on your back evenly.
Finally, you may also consider a brand reputation. Some brands are more renowned and trusted than others (YETI, for example, is the most famous cooler-maker on the market), and this may be a big factor for some of our readers.
Pay attention to where the desired cooler has been manufactured as well. Some buyers prefer to buy American-made coolers, while others don’t mind overseas models.
Non-US coolers are often cheaper and lower-quality, but know that most soft coolers are made overseas (unlike hard coolers).
Soft Sided Cooler FAQ
How long will a soft cooler hold ice?
This depends on the insulation – soft coolers can generally hold ice for 1-3 days.
How do you pack a soft sided cooler?
A few tips to help you get started:
- Prechill the cooler and your food items.
- Ensure a 1:2 contents-to-ice ratio.
- Use quality ice packs (Cooler Shock are best) to ensure that the ice lasts long.
- Adhere to our other tips for extending the ice retention timeframe.
How to clean a soft cooler?
Your cooler’s manual should provide info on cleaning, but generally, here’s how soft coolers should be cleaned:
- Remove dirt or food particles from inside the cooler.
- Clean the surfaces of the cooler with a damp cloth.
- If any stubborn stains remain, you may mix some mild soap with warm water and rub the stains with a clean, soft cloth.
- Use a fresh cloth and clean water to wipe the cooler and remove any soap residue.
- Open the cooler’s lid and let the cooler air dry. You may hang the cooler upside down to get rid of the water that stayed inside.
Best Soft Cooler – Final Words
We hope that our roundup has helped you with finding the best soft sided cooler for your needs! As you can see, there are plenty of coolers to choose from on the market for all kinds of needs and preferences.
And to find the very best soft cooler for your next trip, think about your requirements well and work within your budget.
Resources and product picture credits: igloocoolers.com, yeti.com, engelcoolers.com, otterbox.com
Last update on 2020-09-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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