When I was younger, hard plastic coolers were all the rage. We used them to store soda pop, ice, beer and the occasional tub of potato salad for our picnics, BBQs and tailgate parties. While they did a fairly good job at keeping food and beverages cool, there was one drawback with them. They were often heavy and bulky and hard to move from place to place.
Then the soft cooler began to gain popularity and things began to change a little bit. These coolers were smaller and lighter but didn’t do a good job of keeping food and drinks cold. Sure, they did a better job than those cheap foam coolers but they weren’t quite as good as the hard ones for some reason. That began to gradually change over the years, however, and now these coolers are every bit as good as the hard plastic ones.
The moment technology gave us better ones though, it seems like every manufacturer had to try their hands at making one. Nowadays, there are dozens upon dozens of styles—all of which can make it difficult to determine which model is the best one. And that’s why I’ve decided to write this guide.
I’ve gone over some of the top coolers currently available and selected ten of the ones that offered the best cooler and were the best overall products in this category. Our aim was to discover the best soft cooler out there and present it to you with a brief description of it. That’s isn’t the only thing I wanted to accomplish, however. I also wanted to present a guide on these coolers – which I did right after the descriptions of the 10 best models.
Best Soft Coolers – Reviews
10Clever Made Snap Basket Collapsible Cooler
Designed to be the cooler to replace all other coolers, this Clever Made Snap Basket Collapsible Cooler combines the best space-saving solution available with a material that’s durable and water resistant. This cooler holds approximately 50 cans and ice or about 8-gallons by volume. This allows it to carry approximately 50-pounds of items and yet when it’s empty, it can collapse down to a flat 3-inches for storage. This cooler is made from a combination of polyester, polyethylene vinyl acetate, polypropylene and ABS. It’s a cooler that can be lifted by its top handles for lighter loads or by its side handles for loads that are a bit heavier.
9Logo Brands Collegiate Rolling Cooler
This cooler can be ordered with your favorite college sports team – from the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish – and has a handy pull-out handle that allows it to be pulled on its rolling in-line wheels. This model also features backpack straps so it can be carried, has a zipper storage compartment and two elastic mesh pockets on its sides. This cooler has a leak-resistant line that’s been heat sealed and can hold approximately 24 12-ounce cans of soda or beer plus the ice to keep them all cool. With this cooler, you can show your collegiate pride and keep your beverages cold for the tailgate.
8Hommitt Soft-Sided Insulated Cooler With Hard Liner
Designed to be carried by either the handle straps on its sides or by the detachable shoulder strap, this cooler is a convenient option for taking your favorite beverages or meal items to the beach, out on the lake or on your next family picnic. It features a durable exterior that’s water-resistant and features an inside that has an antimicrobial liner that’s resistant to mold and mildew. This model is approximately 18-inches long, 13.5-inches high and 10.2-inches wide – just big enough to carry about 30 cans of soda pop or beer and enough ice to keep it cool for at least awhile.
7YETI Hopper Two Portable Cooler
This cooler is not only designed to be tough and convenient to carry from function to function, but it’s also designed to hold what you need it to hold. It can hold 20-pounds of just ice or can hold approximately 18 cans of soda pop or beer. Outside, this model also has a Dry Hide high-density shell that’s waterproof, mildew-resistant and tear-resistant. Inside, this model has a Cold Cell Insulation Closed Cell that keeps the unit cooler for a longer period of time. It also has a Hydro-Lock Zipper which is a type of waterproof zipper that’s normally found on survival suits and is designed to be waterproof.
6Coleman 24-Hour Can Cooler
With enough insulation to keep beverages cold for a full 24-hour span of time, and with enough storage capacity to hold up to 30-cans of pop or beer, this cooler is sure to become a big hit at picnics, family gatherings, and BBQs. It features an antimicrobial liner that is not only odor-resistant but is resistant to mold, mildew, and fungus. Its outside features a rip-stop fabric that’s durable and tear-resistant and it has a zippered main compartment that keeps the contents of the cooler inside the cooler. All of this in a product that’s easy to use and easy to carry with you to your next family function.
5Coleman Soft 16-Can Cooler With Hard Liner
This cooler can hold 16 12-ounce cans of your favorite beverage so you can transport them on your next family trip or get-together. It also has a front zippered pocket, side mesh pockets and a mesh pocket in the lid – extra storage for those little items you want to carry with you. Another convenient feature of this model is that it has a removable hard plastic liner you can either leave in or take out depending on your packing needs. And since you’ll most likely need to carry the cooler and its contents, it also has a handy adjustable shoulder strap.
4Mier Soft Tote Insulated Cooler
Designed to hold approximately 24-cans of your favorite beverage or enough food for a day-trip, this Mier Large Capacity Soft Insulated Tote Cooler is a model that’s perfect for taking on school field trips, out for family get-togethers or a trip to the beach. It has a well insulated main compartment, two mesh side pockets and a front zipper pocket that can give you plenty of storage options. It also has reinforced stitching that makes it highly durable. This lightweight cooler is a great option for those who need a tote to keep their drinks cold and their food fresh.
3AO Coolers Soft Canvas Cooler With High-Density Insulation
If you’re looking for a cooler that can hold ice for up to a full day, even in temperatures above 100-degrees, then you might want to take a look at this AO Coolers Soft Canvas Cooler. Its outer shell is made from polyester and comes in a number of brilliant colors from black to charcoal to royal blue to red. It has a well-insulated interior with a leak-proof line and has a side pocket to hold odds and ends. It even has a shoulder strap to carry the cooler with and can be easily removed if not needed.
2Coleman 30-Can Cooler With Removable Liner
This large cooler is just the right size to bring snacks, full meals or about 30 cans of your favorite beverage to your next picnic, beach outing or a trip to the lake house. It has a removable plastic liner that can be removed, if necessary, and has heat-welded seams so that the liner doesn’t leak. It has a zippered pocket on the front, two mesh pockets on the sides and inside lid bungees to hold additional items. This cooler’s flexible lining also has antimicrobial properties built right into it, so it’s resistant to not only molds and mildews but unpleasant odors as well.
1Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series Cooler
This cooler has a rugged exterior that’s made from 1000D nylon and comes in a variety of colors from black to orange to red and is resistant to rips and tears. It has a high-density open-cell foam insulation that can keep frozen ice for up to 24-hours if it was packed properly. This cooler’s interior liner is also FDA approved and completely safe for food-stuffs. This cooler is capable of holding 48-cans of soda (if you choose the 48-pack size) and comes with an adjustable padded shoulder rest. While not entirely portable, this model does compress somewhat so it can be packed away for storage.
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Choosing the Best Soft Cooler
Since not all coolers are equal, regardless of whether they are of the soft or hard variety, it’s important to consider your particular needs before you begin shopping for one. For example, some people only need a cooler to hold their a few items for themselves, while other people may need a cooler that holds 40 cans for a family get together or a tailgating party. Below are some of the options you should consider before purchasing your next cooler.
The first thing you should take into consideration is the size of the cooler. Not just its exterior dimensions but also its internal capacity. You’ll want to make sure that the cooler is large enough to pack the things you need to pack in it. You wouldn’t want to try to squeeze 24 12-ounce cans in a cooler that’s only designed to hold 16 cans, and you don’t want to go the opposite direction as well by buying a cooler that holds 30 cans when all you need is for it to hold a 6-pack.
Another important thing to ask yourself is how much insulation do you need the cooler to have? You may only need a cooler that will keep your items cool for a few hours. In that case, you could buy just about any cooler. However, if you want a cooler with good insulation, then you are probably going to have to buy one of the brand name coolers out there and these are usually more expensive than standard coolers.
Another thing to keep in mind is the portability of the cooler. Is the cooler big and bulky? This is an important question to ask because you’re going to be lugging this thing around. You certainly don’t want to buy a cooler that requires two people to carry it if you plan on using it by yourself. Also, take stock of the cooler’s handles. Does it have side handles, a shoulder strap or wheels? These are all important things to keep in mind.
Durability may or may not be an important option for you. If you’re planning on just using the cooler once in awhile, then you probably don’t need to worry too much about durability. However, if you plan to take it out into the wilderness or in less than friendly environments, then you will probably want to get a model that can hold up well. The more durable coolers either use a heavy nylon material for their external surface or they use a rubberized fabric. You should also consider the durability of the zippers and how the fabric is put together. Generally speaking, you will want a cooler that’s stitched together using reinforced stitching or box stitching.
You will definitely want to find a cooler that’s leak-proof or at the very least, leak-resistant. You don’t want melting ice and other fluids leaking out from the cooler. You should also make sure that the cooler isn’t going to sweat as that can cause damage to the exterior fabric of the cooler.
The final thing to consider is how much the cooler costs. There are coolers that cost under $10 and then there are coolers that are over a $100. Be sure to choose the one that fits your budget and your intended use. After all, you don’t need to buy a $125 cooler if you only plan on using it once a year. On the flip side, you also shouldn’t expect a $6 cooler to last very long when used on a regular basis. My advice is to choose a cooler that has the features you need it to have and isn’t too expensive or too cheap. That way, you’ll probably find a model that you’ll be happy with buying.