After putting in hours into research and meticulous testing, we think the Igloo Marine Ultra Square is the best pick for most people. It has proven to continue to be the best performing soft-sided cooler for regular use. With its extra-large capacity of 36 cans this durable bag comes with expert features that we love. It has a 1.1-inch closed-cell foam to help preserve ice for longer, that is for 48 hours. It has “marine” written all over it for only a primary reason being that it offers a non-corrosive and UV-protective hardware. It is without exception the most comfortable and adaptable cooling bag to use to withstand harsh environments.
We found the YETI Hopper 30 for its strong and well-structured design. With its leak-proof and DryHide shell, this cooling bag will ensure you face no troubles when carrying tubs of ice cream or cans of beer for your camping trip. It features a unique HydroLok Zipper design which eliminates humidity from entering the bag and it also prevents spills. You can store up to 24 cans of beer, or 4-5 tubs of ice cream, or 6 15-inches sandwiches. Anything that makes your camping trip smoother and easier. Selecting a best soft cooler has a lot to do with storage capacity, so it’s safe to say that this pick has it all. With proper care, you can accept it to stay useful for a long time.
The Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler is one of the best deals we found in cooling or camping gear. It’s an affordable choice which can hold up to 16 cans of drinks and is the best for storing ice. This best cooling bag is a best substitute for anyone looking to upgrade to a bigger and more efficient camping tool. If you wish to remove the hard plastic liner as a cover from the cooler, you can. It even comes with an adjustable shoulder strap and multiple zippered pockets. This pick is one of those coolers that appeal to you for its flexibility and comfortable handling. It has the kind of design that cuts down on meal prepping time for camping. And it even offers excellent anti-microbial properties for safekeeping.
A Little Background
The most common use for the best soft coolers is to keep store ice for longer periods of time. This was especially useful for picnics and on vacations during the summer season. However, with technological advancements, ice packs came in handy to keep items cool for a long time. Ice packs contain melting water in a gel form to stay cooler than longer while slowly absorbing heat to change its temperature phase. (1)
Deciding between a soft cooler and a hard cooler depends on many factors such as portability, size, and storage capacity. While soft coolers offer limited capacity in comparison to hard coolers, the former are best for backpacking trips and accessibility. Soft-walled cooling bags come with a bag-like design that you can carry on your shoulders. You can even carry them in your arms, keep them under your car seat, or store them at the back of your one-person boat or canoe.
The general application for a soft cooler isn’t short of the same uses for a hard-walled cooling bag. For one, soft coolers are built to last for a long time with better resistance against environmental elements such as dirt, moisture, mold, etc. The backpack style of the best soft cooler takes up very little space, so if you hike or camp more often, its minimized size and footprint would suit your preferences. Buying a rigid hard-walled cooling box, in such a case, can have you restricting yourself in terms of exploring on foot. So, choosing the right soft cooler for all your adventurous needs is important.
How We Picked
When choosing the best soft cooler, the first thing you need to take into consideration is its use. What kind of activities will you be indulging in along with your soft cooler. Based on the kind of location the soft cooler is going to be useful to you can you choose the right build, shape, and durability of a product.
For a hiker or a camper, the maximum storage capacity should be not more than 48 cans. This can include all types of drinks, including ice packs and smaller food items.
For a tailgating enthusiast, the maximum storage capacity should be more than 45 cans. Tailgating is an extreme sport which requires soft-walled bags with maximum flexibility and ease of use.
For smaller-sized coolers, the maximum cooling capacity is at least 24 hours at the best possible cooling temperatures. This kind of a deal is ideal for someone who’s not looking to pack up more drinks at one time.
For ease of use, most soft coolers come with padded shoulder straps and handles for long-term use. However, if you’re looking to invest in a short-term soft cooler, padded shoulder straps and handles are still essential features to have. They increase comfort and flexibility when walk on rough terrain. Rough terrain can include relatively hard surfaces or uneven grounds. (2)
Our Best Pick
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You wouldn’t want to miss that chance of buying the Igloo Marine Ultra Square at a fair price. We’re confident that this best soft cooler is a convenient and well-organized bag to use. It offers ultra-thick insulation that’ll last for up to 2 straight days. It is mildew-, UV-, stain-, and odor-resistant. And its hardware features both anti-microbial and non-corrosive properties. So why wouldn’t you want to give this cooling bag a quick try? With its 1.1-inch thick closed-cell foam, you can be rest assured that the dynamics of this bag will keep all your chilled drinks and frozen food company.
Being leak-resistant, the Igloo Marine is easy to clean both inside and out. It even prevents accidental spilling so you have no problems draining the bag after your trips. You may also combine it a high-quality ice-pack for a sunny day at the beach. And you will still enjoy sips of cold drinks and cool water from it!
Flaws But Not Dealbreakers
The zipperlock feature on the Igloo Marine is a bit at a fault. It includes a front zipper pocket and the main section at the top of the cooling bag to protect the interior insulation from the outside environment. The insulation on this cooling bag is built tough, however, the zipping system fails to match up to it. Hence, we’d like you to zip and unzip the bag gently as the zippers are quick to damage.
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The YETI Hopper 30 is not one of your simple and standard soft coolers on the list. It is built to last for a long time with a leakproof, puncture-resistant, and UV protective body. What you probably missed out on our best pick, the YETI Hopper 30 makes an excellent choice. Thanks to its HydroLok Zipper and DryHide Shell technology, this cooling bag offers expert maintenance and durability for the long haul. Never again do you have to worry about spills or leaks when out and about for camping or road trips.
One other feature of this cooling bag that we love is that it has a Hitchpoint Grid. The Hitchpoint Grid makes accessibility easy, which means you can fasten bottle openers, carabiners, key chains, and other such necessary items easily. It is the ideal accessory-holder to which you can attach all kinds of daily accessories or tools. Studies that suggest that added flexibility to any gear can improve organization and portability when outdoors. So having this feature by your side, for all your camping trips ensures that you do not leave anything essential behind. This upgraded pick is great if you prefer a cosier and sturdier model for heavy-duty use.
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The Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler is the best choice for anyone looking for a budget-minded pick. This is a well-structed cooling bag which keeps food and drinks reasonably cold for longer. It has a 16-can storage capacity, which based on customer feedback, isn’t as big as our previous picks. But it offers plenty of room for chilling sandwiches, chips, etc. It comes with a durable nylon padding and a semi-soft plastic holder which makes it easy to store and carry drinks when seated.
The additional zipper pockets offer extra chilled space both inside and out for quick access. The zipper pockets include 2 mesh-made side-pockets, 1 mesh-made top-pocket, and 1 front zipped pocket. The shoulder straps are adjustable enough to suit your body type; while making all parts of the cooling bag accessible by your side. If you want something that stays cool even in higher temperatures, go for this one. It looks attractive, is lightweight, and relatively cheaper than most of our picks on the list. On an ending note, the best purpose for this soft cooler would be an all-day lunch trip. It has everything to keep your items cool for a long stretch of time. And on the plus side, the PEVA lining is odor-, mold-, and mildew-resistant.
Best Pick for Heavy Lifting
The CleverMade SnapBasket 50-Can Collapsible weighs only 2 pounds but has a carrying capacity of 50 pounds. It has better insulation than the competition and boasts of a leak-proof interior. With polyester and polyethylene as its primary material components, this best soft cooler is the ideal space-saving solution for all your camping needs. To begin with, this pick has a rip-stop fabric for extreme wear and tear protection. The collapsible design makes it easy to transport while the reusable design is the best for long-term use. This means you do not have to worry about replacing this cooling bag after a few trips.
Similarly, the body, base, and the lid are leak-proof for easy cleaning. While the flop-free structured design is best for preventing spills, especially when you’re packing food items. For a cooling bag with a 50-pound weighing capacity, this looks extremely lightweight and breathable. It may be because of the duffle bag handle which makes lifting smoother and easier.
Best Pick for Hunting
The Coleman 30-Can Soft Cooler is equipped with a hard plastic liner for extra durability. This plastic liner is also removable for safekeeping. You can use both ice and ice substitutes to keep items cold. It has an adjustable shoulder strap for flexibility and two front and top zippered and mesh pockets for better storage. The side pockets are also made up of mesh to hold essential items. You will enjoy the hard plastic liner that offers adequate insulation from heat. It has the kind of construction that shows signs of wear and tear only after 8-10 months of consistent use.
If you camp solo, you can easily tie this best soft cooler on the back of your motorcycle. The hard liner prevents any leaks or spills during transport. Plus, the zipper quality is also effective to last for the whole ride. The construction is made up of a higher quality and as are the side handles. You can fit medium-sized bottles easily and a 30-can capacity. For such a spacious storage capacity, the size of the cooling bag is lightweight and space-saving. By far, this cooling bag is the best one we found for its price and build.
Best Pick for Boating
The AO Coolers Canvas Soft Cooler is the best soft cooler for boating. It comes with a canvas external material and a heavy-duty and reliable leak-proof liner. If you want something that holds ice for more than 24 hours at up to 120 degrees, this is your best bet. This 12-pack version is also available in models that can carry up to 48 cans. Its high-quality TPU liner is the same material that’s used for waterbeds. That’s because TPU is an excellent impact, abrasions, tears, and rust-resistant material.
Even though this soft cooler is made of a rugged material, its exterior is well-padded to prevent accidental rips. For insulation, the inner insulation padding is at least 1/3 inches thick in a closed-cell and high-density foam. This best soft cooler is best for boating and boating kits. Its protection against water and abrasion is the best, and it comes with durable shoulder straps for better transportability. This shoulder strap is also removable for convenient use. And it boasts of a single pocket for dry storing essential items such as car key, wallet, etc.
Best Pick for Backpacking
The OAGear Backpack Cooler is the best backpack-turned cooler for travellers. It has a storage capacity of 20 cans with plenty of room for ice. Along with its spacious interior insulation space, this best soft cooler also houses 2 exterior mesh pockets, one zipper packet at the front, and a bungee for dry storage at the front. This backpack cooler boasts of simplicity and efficiency. It offers incredible hands-free usability without compromising on quality. You can store all kinds of drinks, snacks, or food items in this bag for your trip.
Anyone looking to load beer cans directly in with ice cubes, the durable lining doesn’t leak at all. And for better portability, you can flatten the backpack and put in a suitcase too. It’s that versatile and flexible to use. In truth, this best soft cooler allows all kinds of drinks to sit in comfortably and offers freezing cold insulation for a long time. All you have to do is make sure the bag is properly sealed with the help of its accurate zipper system. It offers excellent insulation in hot sun. And its performance is well-suited for anyone looking to head out alone on road or beach trips.
Best Pick for Storing Beer Cans
There is much to love about the Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series. If you’re simply looking for something durable and portable, we like this 24-pack cooling bag. In efficiency, insulation, and durability, it is the sharpest soft cooler you’ll find. With a 1000D nylon exterior and open-cell foam density insulation, this best soft cooler is kind of a big deal in the industry. Known specifically for holding beer cans, you’ll find that its secure interior lining comes with a double-coated TPU nylon material that’s not only safe, but industry-grade safe. What this means is that the interior foaming is FDA-approved.
What most of you probably missed out on our previous picks you can make up for here. It offers a limited lifetime warranty on its leakproof, sweatproof, and tear-proof body. For carrying, the padded shoulder rest feels comfortable. This is the kind of soft cooler that performs exactly how it is advertised to. You might have spent hundreds of dollars on finding something that made claims without the deliverance, but after buying the Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series, you’d think a bit differently. It has a great size for food and drinks and with its highly-durable canvas layer, it’s worth the investment!
Best Pick That’s Also a Backpack
The IceMule Coolers Pro is our second-best soft cooler backpack. It is regarded as one of the best high-capacity coolers which can store 20-litre 18 cans. And it offers freezing cold insulation for more than 24 hours at a stretch. It’s simple to use as it features a padded back pads and an insulated design. For better insulation, the IceMule boasts of a patented design for make it one of the best portable soft coolers on the market. It looks much bigger than it is- offering plenty of space for storing drinks, snacks, and other food items. This cooler is a well-made and sturdy backpack. If you live an active lifestyle trekking on one weekend and hiking the other, taking this backpack with you is ideal.
Compared with other soft cooler models, this one has an advantage for its portability and padded shoulder straps. It is waterproof and additional patented insulation. And you know it’s a well thought-out backpack with no leaks or spills.
Best Pick for Groceries
The NFL 16-Can Soft-Sided Cooler is our last choice for the best soft cooler on the market. It has a 16-can capacity and a 1-day cooling technology. One of the best features of this cooling bag is the metallic anti-microbial foil liner. This keeps bacteria, mold, and mildew away from the insides of the bag. While locking in the cold temperatures away from the heat. So, keeping this soft-sided cooler under the hot sun is a not problem at all. The bag is larger than it looks offering plenty of space for both drinks, food items, and ice cubes. The front pack is well-insulated with limited capacity for smaller items such as chocolate bars, etc. And the shoulder strap is well-padded for long-term comfort.
Soft-sided coolers are best when used when for increased portability. If you’re looking for outdoor gear to use for a long period of time? Based on our research and testing, this best soft cooler guide is the only guide you need for expert outdoor accessories. You can explore new trails, head up hiking or camping, and get out on the water for the best experience possible. We’ve determined there’s no such thing as a bad soft cooler for your needs. At least not in our guide.
We have both affordable and upgraded options to choose from. So, you can run back and forth based on our needs and preferences. The reason we didn’t choose any other picks is because they weren’t the best fit for our mission. Which is to find the best possible coolers, at the best price and with durable features, for most people.
Wrapping It Up
The Igloo Marine Ultra Square is a foolproof, durable, and affordable soft cooler to buy. It gives the best performance possible for months to come. After spending hours on researching and testing more than 20 finalists, we’ve determined that this soft cooler is better than the competition. It offers the right balance of durability, storage capacity, and ease of use. Plus, it ranks the highest on breathability and protection against dirt, moisture, and heat. These features convinced us that the Igloo is a reliable brand for the most efficient and accurate soft coolers on the market.
Jacky has a degree in Sports Science and is a Certified Sports and Conditioning Coach. He has also worked with clients around the world as a personal trainer.
He has been fortunate enough to work with a wide range of people from very different ends of the fitness spectrum. Through promoting positive health changes with diet and exercise, he has helped patients recover from aging-related and other otherwise debilitating diseases.
He spends most of his time these days writing fitness-related content of some form or another. He still likes to work with people on a one-to-one basis – he just doesn’t get up at 5am to see clients anymore.