Best Soft Sided Cooler – The Definitive Review

During those beautiful spring days and hot summer months, you may want to go on a nice picnic or hang out at the lake. You may even decide to go on a daring trip with your family and explore campgrounds. Regardless of the activity you take part in, you cannot forget about bringing some food along with you. It’s easier to partake in such activities if you have the best soft sided cooler available with you that is capable of fitting everything nicely and keeping it cool or warm. You also don’t want to suffer the frustration of your food going off and no being able to eat that sandwich you were so looking forward to!

ultimate soft cooler bag

Help is Here to Find The Best Soft Sided Cooler For Your Needs

Today, we will be taking a close look at the different types of coolers that you can currently find on the market to help you find the best soft sided cooler. Mind you, there are so many different types of coolers to choose from including hard coolers and soft coolers.

Which one is better? So many people find it hard to choose between hard coolers or soft coolers and that is where this information comes into play ….

Softpack Cooler vs. Hard Sided Cooler

What is a Hard Cooler?

A hard cooler is usually made out of hard material like plastic. Some of the coolers can be tossed away when you’re done as they’re meant for a one-time use (those types are made of foam). Hard coolers may be bulky and hard to carry, so they’re not recommended if you’re going on a hike.

What is a Soft Pack Cooler?

Soft coolers are just that, they’re soft as they’re made of softer material. They may be soft, but don’t let this fool you – you can use them over and over again thanks to the modern materials used to make them. Since they are usually lighter and easier to carry, many people prefer them as they’re convenient. We’ve noticed the most popular coolers currently on the market today are those that are easy to carry.

Benefits of Soft Coolers Over Hard Shell Coolers

The soft coolers that are on the market today are more insulated and not only are they useful for keeping drinks and food cold, they’re also easier to carry in places where the hard cooler wouldn’t fit.  Take kayakers as an example – they have a tendency to store their gear on decks through tiny hatch openings – a soft sided cooler can fit, but a hard-side cooler couldn’t.

Some more benefits include:

  • Easier transportation – think about that cramped space in your vehicle, a soft sided cooler can easily fit. If all you need is to toss ice in a chest and add a couple of drinks and sandwiches, then there’s no reason to pack a hard cooler. Plus, they are easy to transport once they’re empty, unlike the traditional boxed ice chest.
  • Easier to Carry – Soft coolers are also easier to carry, and are often available as backpacks and tote bags, making them perfect for hiking in the woods or carrying them along in the mall.

Let’s Also Look at the Other Way Round: Benefits of Hard Sided Coolers Over Soft Sided Coolers

Yes, soft coolers are great for those short day trips and hiking. However, if you’re planning a trip with a large group of people and you plan on bringing a lot of stuff, it’s best to opt for the traditional hard cooler.

In general, hard coolers allow you to pack more stuff – you can definitely fit more drinks and food in the traditional ice box. They can also serve the dual purpose of being a chair or a table which may or may not be important for you.

Soft Cooler Reviews – What to Look For

After reading the benefits for both the hard and soft-sided coolers, unless you plan on traveling with a large group of people, your best bet would be the soft sided cooler. If you have never purchased one before, don’t worry, we have you covered. In this section, we’re going to tell you what to look for in a soft cooler.

When you’re looking for a soft cooler, there are a variety of important factors you will need to consider, these include the materials and padding and how this related to durability and it’s leak “proofness.” You also need to consider the amount of insulation, and how long it keeps things cold.

Other important factors to consider include:

  • Interior and Exterior Cleanup
  • Size
  • Ice Retention
  • Leakage
  • Anti-microbial Linings
  • Will Wheels be needed?
  • Does it need to be a Backpack?

Different Types of Coolers

If you’re heading on a camping trip, regardless of the day, you need an efficient and sturdy cooler in order to keep your food cold. Coolers are a great way to keep both beverages and food cool and safe for consumption. When you have a quality cooler by your side, it is easier to keep perishable foods, such as dairy, meat and fresh fruit safe throughout the entire trip, which without insulation can expire within a few hours on a warm day.

The type of cooler you need all depends on what you plan on storing in the cooler.  Before you go out and purchase the first cooler you come across, you should know about the different coolers that are available to you.

There are a couple of basic types of coolers available for overnight trips. In order to effectively keep everything cool and safe for eating, the cooler will need to be insulated. Normally, insulated coolers are made from synthetic fiber or hard plastic. Insulated coolers should contain either ice or ice packs in order to keep everything cool.

The Standard Soft Sided Cooler

A soft sided cooler is also known as a collapsible cooler, fiber cooler or an insulated cooler bag. This type cannot carry a lot of items, but is still useful. They are made from canvas-type synthetic materials and are lined with a nice insulating foam layer. They are light in weight, making them idea to carry around as long as you don’t plan on taking a fridge load of goods with you. They are convenient as they fold up, making them easy to store when they aren’t being used. Mind you, they’re not as durable as plastic coolers and may not keep items cold for as long as the plastic cooler, but they’re great for day and weekend trips.

Plastic Cooler

These types are also known as ice chests and are made from molded plastic. They are durable, strong and are available in a variety of different sizes. They are designed to keep food and beverages cool for a long period of time. They feature plastic handles and strong insulated lids. Some of them may also have retractable handles and wheels, making them easier to carry around. They are designed to be filled with food and beverage surrounded by ice packs of ice cubes. They often have a plug in the base so that you can easily drain the melted ice.

Styrofoam Cooler

A Styrofoam cooler is just that, a Styrofoam box that has a lid on it. These types are light, but they’re not as sturdy as the plastic coolers. They are, however, useful for storing lightweight items. They don’t cost as much as the solid plastic coolers. Since they’re not as hard, they’re not usually used for outdoor adventures. They’re not designed to last for a long period of time.

Metal Cooler

If you’re looking for the best durability, then the metal cooler is a good choice. Fishermen and hunters usually use these coolers as they need something that is durable and sturdy. The metal covering is responsible for protecting the insulation and is very effective when it comes to keeping the items cool for a long period of time. They usually cost more than the other coolers on the market and have a tendency to be much heavier as the metal weighs more than the other types of material.

Top 5 Soft Sided Coolers Reviews

Alright, so now that we’ve covered all you need to know about the different types of coolers available and what to look for specifically in a soft cooler we will now take you through 5 soft sided coolers reviews. From these, you are sure to find best soft sided cooler for you or as a gift. We have everything from the small soft sided cooler to the large soft cooler.

RTIC 30 Soft Pack Leak Proof Soft Cooler

This is a midsize cooler and is labeled as the best soft side cooler in terms of it being 100% leak proof and made of tough material. This cooler is wrapped in a sturdy heavy duty vinyl shell, making it last for a longer period of time. Many claim that this is stronger than the other soft-sided coolers currently on the market and it is UV protected so that the color doesn’t fade.

best soft sided cooler

Key Features

  • 100% leak-proof soft side cooler – This means, when the ice melts, you don’t have to worry about the water leaking through the zipper and getting all over the place.
  • It’s tough – For this reason, it will last for a longer period of time.
  • Antimicrobial Liner – to protect your food and drink against dangerous bacteria and it is also able to resist mildew.

softpack cooler

Pros

  • Holds up to 30 cans, along with ice
  • Reportedly keeps ice up to five days (see cons)
  • Exterior doesn’t sweat
  • Leak proof zipper
  • 2” of foam insulation

Cons

Apparently doesn’t hold ice as long as claimed – Looking at some reviews, we have found claims that it doesn’t hold ice for up to 5 days. This could simply be due to the fact that they kept it in the sun, which the 5 day claim is not intended to cover. Regardless of the type of cooler you use, putting it in the sun will make the ice melt faster – for this reason, you need to keep the cooler stored in the shade.

Summary

If you’re looking for the type of cooler that is easy to carry around, is made of tough material and doesn’t cost a whole lot of money, then the RTIC 30 soft pack might be a viable option for you.

We like the fact that it is 100% leak-proof. If for some reason you forget to empty the ice out and the ice melts, it’s not going to get all over your car. The antimicrobial liner is an added benefit.  Also, it has to be one of the slickest looking coolers around.  Check the link below to find out more about the RTIC cooler and to purchase through Amazon.

Check Out the RTIC 30 Soft Pack Cooler (Amazon Product Page)

Large Soft Cooler Bag by Mojecto

This cooler by Mojecto is larger than the traditional soft cooler bags. It measures 15x12x9 inches and is perfect for flight attendants, taking lunch to work, and camping trips.

large soft cooler

Key Features

leak proof soft cooler

  • Two Zippered Mesh Pockets – These pockets are located on the sides and are perfect for storing beverages.
  • Long Handles – This cooler has two long handles, making it easier to carry around. As an added feature, the shoulder straps are adjustable, removable and padded.
  • High Density Thick Insulation – Due to the thick insulation, you can rest with the satisfaction of knowing that it will keep your food and beverages cooler for a longer period of time.

Pros

  • Spacious
  • Numerous Compartments
  • High Quality Materials

Cons

  • Side Pockets are Too Short – One thing we noticed people complaining about was the side pockets being too short. They won’t work for holding things like regular cups or travel mugs. However, we believe those side pockets were designed for shorter items.
  • Can’t use open ice – You should not put open liquid, open ice, or homemade plastic ice packs in this cooler because the sharp edges could damage the liner. Instead, you need to use ice gels or packs that are made for cooler lunchboxes.

Summary

If you’re looking for a cooler bag that is made of heavy-duty materials, then this one right here might just be a viable option for you. The high-density thick foam insulation will do a great job at keeping your food and beverages cool for a longer period of time.

The 840D Polyester fabric that is used on this product is much stronger than the traditional 420D Polyester that is normally used.

We also feel the need to mention the fact that these cooler bags come with an additional liner. This means if you accidentally damage the original liner for some reason, you can easily replace it.

Check Out the MOJECTO Cooler Bag (Amazon Product Page)

AO Coolers Canvas Soft Cooler

AO is a company that is well-known for specializing in soft-sided coolers. While they have a wide array of options to choose from, the AO Cooler Canvas Soft Cooler is one that stands out from the crowd. AO coolers are known for great quality, efficient cooling abilities, and attractive looks.

small soft sided cooler

Key Features

soft pack cooler

  • Easy to Carry – This cooler is easy to carry, due to the fact that it has multiple carrying handles.
  • The bag is light in weight, further making it easier to lug around.
  • Mobility – They’re are highly flexible. You can store them under a boat seat, under a car seat, or even on the back of a motorcycle. This cooler is great for picnic trips and short weekend excursions.
  • AO Kept It Simple – This is a simple cooler with a straightforward design (there’s nothing complicated about it). AO knows exactly what they should be focusing on and what areas they shouldn’t include in their design.

Pros

  • Multiple carrying options
  • Great cooling ability
  • A large array of colors to choose from

Cons

  • There are occasional folds in the material. However, if you store it correctly, these folds shouldn’t show up.
  • Some people also stated that the fabric was prone to tearing. If you’re looking for something with tough fabric, then you may be interested in the AO backpack – it is built out of tougher material and designed for more rugged applications.

Summary

The AO canvas cooler is your “average” cooler. It’s fully capable of keeping your food and beverages cool during your small excursions.

The build quality isn’t horrible, but there are a couple of small complaints, like the fabric folding or tearing, that we wish didn’t exist. However, all in all, this appears to be a decent cooler and is a viable option if you love picnics and short weekend excursions.

Check Out the AO Coolers Soft Cooler (Amazon Product Page)

Polar Bear Cooler

Polar Bear is another well-known company that is fully focused on making high quality coolers – they offer a wide array. When you first hold a Polar Bear cooler, you’ll probably notice just how rugged the outside feels. These coolers are made of a 1000 Denier Cordura nylon shell on the outside.

best soft side cooler

Key Features

  • Dura-Tempt “Bi-Polar” Lining – The Dura-tempt lining will keep beverages and food cool for a longer period of time. In fact, due to this lining, it can keep ice from melting for up to 24 hours, even in 100 degree weather. This liner makes it sweat proof, leak proof and puncture resistant.
  • Easy to Clean – When it comes to cleaning this cooler, that won’t be an issue. The liner pulls inside-out so that you can easily wash the cooler with soap and water.
  • Can Use Regular Ice – While many soft-sided coolers specify the use of ice packs or gel, this one right here will let you use whatever type of ice you want to use. It’s so tough that you can use regular ice, if you like.

Pros

  • Available in multiple colors
  • Made of tough material
  • Adjustable padded shoulder rest
  • You can compress it down to half its size when it’s not in use

Cons

One complaint we read stated that the product was not 100% leak proof. Instead, for those looking for something that is leak proof, you may want to go with the Yeti Hopper or the RTIC bag cooler.

Summary

This Polar Bear Cooler really is a fantastic product. You can have it customized for you, it is made of tough material and it has a nice adjustable padded shoulder strap.

We personally like the fact that you can use regular ice in it. This means you can go to the store, grab a bag of ice and use that – there’s nothing complicated.

Speaking complicated, another feature we really enjoyed was how easy it was to clean. The liner easily pulls out so that you can wash it. Point blank, if you’re looking for a good cooler, this one right here is a viable option.

Check Out the Polar Bear 12 Pack Cooler (Amazon Product Page)

eBags Crew Small Soft Sided Cooler

The eBag Crew Cooler II is an updated version of the traditional Cool Cooler. With this one, you will find many improvements and new features. Some of the features include a replaceable inner liner, a pass through pocket and adjustable shoulder pack. This product is made of polyester, nylon, plastic, and metal.

soft sided coolers reviews

Special Features

  • Separate Top Dry Compartment – This is great for storing dry items, like snacks and utensils.
  • Different Carrying Methods – The eBag Cooler II offers three different ways to carry it.
  • Fully Insulated Bottom Cold Compartment – Since it is fully insulated, you can rest with the satisfaction of knowing your food and beverages will stay cool.

Pros

  • Two side pockets for holding a drink
  • Large front and top pocket that can fit additional snacks, dry items, and utensils
  • Durable material
  • Smaller size makes it perfect for shorter trips
  • Moisture resistant

Cons

With this cooler, you cannot carry ice directly in the cooler – you have to use ice packs or gel ice. If you’re looking for something that can carry real ice, the Polar Bear cooler (mentioned above) would be a better option.

Summary

soft cooler reviewsThis is a pretty good soft pack cooler. It’s smaller in size, making it more manageable and great for shorter trips. It’s also a viable option if you are traveling on a business trip and would like to take some food and beverages with you.

The liner may not be the most durable, but for a price like this, it’s definitely worth it. If you’re packing meat products during those hot summer months, then this is something you may want to consider. If you spill liquid or an ice pack explodes by accident, the liquid may leak through, but that’s no big deal, just don’t put ice directly in the cooler.

Check Out the eBags Crew Cooler II (Amazon Product Page)

Conclusion – Which is the Best Soft Side Cooler?

The five coolers we listed above are the most popular models that are currently available on the market – we took different models and compared them side-by side.

Any of the five choices above would be a great considering both their pros and cons. The eBag Crew Cooler II is a great option if you’re looking for a smaller cooler to take around with you on business trips, but the only problem with that would be the fact that you cannot use real ice.

If you are the type that likes using real ice, then as we stated in the eBag cooler review, the Polar Bear cooler would be a great option. That product is made out of high quality material. The biggest problem with that one is that it’s not 100% leak proof.

If you’re looking for something that is 100% leak proof, then you may be more interested in the RTIC 30 Soft Pack. That one claims to be 100% leak proof and it is made of strong, high quality material. However, the downfall would be the fact that it possibly doesn’t hold ice for as long as claimed (5 days).

If you’re looking for something that can hold ice for more than 24 hours, then we recommend the Large Cooler Bag by Mojecto. This one right here is large, strong, and easy to carry around.  Many claim that the side pockets are too short, but that shouldn’t be a problem for most.

Point blank, regardless of what you need to use a soft-sided cooler for, whether it’s for a picnic, weekend camping trip, a business trip, or just a way to keep your food and beverages cool for lunch, then you should choose one of the 5 above. We tried to include 5 soft-sided coolers that would fit the needs of different individuals. So, if you don’t like product number 1, perhaps number 2 is for you. Take it from us – these are the best of the best currently available!

Looking for specific types of soft coolers? Check out our list of categories:

Backpack Coolers

Coolers with Wheels

Ice Chest Bags

Insulated Tote Bags

Lunchbox Coolers

Soft Coolers with a Hard Liner