Three Soft Coolers On The Beach

A Buying Guide To Choose The Best Coolers

Before you go out on your next outdoor excursion, you’re probably going to look through all of your gear and make sure everything is up to par. You’re going to double check to see that your sleeping bags don’t have holes in them, your fishing gear is in good working condition, and your tackle boxes are stocked.

You’re also going to want to make sure your cooler is up to snuff. If you feel that it isn’t going to be able to carry all the things you need for your trip, or it is showing obvious signs of wear, you’re going to want to look at getting a new cooler. But, with so many coolers on the market, how do you know which lives up to the “one of the best coolers” claim?

Well, it’s no secret that not all coolers are created equal. Instead of picking up any old soft sided cooler, we’re going to shed some light on what features you should be looking for when you are going to purchase a cooler. Then, we are going to give you a brief look at some of the top rated coolers and give you a synopsis of the reviews left by people who have purchased the unit and have had some time with it.

Man Holding Soft Cooler

Let’s dive right in!

What To Look For In The Best Coolers For Your Needs

When it comes to soft sided coolers, there are four styles that you could choose from:

  • Shoulder Bag – These coolers feature handles and a shoulder strap that makes transporting and carrying the cooler easier and more comfortable. These coolers are capable of carrying a decent amount of product and they are smaller than hard coolers.
  • Lunchbox – These are the types of coolers that are perfect for packing a lunch. These aren’t ideal for putting ice in because the inner lining is pretty thin. You can, however, use ice packs and they’ll work well for keeping your lunch nice and cold.
  • Backpack Style – These coolers look a lot like a backpack, as you can carry them on your back, leaving your hands free for other things. The sack is insulated so that your food will be chilled and the straps have padding so that you can carry the backpack for longer periods of time without much discomfort.

When you’re trying to decide which type of cooler is going to be best suited for your needs, you’ll want to think about what you’re going to put in the cooler and how far you’ll be carrying it. If you’re only going to use the cooler for trips to the beach, you could get away with a shoulder cooler. However, if you’re going camping for several days, you may need something more substantial like a backpack.

Beverages With Ice In Soft Cooler

Some other factors you’ll want to think about when looking for a cooler are:

  • Durability – Depending on what you’re going to use the cooler for, you want it to be able to handle whatever you put inside. Some coolers are better for carrying heavier loads while others are just intended for a small amount of items.
  • Practicality – The cooler you purchase should be able to do what it is designed for—keeping your food cold. If it isn’t able to keep your food cold, there’s no point in buying it. However, when it comes to practicality, you also want to consider how you’re going to carry it. If you’ve bought a large 40 can cooler, will you be able to carry it when it is full to capacity with drinks/food and ice?
  • Insulation – Insulation is very important when choosing a cooler, as this is what actually makes it a cooler and not just a glorified bag. Just remember the more insulation the cooler has, the better it will be to keep your items cold.
  • Ease of use – Getting products in and out of the cooler should be easy, but there are some coolers where it isn’t as easy as you’d like for it to be. You’ll want to be able to reach into the cooler, quickly grab your beverage, and that’s it. The cooler you choose should be easy to pack with goods, carry it, reach in and grab what you need. You don’t want a cooler where you have multiple buckles, zippers, buttons, and whatnot just to get inside!
Grabbing Beer From Soft Cooler
  • Drainage – When you pour ice into the cooler, it will eventually melt, so you’re going to want to think about how the cooler will be drained and if it is easy to do. Some coolers will feature a drain plug with slots in the bottom of the cooler to help water pour out easier. Some coolers will feature a cord attaching the drain plug to the bag so you don’t lose the plug. Other coolers will feature multiple drainage holes so it’ll drain quicker.

Brief Reviews Of The Best Coolers Available

Now that we know our choices of what style soft sided cooler there is and what kind of features we should consider, let’s take a look at some of the best coolers for camping (or fishing, barbecuing, or whatever else you may want to use them for!).

*Notice: On mobile devices, scroll right to see entire table​​​​​

Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler With Hard Liner

The Coleman brand is synonymous with everything outdoorsy, whether it’s camping, barbecuing, going to sporting events, fishing, and just hanging out at the park. With the Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler With Hard Liner, you can hold plenty of beverages and/or snacks for any activity. The comfortable shoulder strap that makes carrying the cooler comfortable and effortless.

Notable features of the Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler With Hard Liner include:

  • Holds 16 cans
  • Removable hard plastic liner for packing flexibility
  • Use ice or ice substitutes to keep treats cold
  • Adjustable shoulder strap for carrying comfort
  • Front zippered pocket and inside top mesh pockets
  • Two side mesh pockets for added storage
  • Easy-to-clean permanent, flexible, soft PEVA liner
  • Built-in antimicrobial properties in the flexible PEVA lining resist odor, mold and mildew
  • Both the hard liner and the PEVA soft liner meet FDA requirements for food contact
  • Heat-welded seams prevent flexible liner leaks
Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler With Hard Liner On White Background

When looking at the reviews for the product, 88% of customers left 4 or 5-star reviews. Of these reviews, customers said that the cooler is able to keep beverages nice and cold. Customers have said that the mesh pockets are the perfect size for storing things like condiments, utensils, napkins, and other essentials.

Customers do like the removable inner lining, as it makes cleaning a cinch. Of the remaining 12% of customers who left 3-star reviews or lower, the common complaint was that although the cooler says it is able to hold 16 cans, it actually can only comfortably hold 6 20 ounce bottles of soda. In order to fit 16 cans of soda, you will have to lay a couple sodas on their side, leaving little room for ice.

Customers have also said that the cut outs on the hard insert were too far down, allowing water, dirt, and anything else to spill over in between the hard insert and the soft walls. Other customers have said that although there is a shoulder strap, they would have liked to had a handle to carry the cooler with as well.

Check Latest Prices Big Button

Igloo Marine Ultra Square Coolers 

Since 1947, the Igloo Products Corporation has been creating quality coolers for every activity imaginable. Igloo is one of the leading names of coolers and in an effort to expand their market, the company began making soft coolers. The size of these coolers range from small to large quart sizes, enabling you to carry as little or as much (up to 36 cans). If you’re looking for that perfect blend of function and affordability, Igloo is the place to look.

Notable features of the Igloo Marine Ultra Square Coolers include:

  • Man-Made Materials
  • Easy to clean, durable cooler bag - anti-mildew, and UV protective
  • Ultra-thick insulation keeps content cold
  • 1.1-inch thick extruded closed cell foam keeps ice up to 2 days
  • Non-corrosive hardware made to survive harsh marine conditions
  • Leak resistant, easy to clean, antimicrobial liner is stain and odor resistant
Igloo Marine Ultra Square Coolers On White Background

When looking at the reviews for the product, 69% of customers left 4 or 5-star reviews. Of these reviews, customers said this cooler is the best soft cooler they’ve tried that didn’t cost a small fortune. Customers have said that the Igloo Marine Ultra Square Cooler didn’t sweat like other coolers they’ve tried.

Customers like that the cooler is able to be manipulated to fit tight spots with no problem. Of the remaining 31% of customers who left 3-star reviews or lower, the common complaint was wasn’t so much about how the cooler performed, but the construction of the cooler. Customers have said the straps and seams came unstitched, the plastic ripped, and the handle ripped off completely.

Check Latest Prices Big Button

Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series

Forget soft coolers whose outside feels like cheap plastic or nylon. With the Polar Bear coolers, the exterior feels like it is ready for a rough and tough excursion through the wilderness, as it’s made from 1000 Denier Cordura nylon, so you know it’ll be able to handle whatever you need it for.

Notable features of the Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series include:

  • Rugged 1000D Nylon exterior - never rips, scratches or tears
  • Unbreakable zippers and hardware by YKK
  • High density open-cell foam insulation ensures ice will stay frozen for a minimum of 24 hours
  • Strongest and safest interior liner ever built into a soft cooler
  • FDA Approved TPU Double-Coated Nylon
  • Adjustable padded shoulder rest included (not available with 6 Pack size)
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty - Guaranteed leak proof and sweat proof
  • Can be compressed down to half-size when empty, and tucks away nicely when not in use
Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series On White Background

When looking at the reviews for the product, 89% of customers left 4 or 5-star reviews. Of these reviews, customers said how well the cooler is insulated. One customer said they accidentally left the cooler in the car when it was 90 degrees. When they came back after several hours, the ice hadn’t melted at all. One customer loved their cooler so much, they bought five more in varying sizes.

Of the remaining 11% of customers who left 3-star reviews or lower, the common complaint was that the photograph is misleading. Customers thought the cooler would be a rectangular shape, but in reality, the cooler is more like a “flattened briefcase.” Customers have said that for as big and bulky as the cooler is, they weren’t able to get much of anything inside, let alone 24 cans of soda.

Check Latest Prices Big Button

AO Coolers Water-Resistant Vinyl Soft Cooler With High-Density Insulation 

When you plan for a long fishing trip, you’re going to get thirsty and hungry so understandably you’re going to want to pack a lunch and some beverages. The only way to keep these things cold is by putting them in a cooler, right? But you don’t want to use any old cooler—you’re going to want one that is made for fishing, right? That’s where AO Coolers shine. Heck, if after the food and drink is gone, you can throw your fish in there, as it is tear resistant up to 375 pounds!

Notable features of the AO Coolers Water-Resistant Vinyl Soft Cooler include:

  • Vinyl
  • Soft-sided cooler with a tough, waterproof vinyl exterior
  • Guaranteed to hold ice for 24 hours in 120 degree weather; 36-can capacity
  • Perfect for fishing, boating, hunting, parties, sporting events
  • Features a removable shoulder strap and a side pocket for dry items
  • Twice the insulation of other soft-sided coolers; leak-proof liner
AO Coolers Water-Resistant Vinyl Soft Cooler On White Background

When looking at the reviews for the product, 89% of customers left 4 or 5-star reviews. Of these reviews, customers said the carrying capacity of the cooler, as you can carry the 36-cans, but also an additional 14 pounds of ice. Customers like that when the cooler isn’t being used, it can fold up nicely.

Customers also like that the cooler is able to keep ice frozen up to a full 24 hours, which in some cases is more than enough time. Of the remaining 9% of customers who left 3-star reviews or lower, the common complaint was that the cooler is not water-proof. One customer said their cooler was left in the rain and water saturated the cooler and seeped into the insulation.

Other customers have said that their coolers weren’t able to keep ice for anywhere close to 24 hours, and they weren’t close to being in a 120 degree environment. Also, a couple of customers have said their cooler leaked out from the zipper when the bag was tipped over.

Check Latest Prices Big Button

RTIC 30 Soft Pack 

The RTIC company has been creating high quality soft coolers since 2014, but within that short time, they are among one of the best soft coolers available. Many folks will do RTIC vs Yeti coolers comparisons only to show these coolers are on par with the more expensive brand. The RTIC soft pack coolers are available in 4 sizes, but for the purpose of this RTIC cooler review, we are going to discuss the 30 pack cooler.

Notable features of the RTIC 30 Soft Pack Cooler include:

  • Keeps Ice Up To 75 Hours
  • Holds up to 30 Cans Plus Ice
  • No Leak Zipper
  • Insulated lid
  • Anti-microbial liner that resists mold
  • Resistant to puncturing or tearing
  • Exterior Does Not Sweat
  • Up to 2" of Foam Insulation
RTIC 30 Soft Pack Cooler On White Background

When looking at the reviews for the product, 75% of customers left 4 or 5-star reviews. Of these reviews, customers said on long the ice lasts with the cooler—one family used the cooler for a 3-day trip in the car and there was still some ice left by the end of the car ride. Other customers have said that the cooler is pretty stable and they’ve never experienced any leaking.

Of the remaining 25% of customers who left 3-star reviews or lower, the common complaint was they felt the construction wasn’t as good as they had hoped it would be, as some of them have experienced leaking in the interior of the cooler. Other customers have said that their zippers got stuck and they couldn’t open the cooler anymore after that.

Check Latest Prices Big Button

YETI Hopper Portable Cooler 

The Yeti Hopper cooler is known for being one of the best coolers for the money. Of all the coolers that are available today, Yeti products outperform other coolers. The Hopper cooler was created for those instances where you want to grab your gear and head out for an outdoor adventure. The cooler is designed to be completely leak-proof and keep ice for days.

Notable features of the YETI Hopper Portable Cooler include:

  • The YETI Hopper 30 is the first 100% leak-proof cooler that can keep ice for days
  • Features a DryHide Shell that is puncture resistant
  • HydroLok Zipper is completely leak-proof, eliminating spills and locking in cold
  • The Hopper 30 can hold 24 cans (with the suggested 2:1 ice-to-contents ratio)
  • Dimensions are 22 ½ in long x 12 in wide x 16 ½ in high with an empty weight of 6 lbs
YETI Hopper Portable Cooler On White Background

When looking at the reviews for the product, 82% of customers left 4 or 5-star reviews. Of these reviews, customers were pleased by how long the cooler is able to keep cold things cold. These customers have said that the cooler works so much better than other soft sided coolers, regardless of how hot it is outside.

One customer said it’s the perfect cooler for him to take on his landscaping jobs in New Orleans where the heat index can reach upward to 115 degrees. Of the remaining 18% of customers who left 3-star reviews or lower, the common complaint was the price. This is a pricy cooler, there’s no doubt about that.

However, customers have also said that the cooler has poor ice retention, and at the price they purchased their cooler, it’s a problem. If you’re paying around $250 for a cooler, you would expect that it would live up to the claims it makes.

Check Latest Prices Big Button

Our Recommendation

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, then you know how important a good cooler is to have because there’s nothing more disappointing than being so thirsty and reaching for a cold beverage only to find that the ice is all melted and your drink is warm. Understandably, trying to decide which of the best coolers available on the market is truly the right one for you.

While we can’t tell you which cooler will suit your needs, we feel that the AO soft cooler and the Polar Bear coolers are great contenders. Not only are they highly rated among the customers who have purchased them, but they are decently priced.

Opening Beer With Bottle Opener On Cooler

If you truly want a cooler that is going to last and has been proven to keep ice for several days, the Yeti soft coolers are a great option. They’re made from high quality materials and are able to keep things cold for a long time.

Though they are pricy, the majority of customers who have purchased the Yeti are happy with their investment—some have even gone on to purchase different sizes. Now if that doesn’t speak volumes about the quality of the product the Yeti company makes, we don’t know what is!

Leave a Comment: