Updated: November 2019
How many times have you lied to yourself?
That a hard cooler is the same as a soft cooler, and the same cooler you’d carry for a week-long trip would perfectly suffice for a day at the beach.
The idea itself is laughable, cause i’ve been there.
The fact is there’s no one size fit for all when it comes to ice chest – For activities that wouldn’t require lots of people and casual outings, or you want mobility, comfort and portability. Hard coolers just wouldn’t fit in.
What will then?
Soft Cooler. Not just any – The Best Soft-Sided Coolers!
The fact is soft coolers provide greater mobility and versatility. They could be employed on many occasions that a hard cooler is not ideal for. As they are portable and versatile – you’ll find yourself looking for the service of a soft side.
- 1 Best Soft Sided Coolers Review – Comparison Table
- 1.1 Polar Bear – Best Inexpensive Soft Cooler
- 1.2 AO Coolers Soft Coolers
- 1.3 Sornean Backpack Cooler Chair
- 1.4 Coleman 16 Can Soft Cooler
- 1.5 Yeti Hopper – Best Soft Cooler
- 1.6 Coleman Wheeled Soft Coolers
- 1.7 Igloo Marine Ultra Square Cooler
- 1.8 Rtic 30 Soft Pack
- 1.9 NFL 16 Can Soft-Sided Cooler with Ice
- 1.10 Pelican Elite Soft Cooler
- 2 How to Choose Soft Cooler Bags
Best Soft Sided Coolers Review – Comparison Table
Polar Bear – Best Inexpensive Soft Cooler
This cooler is leak proof, sweat proof with proven durability and its toughness is well acclaimed.
Its Ice Retention ability is superb 24/24 the polar bear 24 pack can last up to 24 hours. The exterior is made of 1000 denier nylon; the result is an exterior resistant to scratches and tears.
An internal vinyl lining ensures the bag holds ice for a long while adding to its no sweat design. Coming in different sizes and colors of black, duck blind, Green, Navy, Orange, and Red – you are bound to like it when you see one.
The Polar bear soft cooler is quite portable. Portable enough to be folded and stowed into a bag when it’s not in use, could comfortably fit in the back of your car, Suv, truck, etc. If the Yeti is too expensive to grab, don’t miss your chance at actually getting one of the best soft sided coolers that’s awesome.
AO Coolers Soft Coolers
Do you believe in doppelgangers? Probably not, right? Well, you might have to reconsider that when you get acquainted with the AO coolers soft coolers which is a complete doppelganger of the AO Polar Bear Soft coolers.
It has a soft pocket to keep dry items; you’ll find it essential to stow keys, wallet and other accessories you wouldn’t want to get mixed with food and drinks.
Although boastful, the soft-sided cooler bag prides itself on having twice as much insulation as other soft-sided coolers.
Also, the interior is built with leak-proof liners, while the exterior utilizes tough fabric to resist scratches and tears. At least if not in design, then in behavior. Because like the polar bear soft coolers; it can hold ice for up to 24 hours especially in temperatures up to 120 degrees.
The AO smallest coolers can contain a minimum of 9 cans. And its biggest 48 cans with ice. You are rest assured of having an AO cooler for different events. But that isn’t all; it also meets the criteria for airline carry-on luggage.
Sornean Backpack Cooler Chair
Think of a scene where you’d sit down close to the beach, the hot sand dancing under your feet while you sit on a chair to savor your drink. Not only is the enjoying your drinks sitting on a chair, but it’s where you drinks are stowed too.
That’s exactly how it feels to use the backpack cooler chair. Although you wouldn’t drive maximum comfort from the chair, you’d be able to rest, but don’t throw all your weight on it and expect it to last for long. Take heed!
Besides the fact that the backpack cooler chair sounds like a superhero kit, it is also an astonishing cooler, soft-sided of course and great design too. While it looks pretty fashionable, portability is not its best attributes. Maybe the only uncool feature of this cool cooler is quality.
It weighs at 4.9Ibs when empty, featuring straps for lugging and can contain full 24 pack worth of drinks. Also possess a multipurpose armrest, extra pocket for accessories and a zippered main compartment.
For transport, it comes with four non-slip pads and a single handle on the product. It would have been a perfect product, but the complaint of the overall quality is the only concern. Asides that, the soft-sided backpack cooler chair is inexpensive – something most people on a budget can afford.
Coleman 16 Can Soft Cooler
This soft cooler is designed to be used with ice packs and has an adjustable strap. With zippered pockets and mesh pockets on the front and side respectively, Providing extra storage for your belongings.
Its portability is accompanied by a PEVA soft liner that makes room for flexibility, and holds up to 16 cans. You’ll be happy to know – the internal lining is resistant to odour and mildew. This also makes washing the cooler a breeze, with a single wash all the stains will come off.
Another great thing is the heat-welded seams, not only are the seams appropriately stitched but resist leaks too.
In all, it comes with an adjustable shoulder strap padded with materials to provide maximum comfort even after hours of hanging it on the shoulders.
Yeti Hopper – Best Soft Cooler
It’s even better.
As the manufacturer of the hopper would say “ the hopper is not just any regular soft bag” Thanks to the hard shell construction, this statement stands right, you’d be able to use this bag for years to come.
Regarding transport, it has a shoulder strap which can be hung on the shoulder, and two padded handles on the side come handy when the bag is filled.
Zippers are usually cumbersome when trying to put away or take out a drink. Well, the zippers here provides easy access to your items.
Well if you have enough money and willing to spend to buy the luxury of a soft-sided cooler, then the Yeti Hopper is your stuff. It has excellent insulation, durable and portable. What more can you ask for a soft-side. Want a Hard Side Yeti cooler? Check all the available Yeti coolers.
It is also easy to use. With no outer pockets and a lone top zipper, It is the best soft sided cooler for summer.
Coleman Wheeled Soft Coolers
Generally, your soft cooler won’t carry many supplies like a hard cooler. But there are times when you’d need something light that could pack enough for a group of friends on a day out. That’s when the Coleman 42 takes precedence.
As I’ve pointed out earlier, it features wheels and a telescoping handle, and side handles for easy transport. It also has a removable hard liner so that when it gets dirty, you can quickly wash it and return it in one piece.
Keep in mind; the Coleman comes with zippered pockets; on the inside and lid bungees to tie down your extra gears. That said, it has two mesh pockets on the side.
Overall, if you are looking for a large soft cooler with great ice retaining performance, look no further.
Igloo Marine Ultra Square Cooler
Igloo is one of the biggest cooler brands. They’ve been in the cooler market before most of the big players you see today. If you’d use pedigree – igloo is a name that would be reckoned with everywhere. And still, here’s another excellent product.
Interior is made of an antimicrobial liner to prevent stain, odor, mildew and scratch. Made of thick PEVA lining the exterior doesn’t sweat.
As the name implies, the marine cooler is made especially for marine purposes. The white color helps reflect the hot sun rays while the ice life increases. Worried the exterior would corrode from salt water, then don’t, the fabric is resistant to corrosion.
You’ll be happy to know that the cooler comes in different sizes ranging from the 24 can, 36 can console cooler, 36 can snap down cooler, 36 can square cooler, cooler backpack, HLC 24 coolers bag.
Overall, the ice performance is decent – while the company boast of a 48 hours ice retention, many users reported a day of ice. For those who merely want a soft-sided cooler at a great price, without the fancy clutter, this is your thing.
Rtic 30 Soft Pack
The Rtic soft pack is a first-rate cooler with cheap price. If you don’t have the luxury to splash on the Yeti hopper, the soft pack is the best substitute. Aesthetically pleasing, the soft side is made of durable and laminated fabric, it doesn’t sweat, and the welded seams doesn’t let water out.
Utilizing up to 2” foam insulation, the soft pack offers up to 5 days of ice. Soft padded handles and adjustable shoulder strap provide for easy carrying.
Additionally, the sizes range from Rtic 20, Rtic 30, Rtic 40 pack. As it is compact, you can easily stow away the cooler at the back of your golf cart, car, truck, Suv etc. fitted with exterior pockets, items you need to keep dry can find a haven from the chilled and soggy interior.
NFL 16 Can Soft-Sided Cooler with Ice
Remember this cooler doesn’t have as much insulation, so to enjoy cold drinks, ice packs are needed.
Adjustable straps allow for easy carrying. Keep in mind that some users complained of the zippers getting stuck. With that out of the way, the NFL is a good lunch bag and provides great value for money.
This is without a doubt for you if you want an inexpensive cooler with enough space for more than a dozen drinks.
Pelican Elite Soft Cooler
Pelican coolers are known for their rugged build, insulation and ice retaining performance. The Elite soft cooler is another offering from Pelican that boasts of more ice performance and lightweight than most soft coolers on the market.
With a leakproof zipper and my favorite feature – the dual lock buckle system to keep the top extra tight, all the cold remains while the hot is locked out. What you get is a dramatic increase in ice performance.
The exterior fabric is made of double coated Tpu, while the interior is made of a hardliner fabric approved by the FDA as microbial. Additionally, it comes with tie downs and a bottle opener. Finally, this is perhaps the best soft side cooler with hard liner on the market. Yes, take my word.
How to Choose Soft Cooler Bags
While the biggest advantage of a soft cooler over a hard cooler is portability and ease of transportation, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to choosing the right cooler bag.
Here are some of the checklist to look out for:
Mode Of Transport
Soft coolers come with different modes of transport. It’s either the bag has handles, shoulder straps, wheels or backpack setup.
The handles come very handily over short distances especially when the bag is filled. Shoulder straps can be slung, but it might cause strain on the shoulders when the bag is heavy.
Wheeled soft coolers like the Coleman provides a convenient way to transport your supplies especially when you are planning to pack enough for a group. And there’s the backpack cooler, the mode of carrying ensures weight is distributed across the shoulders, unlike like the single shoulder straps, backpacks utilize two straps to spread the load all over your shoulders. Hence, you’d be able to walk considerable distances without backaches.
Depending on the supplies you need to pack, the size of the bag is as essential as the purpose of use. Going against contrary believe, people think a cooler bag is always smaller and won’t hold as many items than hard sided coolers.
While short trips wouldn’t require you to pack much drinks and food, an average 16 can would do. However, cooler bags like the Coleman 42 can pack up to 42 cans which is close to what an average hard cooler holds.
Versatility is the most common reason why people opt for soft sides. A soft cooler can be collapsed into a compact size when not in use. You could even stash in a bag, and nobody will notice. Also, the small size is an important factor that helps you carry the bag everywhere – at the back of your car, SUV, truck or Golf cart.
The same cannot be said about hard coolers, cause they are quite bulky, storing hard sides can take much space, thus, limiting the possibility carrying it along with you on short trips.
Depending on your preferences, softies come in different shapes and carry options. Below are the major ones;
The Backpack – Backpacks are some of the best options especially if you plan on transporting your cooler over long distances. Backpacks essentially distribute the weight on the back. This ensures you don’t have cramps even after having the softie on your back for long hours.
Shoulder Bag – The shoulder bag is the common soft bag you see on the beach almost every day. It has conventional straps you can hang on your shoulder. It is easy on the shoulders but carrying it for a long time can be strenuous. Another great thing about this bag is it folds easily and fit into tight spaces.
Lunch Box – Lunch boxes are easy carry options for people on the go. These models have a longer ice retention and some are made with insulated materials to improve the ice retention. They are ideal for office workers and construction site especially if you want your cooler to maintain the temperature of your food or drinks for extended periods.
Maintenance – How To Clean Soft Coolers
Unlike hard coolers, soft sides need frequent maintenance and careful use. You don’t want your bag to tear after a few months of use or get none of the oozing smell that can make you throw out. So what can you do to extend the life of your cooler while keeping in the best possible condition?
Here are some tips to begin with:
Turn the bag inside out, with a spray or hose, wash the lining. Adding a detergent while you scrub gently will rid the hard stains and mildew.
Use anti-bacterial wipe to clean the interior nooks.
The exterior layer doesn’t need as much rigorous cleaning like the interior. Use a swipe and detergent to clean the exterior.
Let the bag dry out in the sun.
This should be a deal breaker when buying soft-sided coolers. I mean who would want to have a bag sweating of ice when hanging it on the shoulders? You will not want the seat to make a mess of its environment, it can get annoying. Most soft sided coolers now incorporate the no sweat feature. It is important the product you intend to buy has you covered in this department.
People love soft-sided cause they generally lighter, portable and easy to haul compared to hard-sided coolers. Now you don’t want a softie that will be large, heavy and awkward to carry around. However, some people will want to stuff their coolers and still enjoy the comfort of a softie. Unfortunately you can’t enjoy the comfort of soft bag and at the same time over-stuff it with drinks. For example if you stuff more than the capacity and the bag gets incredibly heavy to carry, you have defeated the aim of carrying a soft sided in the first place.
Yeti Hoppers are relatively lighter than hard sides, although they can get heavy and uncomfortable to carry around. If you want to enjoy the benefits of a hard side with a soft cooler then you should consider purchasing the hopper.
Have you ever packed drinks and food for an adventure and upon reaching your destination you reach inside your pocket for your sunglasses and you are shocked by what you find – Nothing. Yes, I’ve been there before and I know how it feels. Preparing for a journey is plain overwhelming and you may forget your accessories. The good thing is soft sides now integrate space in bags to ensure you have a dedicated storage to keep accessories.
Accessory pockets are zippered and located either inside or outside. The outside pockets are ideal for keeping items like your smartphone from mixing with the drinks and ice inside the cooler. The accessory compartment should be insulated to prevent direct transfer of heat or cold inside to the pocket.
Your work environment doesn’t have to suck with your lunch all packed inside a soft side.
Pick up one of the Best soft sided coolers and get comfortable carrying a soft cooler. They make transporting items easier, even though they don’t hold as ice for long as hard sides, soft bags manage to get you through the day.
Contrary to believes about soft sides durability and ice retention, likes of the Hopper, Homitt and RTIC soft-coolers are produced with hard outer shells. I call these models the semi hard coolers as they are equally strong, retain ice for days making the models suited for outdoors. However, the price is quite steep if you ask me. But if you are willing to invest over $200 for a high-quality soft cooler, you’ll have a life time of use. Still Unsatisfied? We’ve written an in-depth article about the current top cooler brands in the world.