Information Technology

Information Technology


Information Technology

There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to soft coolers. The number of brands, features, sizes, and colors can be overwhelming. Taking a few minutes to think about what it is you want to keep cool and where you want to take it will help narrow down your choices. If you’re going to a barbecue or picnic, kayaking or canoeing, or to an outdoor concert or sporting event, then one of these soft coolers is up for the task. Check out the five top soft coolers below or keep scrolling for longer reviews and even more great options, plus tips on how to choose the right one.

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Why Choose a Soft Cooler

While most traditional hard coolers are typically more durable and can keep things cold for days, they can be difficult to transport easily. Soft coolers are made of lighter materials and are designed to be carried over the shoulder or like a backpack. The cooler’s soft body helps to eliminate pressure points by conforming to your body without being awkward. Because of their portable design, they’re generally not available in capacities larger than 30 quarts, or 30 “can” volume—that’s the number of beverage cans the cooler holds.

Soft coolers are ideal for one-day events and activities, although some models in our test can keep things cold for as long as three days. The smaller sizes are great for carrying lunch or snacks, while the larger sizes will hold a case of drinks to keep you and your friends “hydrated.” Soft coolers are also easier to pack in the car, as they will deform to fit into the available space—rather than take up a large, rectangular block of space like their hard-plastic brethren. One other benefit is that many soft coolers are collapsible and will take up less room when not being used.


Coolers: Dos and Don’ts

  • Pre-chill cooler with sacrificial ice or ice pack—things will stay cold longer.
  • Pre-chill or freeze food and drinks.
  • For best results, fill with a 2:1 ice-to-contents ratio.
  • Completely fill the cooler—an air pocket will make ice melt quicker.
  • Block ice lasts longer, while crushed or cubed ice chills contents faster.
  • Don’t drain melted ice, cold water stays cold better than air.
  • Limit how often and how long the cooler is opened.

    How We Tested These Coolers

    Every cooler on this list has been thoroughly vetted and evaluated by our test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience using these coolers to determine the best options. Each of these coolers kept ice as long as the manufacturers claimed, in optimal conditions, filled with ice. We tested in less optimal conditions, over 24 hours, with the coolers half full of ice—because, the world isn’t always a perfect place. Our team of experienced testers spent many hours using these coolers for their intended purpose. We’ve transported them by bike and car, worn them on our backs and over our shoulders, and left them out in the sun. We evaluated them on thermal performance, ease of use, comfort during personal transport, price, and aesthetic appeal to come up with this list of coolers that will best serve the needs of anyone looking to keep their food and drinks cold.


    ―BEST LUNCH COOLER―

    Coleman 30 Can Cooler

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    Coleman

    30 Can Cooler

    $25.14

    amazon.com

    • Removable hard liner.
    • Inexpensive.

    The small, cube-shaped 30 Can Cooler from Coleman will indeed hold 30 cans, but pack 24 and leave some room for ice. Beverage carrying isn’t the best use for it, however. It’s ideally suited for carrying a family lunch or picnic, snacks, and drinks for a sports event, day trips to the beach, or overnight camping at a campground. It easily stayed cold enough for a day, despite being only half full of ice. After 24 hours, 15 percent of the ice remained. The food-safe, hard plastic liner made cleaning easy, and prevented melted ice from leaking and making a mess. With two mesh side pockets, a front zippered pouch, and elastic straps on top, there is plenty of space to carry your ancillary stuff that doesn’t need to be kept cold.


    ―BEST VALUE―

    Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze 30 Can Cooler

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    Arctic Zone

    Titan Deep Freeze 30 Can Cooler

    amazon.com

    • Tray keeps things out of melted ice.
    • Bottle opener.
    • Not for carrying extended distances.

    The Titan Deep Freeze Zipperless Cooler is a soft cooler in the sense that it has flexible insulation and a sewn outer cover. A rigid liner defines the shape of the cooler and also helps contain the water when the ice melts. A handy tray fits into a lip in the liner and keeps things like sandwiches out of the melting ice. After 24 hours, filled halfway with ice, the Titan Deep Freeze still had 28 percent of the ice left. Packed well, and full, it will keep things cold up to three days. There is ample room to carry other supplies as well, in the two side pockets, front compartment, and under the elastic straps on top. The cooler comes with a shoulder strap, a nifty bottle opener, and a zipperless lid. The lid flips open easily, closes securely, and can help prevent a flood if the cooler tips.


    ―BEST BACKPACK SYSTEM―

    Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack

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    YETI

    Hopper BackFlip 24 Soft Cooler

    $299.99

    backcountry.com

    • Comfy to wear.
    • Easy to clean.

    Yeti’s Hopper Backflip 24 is a wearable soft cooler that is perfect for daytrips, outdoor sports tournaments, beach days, and hiking. The exterior material, something Yeti calls DryHide, is waterproof, UV and puncture resistant, and easy to clean. The robust backpack straps, chest strap, and waist belt stabilize and distribute weight evenly and comfortably. The claimed capacity is 20 cans plus ice, but we were able to fit a full case of our favorite beverage in the Backflip 24. When filled halfway with ice, 24 percent of the ice was sill frozen after 24 hours. Pack this cooler properly and the contents will still be cold long after 24 hours. The zipper closure tested to be 100 percent leakproof, so there will be no surprises if it tips over in the car.


    Soft Coolers - Information Technology

    Trevor Raab


    ―MOST BOTTLE OPENERS―

    Pelican Elite Soft Cooler (24 Can)

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    Pelican

    Elite Soft Cooler (24 Can)

    $299.49

    amazon.com

    • Leak-proof zipper.
    • Two bottle openers.

    Pelican, the company known for protective cases, also makes this 24-can Elite Soft Cooler. The stated capacity is somewhat conservative, allowing plenty of room for ice. If they’re already cold, 34 cans fit nicely, without ice. When properly packed with ice, this cooler will chill for up to 48 hours. In our test, filled halfway with ice, after 24 hours 21 percent of the ice remained. This cooler is great for one to two-day outdoor activities, including kayaking, camping, music festivals, and camping. The outer shell is puncture-proof and double-coated with Thermo-Plastic Urethane, has sturdy handles on each end, and boasts a completely leak-proof zipper. The Elite Soft Cooler comes with a removable, padded shoulder strap, and D-ring tie-downs, two of which double as stainless-steel bottle openers.


    ―MOST COMFORTABLE―

    Bison Coolers 24 Can SoftPak

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    Bison Coolers

    24 Can SoftPak

    $149.00

    amazon.com

    • Comfortable slung over shoulder.
    • Bottle opener.

    Bison’s 24 Can SoftPak cooler is a soft cooler in the truest sense—it is completely collapsible. Initially that made it seem a little flimsy, but the soft foam insulation conforms to your back or side and acts as a cushion, making it very comfortable to carry with the shoulder strap. The flexible nature of the cooler makes storage convenient too, since it can be squashed to fit into tight spaces. It has an outer shell made from 1000 denier vinyl which is UV and tear resistant, as well as easy to clean. The zipper closure is not leakproof, so be careful about tipping it too far once the ice starts to melt. Capacity is 24 cans, and filled halfway with ice, 61 percent of it remained after 24 hours. The 24 Can SoftPak easily keeps cold up to two days when packed properly and is great to take along just about anywhere you want cold drinks and a picnic lunch.


    ―MOST INCOGNITO―

    Lifeproof Backpack Cooler

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    LifeProof

    Backpack Cooler

    $69.99

    lifeproof.com

    • Looks like a backpack.
    • Reusable ice pack included.

    LifeProof’s Backpack Cooler is essentially an insulated backpack. With the shape, scale, and features of a backpack, it is easy to adjust and get comfortable carrying up to a case of your favorite beverage. It has two padded shoulder straps can be connected with a chest strap, a mesh side pocket, a front-facing, zippered side pocket, and large pocket on the back. The cooler also comes with a reusable ice pack, a nice bonus because it’s less messy than using ice. In our test, we filled the Backpack Cooler halfway with ice, and after 24 hours 12 percent of the ice remained. With the cooler packed properly, with food/drink and ice, it will keep contents cold up to two days. The backpack is useful for all manner of day trips, just be careful when using ice in it as the zipper isn’t leakproof.


    Soft Coolers - Information Technology

    Trevor Raab


    ―BEST TRUE SOFT COOLER―

    AO Coolers 12 Pack Deluxe Canvas Cooler

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    AO Coolers

    12 Pack Deluxe Canvas Cooler

    $59.95

    amazon.com

    • Plenty of dry storage.
    • Surprising performance.
    • May be difficult to clean outer shell.

    At first glance, the 12 Pack Deluxe Canvas Cooler seems quite ordinary. The thermal protection the cooler offers, though, is far from ordinary. We packed it halfway with ice, and after 24 hours, 44 percent of the ice remained. Packed full, with no air gaps, the contents will easily stay cold up to 48 hours. The cooler shell is made of a nylon canvas and comes in solid colors with two dry side pockets—custom embroidery options are available. The soft, flexible insulation makes the cooler just about completely collapsible. Two sewn handles, a removable shoulder strap, and four D-rings are provided for carrying and stowing the cooler. Cinch straps on the ends ensure that the cooler can be closed up tight, reducing air gaps inside. The 12 Pack Deluxe is a perfect size for lunches, small picnics, day trips, or anyplace else you want to keep food and drink cold.


    ―BEST FAMILY SIZE―

    Yeti Hopper Two 30

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    YETI

    Hopper Two 30 Cooler

    $239.99

    backcountry.com

    • Easy to clean.
    • Cavernous interior.

    The Hopper Two 30 is the largest soft cooler Yeti offers. While the claimed capacity is 23 cans, with the appropriate amount of ice, we packed as many as 30 cans—although not at the recommended 2:1 ice-to-contents ratio. Filled only with ice, halfway, 60 percent was left after 24 hours. Packed properly, with no airspace, the Hopper two 30 will keep things cold for two to three days. The exterior is covered in a material Yeti calls DryHide, which is waterproof, UV and puncture resistant, and easy to clean. Shopping bag handles and a padded, removable shoulder strap, provide convenient options for carrying the cooler. It has multiple D-ring tie-downs, which are great for securing the cooler when boating or off-roading. The Hopper Two 30 is also good for beach trips, picnics and barbecues, campground camping, festivals, and other outdoor events.


    ―BEST ICE RETENTION―

    OtterBox Trooper LT 30 Cooler

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    OtterBox

    Trooper LT 30 Cooler

    $299.99

    otterbox.com

    • Leak-proof clamshell closure.
    • Excellent ice retention.
    • Bulky for smaller outings.

    The Trooper LT 30 is made by OtterBox, makers of some of the most secure, waterproof phone cases. It puts the same level of care into this cooler, which is waterproof from both the inside out, and the outside in. The clamshell latch clamps securely closed and opens wide for easy access to the generous 30-quart capacity. Filled halfway with ice, 70 percent lasted 24 hours, and 1 percent lasted 72—with a water temperature of 35 degrees. Packed full of food, drink, and ice, the Trooper LT easily keeps things cold for 72+ hours. A Thermo-Plastic Urethane coated nylon covers the cooler, with two water-resistant pockets in front and a shoulder strap that converts to backpack straps. The cooler can be comfortably worn as a backpack and is great for hiking, camping, rafting, fishing, and outdoor sporting events.



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