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Whether you are camping, hauling sodas to your kid’s soccer game, or spending a day at the beach, coolers help keep your beverages and food chilled even when the sun is scorching. While traditional hard-sided, heavy duty coolers work great at keeping your food and drinks cold for hours if not days, they are not exactly practical for porting beyond the back of your car or out to your backyard barbecue.
The answer to better portability is a soft-sided cooler. Lightweight and easy to carry, many soft-sided coolers now rival their hard-sided brethren in terms of insulating performance. These are the best soft-sided coolers to buy today.
Best Overall: Yeti Hopper Flip 18
Setting the standard for cooler insulation with the original Tundra hard cooler, Yeti’s soft-sided coolers are no less sensational. The Hopper Flip uses a closed-cell rubber foam insulation that will keep your drinks and food cold for days, not hours. The wide hinged opening lets you easily get at all the contents and the ultra-durable zipper is both waterproof and leakproof, so nothing gets in or out. The exterior of the cooler is constructed from a durable high-density fabric that is waterproof and resistant to mildew. Its interior liner is FDA-approved, food-grade material, so you don’t have to worry about protecting your food when it's inside the cooler. The 18-quart size of the cooler holds up to 20 cans of your favorite beverage. Hitch points along the front of the cooler enable you to attach just about anything, including a bottle opener or waterproof pocket. The cooler weighs just over five pounds so easy to carry with you almost anywhere.
Best for Camping: Otterbox Trooper LT 30
When you are headed out camping for the weekend and don’t want to keep filling the cooler with ice, bring the Trooper LT 30 along for the ride. With a 30-quart capacity, you can fit enough food and drinks for the weekend inside — the cooler will hold up to 50 cans of your favorite LaCroix or beer. The ice will keep for up to three days or more so you don’t have to worry about your food going bad or swimming in a sea of lukewarm water. A latched, wide-mouth opening lets you get at the contents way down at the bottom and a leakproof seal ensures nothing drips all over you or your car in transport.
The cooler can be carried either tote or backpack-style depending on the distance to your campsite. The soft-sided cooler comes with a bottle opener as well as a mounting system for more accessories to customize your cooler. Water-resistant exterior pockets are great for storing utensils, spices, or other food items that don’t require refrigeration.
The cooler features a food-grade liner and durable TPU coated nylon exterior that is water-resistant for easy spill cleanup. An ice line on the liner indicated the fill level so that the Trooper will properly close.
Best for Hiking: Hydro Flask Unbound 22L Soft Cooler Pack
The Unbound soft-sided cooler from Hydro Flask lets you bring cold drinks and food on your next backcountry adventure. Weighing only three pounds and built like a backpack for comfortable carry over long distances, the cooler offers plenty of room for 24 cans and will keep them cold for up to 48 hours. Dry storage pockets on the outside protect either gear or food should it start to rain and dual side pockets make a great place to stash a water bottle, wine bottle, or extra jacket for the hike to your destination.
The hinged top and wide-mouth opening make for quick loading and easy cleaning of the cooler with a waterproof zipper that ensures no liquid gets in or out. The liner is BPA-free and FDA food-grade so no need to worry about it contaminating your food and drinks. The compression molded base enables the backpack-style cooler to stand upright when you set it down.
Best for Beach: Mountainsmith Cooler Tube
Want to bring some cold drinks to enjoy on the beach but don’t want to carry a heavy cooler? Look no further than the Cooler Tube from Mountainsmith. This tube-shaped soft cooler will hold a six pack or even a handful of tall boys to take to the beach. The full-length zipper closure makes for easy loading, while the foam insulation will keep your drinks frosty for most of the day. Simply sling it over your shoulder and head to the shore.
Best Budget: Coleman 40-Can Collapsible Cooler
This soft-sided cooler collapses down to give you the convenience of a large cooler when you need it, but extra storage room when you don’t. The Coleman can hold two cases of soda so perfect for bringing to your kids next soccer game. When you are done using it, the cooler collapses down to the size of a phone book for space saving storage in your garage or closet. There are plenty of places to store utensils or other snacks whether it's in the variety of pockets on offer or secured in the large bungee pocket at the back of the cooler. The liner is easy to clean and works to fight off odors or any mold and mildew buildup. The cooler is lightweight at just 1.5 pounds and comes with an adjustable shoulder strap for comfortable carry.
Best for Picnics: Columbia PFG Permit 20
Stylish and lightweight, this tote-style, soft-sided cooler is your perfect companion for your next picnic in the park or day out on the water. The flat bottom ensures the cooler stays upright when you set it down. The roll-top design makes it quick and easy to close and ensures no water gets in or out. The cooler will hold roughly 18 cans of your favorite beverage and keep them cold for most of the day, thanks to an integrated radiant heat barrier and high-performance insulation. At just over one pound, this cooler is lightweight enough to go with you anywhere. The exterior fabric is resistant to gunk, muck, and goo, and an external pocket will safely hold your keys, cell phone, or wallet while you kick back and relax.
Best for Paddling: IceMule Classic
If you are headed out on your SUP or kayak for the day and want to bring some cold drinks and food with you, the IceMule Classic is built for the job. With welded seams and no zippers, this roll-top closure cooler is completely waterproof. Better yet? It even floats. The Medium size offers up a 15-liter capacity that will hold up to 12 cans, plus ice, and will keep your drinks cold for up to 24 hours. The soft-sided cooler can be worn backpack-style to keep your hands free for paddling or strapped to your board or kayak. An air purge valve removes any air from the insulation layer so you can roll it up for storage in the stuff sack.
Best for Tailgating: Pelican 48 Can Elite
Be the hero at your next tailgating party when you show up with the Pelican 48 Can Elite soft cooler packed with 48 cans of your friends’ favorite beverage. Both waterproof and leakproof, the cooler will keep your drinks cold for up to two days. The compression-molded, anti-slip base keeps the cooler upright and ensures it won’t roll around in the back of your truck on the way to the stadium. No need to open bottles using party tricks since the two tie-down points at the front of the cooler double as bottle openers. The cooler itself weighs just eight pounds so easy to transport to and from your truck.