We Found the 8 Best Soft Coolers Worth Buying in 2023

Including totes, backpacks, collapsible, and wheeled options.

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Best Soft Coolers

Food&Wine/Maria DeAngelis

Whether it’s a short solo hike, a family beach trip, or a fishing excursion with friends, every adventure calls for a cooler packed with plenty of food and drinks to fuel your body. Compared to hard coolers, soft coolers (or soft-sided coolers) are often lighter, more convenient to travel with, and easier to store. From compact designs to family-sized options, there’s one to suit everyone’s needs.

After weighing important factors like insulation, size, capacity, and intended use, we determined the best soft coolers on the market. Keep scrolling to see which ones made our list and why they are worth the money.

Best Overall

RTIC Outdoors 30-Can Backpack

RTIC Outdoors 30-Can Backpack


Pros: This colorful cooler is lightweight, durable, and easily portable — plus it floats!

Cons: The zipper can be fussy. 

Despite being a soft cooler, this one brings some extra durability with its structured outer shell. Under that, you have two inches of foam plus a puncture- and tear-resistant liner that keeps things insulated for up to 24 hours. One of the cooler’s best features is that it floats, so if you’re using it for a pool day or a lake vacation, it can stick right by your side. If it’s not floating around, you can either carry it with the sturdy handle straps or by slinging the longer strap over your shoulder. One drawback though is that you may find the zipper tricky to open and close.

We think the size that fits 30 cans offers a good balance of capacity and portability, but you can also get it in 12-, 20-, or 40-can sizes. The cooler also comes in a range of colors, from muted tones like bluish-gray and tan to vibrant options like citrus and coral. 

Price at time of publish: $130

  • Capacity: 22 quarts
  • Size: 15.5 x 11.5 x 12.75 inches
  • Weight: 4 pounds

Best Value

Bluu Softside Leakproof Cooler Bag

Bluu Softside Leakproof 35-Quart Cooler


Pros: This affordable choice has a large capacity and excellent insulation. 

Cons: The bag can collapse or fall over if not packed sufficiently in the bottom.

The price tag is appealing on this value pick, but even more so considering that it has a capacity of 25 quarts and is designed to stay cool for up to five days thanks to 25 millimeters of insulation foam. That, along with the UV protective barrier on the waterproof exterior makes it a great companion for longer outdoor getaways.

When adding your snacks and drinks, make sure to pack the bottom densely so that the bag can easily stand up on its own. You have two options for carrying this soft cooler around: Hold it in one hand or wear it as a shoulder bag — the straps are padded for added comfort. 

Price at time of publish: $70

  • Capacity: 25 quarts
  • Size: 17.5 x 10.4 x 13.8 inches
  • Weight: Not listed

Best Splurge

Yeti Hopper Flip 18 Insulated Personal Cooler



Pros: It’s leakproof, durable, comfortable to carry, and a suitable size for many activities. 

Cons: Make sure to lubricate the zipper regularly to prevent breakage.

Yeti is a well-known name in the cooler game. If you’re willing to splurge, this soft cooler, which comes in charcoal, navy, Nordic blue, and Nordic purple, won’t disappoint you. The insulation is top-notch, coming from the closed-cell rubber foam, while the outer shell is made from dense fabric that prevents punctures and stands up to UV rays. Even better? The inside and outside of the cooler are resistant to mildew. A unique feature of this cooler is the HitchPoint Grid, onto which you can fix accessories like bottle openers and carabiners to make your bag even more useful. Sling it over your shoulder, and off you go. 

This soft cooler has a special leakproof zipper that maintains an airtight seal but to keep it in great working condition, you’ll need to use the included zipper lubricant. If you have any trouble at all, rest easy knowing that you get a three-year warranty with the product.

Price at time of publish: $300

  • Capacity: Fits 30 cans or 28 lbs of ice
  • Size: 17.7 x 11.5 x 13.8 inches
  • Weight: 4.5 pounds

Best Backpack

Hydro Flask Escape Soft Cooler

Hydro Flask Escape Soft Cooler


Pros: This backpack cooler has a large capacity (roomy enough to fit multiple wine bottles) and keeps drinks cold for days. 

Cons: It’s on the pricier side, and the zipper opening can be hard to stretch wide for larger items. 

It doesn't get much more convenient than a backpack cooler. Instead of carrying all the weight on one shoulder or in your hands, you can toss it on your back and walk comfortably. It features padded straps, a cushioned back panel, and a chest strap, making you feel supported and balanced on long hikes and walks.

During our backpack cooler tests, our experts praised its leakproof seams, superior insulation, and sleek design. It's suitable for keeping bottles of white wine chilled for sunset picnics, a pack of beer or seltzers crisp for football tailgates, and bottles of water ice cold on hikes. There's also a dry pocket to stash a map, protein bars, or any other items you want to stay dry. The only con we have with this model is that the zipper opening can be hard to stretch, so larger items, such as food containers, might not fit.

Price at time of publish: $200

  • Capacity: 20 liters
  • Size: 8.47 x 18.52 x 18.12 inches
  • Weight: 2.63 pounds

Best Small

L.L.Bean Soft Pack Cooler

L.L.Bean Soft Pack Cooler


Pros: It’s light and compact but still has nice organization options.

Cons: The side pockets aren’t large enough to fit most water bottles. 

Looking for a cooler to tote your lunch in? You don’t need to waste space with a large cooler designed for longer adventures. This small soft cooler is just the right size to fit your lunch, food for a picnic, or a six-pack of cans. The mesh pocket on the lid inside gives you more space to separate and organize your goods. Then, you can stuff your utensils in one of the two side pockets, and throw your napkins in the zippered pockets on the lid or back. For easy storage, you can fold the cooler down flat. 

It’s up to you if you want to leave the adjustable shoulder strap on or take it off to hold the cooler by hand. The cooler itself weighs very little, so there shouldn’t be any trouble transporting it from place to place. There are three color options to choose from: black, navy, and green. 

Price at time of publish: $45

  • Capacity: 6.3 quarts
  • Size: 10.5 x 7.5 x 6 inches
  • Weight: 0.8 pounds

RELATED: The 10 Best Small Coolers for Everything From Wine to Camp Cooking

Best Large

Hydro Flask 26 L Day Escape Soft Cooler Tote

Hydro Flask 26 L Day Escape Soft Cooler Tote

Dick's sporting goods

Pros: You get ample room with this attractive, well-constructed soft cooler, and it’s very comfortable to carry over your shoulder.

Cons: You may have to use some force with the zipper, but we appreciate its leakproof design.

There’s plenty of space for all of your family’s drinks in this large soft cooler tote. With its 26-liter capacity, you can fit a whopping 42 cans inside. And even if you can’t get through all those drinks immediately, they should stay cool inside for many hours due to thick insulation, durable polyester shell, and welded seams. Carrying more than 40 cans on your shoulder sounds quite heavy, but thanks to its adjustable straps, you can wear it across your body to help you bear the weight.

Whether you go for the gray color combo or the teal one, the simple, sleek design of the cooler is appealing, especially since so many other soft coolers can veer towards overly tactical-looking. One potential drawback is that the waterproof zipper can take some effort to open and close. That’s common for this type of zipper, but a zipper lubricant can help.

Price at time of publish: $180

  • Capacity: 27.5 quarts
  • Size: 13.7 x 23.6 x 9.8 inches
  • Weight: 3.04 pounds

Best Collapsible

IceMule Classic Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag

IceMule Classic Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag

Courtesy of Walmart

Pros: It’s a breeze to stow away this highly portable, floatable soft cooler. 

Cons: You may be left wanting more from the super streamlined design. 

This collapsible soft cooler keeps things simple. There are no extra frills here, so don’t expect any extra pockets or hooks; however, it features a padded cross-body strap, many color options, and hours of ice retention. It’s great for people with limited storage space or who are always traveling because you can roll it right up and stow it away when not in use. It’s also waterproof and floats (there’s a valve that adds air to the insulation layer), so feel free to carry it with you right into the lake or ocean.

Because the bag is designed with a top-roll closure, it can be difficult to reach drinks at the bottom when it’s full, so keep that in mind while packing. You’ll also want to be sure to properly roll the top closed to ensure there aren’t any leaks. 

Price at time of publish: $75

  • Capacity: 10.6 quarts
  • Size: 9 x 9 x 18 inches
  • Weight: 1 pound

Best with Wheels

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze


Pros: You can fit a whole lot in this one, which has a detachable cart and is great for big families or long trips.

Cons: The zipper is not leakproof.

Just like how you might prefer the convenience of traveling with rolling luggage rather than a backpack when jet-setting, you might want to cart your foods and drinks in a wheeled cooler instead of one you have to hold by hand. This heavy-duty soft cooler comes on a cart with two wheels made for all terrains and a retractable handle so you can pull your goods along, with no added weight on your shoulders. Have a day when you don’t need the cart? Just detach it and use the adjustable shoulder straps or side carry handles instead. 

The cooler is designed to hold up to 60 cans between the main compartment and the insulated front compartment. According to the manufacturer, it can keep ice for up to three days, which is pretty impressive. The cooling comes from high-performance insulation, a radiant heat barrier, and a triple-layer base. The zipper isn’t leakproof though, so make sure to keep the cooler upright to avoid seepage.

Price at time of publish: $80

  • Capacity: 60 cans, 100 pounds
  • Size: 14.75 x 15.5 x 19 inches
  • Weight: 6.75 pounds

Our Favorite

The RTIC Soft Pack Cooler is our overall favorite because it has a good balance between portability, performance, and durability. If you’re searching for a backpack soft cooler, we recommend the Hydro Flask Escape Backpack Cooler for its thoughtful, stylish design and top-notch functionality.

Factors to Consider


The type, number of layers, and efficacy of insulation differs among soft coolers. Even if you don’t know the technicalities of what kind of insulation to look for, you can check the manufacturer’s description for how long the cooler is supposed to retain ice or keep cool. Often, they will give you a time estimate in terms of hours or days, but keep in mind this can vary depending on what the contents are, how the cooler was packed, and what the weather is like outside. Remember, it’s okay if a soft cooler only keeps ice cool for 24 hours if you’re never planning on using it for multi-day trips. 

Size and Capacity

Are you planning on using your soft cooler to take lunch to work, or are you thinking of carrying food and drinks for the whole family on a camping trip? Your intended usage will determine what size and capacity of a soft cooler to go for. Manufacturers may list capacity by quarts, liters, or simply the number of cans or amount of ice that can fit inside.

For an individual meal, 15 quarts or less works. For day trips, a 20- to 30-quart capacity cooler should be suitable depending on how many people you’re traveling with and what you’re packing. Once you’re in the 50-quart range and up, you’re in the large-capacity territory fit for longer adventures or big outdoor gatherings.

Intended Use

When shopping for a soft cooler, consider your intended use so you know what design best suits your needs. For example, if you want a soft cooler to take cold beverages with you on a hike, go for a backpack so you can stay hands-free, or a collapsible design so you can pack it away. If, on the other hand, you need a soft cooler to carry dozens of drinks for camping or tailgating, then a tote or a cooler with wheels might be your best bet. Always think about how much you might be moving with the soft cooler (and whether you’re on foot or using a vehicle), so your cooler doesn’t become a burden.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Should I get a soft-sided or a hard-sided cooler?

    Both types of coolers are meant to keep what you put inside at a nice fresh temperature. Which one is best for you depends on how you’ll be using it. Soft coolers are often lighter than hard-sided ones, making them easier to tote around on a regular basis. Their soft, flexible material lends itself well to a sling or backpack design, which makes them even more portable, as well as collapsible designs, which makes them easy to store. 

    Hard coolers are more heavy-duty, meaning that they can stand up to harsher elements (weather and wildlife included). They’re typically made from hard plastic, and while that thickness certainly helps with insulation and cooling, it also means added weight.

  • How long do soft coolers stay cold?

    Soft coolers come in many different designs, so you'll also find a range with how long each one stays cold. Some keep foods and beverages cool for 24 hours, while others maintain insulation for multiple days. It all depends on what kind of material the cooler is made out of and what type of insulation it has.

    To keep your soft cooler cold for as long as possible, keep it closed tightly and limit how often you open it to look around, which allows warm air in. You can also load it with items that are already cold or frozen, rather than room temperature, and place it in the shade.

  • Can you put dry ice in soft coolers?

    Throwing some ice into your soft cooler along with your drinks helps keep the temperature low, so you may think that putting in dry ice, which is colder than regular ice, would be even better. The thing is, many soft coolers are not compatible with dry ice because it can damage the cooler or pose a health risk. 

    If you do have a cooler that works with dry ice, there are certain safety precautions you need to follow. When dry ice melts, it turns into carbon dioxide gas, which can cause negative health effects, like causing someone to pass out, without enough ventilation. Always make sure the cooler is somewhere with sufficient ventilation. Not sure whether or not you can put dry ice in your soft cooler? Check the manufacturer’s instructions.

Our Expertise

Cindy Brzostowski is a freelance writer and avid home cook who has previous experience in cookbook publishing. Her writing has been featured in Allrecipes, Blue Apron, The Kitchn, and EatingWell among other publications. For this article, she used her own expertise and market research to determine the best soft coolers on the market.

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