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7 Best Soft Coolers of 2021

Best Overall Choice
OtterBox Trooper LT 30

OtterBox Trooper LT 30

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Best Budget Choice
Arctic Zone Titan Guide Series

Arctic Zone Titan Guide Series

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Best Premium Choice
Bison Softpak Cooler

Bison Softpak Cooler - Most Comfortable Cooler Bag

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Kyle W by Kyle W Updated on February 25, 2021.

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Whether you plan to spend the day at the beachside, pool, or park, or you want to go fishing on a sunny weekend, a cooler bag can keep your food and drinks chilled throughout your outdoor event.

You don’t have to worry about dragging hard-plastic coolers for one-day trips, and you shouldn’t have to endure the weight of traditional heavy coolers when you are out on a picnic with a group of friends or your partner. A lightweight and portable soft-sided cooler is more convenient and will preserve your beverages just the way you like them.

Many cooler bags are ideal for close-to-home adventures since they won’t keep cans chilled all day, especially in hot weather. However, we’ve selected some of the best options that can retain cold for a couple of days.

We’ve got you covered whether you want to splurge a bit on performance or you are looking for something basic and affordable. To help make your buying decision a bit easier, this article will show you some of the best pocket-friendly models and a few high-end options that are quite stylish and durable.

Our Top Picks

If you are in a hurry, here is a quick rundown of our favorite cooler bags:

  1. OtterBox Trooper LT 30 – Best Overall Cooler Bag
  2. Yeti Hopper Flip 18 – Best Ice Retention
  3. IceMule Jaunt – Best for Day Trips
  4. Arctic Zone Titan Guide Series – Best Value
  5. Bison Softpak Cooler – Most Comfortable Cooler Bag
  6. AO Deluxe Cooler – Best True Soft-Sided Cooler
  7. Pelican Dayventure Sling Cooler – Best for Wine

Review of the 10 Best Cooler Bags

Best Overall Choice

1. OtterBox Trooper LT 30

OtterBox Trooper LT 30

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OtterBox manufactures some of the most secure and waterproof phone cases.  Little wonder its Trooper LT 30 soft cooler ranks among the best cooler bags available, and it is our top pick. This model is not only waterproof on the inside but also water-resistant on the outside. Even the exterior storage pockets can protect contents from getting wet. The product has a water-resistant rating of IP-65.

The 30-quart capacity cooler bag is equipped with premium-grade thermal insulation and can keep food and drinks cool a little beyond 72 hours. Although it is pretty easy to open the cooler using one hand, the compound latch clamps securely to keep it completely shut. Besides mounting systems where you can attach accessories, your purchase also includes a bottle opener.

Another notable thing about this overall best cooler bag is the high-quality materials used in the construction. The bag is coated with a durable TPU nylon exterior that is resistant to puncture and chemicals and protects it from Ultraviolet light. A heavy-duty base covers the entire bottom, keeping it safe from abrasion. You can confidently buy this cooler knowing that it is backed by the manufacturer’s lifetime warranty.

Fitted with a 2-inch wide padded carrying strap, Trooper LT 30 hangs comfortably over the shoulder. However, the bag easily converts to a backpack, which seems to be the most comfortable way to haul it since it is a bit bulky. You will find the cooler most suitable for outdoor activities such as kayaking, hunting, travel, rafting, hiking, sports, concerts, and festivals.

Pros

  • Solid, heavy-duty base
  • Water-resistant external pockets
  • Can work as backpack and shoulder-carry

Cons

  • Too bulky for short trips

2. Yeti Hopper Flip 18 – Best Ice Retention

Yeti Hopper Flip 18 – Best Ice Retention

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What you’re looking at is not a lunchbox; it is Yeti’s fantastic, lightweight, but durable cooler bag with impressive features to keep your edibles chilled for a relatively long period.

The Yeti Hopper Flip 18 takes the lead when it comes to ice retention. The bag is fitted with a ColdCell Insulation that provides a superior cold-holding capability. The 18-liter capacity cooler can hold up to 20 cans of beverages, including packs of ice.

But Yeti is not just about keeping edibles cold. It is also a safe soft bag for food items, and the waterproof DryHide Shell is resistant to mildew and prevents mold growths. The Yeti Hopper Flip 18 features a HydroLok Zipper that is 100% leakproof to keep the contents completely protected. The zipper gives you easy access to the bag’s content due to the wide-mouth open design.

The durable construction means the bag will hold in the face of possible hazards and harsh outdoor conditions. This model is built to resist abrasion and punctures. The straps are comfortable on the shoulders, and the design includes two sturdy carry handles. The grids or loops on the cooler’s front and rear are great for attaching tools and accessories, such as carabiners, bottle openers, and gearcase.

If you like Yeti products but prefer a design that doesn’t come with a zipper, we invite you to check out the Yeti Hopper M30. It has all the features of the Flip 18 without the zipper. This upgraded model has a strong, self-sealing magnetic closure that works like a dry bag.

Pros

  • Rugged construction
  • Comfortable shoulder straps
  • Holds ice for up to 3 days

Cons

  • Expensive

3. IceMule Jaunt – Best for Day Trips

IceMule Jaunt – Best for Day Trips

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If you are looking for the best cooler bag with backpack straps to make your day trip fun, look no further than the IceMule Jaunt cooler. The padded straps are very comfortable and make it a lot easy and convenient to carry the cooler.

It can hold up to 15 cans (12 oz each) and keep the content cool for an entire day. It comes in a roll-top closure design that features a buckle to keep the bag tightly shut. Even when filled with water and turned upside down, the watertight design ensures that it does not leak at all.

Jaunt might look like a simple dry bag, but the construction is quite impressive. It has a built-in air valve that lets you blow air in and create an extra layer of insulation. Doing so will prevent thermal bridging that can cause the inside of the cooler to warm up rather quickly.

The cooler bag is covered with puncture-proof coated material with waterproof seams. Keeping the bag clean is easy-breezy; you only need to wipe it down with a damp cloth. Unlike other soft coolers with dull colors, Jaunt comes in various attractive colors, making it a favorite among people who love eye-catching designs and colors.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Air valve provides extra insulation
  • Roll-down design
  • Available in fun, vibrant colors

Cons

  • Single storage pocket
Best Budget Choice

4. Arctic Zone Titan Guide Series

Arctic Zone Titan Guide Series

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The Arctic Zone Titan Guide Series cooler gives you the best bang for your cash. It is among the highly affordable options on this list, but it is loaded with a good number of features. First, it is a 36-can soft cooler bag with extra room for ice, meaning it can hold more edibles than many expensive coolers.

But just because it is affordable doesn’t make it cheap. This cooler bag has one of the most remarkable insulation available, with five different deep freeze performance layers that keep ice for more than a whole day.

One of the most noteworthy features of this cooler bag is the tabletop lid designed with four can-shaped depressions and elastic straps to hold them in place so that your chilled beverages don’t get knocked off during bumpy rides. A small hatch on the lid lets you reach into the cooler without opening the whole lid and letting warm air into the bag. In fact, you do not need to remove the drinks on the tabletop lid to access the cooler’s content through the hatch.

Other features include a removable anti-slip shoulder strap, ice pack compartment, two sizeable, insulated zipper front pockets, and two front handles. The handles can pose a small hindrance when trying to access the pockets because they are right in front of the external pockets. But that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker since you can easily pull them aside.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Large capacity and plenty of storage compartments
  • 5-layer insulation

Cons

  • Tricky access to exterior pockets
Best Premium Choice

5. Bison Softpak Cooler - Most Comfortable Cooler Bag

Bison Softpak Cooler

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Those looking for a fully collapsible cooler bag may as well buy the Bison Softpak Cooler. It is, indeed, a soft-sided cooler in the literal sense of the term.  The comfortable component of many cooler bags is usually the strap. Still, everything about Bison is comfortable, from the removable shoulder strap to the bag’s soft foam insulation. Thanks to the cooler’s flexibility, you can compress it into tight storage spaces or conveniently fit it into your car.

The cooler can hold up to 24 cans and 10 lbs of ice; plus, it keeps items cold for up to 24 hours. While the zippers are of good quality, they are not watertight. If you tip the cooler too far once the ice starts to melt, it might leak. The bag has a large side pocket for holding dry items.

The out shell is wrapped with heavy-duty 1000-denier vinyl that can resist tear up to 375 pounds. The material is UV protected, so the bag won’t fade any time soon. But to give you extra assurance, Bison backs this product with a 30-day trial and 2-year warranty policy.

Pros

  • 100% tear-resistant construction material
  • Sweatproof construction
  • Includes bottle opener

Cons

  • Leaking may occur if tipped

6. AO Deluxe Cooler – Best True Soft-Sided Cooler

AO Deluxe Cooler

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The AO Cooler Deluxe Soft Cooler has a rather simple appearance that hides its outstanding cold-retention performance. The 12-can capacity cooler bag has a 3/4-inch thick inner insulation to keep beverages chilled for up to 24 hours, even in hot weather of up to 120 degrees. This makes it the perfect option for fishing, boating, or hunting under the scorching sun.

The high-density closed-cell foam is resilient to impacts, tears, and abrasion. The cooler is fully collapsible, thanks to the soft, flexible insulation. A removable shoulder strap, clip-down ends, and two handles make for easy carrying and storing. There are two extended outside pockets ideal for storing supplies, reels, and other items you want to keep dry.

If you ever need to keep your dinner warm, this soft-sided cooler is up for that task, too. You can even use it to travel on airplanes, as it meets the carry-on requirement. Keep in mind, though; the zippers are not leakproof. Water might leak through if the bag is tipped while driving down dirt roads, especially when the ice is melted.

Pros

  • Ample dry storage
  • High-density insulation
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Outer shell can be tricky to clean

7. Pelican Dayventure Sling Cooler – Best for Wine

Pelican Dayventure Sling Cooler

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The Dayventure Sling Cooler from Pelican is a great choice if you want to bring wine to a picnic or party. It has enough room to conveniently hold up to 4 wine bottles. But if you want canned beverages, you can fit in up to 12 cans inside the cooler and still have room for some ice. How long can you expect your drinks to stay cold? About two days; that’s how long. But you will get the best results if you use it for day trips. After all, it is not called a Dayventure for nothing!

It is a lightweight cooler bag, and even when loaded to full capacity, the padded shoulder strap makes it is easy to transport. Plus, the handle on the side easily facilitates transportation. A waterproof side pocket provides dry storage for bottle openers, napkins, and cutlery. You can even keep everyday essentials, including smartphones, in the side pocket.

Unlike other cooler bags fitted with zippers, this model has watertight zippers. Whether you prefer standing it or laying it on its sides, you can be sure it won’t leak. The high-density closed-cell foam provides extreme insulation inside the cooler. The outer shell is coated with waterproof thermoplastic urethane that is puncture-proof and can withstand abrasion, tears, and impacts. Another benefit of the material is that it is easy to clean.

Pros

  • High-quality, leak-resistant zipper
  • Lightweight design
  • Durable compression molded base

Cons

  • Unsuitable for carrying large items

Reasons for Choosing Cooler Bags

Soft coolers or cooler bags are typically constructed with lighter materials and can be hauled like a backpack or carried over the shoulder. The construction and design make it a lot easier and convenient to transport this type of cooler than the traditional options.

Of course, hard coolers can keep your food and drinks cold for several days, and they are generally more durable, but they are usually too bulky for short trips or small outdoor activities.

If you want to stay hydrated on an afternoon trip, you don’t have to bring a rigid cooler. Plus, you definitely don’t need a traditional cooler to carry your lunch or snacks. Smaller size soft coolers are more than enough to hold your snacks for the afternoon. If you need to pack some drinks for a small picnic, larger options can hold up to 30 cans of beverages without sacrificing portability.

Cooler bags are soft-sided, so they don’t feel awkward or uncomfortable whether you carry them on your back or hang them over your shoulders. No hard edges are pressing into your body because of their flexible construction.

It is easy to pack soft-sided coolers into cars since they can fit nicely into the available space, thanks to their less rigid build. On the other hand, hard coolers will take up more room because of their solid shape.

When it comes to storage, cooler bags take up less room when they are empty. Many soft-sided coolers are collapsible, making it easier to store them in tighter spaces.

Dos and Dont’s of Cooler Bags

  • Do freeze your foods and drinks beforehand. Doing so can help keep them chilled for longer periods in the cooler bag. Remember, even the best cooler bag is not a refrigerator or freezer.
  • Do pre-chill the cooler with an ice pack or crushed ice. Edibles stay cold for long periods in a pre-chilled bag than a warm or hot bag.
  • Do keep the ice-to-content ratio to about 2:1. That is an ideal ratio and will usually produce the best results.
  • Don’t drain melted ice, as it keeps things cold better than air.
  • Don’t open the cooler too often and for too long because doing so can make the insides become warm too quickly.
  • Don’t leave air pockets inside the cooler because it will make the ice melt quicker. Make sure the cooler bag is completely filled.

How to Choose the Best Cooler Bag

Consider the following when buying a cooler bag:

Weight

Before you start looking at any other feature, the first thing to consider is the cooler bag’s weight. Keep in mind that your ice packs, food, and drinks will add extra weight to the bag, so you want to avoid excessively heavy cooler bags.

Remember that one of the reasons for choosing this type of cooler over the traditional hard cooler is the ease of carrying from place to place (in many cases, over your shoulders). Choosing a cooler bag that is considerably heavy will effectively cancel out the portability and convenience advantages.

Size

Next, factor in the quantity of food, drinks, and ice packs you will need to carry inside your cooler bag. These will determine the size of the bag you should buy. Finding the right size might be a bit tricky if you are not clear on the items you will be carrying.

Portability

Consider the most convenient way for you to haul the cooler bag. A model fitted with shoulder straps might work well for you if you are carrying lighter loads. On the other hand, if you prefer going for a trip heavy-loaded, you may want to opt for a soft cooler bag with sturdy handles.

Insulation

The most important factor to consider is insulation. The best cooler bag is one that can keep your food and beverages chilled. It is utterly useless if it can’t perform this primary function, regardless of how cute and portable the bag is. You want to choose a model with thicker layers of insulation without compromising storage space. Make sure it has radiant heat barriers that can protect the content.

Construction Material

Another very vital consideration is the materials used in making the soft food and drinks container. The best cooler bag should have waterproof and antimicrobial features to prevent mold and mildew growth, as well as bad odor. Remember that your edibles will come in contact with the construction materials, so keep an eye out for products that use FDA-approved food-grade materials.

Capacity and Compartments

A cooler bag with different storage compartments will help you keep the content organized. This is particularly useful if you plan to bring along several food types. Make sure to choose one with enough room to hold drinks, water, snacks, fresh fruits, and even some salads for your outdoor adventure. It is important to find a balance between the size and capacity of whichever cooler bag you choose. A cute soft cooler is desirable, but you should not have to squeeze in your edibles.

Cost

Generally speaking, the more expensive a cooler bag is, the better the quality. But that doesn’t mean you should buy the priciest option available. Consider what you plan to use the cooler bag for and how often you intend to use it. It is okay to invest in a classy, hard-wearing model if you want a bag that can withstand extreme outdoor conditions. On the flip side, purchasing a reasonably-priced soft cooler will be more than enough if you only plan to use it occasionally.

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