Best Soft Sided Coolers in 2020

Best soft sided coolers

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Whether you’re off on a road trip, a camping excursion or a day at the beach; a soft sided cooler is the perfect companion to keep your drinks chilled and your food fresh.

They can also be used as a faux cambro keep your barbecue hot and safe for several hours.

However, with so many models on the market, picking the best soft sided cooler for your circumstances can be tricky, especially if you’ve never purchased one before.

To help you avoid such an unpleasant situation, we’ve put together this guide to the best soft coolers money can buy. The CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag ranks number one on our list, but there are lots of other great options depending on your budget.

Best 8 Soft Sided Coolers Reviewed for 2020

To help you make the right choice, we have selected the best soft coolers to suit all needs and budgets. Read on to find the best model for you.

1. Best overall – CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag

CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag: Insulated Leakproof 50 Can Soft Sided Portable Cooler Bag for Lunch, Grocery Shopping, Camping and Road Trips, Heather Grey/Black

Strong, sturdy and durable, with plenty of useful extra features, the Collapsible Cooler Bag by CleverMade is our top pick and best overall soft sided cooler. 

CleverMade takes pride in creating innovative products, and this soft cooler is no exception. We chose this model as our winner because it has a great eight-gallon capacity (30 litres/50 cans plus ice), is fully leakproof and comes with a range of useful pockets as well as a handy integrated bottle opener. 

It can also be collapsed to save space and is very reasonably priced – what’s not to love? 

What we like:

  • Leakproof, insulated interior – The insulated interior keeps your food and drinks cold for long periods of time. The fact that this model is leakproof doesn’t just mean your vehicle and clothes will stay clean, it also means that the contents will stay cooler longer as the airtight seal prevents warm air from entering. 
  • Structured support – open up this cooler and straight away you’ll notice its sides remain straight and upright. Not only does this make for easy loading, it also provides extra protection for its precious contents.
  • Side and top carry handles – The top handles are great for carrying lighter loads, or if your cooler’s fully packed and really weighed down, use the side handles to make it easier on your arms and back. 
  • Integrated bottle opener – Don’t make it all the way down to the beach before realizing you left the bottle opener back at home! With this cooler you’ll never have to worry about forgetting your opener again.
  • Two pockets – The front zipped pocket is handy for valuables such as your phone or wallet, while the back mesh pocket is great for stashing anything you want to keep separate, such as sunscreen, napkins or utensils. 

What we don’t like:

  • No shoulder strap – The lack of a padded shoulder strap is a little inconvenient as you can’t carry this cooler completely hands free. 

Get the latest price on Amazon.

2. Runner up – Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze 30 Can Zipperless Cooler, Blue

A worthy runner-up, the Titan Deep Freeze is a tough model that will keep your cans and lunch cool no matter where you’re headed. 

The Titan Deep Freeze offers a 30-can capacity, so there’s sure to be plenty of space to bring refreshments for yourself and all your companions.

It also benefits from a radiant heat barrier, a unique zipperless lid and a durable exterior.

This makes it an excellent choice if you are looking for a cooler to take into the great outdoors, where its rugged exterior and long-lasting heat protection will ensure your supplies stay fresh and protected. 

What we like:

  • Insulated with radiant heat barrier – Designed to keep your drinks and food cooler for longer, the radiant heat barrier reflects heat rather than absorbing it. This is ideal for long summer days on the beach, fishing or watching sporting events. 
  • Leakproof lining – Thanks to its leakproof lining you won’t have to worry about unexpected spillages dirtying your vehicle, clothes or home. Leakproof coolers are also more efficient at preventing hot air from entering, resulting in longer-lasting, more effective cooling. 
  • Flip-open lid – With this cooler, you won’t need to fiddle about with a zip thanks to its flip-open lid design. This means it’s quick and easy to close up after packing, as well as making it simple to access on the go. 
  • Durable exterior – Its abrasion and puncture-resistant exterior make this cooler a great choice for all of your outdoor adventures. Its tough outer material is also water and stain-resistant, so you won’t have to worry about rain-soaked snacks or keeping it clean. 
  • Removable SmartShelf – Thanks to its removable SmartShelf, this cooler allows you to protect and separate hard and soft items, thus preventing your cans from mashing up your side salad. 

What we don’t like:

  • Less suitable for bottles – While we love this cooler, it’s less convenient for packing drinks that aren’t in standard-sized cans. For example, if you pack tall water bottles vertically, you risk lifting the zipperless lid and reducing the cooler’s efficacy. 

While the difficulty packing tall bottles can be frustrating, we don’t think this is a dealbreaker.

Smaller water bottles will fit this cooler just fine, and the rugged materials, easy-access lid and highly-effective insulation offered by this soft cooler make it our leading choice for outdoor adventures. 

Get the latest price on Amazon.

3. Best insulated – TOURIT Soft Cooler

TOURIT Soft Cooler 30 Cans Leak-Proof Soft Pack Cooler Bag Waterproof Insulated Soft Sided Cooler for Hiking, Camping, Sports, Picnics, Sea Fishing, Road Beach Trip

The Tourit Soft Cooler is our best insulated soft cooler pick. Thanks to its three-way insulation and extra-durable outer, the Tourit Soft Cooler makes an excellent choice when you need to keep your food and drinks cool for up to three days. 

Tourit is well known for creating high-quality outdoor gear. Perfect for camping, this highly-insulated cooler enables you to enjoy your trip without having to worry about your supplies spoiling. 

Also, this model features various carry handles for comfortable transport, a resistant outer shell for added protection against the elements, and is fully leakproof for spill protection and enhanced cooling performance. 

What we like:

  • Three-layer insulation – Thanks to its superior insulation the Tourit can keep your food and drinks cold for up to three days. 
  • Leakproof – For less cleaning and better insulation, the Tourit cooler has a fully leakproof zipper. 
  • Three ways to carry – You can easily vary your carrying style to match this cooler’s load. Make use of the grab handles for heavy packs, or the top handles or convenient padded shoulder strap when you’re less weighed down. 
  • Tough outer shell – Heading off into the great outdoors? Thanks to its tough outer shell you won’t have to worry about your cooler getting punctured and your lunch ruined. 
  • Bottle opener – The integrated design also saves space for your other essential accessories.  

What we don’t like:

  • Zipper can be tricky – Not really a problem, more of a niggle. The zipper is a little awkward and fiddly at times, so you may struggle to open and close this cooler on occasion.

Get the latest price on Amazon.

4. Best small – Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler

Coleman Soft Cooler Bag | 16 Can Cooler, Blue

Don’t need to take supplies for the whole family? The 16-Can Soft Cooler by Coleman is a great choice for keeping smaller quantities of food and drink cool on those long hot days.

Easy to carry, we like how this compact cooler boasts plenty of exterior pockets and a useful bungee cord for all of your picnic or day trip accessories.

Its insulated heat-welded compartment is also highly effective at keeping your food and drinks chilled; while the detachable antimicrobial liner makes it simple to keep clean and fresh. 

What we like:

  • Compact, easy-to-carry size – If you don’t need to keep a large amount of food or drinks chilled, you’re better off opting for a smaller cooler, like this one. With its generous 16-can capacity this model offers plenty of space, yet remains easy to carry.
  • Removable antimicrobial liner – For ease of cleaning and extra hygiene, the removable antimicrobial lining makes this cooler simple to maintain.
  • Storage pockets and bungee cord – Need to take along a few extra accessories? With this cooler, you can simply strap light extra layers to its bungee cord. Alternatively, stash your valuables safely in the zippered front pocket, or use the side mesh one for any extras that don’t need to be chilled.  
  • Insulated heat-welded compartment – Thanks to its heat-welded seams, this cooler keeps the internal temperature low, so that your drinks stay cool, even on hot days in direct sunlight. 
  • Shoulder strap – The long shoulder strap is comfortable and sturdy. 

What we don’t like:

  • No grab handle – While we love the shoulder strap, we think this model could be improved with the additional option of a grab handle for those who may find bearing weight on the shoulders uncomfortable. 

Get the latest price on Amazon.

5. Best high end – YETI Hopper TWO Portable Cooler

YETI Hopper Two 20, Portable Cooler, Fog Gray/Tahoe Blue

The YETI Hopper Two Portable Cooler is made by one of the biggest names in cooler manufacturing, and is our best luxury choice. 

It may be more than a little pricey, but if you have the cash to spare this super-durable model will serve you well for years to come.

Created with plenty of hardy, innovative materials, (such as those used on Hazmat suits!) and showcasing an updated design for ultimate comfort, this cooler is 100% leakproof and so efficient it can keep ice frozen for days.

What we like:

  • DryHide shell – Thanks to its extra tough exterior, you won’t have to worry about taking this cooler with you off the beaten track. It is also waterproof and mildew resistant so you can be sure it’ll stand up to the elements without breaking a sweat. 
  • HydroLok zipper – Emulating the design used for Hazmat suits, the leakproof and waterproof HydroLok zipper will keep the contents of your cooler protected from extreme weather, for longer chilling and better protection.
  • ColdCell insulation – The ColdCell rubber foam is specially designed to hold its temperature longer than standard foam models. It does this so well, it can keep ice frozen for many days. 
  • Hitchpoint Grid – Thanks to this model’s Hitchpoint Grid you can attach various accessories and extras with ease, thus saving you the inconvenience of bringing an extra bag along. 

What we don’t like:

  • Price – Good things seldom come cheap and the YETI Hopper Two is no exception. While it is an expensive purchase, the YETI Hopper Two is hard to beat if you’re looking for a durable, high-performance cooler that’s made to last. 

Get the latest price on Amazon.

Other Coolers Worth Considering

While they didn’t quite make our top list, these soft sided coolers are also worth considering. 

6. ENGEL HD30

Engel HD30 Waterproof Soft-Sided Cooler Bag - Tan/Blue

The Engel HD30 is a good choice if you are looking for a rugged, durable cooler that provides reliable insulation and is easy to transport. 

It is generously sized and comes complete with a variety of carry handles, a bottle opener and special vacuum valves to increase its ice retention duration.

It also has a zip pocket, smooth zippers and sturdy pulls, making it one of the easiest coolers to get open and closed. 

What we like:

  • Vacuum Valve Technology – Essential for longer-lasting ice, these valves withdraw excess air from your cooler for maximum ice retention. 
  • Fully waterproof – Keeps your contents dry and protected, as well as extra cold.
  • Three ways to carry – With a choice of grab handles, top handles or a shoulder strap; this cooler has plenty of options that make it easy to carry, even when fully loaded.

What we don’t like:

  • Stitched shoulder pad – The shoulder pad is stitched to the center of the strap, This means you’ll need to adjust the buckles on each side to get the most comfortable fit. It’s not a disaster, but it’s not the most user-friendly choice, either.
  • Awkward to load – The zip opening likes to snap back unless held open, unlike coolers with a “lid” style design. 

The HD30 makes a good choice, albeit a little on the pricey side. If you’re OK with a fiddly shoulder strap and one-handed loading, this cooler makes a hardy, durable option that will live up to hunting and fishing trips, as well as relaxing days at the beach. 

Get the latest price on Amazon

7. YETI Hopper Flip

YETI Hopper Flip 12 Portable Cooler, River Green

With all of Yeti’s know-how and renowned durability in a compact format, the YETI Hopper Flip is a great choice if you need a small cooler for extensive, everyday use.  

It benefits from Yeti’s HydroLok zipper, a wide opening and the DryHide waterproof exterior. This small cooler is ideal for use anywhere, being easy to carry and difficult to damage. 

What we like:

  • ClosedCell Insulation – Superior foam insulation keeps contents cooler than your average foam. This cooler promises to keep hold ice cold for up to three days.
  • DryHide Shell – Waterproof, puncture and mildew resistant, the Hopper Flip will keep your supplies safe in the great outdoors while being easy to keep clean. 
  • Leakproof HydroLok zipper – For excellent insulation and extra protection, the HydroLok zipper prevents water and warm air from entering your cooler. 

What we don’t like:

  • Price – Yeti products are expensive. However, if you’re looking for a cooler that will get the job done and stand up to tough environments, this cooler fits the bill.  

Get the latest price on Amazon.

8. RTIC Soft Pack 20

RTIC Soft Pack 20, Grey

RTIC is known for manufacturing a range of hardy outdoor products, and their Soft Pack is a great option if you’re looking for a simple solution to keep drinks chilled for weekend trips.

Thanks to its tough outer construction and thick insulation, this soft sided cooler is capable of keeping ice frozen for five days. We also like that it is portable and lightweight, while still offering a decent 20-can capacity. 

Offering three carrying styles for ease of use, as well as an antimicrobial liner and a leakproof zipper, this cooler is a good all-rounder for tail-gating, picnicking and road trips.

What we like:

  • Closed-cell foam insulation – At two inches thick, this lightweight foam offers excellent insulation that can keep ice for several days. 
  • Antimicrobial liner – This treated liner is perfect for maintaining hygiene and preventing odor build-up over time.
  • Leakproof – Anti-leak zipper keeps your vehicle clean and contents cooler longer. 
  • Three carrying styles – With a choice of side handles, top handles or a shoulder strap, this soft sided cooler offers a range of options. No matter how heavy or light your load, this ultra-portable cooler remains comfortable to carry. 

What we don’t like:

  • Only one slim pocket – Sure, this isn’t a big deal. But if you’re planning a full day out, multiple pockets are convenient to have.
  • Zipper can be a little difficult – Like many soft coolers on the market, this model can be a little tricky to get zipped up, especially when new. 

Get the latest price on Amazon.

Things to consider when buying a soft sided cooler

Still unsure which is the best soft cooler for you? In this section, we break down the most important features to look out for before making your purchase. 

Weight and portability

When choosing a new cooler, always check out its weight before buying. Bear in mind that you’ll be adding extra weight with your drinks, food and ice packs, so you don’t want to start off with too high a figure. 

Portability is also an important factor. If you’re likely to be carrying heavy, fully-loaded coolers over short distances, sturdy side handles will be welcome. For lighter loads and longer distances, shoulder straps can be extremely useful, especially if you have your hands full with other equipment. 

Storage space

Always check out the collapsed size of your soft sided cooler before hitting buy. 

While the majority fold down to just a matter of inches, some are bulkier. Having a flat-folding cooler like the CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag makes for easy storage and transportation, especially if you are planning on taking it with you on your travels,

Insulation

Insulation is by far the most important criteria. After all, if your cooler isn’t keeping your drinks and food chilled, then it defeats the purpose of having one. 

Pay close attention to how many layers of insulation are provided and whether or not there are any radiant heat barriers to help protect your cargo. Generally, the more layers, the better. However, bear in mind that very thick insulation is likely to increase the overall bulk and storage space required for your cooler. 

Extra features

Your cooler may or may not come with some of the following extras. Depending on your intended use, having these additional features can make a big difference to your overall user experience. 

  • Bottle opener – highly useful and a great space saver. 
  • Pockets – Ever useful for extra accessories or utensils, pockets can also keep your valuables protected and save you from having to carry an extra bag or overloading your pockets. 
  • Shoulder strap – great for lighter loads or when you’re likely to have your hands full with other equipment. If you’re planning on carrying your cooler to remote, peaceful locations, don’t underestimate the practicality of having a shoulder strap to help you along the way. 
  • Bungee cord – heading to the beach or a lakeside BBQ? Bungee cords allow you to easily attach handy extra layers of clothing, such as a sweater or light waterproof. You can also use them to clip on various accessories or attach bulkier items such as portable speakers. 
  • Shelf – if you’re fed up with your drinks squashing your lunch then a detachable shelf is a perfect addition. 
  • Liner – a removable liner is a great option for easy cleaning. Hard liners also give added support and protection to the contents of your cooler. 

Cost

As the saying goes, you tend to get what you pay for. However, we recommend thinking long and hard about how much use you expect to get out of your cooler before splashing your cash. 

If you are looking to use your cooler occasionally and close to civilization, a reasonably priced model is likely to be more than sufficient. 

If, on the other hand, you need a soft sided cooler for daily use or to stand up to extreme outdoor conditions, then we’d recommend paying more for a longer-lasting, highly durable model.

Hard sided vs soft coolers

When deciding between a soft sided and hard sided cooler, there are a number of aspects to consider. Like most products, each has their individual pros and cons, so which type you go for will largely depend on your intended use. 

Pros:

  • Lightweight – Soft coolers are much more lightweight than hard sided models. This makes them easier to carry and also more convenient to store when not in use. 
  • Collapsible – Some models, like our top pick, the CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag are designed to be collapsible, while others can be ‘squished’ or folded up to save space.  
  • More forgiving – Unlike hard coolers, the soft construction materials are more forgiving should you bump yourself while carrying them. 
  • Easy to clean – Soft coolers resist odor and mildew, and are generally easier clean.

Cons:

  • Smaller capacity – Soft coolers usually have a much smaller capacity than hard coolers.
  • Less protection –  Soft sided coolers offer little protection to their contents if dropped or knocked by heavier objects than hard sided coolers. 
  • Durability – While some models are designed for rugged environments, most soft coolers are prone to durability issues with heavy use. Hard sided coolers are much more resilient to tough terrain.  

How to clean and care for your cooler

It’s important to clean out your soft sided cooler after each use. This will prevent odor build-up and ensure that your cooler remains hygienic for next time. 

As soft coolers can vary significantly between models, always be sure to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations specific to your model.

This video from YETI has some good advice. Even though they use the YETI hopper the advice could apply to any soft cooler.

In general, provided you clean after each use, you can achieve excellent results by simply wiping the interior of your cooler with a damp cloth soaked in a mild dish soap solution.

If your cooler has any removable liners or shelves, you can remove these and sponge them clean with the same solution.

After washing, be sure to leave your cooler to air dry with the lid fully open to prevent any mold from forming. Once dry, you can replace any removable compartments and store it away until the next time you need to use it. 

Tips for packing a soft sided cooler

Whether you’re planning a long road trip, a lake BBQ or a day out at the beach, make the most of your soft sided cooler and get everything you need correctly packed with our top tips:

  • Chill your cooler – It may sound a little extreme, but chilling your cooler by placing it in the freezer overnight will get you off to the very coldest of starts. This will help your ice stay frozen longer and increase your chill time. 
  • Chill your food and drinks before packing – No matter how effective your cooler is, if you pack room temperature beverages you can’t expect them to come out ice cold later in 80-degree weather. 
  • Fill your cooler with a 2 to 1 ratio of ice to drinks/food – This will ensure that your cooler can cope with the number of drinks and food that you need to keep cold. 
  • Make sure ice packs are fully frozen – It sounds obvious, and maybe it is, but overlooking this step can lead to disappointment later.  
  • Don’t freeze full bottles – If you want to freeze water before packing, tip a little out first. This prevents any risk of the bottle splitting and leaving the rest of your supplies soggy.  
  • Place large ice packs in the bottom – Position your largest ice packs at the bottom of your cooler, then layer the occasional extra pack between your contents to ensure that the entire container remains cool for as long as possible. 

Wrapping it up

Whether you prefer alfresco dining or love to bring home-cooked food when visiting friends, soft coolers are a fantastic piece of kit for any foodie. 

Each of the models on our list are fantastic options, that’s why we chose them! But our absolute favorite has to be the Collapsible Cooler Bag by CleverMade

Not only is it highly durable, conveniently collapsible and fully leakproof, but it also has a 50 can capacity that should more than suffice for your road trips, family days out and picnics.

With its integrated bottle opener, top and side carry handles and front and back pockets, this cooler is feature packed and easy to transport – at just a fraction of the price of some of the big name soft coolers. 

If you tend to stray a little off the beaten track and are looking for a more heavy-duty cooler, we thoroughly recommend our runner-up, the Titan Deep Freeze

You may struggle to pack tall bottles inside, but with its unique flip open lid for easy access, radiant heat barrier, smartshelf and durable leakproof exterior, this cooler is a great option for trips into the wilderness. 

Alternatively, if you have the cash to spare, our top luxury pick, the super-durable YETI Hopper TWO Portable Cooler is capable of standing firm in the face of the harshest of conditions.  

Last update on 2020-09-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Joe Clements

Joe Clements

As the son of a vegeterian, I grew up dreaming about meat. Now as the founder and editor in chief of Smoked Barbecue Source I get to grill, barbecue and write about meat for a living! I'm sharing everything I learn along the way on my journey from amateur to pitmaster.
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