The best soft coolers will keep your cans and food cold for hours while you spend time on the water, campsite or just riding around with your friends. They’re great for RVing and spending time on the lake. While hard-sided coolers have superior ice retention and are built like tanks these days, sometimes all you need is a soft-sided cooler that does a great job at keeping a few items cool.
Soft coolers are a great option for users who want a lightweight cooler that will keep food and drink cold for hours on end. You may not always need a hard cooler that can retain ice for a week and opt for something lighter and smaller to use as your daily cooler. A soft-sided cooler is a great option because they’re versatile, and lightweight, some are waterproof and they do an amazing job at keeping your drinks and lunch cold and ready to go.
Our Top Soft Cooler Picks:
- Best Premium Cooler: YETI Hopper M30
- Best Overall Cooler: RTIC Soft Cooler 30
- Best Backpack Cooler: ICEMULE Boss
- Best Backpack Cooler Runner-Up: ICEMULE Pro XL Backpack Cooler
- Best Affordable Soft Cooler: AO Coolers Soft Cooler
- Best Premium Backpack Cooler: YETI Hopper M20 Backpack Cooler
- Best Insulated Tote Cooler: HYDRO FLASK 35L Insulated Tote
Best Premium Soft Cooler:
1. YETI Hopper M30
YETI Hopper M30 Soft Cooler
It would almost be considered negligent to have a list of the best soft coolers without including the YETI Hopper M30 soft cooler. There’s a reason it’s one of the most sought-after soft coolers: YETI pays attention to even the small details and is constantly improving its designs. The M30 is a premium soft cooler that is the perfect combination of exterior and interior ruggedness and is perfect for any outing or outdoor adventure you can imagine. Superior ice retention and YETI go hand-in-hand and the M30 features closed-cell foam insulation that does a fantastic job at keeping your ice even during extreme heat. In fact, it would be a difficult task to find a soft cooler that has better ice retention than the YETI M30.
Many users have complained that YETI soft coolers have horrible openings and many consider it a design flaw – you won’t have that issue with the YETI M30 soft cooler. They heard the complaints and fixed the issue by designing a wider opening on the M30 that allows you to load and unload drinks easier. The YETI Hopper M30 can hold plenty of weight thanks to superior craftsmanship on every single stitch. Load it to the max and you will likely have a hard time carrying it, but the cooler itself can handle it with ease.
Best Overall Soft Cooler:
2. RTIC Soft Cooler – 12, 20, 30, 40 Cans
RTIC Soft Cooler 30 Cans
The RTIC soft cooler is one of the best on our list for multiple reasons. You want a soft cooler that’s lightweight, easy to carry, and will keep plenty of drinks and food items cold for a couple of days. The RTIC Soft Pack Cooler exceeded our expectation in every category. Many users have compared the RTIC solf cooler to Yeti products and it’s easy to see why: the RTIC has a durable outer shell that’s made with heavy-duty nylon and it provides excellent ice retention that lasts for days.
Not only does the RTIC soft cooler have a tough outer shell, but the interior features 2” of closed-cell foam that can retain ice for an entire weekend. It sure beats lugging around a huge hard cooler when all you really need can fit into a lightweight soft-sided cooler. We chose the RTIC Soft Cooler 30 Can, but it also comes in various sizes such as 12 can, 20 can and 40 can sizes. This is our favorite soft cooler for picnics, RVing, boating, camping or riding the golf cart around the green.
Best Backpack Cooler Overall
3. ICEMULE Boss
ICEMULE Boss Backpack Cooler
The King of backpack coolers, the Icemule Boss surpassed our expectations when we tested it in the field. It’s rare that a product surprises me, but this cooler is badass! Carrying a large cooler can be cumbersome, even with wheels, but the Icemule Boss allows you to carry it hands-free so you can lug even more gear. We took the Boss to the beach during the hottest part of the day to test the Boss’s ice retention and functionality in the field. I was still nursing an injured back and wasn’t sure I would be able to carry everything my family of 5 needed for a beach trip, but the weight distribution on the Boss is perfect and you actually forget it’s on your back. Not only does it have padded backpack straps but also a comfortable hip belt that redistributes the weight from your shoulders and a chest strap that fully secures the Boss to your back.
Waterproof pockets on each side and one in the front allow you to carry extra items such as a knife, phone, medicines, licenses, or other important items that you want to keep dry. Keep your gear organized with MOLLE webbing on both sides and the stretch bands in front allow you to secure even more. Top-load backpack coolers allow you to stuff more items and the roll-top makes it easier than ever. One of my favorite features of the Boss is the IM AirValve which allows you to add additional air into the insulation to give you even more hours of ice retention.
There is no way I could have carried that much ice, drinks and food in a hard cooler and covered that much ground. According to Icemule, you can retain ice even longer if you put your bag in the shade or at least cover it up with a towel. My bag stayed directly in the blazing sun for the entire day and I still had ice left over! They also recommend keeping it closed to retain coldness, but my children keep it open constantly and it didn’t really affect our ice retention at all. That’s how good the Icemule Boss backpack cooler works and I can’t even imagine how much more effective it would be had I followed Icemule’s recommendations and kept it out of the sun. All I can say is that the Icemule Boss is the best backpack cooler I’ve ever seen. Read the full review HERE.
Best Backpack Cooler Runner-Up:
4. ICEMULE Pro XL Backpack Cooler
ICEMULE Pro XL Backpack Cooler
Icemule backpack coolers are taking over the soft cooler world and for good reason: they’re incredibly portable and allow you to free your hands. The ICEMULE Pro is one of our favorite backpack coolers for activities where you need to keep food and drink cold, but need to keep moving. The shoulder straps are padded and remain comfortable even when loaded with pounds of food, drink and ice. In fact, you can use the ICEMULE for hiking and load up enough drinks and food for the entire party.
One feature you may notice about the ICEMULE is that it functions more like a soft backpack than a hard backpack cooler. This is actually a good thing if you fill it with drinks and food properly. The collapsible design allows you to simply roll it up and store it. The roll-top closure secures the top and helps with ice retention. In fact, the ICEMULE’s exterior is made with heavy-duty muleskin and the interior is properly insulated and will provide 24+ hours of ice retention. Not only is the ICEMULE backpack cooler waterproof, but it will also float! This is a handy feature for kayaking or tubing as you can float it right next to you. The ICEMULE is often compared to other soft coolers such as the RTIC backpack cooler or YETI, however, that’s an unfair comparison because the ICEMULE isn’t designed to compete in that category and is more of a versatile backpack cooler that costs significantly less. The ICEMULE is a great choice for those who want a simple, yet effective way to carry and keep their food and drink cold while on the water or walking the trail.
Best Affordable Soft Cooler – Canvas
5. AO Coolers Soft Cooler – 12, 24, 36, 48 Cans
AO Coolers Original Soft Cooler – Canvas
If you need a simple portable soft cooler that’s affordable and doesn’t have to be built like a tank or retain ice for 10+ days, then the AO Coolers Original Soft Cooler may be right up your alley. It comes in 4 sizes: 12 cans, 24 cans, 36 cans and 48 cans depending on how mcuh space you need. The 12 can size is perfect for packing a lunch, the 24 is great for the beach and the larger sizes can support an entire family at the campsite or fishing hole.
The great thing about this portable soft cooler is that it isn’t overloaded with features that you don’t need and it’s lightweight enough to take anywhere. Large, hard-sided coolers are great for retaining ice for 7+ days, but they can be cumbersome and hard to maneuver. Sometimes all you need is a dependable soft cooler for the day and the AO Coolers Original Soft Cooler is a perfect choice, especially for those not wanting to spend a fortune on a “premium” soft cooler. The price of this soft cooler is a great selling point as it costs substantially less than competitors. While it may not have some of the features that premium soft coolers have, it does exactly what it was made to do by keeping your drinks and food ice cold and ready to travel.
Best Premium Soft Backpack Cooler
6. YETI Hopper M20
YETI Hopper M20 Soft Sided Backpack Cooler
The name YETI is synonymous with quality and their soft coolers are made with the same excellence as their hard coolers. Their soft coolers are anything but “soft” and feature amazing ice retention, durability and functionality. In fact, the YETI Hopper M20 features a tough outer shell paired with closed-cell foam that insulates even on the hottest days. The clever design of the M20 backpack cooler allows you to wear it on your back while keeping your hands free to do other tasks such as making your way through the woods or carrying supplies to the campsite.
The one downfall to the YETI Hopper M20 backpack cooler (and may not be for everyone) is the price. While it’s substantially cheaper than leading YETI hard coolers, it still costs a pretty penny. However, you know what you’re getting with YETI and many dedicated adventurers don’t mind the cost and will always opt for a YETI cooler when given a choice. Also, it’s more rigid and not collapsable or compressible like other options such as the ICEMULE or Hydro Flask coolers, but that may not be important to many users.
Akaso Backpack Cooler 20L
If you spend a good amount of time outdoors, you need a sturdy cooler that can retain ice for the long haul. A backpack cooler such as the Akaso cooler allows you to transport ice, drinks and food while freeing up your arms to do other tasks. Hiking and camping often require you to be able to carry items and a cooler could be difficult to maneuver unless it’s on your back. Akaso makes rugged backpack coolers that can hold ice for 72 hours depending on the heat. It’s also 100% leakproof which is incredibly important because you don’t want your cooler leaking on your other gear or bedding. The airtight zipper increases insulation and prevents your soft cooler from leaking.
Comfort is key when you’re choosing a backpack soft cooler and the Akaso features a breathable and padded panel that rests on your back for additional comfort. The shoulder straps do an amazing job at distributing the weight accordingly and you can even use the chest strap for more stability while hiking or walking to your campsite or just finding the perfect spot at the beach.
Hydro Flask 35 L Insulated Tote
You may be surprised to see an insulated tote on our list of the best soft coolers, but there’s a reason why: a quality insulated tote makes a great companion product to a large hard-sided cooler. The perfect example of how you can benefit from an insulated tote is a long road trip or a beach vacation where you need to be on the move and can’t lug around a huge hard-sided cooler. Also, insulated totes are great to keep inside your vehicle while pulling a camper even if you have a large cooler in the back of your truck so you don’t have to stop every time someone wants a drink.
Insulated totes such as the Hydro Flask are ultra-lightweight and easy to pack. While they may not have the same ice retention as a hard-sided cooler or a premium soft cooler, they still have a place for those who want something more economical and lightweight. The Hydro Flask not only has a durable outer shell but is also waterproof and can last a long time if you take care of it. The Hydro Flask Tote comes in multiple colors and 3 sizes: 8L, 20L and 35L depending on how much space and capacity you need. The 8L is great to bring to work or school, the 20L is perfect for a day trip to bring cold items and the 35L is a great choice for the camp, lake, beach, road trip or just going to an out-of-town grocery store to keep your items cool while you travel. Overall, the Hydro Flask Tote is much lighter and easier to maneuver than larger options and is the perfect choice for daily use and lunch breaks.
RTIC Backpack Cooler – 30 Cans
While there may not be a single “best” soft cooler for all activities, you can absolutely pinpoint the perfect “type” of soft cooler for a particular activity. Backpack coolers come in all shapes, sizes and prices and are absolutely adored by the outdoor community because they keep contents cold for days and allow you to free up your arms to handle other tasks. The RTIC backpack cooler comes in two options: 20 cans and 30 cans and are perfect to bring on camping trips, outings or just a big gathering of friends that need cold drinks. Strap this to your back and you can still carry other items to your perfect beach spot or while carrying camping items.
The RTIC backpack cooler’s opening is wide and stays open while you load your ice and drinks. You may have read how many people are dissatisfied with the YETI soft cooler’s opening and how difficult it is to load: you won’t have that problem with the RTIC backpack cooler. It zips all the way around to give more room to maneuver while loading it up with drinks and food items. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, then you know how important it is to have waterproof items. The RTIC backpack cooler is 100% waterproof and features welded seams which make it perfect for traversing small rivers and lakes and is protected from rain or splashes.
Tourit Voyager 30
Tourit does a great job at keeping their coolers affordable, while still maintaining a high level of excellence. The Voyager 30 soft cooler is a great example of what happens when you make a great design that features top-shelf ice retention, portability and a tough shell that’s leakproof and impact resistant. Not only can it keep your drinks cold for up to 3 days in blistering heat, but it also has features 3 ways to carry: top handles, side handles and a hands-free shoulder strap. The Tourit Soft Cooler takes up minimal space and is perfect for a quick day trip with friends or a weekend camping trip. Either way, you can easily stash the Tourit soft cooler in the back of your truck or in your backseat so you can hand out drinks to your travel partners.
The airtight zipper further solidifies the Voyager 30’s leak-proof claims and features easy-pull tabs. The wide-mouth opening is by far one of the best you will find because you can grab what you need without it “biting” your hand. Simply place it in your vehicle or in a picnic table and open the wide mouth to access your cold drinks while the bag holds itself up. As an additional side-note, the Tourit Voyager 30 has a bottle opener and airtight zippers that are easier to use than YETI zippers.