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If you want to bring cold drinks along on your next camping trip or picnic, nothing beats having the best soft cooler. Soft coolers are lightweight, easy to carry, and have the capacity to hold enough food or drinks for a short romp through the woods, making them one of the favorite types of coolers among outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re looking for a new place to stash your drinks, check out our soft cooler reviews and ratings below.
In This Article
The best soft coolers are, well, cool. They keep things cool and they look cool. When not in use, they fold nicely to be put away. Check out our reviews of the top five best folding ice chests below so you’re prepared for your next camping trip.
The AO Coolers Original Soft Cooler is the best soft cooler because it comes in multiple sizes to choose from and is guaranteed to keep ice frozen for up to 24 hours.
The AO Coolers Original Soft Cooler one of the best soft coolers because the manufacturer says it is guaranteed to keep ice in 120°F weather for 24 hours. I put this foldable cooler bag to the test when I took it out on a boat and went swimming in the lake. It sat in the hot sun all day and my drinks wonderfully cool at the end of the afternoon. However, it did sweat a bit from all the moisture.
I love the variety of color choices and sizes. The 12-pack size is perfect for even larger bottles. The cooler is made from canvas and high-density insulation to ensure your food and drinks stay cold.
- Nine color choices
- Comes in 12-, 24-, 36-, and 48-can sizes
- The liner is strong and keeps any melted ice water inside.
- The clips aren’t very durable, especially for the larger sizes
The YETI Hopper Flip Portable Cooler is the best soft cooler because it uses ColdCell insulation and Hydrolock zippers to ensure that nothing leaks out of it.
The YETI Hopper Flip Portable Cooler is one of the best soft coolers because it uses a closed-cell foam for insulation the manufacturer calls ColdCell Insulation technology. This material has better cold-temperature retention than other cooler bags. And if you couple the bag with an ice pack, you know your drinks are going to be ice-cold for a long time.
This cooler is very nicely made, and the color choices are elegant. The opening at the top is wide, and the zipper is leak proof. It is made from a tough material the manufacturer calls DryHide. It is waterproof, mildew resistant, and resists tears, punctures, and abrasion, so you know you’re getting your money’s worth with this as the best collapsible cooler. The color will not fade easily when exposed to UV rays.
- Uses superior ColdCell technology.
- Comes with a three-year warranty
- Hydrolock zippers are leak-proof
- Zipper teeth may misalign, but this is covered by the warranty
The Hap Tim Soft Cooler Bag is the best soft cooler because it features a dry pocket to store small items and has a built-in bottle opener.
The Hap Tim Soft Cooler Bag is a great soft ice chest because it can also substitute as a grocery bag, giving it more versatility. No need to use wasteful paper or plastic bags at the grocery store. The load capacity is good with handles strong enough to be able to carry up to 40 lbs. It folds up nicely and becomes less than five inches in thickness. This can be easily stored in a vehicle’s trunk. As a cooler, it has a 40-can capacity with ice.
The insulation is very thin, so this is not a good choice for those needing long cooling times. Instead, this is the best collapsible cooler for shorter activities like a picnic, barbecue, or hike. This model features an upgraded leak-proof liner to ensure that you don’t get wet while carrying your drinks. It sits nicely on its sturdy bottom and holds its shape, even when only containing a few items.
- Features a built-in bottle opener
- Stands upright easily, even when mostly empty
- Can be used as a grocery bag
- Not the best choice for extended camping trips
The Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner is the best soft cooler because it is easy to clean and comes at an affordable price.
The Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner can hold up to 16 cans and still have room left for ice. This soft ice chest includes a hard plastic liner that gives the cooler stability, but you can remove it if you don’t want to use it.
This cooler comes in three colors, and the canvas material is treated with an anti-microbial substance that helps it to resist fungus, mold, mildew, and odors. The bag material is also very easy to clean, especially if you opt to use the plastic liner.
- Cost-effective price is easy to afford
- Seams are heat-welded to prevent leaks
- Removable hard-plastic liner makes cleaning super easy
- Not a good choice for long camping trips
The Under Armour 24 Can Soft Sided Cooler is the best soft cooler because it has a magnetic lid that makes it easier to open and is lightweight when empty.
The Under Armour 24 Can Soft Sided Cooler can hold 24 standard 12 oz cans with enough room left for ice. It has a durable PEVA lining to give the bag form and shape even when empty. This bag is insulated with LDPE material. One nice feature is the magnetic easy-open top—it makes grabbing a drink with one hand easy. This feature is great and puts the cooler in the running for the best collapsible cooler.
This foldable cooler bag has Duffel bag handles that are comfortable for carrying by hand and an adjustable, removable shoulder strap for hands-free carrying. There are also two zippered pockets on the outside as a place to carry extra items. It has a built-in bottle opener, and it can be hung on a fence using the two attached fence hooks.
- Magnetic closure on the top lid is easy to open
- Liner is treated so that the material is easy to clean
- Weighs less than three pounds when empty
- Only keeps drinks cold for about one day
Features to Consider for the Best Soft Cooler
Now that you’ve read our soft cooler reviews, you may have an idea of what to look for in a cooler. Before you officially decide, consider these important features. They are what sets a great folding ice chest apart from one that is just alright.
The price range for these coolers huge, ranging from just a few dollars up to several hundred dollars. The prices you consider are going to depend on your budget—you don’t need the most expensive cooler on the market and shouldn’t feel pressured to get something you can’t afford. Whenever someone asks me what sort of product they should buy, the first thing I tell them is to get one that they can comfortably afford.
The quality of insulation is a big factor. If you know you want to use the cooler for weekend camping trips, you’re going to want to look for a cooler with high-quality insulation. However, if you want to use the cooler just for short activities, you won’t need that same amount of insulation. Coolers with high-quality insulation are also typically more expensive, so you can take that into account when deciding your budget. You can also supplement lower-quality coolers with other strategies to keep your ice from melting.
This capacity you need depends on how many people the cooler will be sustaining and how much they drink. A 12-can folding ice chest isn’t going to be a good choice for a camping weekend, but it is a good choice for a picnic with a family picnic.
When choosing your cooler’s capacity, also remember that the weight of drinks adds up quickly. Just six cans of pop weigh about five pounds and if you plan on loading up a 24-can cooler, that’s about 20 pounds before adding the ice or even the cooler itself. One of the biggest pitfalls of collapsible coolers is forgetting that they can get heavy quickly. If lugging around a heavy cooler doesn’t sound fun to you, try looking into wheeled coolers instead.
Material Construction and Waterproofing
The material used for the best soft coolers needs to be durable, so you should check the seams carefully. I like to water test the best soft coolers for leaks by putting water directly into them. Most camping coolers these days are waterproof, but it never hurts just to make sure—especially if you’re going to put it in your car or somewhere water can damage things.
When it comes to material, I always look for coolers that are treated with antimicrobial chemicals. While some people are put off by any mention of chemicals on their things, I prefer taking that precaution instead of finding mold and mildew growing on my cooler.
Ease of Cleaning
When you’re putting food and drinks into a cooler, there’s always a risk of something exploding or ripping open. Because of this, you will want a cooler that is easy to clean. No one wants to spend hours scrubbing and cleaning their cooler, so you owe it to yourself to look for one that won’t stain or hold in odors.
Benefits of Using Soft Coolers
Folding cooler bags are a great choice for a variety of activities because of all the benefits they provide. For instance, I love my soft coolers because they take up a lot less space than large coolers and are easier to take on the go. Plus, being able to fold them up when not in use makes them easy to store. My house is loaded with different camping equipment, so I love having something that can be folded down to save space.
I also find that folding ice chests are a lot easier to carry. They often come with shoulder straps that make it easier to carry the cooler as a backpack cooler with other gear, and the soft material isn’t as heavy as thick plastic used in normal coolers. While soft coolers may not be as durable as bear-proof coolers, they’re perfect for quick hikes and having fun with my friends.
Precautions of Using Soft Coolers
Even the best collapsible coolers can have some flaws that you need to be aware of. For instance, even leak-proof coolers have a chance of leaking, so you need to test your cooler before placing it on a desk next to electronics—I can tell you that one first-hand. Also, if you fill your cooler to the brim with bottles and cans, there is a risk of the handles ripping or plastic clasps bending.
A soft-sided cooler bag can also sweat. This can cause moisture to collect on the outside of the bag or underneath it. The water comes from the condensation of the moisture the air caused by the temperature difference between the bag and the outside temperature. Because of this, it’s important to look for coolers that are treated to prevent mold and mildew growth. Otherwise, you can risk accidentally giving yourself food poisoning.
My choice for my favorite of these best soft coolers is the AO Coolers Original Soft Cooler. The price is very affordable, and it has sufficient insulation that works all day for me. The color choices are terrific, and there’s something for everyone there. Because it can keep food and drinks cold for a day, I found it the best collapsible cooler for my shorter trips and hikes, so I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a cooler to fill that role. I hope my soft cooler reviews have helped you choose your favorite new cooler!