Best Soft Sided Coolers – (Reviews & Guide 2019)

Soft Sided Coolers ReviewSoft-sided coolers offer a good solution to keeping your food fresh and your drinks cold. These units are small enough to carry comfortably but large enough to offer a good storage capacity, so you can use them with good results in many situations. But can using soft-sided coolers offer some advantages over using other types of coolers?

It can, in fact.

Soft-sided coolers are highly portable, so you won’t have any problems carrying them when necessary. They also offer good storage space. Some models can fit up to 48 cans, so they’re large enough to pack meals and drinks for several people. And the best part is, these models are durable, stain-resistant, and have low maintenance.

True, not even the best soft-sided coolers can match the performance of rotomolded models, but they can still keep your food fresh and your drinks cold for three days or more.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best models currently available on the market.

Soft Sided Cooler Reviews

Rawlings NFL Soft-Sided Cooler

Rawlings NFL Soft-Sided Cooler

  • Price : $$
  • Material : Soft Plastic
  • Capacity : 16 cans
  • Dimensions : 7.90 x 12.50 x 12″
  • Weight : 1 pounds
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Yodo Soft Cooler Bag

Yodo Soft Cooler Bag

  • Price : $
  • Material : Polyester-canvas / PE foam
  • Capacity : 18 cans
  • Dimensions : 12.6 x 9.4 x 11.8″
  • Weight : 1.7 pounds
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MOJECTO Two Compartment Cooler Bag

MOJECTO Two Compartment Cooler Bag

  • Price : $$
  • Material : 840D Polyester fabric
  • Capacity : up to 12 cans
  • Dimensions : 15 x 9 x 12″
  • Weight : 2.6 pounds
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AO Coolers Stow-N-Go Cooler Bag

AO Coolers Stow-N-Go Cooler Bag

  • Price : $$$
  • Material : Canvas & carbon-fiber pattern
  • Capacity : 38 cans
  • Dimensions : 23 x 15 x 8.5″
  • Weight : 6 pounds
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Homitt Soft Pack Cooler

Homitt Soft Pack Cooler

  • Price : $$$$
  • Material : 840D TPU exterior and 420D TPU interior
  • Capacity : 30 Cans
  • Dimensions : 18.9 x 14.2 x 11″
  • Weight : 5.35 pounds
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Polar Bear Coolers Soft Cooler

Polar Bear Coolers Soft Cooler

  • Price: $$$
  • Material : 1000D Nylon
  • Capacity : 24 cans
  • Dimensions : 10 x 18 x 12″
  • Weight : 3 pounds
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1. Rawlings NFL Soft-Sided Cooler

Rawlings NFL Soft-Sided CoolerThe Rawlings NFL soft-sided cooler is a small and compact model that could make a great gift for people who follow the football league. These soft-sided coolers come with a full-color team logo on their front pocket, and you can choose the logo of any team you support in the Football League.

This model is specially designed for football enthusiasts, so it’s safe to say it will most likely be used for storing beer. Luckily, the manufacturer took this into consideration, and the cooler’s storing capacity is large enough to hold 16 cans of been alongside the ice needed to keep them cool.

One of the best things about this model is that it’s capable of maintaining your drinks at a cool temperature for at least 24 hours. This means you can enjoy a cold one during the pregame talk-down, during the game, and during the post-game analysis and still find the beer cans as cold as they would be when you take them out of the fridge.

The inside liner is great, and it’s easy to clean between uses. You can simply clean it using water or a mild detergent. Even though this is a good cooler, some extra pockets or a larger storing capacity for the front pocket would have improved it.

2. Yodo Soft Cooler Bag

Yodo Soft Cooler BagThe Yodo soft cooler bag is a large model that has a pleasant appearance and offers some interesting features. This model is large enough to hold enough food and drinks to satisfy a small family for a day or more, and it comes at a really good price.

Besides the low price, the cooler’s well-thought design also impressed us. The front dry storage pocket is large enough to hold some snacks and accessories, and the insulation compartment is large enough to hold 18 cans of beer comfortably. As a plus, if you’re willing to give up some beer, you can also fit wine bottles in the bag without any trouble.

We thought that the shoulder strap is strong enough to hold the cooler’s weight and still comfortable enough to carry over your shoulder without it biting into your skin. The unit’s zippers seem well-made and sturdy, and the interior lining is leak-proof.

The bag’s top easy-access lid is easy to use, and it will make your life easier. You can open the lid and take anything from the cooler in an instant, without having to open the whole bag. This is especially useful if you want to prevent the ice from melting quickly.

3. MOJECTO Two Compartment Cooler Bag

MOJECTO Two Compartment Cooler BagThe MOJECTO cooler bag comes with not one, but two cooler compartments. This can be especially useful for people who want to pack enough food and drinks to last for more than one day. You can store whatever you will consume on the first day in a compartment and the things you want to consume later in the second insulated compartment with more ice. The second compartment will maintain a cool temperature for a longer time, especially if you don’t open it. You can keep your food and drinks cold for up to three days when using this model.

This model surprised us with its large storage capacity. Besides the two insulated compartments, the bag also offers several dry storage options. The front pocket is relatively small, but it’s large enough to fit various accessories like sunscreen, sunglasses, and even small gadgets. The interior mesh will allow you to compartmentalize your belongings for better storage. The top dry storage compartment is large enough to hold clothing, accessories, and whatever you need when you travel.

The cooler bag comes with strong zippers, and each pocket uses two of them to secure your belongings.

One of the best things about this model is that it comes with a lifetime warranty, a rare thing for cooler bags.

4. AO Coolers Stow-N-Go Cooler Bag

AO Coolers Stow-N-Go Cooler BagThe Stow-N-Go cooler bag has a good design that makes it easy to carry and spacious enough to fit everything you would need for spending a day outdoors. This unit has a holding capacity of 38 cans, so it’s rather large. You can fit wine bottles, large soft drinks bottles, and beers in the cooler without a problem, and a good amount of food beside them. However, the bag can become heavy if you fill it to its maximum capacity, and it can be slightly difficult to carry despite its comfortable nylon handles. A shoulder strap would have solved this problem, but unfortunately, this model doesn’t come with one.

This model has a low profile, so it will fit under chairs and benches where other coolers wouldn’t. The cooler’s insulation capacity is great, and it will maintain a cool temperature in the insulation compartment for more than a day.

The cooler’s design makes this model suitable for food deliveries. You can place two casserole dishes one next to another without any problems, and you can stack the dishes for easier transport. The zippered lid will protect the food and drinks you store in the bag from the weather, making the bag suitable for deliveries.

5. Homitt Soft Pack Cooler

Homitt Soft Pack CoolerThe Homitt soft pack cooler is a large model that offers some helpful features. This cooler is made out of a soft non-scratch material that’s very soft to the touch, so you will be able to carry it comfortably.

We especially liked the cooler’s sturdy side handles and shoulder straps. Both the handles and the shoulder strap are made out of tightly-weaved nylon, so they won’t bite into your flesh when you carry the bag. The shoulder strap is detachable and it also comes with a pad, so you can only attach it when the cooler is fully loaded.

As far as the cooler’s insulation properties are concerned, this is one of the best models we encountered. This unit uses three insulating layers to keep your food and drinks at a cool temperature. We don’t really know whether the high-density foam or the TPU linings do such a great job at keeping the insulation chamber cool, but after three whole days, the drinks you store in the cooler are still as cold as they would be when you take them out of the fridge.

The cooler has a storing capacity of 30 cans, so it’s large enough to hold everything you need for a picnic for four.

6. Polar Bear Coolers Soft Cooler

Polar Bear Coolers Soft CoolerThe soft-sided cooler produced by Polar Bear Coolers is one of the most popular models currently available on the market, and it’s easy to see why. This model comes at a decent price, and it offers a large variety of helpful features that make it a highly valuable purchase.

The first thing you should know about this cooler bag is that it’s rugged and durable. In fact, we believe this model is virtually indestructible in normal conditions. The bag’s exterior lining is made out of 1000D nylon, so it’s resistant to tears, scratches, and rips. Unfortunately, the nylon’s ruggedness doesn’t make it exactly soft, so you might not want to rub your skin against it.

This model has a storing capacity of 24 cans, and it comes with a small bottle opener attached to the zipper. You can use the bag to store up to 26 beer bottles comfortably along with the ice you need to keep them cool for a long time. If you really want to stretch the bag’s holding capacity, you can fit 30 beer bottles in it, but it will be a close call and the small amount of ice won’t keep them cool for long.

Since the bag can hold 30 beers, you can be sure it will also fit everything you would need for a picnic with your family, including large soft drinks bottles, wine bottles, and food canisters.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Using Soft Sided Coolers

Best Soft Sided Coolers

Using coolers is clearly the best way you can keep your food fresh and your drinks cold when you leave your home, but why should you choose soft-sided coolers over other designs? Let’s take a look at the advantages of using a soft-sided cooler offers.

1. Advantages

  • Highly Portable – All coolers are portable, but soft-sided ones are very easy to carry. Unlike steel coolers that weigh a lot on their own, these models are lightweight when they’re not loaded so you’ll have no problem carrying them.
  • Lightweight – Soft-sided coolers are lightweight, so they won’t add to the weight of the food and drinks you want to store into them. Just like the collapsible cooler bags, these models generally weigh under 3 pounds on their own. This is an advantage, especially when you have to store heavy loads in the coolers.
  • Low Maintenance – Soft-sided coolers usually have a durable and stain-resistant exterior. Most models rely on high-quality polyester for their outer shells, so there are resistant to tears, scratches, and stains.
  • Good Storing Capacity – Even though they’re lightweight on their own, soft-sided coolers offer a large storage capacity. Models like the Polar Bear Coolers Soft Cooler can hold up to 30 beers, and some of them can handle even more. As a rule of thumb, soft-sided coolers offer a larger storing capacity than backpack coolers.
  • Good Cooling Period – Despite the fact that soft-sided coolers rely only on the ice or freeze pack you store inside them to maintain a cool temperature, they offer a good cooling period. Models like the Homitt Soft Pack Cooler can maintain a cool temperature inside their insulated compartments for up to 3 days or more.
  • Dry Storage Compartments – Most soft-sided coolers offer you the possibility to store non-perishable items as well as food and drinks. This is an advantage because it will allow you to store small accessories, gadgets, and even clothing or towels in the dry storage compartments when you travel.
  • Good Value – All the soft-sided models we included on our list offer a good value for your money. Even though these coolers will not outperform the rotomolded coolers, they will still keep your food fresh and your drinks cold for a good amount of time.
  • Durable – Soft-sided coolers are strong and durable. They don’t crack, are difficult to scratch, and their seams don’t rip open. You will be able to use most models for many years without experiencing any problems.

2. Disadvantages

  • Can Get Heavy – While having a lot of storage space is certainly useful, carrying a heavy cooler bag is definitely not comfortable. Some coolers, like the AO Coolers Stow-N-Go Cooler Bag, don’t even come with a shoulder strap, so you will have to carry them in your hands which can be very uncomfortable when the bag is heavy.
  • Can Leak When Tipped – Soft-sided cooler bags are designed to have leak-proof linings and seams. Unfortunately, only a few of them come with airtight zippers, so they will leak if you tip them and the water reaches the zipper. This can be problematic when you put the bags in your trunk because you’ll have to make sure they stay upright.
  • Limited Cooling Period – Unlike the electric coolers that can maintain a cool temperature for an unlimited amount of time as long as they’re plugged in, the soft-sided coolers will only maintain a cool temperature for as long as they contain ice.

When Should You Use Soft Sided Coolers?

Now that you’re familiar with the pros and cons of using a soft-sided cooler, let’s take a look at some of the scenarios that can be improved by using one.

  1. Kayaking Or Canoeing– Kayaking and canoeing are wonderful sports that offer a lot of health benefits. However, one of the problems many people face when they spend a lot of time in their kayaks or canoes is that their drinks get warm and their food is no longer fresh. Using a soft-sided cooler is an advantage because most of them will fit snugly under a canoe bench or in a kayak’s storage compartment.
  2. Boating – Boating is a great way to connect with nature and to unplug. But not all the boats are large enough to fit a refrigerator on their decks, so using a cooler will give you the opportunity to pack food and drinks on a boat. Some soft-sided coolers, like the Homitt Soft Pack Cooler, can keep your food fresh and your drinks cold for 3 days or more, so they will replace a small fridge with good results.
  3. Picnics – Picnics are great stress relievers. When you go to a picnic, you engage with the people around you, spend time under the sun, and relax. Using a soft-sided cooler will allow you to pack everything you need for a picnic. These models are great for picnics because they’re spacious enough to fit a lot of things and they’re comfortable to carry until you find the perfect location.
  4. Sports Events – Sports enthusiasts enjoy drinking a cold beverage. Whether you’re a beer or a wine drinker, a soft-sided cooler can keep your drink cold until you reach the event location and during the event without any problems.

Soft vs. Hard Sided Coolers

Soft vs. Hard Sided CoolersWhen browsing the market, you’ll have to decide between two major categories of coolers – namely soft and hard-sided coolers. What would be the main distinction between the two categories and when should you opt for one or the other? This is what we’ll focus on in this section in order to help you solve this dilemma.

  • Making an Informed Decision

The key to making a fully informed decision would be considering how you intend to use the cooler in the first place. While both types keep things cool – which is what you want – there are other details you should consider. So, what do you want to keep cool, what is the amount of time you want to maintain the items cool, where would you like to use the cooler? And the list can go on.

  • Soft-Sided Coolers

We could say that the main benefit linked to soft-sided coolers would be that they are very versatile. That is to say, you can use them on a regular basis, which can be very convenient. Therefore, if you’re looking for a cooler you can take with you to the gym when you go camping or fishing and so on, a soft-sided cooler would be the obvious choice.

The reason why they are called soft-sided coolers has to do with their construction, of course. They don’t have a hard-plastic construction. This doesn’t mean that they don’t serve their purpose, although they might not be as durable as their counterparts. It’s as simple as this: these coolers aren’t designed to resist the harshest conditions, nor are they meant to keep your food and drinks cool for an extended time frame.

However, they are lighter and easier to carry around on trips. Portability is a major benefit, not to mention that this also makes them very easy to store. Meanwhile, a hard-sided cooler has a rigid shape, meaning that if you don’t have a lot of storage space around the house, you might find it a tad inconvenient.

  • Hard-Sided Coolers

On the other hand, we have hard-sided coolers. Such an item would be an excellent choice for you if you want to take it with you on rugged, harsh environments. This would also be a good alternative if you want to keep your food and drinks cool during extended trips.

By definition, their ice retention is better, when compared with soft-sided coolers. Nonetheless, this will also depend on the manufacturer – so, make sure you factor this in prior to making a decision. Also, when it comes to capacity, a hard-sided cooler offers more storage space. You can include plenty of food and drinks in a standard hard-sided cooler. Durability is another noteworthy benefit. By comparison, a hard-sided cooler will definitely be more durable, simply because it has a sturdy, rugged construction that is made to stand the test of time. With that in mind, if you spend a lot of time in the wild, then you should certainly opt for a hard-sided cooler.

FAQ about Soft Sided Coolers

Moving on, we would like to address some of the most frequently asked questions regarding soft-sided coolers.

  • How do you clean a soft-sided cooler?

Adequately maintaining your soft-sided cooler will definitely increase its durability. Usually, if you were to invest in a soft-sided cooler, then you should clean it accordingly after every use. At the same time, it’s worth noting that you should clean it on a regular basis – even when it’s not in use – to prevent bacteria from accumulating. Otherwise, it might develop mold.

First of all, you should remove the remaining food particles, debris, and dirt. Afterward, you should use a damp cloth to wipe the interior of the cooler to ensure that you’ve covered the entire surface. The next step would be focusing your attention on stubborn stains. Baking soda can do wonders in this case, as it doesn’t have any odor and its cleaning capabilities are noteworthy. But make sure you don’t leave any residue of baking soda.

The last step would be washing the interior once again with a clean sponge and dishwashing detergent. You should also allow it to dry completely prior to storing it.

  • Does a soft-sided cooler absorb odor?

A good thing about soft-sided coolers is that they don’t absorb offensive odors, as it is the case with hard-sided coolers that are more inclined to absorb nasty smells. That has to do with the type of material used in the manufacturing of the cooler.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. There are cases in which a soft-sided cooler might develop an odor. This is why you should clean it on a regular basis, as we’ve outlined above. Again, bear in mind that baking soda is an excellent cleaning agent you can use to get rid of smells.

  • How do you pack a soft-sided cooler?

Is there a correct way in which you can pack a soft-sided cooler? While there’s no strict science in this respect, there are some guidelines that might be helpful along the way. For example, if you were to place onions together with all your other items, then the odds are that everything will have an onion scent. It’s a good idea to precool everything you want to store in the cooler prior to the day of the journey or trip. That is to say, everything that goes in the cooler should be taken from the refrigerator.

That’s also because a cooler will keep items cool, as long as they were cold when you first placed them inside the unit. Note that a cooler isn’t manufactured in order to cool things down. At the same time, you should not keep the cooler in direct sunlight. This might not always be a possibility, but when you do have the option, make sure you place it in the shade.

Another idea might be using cold packs instead of ice cubes. They might be more efficient. Generally speaking, standard ice cubes are likely to melt, and this might be chaotic for all your perishable items. The distinction would be that when cold packs warm-up, they aren’t as messy as their counterparts.

Best Soft Sided Cooler Comparison Chart

Homitt Soft Pack Cooler
$$$$840D TPU exterior and 420D TPU interior30 Cans18.9 x 14.2 x 11"5.35 pounds
Rawlings NFL Soft-Sided Cooler
$$Soft Plastic
16 Cans7.90 x 12.50 x 12.00"1 pounds
Yodo Soft Cooler Bag
$Polyester-canvas / PE foam18 Cans12.6 x 9.4 x 11.8"1.7 pounds
MOJECTO Two Compartment Cooler Bag
$$840D Polyester fabricup to 12 Cans15 x 9 x 12"2.6 pounds
Polar Bear Coolers Soft Cooler
$$$1000D Nylon24 Cans10 x 18 x 12"3 pounds
AO Coolers Stow-N-Go Cooler Bag
$$$Canvas & carbon-fiber pattern38 Cans23 x 15 x 8.5"6 pounds

Wrap Up

All the soft-sided coolers we presented are effective, and they will keep your food fresh and your drinks cold. Finding the best cooler is only a matter of perspective and preference. You have to think about what storage capacity would be most helpful for your needs, and how you’re most likely to use the cooler once you buy it.

The best soft-sided coolers can keep their insulation compartments cool for a very long time. Some of them will provide cold storage space for your foods and drinks for up to 3 days or more, so they can be very helpful.