Your summer beach/car trip/day hike supplies need a cooler, because why do anything without an ice-cold beverage within reach? We’re sold on soft-sided coolers—the insulated backpacks and totes that keep food fresh—because there’s one for every need and budget. Want a cooler that doubles as a stool? One sized to hold wine bottles upright? Looking for a cooler with super-large capacity? How about one that keeps ice frozen for more than a day? They’re all here, but first off, what’s the deciding factors between soft and hard-sided coolers?
The 13 Best Soft Coolers for Beaching, Picnicking and Overall Chilling
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Soft-Sided Cooler Pros and Cons
- More portable
- Shorter ice retention than hard coolers
- Smaller capacity than many hard coolers
- Potential to puncture or leak
Here are the best soft coolers on the market, tailored to your own adventure. And don’t forget to pick up ice packs—flexible soft or molded plastic, they’re going to lessen the issue of messy watery ice melt inside your cooler. And here’s a last-minute tip—refrigerate your cooler a day before your outing, because that means your entire kit will stay colder longer.
Best Overall: Yeti Hopper M30 Soft Cooler
Best for Boats: RTIC Soft Pack Cooler
Best for Car Camping: Titan Guide Series 36 Can Cooler
1. yeti Hopper M30 Soft Cooler
It’s soft-sided (made of closed-cell foam, not vinyl like lesser models) and has a leakproof liner and waterproof exterior (so it keeps cold items frosty for longer). And the real innovation here that pushes this over the edge as a winner—possibly the only soft cooler you’ll need over a lifetime—is the powerful magnet closure which eliminates the sticky or broken zipper, the most common pain point of coolers. And the outside of the cooler has handy rings to hang a bottle opener or multi-tool.
Buy It ($299)
2. rtic Soft Pack Cooler
Best for Boating
With a waterproof zipper and weighing just four pounds empty, we favor this leakproof and puncture-resistant cooler for keeping our thirst quenched when we’re out on the water: “The product is compact, soft, and leakproof. The best feature is it floats,” reports one reviewer. It holds 30 cans with no problem, and even keeps ice frozen up to a day in the desert heat. It comes in nine colors, but the bright citrus yellow is the best choice to not forget it, no matter how sun-baked your brain feels after a day on the waves.
Buy it ($100)
3. titan Guide Series 36 Can Cooler
Best for Car Camping
Ice Retention: 3 Days
When you’ve got a car that has everyone’s gear shoved into it, you’ll appreciate your cooler being an oasis of organization amid the rolled mats and random rain shields tucked in last-minute. This square-shaped cooler easily accommodates a weekend’s worth of food and drinks, and has a leak-proof interior lining so the contents won’t leak everywhere in the hatchback. There’s even an interior ice packet slot and a bunch of outside pockets for utensils, sunscreen, little bandages for scrapes—basically any small item that’s going to get a “Mom, where’s the …?” request can be tucked in here.
Buy It ($80)
4. ll Bean Personal Multi Softpack Cooler
Best for Your Work Lunch
It weighs only 13 ounces empty, and at ten-and-a-half inches long isn’t too unwieldy, even when you’re carrying those reports you need to catch up on while you’re grabbing that healthy lunch you made for yourself. The flip-top stays open when you want, and there’s a wide shoulder strap that turns this into something close to a cute crossbody purse.
Buy It ($40)
5. igloo 40 Can Large Portable Lunchbox Soft Sided Insulated
Sure, everybody’s excited about having a large capacity cooler, until they have to lug it out to the park or from the car to the picnic table. This two-wheeled cooler has a leakproof liner, waterproof exterior, and two front legs to rest on when it’s not in motion. Additionally, there are side handles as well as an adjustable pull bar to maneuver this precious cargo just where you want it.
6. yeti Hopper Flip 18 Soft Cooler
Best for Hauling Wine
With a 13-inch tall carrying area, it perfectly fits a bottle of wine upright—which is ideal, because nothing spoils our love of the great outdoors than to finish our hike or pull our canoe over to discover that our perfectly chilled rose has leaked or gotten warm. That won’t happen with this cooler, made from closed-cell rubber foam which has superior cooling capabilities to cheaper vinyl models. And the tough fabric exterior is water-resistant, as well as tough enough to stand up to sun bleaching and minor scratches and scrapes.
Buy It ($299)
7. grundig Soft Cooler, 30 Cans
Best Long-Lasting Cold
Ice Retention: 96 Hours
The German makers of this streamlined cooler have been in business for over 90 years, and all that engineering has yielded a great-looking and more importantly, a frigid-keeping tote that’s going to be your best friend on weekend car trips. Hand straps, a shoulder strap and small loops along the side of the cooler to secure it to your boat or car mean this won’t tip while you’re in motion.
8. best For Far-flung Picnics
Coleman Soft Cooler Bag
This backpack style holds 24 cans and promises to keep them cold all day. Exterior pockets hold dry goods and supplies, and the padded straps mean that you won’t get shoulder stress from straps cutting into you while you’re looking for the perfect spot to put down your blanket.
9. picnic Plus 72 Can Tub Picnic Cooler
Best for Pot Luck
When everyone’s bringing their own wine, beer and soda to the outdoor party, you need a vessel that’s large enough so that everyone can share the ice. This soft-sided tub cooler pops up in seconds on its sturdy metal legs, and the 600 denier polyester sides are strong enough to hold a mess of ice along with 12 six-packs. And there’s a drain in the base to let melting water out as the heat goes up.
10. icemule Classic Cooler - Mini
Ice retention: 24 hours
You just fold this innovative duffel-shaped cooler twice at the top, secure it and it’s leak-proof and keeps ice cold for a day. And when not in use, it “packs inside my suitcase and rolls down to about the same size as a rolled-up pair of jeans” says one reviewer who “bought this cooler to take pumped breast milk home when traveling for work.” She adds, “I’ve filled this little cooler with just ice from the hotel ice machine several times, then packed it all the way home in the plane. Not one leak. Perfect durable seams.” And the cross-body strap makes it comfortable to tote along, even on hiking trips or bungeed to your motorcycle. The Mini size holds up to a six pack of cans, with room for ice.
11. natico 12-can Backpack Chair Combo Cooler
- Natico 12-Can Backpack Chair Combo Cooler
Best for Tailgating
It’s a chair! It’s a backpack! It holds up to 12 cans in the front padded and insulated zip compartment. And there’s enough room in the main area of the backpack for a change of clothes, in case you want to freshen up after the game before your celebratory pub crawl.
12. airhead Aqua Oasis Insulated Nylon Cooler
This insulated leak-proof nylon cooler sits in the middle of a blow-up base that’s got six drink-holder slots (each are numbered to help you and your pals keep track of your drinks). There’s a little area for holding SPF lotion, and a rope to tether this floatie—which keeps 24 cans cold for hours—to your raft.
13. my Owners Box 12 Quart Black Cooler
Best Combination Stool-Cooler
It holds up to 12 quarts inside, and 198 pounds outside, since this ingeniously designed cooler has inside panels that fold to a two-inch thick package when not in use. (In other words, it’s perfect to stash away under your car seat between excursions.)