Home > Food / Hydration

The Best Soft Coolers of 2023

hand adding cans to soft cooler(Photo/Eric Phillips)
Support us! GearJunkie may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

We’ll always have a spot in our gear closet for a hard cooler, but soft coolers have proven to be just as essential. They weigh less and are easy for one person to grab and quickly transport from the deck to the truck bed.

There’s a broad range of sizes and softness in soft coolers. Some of these designs are actually very rigid, stout, and stackable. Others are fully collapsible and pliable, and we celebrate the space-saving option for storage.

For day-long roams, weekend adventures, road trips, or running errands, these soft coolers kept our provisions chilled without weighing us down. For more information about soft coolers, check out our buyer’s guide, comparison chart, and FAQ at the end of this article.

Otherwise, scroll through to see all of our recommended buys:

The Best Soft Coolers of 2023

Best Overall Soft Cooler

OtterBox Trooper 20


  • Size 14.3" x 17.5" x 10.25"
  • Capacity 19L
  • Weight 3,175 g (6.5 lbs.)
  • Ice retention test ~3+ days
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • Durable cooler in sunshine or downpour
  • Leakproof lid
  • Easy to transport
  • Retains ice well


  • We’d like a streamlined top-of-lid handle
  • Closing the lid’s clasp requires attention to make sure it’s fully clamped
Best Budget Soft Cooler

Arctic Zone Titan Bucket Tote


  • Size 15" x 10" x 13.5"
  • Capacity 33L
  • Weight 816 g (1.8 lbs.)
  • Ice retention test ~3 days
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • Great ice retention
  • Two over-the-shoulder straps Velcro together alongisde an optional shoulder strap
  • Includes bottle opener


  • A few of us don’t prefer the look
  • The lid’s zipper is not waterproof
Best Large Soft Cooler

Snow Peak Soft Cooler 38


  • Size 19" x 12.5" x 12.5"
  • Capacity 38L
  • Weight 1,724 g (3.8 lbs.)
  • Ice retention test ~2.5 days
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • Large capacity
  • Supple and easy to carry


  • The lid’s zipper is not waterproof
  • A bit overpriced for the low ice retention but worth the cost for collapsibility
Most Compact Soft Cooler

Mountainsmith Takeout


  • Size 8" x 9" x 6"
  • Capacity 7L
  • Weight 363 g (0.8 lbs.)
  • Ice retention test ~21 hours
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • Two tote straps comfortably slide over the shoulder
  • Has an interior zippered mesh pocket in lid for utensils
  • Zippers are substantial


  • Exterior pocket is great for a phone but lacks zipper for security
  • Lid’s zipper leaks
Most Eco-Friendly Soft Cooler

Cotopaxi Hielo 12L Cooler Bag Del Dia


  • Size 18" x 14" x 5.5"
  • Capacity 12L
  • Weight 708 g (1.6 lbs.)
  • Ice retention test Unavailable
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • Saves throwaway scraps from the landfill
  • Each cooler bag is one-of-a-kind
  • The design process empowers employees behind each cooler pack


  • The zippers, zipper pulls, buckles, and thread are tailored to each bag — so you're not totally sure what to expect
Best Collapsible Design for Storage

REI Co-op Pack-Away Soft Cooler


  • Size 10" x 11" x 15"
  • Capacity 32L
  • Weight 680 g (1.5 lbs.)
  • Ice retention test ~2+ days
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • Daisy chains and spacious external pocket with a zipper
  • Transforms into a tote, cube, and flat for storage
  • Lightweight


  • Can’t stack any items on top of this soft cooler
  • Tote is wobbly and doesn’t dependably stand upright
  • Top zipper is not waterproof
Best of the Rest

Orca Walker 20


  • Size 14.5" x 11" x 13.25"
  • Capacity 33L
  • Weight 1,633 g (3.6 lbs.)
  • Ice retention test ~3 days
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • Cooler won’t leak through waterproof top zipper or seams
  • Small stretch exterior pocket
  • Bungee cords to hold down items


  • Magnetic split handle is not comfortable to grab when divided as two straps

Hydro Flask Day Escape Tote


  • Size 12.2" x 20.5" x 7.8"
  • Capacity 18L
  • Weight 1,134 g (2.5 lbs.)
  • Ice retention test ~2.5 days
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • Tote straps comfortably slide over the shoulder
  • Waterproof zipper
  • Cooler is completely leakproof


  • Exterior pocket is great for a phone but lacks zipper for security
  • No integrated pockets

Mountainsmith Sixer


  • Size 11" x 11" x 6"
  • Capacity 12L
  • Weight 499 g (1.1 lbs.)
  • Ice retention test ~25 hours
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • Two tote straps comfortably slide over the shoulder
  • Great for park concerts
  • Zippered interior mesh pocket inside cooler lid for utensils
  • Two flat pockets on the side


  • We’d like the lightweight removable shoulder strap to be burlier
  • Cooler bottom can absorb moisture
  • Lid’s zipper is not waterproof

Igloo Pursuit Tote


  • Size 22.4" x 3.7" x 15.7"
  • Capacity 21L
  • Weight 907 g (2 lbs.)
  • Ice retention test ~1.5 days
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • Two tote straps comfortably slide over the shoulder
  • Padded removable shoulder strap


  • Ice melts fast in a hot vehicle or sunny conditions
  • Top zipper is not waterproof and can leak
  • Fair amount of condensation appeared on cooler’s exterior

REI Co-op Cool Haul Soft Cooler


  • Size 14" x 11" x 11"
  • Capacity 15L
  • Weight 1,415 g (3.12 lbs.)
  • Ice retention test ~2.5 days
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • Daisy chain webbing and bottle opener included
  • Interior zippered pocket inside lid keeps food items above ice
  • Strong, smooth side and top handles
  • Helpful cooling tips are listed inside the pack’s lid


  • The cube shape bounces off your back when using the shoulder strap
  • Top zipper is not waterproof, so watch for leaks
  • Exterior front pocket lacks zipper to secure items

RovR TravelR


  • Size 19" x 17" x 14"
  • Capacity 28L
  • Weight 2,013 g (4 lbs. 7 oz.)
  • Ice retention test 72+ hours
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • Waterproof, leakproof zipper is comfortable to open with the wide T-shaped pull
  • Tall height is nice for resting food or other items while sitting in a camp chair


  • Hand straps lack padding for comfortable carry while loaded
  • Shoulder strap attachments are not dependable or durable

Hobie Soft Cooler Fish Bag


  • Size 18" x 16" x 8"
  • Capacity 19L
  • Weight 2,721 g (6 lbs.)
  • Ice retention test ~1.5 days
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • Slim design fits well on or in a boat
  • Bungee cords to hold down items


  • Seams leak
  • Zipper doesn’t go all the way around so access is awkward
  • Lacks attachments points for whitewater travel
  • Needs a removable shoulder strap to conveniently carry to and from water
  • Bungee cords are at each corner — not D-rings — for tiedown points

Fishpond Blizzard Soft Cooler


  • Size 11.5" x 9" x 10"
  • Capacity 17L
  • Weight Unavailable
  • Ice retention test ~1.5 days
The Best Soft Coolers of 2023


  • YKK zippers
  • Comfortable padded, removable shoulder strap
  • Small Velcro lid allows easy access when cooler’s lid is shut


  • Material absorbs water and feels heavy

Soft Cooler Comparison Chart

Soft CoolerSizeCapacityWeightIce Retention Test
OtterBox Trooper 2014.3″ x 17.5″ x 10.25″19L3,175 g (6.5 lbs.)~3+ days
Arctic Zone Titan Bucket Tote15″ x 10″ x 13.5″33L816 g (1.8 lbs.)~3 days
Snow Peak Soft Cooler 3819″ x 12.5″ x 12.5″38L1,724 g (3.8 lbs.)~2.5 days
Mountainsmith Takeout8″ x 9″ x 6″7L363 g (0.8 lbs.)~21 hours
Cotopaxi Hielo 12L
Cooler Bag Del Dia
18″ x 14″ x 5.5″12L708 g (1.6 lbs.)Unavailable
REI Co-op Pack-Away Soft Cooler10″ x 11″ x 15″32L680 g (1.5 lbs.)~2+ days
Orca Walker 2014.5″ x 11″ x 13.25″33L1,633 g (3.6 lbs.)~3 days
Hydro Flask Day Escape Tote12.2″ x 20.5″ x 7.8″18L1,134 g (2.5 lbs.)~2.5 days
Mountainsmith Sixer11″ x 11″ x 6″12L499 g (1.1 lbs.)~25 hours
Igloo Pursuit Tote22.4″ x 3.7″ x 15.7″21L907 g (2 lbs.)~1.5 days
REI Co-op Cool Haul Soft Cooler14″ x 11″ x 11″15L1,415 g (3.12 lbs.)~2.5 days
RovR TravelR19″ x 17″ x 14″28L2,013 g (4 lbs. 7 oz.)72+ hours
Hobie Soft Cooler Fish Bag18″ x 16″ x 8″19L2,721 g (6 lbs.)~1.5 days
Fishpond Blizzard Soft Cooler11.5″ x 9″ x 10″17LUnavailable~1.5 days
best soft coolers
Senior Editor Morgan Tilton testing the Orca Walker Cooler; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Why You Should Trust Us

Our team has developed cooler guides year after year, objectively testing dozens of soft, hard, and backpack coolers in the field, from whitewater raft trips to fly fishing adventures and music festivals in the mountains.

For this soft coolers guide, we examined the most popular, innovative, highly acclaimed, and bestselling products with diverse storage and carry capacities, ice retention ability, and across a price spectrum.

Lead tester Morgan Tilton, GearJunkie Senior Editor specializing in Snow Sports Buyer’s Guides, coordinated a range of studious gear testers to test the coolers in this guide.

Our crew took these coolers through myriad conditions from summertime park BBQs to camping in Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains, guiding fly fish sessions on rivers, and road-tripping to ski mountaineer in the Pacific Northwest.

We also performed a controlled in-house ice retention test to verify brand claims. For the experiment, we filled each pre-cooled cooler approximately 70% with fresh, frozen cubed ice and set them in a shaded, dry indoor space at a steady average of 65 degrees.

We periodically checked, making notes regarding melt rate, condensation, and leaks. Each reported time is based on when 100% of the ice was converted to water. This data provides a benchmark. But when traveling outdoors, these controlled variables disappear and the ice will likely melt faster.

best soft coolers stacked by a lake
Our GearJunkie team thoroughly tested a range of soft coolers including a controlled ice retention test; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Soft Cooler

Storage Capacity

Choose a soft cooler based on the storage capacity and type of support you need for the load. A super malleable product like the Snow Peak Soft Cooler might not be the best for carrying dozens of heavy cans compared to a more rigid design like the RovR TravelR 30.

The larger the group, the more cargo space you’ll need. The soft coolers in our guide range from the Mountainsmith Takeout, which can fit six cans, to the 38 L Snow Peak Soft Cooler. Most of our choice soft coolers are either larger (30 L to 38 L) for group multiday trips or more compact (12 L to 19 L).

Compartments & Pockets

Most soft coolers are simple with a central insulated compartment for food and beverages. A handful have an interior zippered compartment inside the lid.

Various exterior pockets are available in some designs, including streamlined fabric and mesh pockets with no closure or bungee straps. Other coolers have external pockets with a Velcro latch, zipper, or waterproof zipper for security.


The weights of soft coolers are typically reflected by their size and capacity. The smallest design in our guide is the Mountainsmith Takeout, which weighs less than a pound. The heaviest soft cooler is the 6.5-pound OtterBox Trooper 20 Cooler, which has a 19L capacity and the best ice retention.

Even the heaviest soft cooler in our guide is lighter than a hard cooler. For comparison, the YETI Tundra 45 Cooler weighs 23 pounds, and the RovR Products RollR 45 weighs more than 37 pounds.


Soft cooler totes are long, slender, and streamlined against your side. They’re comfortable to carry over a shoulder. However, taller coolers get trickier with access to buried items, so you have to be mindful when packing the cooler.

Soft coolers that are wider or more bucket-style are easier to access, as far as finding a specific item. But, they can feel more cumbersome to carry over a shoulder. Coolers like the OtterBox Trooper 20 Cooler with a broad, flat surface that rests against you can help absorb that swing and bounce.

Boxier coolers can be easier to stack — as long as the walls and base are rigid — while sleeker coolers can more likely slip behind a seat in your car. Shorter, more compact coolers are easier to fit in tight spaces on a boat.


A soft cooler’s materials include the exterior, insulation, interior liner, and handles. A range of top closures exist. The most common are waterproof and leakproof zippers or non-waterproof and leakproof zippers.

We pay attention to that variable to know if a cooler needs to always be upright. Some unique closures include the clasp of the OtterBox Trooper 20 Cooler, which doesn’t allow leaks. Other coolers have magnetic seams, like models made by YETI. Welded seams also help prevent leaks.

Soft coolers may have shoulder straps — which are typically removable — buckles, attachment points, and interior or exterior pockets. Some pockets have durable, waterproof zipper closures, but many are not weather-resistant or secured with a closure.

The quality of materials influences the waterproofness, durability, insulation value, and whether or not the face fabric produces condensation. The materials also determine the comfort, breathability, support, and overall cost.

Straps & Handles

Handles and straps are constructed with a variety of materials. Some are more ergonomic, comfortable, and durable than others.

Most soft coolers have side or top handles, two straps that swing up to secure together above the cooler, or a removable shoulder strap. A bunch of designs have a combination of handles and straps, too. For coolers on the larger side (like the RoVR 30 versus the Fishpond Blizzard Soft Cooler) it’s key to have padding on the hand or shoulder straps for comfort while carrying a fully-loaded cooler.

In our testing, we found the side handles of the Fishpond Blizzard Soft Cooler and OtterBox Trooper 20 Cooler were stalwart and comfortable to grab. We liked the wide, soft material of the two swing-up straps on the Snow Peak Soft Cooler.

The handles on the Hydro Flask Day Escape Tote were a great length and easy to slide over one shoulder.

Ice Retention

We completed our ice retention test with controlled variables. Each soft cooler was stationed indoors at around 65 degrees, shaded, and filled with the same ratio and type of ice.

Ice Retention Test Results

For a variety of conditions, the soft coolers in this guide provide enough cooling power to serve a range of recreation needs.

When you use a cooler outside, many factors influence a pack’s ice retention, including frequency of opening the cooler, direct sunlight, and ambient temperature. For instance, the REI Co-op Cool Haul Soft Cooler preserved ice for 60 hours during our test but only for 18 hours during one toasty car camp trip.

woman showing contents of soft cooler
Senior Editor Morgan Tilton testing soft coolers; (photo/Eric Phillips)


The prices of soft coolers in our guide range from the $30 Mountainsmith Takeout, which is the smallest cooler, to the OtterBox Trooper 20 Cooler ($250) with top-shelf ice retention.

The price of a soft cooler is reflected by the size, durability, quality of materials, design features, and ice retention.

In that upper tier, you’ll also find the Orca Walker Cooler ($220). Soft coolers in the medium price range include the Snow Peak Soft Cooler ($170), Igloo Pursuit Tote ($120), and REI Co-op Cool Haul Soft Cooler ($100).

Plenty of soft coolers are fairly comfortable to use and reliable (as long as it’s not too sunny or scorching hot out) in the less-than-$100 category. Those choice designs include a range of designs such as the Mountainsmith Takeout ($30), REI Co-op Pack-Away Soft Cooler ($50), and Arctic Zone Titan Bucket Tote ($53).

The well-constructed, premium Hydro Flask Day Escape Tote is available at a moderate price ($150).

Extra Features

Additional features on soft coolers include hard clip points, daisy chains, webbing straps, and bungee cords for carrying extra gear. Some packs also include a reflective logo or bottle opener.

Many soft coolers do not have tiedown points, which would be a good feature for river or motorcycle trips.


Are Hard or Soft Coolers Better?

There’s utility for both designs. Hard coolers are more durable and stout and have a larger size range, given they can hold more weight without collapsing. Hard coolers can also preserve ice for longer durations. If you’re going on a weeklong car camping trip with limited access to ice, it’s advantageous to have a hard cooler for fresh food.

On the other hand, a soft cooler is a preferred choice for being lightweight, easy to carry — especially for one person — and simple to transport. The compact sizes are great for picnics, day trips, overnight camping, and grocery shopping. Another benefit is some soft coolers are collapsible, so they occupy less space in storage than a hard cooler.

For road trips, you can separate daytime beverages and snacks into a soft cooler, which limits opening of the hard cooler and preserves ice.

Do Soft Coolers Leak?

If the cooler’s seams are not welded and leakproof, they can leak. Soft coolers can also leak through the lid closure if the zipper isn’t waterproof or the clasp isn’t leakproof.

How Effective Are Soft Coolers at Retaining Ice?

Some soft coolers are superior at ice retention, which is generally reflected in the price tag but not always. Some pricier coolers offer adequate ice retention mixed with other qualities like durability and capacity.

In our side-by-side ice retention test, the soft cooler that retained ice the longest was the OttorBox Tooper 20, which is capable of holding ice for up to 78 hours, to the brand’s claim.

It was followed by the RovR TravelR at 72 hours, then the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Bucket Tote and Orca Walker Cooler, which held ice for 70 hours. The lowest ice retention recorded was 21 hours for the small Mountainsmith Takeout.

In daily adventures, melt speed slightly fluctuates based on the frequency of opening the cooler, how long it’s open, ambient heat, and direct sunlight. A bunch of other variables influence ice retention, too, including the type and quantity of ice, extra space in the compartment (which decreases effectiveness), and if the cooler was prechilled.

Can You Put Dry Ice in a Soft Cooler?

For most soft coolers, dry ice will burn the interior materials. Instead, you should use freshly frozen cubed ice, ice blocks, or reusable ice packs.

How Can I Make My Soft Cooler Stay Colder, Longer?

For the longest-lasting ice retention and cooling capability, aim to use a 2:1 ratio of ice to contents. You can quickly prechill your cooler with a sacrificial bag of ice a few hours before loading it up, especially if the cooler was stored in a hot place. Or, bring the cooler inside a cool room to lower the temperature the night before use.

The type of ice makes a difference. Block ice and fresh cubed ice from freezers are denser than chipped ice or crushed ice from ice machines. If you get super strategic, you can use a mix of block ice — which melts slowly — and cubed ice — which cools down the container quickly.
As the ice melts, it’s ideal to retain the ice water, which helps the other ice stay cold. Limit your access to the cooler because opening it up releases the cold air.

Keep your cooler in the shade to prolong that low temperature. If you’re under direct sun, toss a towel or blanket over the cooler to help alleviate a heat spike.

Subscribe Now

Sign up to receive GearJunkie content direct to your inbox.

Subscribe Now

Sign up to receive GearJunkie content direct to your inbox.