Built for those adventures where you want to grab your gear and go, soft coolers are an indispensable part of warm weather outdoor activities that keep your drinks ice cold. Nothing says summer better than an ice-cold drink while you’re beside the water with the sun beating down.

Soft coolers are portable boxes that keep your drinks cold despite the warm temperatures outside. You can take them with you to the beach, on your kayak or on a sail. Before you head out on your next summer adventure, pick up the best soft shell cooler you can.

With so many different options to pick from, it’s hard to choose the best soft side cooler on your own. That’s why this guide will help you decide what cooler to get. Here is the list of reviews to show you The Best Soft Shell Coolers in 2020 on the market.

How To Choose A Soft Cooler – Buying Guide

How_to_Choose_the_Best_Soft_Cooler

Use

The quest for the best soft pack cooler is not an easy task. With so many different uses of softshell coolers and situations where ice-cold drinks are lovely to have, there’s a ton of different scenarios where coolers are needed. Most companies that create coolers recognize this and make coolers for certain situations. 

For instance, if you are fishing, a standard soft cooler wouldn’t be ideal. Therefore, a fishing cooler or a marine cooler would be a better option to deal with the specific environment you are in.

Related Reviews: Fishing Coolers & Marine Cooler

Best large coolers are meant for larger groups and have the capacity to hold dozens of drinks and snacks for days at a time. As mentioned in our list of the best soft pack coolers, these coolers are harder to transport because of their size, but they make up for it with the number of drinks they can carry. 

There’s also a standard soft cooler size that you can carry anywhere for a small group of people. These coolers hold for 15 to 25 cans and are easier to carry around compared to larger coolers. You’ll be able to take them farther out in nature as long as you need to.

Personal soft pack coolers exist for individual use. These coolers are typically extremely small and work for one person. While they’re small and can’t hold as much as standard coolers, they are significantly easier to carry and typically last longer than other coolers because of the smaller design.

There are many great uses for a soft cooler such as brining food onto a boat grill or a camping stove. The beach is another great place for these coolers such as beach picnics for keeping your refreshments cold.

Related Review: Small Cooler

Capacity

According to reviews, size has a lot to do with the soft cooler you’re buying. Coolers come in different sizes and it affects their use and portability directly. Before choosing your cooler, it is important to decide where you will be using it. If you are going hiking with a group of people, then you will need a large cooler to carry all those cold water with you.

The large coolers are meant for groups of people. These coolers are huge and can hold dozens of drinks and snacks for days at a time. Large coolers are easy to tell their size by the sheer number of things they can. These coolers are harder to transport because of their size, but they make up for it with the number of drinks they can carry.

There’s your standard soft cooler size that’s ready to be carried anywhere for a small group of people. These coolers hold anywhere for 15 to 25 cans and are easier to carry around compared to coolers meant for larger groups. You’ll be able to use it in nature as long as you need it fairly easily. 

Small coolers are typically personal coolers that are meant for a day out on your own adventure, whether you’re on the beach by yourself or just wanting to be outside alone for the day. These coolers are extremely small and meant for one person to use for up to a day, so they don’t hold as much. However, they’re much easier to transport and typically keep drinks cooler for longer times because of their smaller size.

The durability

Softshell coolers classify as any cooler that’s made out of soft material; that means that these coolers can vary in the material they’re made out of. Different companies use different materials on their coolers depending on the functionality. That leads to thinking about the durability of a cooler before you buy one.

Depending on what you want to do, the level of durability of your cooler may change. It’s typically a good idea to get the most durable soft cooler out there, but sometimes durability comes with a price that people can’t afford. However, if you’re going out in nature on your own, keeping a durable cooler is important. Durability can mean that your soft cooler is nature proof. This means the material the cooler is made out of is harder to rip, tear, or puncture. 

Durability can also mean that your soft cooler is waterproof. If you’re someone who plans to take your soft cooler sailing with you, then you’ll want a top-rated cooler bag that will keep your food fresh. If you need a solid cooler then there are many great options out there such as lunch coolers and also kayak coolers which might be better for your specific adventure. The best soft sided coolers are made to last.

Related Review: Kayak Cooler

Ice Retention (How Long it Stays Cold)

Coolers are meant to trap cold air and keep your food and drinks icy. This is typically done by having an airtight bag with ice in it so that the ice can keep producing cool air for the items to sit in. It’s a good idea to check the ice retention feature of your cooler before choosing one.

The best soft side coolers focus on keeping ice longer than others. These coolers are great for long trips or for trips that take longer to get to. 

If a cooler has a no-leak zipper, or seams are welded or put together with heat, then it means it’s better at retaining ice than others. Ice melts because the cold air it produces leaks out and hotter air invades. If there are more ways to keep the cool air trapped inside, the cooler is better at retaining that cold air.

Some coolers also help this process with an electric fan. Because of how heavy the electric fan can be, and the fact that it needs some output of electricity to work, these kinds of coolers are meant for car use. If you’re traveling across the country, then these coolers are perfect for keeping car snacks and drinks frosty. The ice will stay cold for an extremely long time because of the fan.

Cleaning

There are different ways to clean a soft pack cooler or a backpack cooler. Cleaning your cooler is extremely important, especially if you keep food and snacks in it, so it’s an essential part of having a cooler.

Because food starts to smell over time, you should clean your cooler regularly. Many are odor proof, but even those can start to smell like spoiled food after a while. Over time, your cooler can develop a permanent unpleasant smell unless cleaned regularly.

The inside of the cooler can typically be cleaned just like any dish. However, some companies make this easier by making the lining removable so that you can pull it out and wash it instead of trying to maneuver a soft cooler in your sink. These are easy to clean and lets you clean better as well, making them natural winners in the cleaning area.

Let’s not forget about cleaning the outside of your cooler, either. While food smells won’t reach the outside, the natural world does, and over time dirt can build up. You’ll want to at least spray down your soft cooler after using it to make sure you’re not letting mud or any other kind of 

Leakage

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to leakage on coolers. You never want any part of your soft cooler to leak, so look at product descriptions before purchasing one. You can look at this as air or water leakage.

Leaking air in a cooler is an issue as it will make your cooler not as cold. Soft-sided coolers are meant to trap cool air and keep your food and drinks icy. This is typically done by having an airtight bag with ice in it so that the ice can keep producing cold air for the items to sit in. If your soft cooler is leaking cold air, then your stuff isn’t staying as cool.

You can typically tell if a cooler will leak because it’ll say how the seams are put together. You’ll want a soft pack cooler that seams are put together by heat, or welded together because that means there’s no room for air to escape between fabrics. The only thing you’d need to worry about releasing air is when you open it.

You also want your cooler doesn’t leak water, either. It’s inevitable that the ice will melt, whether it completely melts or slowly melts over time. Either way, you want that cool water to stay inside your soft cooler. It’ll keep your drinks and food still warm, and you won’t have ice cold water running down your arm or leaking while you’re carrying it.

Some soft-sided coolers prevent this by having a dry hide shell on the inside. This is a major difference between soft pack coolers and hard ones, so make sure that you choose one that won’t cause any issues for you.

Zipper

While the zipper may not seem important on a cooler at first glance, the zipper has a lot to do with how well your cooler actually stays cool. There are different zipper designs that help trap cold air in, as well as keep warm air out. You’ll want to make sure that the cooler advertises that the zipper is airtight, and you’ll be set to go.

Also, there’s nothing worse than a cheap zipper. If the soft cooler doesn’t say anything about how well the zipper works, it’s probably not a good one. Cheap zippers are an easy place for companies to skip over and cut costs, and there’s a hoard of problems with ad zippers.

A bad zipper won’t keep your soft cooler airtight. This means that your food and drinks will start getting warmer faster. You don’t want to haul around a cooler just to find out that everything has been ruined when you open it.

Bad zippers can also run off track, which means it’s basically broken forever. If your soft pack cooler has a zipper that runs off the track, there’s no way you can use it anymore. Cold air will be leaking constantly, and there’s no way to close it up once the zipper is broken. Make sure to read the description of the zipper on any soft cooler before you purchase.

FAQs

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Q: Will a soft cooler work at the beach?

A: 

Soft coolers work great at the beach. Some people prefer softshell coolers over hard coolers at the beach because of the flexibility of the fabric. They are easier to sit in the sand compared to a cooler that doesn’t move when you set it down.

Soft side coolers are meant to keep your stuff cool no matter the weather conditions, so grab your beach chair and head on down to the sandy shore for a day out in the sun with some cold drinks in tow. You’ll be able to keep drinks for your entire group easily despite the hot sun.

If you’re still worried about how well the cold will stay in your soft pack cooler, then there are two options for keeping the cooler. You can invest in a beach tent or a beach canopy to store your cooler in. If you keep your cooler in shade, then it’ll stay colder for longer.

You can also look into buying a cooler that keeps ice packs colder for 24 hours or longer periods. The longer a cooler keeps things cold, the better it works. So that means even on a day trip, a cooler that can keep drinks cold for five days will keep your drinks cold longer than a cooler that retains ice for one day. The longer a cooler can keep things cold, the better it works, so they’re useful for hot climates as well.

Q: What is a soft cooler?

A: 

Soft coolers are coolers that have soft sides, or sides made from fabric instead of hard plastic. The traditional cooler uses foam or plastic to keep things cold, but soft coolers have different approaches because of their different materials. They’re great for a variety of reasons.

Soft coolers, or soft pack coolers, are easier to transport than hard coolers. They are easier to carry since they’re typically lighter than the traditional cooler, so you can carry them to more obscure places. They also typically fit in cars better since the sides are flexible and can fit wherever you need it to. Standard coolers can’t be forced to fit in between seats, but most coolers can be.

Soft coolers also have a zippered opening, meaning that they’re typically more airtight than the standard cooler. The standard cooler has a plastic lid that closes down on the cooler itself, which works well but it isn’t completely airtight. It’s also a bit harder to push down and close to make as airtight as possible, so being around kids means that they probably aren’t going to close it all the way, so you’ll have warm drinks and spoiled food.

Because they’re more airtight in most cases, soft coolers typically work better. Since they don’t let air escape, they keep your drinks colder and longer. Soft coolers are great things to bring with you anytime you’re out for the day and want to bring along waters or snacks for you or the family.

Q: How do I clean a soft cooler?

A: 

There are different ways to clean coolers depending on the cooler itself. Considering that a soft sided cooler can be made with a variety of materials, cleaning them can vary as well. While most can easily be cleaned with warm water and soap, make sure to check the cleaning instructions to make sure if special conditions apply.

Cleaning your soft pack cooler is extremely important, especially if you keep food and snacks in it, so it’s an essential part of having a soft cooler. Food and snacks start to smell, especially if they’ve been sitting in your cooler all day, so cleaning your cooler after each use is critical.

Because food starts to smell over time, you should clean your cooler regularly. Many are odor proof, but even those start to smell bad for some time. 

The inside of a soft cooler can typically be cleaned just like any dish. However, some companies make this easier by making the lining removable. Cleaning the outside of your cooler is also important to prevent dirt accumulate on it.

Q: How do I keep a soft cooler from leaking?

A: 

Any way that you can add in a layer to the inside is one way to stop your cooler from leaking. Things like aluminum foil or a towel that absorbs water can stop water from leaking through the bottom. These things are easy to find around the house and work well to stop water from coming out the bottom.

If your soft cooler bag is leaking, then there’s probably a leak on the inside liner somewhere. Most coolers have a dry hide shell on the inside that keeps water and air in and cold, so a leaking cooler means that there’s an issue somewhere. If you can find that leak and fix it, then that’s another way to stop leaking.

Some soft pack coolers don’t have that additional layer in it. These are typically cheaper ones. If you will use your cooler often, then you’ll want to think about replacing it with one that’s slightly better quality.

Q: How do you keep ice from melting in a soft cooler?

A: 

There’s not much you can do yourself to keep ice packs from melting in a soft cooler. Soft coolers are made to retain ice, and if you’re having an issue keeping ice in your cooler, it could just be that your soft pack cooler isn’t working very well. However, there are a few small things you can do that can help you keep ice in your soft cooler.

The first thing to avoid with your soft pack cooler is opening it frequently. Opening it lets out all that cold air that’s essential to keep your cooler cold. Try opening your soft cooler less, and opening it quickly, to avoid letting out as much cold air as possible.

Another handy trick is not to let the cooler touch water. While many people use coolers for things like romantic paddle boarding activities, there’s nothing worse than constant contact with water. While the water may feel cold, it’s definitely hotter than the ice inside your cooler and will cause it to melt faster.

Q: How do I best use a soft cooler?

A: 

There’s a ton of different things to use a soft cooler for, and there’s not the best among them! Whether you’re going for a hike, taking the family to the local pool for the day, or spending a day on the lake with your significant other, soft coolers are useful in every situation.

Because soft coolers are so easy to manipulate into different positions, you can bring one with you wherever you go. There are different sizes and kinds that work differently to adapt to whatever situation you’re in, but there’s one for every occasion.

One handy soft cooler bag tip is to pack your cooler before putting any ice in it. Once you’re done packing everything in, put ice over the top of it. While it seems like ice would melt quicker this way being exposed to the top of the cooler, some of the ice will fall down between your stuff and keep it cold. Having it on top also makes it less tempting to keep the cooler open for long periods of time to find what you want.

Globo Surf Overview

Whether you are looking for backpacking food and lunch ideas, heading out on a kayak or having a picnic on a beach blanket, having a soft cooler is a must-have in your adventures. Hopefully, our guide has given you all the information you need in order to choose the perfect soft cooler for you. 

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!