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AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas Cooler Review

A solid performer that's simple to use, easy to carry, and costs less than most
ao coolers 24 pack canvas cooler soft cooler review
Credit: AO Coolers
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $86 List | $85.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Simple and easy to use, decent insulation, folds flat for storage, duffel handles
Cons:  Shoulder strap a little short, zipper and exterior fabric are not waterproof, less durable materials
Manufacturer:   AO Coolers
By Maggie Nichols ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 30, 2020
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 13
  • Insulation Value - 30% 7.0
  • Ease of Use - 25% 8.0
  • Portability - 25% 6.0
  • Durability - 20% 6.0

Our Verdict

The AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas Cooler cooler is nearly impossible to go wrong with. Its simple design that just works while costing less than most of the competition. For such an uncomplicated cooler, lacking waterproof zippers or a laminated exterior, it still manages to provide respectable insulation. It's straightforward to pack, painless to use, and has convenient duffel handles. When you're not using it, the whole thing folds flat, saving space that most other coolers cannot do. While you could get a huskier model for three or four times the price, the AO gets the job done for less.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award     
Price $86 List
$85.95 at Amazon
$80 List
$79.95 at REI
$110 List
$110.00 at REI
$100 List
$99.95 at REI
$50 List
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Pros Simple and easy to use, decent insulation, folds flat for storage, duffel handlesComfortable to carry, convenient design, good features, tons of dry storageSoft cooler body, good pockets and features, comfortable shoulder strapSuperb support for heavy loads, external storage options, doubles as a backpack, useful size and shapeFlexible body is comfortable and convenient, folds flat, external pocket is large, easy to use, very lightweight
Cons Shoulder strap a little short, zipper and exterior fabric are not waterproof, less durable materialsZipper not leakproof, thin insulation, less durable, loose sternum strapExterior and zipper not waterproofNot watertight, unimpressive insulation, zipper catches on bagLeaks easily, smaller than expected, unimpressive insulation
Bottom Line A solid performer that's simple to use, easy to carry, and costs less than mostThough not as hardy as some others, this design combines cooler space and dry storage for an all-in-one packA solid combination of usability, decent insulation, and a reasonable capacityFor carrying a jam-packed cooler full of heavy refreshments, there's no more comfortable option for taking weight off your shoulders than thisAn easily stored cooler that leaks readily but is comfortable and useful enough to be a good solution for casual and infrequent usage
Rating Categories AO Coolers 24 Pack... REI Co-op Cool Trai... REI Co-op Cool Haul 18 REI Co-op Cool Trai... REI Co-op Pack-Away 24
Insulation Value (30%)
7.0
4.0
8.0
5.0
4.0
Ease of Use (25%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Portability (25%)
6.0
9.0
5.0
9.0
7.0
Durability (20%)
6.0
5.0
6.0
5.0
5.0
Specs AO Coolers 24 Pack... REI Co-op Cool Trai... REI Co-op Cool Haul 18 REI Co-op Cool Trai... REI Co-op Pack-Away 24
Measured Capacity (qt) 24 qt 13 qt 18 qt 22 qt 19.5 qt (cube)
34 qt (flat)
Measured Capacity (cans with no ice) 39 cans 16 cans 28 cans 32 cans 32 cans (cube)
50 cans (flat)
Carry Style Duffel Bag Backpack Messenger Bag Backpack Messenger Bag
Internal Maximum Height (in) 11" fully closed
12.5" max
11" flex 11" insert
12" lid
19" 12"(cube)/19" (flat)
Fits Standard Wine Bottle Standing Upright? Yes - some flex required, no zipper strain Yes - some flex required, no zipper strain Yes Yes Yes
Shelf Life of Food (Measured Hours Below 40ºF) 55 hr 32 hr 61 hr 9 hr 26 hr
Days of Cold Beverages (Measured Hours Below 50ºF) 63 hr 37 hr 75 hr 59 hr 32 hr
Measured Weight (lb) 2.7 lb 2.4 lb 4.3 lb 3.3 lb 1.6 lb
Exterior Fabric 1000 x 1300D heavy duty polyester with vinyl coating Recycled ripstop nylon outer/polyester inner Ripstop nylon, polyester shell Recycled ripstop nylon outer/polyester inner Polyester
Closure Method Zippered top Zippered flip top, dry storage cinch and clip Zippered flip top Zippered top, drawstring bag, clip straps Zippered top
Handles and Straps Shoulder strap, duffel handles Backpack straps, top handle, sternum strap Shoulder strap, end carry handles Backpack straps, sternum strap, hip belt Shoulder strap, duffel handles
Additional Storage Yes; 1 very large zippered exterior pocket Yes; top half of pack, brain pocket, 2 mesh side pockets Yes; 2 slip exterior, 1 internal zip, webbing attachment loops Yes; 2 medium zippered side pockets each with additional slip pocket, zippered pocket on top flap Yes; 1 medium zippered exterior, 2 daisy chains
Removable Liner? No No Yes Yes; cooler comes out of backpack No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The AO 24 Pack is a messenger style cooler with over-the-shoulder carry and duffel handles that can be bundled together. It's a fairly straightforward design without extra features but great value. It also comes in several other colors and both smaller and larger sizes than the 24 can model we tested.

Performance Comparison


ao coolers 24 pack canvas cooler soft cooler review - spend less and adventure more with the ao original.
Spend less and adventure more with the AO Original.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Insulation Value


Though it doesn't look as imposing as many of the hefty laminated soft coolers we tested, the AO still holds its own when it comes to insulation, achieving above-average performance among models we tested. Just under an inch of polyurethane foam is encased in a waterproof TPU liner covered by heavy-duty polyester. AO claims this bag "is guaranteed to hold ice for 24 hours in 120-degree weather."


In our insulation tests, we didn't quite reach 120ºF, and the AO lasted an impressive 55 hours maintaining USDA recommended food-safe temperatures of 40º F or less. It then continued to keep temperatures under 50º F (desirable for many beverages) for an additional 8 hours after that for a total of 63 hours of chilled beverage time. Though this might not sound as impressive as some of the other coolers' performances under the same conditions, for a cooler that's not airtight and lacks a waterproof exterior, this is a solid performance.

ao coolers 24 pack canvas cooler soft cooler review - the performance of large models (over 20l) in our insulation testing.
The performance of large models (over 20L) in our insulation testing.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

While the tag on our cooler claims that it's "guaranteed not to leak", we're pretty sure they're talking about the inner liner, because the zipper is not waterproof. If the AO gets tipped so that meltwater can touch the zipper or set down on a wet surface, the zipper won't stop it from leaking and the exterior won't prevent it from soaking up water. However, if you can avoid tipping the AO, the inner liner is waterproof and won't leave your backseat wet.

ao coolers 24 pack canvas cooler soft cooler review - the simple design of the ao is well-thought-out and functions with...
The simple design of the AO is well-thought-out and functions with impressive ease.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

While we're pretty impressed by the overall insulation of this unassuming little cooler, we do find it a bit odd that it's only available in medium and dark colors. For something that will probably be used outside and likely will be exposed to sunlight, we'd prefer lighter colors that help reflect that extra heat. All in all, though, we're quite happy with the insulation performance of the AO, which is better than we expected.

ao coolers 24 pack canvas cooler soft cooler review - thick insulation and a wide open mouth make this cooler easy to use...
Thick insulation and a wide open mouth make this cooler easy to use and a solid choice for keeping your beverages cold.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Ease of Use


When it comes to packing and unpacking the AO 24 Pack, it's pretty darn easy. Though it isn't quite as gaping on top as a flip-top model, with the ends unclipped, it stays open easily. The inside is one large space. Though the looseness of the inner liner is a bit odd, it doesn't detract from its ability to hold cold items. This is one area where we appreciate the flexibility of the body of the cooler. It comes in handy for being able to easily conform to the shape of whatever we want to bring with - like extra tall champagne bottles and large potluck dishes. And as much as we love watertight zippers, they're a pain in the neck to wrangle. In contrast, the standard zipper of the AO glides easily over its teeth.


This cooler is listed as holding 24 cans and 14lb of ice. We went ahead and measured it, to learn it comfortably carries 39 cans if you don't put anything else in with them, and has a 24 quart (23 liter) capacity. It's a very useful size. The AO also has one large outer pocket, stretching the entire length of half of the bag - from mid-seam on one end, all the way down the long side, to mid-seam on the opposite end. It's not an insulated pocket, but we think this giant option is more useful.

ao coolers 24 pack canvas cooler soft cooler review - these buckles keep the cooler compact while you carry it and allow...
These buckles keep the cooler compact while you carry it and allow the opening to expand for easy access.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

To create a more compact, easy to tote package, the ends buckle down to the sides and the duffel handles can be held together with the attached velcro bundler. The only real knock against this cooler's ease of use is that the baggy internal liner can be harder to wipe clean and takes longer to dry after you're done using it.

ao coolers 24 pack canvas cooler soft cooler review - it's easy to enjoy using the painless ao original.
It's easy to enjoy using the painless AO Original.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Portability


Up against small, lunchbox-style models and handy backpack coolers, the messenger-style AO doesn't initially appear all that impressive. Its single-shoulder carry style with a full load is hard to enjoy for long distances. And while our smaller testers can wear the shoulder strap crossbody, most average and up users find the strap to be a little short for their liking. It does feature asymmetrical attachment points for the shoulder strap, helping to keep it from swinging violently as you walk.


For a fairly large messenger bag, it's not totally awful to take to the party. The 24 can size we tested is a pretty excellent capacity to size ratio. That is, it's large enough to be able to bring just about anything we're willing to carry on one shoulder. We also appreciate the long, comfortable duffel handles and their ability to attach together. Without contents, the AO weighs just 2.7 lb, making it one of the lightest coolers we tested. So while we aren't likely to be taking this cooler on a hike anytime soon, we don't mind carrying it a few blocks to the park.

ao coolers 24 pack canvas cooler soft cooler review - this duffel style cooler is uncomplicated to carry with comfortable...
This duffel style cooler is uncomplicated to carry with comfortable, asymmetrical strap attachment points.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


This is another metric whereby the AO seems unimpressive - because we've matched it up against some seriously intense competition. And while it's true that the AO doesn't shine brightly among laminated coolers with waterproof zippers, it's still a pretty solid option. Lack of a waterproof zipper means no lubricant to apply (and reapply…). And its heavy-duty polyester canvas exterior is nothing to scoff at either. Welded seams help reinforce an already strong design, making this cooler a strong contender for years of picnics.


It also comes with instructions for use, care, and storage (as well as best insulation practices). According to its tag, this cooler is tear and heat resistant, UV protective, and anti-mildew. We can't vouch for any of those, though we didn't have any issues with any of these things during our several months of testing. AO Coolers also offers a limited lifetime warranty on the inside liner and top zipper. So though it's not on the same level as some of the more intense coolers we tested that seem almost "bombproof", the AO is a quality piece of gear.

ao coolers 24 pack canvas cooler soft cooler review - the canvas exterior of the ao is tough enough for most adventures.
The canvas exterior of the AO is tough enough for most adventures.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


In a sheer breakdown of performance vs. price, the AO Cooler offers exceptionally high value. Sure, it may not be as attractive or feature-laden as some of the models we tested that can hold ice for upwards of four days, but for what it brings to the table, it's still a pretty low price. This cooler is good enough for most average users and has a relatively low price, making it a high-value item.

ao coolers 24 pack canvas cooler soft cooler review - adding to the ao's value, it can be folded to a smaller size for...
Adding to the AO's value, it can be folded to a smaller size for easy storage.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Conclusion


The AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas Cooler is a competitive cooler that offers good performance at a lower-than-average cost. We appreciate its simple design that's easy to use and just works. If you're after the optimal intersection of performance and price, you can't really go wrong with the AO.

ao coolers 24 pack canvas cooler soft cooler review - there's much to love about the simple, affordable ao original.
There's much to love about the simple, affordable AO Original.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Nichols
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