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RTIC SoftPak 20 Review

Great durability and insulation power at a relatively low price.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $90 List | $86.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Good insulation, easy to use, simple design, convenient size, affordable
Cons:  Frustrating zipper
Manufacturer:   RTIC
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 15, 2019
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 11
  • Insulation Value - 30% 7
  • Ease of Use - 25% 8
  • Portability - 25% 7
  • Durability - 20% 8

Our Verdict

With their SoftPak line, RTIC is offering a low-cost alternative to some other big names out there, and from our point of view, they've largely succeeded. The RTIC SoftPak 20 provides exceptional performance for a fraction of the cost and is our Best Buy Award winner. It's simple, easy to use, and seems fairly durable. The SoftPak 20 does have some downsides: its zipper tends to stick and can be annoying, and the boxy shape can be a bit awkward to carry when fully loaded. Sold in several sizes, the SoftPak offers a solid performance and a relatively high score overall for probably less than you'd expect.

Fluctuating Price
The price of this cooler seems to make some rapid swings throughout the year, for reasons we haven't been able to understand. Great when its swinging low, not so great when it swings high.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
RTIC SoftPak 20
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $86.95 at Amazon$194.54 at Amazon$249.99 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$114.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$79.95 at REI
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Pros Good insulation, easy to use, simple design, convenient size, affordableVery durable construction, excellent insulation, useful handles and features, comfortable shoulder strapExtremely durable, easy to use, great insulation, tons of handles, convenient sizeDurable design, comfortable to carry when full, good capacity, relatively inexpensiveComfortable to carry, convenient design, good features, tons of dry storage
Cons Frustrating zipperZippered exterior pocket not waterproof, very largeVery expensive, no extra pockets, flips upside down easilyLearning curve for best use, not 100% leakproof, no extra pocketsZipper not leakproof, thin insulation, less durable, loose sternum strap
Bottom Line Great durability and insulation power at a relatively low price.If you’re looking for the best soft cooler on the market today, look no further than this outstanding model from Engel.The best performing personal-sized cooler around.A very different design than most, but by far our favorite to carry over long distances.Though not as hardy as some others, this design combines cooler space and dry storage for an all-in-one pack.
Rating Categories RTIC SoftPak 20 Engel HD30 YETI Hopper Flip 12 IceMule Pro Cool Trail Split Pack
Insulation Value (30%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
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6
10
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5
Ease Of Use (25%)
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0
8
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9
Portability (25%)
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9
Durability (20%)
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Specs RTIC SoftPak 20 Engel HD30 YETI Hopper Flip 12 IceMule Pro Cool Trail Split...
Carry Style Lunchbox Messenger Bag Lunchbox Backpack Backpack
Measured Weight (lb) 3.0 lb 5.9 lb 3.6 lb 3.0 lb 2.4 lb
Exterior Fabric Thick nylon shell Abrasion-resistant fabric 840D double-sided thermoplastic urethane Mule SkinET 1000D ripstop tarpaulin/vinyl/nylon Recycled ripstop nylon outer/polyester inner
Closure Method Zippered flip top, watertight zip Zippered top, watertight zip Zippered flip top, watertight zip Roll-top Zippered flip top, dry storage cinch and clip
Handles and Straps Shoulder strap, carry handle Shoulder strap, carry handles Shoulder strap, top handle Backpack straps, sternum strap Backpack straps, carry handle, sternum strap
Additional Storage Yes; small exterior Yes; 1 larger exterior zippered (meant to be waterproof but isn't) No; webbing attachment loops No; exterior shock cord panel Yes; top half of pack, brain pocket, 2 mesh side pockets
Removable Liner? No No No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The SoftPak 20 offers similar functionality to higher-performing, more expensive models but at a much lower price. Though there are definitely higher-performing coolers out there, the SoftPak still comes in above average overall, with its shoulder strap carry and waterproof zipper.

Performance Comparison


A lot of high-end features packed into a fairly-priced cooler.
A lot of high-end features packed into a fairly-priced cooler.

Insulation Value


The SoftPak 20 did well in our torturous insulation testing, earning it an above-average score. Though not as impressive as the top performers (hitting over four days in our tests), the RTIC still does a solid job of keeping our refreshments chilled. It still had a good amount of ice left after 48 hours, and even some tiny flecks remaining after 72 hours. This is plenty cool enough to spend a hot day on the beach or even potentially last a weekend of camping.


It has solid, thick insulation (up to 2 inches) and a leakproof zipper that help to seal cold air inside. Though perhaps it's not the absolute best choice for a multiday adventure in the midsummer sun, the SoftPak is still a solid contender when it comes to keeping food fresh.

The SoftPak stayed chilly for three days during our testing.
The SoftPak stayed chilly for three days during our testing.

Ease of Use


When we first busted out our brand new RTIC cooler, we were horrified by the zipper. Though it is completely watertight, it sticks quite spectacularly when you try to move it; it was so sticky that we actually struggled to get inside it on our first outing with it. However, it was partly our own fault, as we failed to realize the importance of zipper lubricant to the usability of this model. RTIC actually sends the SoftPak with a tube of lubricant and instructions on how to properly care for your new adventure buddy. Once that goes on, the zipper is much easier to use and glides smoothly - though a truly leakproof zipper like this one will probably never provide a one-handed zipping experience.


Apart from the initially frustrating zipper, the SoftPak 20 is very easy to use. Its boxy shape with rounded ends and a single large opening make packing and unpacking a breeze. It is notable that the insulation from the lid slides a little bit inside the cooler to meet up with the body insulation, so you can't pack it higher than the top of the body's insulation walls. Handles everywhere help make it easy to toss around and attach anything else you might want. In our testing, it also never leaked a drop.

The SoftPak's zipper was the one feature we didn't love  but it got better once we used the zipper lubricant.
The SoftPak's zipper was the one feature we didn't love, but it got better once we used the zipper lubricant.

Portability


The SoftPak 20 is again one step behind in our portability testing, picking up a slightly above average score. This is mostly due to its combination of size (aka loaded up with heavy stuff), shoulder carry method, and slightly boxy design. Really, any medium-sized, over-the-shoulder option will have a hard time keeping up with the numerous backpack coolers out there or even the small personal coolers.


With that being said, for what it is, the SoftPak 20 isn't terribly difficult to carry around. It has a nice, padded shoulder strap, but its shape can make things a bit awkward if it's fully loaded. A box isn't exactly the most ergonomic shape (even one with rounded sides like this one), and the top and bottom corners of the cooler can dig into your hip a bit when fully loaded. We prefer the more tapered shape of some of the more tote-like options we tested, though this vertical-walled cooler is easier to load and unload because of its shape.

Portability is pretty self-explanatory with this pack  with a lightly padded shoulder strap or hand handles.
Portability is pretty self-explanatory with this pack, with a lightly padded shoulder strap or hand handles.

Durability


The SoftPak 20 is well constructed and earns a high score in our durability testing. When it comes to overall construction, the SoftPak 20 is well-designed and durable. It sports a waterproof liner with thick helpings of closed-cell foam insulation, and rugged, heavy-duty nylon exterior. Welded seams of laminated fabric help make this cooler exceptionally durable. It withstood all the abrasive dragging and abrupt drops on sharp objects that we subjected it to during our testing and was no worse for the wear.


Our only minor concern with this cooler is with the zipper. Without that lubricant (don't lose it!), the amount of pulling, tugging, and yanking that goes into getting it to move makes is concerned that it might not last through a ton of that kind of treatment - or at least the zipper pull might not! But as long as your zipper is well-cared for, you may never run into this potential problem.

The SoftPak has a rugged exterior and high-quality stitching  similar to those of competing YETI models.
The SoftPak has a rugged exterior and high-quality stitching, similar to those of competing YETI models.

Value


The SoftPak 20 offers a lot of value if you don't want to pay the triple-digit premium that coolers often carry these days. RTIC coolers are also known for wildly fluctuating in price, sometimes making you say "It's how much???" in a really good way. Though this cooler isn't the absolute best cooler money can buy, we think that what it brings to the table is a shockingly good value for what you get.

Conclusion


The RTIC SoftPak 20 is a great alternative to some of those expensive competitors, though it does have a couple of shortcomings in terms of insulation performance and zipper design. If you want something durable that can live in the back of your truck or car, this is a relatively inexpensive option.

Walk away with a deal on a nice cooler with the SoftPak 20.
Walk away with a deal on a nice cooler with the SoftPak 20.


Maggie Brandenburg