RTIC SoftPak 20 Review
Cons: Decent insulation, awkward shape, durability concerns
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RTIC SoftPak 20
|Price||$100 List||$129.95 at REI|
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|$100 List||$86 List|
$85.95 at Amazon
Check Price at REI
|Pros||Waterproof construction, good straps, watertight seal||Durable design, comfortable to carry when full, good capacity, relatively inexpensive||Watertight fabric and zipper, good insulation value, great size to capacity ratio, convenient top handle, great value||Simple and easy to use, decent insulation, folds flat for storage, duffel handles||Comfortable to carry, convenient design, good features, tons of dry storage|
|Cons||Decent insulation, awkward shape, durability concerns||Learning curve for best use, not 100% leakproof, no extra pockets||No external storage options, plastic D rings twist, doesn't come with zipper lubricant||Shoulder strap a little short, zipper and exterior fabric are not waterproof, less durable materials||Zipper not leakproof, thin insulation, less durable, loose sternum strap|
|Bottom Line||It looks impressive but it doesn't quite live up to that expectation||This backpack-style cooler is our favorite model to carry over longer distances||A watertight cooler that's convenient to use, with above-average insulation for a below-average price||A solid performer that's simple to use, easy to carry, and costs less than most||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||IceMule Pro||Igloo Reactor Porta...||AO Coolers 24 Pack...||REI Co-op Cool Trai...|
|Insulation Value (30%)|
|Ease of Use (25%)|
|Specs||RTIC SoftPak 20||IceMule Pro||Igloo Reactor Porta...||AO Coolers 24 Pack...||REI Co-op Cool Trai...|
|Measured Capacity (qt)||14 qt||25 qt||26.5 qt||24 qt||13 qt|
|Measured Capacity (cans with no ice)||24 cans||39 cans||30 cans||39 cans||16 cans|
|Carry Style||Lunchbox||Backpack||Messenger Bag||Duffel Bag||Backpack|
|Internal Maximum Height (in)||10.5"||17" fully closed
|9.5"||11" fully closed
|Fits Standard Wine Bottle Standing Upright?||No - will fit on side||Yes||No - will fit on side||Yes - some flex required, no zipper strain||Yes - some flex required, no zipper strain|
|Shelf Life of Food (Measured Hours Below 40ºF)||26 hr||52 hr||51 hr||55 hr||32 hr|
|Days of Cold Beverages (Measured Hours Below 50ºF)||48 hr||55 hr||54 hr||63 hr||37 hr|
|Measured Weight (lb)||3.0 lb||3.0 lb||3.1 lb||2.7 lb||2.4 lb|
|Exterior Fabric||Heavy duty nylon shell||Mule SkinET 1000D ripstop tarpaulin/vinyl/nylon||Unspecified water resistant polyester exterior, nylon interior||1000 x 1300D heavy duty polyester with vinyl coating||Recycled ripstop nylon outer/polyester inner|
|Closure Method||Zippered flip top, watertight zip||Roll-top||Zippered flip top, watertight zip||Zippered top||Zippered flip top, dry storage cinch and clip|
|Handles and Straps||Shoulder strap, end handles, duffel handles||Backpack straps, sternum strap||Shoulder strap, end handles, top handle||Shoulder strap, duffel handles||Backpack straps, top handle, sternum strap|
|Additional Storage||Yes; 1 small zippered exterior||No; exterior shock cord panel||No||Yes; 1 very large zippered exterior pocket||Yes; top half of pack, brain pocket, 2 mesh side pockets|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The RTIC SoftPak is a large, messenger-carry cooler with an over-the-shoulder strap and end handles. It features a watertight zipper and welded seams. It's available in several other colors and sizes both smaller and larger than the 20-can model we tested.
RTIC claims the SoftPak "keeps food and drinks colder longer" with a minimum ice retention of 2 days. However, the fine print includes stipulations for that performance that include only opening the cooler once a day and only using it in temperatures cooler than 80ºF. In our more realistic insulation testing, with warmer temperatures and day/night fluctuations, but without opening the cooler at all, it only managed 26 hours of sub-40ºF temps (the average for models we tested is just shy of 40 hours). If you're only after chilled drinks, the RTIC lasted 48 hours under 50ºF.
With 1 inch thick foam on the sides and a whopping 2 inches in the lid, we thought the SoftPak would be more impressive than it turned out to be. We're also baffled by the numerous dark to medium colors this cooler comes in, further detracting from potential insulation in the hot sun. We recommend keeping your cooler out of direct sun, but that can be a tough ask on a beach. That said, we appreciate the watertight zipper and exterior of this little cooler.
Ease of Use
As with any waterproof zipper, it's hard to open. The SoftPak comes with a stick of lubricant that does help, but will never make it as effortless as a regular zipper. Beyond that though, it's not any more or less challenging to use than the watertight zippers of other models we tested. Once it is open, the flip-top design makes it easy to load and unload. The 20 can size we tested isn't quite large enough inside to fit taller objects though - like a bottle of white wine. And if you try to force it, this "soft" cooler is rigid enough that you can easily break the zipper or bust the seams trying. The SoftPak has a single exterior zippered pocket, that's so small and thin that it's really only functional for bringing something tiny like a bottle opener and cart home your discarded bottle caps.
In terms of sheer size, the SoftPak is reasonably portable. The 20 can size we tested is a bit on the smaller side, striking an acceptable balance between capacity and carry weight. Completely empty, it weighs just 3.0 lb - on the lighter end of coolers we tested - and we measured it with a 14 quart (13.5 liters) capacity. Two end handles are straightforward to use and the shoulder strap is padded, adjustable, and long enough for crossbody wear. We're not big fans of the shape and rigidity of the RTIC for this type of carrying, however. The top and bottom edges are unpleasant if they ride against your side while you walk. To avoid that, two duffel style handles can be joined together to carry it at your side instead.
A puncture and tear-resistant heavy-duty nylon shell makes the SoftPak a rugged container. However, glued seams cover a ton of the surface of this cooler, to a degree that feels over the top. RTIC specifically says not to leave this cooler on hot surfaces, as the bottom will melt. Tons of other online users have made complaints of the bottom seams coming apart after about a year of use. We tested this cooler over several months and didn't have this issue, but most testimonies we found state their durability issues start after an entire year of use - right when the SoftPak is no longer covered by RTIC's 1-year manufacturer's warranty. Again, we did not experience this during our testing, but we read too many statements from other users to not mention it.
It's difficult to accurately state the value of the SoftPak as its price tends to fluctuate significantly at online retailers. However, its overall performance compared to most the other coolers we tested don't give us a lot of enthusiasm for recommending this product. A good sale may make it the right choice for you, but when it comes to performance, there are other coolers that we would recommend before this one.
We retested the RTIC SoftPak 18 to compare it to the massive influx of rather impressive competition. Unfortunately, it doesn't stand out from the crowd for its performance. If you really want a watertight cooler of this size and shape and you've found a great deal, it's still a decent choice. But for your money, you can also purchase better insulators, easier to carry options, and coolers with less complicated functionality.
— Maggie Nichols
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