Reviews You Can Rely On

RTIC SoftPak 20 Review

It looks impressive but it doesn't quite live up to that expectation
RTIC SoftPak 20
Photo: RTIC
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $100 List | $109.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Waterproof construction, good straps, watertight seal
Cons:  Decent insulation, awkward shape, durability concerns
Manufacturer:   RTIC
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 30, 2020
  • Share this article:
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
54
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 15
  • Insulation Value - 30% 5
  • Ease of Use - 25% 5
  • Portability - 25% 5
  • Durability - 20% 7

Our Verdict

While RTIC has a reputation for offering excellent products at a lower cost than many other big names out there, the SoftPak 20 didn't blow us away. It does offer watertight construction and a reasonable compromise of capacity to portability. Its stiff waterproof zipper comes with lubricant for regular maintenance. We expected better insulation performance than what it actually offers. And though it appears to have nearly "bombproof" construction, it also has some serious flaws that appear after repeated use in hot summer weather. It's not a bad cooler, but the market of soft coolers has become much more competitive and the SoftPak doesn't stand out the way it once did.

Compare to Similar Products

 
RTIC SoftPak 20
This Product
RTIC SoftPak 20
Awards  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award  
Price $100 List
$109.95 at Amazon
$114.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$100 List
$103.99 at Amazon
$79 List
$85.95 at Amazon
$80 List
$79.95 at REI
Overall Score Sort Icon
54
76
72
68
67
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Waterproof construction, good straps, watertight sealDurable design, comfortable to carry when full, good capacity, relatively inexpensiveWatertight fabric and zipper, good insulation value, great size to capacity ratio, convenient top handle, great valueSimple and easy to use, decent insulation, folds flat for storage, duffel handlesComfortable to carry, convenient design, good features, tons of dry storage
Cons Decent insulation, awkward shape, durability concernsLearning curve for best use, not 100% leakproof, no extra pocketsNo external storage options, plastic D rings twist, doesn't come with zipper lubricantShoulder strap a little short, zipper and exterior fabric are not waterproof, less durable materialsZipper not leakproof, thin insulation, less durable, loose sternum strap
Bottom Line It looks impressive but it doesn't quite live up to that expectationThis backpack-style cooler is our favorite model to carry over longer distancesA watertight cooler that's convenient to use, with above-average insulation for a below-average priceA 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 pack
Rating Categories RTIC SoftPak 20 IceMule Pro Igloo Reactor Porta... AO Coolers 24 Pack... REI Co-op Cool Trai...
Insulation Value (30%)
5.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
4.0
Ease Of Use (25%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
Portability (25%)
5.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
9.0
Durability (20%)
7.0
6.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
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
23" max
9.5" 11" fully closed
12.5" max
11" flex
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
Removable Liner? No No No No No

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.

Performance Comparison


In the growing realm of coolers, the SoftPak is no longer as...
In the growing realm of coolers, the SoftPak is no longer as impressive as it once was.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Insulation Value


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.

Comparing results during insulation testing of models 20L and...
Comparing results during insulation testing of models 20L and smaller. The REI Pack Away 24 fits in this group because we tested it in its most convenient configuration -- a cube -- which we measured just under 20L.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

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.

Despite its looks, the insulation performance of this cooler isn't...
Despite its looks, the insulation performance of this cooler isn't particularly impressive. And its dark colors don't do it any favors in the sun.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

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.

We never love the extra force required to use watertight zippers...
We never love the extra force required to use watertight zippers, but we found this one gets better after using the zipper lubricant. These T-shaped grips also help.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Portability


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.

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

Durability


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.

Though it appears well-constructed at first, there are an excessive...
Though it appears well-constructed at first, there are an excessive number of seams glued all over this cooler. We didn't have any issues with this cooler, but we've seen glued seams on soft coolers fail over time.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

Though it's proved to be less impressive than we'd expected, there's...
Though it's proved to be less impressive than we'd expected, there's still something to love about the SoftPak.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More