How to Choose a Soft Cooler

Enjoy the Homitt wherever you go!
Article By:
Maggie Brandenburg
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
June 5, 2018

Soft coolers are a great way to bring along your favorite beer without it getting warm, a good cheese or delicious chocolate without it melting, or keep meat cold for a weekend of camping. While soft coolers used to be more of a niche market, they're becoming more prevalent these days with more excellent options out there that can keep your refreshments chilled just as well as some hard coolers! These soft coolers can also be more portable than hard coolers and easier to pack into your minivan. But with the recent influx of options on the market and the insanely wide price range, it can be challenging to figure out which cooler is the best for your purposes. While in years past, a higher price tag has been a reasonably good indicator of the quality of cooler you're getting for your money, it's no longer that simple. Have no fear though; we're here to help!

The Ice Mule kept testers beers frosty even on long hikes in the sun.
The Ice Mule kept testers beers frosty even on long hikes in the sun.

Which Cooler is Coolest?


While we could talk about all the different types of carrying methods, fasteners, materials used, and all that jazz found in today's soft coolers, what matters most is how it works. We tested each of these coolers to their limits and rated them based on their insulation value (most important), ease of use, durability, and portability. You can read more about how we tested each cooler and a full overview of which ones performed best in each category in other sections of this review.

The top scoring coolers for insulation value are our Editors' Choice, Engel HD30, and Best Buy award winner, the Homitt 30 Cans. Both of these models outcompeted the two models we tested from the well-known, high-end outdoor cooler giant, Yeti. During testing, these coolers were the easiest to use, while the most durable were the Yeti Hopper Two 30 and Engel HD30. And the winner of the most portable model we tested was the Ice Mule Pro, a backpack-style cooler that took home our Top Pick award.

Despite being one of the largest soft coolers we tested  the Engel HD30 has a surprisingly comfortable shoulder strap.
Despite being one of the largest soft coolers we tested, the Engel HD30 has a surprisingly comfortable shoulder strap.

But what you really want to know is…

Which is the Best Value?


While you could just walk into any outdoor recreation shop or even grocery store and snag a cheap soft cooler, if you're reading this review, you're probably seeking something more. But is it worth it to shell out hundreds of dollars on a soft cooler? Well, it depends, but you might not have to! We found some excellent cooler options that are much less expensive than you may think.

The Homitt 30 was the best value of all the models we tested, which is why we awarded it our Best Buy award. This cooler not only scored one of the highest overall scores in this review, but it retails for around $100. Compared to the Yeti Hopper Flip 12, with which it tied scores, the Homitt costs about a third the price, and holds over three times the amount of food and beverages! The visually similar, RTIC SoftPak costs slightly more, yet scored significantly lower in our side-by-side testing. The previous Best Buy winner, the Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack is slightly cheaper, but also scored even lower than the RTIC! Yes, the Homitt 30 is our absolute top choice for getting the most out of your money.

Carrying the Yeti Hopper 30 could be a bit cumbersome  not made for long distance.
Carrying the Yeti Hopper 30 could be a bit cumbersome, not made for long distance.

But if you're looking to settle for nothing but the best, then we think you'll be happy with the value of the Editors' Choice Engel HD30. Not only did this cooler beat out all the rest, including dethroning the Yeti Hopper Two 30 from its previous spot as our Editors' Choice, it's also much cheaper! While the Yeti retails around $300, the better-ranked Engel is $200! We realize that's still a large chunk of change for a cooler, but the insulation value and durability of the Engel are seriously impressive, and it's the largest soft cooler we tested, meaning you can bring snacks for all your friends to the beach or even keep a whole weekend's worth of barbecuing meat chilled until it's time to eat!

With several well-performing and reasonably affordable soft cooler models, perhaps now is the time that you'll feel prepared enough to finally take the plunge and leave the old chest cooler in the basement with the other relics of days past. We found lots to love about the soft coolers available on today's market, and we hope that this review has been helpful for you to find one too!

Having a soft cooler is a versatile way to keep your cold things cold without sacrificing as much portability as most hard coolers.
Having a soft cooler is a versatile way to keep your cold things cold without sacrificing as much portability as most hard coolers.




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