Coolers used to be that simple, you either had one or you didn’t, and it was basically a thick and wide box-type bag for your food. We don’t know the day or the reason, but the market and demands for soft insulated cooler bag just exploded in the last years. Today, you have the option and choice of spending hundreds of dollars on a giant plastic box with handles or something that resembles your child’s school lunch box. The unsubstantial number and price! of cooler options and variety currently available can be overwhelming.
Most of them claim to be the next best thing, but how do you know which one you really need? There is a sea of options and variety when it comes to a soft cooler. What kind of features do you want it to have? How long will you be using it for? These are the questions on a soft insulated cooler bag you must ask yourself. I wrote this article hoping to help you to understand what to look for when buying a soft cooler. We will look at the differences between some soft coolers to help you find the one that suits your needs.
Choosing a Soft Insulated Cooler Bag:
There are a few questions you should ask yourself before buying a soft cooler, like:
- What type of cooler should I have?
- Food vs. Drinks
- Places I’ll Visit
What type of cooler do you need?
A model that keeps your lunch cold is very different from the model you might want to keep on a road trip. Considering what you plan to use your cooler for will help you take the first step toward selecting your new favourite cooler. There are three main types of coolers:
These soft, often bag-like coolers are ideal when portability is your main concern. The soft coolers range from small enough to hold your lunch for the day to large enough to handle 1-4 people’s meals for an overnight trip. They come in many different shapes, sizes, and styles, from handhelds to messenger bags to backpacks. Some can even be rolled up and hidden when you’re not using them. Although some companies claim their products have the best insulation, it is not always the case.
Soft coolers are an excellent choice for snacks and drinks on the beach, beer for barbecues, or picnics in the park. They can also be a great option for short road trips and for bringing ice cream back home during the summer (from the store). If this sounds like what you want for a cooler, then, there is a lot of choice.
Classic and traditional hard-sided coolers usually are the best at keeping your stuff cold for longer periods, but for those people who don’t need a week’s worth of cold food and drinks, a soft-sided cooler is a great option. Compared to hard models, soft coolers are significantly lighter, easier to carry, and often save you decent amount of cash. From waterproof options to packable designs that collapse for easy storage, soft coolers are the best.
Food vs drink
Food safety in the outdoors is a significant concern. Nothing will ruin your good time faster than food poisoning, which is where the right cooler comes into play. According to the FDA, raw meat, eggs, dairy products, and lots of other products should be kept at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
At home, it’s easy with your fridge. When moving away from home, it then becomes more challenging to keep your ice properly. The freezing point is at 32º F, giving you a narrow window of acceptable temperatures on a hot day. Once melted, the water from your ice quickly warms up well above 32 degree F., potentially ruining your food.
Since soft coolers are ideal for a day trip where portability matters more, knowing that the ice in your cooler won’t last more than 24 hours. Soft coolers are unlikely to be a solution for the 3-sausage breakfast on the day of your camping trip but are more likely to be your go-to choice for cold beverages at the tailgate, park or at the beach. Whatever your beverage of choice, soft coolers are a great portable option.
Places you will go
While it is important that your cooler keeps your refreshments well chilled, the main benefit of owning a soft cooler is its superior portability as compared to all other types of coolers. When reading this next section, have an idea of where you want to go with your cooler to figure out which type will suit you the best.
Messenger bag cooler
Like a traditional messenger bag, these models have a large strap that you can throw over your shoulder for carrying wherever you want to go. Most of them also have extra handles to carry them, such as suitcase style. They tend to be the largest soft coolers with the greatest capacity and exterior dimensions. This additional size and capacity mean that these coolers can be loaded to supply more people. However, this also makes them some of the least portable soft coolers out there.
These large messenger bag style coolers are the perfect choice for tailgating, carrying to the beach or park, for boat days, road-tripping, and generally for supplying more stuff to more people over a shorter distance or a shorter amount of time (24-36 hours).
Typically, it is a one person size cooler, lunchbox coolers are much smaller than most other soft coolers. Usually carried easily in one hand or even on your shoulder like a purse, these mini ice chests are lightweight and easy to carry with you. While some may keep raw hamburgers fresh longer than you might think, they are best used as a lunch cooler for one person’s daily caloric intake or perhaps as a transportation method for a couple.
The most portable cooler, the Backpack Cooler, really changes the game where you can take your food and enjoy your drink. These backpack coolers have the best portability over all others. Most have thinner, less impressive insulation but can keep your stuff chilled all day long while you are walking around in the hot outdoors.
As a backpack, these coolers can hold a fair amount of food and drinks for a picnic just for you or for a few friends. The straps and padded area of this stylish cooler make them the most comfortable to carry over a long distance, even when fully loaded. Some even have extra pockets for bringing non-food items, like some essential items for hiking or a book to read.
Beyond the insulation value and portability of your cooler, you want one that is easy to use. Some zippered coolers come with an impressive performance but require zip lubricant to function properly after a while. If you’re getting a cooler with a zipper, I recommend having some lubricant on hand as it might be useful after a while.
For best results, apply a very small amount of lubricant on the zipper once in a while, or you can simply use wax by rubbing a candle on the zipper, both ways will make your zipper happier. Opening and closing your cooler is obviously often repeated, so choose an option you’ll be happy with, whether it’s a slit zipper with an end clip, an open-top zipper that flips back.
If being able to carry more than just food and cold drinks is important to you, then you should get a cooler with extra pockets. Some coolers have accessory pockets that you can easily stuff extra stuff in (like cutlery or a book), some have smaller pockets that can hold wine keys and trash, and others have no extra pockets. The best way to find the proper cooler is to think about what we will use it for, for how many people, for where, extra pockets or not, etc… and this before to buy it.
If you are looking for more tutorials, walkthroughs and troubleshooting about camping and enjoying the outdoors, here are some additional posts to check out:
Choosing a soft cooler can be a little challenging at first, if you follow the above-mentioned points, then, it will be easier to find the cooler that will suit you needs. To make it easier for you, I produced a list of the best soft coolers on the market, and you can read my article to help you choose your soft cooler.: 6 Best Rated Soft Coolers for Your Next Outdoor Adventures But For Now….Be Safe and Have Fun.!