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The Best Small Soft-Sided Cooler

Last updated on December 3, 2019

We looked at the top 10 Small Soft-Sided Coolers and dug through the reviews from 148 of the most popular review sites including 10 Best Product, iPerfect List, Products Browser, Kitchenistic, Guy Stop Travel, The Cooler Zone and more. The result is a ranking of the best Small Soft-Sided Coolers.

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Our Picks For The Top Small Soft-Sided Coolers

Show Contents
Our Take
Experts Included
Pros
Cons
  The Best Overall

Coleman

9-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner

Overall Take

Small Cooler with Useful PocketsThe Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner is a small cooler with a thoughtful design that will not disappoint.

Experts Included
DWYM Outdoor and Garden Experts plus The Cooler Zone, Dotbeasts, Kitchenistic, Popular Mechanics, Riz Knows, Alterestimate and 12 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon and Walmart.
Pros
" Probably our favorite feature is on the models with the removable plastic liner. This plastic liner provides essential rigidity but can also be a burden when you are simply trying to find somewhere to store your Coleman Soft Cooler...."
Cons
"The Coleman 9-Can Cooler doesn’t come with a warranty."

CleverMade

Collapsible Cooler Bag

Overall Take

Large Collapsible Soft CoolerThe CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag is large enough to hold a lot of cold groceries or beverages and it collapses when not in use.

Experts Included
DWYM Outdoor and Garden Experts plus BestReviews, Cooler List, Business Insider, Globo Turf, Coolers Junkie, Gear Diary and 32 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon and Target.
Pros
" Leak proof so you can add ice without worries. Includes side and top handles as well as the bottle opener."
Cons
"Single day ice retention"

AO Coolers

Soft Cooler

Overall Take

Durable 24-Can Soft CoolerThe AO Coolers Soft Cooler can hold 24 cans and has a rugged construction that will hold up to a lot of abuse.

Experts Included
DWYM Outdoor and Garden Experts plus Travel Gear Zone, BestReviews, The Cooler Zone, Coolers On Sale, Coolers World, Fishing Picks and 7 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" The cooler is made from a durable soft canvas material that stands up to all the travels."
Cons
"A few users feel the shape is awkward. Occasional reports of quality issues with zipper and lining."
  The Best Value

Coleman

16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner

Overall Take

Medium Sized Soft CoolerThe Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner is a great size and was built to be useful and easy to clean.

Experts Included
DWYM Outdoor and Garden Experts plus Outdoor Gear Lab, The Cooler Zone, Coolers Junkie, SOutdoors, Heavy, Coolers On Sale and 26 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon, Walmart and Home Depot.
Pros
" The Coleman does have one thing going for it: it is exceptionally portable. If you are moving small foodstuffs or a few beverages around, it is easy to grab this thing and go."
Cons
"The main disadvantage to the Coleman is that it is small. That means that it can only carry so much before it starts to burst. It may not be best for a group that is spending time outside."
Don't just take for granted what one reviewer says. Along with our own experts, DWYM analyzes the top expert reviews of the leading products and generates a score you can actually trust.
17

Products Considered

We identified the majority of the small soft-sided coolers available to purchase.
10

Products Analyzed

We then selected the leading and most popular products for our team to review.

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148

Expert Reviews Included

In addition to our expert reviews, we also incorporate feedback and analysis of some of the most respected sources including: 10 Best Product, iPerfect List, Products Browser, Kitchenistic, Guy Stop Travel.

34,860

User Opinions Analyzed

We also incorporate user reviews from the leading retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Target, Home Depot and 5 others.

Our experts reviewed the top 10 Small Soft-Sided Coolers and also dug through the reviews from 148 of the most popular review sites including 10 Best Product, iPerfect List, Products Browser, Kitchenistic, Guy Stop Travel, The Cooler Zone and more. The result is a ranking of the best of the best Small Soft-Sided Coolers.

DWYM is your trusted roduct review source. Our team reviews thousands of product reviews from the trusted top experts and combines them into one easy-to-understand score. Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in their category.

The Best Overall

Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner

Our Expert Score
9.6
18 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
8.8
3,269 user reviews
Our Take

We like the addition of an exterior zippered pocket on the Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner for carrying items like your keys, wallet or sunscreen. The removable liner is easy to clean and the shoulder strap frees up your hands while you're using it. During our testing, we liked the nice green color and the manageable size. We also found the bungee straps to be handy.

What other experts liked
Probably our favorite feature is on the models with the removable plastic liner. This plastic liner provides essential rigidity but can also be a burden when you are simply trying to find somewhere to store your Coleman Soft Cooler....
- The Cooler Zone
Just like its big bros, this soft cooler has a detachable antimicrobial liner. This helps in repelling odor accumulation, molds, and fungi. This makes it easy to wash and clean those nooks and crannies.
- Dotbeasts
The soft liner features an antimicrobial lining to keep your food safe and is even removed, making it all the easier to clean, after use.
- Kitchenistic
It features numerous pockets inside and out as well as anti-microbial material to resist odor, mold, and mildew.
- Popular Mechanics
This cooler, both with and without the hard lining, is big enough to store an adult-sized lunch. It fits at least two or more plastic containers, and more than two sandwich bags. The concave nature of the top of the...
- Reviewed
What’s a little different about the Coleman series though is that the actual insulation portion of the cooler is removable – the coolers come equipped with a hard, antimicrobial plastic liner. This gives you a little flexibility in case you...
- Riz Knows
The cooler comes with a soft outer liner that is flexible and compressible for storage purpose. The three external pockets give you extra space to keep any essentials you want to carry with you.
- Alterestimate
Because the plastic liner is removable, this lunch box was easier to clean than all the other insulated boxes we tested.
- New York Times Wirecutter
As the name suggests, the outer cover is made using soft canvas material which means that you don’t have to worry about rust. Cleaning the base is a breeze as well, and the rubber grip gives you ultimate control over...
- Portable Beasts
The removable hard liner makes it more versatile and easy to clean.
- Shed Heads
With a hard plastic “tub” style liner, good pockets and all the other features we looked for in a basic bag, the Coleman – 9-Can Soft Cooler represents an amazing value at around 14 dollars.
- Your Best Digs
The liner is removable, making it easy to clean; and FDA approved, meaning it is safe to hold food. The cooler is made from materials that resist odor and mold and comes in four different colors.
- Live Once Live Wild
The shoulder straps are made to feel soft as you carry it, and you can adjust the length to suit your preferences. The permanent PEVA liner is soft and easy to clean, which means that a user doesn’t have to...
- CTOP Reviews
It has bungee straps on top that can hold a 2-liter bottle. The shoulder strap is adjustable so it can also work as a handle.
- Ice Maker Pro
Coleman is known for their camping gear… that is to say their stuff is known to be tough and this bag lives up to their reputation. It’s hard to see how anyone could manage to kill this bag short of...
- Homethods
Made from high-quality material and is FDA approved which makes it safe to use with direct contact with food. Its material is also soft and comes with an adjustable strap which ensures comfort and performance when carrying the bag.
- Top Best 10 Reviews
Carrying it is easy as it is a compact shoulder bag style cooler equipped with adjustable shoulder straps. This is a nicely put together cooler bag with strong zippers, heat-welded seams, and sturdy straps. The plastic liner comes out easily,...
- Globo Turf
The material is resistant to mildew and mold as it is treated with a special antimicrobial material.
- 10 Best Product
What other experts didn't like
Air easily escapes, exaggeration on how much you can actually store.
- The Cooler Zone
This cooler is probably too big to be packed inside a backpack; it’s meant to be carried by its short, padded carrying strap.
- Reviewed
The Coleman 9-Can Cooler doesn’t come with a warranty.
- New York Times Wirecutter
Ice Retention: Poor. This cooler is not intended for holding large quantities of ice.
- Shed Heads
With only one large compartment, you need to decide if you want everything warm or ice-cold. Even in a small insulated bag, though, most hot food will cool quickly: unless you’re carrying soup in a vacuum-sealed container, keeping a hot...
- Your Best Digs
Lack of internal organization.
- Homethods
Crooked lining under the plastic shell.
- Top Best 10 Reviews
But if you are intending to put more things inside, you are better off with a larger bag with more space.
- 10 Best Product

The Best Bang For Your Buck

Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner

Our Expert Score
8.2
32 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.0
2,029 user reviews
Our Take

The larger capacity of the Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner makes it useful for storing food and drinks for a few people. We love how handy the bungee straps and extra pockets are for carrying other dry items as well.

What other experts liked
The Coleman does have one thing going for it: it is exceptionally portable. If you are moving small foodstuffs or a few beverages around, it is easy to grab this thing and go.
- Outdoor Gear Lab
Probably our favorite feature is on the models with the removable plastic liner. This plastic liner provides essential rigidity but can also be a burden when you are simply trying to find somewhere to store your Coleman Soft Cooler. Having the flexibility to do either is a nice...
- The Cooler Zone
Its portability is accompanied by a PEVA soft liner that makes room for flexibility, and holds up to 16 cans. You’ll be happy to know – the internal lining is resistant to odour and mildew. This also makes washing the cooler a breeze, with a single wash all the stains...
- Coolers Junkie
A hard plastic liner that is treated to protect against mold and smells protects the inside. The liner is FDA approved for contact with food, and is removable for cleaning purposes.
- SOutdoors
The liner material is FDA approved for food contact and is removable for easy cleaning. The Soft Cooler provides antimicrobial protection, to resist odours, mould, and mildew. Thanks with antimicrobials to resist odour, mould, mildew, and fungus from forming on the removable liner that offers packing flexibility and easy cleaning.
- ReasonBuy
There is a removable hard-bodied liner that cleans up super easily, a nice array of exterior and interior pockets and bungeed storage. There’s not a ton of capacity with this one, but Coleman has sure made the most of the space!
- Heavy
This hard plastic liner resists odors due to the fact that it is antimicrobial. It will resist mold and mildew that can sometimes be a major problem in a soft cooler. It also has a double zipper on its lid, a zippered front pocket, mesh pockets on the side, and...
- Coolers On Sale
Just like its big bros, this soft cooler has a detachable antimicrobial liner. This helps in repelling odor accumulation, molds, and fungi. This makes it easy to wash and clean those nooks and crannies.
- Dotbeasts
Durable and well made. Ideal made for travel.
- BestReviews
There’s a hard lining in the inside of the cooler that can be removed if you need it to be, like if you’re traveling and need your soft sided cooler to be flexible. This gives you the option to turn your soft cooler into a hard cooler! Both the hard...
- Globo Turf
Treated liner. The liner of the Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler is treated with antimicrobials that resist all types of germs, mildew, mold and fungus.
- Active Weekender
A good thing about using this model is that it’s highly portable. The cooler bag is collapsible, so you can store it inside a normal-sized suitcase when you travel. When you want to use the cooler bag, you’ll be able to carry it with ease thanks to its adjustable shoulder...
- Cooler List
Its outside is very soft, which makes it very comfortable for you when carrying it around. Its inside is created with a hard plastic liner that keeps your food safe. The plastic liner material is approved by the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for food contact. You can remove...
- Cruising Sea
There is a hard plastic liner that can be used when packing the interior with ice. The main compartment is well insulated and offers a great length of keeping cold and holding ice. The exterior is durable and does not leak.
- Guy Stop Travel
Its easy to clean.
- Shed Heads
Our pick for the best-rated cooler on Amazon is a soft-sided, easy-lugging, Coleman that hundreds of reviewers use as a lunchbox. “I bought this for the purpose of a lunch box and cooler to bring by the pool [or] go fishing. It’s perfect for both,” says one satisfied customer.
- New York Mag
Extra zipper pockets to utilize extra space inside and out, with top bungee cord for securing extra bottled-drink
- Beckworth & Co
One convenient feature of this model is that it has a removable hard plastic liner you can either leave in or take out depending on your packing needs. And since you’ll most likely need to carry the cooler and its contents, it also has a handy adjustable shoulder strap.
- The Lake And Stars
What’s a little different about the Coleman series though is that the actual insulation portion of the cooler is removable – the coolers come equipped with a hard, antimicrobial plastic liner. This gives you a little flexibility in case you just want to use the bag more for carrying/storage purposes...
- Riz Knows
The shoulder strap helps you carry the bag with ease, which is great when it is too heavy for your hands to hold. Lastly, we like the seams that are heat-welded to prevent any leakage.
- 10 Best Product
Adjustable strap is comfortable.
- Hombre Golf Club
We love that it comes with a hard container on the inside if you need a bit more structure and support for fragile items, but it’s easily removable if you want the soft sides for flexibility.
- Trip Savvy
The cooler helps to keep everything very nice and cold out for most weeks. This is often a great cooler if you find yourself worried about major occasions like hurricanes or simply a camping trip that is really long.
- AppBodia
We like it is made with FDA approved material and provides antimicrobial protection against mold, mildew, and odors.
- Top Ten Review Pro
One of the best features of the Coleman soft cooler is the adjustable shoulder straps that make it very easy to carry.
- Med Cruise Guide
An adjustable shoulder strap makes this cooler comfortable to carry for long periods even when fully loaded
- Idea Hacks
The interior has a germ-resistant liner that is treated with antimicrobial to avoid any mildew, mold formation and bad odor.
- Trustorereview
This cooler comes with a hard liner, which you can use with ice, just like you would do with a traditional cooler. You can, however, remove the hard liner and use the soft liner instead.
- Best Cooler
The PEVA soft liner is flexible and easy to clean making it the perfect soft sided cooler option.
- Cooler Critic
There is a roomy compartment inside for holding 16 cans, and the zippered pocket on the front lets you organize smaller things. We also like the side mesh pockets – two of them – that offers extra storage.
- TenBestProduct
Since you may get the soft lining wet, Coleman has added an antimicrobial treatment. This prevents mold, mildew, and odors from collecting in the soft fabric. While you should use the hard liner with ice, the soft liner is heat-sealed to prevent any leaks.
- Wilderness Today
The liner is completely removable in the event you spill something and need to clean it up later or when you want to add ice. Plus, you have other storage areas to work with including the front zippered section and two extra mesh pockets.
- Coolest Gadgets
What other experts didn't like
Regarding durability, the Coleman 16-Can is another "you get what you pay for" situation. It has a light nylon canvas exterior and a plastic liner. It seems to be only a matter of time before the liner breaks or a tear in the canvas would develop. While it should be...
- Outdoor Gear Lab
The main disadvantage to the Coleman is that it is small. That means that it can only carry so much before it starts to burst. It may not be best for a group that is spending time outside.
- SOutdoors
The strapping is not ideal for carrying heavier loads.
- Heavy
Occasional issues with interior hard liner cracking.
- BestReviews
May Tear. When packed too heavily, the Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler has been known to rip at times from the seams.
- Active Weekender
Not Very Versatile – Unlike the backpack coolers you can hold without using your arms, portable cooler bags will most often block you from using one of your arms at maximum capacity. This can be a disadvantage when you travel or when you have more luggage to carry.
- Cooler List
Low insulation capacity.
- Cruising Sea
Space is a little tight.
- Guy Stop Travel
Will only fit 16 cans with ice filling in the spaces, tight squeeze with an ice-pack.
- Shed Heads
Stitching around the top of the cooler where the zipper is secured is loose and wide.
- Beckworth & Co
The only thing about this cooler is it lacks depth, so you will not be able to put so many items inside. For instance, if you want to pack your food container, you will have to remove the liner just to make it fit.
- 10 Best Product
Does not keep contents cold by itselt.
- Hombre Golf Club
The insulation could be better.
- Top Ten Review Pro
Not as big as you might expect, can’t fit 16 cans with ice.
- Idea Hacks
Insulation could be improved for prolonged cooling.
- Trustorereview

Overall Product Rankings

1. Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner

Overall Score: 9.5
Reviews Included: 22

2. CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag

Overall Score: 9.2
Reviews Included: 41

3. AO Coolers Soft Cooler

Overall Score: 9.1
Reviews Included: 14

4. Lifewit Large Lunch Bag Soft Cooler

Overall Score: 9.0
Reviews Included: 5

5. MIER 24-Can Soft Cooler

Overall Score: 9.0
Reviews Included: 10

6. YETI Portable Cooler

Overall Score: 8.9
Reviews Included: 12

7. Coleman Soft Cooler, 30 can

Overall Score: 8.9
Reviews Included: 19

8. MIER Large Soft Cooler

Overall Score: 8.7
Reviews Included: 9

9. Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner

Overall Score: 8.5
Reviews Included: 37

10. Thermos Under Armour 24-Can Soft Cooler

Overall Score: 8.2
Reviews Included: 4

Our Findings

Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner

Best Overall

Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner, Green (Sports)


List Price: $16.99 USD
New From: $11.58 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

What We Liked: We like the addition of an exterior zippered pocket on the Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner for carrying items like your keys, wallet or sunscreen. The removable liner is easy to clean and the shoulder strap frees up your hands while you’re using it. During our testing, we liked the nice green color and the manageable size. We also found the bungee straps to be handy.

Simplemost Media

Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner

Best Value

Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner, Red (Sports)


List Price: $18.99 USD
New From: $21.91 USD In Stock
Used from: $21.79 USD In Stock

What We Liked: The larger capacity of the Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner makes it useful for storing food and drinks for a few people. We love how handy the bungee straps and extra pockets are for carrying other dry items as well.

Simplemost Media

CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag

What We Liked: The CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag is fantastic for toting large quantities of food for a picnic or to bring back from the grocery store. The cooler can collapse so it doesn’t take up much space when it’s not in use. During our testing, we liked this cooler’s external mesh pocket, zipper pocket and snap hinges.

Simplemost Media

CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag

What We Liked: The CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag is fantastic for toting large quantities of food for a picnic or to bring back from the grocery store. The cooler can collapse so it doesn’t take up much space when it’s not in use. During our testing, we liked this cooler’s external mesh pocket, zipper pocket and snap hinges.

Simplemost Media

Our Small Soft-Sided Cooler Buying Guide

Soft coolers need to keep cold things cold, they need to be easy to use and durable as well. Some small soft coolers might be able to collapse for storage or traveling and it always helps if they have an aesthetically pleasing design since you might have one sitting next to you as you peer out over some otherwise beautiful views. Soft coolers offer plenty of advantages over hard coolers and if you’re in the market for a cooler to hold your cold drinks and food while you’re on the go, a soft cooler might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Simplemost Media

A soft cooler is usually made from a durable fabric material with flexible insulation on all the sides that give the entire cooler enough flexibility to fit into weird shapes that aren’t exactly square. This flexibility allows them to be packed in with other gear more easily than similarly-sized hard coolers. This construction style means there are seams at the edges though and those seams can be prone to leaking if the cooler isn’t designed to account for that. A cooler that is soft and still leak-proof needs to have some kind of inner lining that is waterproof like on the Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner. An added benefit of having a liner that’s removable is the ability to take it out and thoroughly wash it after you inevitably spill something inside of it.

Soft coolers range in size quite drastically and they are often categorized by how many standard 12-oz cans they can hold. A small soft cooler can sometimes hold 6 or 9 cans and will have an incorporated handle to grab with one hand while walking out the door. These smaller coolers are great for times when you might want a few drinks while you’re out doing something like bird-watching or sitting on the beach, or they can be used as insulated lunch boxes for the frugal and health-minded meal prepper.

Simplemost Media

While the internal liner on soft coolers will keep the ice from soaking into the fabric of the cooler, we might sometimes find ourselves in a situation where the outside of the cooler is getting wet the outer material is absorbing all that unwanted water. If you see yourself using this soft cooler while you’re fishing or kayaking, or even if you know you’ll have it out in the rain or snow every once in a while, you might want to look into waterproof coolers. These waterproof coolers will be coated in some kind of vinyl material that is entirely waterproof and the hardware and zipper will be waterproof as well.

A shoulder strap is one accessory that can be a game-changer if you’re concerned with the weight of a completely full cooler. Once you add ice and fill the cooler with drinks or food, it can become pretty heavy. A padded shoulder strap distributes that weight in a place that allows you to carry it more comfortably and it also frees up your hand so you can have more dexterity while carrying the cooler. A common size for a soft cooler is one that can hold a case of 24 cans, like the AO Coolers Soft Cooler, and having the added shoulder strap means that this cooler won’t be such a burden when you are carrying it from your car to your campsite.

Simplemost Media

A soft cooler has a lot of useful functions on its own merit, but sometimes a cooler can be the only thing you take with you when you go somewhere like the beach. To add more utility to the outside of their soft coolers, some companies add bungee straps to the outside so you can conveniently stuff a wind-breaker or a towel in to take with you to your destination. Some designs like on the Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner even have exterior zippered pockets that you can toss your keys or wallet into and know that they will stay securely in place. These small coolers are a great carry-all for those who think they want that benefit, so it’s good to keep in mind when you’re searching for one.

The last major spec to look for in a soft cooler is how much insulation it offers. A thinner cooler will be a little bit easier to break down for flat storage, but it might only keep your ice solid for half a day or so. Generally, the thicker the insulation on a soft cooler is, the longer it will keep your cold items cold. If you are using one for an activity that lasts for just a portion of one day, you can get away with the thinner coolers on the market. If you’re hoping to go camping for the weekend and want to keep your food and drinks cold for a couple of days, you will really want to lean towards finding a thicker cooler that is rated for keeping things cold that long. These thicker coolers are a bit bulkier than the thinner soft coolers, but they still pack into your trunk with a lot more flexibility than a hard cooler while often keeping ice for just as long.

DWYM Fun Fact

On a hot summer day, the temperature in the direct sunlight can feel like it’s hotter than the temperature in a shaded area. The fact is that the temperature is the same in both places, but the fact that it feels hotter in the direct sunlight is due to a phenomenon called solar radiation. The direct sunlight heats your clothes and skin which makes you feel hotter. The solar radiation heats your cooler as well, if it’s in direct sunlight, effectively increasing the temperature of the outer material of the cooler which will then try to work its way into the cold contents inside.

The Small Soft-Sided Cooler Tips and Advice

  • Keep your cooler out of direct sunlight if at all possible. This not only helps the contents of the cooler stay colder for a longer time, but it also helps the fabric or material on the outside of the cooler retain its original color and strength since direct sunlight will slowly erode the finish over time.
  • Put your cans in the cooler before your ice. Heat rises, so placing warm beverages on the bottom of the cooler with ice on top of them is the most efficient way to chill the drinks

About The Author

Avatar
Russell Hinkle 

Russell Hinkle is a writer and engineer based in Longmont, Colorado. He has worked professionally in a capacity of facility and farm management, including oversight and application of gardening for aesthetics as well as food growth. He enjoys finding unique and creative DIY solutions to home improvement and landscaping. His wealth of knowledge in the home and garden area allows him to make critical reviews and decisions with confidence that only comes with years of experience.