AO Coolers High-Density Insulation Original Soft Cooler

Last updated date: May 29, 2020

DWYM Score
9.1

AO Coolers High-Density Insulation Original Soft Cooler

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We looked at the top Small Soft-Sided Coolers and dug through the reviews from some of the most popular review sites. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Small Soft-Sided Cooler you should buy.

Overall Take

Zip the top shut and fold the corners down for a low-profile look that actually removes some of the thermal inefficiencies of a wide-mouth cooler. The larger opening makes it really convenient to grab things out of the cooler and the straps and hardware are built to last through lots of use. In our analysis of 199 expert reviews, the AO Coolers AO Coolers High-Density Insulation Original Soft Cooler placed 4th when we looked at the top 14 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

Editor's Note May 29, 2020:
Checkout The Best Small Soft-Sided Cooler for a detailed review of all the top small soft-sided coolers.

Expert Summarized Score
7.7
14 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.2
1,180 user reviews
Our Favorite Video Reviews
What experts liked
The AO Canvas Series 24-Pack Soft Cooler has decent insulation, fine construction, and a flexible design similar to that of the Polar Bear at a reasonable price.
- New York Times Wirecutter
Roomy and easy to close and clean. Insulation quality is comparable to that of pricier coolers. Excellent value.
- BestReviews
It has a soft pocket to keep dry items; you’ll find it essential to stow keys, wallet and other accessories you wouldn’t want to get mixed with food and drinks.
- Coolers Junkie
The Canvas Soft Cooler from AO Coolers is guaranteed to hold ice for 24 hours in up to 120-degree weather—now that’s impressive!
- WFMY News 2
It is able to keep ice frozen for 24 hours in those high-temperature days. It does a fairly good job of keeping food and beverages cool.
- Dotbeasts
And a motorcyclist fan who apparently is riding through hell-like conditions adds, “I rode in 100-107 degree weather for a full day’s ride (8 hours or more) many times on my 3500-mile ride on my Harley and by the end of the day the ice packs were still very much frozen and my water bottles icy cold.”
- New York Mag
The AO Canvas comes in a variety of color and capacity options to suit your needs, and features a leakproof liner that keeps the cold and moisture where you want it.
- Wiki EZ Vid
Immediately, we’re gripped by the durable and secure zippers which can handle packing it to the brim, while the dural storage options offer versatility and makes it easy to separate essentials from food and drink that can wait until you hit the camp.
- In Stash
The bag is made out of a soft polyester canvas that makes it stain-resistant but soft enough to not scratch your skin when you carry it.
- Cooler List
Between the design, ease of carrying, overall strength, and ability to stay cool for a long period, this is definitely one of the best soft coolers out there.
- Guy Stop Travel
The cooler has a wide mouth zipper and an external front pocket. The pocket can be used to store small items like bottle opener and cutlery.
- Travel Gear Zone
All in all, though, we're quite happy with the insulation performance of the AO, which is better than we expected.
- Outdoor Gear Lab
The Canvas cooler uses a large mouth design to make it easy to put drinks or food in the bag without feeling like trying to get jawbreakers out of a glass jar.
- Best Cooler
What makes this cooler our pick is the 3/4-inch insulation and the durable exterior lining, whether you choose the canvas, vinyl, or woven vinyl model.
- Business Insider
What experts didn't like
With the AO, we weren’t entirely satisfied by its size, especially compared with the other 24-pack models in the test.
- New York Times Wirecutter
A few users feel the shape is awkward. Occasional reports of quality issues with zipper and lining.
- BestReviews
A number of users caution that the strap is not as strong as it could be.
- New York Mag
Quite expensive
- Guy Stop Travel
Its single-shoulder carry style with a full load is hard to enjoy for long distances.
- Outdoor Gear Lab
A small group of reviewers also found inconsistencies and loose stitches, which I'm now convinced happens with some frequency, and the basic YKK zipper also leads me to believe it doesn't quite stack up to the Yeti.
- Business Insider

From The Manufacturer

AO Coolers are the ultimate soft-sided coolers. AO Coolers are guaranteed to never leak or sweat because of the high-quality TPU liner. The inner insulation is 3/4" thick, high-density, closed cell foam. This combination creates a cooler that will hold ice for 24 hours in 120° heat. Plus the soft exterior won't scratch your gel coat or tear up any upholstery. The popular AO Canvas Cooler is the perfect companion for a day on the boat, hunting and fishing trips, your favorite sports event, a picnic, or just bringing a dish to a potluck. The amazing AO Canvas Cooler keeps things warm as well as cold. Features twice the insulation of other soft-sided coolers, removable shoulder strap, clip-down ends, a side pocket for dry items, and a leak-proof liner. Meets airplane carry-on requirements.

Overall Product Rankings

Coleman Removable Liner 16-Can Soft Cooler
1. Coleman Removable Liner 16-Can Soft Cooler
Overall Score: 9.8
Expert Reviews: 11
CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag
2. CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag
Overall Score: 9.5
Expert Reviews: 38
AO Coolers High-Density Insulation Original Soft Cooler
4. AO Coolers High-Density Insulation Original Soft Cooler
Overall Score: 9.1
Expert Reviews: 14
LUNCIA Waterproof Insulated Soft Cooler
5. LUNCIA Waterproof Insulated Soft Cooler
Overall Score: 9.0
Expert Reviews: 4
YETI Portable Cooler
6. YETI Portable Cooler
Overall Score: 8.9
Expert Reviews: 9
Coleman Soft Cooler, 30 can
7. Coleman Soft Cooler, 30 can
Overall Score: 8.9
Expert Reviews: 16
Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner
8. Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner
Overall Score: 8.9
Expert Reviews: 18
AO Coolers Soft Cooler
9. AO Coolers Soft Cooler
Overall Score: 8.8
Expert Reviews: 13
Lifewit Large Lunch Bag Soft Cooler
10. Lifewit Large Lunch Bag Soft Cooler
Overall Score: 8.7
Expert Reviews: 4
MIER Large Soft Cooler
11. MIER Large Soft Cooler
Overall Score: 8.7
Expert Reviews: 8
Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner
12. Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Removable Liner
Overall Score: 8.5
Expert Reviews: 32
Thermos Under Armour 24-Can Soft Cooler
13. Thermos Under Armour 24-Can Soft Cooler
Overall Score: 8.2
Expert Reviews: 2
MIER 24-Can Soft Cooler
14. MIER 24-Can Soft Cooler
Overall Score: 7.9
Expert Reviews: 8

An Overview On Small Soft-Sided Coolers

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.

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. 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.

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, so 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.

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 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 Buying Guide

  • 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