Best Overall Soft Cooler
YETI Hopper 30
A bomb proof build, incredible insulation value, and a hefty and easy to use package won the Yeti Hopper 30
the Editors' Choice Award. It out-performed all other models in insulation value, retaining the most ice in our ice retention test after 72 hours. It also out-performed in everyday usage. It kept our beers cold, it stood up to any and all abuse, and lived up to the Yeti hype. Where it suffered is in the smaller opening and stiffer materials, which make it a little harder to manipulate. But it more than made up for this with dogged rough-and-tumble durability and keep cold power. The Yeti Hopper 30 would most likely be the last soft cooler you would ever buy.
Best Bang for the Buck
Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack
The Polar Bear Coolers 24 Pack
was the underdog of our tests. It is moderately priced and simple in build and appearance. The old adage "don't judge a book by its cover' certainly applies here. When tested head-to-head against the almost 4.5 times more expensive Yeti Hopper 30, the Polar Bear was able to hold its own better than any other model tested. It held only five fewer ounces of ice over a 72-hour period than the Yeti. The other coolers that we compared in this category held onto no ice after the same 72-hour period. This is one solid cooler and the other features of the Polar Bear weren't lacking, either. Easy to use and relatively comfortable shoulder strap and carrying handles plus a quality zipper added to the positive attributes, and the included bottle opener sealed the deal. For the price you will not find anything that insulates as well and is as easy to use. The Polar Bear 24 Pack is the proverbial everyman's cooler, and earned its Best Buy Award.
Top Pick Award for Long Distance Carrying
Ice Mule Pro
The Ice Mule Pro
was the lead tester's personal favorite. What it didn't have in insulation power it made up for with highly useful portability and long haul design. The Ice Mule is made for multi-mile hikes, and easy comfort while doing it. Equipped with padded backpack straps and a padded and ventilated back panel, it has more of a backpack feel than that of a cooler. The Ice Mule surprised and surpassed testers' expectations and out-performed others for ease of use and portability at every turn. The roll top is quick and easy, and when closed properly is leak free. The air release valve helps keep loads secure and tight, and the durability is top notch. If you are looking for something to take out to more remote country, or even something that is just easy to carry, the Ice Mule is for you.