When going on a road trip or any outdoor excursion such as camping or hiking, the first thing you should focus on is packing the appropriate gear. But once you have all the basic necessities taken care of, the next thing you should look into is a portable cooler bag.
A portable cooler bag allows you to take the convenience of a refrigerator out on the road with you. After all, who likes drinking room temperature sodas?
In the following article, we list down some of the best small cooler bags that are ideal for all outdoor adventures. If you are not sure what kind of portable cooler bag will best suit your needs, read through this brief buying guide first.
What to Look for in a Portable Cooler Bag?
Portable cooler bags come in all shapes, styles, and sizes. To pick the right one for your trip, weigh in the following features:
Capacity should usually be your top concern as the cooler should be large enough to keep the drinks cool for all the group members. Some coolers already have slots for holding your cans and bottles in place. Others have open compartments where you can also keep lunch boxes, iced treats, and the likes.
Portable cooler bags are generally made of high-quality plastic. It is sufficiently hard to withstand rough outdoor use yet light enough to ensure ease in carrying. You can also find coolers with a metal casing. They are usually housed in an insulating bag to prevent cold air from escaping.
Premium cooler bags typically feature a gasket to create an effective seal between the lid and body. This is most often in the form of a rubber strip that runs around the side of the lid.
Cooler bags can take up a lot of space so make sure the one you purchase can sit in your cupboard when not in use. For example, YETI cooler bags and IceMule coolers are both popular for their top performance. But one of the main reasons why buyers often prefer an IceMule coolerover a YETI cooler bag is because the former comes in collapsible designs.
The ice in the cooler will melt at some point. Well-designed cooler bags have a drain plug at the bottom to let all the melt water run out quickly. However, drain holes can compromise the effectiveness of the insulation. Thus, make sure that the plug closes tightly and is secured to the bag so that you don’t accidentally lose it.
Additional pockets for ice packs, waterproof cover, in-built bottle opener, and shoulder straps for carrying are just some of the extra features that can take the utility of cooler bags to a whole new level. High-end bags even have a thermoelectric function that can keep the contents cool without any ice.
Best Portable Cooler Bags
Now that you know what to look for in a portable cooler bag, let’s dive into the best-selling products that are worth your while.
1) YETI Hopper Flip Portable Cooler
YETI cooler bags are wildly popular among outdoor enthusiasts. And you do not need to look beyond the YETI Hopper Flip Portable Cooler to understand why.
Made from DryHide Shell and leakproof HydroLok Zippers, this bag contains closed-cell foam to keep your food and drinks cool for hours. It weighs only 2.8 lbs. when empty and can hold 6 beer cans or 8 lbs. of ice. This portable cooler is resistant to scratches, punctures, UV rays, and mildew growth. The shoulder strap makes it easy to tote around on your hiking, fishing, and camping trips.
The YETI Hopper also includes a HitchPoint Grid where you can conveniently hang a water bottle or attach multiple tools, such as a bottle opener, compass etc.
Dimensions: 11.5 x 8 x 10.5 inches
- Durable, reliable, and lightweight
- Waterproof YETI cooler bag
- Can hold 6 beer cans along with ice packs
- FDA-approved for food safety
- Available in an array of cool colors
- Limited capacity not suitable for large outings
- The zipper and seasm could be of better quality
Our rating: 4.7 / 5
2) IceMule Pro Cooler Backpack
IceMule coolers are prized for their sturdy construction that makes them suitable to use out in the wild. But that’s not the only selling point of the Pro Cooler Backpack by IceMule.
To begin with, the Pro Cooler can retain solid ice for over 24 hours at a stretch!It has a compact, hands-free design and comes in two different sizes to match different occasions. Given its foldable structure, the cooler backpack is a real space saver. You won’t have to fumble with zippers as has a roll-top cover that allows you to grab whatever’s in your cooler with ease. The exterior and interior fabric layers use patented MuleSkin with PolarLayer insulation foam to eliminate leaks.
All in all, the Pro Cooler is engineered to provide maximum utility during camping, fishing, hiking, or a day at the beach.
Dimensions: 17 x 11 x 14 inches
- Compact IceMule cooler
- 25-quart capacity – holds up to 40 cans (without ice packs)
- Roll-top style makes it easy to load and unload the contents inside.
- Tough enough for all outdoor adventures
- Can be rolled up for space-efficient storage
- Comes in multiple sizes and colors
- Floats on water, hence ideal for using on watersport trips like kayaking
- Does not have any extra pockets
- The XL size completely filled would be too heavy to carry for most people
Our rating: 4.6 / 5
3) Coleman Soft Cooler Bag
Carrying your cold drinks far away from the car will no longer be a hassle with Coleman Soft Cooler Bag. This ergonomically designed cooler bag has wide shoulder straps that are fully adjustable to ensure a comfortable and customized fit.
The Coleman Soft Cooler prevents ice from melting and seeping out with its heat-welded seams that keep cold air trapped in. It is made from synthetic plastic and meets FDA requirements for food grade bags. The inside of the bag, comprising of flexible PEVA liner, is treated with antimicrobials to resist odors and prevent mold and mildew growth. It is also detachable to allow for easy maintenance.
Dimensions:11.81 x 11.81 x 6.69 inches
- Ergonomic carry straps help you carry it easily even when the cooler is fully loaded
- Comes in three different colors
- Available in 9, 16, and 30-can cooler capacity
- Multiple pockets allow you to stash dry food items
- Easy to clean
- Mold and mildew resistant
- Budget-friendly option
- It is a shoulder bag (not backpack)
- The zipper in a seam could fit better
Our rating: 4.6 / 5
4) YETI Hopper M30 Portable Soft Cooler
This YETI cooler bag comes with quite a hefty price tag. But it’s worth every single penny for sure.
This high-performance portable cooler is tough as nails. You can toss it onto a boat or truck or take it along on a hike and it will effectively withstand the rough use.
It utilizes the patented HydroShield closure technology, which means the zipper, which is usually the main source of micro leaks, is gone. The M30 YETI cooler bag uses powerful magnets in place of the traditional zipper instead. This creates an ultra leakproof seal so that your drinks stay cold until you need them.
Dimensions:25 x 12 x 17.5 inches
- Cold cell insulation
- 100% leak-resistant design
- Wide, easy opening with magnetic seal
- Dual, quick-release buckles keep the lid from opening up unexpectedly
- RF welded seams
- Can hold up to 20 cans or 28 lbs. of ice
- Comes in multiple colors
- No outside pockets
- The design makes the inside drying quite difficult
- Quite expensive
Our rating: 4.5 / 5
5) Engel HD30 Soft-Sided Cooler Tote Bag
The Engel HD30 Cooler Tote Bag provides unmatched insulation with its state-of-the-art heat trap technology. According to the manufacturer, it can hold ice for almost 4 full days!
It utilizes a vacuum valve that helps maintain temperatures below the freezing point by drawing excess air from the insulation. The design includes shoulder straps, top grab handles, and side handles so you can carry whichever way you want.
The bag features a rugged TPU outer surface that is resistant to scratch and tears. It is also welded on all sides to ensure maximum waterproofing. The wide top allows easy access for loading and unloading the contents. You can easily store up to 48 regular sized cans in the bag at once.
Dimensions:20 x 16 x 10 inches
- Offers top-notch insulation
- Highly durable
- Comfortable shoulder-carry design
- Available in 21 and 32-quart capacity
- Welded waterproof zippers seals all entry points for hot air
- Integrated bottle opener and front accessory pockets
- Might be beyond the budget of an average buyer
- Relatively heavy for a portable cooler bag
Our rating: 4.4 / 5
A portable cooler bag is one of the most important outdoor gear you will need to make your adventures more enjoyable. While there’s a plethora of options available in the market, the aforementioned cooler bags outperform most of their counterparts by a huge margin. However, if we were to pick just one from these, we would preferably go for either a YETI cooler bag or an IceMule cooler. This is because they deliver top-of-the-line thermal performance and are designed to go virtually anywhere with you.