If you're searching for a high quality small portable soft sided cooler then there are a lot of different options in the market.
There are coolers the size of lunch bags that are just big enough to fit 6 cans or there are coolers that a slightly larger and big enough to fit 8 or 12 cans while still being very light weight and very portable.
Why Get a Small Soft Sided Cooler?
You don't always need to take a lot of stuff with you and you don't always need to keep a large quantity of food or beverages cold.
Sometimes you want a cooler that's just big enough for your own personal use, whether that be taking your lunch to work each day or taking a few drinks to a picnic with friends.
Having a small soft sided cooler means you have a cooler that is extremely portable and easy to carry. You don't have any wastage with ice because you can use just enough ice for the trip, or often even get away with ice bricks like the Yeti Ice bricks.
Hard sided coolers can be bulky and difficult to carry and difficult to store and if you're only putting a few items in there that can negatively affect the ice retention of the cooler because there's so much air inside.
For personal use and for little adventures small soft sided coolers do the trick better than any other cooler on the market.
The Downsides To Small Coolers
While small soft sided coolers are great for personal adventures or trips where you don't need to carry a lot of stuff or you don't need to keep items cold for very long – they can be a little limiting in how much they can carry and how long they keep ice.
Generally speaking, the smaller the cooler the worse the ice retention is going to be. This is mostly because you're not putting as much ice in the cooler so the ice that is in there melts faster.
Small coolers are also limited in how much you can carry. If you're looking to pack a lot of food and drinks for a family day at the beach then a small soft cooler might not have enough capacity.
Or if you're looking to carry enough items for yourself for a full weekend away or a week-long trip then a small caller will likely be too small and might not hold ice for long enough.
Capacity and ice retention are the two major downsides of smaller soft coolers over larger soft coolers but other than that there aren't many downsides to using a small soft cooler.
1. Yeti Hopper Flip 8
The Yeti Hopper Flip 8 is a small, lightweight, portable and heavy duty cooler that can hold ice for up to 2 days. It's also durable enough to handle anything you throw at it. In my opinion it's the best small soft sided cooler out there.
It's just the right size, has great ice retention and is one of, if not THE, most durable cooler on this list.
The exterior of the cooler is completely waterproof. It is made with heavy duty 840 denier nylon that is TPU laminated for extra strength and waterproofing. It also uses a waterproof zipper that when closed makes the cooler 100% leakproof.
The Yeti Hopper 8 is packed with 0.75 inches of installation in the walls and 1.5 inches of installation in the lid. This insulation helps it to hold ice for around about 2 days and even up to 3 days in some cases. This is great ice retention for such a small cooler.
The downsides of this cooler are the price (because Yeti coolers are expensive) as well as the fact that there are no external pockets. It does have the hitchpoint grid on the outside for attaching accessories, but these come at an extra cost.
If money isn't an issue then I would definitely look at this cooler first and I'm happy to recommend it.
To see the latest price of the Yeti Flip 8 as well as the different color options available click the link below:
2. Pelican Sling 9L
The Pelican Sling 9L cooler comes in a very close second to the Yeti Hopper Flip 8. It's a longer thinner shape which has some positives and some negatives.
The positives is that it's long enough to fit wine bottles and the shape makes it more comfortable to carry over your shoulder. The downside is that when you open it it's harder to access everything in your cooler as it's tall and thin.
Ice retention is similar to that of the Yeti at around 2 days and maybe up to 3 days and durability and build quality is similar as well. Click here to read my full Pelican vs Yeti soft cooler comparison.
The exterior is made from waterproof 840 denier nylon that is TPU laminated making it extra tough. The base is reinforced and the zipper is waterproof.
It has a side handle for carrying but no top handle, which means you have nothing to grab onto when opening the lid. This makes it slightly harder to open than the Yeti.
It does feature a small, tight external pocket that's big enough to hold something small like your phone or wallet or maybe a snack bar but not much else. It's also a bit cheaper than the Yeti so offers better value for money, but it doesn't quite have the brand recognition Yeti has.
Overall a great cooler and if you like the long tall design then it's worth checking out. To see the latest price of this cooler plus the different color options click the link below:
3. IceMule Mini 9L
The IceMule mini is a high-quality soft sided cooler that sells for a fraction of the price of the 2 brands mentioned above. In fact I rate this cooler as THE BEST budget soft cooler under $50.
It's a very different design to the Yeti and Pelican with a waterproof roll down top instead of a zipper and a rounded design instead of a rectangle.
It is also one of the lightest and most comfortable small soft sided coolers to carry. Throw it over your shoulder and off you go.
It weighs almost nothing and can pack away small when not in use.
The downside to this cooler is that the ice retention isn't as good. It'll hold ice for about 1-1.5 days or about half that of the Yeti. It also isn't quite as durable and the exterior can rip more easily so you need to be careful with it. Click here to read my full IceMule cooler review where you can see ore details about what is good and bad about this cooler.
But it's a great cooler for a very affordable price, so if you're on a budget check out the current price of the IceMule Mini at Amazon by clicking the link below:
4. Polar Bear Deluxe 12-Pack
The Polar Bear Deluxe cooler has amazing ice retention, even better than Yeti and the smaller 12 can sized cooler is great for personal use or shorter trips away.
This cooler can hold ice for 2.5-3.5+ days and that's because it has thicker insulation than other coolers on the market.
It's made tough too. The exterior is made from a thick waterproof tarpaulin that is tear resistant and the top zipper is a heavy-duty YKK #10 zipper that is ruberized to make it leak proof. Click here to read my full Polar Bear Deluxe H20 cooler review.
On the outside you have an external pocket for storing items and the zipper overhangs the cooler allowing it to open wide for easy loading and easy access to the cooler.
The downside to this cooler is that the base isn't reinforced so can wear out earlier than other coolers and personally I'm not a huge fan of the big branding on the cooler, I prefer a more basic color. But that's just my personal taste.
For amazing ice retention in a small soft cooler I would definitely recommend the Polar Bear Deluxe 12. To see the latest price of this cooler and grab one yourself click the link below:
5. Yeti DayTrip 6-Can
This is Yeti's cheapest cooler on the market and is one of the best Yeti products under $100. While it doesn't have extremely thick insulation like the Hopper Flip mentioned above the insulation is still good and it can hold ice for over 24 hours, despite only being a small lunch bag.
This little lunch bag is packed with some pretty cool features. Firstly, it's made tough and durable with heavy duty nylon and it's large enough to fit 6 cans plus an ice brick.
It has multiple loops on the front so you can adjust the size based on how full it is and it can fold down small and pack away when not in use. Click here to read my full Yeti DayTrip lunch bag review.
It has a thermosnap magnetic closing lid that keeps the cold in and the heat out, a leakproof inner liner and a strong practical carry strap.
It uses ColdCell Flex insulation which allows this mini lunchbox cooler to hold ice for up to 24 hours and even longer! Great performance and durability out of something so small.
To see the latest prices and color options of the Yeti DayTrip Lunch bag click the link below:
6. RTIC Soft Pack 8-Can
The RTIC Soft Pack has similar features to the Yeti Hopper Flip but sells for a small fraction of the price. If you're looking for a premium cooler for a not-so-premium price then RTIC is definitely one to have a look at. Read more about RTIC vs Yeti soft coolers.
It features a waterproof vinyl exterior, reinforced base, waterproof zipper as well as carry handles and a detachable shoulder strap.
Inside it has even more insulation than Yeti meaning it can hold ice even longer, so you can expect 2-3 days of ice retention from this cooler.
While this cooler is made well, it's not quite as durable as some of the other brands on this list, but for the price you pay you kind of expect that. Take good care of it and it'll last you years and give you exceptional ice retention and performance.
I've noticed that different color options can see for different prices. To see the full list of color options and prices click the link below to see the RTIC Soft Pack 8 at Amazon:
7. IceMule Jaunt 9L
The IceMule Jaunt is basically the same is the IceMule Mini mentioned above with 2 major exceptions:
It's a backpack cooler – Instead of having a shoulder strap this cooler has two padded backpack straps so you can throw it on your back. This gives you extra comfort and makes it cooler even more portable. It's one of the best backpack coolers on the market.
Front zipper pocket – The IceMule Mini doesn't have any external pockets at all but the joint has added a front zipper pocket for storing small items you wish to keep dry.
You can expect one to one. Five days of ice retention from this cooler and it uses the same rolldown design to make the cooler watertight. This is the same sort of design that is used in dry bags and while it works well some people have found it to be cumbersome compare to zippers.
The joint comes in a variety of really fun colours and would appeal to young adventurers. To see the latest price of this cooler click the link below:
8. RTIC Day Cooler 6-Can
The RTIC Day Cooler is a cheap and simple small soft cooler designed for keeping your lunch cooler or for short outings.
It's not packed with insolation like the soft pack coolers are and it won't hold ice for days at a time but it's also sold at an extremely affordable price.
It has a nylon exterior and a removable shoulder strap as well as an external front pocket for storing dry items. The top zipper isn't waterproof like the soft pack so if it gets knocked over water will spill out of the zipper but for this price point you don't really expect waterproofing.
For a cheap little lunchbox cooler you don't get much better value for money than the RTIC Day Cooler. To see the latest price of this cooler at Amazon click the link below:
9. Grizzly Drifter 12+
The Grizzly Drifter 12+ is in my opinion one of the best value for money sot coolers on the market as well as the best budget soft cooler under $100.
It has a heavy duty ballistic nylon exterior that is tear and puncture resistant and it's packed with insulation and can hold us for 2 to 3 days.
It's an extremely practical cooler and features multiple external pockets as well as a stretchy canopy on the lid for carrying even more items.
This cooler is sold at a significant discount compared to Yeti coolers with the only major downside of this cooler being the fact that the zipper, while heavy duty, is not completely waterproof. Click here to read my full review on the Grizzly Drifter soft sided cooler.
I love this cooler and it's one of my personal favourite soft sided coolers on the market. To see the latest price of this cooler click the link below:
10. AO Coolers 12-Can
You may not have ever heard of AO Coolers but they have actually been making soft sided cooler is for over 25 years.
They sell a good quality budget cooler that's made from heavy duty nylon and has enough insolation to hold eyes for over 24 hours in 100° heat. Click here to read my full AO Cooler review to see just how durable they are.
The inner lining of this cooler is completely watertight and it has a heavy duty YKK #10 zipper, both of which are backed by a lifetime. The zipper isn't waterproof so if the cooler does get tipped on its side them water will come out.
The cooler also features a wide front pocket for storing items you wish to keep dry and a removable shoulder strap and carry handles.
This cooler isn't quite premium but it also isn't a cheap crappy cooler either. It's just a really good value for money cooler. To see the latest price of these coolers and the multiple color options click the link below:
11. Bison Coolers 12-Can
The Bison Soft Pak 12 cooler is one of the very few soft sided cooler is that I actually made locally in the USA. Click here to see the full list of USA-made soft sided coolers.
It features a waterproof tarpaulin exterior that is tear and puncture resistant and enough insulation to keep ice for 1 to 1.5 days.
The top YKK #10 zipper is heavy duty but not waterproof and it features a wide external pocket on the front for storing items you wish to keep dry.
If you're after a soft sided cooler that is made in America then this is one of your best options:
12. Ozark Trail 6-Can
The Ozark Trail Premium 6-Can soft cooler has all of the features of a premium cooler for the price of a budget cooler.
It has a waterproof exterior as well as a completely waterproof and leakproof zipper. It also features thick insulation and can hold ice for 1 to 2 days.
It comes with a removable shoulder strap and the base of the cooler is reinforced to handle the wear and tear of every day use.
The downside to this cooler is the questionable quality. A lot of customers have complained that these coolers have a tendency to break quite quickly with the zippers and inner lining being the most prominent things that tend to break.
If you're not going to be using the cooler much and you're willing to gamble on the quality and durability of this cooler, then you can get premium features for a tiny fraction of the cost.
I actually can't believe that able to sell these coolers for this price it's quite amazing. Click the link below to see how much they're selling them for at Walmart.
13. Titan Deep Freeze 9-Can
The Titan Deep Freeze 9-Can cooler is another budget soft sided cooler that doesn't have very thick insulation and can hold ice for about 6 to 12 hours.
It has a hard inner liner that can be removed for easy cleaning and this also makes the cooler leakproof when it's standing up.
The top lid uses velcro instead of zippers and this makes it really easy to open and close. It also features a front zipper pocket as well as side mesh pocket and it has an adjustable shoulder strap.
This is a decent quality budget soft sided cooler that won't break the bank and is good for taking your lunch to work every day. To see the latest price of the Titan Deep Freeze 9-Can cooler click the link below:
14. Coleman Soft Cooler – 9 Can
I personally owned this cooler and for the price I think it's a really great cooler.
It has thin foam installation as well as a hard plastic liner that you can take out of the cooler if you want. Ice retention isn't amazing and you can expect about 6 to 12 hours of ice retention from this cooler but it did actually surprise me with how well it kept things cool.
It's not a super heavy duty cooler and when I received mine and there was already loose threads on the cooler but it's extremely cheap and it's very practical to use.
It comes with an adjustable shoulder strap, though the shoulder strap is on the shorter side, and it has external pockets and bungee cords on the lid for extra storage.
Inside the cooler there is a mesh pocket under the lid for storing items you wish to keep up and out of the ice. This is a good little budget soft sided cooler.
You'll actually be shocked at how cheap this soft sided cooler is. To see the latest price of this cooler at Amazon click the link below:
What Small Soft Sided Cooler Will You Choose?
As yo can see there are a decent amount of small soft sided coolers to choose from. You can go for the top of the line most expensive and best quality Yeti cooler or you can go all the way down to the budget Coleman…or get something in between.
Each of the coolers on this list are good. Now it's up to you to choose the cooler that best suits your needs and your budget.
For more help on soft sided coolers check out my other articles linked below: