Buying a cooler can be a pain. There are all sorts of sizes, brands, and some even come with various gadgets (did you know some brands even brag that their cooler comes with Bluetooth?). We don’t know about you, but when it comes to a quick weekend getaway or sending the kids off to camp, we’re not looking for all those bells and whistles. We just want something that keeps our food and drinks cold (it’s a cooler, after all, not an entertainment center).
For more seamless travel and versatile use, we recommend looking at soft coolers. Here we review two top performers, AO and Lifewit, side by side on whether they do the job (because we could care less about speakers on something to keep drinks cold). Here’s what we found:
The Lifewit cooler is more portable.
Both the AO and Lifewit coolers come with shoulder straps to make them easier to carry. However, the strap on the AO cooler sometimes doesn’t perform as well. The padding comes off, and the entire thing can sometimes break.
When it comes to portability, both are airline compliant. But we loved the Lifewit cooler a bit more in terms of travel. Its cushioned strap didn’t dig into arms, and it folds down flat to make it easy to store in a suitcase or bag.
While both coolers are carry-on compliant (perfect for all that summer traveling we’ve waited to do), you have to squish the AO vigorously. It doesn’t fold down, so you have to smash it with your hands.
The AO Cooler has more size options.
Lifewit coolers come in a variety of sizes, including 27, 32, and 48-can coolers. The AO Cooler offers a slightly higher range of sizes of 12, 24, 36, and 48-cans.
The AO offered more choices regarding the size range, which might be ideal if you just want to pack a few cold things for a small group. When filled with ice and tons of cold drinks, big coolers can get very heavy and difficult to carry. The smallest size Lifewit offers is still very reasonable for a small group but not nearly as petite as AO’s 12 can option.
The AO Cooler keeps things chilled for 24 hours.
Finally, let’s talk about the most important thing. Which cooler will keep your soda cans, lemonade, or champagne cold? Or will your iced tea simply be tea?
The AO Cooler promises to keep your drinks cold for up to 24 hours, which makes it ideal for a weekend sailing around the Florida Keys or that 4th of July camping trip. The AO Cooler also keeps things cold in 120-degree weather, which is about the temperature of a scorching day in Tempe, Arizona. This cooler might be a good fit for all those summer plans or if you live in currently-boiling Seattle and simply need a cold drink for some relief.
The Lifewit cooler, on the other hand, pledges to keep items cold for 12 hours. But due to the factors like easier portability mentioned above, it could still be the ideal cooler for travels, picnics, or kids who sweat all day at soccer camp.
The Verdict: AO Cooler vs Lifewit
We highly recommend the AO Cooler for a weekend on the river or anything where you need to keep things cold for a prolonged time. But if you’re looking for something more compact, easier to transport, or perfect for a spontaneous picnic in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we’d recommend the Lifewit cooler. However, both deliver on keeping items cold. The right cooler for you just depends on your specific needs.