What You Need To Know About Hard, Soft, or Backpack Coolers

Imagine this: you’re on the beach, celebrating July 4th with your family. Or maybe you’re in a secluded campground in the mountains to escape the crowds. You reach into your cooler, only to discover that your iced tea is now just tea and that the ice has leaked all over the back seat of your new car. 

You know it’s time to break up with a crappy cooler and buy a new one.

But how do you know which cooler is the right one for you? Should you shell out for a hard cooler or soft cooler? Is there even a backpack cooler that actually does its job? Here’s what you need to know about hard, soft, or backpack coolers.

Hard Coolers

Do your coolers tend to look a little worse for wear after family vacations? Then a hard cooler may be the right option for you. Hard coolers are durable enough for everything life throws at them, including being dropped or enduring the ultimate test of small (but mighty) children. They also tend to have more storage space for extra cold drinks and keep things colder for an extended amount of time, which is ideal for that July 4th camping trip.

Another bonus to hard coolers? They’re better for wildlife. You’ve heard the saying, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” One of the best ways to help wild bear populations is by securing your food. Hard coolers like the Yeti Tundra aren’t only masters of keeping food cold; they’re certified to keep bears out. And that makes things safer for people and wildlife alike.

Soft Coolers

So does this mean you shouldn’t even consider a soft cooler? Not necessarily. It boils down to your specific needs. As much as we love a solid hard cooler, sometimes it’s too heavy to lug around for a day out. Coolers like the AO Original Soft Cooler are ideal for those spur-of-the-moment outings or weekend getaways.

Soft coolers aren’t only lighter; they’re easier to store. Imagine trying to bring a big hard cooler on the plane with you for your trip to the Florida Keys (because you don’t want warm drinks in the summer sun). The large size renders it too impractical. 

Like the one mentioned above, soft coolers are more compact, and some, like the AO cooler, are even carry-on compliant with most major airlines. You get the benefit of having a cooler to keep your drinks cold without paying through-the-roof prices for checked baggage.

Backpack Coolers

Believe it or not, sometimes you can find a good backpack cooler, and there is a time when a backpack cooler makes more sense than a hard or soft cooler.

If you’re someone trying to beat the summer crowds, the backpack cooler may be the best fit for you. Those remote, off-the-beaten-path hikes to waterfalls or beautiful mountain peaks provide the perfect breathtaking views for your picnic. 

You can’t bring your Yeti Tundra to that family picnic. At least, it would be awkward and not enjoyable (and the point of eating lunch by a waterfall is to enjoy yourself, right?). Backpack coolers are perfect for when you have to walk a little further to your ideal destination. 

A backpack cooler makes transport easier for longer distances since you won’t have to carry lunch for four in one hand or awkwardly roll a cooler over rocks and rugged terrain for 3 miles. They’re also great when you need both hands free for both children.

Final Thoughts on Coolers

The wrong cooler can put a damper on your summer vacation. Hard, soft, and backpack coolers all have their own merits. Do your research to decide which cooler best suits you and your family’s needs. 

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The opinions expressed on Finders & Keep are entirely our own. The content was chosen by our editorial team. Any product claim or representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.