Nothing ruins a day at the beach or a weekend camping like warm beers or spoilt food.
Fortunately, today’s cooler bags perform almost as well as their hard-shell counterparts and come in a range of shapes and styles.
In this guide, we round up the best cooler bags currently on the market in Australia, followed by some tips on what to look for when making your selection.
Our top pick: Yeti Hopper Flip 12 Soft Cooler
With their rugged functionality and stylish designs, Yeti has taken the market by storm in the cooler market over the past few years. These coolers are built to withstand literally anything you can throw at them.
The Hopper Flip 12 is a high-quality cooler bag that not only looks great but will keep your food and drink provisions colder for longer than almost any other cooler on the market.
With a 12.1L capacity, it holds 12 cans using a 2:1 ice-to-can ratio.
It’s made from high-density fabric that is waterproof and resistant to mildew. The liner is made from an FDA-approved food-grade material, so you can rest assured that your food and drinks are safe inside this cooler bag.
The closed-cell rubber foam delivers superior cold-holding performance, while the HydroLok Zipper and wide mouth opening provide easy accessibility and visibility of contents.
Runner up: Engel HD30 Premium Soft Cooler
If you’re looking for a large capacity premium soft cooler that’s tough enough to withstand a few knocks, the Engel HD30 could be your best option.
This 30L capacity cooler holds 48 cans and can keep your ice frozen and drinks cold for days thanks to its closed-cell foam insulation.
The welded seams make it completely leakproof, so you don’t have to worry about spills or leaks when you’re out on the road.
The HD30 also has a vacuum valve: just suck the excess air out with a vacuum before you set off, and your drinks will stay cold even longer.
There’s also an integrated bottle opener, which is one less thing you need to keep track of.
Best Value: Coleman High-Performance Leak Proof Soft Cooler
This Coleman cooler has all the features you need in a cooler—ultra durable construction, premium insulation, front zipper pocket and side mesh pockets—and it comes at a price point that won’t break your bank account.
It’s also got some great extras: padded shoulder strap and top handles for added comfort, T-shaped zippers that make them easy to pull open, and bungie straps for additional storage on the lid.
It even has a bottle opener built right into the design so you never have to worry about losing it.
This heavy-duty soft cooler is more of a hybrid between an esky and a cooler bag. It features a removable hard liner which adds extra insulation and protection.
This cooler is insulated with dual layers of thick high density super foam insulation, which means you won’t have any problems keeping things cold even if they’re exposed to the sun all day long.
Uniquely, this cooler has a shelf built in, which allows you to keep hard stuff like drinks separate from soft stuff like your lunch while on the go. It also has a handy shoulder strap that makes it easy to carry around when fully loaded.
The interior lining is leakproof while the outer is also water and stain-resistant, so it’s easy to wipe clean when needed.
Most portable: Coleman 24 Can Premium Performance Backpack Soft Cooler
This Backpack Cooler is great for any adventure, whether you’re heading out for a day at the beach or packing up for a weekend camping trip. The shoulder straps make it easy to take on the go, so you’ll never have to leave your cooler behind.
The 30 mm thick EPE foam insulation keeps your food and drinks cold for up to 30 hours—more than enough time for you to enjoy whatever you’re keeping cold.
The 500 denier TPU Polyester outer provides extreme durability, while the welded seams prevent leaks.
Plus, the easy-to-open top makes it simple to grab what you need when you’re ready to eat or drink.
Finally, the steel bottle opener integrated into this Coleman Backpack Cooler means no more searching around in your bag or pockets for a bottle opener.
Also great: 13L Techni Ice High Performance Cooler Bag
We were lucky enough to test these cooler bags when they were first released and have nothing but good things to say about them.
They are available in four sizes:
- 5L Techni Ice Cooler Bag Cooler Bag
- 13L Techni Ice High Performance Cooler Bag
- 23L Techni Ice High Performance Cooler Bag
- 34L Techni Ice High Performance Cooler Bag
These coolers are high-quality and durable and hold up well even in testing environments thanks to their heavy-duty marine tarpaulin exterior and rubber feet.
The largest size bag (34L) features full-length skids instead of rubber feet, meaning it can be dragged along the ground of other surfaces without damaging the bottom.
All bags feature a handy handle along with an adjustable shoulder strap to assist with heavier loads. They also all come with zipped and mesh pockets, meaning you can safely stash your keys and other valuables.
In terms of looks, these cooler bags aren’t going to win any awards. They are, however, true to Techni Ice’s approach of no-fuss high-performance cooling technology.
Budget option: Coleman Daytrip Soft Cooler Bag
This classic soft cooler from Coleman sports a simple, yet functional design.
Whether you’re looking for a cooler to keep beverages cool for the afternoon, or for a whole day, the Coleman won’t let you down.
With an impressive ability to retain ice for 24 hours at 30C, you can be sure that you’ll have ice cold drinks right throughout a day in the sun.
The easy-access lid and front pocket make packing the cooler a breeze and the anti-microbial treatment on the lining prevents odour, mould, and mildew.
Perfect for those on a budget, the Coleman 30 Can Soft Cooler will make a great companion for your next summer excursion.
Cooler bag buying guide
Capacity and shape
How much space you’ll need depends on how much food and drink you want to bring along with you.
Cooler bags run generally range in capacity from 5 litres (enough for one six-pack) all the way up to 30 litres or more.
The smallest ones are perfect for bringing just a few drinks, while larger ones can hold an entire day’s worth of drinks and snacks.
Keep in mind that if you have drinks you want to keep upright, such as an open wine bottle, you’ll want a taller cooler bag that can accommodate this.
Insulation is the ability of a material to resist the flow of heat.
It goes without saying that good insulation is essential to any soft cooler, especially given the extreme summer temperatures experienced across much of Australia.
The best coolers will feature high-density PE foam insulation that will keep contents cold for 24 hours or more.
While you may not think about it, waterproofing is the most important feature for any cooler bag.
This keeps melted ice from seeping out into your car or onto your picnic rug.
High-quality coolers will feature waterproof linings that will keep their integrity even after years of use. A waterproof zipper is another feature generally only found on higher-end cooler bags.
Cheaper bags will start to degrade quicker and the seams may not be fully waterproof.
Durability is one of the most important things to consider when buying a cooler bag.
Look for a tough rubberised bottom, which won’t break down over time as it comes into contact with various surfaces.
Carry handles, shoulder straps, and portability
Chances are you’ll be carrying your cooler bag from time to time, often with a lot of weight inside it.
Therefore, look for a cooler that has both carry handles and an adjustable shoulder strap.
For extra comfort, look for padded sections that will reduce the strain on your hands or shoulders.
Pockets and accessories
If you’re looking for a bag that can easily hold all of your essentials, pockets are an important consideration. But make sure they are waterproof so melting ice in the main compartment won’t damage your valuables.
Some coolers come with a built-in bottle opener attached to their side – a nice touch that makes it easier to grab a drink on the go.