Engel HD20 ($200)

From light and portable designs to burly options for days on the water, we break down the best soft-sided coolers
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Table of Contents

24 cans (with ice)

3 lbs. 8 oz.

30L (48 cans)

One of the toughest designs on the market.

Overbuilt for most uses.

The Hopper M30 from YETI is the most popular bearer in the top soft cooler market however, the Florida-based Engel has a more competitive and much less expensive alternative with their HD20. At a price of $115 less than M30 (albeit having a small decrease in capacity) The HD20 has a welded structure (most competitors have sewn) that is specifically designed to keep cold out and reduce leaks. It’s notable for its durability, with an 840-denier outer shell and TPU films to strengthen the back and front, and is able to be carried using the handles that are thick or a padding shoulder strap. A small, but considerate feature: Engel included an integrated bottle opener that is not often found on the soft cooler market and has proven useful in a number of instances.

It’s obvious that Engel placed a great deal of attention to the retention of ice with their HD collection, with features like the closed zipper, welded construction and a vacuum valve at the top that lets you suck out air prior to use. When we tested the more powerful HD30 version (which is identical, however is currently out of the stock) We found that the cooler was sealed well it pleased us considering the zippered opening. However, it wasn’t able to keep our ice cold for as long as we had hoped. For comparison, Engel lists the cooler’s retention time as 3-4 days, however ours only kept ice frozen for about 48 hours when we tested it in Utah. Additionally, the design requires great force to open: The zipper is notable stiff and requires lubrication in order to operate smoothly (Engel offers an incredibly small tube when you purchase) The buckle-equipped “wings” on the sides make the process more laborious. However, they do assist in sealing leaks and makes the Engel an ideal choice for water-based sports like paddling, kayaking the rafting process, and so on.

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