Soft coolers are somewhat of a niche item as they aren’t designed in order to store ice longer than a couple of days at most However, they can be useful as a complement to a more robust hard-sided model or an alternative for those looking to keep their lunches and drink cold for the entire day. For this we like the simple and affordable designs such as the Hydro Flask Insulated Tote. It costs just $65 and weighs just 1 one-pound 5.1 grams The Insulated Tote is an extremely economical and light-weight option for trips on the road or grocery and farmers market runs, or quick trips to the beach or park. It also folds efficiently to store things in, is simple to wash (just wipe the liner clean) and has an impervious and waterproof exterior that is well-suited to everyday usage.
It’s crucial to set reasonable expectations for designs such as those of Hydro Flask. The bag is referred to as an “insulated tote” it’s a bit small in capacity (it can hold around 10 12-oz. cans with Ice) and is rated to keep contents cool until 4 hours (the most insignificant of our choices however we found the estimation to be pretty accurate in our testing). This means that the Hydro Flask goes beyond the definition of “cooler.” However, again many people are likely to find it more accessible and suitable for daily activities as opposed to large, heavy and costly alternatives such as that of the YETI Hopper M30 or RTIC Soft Pack above. Also, Hydro Flask does offer a larger version of 35 liters priced at $75 and weighs just 1 one pound 10.4 ounces.