Alongside weight and portability the possibility of collapsibility is another factor that people often choose the soft cooler over an insulated model. The appeal is obvious and does not take space in your garage when it’s not using it A collapsible model such as REI Co-op’s Pack-Away 24 can fold down almost flat to store. To give you an idea it, the Pack-Away is just 1 inch high when it’s tucked away with clips that can be placed at the side to compress it down or switch between different shapes (cube or tote). Other highlights include a slim 1 pound-12 ounce weight, large-mouth opening to allow for fast loading and easy access to the inside, a simple-to-clean liner, sealed seams, and accessibility through the handles on top or a an adjustable shoulder strap. The entire thing is wrapped in a pretty heavy nylon and polyester shell that’s recycled and bluesign-approved, which is a nice nod to REI’s commitment to sustainability.
There are some inherent flaws with the REI Pack-Away’s extremely compact design. One is durability. While its exterior is durable enough for most everyday activities, it’s not equipped with the bombproof look of high-end and weather-proof designs such as those of the RTIC Soft Pack and YETI Hopper M30 above (it’s not as appealing for water sports and boating also). Another issue is ice retention that is stated as 32 hours, but could be more like a single or less (or less) during the hot summer. Some users have reported that the liner can be susceptible to condensation, but it’s not uncommon for leak-proof models. In all, it’s tough to be too critical considering the price and the Pack-Away 24-‘s combination of compression, simple access, and affordability makes it the most portable design of the year.