Soft-Sided Vs. Hard-Sided: Which is the Best Outdoor Cooler for You?

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If you’re heading into the great outdoors, you’re going to need something to bring your food in. Coolers will keep your food contained, cold, and prevent it from going bad for your excursion duration. There are two main types of coolers that you will come across when you’re looking to purchase, and these are soft-sided and hard-sided. Both offer their own benefits, and the one that is best for you will depend on how you are planning to use your cooler, where you’re going, and how long you’re going for.

Below, this article will discuss both types of coolers and when it’s best to use each one.

Soft-sided coolers

When you’re looking at outdoor coolers, you might be attracted to a soft-sided one. They are great for daily use, such as carrying snacks for the beach, a picnic at the park, sporting games, or fishing. They are typically much smaller than hard-sided coolers, although that’s not always the case.

Regardless of size, soft-sided coolers weigh substantially less than hard-sided, meaning that they are easy to transport. The exterior is typically vinyl or another similar material, which barely weighs anything, and the entirety of the weight will come from whatever you choose to carry inside.

Soft-sided coolers also have straps, so you can carry them over your shoulder, leaving your hands free to carry other items wherever you’re headed. It’s especially convenient to get your cooler to and from the car when you have to walk to your destination and handy for those who are taking public transportation.

They are also easy to store since they can collapse into themselves when you’re not using them.

Hard-sided coolers

Hard-sided coolers are the best choice for multi-day use and activities where they will get thrown around more. If you’re going camping or on road trips, you want something sturdy, durable, and practical to hold your food and drinks. Hard-sided coolers will keep your ice frozen for longer than a soft-sided, with some keeping items cold for up to 10 days. The length of time that your cooler will stay cold will depend on the individual model.

Since soft-sided coolers are designed for easier transport, they often don’t have the same capacity as a hard-sided one. Hard-sided will almost always have more storage space, making them ideal for multiple days’ worth of food and drinks. That said, they do come in a variety of different sizes, and you can get small ones as well.

Hard-sided coolers are incredibly durable. You can throw them around, and they will protect all the items inside. They are also weatherproof, protecting against the rain, and easy to clean if they get dirty. Hard-sided coolers can also keep out wildlife better than soft-sided, especially if you get a sturdy lock.

So, which is the best?

Both soft-sided and hard-sided coolers are beneficial for different applications. If you just need to carry food and drinks for the day, then a soft-sided is much more convenient. If you’re heading on a week-long camping trip, then a hard-sided will function better for you.

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About Author

Kelly Lewis is the founder of Go! Girl Guides, the Women's Travel Fest and Damesly. She's an optimist, an adventurer, an author and works to help women travel the world.

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