When it comes to soft sided coolers, Florida-based Engel is one of the best. Its coolers are hard-wearing and durable, with a firm skeleton and welded seams to seal in cold and minimize leaks. They’re also surprisingly easy to carry under most conditions thanks to a padded shoulder strap and a host of handles, including standard central ones and rounded ones on each end for additional support when the load gets heavy. There’s even a bottle opener built in, which is an important feature for coolers that often accompany water-based activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding and rafting.
The main reason this cooler is so good at keeping ice is that it uses closed cell insulation that’s about an inch thick all the way around, compared to flip-top coolers like the Yeti Hopper Flip which are only about half as thick. It also has a patent-pending vacuum valve on the side that lets you use your household vacuum cleaner to suck out air between the insulation and outer waterproof layer, further insulate the contents and increase ice retention.
It’s a bit bigger than most other soft-sided coolers, so it’s not ideal for carrying on a five-mile hike to your favorite river-side fishing spot or carting on a family picnic. But if you’re planning on packing it to the brim with snacks and brews for a day at the beach, or taking it on a camping trip to take care of your food and drink needs in the backcountry, the Engel is well worth the extra investment for its superior performance.