If you ever had a hard time deciding whether you need a soft-sided or hard-sided cooler this article should be beneficial to you by answering any questions you may have. Sometimes it's difficult knowing the size you may need, does it need to be leak-free, two compartments for hot and cold, do you require a cooler with wheels, backpack straps or speakers to listen to your favorite music. Heat sealed coolers are resistant to moisture, but are not leak proof. It is advised that you place the ice or ice-pack in a leak proof bag such as a Zip-Lock freezer bag, then place inside cooler. Depending upon climate and condition, ice can cause condensation which can lead to leakage. Only coolers that contain a removable plastic liner are leak "proof". On the other hand, hard-sided coolers are leak proof due to the construction which does not allow any liquids to escape unless you open the drain plug. One drawback of hard-sided is the entire lid needs to open when reaching for a beverage, while the soft-side can have a Velcro opening at the top or newly designed folding lids. With so many variables knowing how you're going to use a cooler is the first deciding factor, packing your lunch for work or school, attending family functions, going to the beach, hiking through the trails or even tailgating at NFL games, Nascar and so on.
Then the final factor in considering soft-sided versus hard-sided is the space a cooler requires when not in use. Hard-sided coolers can be a hassle trying to locate enough room in your home or garage, while soft-sided coolers can be collapsed for easy storage.
Let's start with lunch coolers:
Selecting a proper size will depend on what you pack for lunch and if you take your favorite beverages. While many lunch coolers are basic with just a main compartment that is insulated and carry handle, others are manufactured with additional features such as, exterior mesh pocket for water bottles, front pockets for plastic utensils, napkins or small snacks. Some even offer two seperate compartments to seperate your cold items from snacks, I find these ideal especially when you don't need a snack that does not have to be refridgerated. Many accommodate 6 cans while some of the larger ones can hold up to 12 cans. This does not mean you're restricted to just cans of beverages inside your cooler, it's a guideline for those that only take beverages to a friends house or outdoor event.
Let's look at tote coolers:
It's amazing how bags are produced in so many shapes and sizes today and offer multiple features. Take insulated tote bags, many are designed where the entire main compartment contains insulation allowing the entire bag to accommodate more items. While others serve as a regular tote on top and bottom compartment serves as a cooler, these are ideal for the beach or pool parties. These bags normally specify how many cans a tote can accommodate, so reviewing the specifications before purchase is a good idea. If you ever needed to take a covered dish to an outing that must remain chilled, consider a tote cooler since you can lay the bag on it's side and slide in your dish, just don't carry by the straps. I use my this way when a typical size cooler isn't large enough or the shape doesn't accommodate my dish size. Many are even manufactured with additional storage pockets, making this ideal if you need to take a serving spoon or condiments.
Next are rolling coolers:
Sometimes it may be necessary to pack everything but the kitchen sink into a cooler, so when those times arise consider one with wheels. They're not only convenient but practical for large outing, attending family reunions or when you're asked to bring multiple cold items to outdoor events. Many consist of a removable floor board to give your cooler extra strength when packing numerous cans of beverages. Some even contain a removable clear liner that can be taken out and properly cleaned. The various types may feature a velcro opening at the top so there is not need to unzip the entire main compartment when reaching inside for an item. Looking for extra storage space, many have multiple pockets located on the outside of the cooler. If you're the picnic enthusiast or travel with the entire family that stops at roadside rest areas and want a bite to eat or drink, you want to consider a cooler that includes picnic settings. There are some with backpack straps that enable the cooler to be carried instead of rolling when it's not feasable to do so.
Considering a cooler chair:
When attending your child's outdoor sporting events or almost anywhere you're required to take a chair, why carry a cooler seperately? Easy access when you're thirsty, just bend over and reach for a cold one. They're manufacturered in a variety of sizes and can hold weight up to 275 lbs. in some models. If you need your cooler chair to include two picnic settings, no problem, some are designed to accommodate you.
Next are bottle coolers:
There are many people that prefer their favorite beverage in a bottle instead of a can. For those, you'll need a cooler suitable for bottles, preferrably with dividers that can be removed when you want to pack cold food. The individual that is a wine connoisseur will need a wine bottle bag to keep their bottles chilled when traveling to friends for dinner or social event. They're available in various sizes to accommodate 1 or 2 bottles of your favorite wine or liquor and may even include a corkscrew and cheese kit.
With all the options that are available in coolers today, knowing how many items you're placing inside and how you will use it, will be the deciding factor on the size, type and features you require in a cooler.