How to Choose Between a Soft-Sided Cooler and a Hard-Sided Cooler

by Jeremy D. January 12, 2018

Deciding on whether to purchase a soft-sided cooler or a hard-sided cooler can be narrowed down to one primary factor: how you plan to use the cooler. “Well, I’m going to use it to keep things cool…” Okay. That’s a good starting point, but to keep which things cool in what context and for how long?

Let’s look at each type of cooler individually to see what unique characteristics they bring to the table.

Soft-Sided Coolers

Soft-sided coolers are ideal for daily use. Carry them to the gym, to the practice field, out on the water for a day of fishing, to the disc golf course, or to the office for lunch.

Weighs less

Perhaps the biggest draw to a soft-sided cooler is how much lighter it is than a hard cooler. The fabric or vinyl exterior simply weighs less than rotomolded plastic, meaning the primary weight comes from what you put inside.

Easier to transport

In part because of the lighter weight and in part because of handy-dandy shoulder straps, soft-sided coolers are also easier to transport from the house to the car to wherever adventure leads. The strap leaves your hands free to carry other items or to shove into your pockets.

Requires less storage space

When not in use, a soft-sided cooler has one additional benefit in contrast to the hard coolers: it takes up less storage space. That’s the beauty of being collapsible.

Hard-Sided Coolers

Hard-sided coolers are the better option for more rugged and extended use. Take them on road trips, camping, tailgating, or hunting.

Better ice retention

Hard coolers have earned the prestige of having better ice retention. While this may be accurate from a generic, stereotypical standpoint, it really depends on which two coolers you’re comparing. That being said, if you’re looking within the same brand, hard coolers do tend to keep things cold longer.

Greater capacity

Because soft-sided coolers are designed for folks to throw over their shoulders, they are limited in how much they can hold. Hard-sided coolers, more often than not, have a greater capacity for storage. Whereas soft-sided coolers are often measured by how many canned drinks they will hold, hard-sided coolers are measured by volume. They come in a variety of sizes, so choose based on your personal needs.


Hard plastic coolers take a beating better than soft-sided coolers, so for long trips, rugged terrain, or extended exposure to the elements or wildlife, a hard cooler is your best bet.



Apples to Apples, Bison to Bison

Up to this point we’ve been speaking generally about coolers. What about Bison coolers specifically? Well, here are some things we think you should know before you make your decision.

SoftPak Coolers

  • Come in two sizes: 12-can and 24-can
  • Keep ice for up to 24 hours in heat up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Exterior vinyl is tear-resistant up to 375 pounds
  • Twice the insulation of other soft-sided coolers
  • Made in the USA

Hard Coolers

  • Come in four sizes: 25, 50, 75, and 125-quart
  • Keep ice for 5+ days
  • Exterior rotomolded plastic keeps contents safe from bears or tailgate mishaps
  • Pressure-injected, insulated walls for maximum ice retention
  • Made in the USA

The choice is yours, but it starts with deciding what you want to do. Can’t decide? Get one of each.

Want to customize your cooler? We can do that, too. Make your soft-sided cooler or your hard-sided cooler or both a personalized representation of you!

Jeremy D.
Jeremy D.


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