This Small $12 Cooler Is A Must-Pack For Weekend Trips & Afternoon Adventures

Amazon / Elite Daily

Whether you're packing lunch or traveling solo, the best small coolers will keep your food cold without loading you down. Coolers come in a wide range of sizes and formats, and you'll want to choose your small cooler based on how you plan to use it. A personal cooler or insulated lunch box that holds about six 12-ounce cans might work great for a single meal or a few drinks. For a short trip or multi-person lunch, however, you'll want a slightly larger cooler that can fit more like 20 or 30 cans. Hard-sided coolers often keep items cool for longer, making them ideal for excursions that last more than a day, while soft-sided coolers offer better portability and easier storage.

Hard-sided coolers are often made of plastic and aren’t just great at keeping your food cool for longer — they also protect your food from getting crushed. These coolers can be super durable, but they’re also bulky and will take up more space in your home. Soft-sided coolers are usually made with a fabric or vinyl exterior that can fold down for storage. When you are using them, soft-sided coolers often have several compartments to help you stay organized.

When it comes to portability, hard-sided coolers usually have handles, but tend to be a bit heavier and more cumbersome. Soft-sided coolers, on the other hand, are lightweight and often have shoulder straps. Think about what would be best for your needs — and pay attention to the weight of the cooler when empty, particularly if you plan on carrying it long distances.

These six small coolers have stellar reviews on Amazon, so you can rest assured that they’re all great for picnics, camping, and just sitting outdoors with some cold drinks.

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A Personal-Sized Hard-Sided Cooler
  • Type: Hard-sided cooler
  • Capacity: 6 cans

This hard-sided cooler from Coleman is the perfect size for personal-use — load it up with a lunch or a couple of drinks, and you’ll be beyond thrilled with how long it keeps the contents cool. The cooler is made of hard plastic, and it's super easy to clean. Just give it a quick wipe down, and you’re all set. The hinged lid flips over for use as a tray — it even has molded beverage holders. And the handle makes for easy carrying.

The cooler weighs just 1.65 pounds, so it should be easy to carry. You can grab it in red or blue.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: “Love the size of this cooler. Easy to haul around and fits my 2 primary needs: holding ice water for dunking rags to cool off out in the sun or keeping family drinks/snacks cool. The soft coolers tend to sweat or even leak, getting the rest of your "stuff" wet. This one stays dry. It's perfect.”

A Soft-Sided Cooler With A Removable Hard Liner
  • Type: Soft-sided cooler with a hard liner
  • Capacity: 16 cans

If you’re torn on whether to go with a soft- or hard-sided pick, this cooler from Coleman is the best of both worlds. The soft-sided cooler is flexible and easy-to-store, but it has a removable hard plastic liner for when you need a bit of extra structure and support. The antimicrobial-treated lining is resistant to mold, mildew, and odors. An adjustable shoulder strap makes the cooler easy to carry even when it's fully loaded. And in case you need a spot to stash a few extras, there's a front zippered pocket and three mesh pockets.

The lightweight cooler keeps ice for up to 24 hours and is available in four different colors.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: "I love it! Very practical to take lunch to work. [It's] big enough to include large ice packs along with food and beverage. The product is holding up very well with daily use, both the mechanisms and material. The hard plastic inner liner is easily removed for cleanup. It also gives the bag nice structure to prevent food from being crushed. If I ever need another one, I'll definitely buy same product!"

A Personal-Sized Soft-Sided Cooler Bag
  • Type: Soft-sided cooler
  • Capacity: 6 cans

With more than 4,000 reviews on Amazon and a 4.7-star rating overall, this Carhartt cooler bag is certainly a popular choice. The personal-sized cooler is ideal for lunches, as it has dual compartments to keep everything organized. The main compartment is insulated for items that need to stay cold, while the top compartment offers additional insulated storage. The front zippered pocket is best for extras, like utensils or napkins.

The cooler bag is ultra-lightweight at just under 1 pound, and it has a handle and shoulder strap for easy carrying. Choose from four colors and one print.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: "This cooler bag is the perfect size. It holds quite a bit. The thickness and insulation is the same as any other soft cooler bag I have ever seen. The top compartment is open to the bottom and separated by mesh. Which is perfect because it keeps whatever I put up there cool as well. The exterior is water resistant which I didn't know when I ordered, but is a nice bonus. Finally, this bag looks really nice."

An Ultra-Durable Hard-Sided Cooler
  • Type: Hard-sided cooler
  • Capacity: 15 cans

This hard-sided cooler from Pelican is the epitome of strong and durable. It's made of an ultra-hard plastic and is insulated with 2 inches of polyurethane, with a freezer-grade gasket that can keep ice from melting for up to three days. The 3-inch locking latches ensure that the lid will stay shut. Other features include four self-draining cup holders, a stainless steel bottle opener, and nonskid rubber feet. It's also available in a bunch of different colors.

A carrying handle makes this cooler a bit easier to carry, though it is heavy — it weighs more than 12 pounds when empty.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: "You don't see many retail items built with the sturdiness and quality that this cooler is these days. The hinges, handle and latches are also well made and built to last. Ice retention is excellent.[...] Don't let the price of this cooler scare you off. It's worth it!"

A Backpack Cooler
  • Type: Soft-sided cooler
  • Capacity: 28 cans

If you’re in need of an ultra-portable pick, this backpack cooler from Coleman is your best bet. The backpack design is ideal for long-distance carrying, with adjustable padded straps that provide maximum comfort. Best yet, the backpack cooler is lightweight — just over 1 pound — so it won’t weigh you down. The main pocket of the bag is insulated to keep contents cold, while the large front pocket provides quick access to napkins, utensils, or other necessities.

The backpack is only available in one color: a relaxed khaki and gray design with red trim.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: "One of my all time favorite purchases on Amazon (and I've bought a lot here). It keeps things cold for a long time if you put cold packs in with the [food] or drinks. I use it as a lunch box or to carry snacks for hikes. It is far more comfortable to carry than any of the other lunch totes or cases than anything else I've tried or seen. Just love it."

A Soft-Sided Cooler That’s Worth The Splurge
  • Type: Soft-sided cooler
  • Capacity: 12 cans

Yeti is known for their exceptional coolers, and the Hopper Flip 12 cooler from the brand is no different. The lightweight cooler has foam insulation that offers superior cold preservation — it can retain ice for days and days — which is hard to come by in a soft-sided cooler. The cooler’s exterior is totally waterproof and is even resistant to mildew, punctures, and abrasions. Additionally, it boasts a leakproof zipper and a wide-mouth opening (for accessibility and visibility to the contents). And the detachable shoulder strap and reinforced handles make for easy carrying, though the 3.1-pound bag is slightly heavy for a soft-sided cooler.

The cooler has spots to attach Yeti accessories, as well as bottle openers, carabiners, and more. Choose from a range of color options.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: "This cooler keeps ice for days. Most amazing thing I have seen in a long time. You can tell it's well made by picking it up. Huge zipper closes tight!"