In classic Hydro Flask style, the new 24 L Soft Cooler Tote is minimal in design and a thing of refined beauty. Oh yeah, it also keeps your beer cold and can squish into any adventure wagon no matter how small the space. The soft Cooler done right.
Hydro Flask is a Bend, Oregon based company that makes a wide range of products designed to keep food and drinks cold or hot, including coffee mugs to beer growlers and pint glasses. Although their product range tends to lean toward portable drink containers they do have a small collection of soft-sided, waterproof coolers designed for rugged day or weekend outings. We have reviewed soft-sided waterproof coolers from Yeti in the past such as the Yeti Hopper Two 30 and Yeti Hopper Flip 18 and also Pelican's 24 Can Soft Cooler. Now it’s time to see how the Hydro Flask 24 L Soft Cooler Tote stands up to the competition with their 48-hour long cold claim.
As with all Hydro Flask products, the design of their 24 L Soft Cooler Tote is minimalist and appealing.
The Hydro Flask Unbound Series of soft-sided coolers come in a wide range of colours in either backpack or tote versions and in sizes of 15 and 22 litres for the packs and 18 and 24 litres for the totes. For this review, I tested the 24-litre tote. All of the Hydro Flask totes are built from a durable 420D nylon waterproof shell and the zippers are YKK Watertight Aquaseal and the seams are welded which ensures no water can get in or out.
The liner of the tote is FDA food grade and BPA free which means ice can be put into the cooler and food can go directly on the ice if desired. Access to the tote is via a zippered, hinged top which allows for easy access to food and drinks, as well as easy access for cleaning. The base of the cooler is compression molded which allows for unsupported self-standing and there are two small gear pockets, one on the front and one on the back, which can hold such items as cell phones or car keys.
An adjustable ergonomic shoulder strap allows for carrying over the shoulder or across the back or if there isn’t much inside of it, it can be carried via two hand straps.
Being soft sided the cooler can be stowed in the back of the care easily and the two short side straps allow for maneuvering in and out of tight spaces if needed.
I tested the Hydro Flask 24 L Soft Cooler Tote on a few outings this past spring. What stood out right away about the tote is how well it carried weight. I put the 24 cans with some ice in it for a weekend getaway and both the shoulder straps and handles allowed for easy carrying. I carried the tote fully loaded on my shoulder for almost a kilometre walk down a fairly steep trail and at no point did it ever feel uncomfortable. The narrow profile and soft sides allow the tote to sit close to your body and slightly conform to it while carrying it over the shoulder or across your back so it never bounces around. I actually kind of forgot that I was even carrying a load of 24 cans it was so comfortable.
The other thing that stood out is how easy it is to pack and clean. The zippered hinged top allows for full unimpeded access to the tote so packing is simple. To clean it you can take a damp cloth and wipe it out and then keep the lid popped open to allow it to dry. The liner dries very quickly which, being soft sided I was a little skeptical of but even if you need it to dry faster you can take a dry cloth and wipe down any excess moisture.
As far as the claims that the Hydro Flask tote will keep things cold for up to 48 hours, I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to achieve a full two days of cold temperatures. Each time I used the tote I put drinks in the tote first and then ice packs on the top. After 12 hours the packs were still frozen and the drinks were still cold. At the 24 hour mark, the ice packs were about half frozen and the drinks were cool but not fully cold. Finally, at the 36-hour mark, the ice packs were no longer frozen and the drinks were cool enough to drink but just. Overall, given that the tote isn’t really intended for extended journeys, 36 hours is more than adequate. For day trips or overnighters, your drinks and food will easily stay cold to cool.
As for being waterproof, indeed, the tote manages to fend off water very well. To test the claims that the cooler is fully impervious to water I submerged it in a creek for a few minutes. Not a drop of water was able to get inside and the nylon outer material dries quickly.
One thing to note is that the tote is really suited for carrying cans. It’s tall, narrow design doesn’t lend itself to carrying items that are wide or bulky. Something to consider if you are in the market for a cooler that can carry larger items.
Overall, the Hydroflask Unbound soft tote is a great cooler for day trips or even overnighters. It’s comfortable to carry, even with heavy loads, it packs and cleans easily, and it manages to both keep water in and keep water out.
Hydro Flask 24 L Soft Cooler Tote
Price: $329.95CAN / $224.95US
Capacity: 24 L
Colours: Black, Storm, Mist, Goldenrod, Brick, Lagoon
Hydro Flask 22oz Tumblers
Price: $29.95CAN / $24.95US
Volume: 473 mL / 16oz
Mouth Diameter: 9.5cm / 3.75"
Diameter: 5.8cm / 2.3"
Height: 15cm / 5.9"
Weight: 221g / 7.8oz
Colours: Black, white, graphite, cobalt, pacific, mint, olive, watermelon
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