AO Coolers 12 Pack Soft Cooler Review

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The best soft cooler for most people is the AO Coolers 12 Pack Soft Cooler. It has become our go-to ice chest for everything. The cooler features a durable 5 layer construction, super easy zipper, shoulder strap, front dry pocket, and clip-down ends to make the cooler more compact and hold ice longer. It is also available in 24, 36, and 48 can model if you need something larger.

What Makes Me Qualified to Recommend a Cooler?

YETI, RTIC, Ice Hole, and AO Coolers
YETI, RTIC, Ice Hole, and AO Coolers

As you can see in the photo above, we own many coolers. We have many others not pictured here at other properties. No, we did not complete a week long ice melt test or put a bunch of meat inside a cooler to see if a Grizzly bear could get in. A quick google search will help you find that answer.

I am going to discuss why this is a good cooler for the average person. We love to barbecue, go boating at the lake, or go beer and wine tasting in the Hill Country. That is where the AO Soft Cooler excels. A high quality, everyday life cooler at a great price.

Everyone is Tired of Heavy Coolers

The two bottom coolers are heavy without anything in them. Ice them down and you can forget about it. The large bag on top is heavy when full of ice and refreshments.
The two bottom coolers are heavy without anything in them. Ice them down and you can forget about it. The large bag on top is heavy when full of ice and refreshments.

It doesn’t matter the brand, all Rotomolded hard coolers are heavy. Real heavy. Let’s face it, unless you are doing a week-long Alaskan expedition where you need to keep meat iced for days, a Rotomolded cooler is not for you. They were also designed to be used as elevated platforms for fishing at the coast. Unless you are using them for these specific purposes, there is no need to carry the extra weight.

This is why heavy Rotomolded coolers are not the first thing we grab on the shelf when looking for a cooler. They are too darn heavy. It takes two people to lift the cooler when loaded down and sometimes that can be a struggle. These things are too heavy for most people. Most people are going out on the lake or to an event and need ice for a day. AO Coolers fill that need in a lightweight, compact package.

Solution: Purchase Multiple 12 Pack Soft Coolers

Vinyl and canvas AO 12 pack Coolers
Vinyl and canvas AO 12 pack Coolers

I decided to do a test and purchased multiple AO 12 Pack Soft Coolers. The plan was to have multiple coolers that can be placed in different parts of a boat or at different areas in your home for a party. Each cooler can have different drinks for different groups or you can fill one with drinking ice.

For instance, you can have one dedicated to kid drinks, so they are not mixed with adult drinks. This prevents everyone from having to spend ten minutes looking for their refreshment. You can dedicate one AO 12 Pack Cooler for waters only. This way you know exactly where the water is and can point someone in that direction.

Another cooler can be dedicated to alcohol. This way you can keep an eye on the kiddos to make sure they are not sneaking an adult beverage. You can even purchase this one in a special color like red to help you can keep an eye on it.

Last, is drinking ice. If you throw lots of parties, you know how important drinking ice can be. This cooler will always be dedicated to drinking ice which will keep the ice frozen and the cooler will be cleaner since there are fewer hands in and out. You could purchase this one in a specific color as well.

The best part about it is you can purchase 4-5 AO Coolers for the same price as one high end soft cooler. This gives you ultimate flexibility and allows you to keep a few at a second home or in your vehicle. They are the best bang for the buck cooler out there today.

Or, you can purchase a couple AO 24 Can Coolers if that better suits you.

Expensive Coolers With Hard to Open Zippers

Hard to open and close zipper on expensive cooler.
Hard to open and close zipper on expensive cooler.

This is the most frustrating part of owning a high-end bag cooler. They have zippers that are designed to be used on a Class 5 white water rafting trip. There is nothing more frustrating than having to get up out of your chair every time someone wants a drink from the cooler. The zippers are so hard to open that kids and seniors can’t open the cooler. Closing the zipper all the way is even harder, so half the time the cooler is left open which lets all the cold air out. Heck, I have a hard time opening and closing the bag.

Aren’t luxury items supposed to make our lives easier?

AO Coolers Have Easy YKK Zippers

YKK easy open zipper on AO Coolers.
YKK easy open zipper on AO Coolers.

AO Coolers have regular, easy to open zippers. They use YKK brand zippers which are known for quality and reliability. YKK zippers are used on some of the best brands in the world. They are not waterproof, so water will leak out if you turn it over. I am ok with this because it is a joy to finally use a standard zipper that everyone can open.

I have no idea how we were all convinced to start using “extreme expedition coolers” as our main cooler for everyday life. Marketing really does work. And, keeping up with the Jones’s probably had something to do with it.

12 Pack Soft Cooler Size is Perfect

12 beer bottles iced down in AO Cooler 12 pack cooler.
12 beer bottles iced down in AO Cooler 12 pack cooler.

I normally ice down a six-pack, but as you see in the photo above I could ice down a 12 pack of bottles and plenty of ice. This is one of those coolers that actually allows you to ice down the quantity it states it can hold. Now we’re talking.

The AO 12 Pack Soft Cooler is the perfect size for most occasions. I grab this thing and go. Its lightweight and super compact. I love this darn cooler. Throw a few drinks in with some ice and you’re gone faster than the Dallas Cowboys hopes in making the playoffs. Ouch! Yes, we are Cowboys fans.

Side Pockets Are Handy on Cooler

Hat, Koozie, and bottle opener in AO Cooler side pocket.
Hat, Koozie, and bottle opener in AO Cooler side pocket.

We use the side pockets on our AO soft coolers all the time. The most common items we store are collapsible koozies and bottle openers. Collapsible koozies lay flat so you can stuff a bunch of them in the pocket. You can also store soft, collapsible hats which is always nice to have when boating or cruising in the convertible.

The AO 12 Pack Soft Cooler Makes the Perfect Gift

Red canvas AO 12 Pack Cooler
Red canvas AO 12 Pack Cooler

Looking for a great gift for anyone? Purchase the AO 12 Pack Soft Cooler. This is a great cooler for adults and kids. Anyone can use it for drinks and food or it can be used as a tote bag. They are reasonably priced and well-built. Either way, someone will get some great use out of it.

5 Layer Design To Keep Ice Frozen

AO Coolers uses 3/4 inch thick, high density, closed cell foam insulation while most competitors are using 1/4 inch foam. On top of this, is a heavy duty outer coating, a polyethylene film for moisture prevention, spun polyester sheeting, and the heavyweight leakproof liner. This creates a cooler that will hold ice for 24 hours in 120-degree heat. The soft canvas exterior means the cooler won’t scratch your gel coat or tear up any upholstery.

RF Welded Seams on TPU Internal Liner

Thick heavy duty TPU interior liner in AO Coolers.
Thick heavy duty TPU interior liner in AO Coolers.

The interior liner on AO soft coolers is one solid piece. The seams are melted together to provide a strong, one-piece design that will not leak. This design is much stronger than a cooler with glued seams as they will eventually fail and start to leak. You can feel the quality of their liner as it is thicker than most cheap coolers.

The high-quality internal TPU liner is made of the same material used to make waterbeds and above ground pools. It is resilient to impacts, abrasions, tears, and more. AO Coolers are guaranteed to never leak or sweat.

Side Buckles Fasten Down or Leave Unbuckled

Side buckles fasten down on AO 12 Pack Cooler for a more compact, efficient design.
Side buckles fasten down on AO 12 Pack Cooler for a more compact, efficient design.

Releasing the side buckles on your AO Cooler allows it to stand taller so you can store taller items. This works great for carrying bottles of beer, soda, and water. If you are only carrying cans, you can buckle down the side for a more compact cooler that will help contain cold air to keep ice frozen. It also makes the cooler more stable with the buckles attached on the side.

Leaving the sides unbuckled allows you to store taller items.
Leaving the sides unbuckled allows you to store taller items.

Leaving the sides unbuckled also allows the cooler to open wider. This is nice when filling the cooler, accessing stuff inside, or cleaning the cooler. Some brands don’t offer this feature which makes it hard to open the mouth of the cooler to see inside.

Bring an Item for Dinner or a Potluck

Use this cooler to keep things warm as well! AO Coolers are good for keeping items warm while you travel to a party or you may need to keep something warm until your guests arrive. Either way, you have a multipurpose tote bag that can keep items cold or hot. Win-win!

24, 36, and 48 Can AO Soft Coolers

AO Coolers also makes soft coolers in 24, 36, and 48 can size. We have not tried their larger soft coolers, but have thought about trying out a 24 can cooler. I have really enjoyed having multiple smaller coolers that are easy to carry and dividing up drinks by type. Either way, they have options for everyone.

Popular Name Brand Coolers Get Stolen

The AO Cooler is less likely to get stolen sitting on the back of your boat or tailgate. And, that is one less thing for you to worry about. Everyone can spot a YETI or RTIC cooler a mile away. Their brands have been drilled into our heads. They are kings of marketing and the stories about how they grew their companies is remarkable.

But, with that name recognition also comes desire from thieves to steal your fancy cooler. Which is why they sell so many locks. Just another accessory you’ll have to add to the cart at checkout. Checkmate for designer cooler! Darn, they got me again.

Expensive Coolers Do Fail

Broken zipper on YETI 12 Hopper Cooler
Broken zipper on YETI 12 Hopper Cooler

We have had two Yeti soft coolers and zippers have broken on both coolers. Now, I don’t know about you, but when you’re paying $250 for a soft cooler, the zipper should not break. But they do, and it’s frustrating. I am not bashing on Yeti, that just happened to be the brand of cooler we owned at the time. When you pay a lot for a cooler, maybe your expectations are much higher.

YETI Update November 2021

We reached out too Yeti to let them know the zippers failed on both of our coolers and they shipped us brand new soft coolers at no charge. I have to give credit to Yeti as they are a company that stands behind their products. This must explain why they have been so successful for such a long time. We originally reached out to find out how to get the zippers repaired because we contacted a local company and they could not fix them. Sending us two brand new coolers is how they responded and all they asked is we send back our old coolers.

The hard to open and close zipper has since been replaced with a full magnetic closure that is very strong.
The hard to open and close zipper has since been replaced with a full magnetic closure that is very strong.

On top of that, they sent the new design for the larger soft pack cooler which has a magnetic closure. The magnetic closure fixes the issue of hard to open zippers that no one can seem to open. I have read online some people do not like the magnetic closure because it makes it hard to keep it open while loading. We have not used the cooler so we can’t comment on that.

Another thing that I read on Yeti’s website is they say not to leave the cooler propped open and unattended in the presence of children and animals. I’m assuming the magnetic closure is so powerful that a small child or animal could fall inside and be trapped. I thought that was an interesting statement next to their product listing on the website.

Do Not Use Dry Ice

AO Coolers claims that dry ice will crack the interior liner so it is recommended not to use it with their coolers.

AO Soft Cooler Upgrade Picks

The AO Coolers Sportsman Vinyl Soft Cooler is the upgrade to their original soft canvas cooler. It has all the same features as the original, but the exterior is made with a tough, waterproof vinyl. It is easy to wipe down as the surface is more slick.

The next upgrade from there would be the AO Coolers Carbon Soft Cooler. It features an exterior made of 1000 denier woven vinyl that resembles carbon fiber. It is a beautiful cooler for someone wanting a notch up in the looks department.

The deluxe model is the AO 12 Pack Traveler Soft Cooler which features larger side pockets for carrying extras. This is nice if you need a little more room in the side pockets for carrying extra items so you don’t have to bring a separate bag.


As you can see, I am a huge fan of the AO 12 Pack Soft Cooler. I feel it is the right size and weight for most people and offers excellent ice retention. The design, build quality, and features are exactly what you would expect out of a cooler twice the price. The included side pocket, shoulder strap, and high quality exterior make this the best soft cooler for the money on the market today. Buy a few for yourself or as gifts. The cooler will far exceed your expectations.


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