Air travel can be challenging, especially if you need to bring frozen goods with you. TSA regulation requires you not to bring any liquid into the airplane, so ice is not an option to bring onto the plane. Carrying a cooler can be a problem, too. That’s because most of them aren’t very compact and heavy to carry. Luckily, soft-sided coolers are here to help you travel with chilled frozen! Enter the best coolers for air travel! Unlike hard-sided coolers, these coolers are relatively lightweight and a breeze to carry. From a waterproof to a collapsible cooler for air travel, below are some of the best available options. Read on to find out our favorites!
Table of contents
- AKASO 6L Small Collapsible Cooler Bag
- dbest products Ultra Compact Cooler Smart Cart
- Polar Bear Original Nylon Soft Cooler
- CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag
- Permian Portable Cooler Roll Top
- NorChill Can Voyager Series Insulated Soft-Sided Cooler
- Bison Coolers Soft-Sided Insulated Cooler Bag
- AO Coolers Soft Cooler
- Coleman Soft Cooler Bag
- Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler
- Hydro Flask Carry Out Soft Cooler
- Columbia PFG Skiff Guide Cooler Pack
- Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze
- IceMule – Devoe Designs Backpack
- YETI Hopper Backflip Cooler Backpack
- Our Verdict!
- How To Choose The Best Coolers for Air Travel
- Can I take a cooler on an airplane?
- Do soft-sided coolers work?
- Are soft coolers waterproof?
AKASO 6L Small Collapsible Cooler Bag
The AKASO 6L Collapsible Cooler for air travel may be small, but it’s more than enough to hold a complete meal for one. This makes it a great alternative to your ordinary lunch box. Its size is also perfect to be your personal carry-on item. Put it under the seat – or in the overhead compartment – this collapsible travel cooler bag won’t take away your legroom!
In addition to that, this bag is made of high-quality nylon fabric. This means it’s both waterproof and easy to clean. This feature is useful in case you spill something on it. A quick rinse or even a wet wipe is enough to get rid of the fresh stain. Though small, this bag can hold six cans of beer. We think it’s the perfect collapsible cooler for air travel to accompany your flight over the midwest!
- Though small, it can hold up to six cans of beer.
- It can retain coolness for up to 24 hours.
- This waterproof cooler bag’s 420D Nylon Oxford fabric is easy to clean.
- It might be too small for some travelers.
dbest products Ultra Compact Cooler Smart Cart
Drag dbest products Ultra-Compact Cooler Smart Cart to any picnic spot, and you can say goodbye to hassles! With its four-gallon capacity, you only need one bag to fit everything from sandwiches, fruits, and water to a bottle of wine. The two wheels on the back and two feet on the front make this cooler easy to carry, yet able to stand up straight as you take its content out on your picnic table.
This bag won’t take up so much space in your closet when not in use. This collapsible cooler can be folded down easily for air travel, picnic, camping (or perhaps glamping). Besides, it weighs less than 3 lbs! Even your kids won’t have any problem maneuvering it. For more storage, mesh pockets are added to the outer part of the bag. You can use them to store utensils or snacks that don’t need cooling.
- This best cooler for airline travel comes with enough mesh pockets.
- Thanks to the wheels and feet, it’s super easy to carry around.
- Weighing less than 3 lbs, this collapsible travel cooler bag is super lightweight.
- Compared to some of the best coolers for air travel, it doesn’t have the best ice retention.
Polar Bear Original Nylon Soft Cooler
The Polar Bear Original Nylon Soft Cooler slides into our list of best coolers for air travel effortlessly thanks to its build quality and capacity in such a compact size! This 24-can cooler is perfect for keeping your favorite beverages cold on a weekend getaway. The compact size also makes it a great cold pack to bring onto an airplane with you. With hand webbing and padded straps, carrying this cooler all day is a breeze! No wonder many people see it as the best travel cooler for flying!
The skin is made of highly durable 840D Nylon with some reinforcement at the base. To prevent air from seeping from the outside, the interior is protected by high-density foam insulation to ensure 24-hour ice retention. Furthermore, the bag uses the rust-proof YKK zipper in the opening. Attach the zipper ends to the steel hooks to complete the seal, and your cooler is ready for some mobile action!
- This compact cooler bag is highly durable, thanks to its 840D Nylon exterior.
- It has amazing 24-hour ice retention.
- There are multiple compartments, and the main one is expandable!
- When first unboxed, the cooler has a weird factory smell.
CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag
Another great addition to our list is the CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag, one of the most popular collapsible coolers for air travel. It’s loved because of its design and lightweight properties! This 50-can cooler is built to withstand the wear and tear of air travel. Air travel coolers are often shoved around in the cabin, slid under the seat, or dropped on harsh gravel, so they need to be tough. But tough doesn’t mean it has to look ugly! This cooler is the perfect example!
When not used, this best cooler for airplane travel folds flat until the next time you need it. It also has a clever mechanism called SnapHinge that makes folding and unfolding very easy and instant. The interior of this cooler bag is made of multiple layers of insulation to help your stuff stay frozen for at least seven hours. It’s more than enough to keep your ice packs solid before boarding your plane. With these capabilities, no wonder this is the favorite bag among food delivery services!
- Excluding the ice, it can fit up to 50 cans!
- It comes complete with a bottle opener.
- We love how solid the board base is.
- It only works best with ice packs or ice in sealed containers.
Permian Portable Cooler Roll Top
If you’re looking for a cooler bag that you can take to a plane but tough enough to go into a wild adventure, the Permian Portable Cooler Roll Top is the right choice for your lifestyle. This roll-top action cooler bag is more than your ordinary cooler sling bag for its strength and portability. You carry this bag using a sling strap across your chest. No matter what adventure awaits, this best cooler for airplane travel will keep its content cold and fresh!
Moreover, this 15-liter cooler bag fits 10 cans with ice in one heave. It’s also equipped with enhanced insulation to keep ice frozen for up to 24 hours! You won’t expect any water seepage from this bag, both from the inside and the outside. This is thanks to the sonically welded seams and the three-time roll-top opening. The best thing about this cooler bag is that it can be rolled into a compact form when not in use!
- This foldable 15L ice cooler is perfect for adventurers.
- The padded shoulder strap allows you to carry the bag comfortably.
- It has impressive 24-hour ice retention.
- Unfortunately, this isn’t the most durable option on the market.
NorChill Can Voyager Series Insulated Soft-Sided Cooler
Another highly-recommended collapsible cooler for air travel is the NorChill Can Voyager Series Insulated Soft-Sided Cooler. This expandable cooler took the market by storm in its early days with its clever but simple build that works. The look represents the chilling performance it has: efficient and effective. However, this cooler has much more to offer than its look!
The manufacturer takes pride in its successful marine-inspired, ultra-durable YKK zipper. This special zipper keeps the chill air from escaping through the zipper. The exterior is made of tough 600D Nylon and is accompanied by their trademarked GatorSkin liner. Meanwhile, the thick insulation is enough to generate about 15 hours of ice retention. Worry about spoiling the stuff inside the bag? Take out the melted water through the built-in spout!
- It has impressive ice retention, which can last more than 15 hours.
- This best cooler for airplane travel comes with an extra zippered pocket for your convenience.
- The hand webbing and padded shoulder strap make it comfy to carry around.
- The durability of the zipper can be improved.
Bison Coolers Soft-Sided Insulated Cooler Bag
Rugged and tough, Bison Coolers Soft-Sided Insulated Cooler Bag could be your next trusty companion to keep your stuff frozen and pass the TSA checking! Compared to other best coolers for air travel, this one might be relatively new, but the manufacturer is so confident in the quality that they gladly offer a 30-day trial and 2-year warranty for every purchase of this bag.
On top of that, this 24-can cooler feels solid to carry. It has a vinyl-coated 100D nylon as its outer skin, which is tear-resistant for up to 375 lbs. Not to mention, this best cooler for airline travel also has extra-thick insulation. But if you expect this bag to ‘swear’ profusely, you might be impressed as it doesn’t do that at all, thanks to the TPU liner that captures any unwanted condensation. Ice packs and ice works equally well with this best cooler for airplane travel. However, you should be mindful as the zipper is the only part that isn’t leakproof.
- This is a durable cooler bag that doesn’t ‘sweat’!
- It’s backed by a 30-day trial and a 2-year warranty.
- It has better longevity than some soft-sided coolers on the market.
- It’s prone to leakage when toppled over.
AO Coolers Soft Cooler
Best Budget. Air travel is the fastest way of transportation on Earth. However, there are many regulations to adhere to make sure you’re traveling safely and comfortably. One of the regulations prohibits any liquid in the passenger cabin, so water and ice are out of the question. What if you need to bring frozen goods? It’s important to keep it frozen (including the ice) at all times, and this is where AO Coolers Soft Cooler comes to the rescue!
In addition to that, this soft-sided cooler is lightweight and compact. According to the official product page, it can hold up to 24 cans of beverages, including ice! That’s not all, though. It also comes with a highly durable canvas material to accompany plenty of air travel. It’s one of the best coolers for air travel that’s perfect to be used with ice packs to keep everything neat and frozen inside its dense insulation. You don’t need to worry about leaking anymore since its TPU liner will keep any liquid inside as long as it’s upright!
- It is the best travel cooler for flying and has 18 hours of ice retention.
- Since it’s leak-free, you don’t have to worry about leaking anymore.
- Its lightweight and compact design mean it won’t take up so much space.
- Its fittings are made of plastic.
Coleman Soft Cooler Bag
Best Compact Cooler. Coming from a renowned company that produces many outdoor products for families, the Coleman Soft Cooler Bag doesn’t disappoint. After all, it’s seen as one of the best coolers for air travel. This lightweight and comfortable cooler is designed specifically for your active lifestyle. Whether you want to store meat, beverages, or ice packs, this cooler effortlessly keeps them frozen for 18-24 hours!
This specialty comes from extensive engineering and material research in insulation. This nine-can cooler has company-secret, dense insulation to keep the outside air from affecting the interior’s temperature. Furthermore, it’s completely odorless both on the inside and the outside! Meanwhile, the two-way zipper is great when you have to pack a little more than you need to. Don’t worry; the zipper is super tough!
- It’s one of the best options for those searching for a small but reliable collapsible travel cooler bag.
- Thanks to the anti-microbial liner, this best cooler for airplane travel is odor-resistant.
- The two-way zipper is not only smooth but also long-lasting.
- Some travelers might find this bag too small.
Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler
The Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler is the backpack cousin of the previous product made by the same company. This comfy item is the holy grail of the normal-looking cooler backpack to accompany your flying trip! It’s lightweight and has a great form factor for an all-day carry. Like a non-cooler backpack, this mobile ice chest has multiple compartments to store a plethora of things, but the only difference is they are all finely insulated to keep your stuff cool throughout your journey!
The main compartment can hold up to 28 cans inside it – though, with the presence of ice, it will hold fewer than that. Meanwhile, the interior is lined with a special type of liner to keep it from leaking or creating condensation. However, the straps are some of the best among coolers on the market. They’re thickly padded and breathable so that you won’t get home with sweaty shoulders and back.
- There are multiple compartments that you can use to keep smaller items.
- Its backpack style makes it super easy and convenient to carry as a carry-on.
- Its two-way zipper is smooth and durable.
- Unfortunately, the handle is a bit too thin.
Hydro Flask Carry Out Soft Cooler
Who says traveling with an ice cooler means you have to walk around with a bulky, boring-looking ice chest? The Hydro Flask Carry Out Soft Cooler is a beautiful piece but a chilling beast on the inside! The tote slash shoulder bag is one of the best coolers for air travel that turns heads in the airport. Besides, its sturdy build is rarely matched by its competitors. It’s also lightweight, so you won’t have any problem strolling around the city with a full ice chest on the go.
We’re talking about the smart insulation that wraps around this cooler. It’s also the reason why the cooler strips down its weight but still maintains a decent chilling power. Instead of doubling up the insulation, this cooler enhances insulation in only several points where it is needed the most. Paired with the Aquaseal zipper, this cooler has up to 24 hours of ice retention. It really is the best cooler for airline travel. That’s worth every penny! Have a better look at this product by watching this official product video!
- It can hold ice for up to 24 hours!
- This durable and reliable cooler bag is backed by a five-year warranty.
- It features a padded, removable shoulder strap that enhances comfort.
- Some people might find this bag expensive.
Columbia PFG Skiff Guide Cooler Pack
The Columbia PFG Skiff Guide Cooler Pack is the child of a company that has been providing some of the best outdoor gear for centuries. It only makes sense if this portable cooler is produced to live up to its reputation. This lightweight ice chest is quite popular in the medical world, where they help millions of organs safely until they reach their destination. It makes this cooler one of the best coolers for air travel.
The robust build consists of high-density and water-resistant skin on the outside and a hard shell on the inside. This shell will make sure that there’s no leakage possible during mobility. If you notice, this bag has no zipper to start with; the engineers realize that the weakest part of an ice chest is on the zipper. With the absence of a zipper, this ice chest ensures high ice retention for up to 48 hours in normal conditions. What else do you need from a portable cooler with two insulated compartments?
- This is a robust cooler with an impressive ice retention rate.
- This product comes with two compartments unlike your regular collapsible cooler for air travel.
- It has a unique, zipperless lid design.
- It’s bigger than you thought, even though it can slide under your seat effortlessly.
Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze
Best Ice Retention Rate. The Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze is an update of one of the best coolers for air travel in the market. This cooler is arguably the best one to carry the heavy duty of keeping your stuff chilled when traveling by airplane. The simplicity and ease of use appeal to many professionals, such as paramedics and food delivery couriers. Apart from its top-notch durability, it also has an impressive ice retention rate that can make retent ice for up to three days.
The high ice retention rate is the result of several techs embedded into this ice chest. In addition, eliminating the zipper also creates a water-tight seal to avoid air seepage. Meanwhile, the HardBody removable shell keeps the whole container intact and gives a strong structure to achieve as much temperature stability as possible. With all of these breakthroughs, the cooler top it all off with a comfy shoulder carry strap that’s friendly on your shoulder!
- This is a durable cooler that can retent ice for days.
- It comes complete with an integrated bottle opener.
- The BackSaver shoulder strap is super comfy.
- Though durable, it’s not the most lightweight option available.
IceMule – Devoe Designs Backpack
Best Waterproof. Are you looking for an alternative ice carrier to accompany your air journey? Then the IceMule – Devoe Designs Backpack should be one of your top options. This collapsible cooler for air travel is incredibly lightweight and compact. Carrying a hefty amount of ice won’t hurt your shoulders and back, even after a whole day of carrying! This is all thanks to the padded shoulder straps and the ingenious design! Moreover, this 9L backpack can be rolled into a convenient 7 x 5 x 5 inches in size!
Meanwhile, the PolarLayer Insulation is tough but easy to clean if you need to do some maintenance. The surprise doesn’t end there, though. This cooler ice bag can also keep things frozen for up to a 24-hour. It’s totally waterproof both on the inside and from the outside. You don’t have to worry if you want to wear this bag when it rains. Heck, it can even float when dumped into the ocean! That’s why it’s also one of the best kayak coolers!
- It comes with a convenient front pocket that you can use to store smaller items.
- This foldable bag is both waterproof and leakproof.
- It can even float on water!
- It takes extra effort to unload its content.
YETI Hopper Backflip Cooler Backpack
Best Overall. The best thing that happened to the portable cooler market is the YETI Hopper Backflip Cooler Backpack. Coming from the best brand in the cooling world, this is the cooler that flawlessly marries hard coolers’ reliability with backpacks’ portability. It’s ergonomically engineered to achieve fatigue-less carry in your entire journey with its padded shoulder straps and back support. The form factor also makes it the best cooler for air travel!
This bag’s ice retention isn’t something you can ever doubt. Under the right conditions – when it’s pre-chilled and kept sealed most of the time – it can hold ice frozen for more than two days! This power comes from the company’s trademark ColdCell insulation, paired with HydroLok Zipper, which ensures total air insulation from the outside environment. It’s completely leakproof, no matter the position. Whether sideways or upright, rest assured it won’t leave you any messy puddles. While this best travel cooler for flying is pricey compared to some options out there, it’s surely worth the investment! Read what OutdoorGearLab has to say about this product to get to know it better!
- It can hold ice frozen for days.
- Apart from being extra durable, this cooler is also leakproof.
- This is a low-maintenance product.
- It’s on the pricier side. However, it’s worth the money!
Whether you’re looking for the most portable or waterproof option, we’re sure you’ll be able to find the one you like from the list above. However, if you need help choosing one, we’ve prepared a list of our favorites! The following products are the standouts in their respective criteria!
- Best Overall: YETI Hoppper Backflip Cooler Backpack
- Best Waterproof: IceMule – Devoe Designs Backpack
- Best Ice Retention Rate: Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze
- Best Compact Cooler: Coleman Soft Cooler Bag
- Best Budget: AO Coolers Soft Cooler
How To Choose The Best Coolers for Air Travel
To board a plane with a cooler as a carry-on is easy and convenient, but finding the best coolers for air travel is an entirely different thing to tackle. There are many types and products nowadays, and you need a few pointers to help you narrow down the options. Below are some aspects needed to be considered before purchasing the best cooler for airplane travel.
It’s only natural to check on TSA regulations before boarding a plane with a cooler as your carry-on. Generally, a carry-on should not be bigger than 18 x 14 x 8 inches, and thankfully, there are plenty of coolers within the regulation limit. Soft-sided coolers, whether shoulder-carried or a backpack, are your best bet due to their lightness and ease of carrying. Remember, keep your coolers upright at all times to avoid unnecessary leaking.
Durability and Comfort
If you’re planning to make frequent travels with your coolers, you’d want one that can withstand heavy wear and tear while giving your shoulders the support they need. At least, look for coolers with padded handles and shoulder straps because you need to carry your cooler comfortably. Besides, nobody wants to chaff their skin due to prolonged carrying. The next basic thing is to look for coolers with some reinforcements at pressure hot spots. Corners and strap points have to, at least, be double-sown.
What’s a cooler if it can’t keep the ice frozen? Ice retention is the key to safety and convenience. Consulting a product’s reviews and instructions will do your miles! To make things smooth from your side, it’s always better to use ice packs for coolers to pack into your coolers for airplane travel. Make sure that the ice packs are frozen by the time you board your flight. Any sign of liquefaction or liquid will result in a banned carry-on.
Can I take a cooler on an airplane?
Absolutely yes, but within several terms. You can take your cooler as a checked bag as long as the size is within a carry-on regulation and there is no liquid present in the cooler. So, make sure you opt for ice packs instead of plain ice.
Do soft-sided coolers work?
Even though they’re noticeably lighter, soft-sided coolers can offer just as much chilling power as their hard-cased brethren. Hard-cased coolers may have longer ice retention (find the best coolers for hunting here), but keeping things frozen for 2-3 days is enough to let soft-sided coolers board a plane with you. Besides, they’re much more portable and lightweight!
Are soft coolers waterproof?
While most soft-sided coolers are leakproof, they only apply if they’re standing upright. To ensure how waterproof they are, you should take a simple water test on your soft-sided coolers before traveling.