Engel Soft-Sided Cooler Review
Last Updated by Brandon F. on 6/18/2019
Engel, traditionally known for their great hard-sided coolers, have recently rolled out their lineup of soft-sided coolers. These coolers are designed to compete with the very best in the premium cooler world, particularly the widely successful soft-sided coolers offered by Yeti and RTIC. Engel is confident that their unique twist on their products will help to make them stand out in what is becoming a very competitive premium cooler market.
In addition to their soft-sided coolers, Engel has also brought to the table a backpack cooler. The goal with the backpack cooler is to try to harness the convenience and mobility of a backpack with the quality insulation of traditional cooler.
We will discuss both at length below.
- 1 Engel Soft-Sided Cooler Review
- 1.1 Engel Soft-Sided Cooler Lineup
- 1.2 Engel Backpack Cooler
- 1.3 Engel Soft-Sided Cooler Ice Life
- 1.4 Engel Soft-Sided Coolers vs. Yeti Hopper
- 1.5 Engel Soft-Sided Cooler Review
- 1.6 Engel Backpack Cooler Review
Engel Soft-Sided Cooler Lineup
Currently, Engel has one size of its soft-sided cooler. It comes in a 32-quart offering. If we had to pick one size to start with, a cooler in the low 30-quart range is a good spot to do it. This provides plenty of room for drinks and some food without making the bag overly large and burdensome to carry.
At this size, you can expect to fit around 2 dozen drinks as well as a few pounds of ice. Obviously, swapping out fewer drinks for more ice will increase the ice performance capabilities.
In terms of specific dimensions, the exterior measurements come in at 20” x 10” x 16” and the internal dimensions are 18” x 7.5” x 13”. Simple math will show that this means you are looking at a wall thickness of well over an inch which will play a huge role in Engel Soft-Sided Cooler’s great ice performance (more on that later).
Engel Soft-Sided Cooler Features
Engel’s Soft-Sided Cooler brings to the table some popular features we have seen on other products in addition to several new features that are exclusive to this series.
To start things off, let’s go over some of the features that will assist in mobility. Having a product that is easy and comfortable to carry is extremely important. Let’s face it: a cooler can become quite heavy when it is filled with ice and drinks and having a handle that is not comfortable or poorly-designed can make for a very frustrating experience.
To combat this potential issue, Engel offers not one, not two, but THREE different ways to carry their soft-sided cooler.
First, you have your traditional padded shoulder strap. This is the largest and traditionally most popular method of carrying a soft-sided cooler. You can simply throw it over your shoulder and you will still have both arms and hands to carry other things, if necessary.
The shoulder strap included is plenty large and the pad, while not the thickest we’ve seen, provides enough cushion so as to not dig into your skin. And this is a minor complaint, but you will be required to adjust two sliding buckles instead of one to change the length. It is a bit added effort but it will result in a more secure fit.
Next, you have side handles. These side handles are sort of what you are used to seeing on most hard-sided coolers. They are located on opposite sides of the cooler bag and run almost the entire length of the side. These can be helpful in those cases when you need to lift the cooler bag off of the ground or you are already carrying other items on your shoulders.
Finally, there are top grab handles. These fold over the top of the cooler and can be fastened together. This forms a sort of “cooler suitcase” which allows you to carry it with just one hand and without having to worry about it swaying.
As for build quality, Engel has pulled out all the stops in designing their robust soft-sided cooler.
While most of the competition utilizes sewing to attach the various pieces of fabric, Engel has instead decided to weld all of their seams. These welds are extremely strong and very difficult to tear. Not only does this benefit in the toughness of the cooler, but by welding, you are removing the tiny air gaps that sewing create. This gives a huge boost in how long your ice will last.
The zippers are also another great feature of Engel Soft-Sided Coolers. They are 100% waterproof thanks to their intuitive design that allows the shell material to “hug” the zipper. In addition, the zipper itself has a lot of bite and this results in essentially no gap existing between the teeth.
The combination of the welded construction and waterproof zipper means that these coolers are essentially waterproof. While we don’t every recommend submerging it completely under water for long periods of time, it does mean that in the event that you accidentally drop your cooler into a pool or lake, you don’t have to worry about destroying whatever you had stored inside.
Also, let’s discuss the materials used a bit more. You will an outer shell that is made of 840 denier fibers which are extremely strong and essentially puncture resistant. In addition to this, the front and back of the cooler are laminated with Thermal Plastic Urethane film which adds an additional layer of protection.
So the build quality and comfort are there, but whatever about some “cool” features that really make it stand out from the competition?
Engel has you covered there as well!
You will find an integrated bottle opener located on the side of cooler. This is a great feature and one that we wish other cooler brands would implement. We all know the frustration of losing our bottle opener and having to resort to trying to pry the bottle open with our keys, a rock, or even our teeth! With this attached bottle opener, you won’t ever have to worry about a misplaced bottle opener again.
For added storage, there is a waterproof pocket located on the front of the cooler. This pocket is on the outside of the insulation and won’t have the impressive ice-retaining capabilities of the larger pocket but it is great for sticking away items that you don’t want to keep cold such as your car keys, wallet, or cell phone.
Finally, we are saving the best for last. Engel has thought outside of the box and included a vacuum valve located directly on the cooler bag. This will allow you to pump out excess air. This not only will reduce the size of the cooler but, more importantly, it will significantly increase ice life by sucking out excess air. We absolutely love this feature!
Engel Soft-Sided Cooler Aesthetics
While the appearance of a cooler may not be at the top of the priority list for some people, it is still worth discussing. These days, having a cooler that “stands out” can be a desire for people who tend to take their cooler into social settings such as float trips, tailgates, etc.
Overall, we really like the styling that Engel has put into their soft-sided coolers. There is a nice balance of varying subdued colors with a bright color that adorns some of the stitching, front zipper, etc. The result is a classy but modern look that should stand up to the test of time.
At the time of this review, there are 3 color schemes to choose from.
Engel Soft-Sided Cooler Price
Price is always a consideration when dealing with premium coolers. Let’s face it: all of these great features, impressive build quality, and long-lasting ice performance can come at a high cost!
True to form, Engel Soft-Sided Coolers aren’t cheap. Specifically, they will fall into the middle of the premium price tier. While they may not be as expensive as Yeti, they will be along the lines of RTIC and a handful of other Yeti competitors. And they will be a clear step above some of the “pseudo-premium” soft-sided cooler brands such as Arctic Zone, AO, etc.
Engel Backpack Cooler
To go along with their soft-sided cooler, Engel has also rolled out their Backpack Cooler. There is currently one size and it comes in at 23 quarts. The exterior dimensions are 19” x 8” x 17.5”, making it quite similar in exterior size to the soft-sided cooler but in a much more back-friendly design. Also, the design and orientation of insulation do reduce the internal storage volume down 9 quarts compared to the soft-sided cooler.
Engel Backpack Cooler Features
While you won’t find quite as many features on the Engel Backpack Cooler, there are still some notable ones that really help to make it stand out from the competition.
Let’s begin with mobility. You will find two different ways to carry this backpack.
First, you will find a large, adjustable shoulder strap. The padding isn’t super but still comfortable enough for casual wear. Similar to the soft-sided cooler, the fact that it is so wide helps to offset the lack of padding and still makes it a comfortable fit. Also similar to the soft-sided cooler, you will have to adjust two sliding buckles as opposed to one. A minor inconvenience but it results in a fitment that shouldn’t slide around as you move.
Next, you will have grab handles that are fastened above the opening. This allows you to carry this backpack in suitcase-style, holding it in one hand. We don’t see very many scenarios where you would do this by simply throwing it over your shoulder but we appreciate the ability to do so if desired.
Typical of most cooler backpacks, you will also have two backpack straps that you can put around each arm. But since you have the option to carry it in your hand thanks to the included handles, this is more of a backpack “tote” hybrid. We love having this level of versatility although some may consider it branching off from a fully traditional backpack cooler.
For toughness, there are several features that help to make the Engel Backpack Cooler one of the toughest we have ever come across.
The entire out shell is comprised of tear-resistant 500-denier polyester diamond ripstop material. This fabric is extremely tough and can be brushed and scraped up against abrasive surfaces without concern of fraying or tearing.
For added protection (as well as boosting ice performance), you will find 1” thick closed-seal foam insulation. This foam is then wrapped on the inside with a radiant barrier of reflective foil. This foil reflects the sun’s radiation, providing another level of protection to the items stored inside.
For additional storage, the Engel Backpack Cooler also comes with a large front zippered pocket as well as large side mesh pockets. You won’t find the waterproof zippers or welded seams on this product, however. This does mean that it won’t be quite as waterproof as the soft-sided cooler.
Engel Backpack Cooler Aesthetics
Engel has really impressed us in the looks department. They have managed to capture a classic look, update it with more modern design features, and present it in a way that should appeal to the masses.
Their backpack coolers come in 4 varieties: a seafoam green and three camo colors including traditional, blue, and pink. This should appeal to most everybody: camo for the hunter who doesn’t want anything loud, pink for the lady outdoorsmen and a solid color for people who don’t want the camo look.
Engel Backpack Cooler Price
Engel Backpack Coolers, while not as expensive as the Engel Soft-Sided Coolers, still fetch a hefty asking price for a backpack. It is difficult to directly compare it to competition since much of the premium cooler competition doesn’t have a product similar to this. This is sort of a backpack/tote hybrid and takes qualities from both designs. Whatever you want to call it, we feel that the great performance and features make it a bargain even at this price point.
Engel Soft-Sided Cooler Ice Life
Engel has made lots of great design decision to boost ice life. Their soft-sided cooler design is based around the traditionally most efficient soft-sided cooler design which entails created a sort of thin “pocket” shaped cooler rather than a wide, square-like shaped one. In addition, they have utilized thick insulation, welded seams, and robust zippers to minimize how much cold air can escape.
And their backpack cooler offers up 1” thick foam insulation to go along with a reflective inner barrier.
But how does that transition to actual results?
Engel states that their soft-sided coolers have a “best in class” 4 ½ days of ice retention and their backpack coolers have up to 3 days. We are used to cooler companies exaggerating their ice numbers or getting them from unrealistic scenarios (filling completely up with ice, leaving in a cold room, never opening, etc.).
We are more concerned with real-life results. This includes only filling up partially with ice, leaving in a warm area, and occasionally opening. You know: like you would do in the real world! We also took advantage of the vacuum seal capabilities on the Engel Soft-Sided Cooler.
Our results of this testing are as follows:
The first thing we noticed was just how well these soft-sided coolers performed. Compared to other soft-sided products we have tested, these have some of the longest ice we have seen!
Another important note is that Engel wasn’t too far off of what their stated numbers were. You can truly expect to enjoy up to 3 to 4 days of ice life if you really load down your cooler with ice. If you skimp on the ice you will still enjoy the great performance but don’t expect quite as impressive of figures.
Engel Soft-Sided Coolers vs. Yeti Hopper
A hotly-debated topic is which is better between Engel and Yeti when it comes to soft-sided products. Both are fighting for a similar niche’s attention so this is a valid question that should be addressed.
Engel soft-sided coolers are lacking in sizes and overall are pretty new to the soft-sided cooler market. You won’t find dozens of colors and specialized accessories like you can with a Yeti. Also, Engel, while a reputable name, doesn’t quite carry the same “wow” factor as a Yeti.
But that is where the negatives end. In terms of performance, the Engel surpasses the Yeti Hopper in ice life, is at least equal in toughness and has a host of unique features. In addition, it is quite a bit cheaper.
Yeti will have a larger selection of sizes, color options, and it carries a reputation that can’t be matched. And its performance and build quality is nothing to scoff at.
It’s a close call but we would say unless you have your heart set on a specific Yeti size or color, that Engel has the edge right now. The boost you get in performance at a lower price is too big of a selling point to us.
But no matter which product you go with, you are sure to not be disappointed.
We really enjoyed testing out the Engel Soft-Sided Cooler and the Engel Backpack Cooler. Both take the reputable Engel name and take it to another level thanks to their intuitive design and fantastic ice performance. Beyond keeping ice for a long time, these coolers are also rock-solid in build quality and look great as well. Sure, they may be a bit pricey but in the premium cooler world, they are a bargain.
Engel Soft-Sided Cooler Review
Size: 32 Quarts
Pros: Industry-leading ice life, Incredibly tough outer shell, unique vacuum feature, attractive styling
Cons: Limited sizes, Strap adjustment is a bit more work
Features: 1 ½” thick insulation, 3 different carrying methods, Waterproof zipper, 840 denier fiber, Thermal Plastic Urethane laminate, built-in bottle opener, air release valve, waterproof pocket
The Engel Soft-Sided Cooler is Engel’s first offering in the cooler bag world. It comes in a single 32-quart size and promises impressive ice life to go along with a very resilient body. There are some very unique features you will not find on most other products including a built-in bottle opener and vacuum pump valve. It is available in 4 color schemes and falls under the premium price tier.
Insulation Ability –
If you want maximum ice life from a soft-sided cooler, then look no further. The combination of incredibly thick insulation (up to 1.5” thick), welded seams, and beefy zipper means that the cold air inside will stay inside for very long periods of time. In addition, when you utilize the vacuum feature (which sucks out excess air), you give the ice performance a supercharged boost, increasing it even longer. The results of this are an ice range of over nearly 100 hours in optimal conditions. This is among the very highest numbers in the industry for this type of cooler.
Mobility and Durability –
You have three different ways to carry this cooler: a traditional adjustable shoulder strap, side handles, and overhead handles. This means you can find a comfortable carrying method no matter what your preference is or what other items you are trying to carry.
As for toughness, the hard outer shell is made of 840 denier fiber and reinforced on the sides with Thermal Plastic Urethane laminate. And these pieces are attached via welding instead of stitching (which is much stronger). The zippers are also beefed up and are actually waterproof.
There are some really clever features as well. Not only is there the air removal valve (discussed above) but you also will enjoy a built-in bottle opener.
Visual Appeal –
While your color options are limited to 4, the styling is very attractive. Engel has found a happy balance between traditional and modern and their subtle use of bright colors comes together nicely. You will receive plenty of compliments while toting this soft-sided cooler around.
This product will fall into the premium price tier. For everything that it offers, this comes as no surprise. Using so many quality materials, assembling with high-end manufacturing methods, and loading it up with helpful features is going to drive up the price.
That being said, the price is still below some of the other premium cooler brands (Yeti) and will compete with the likes of RTIC. And seeing how performance-wise it meets (if not exceeds) those brands, we still consider it a bargain.
Overall Rating –
We were simply blown away by the Engel Soft-Sided Cooler. It truly is the total package. The ice performance is industry-leading, it is designed to last for years, and it looks great. You will have to pay a bit extra and we could use a few more color (and size) choices, but Engel has laid the foundation for being the trendsetter for soft-sided coolers to come.
Engel Backpack Cooler Review
Pros: Awesome ice performance, Extremely resilient outer shell, Attractive styling
Cons: Pricey for a backpack, Not a traditional backpack, Limited sizes
Features: 1” thick insulation, Grab handles, 500-denier polyester diamond ripstop material, Reflective foil inner barrier, Large front pocket, Side mesh pockets
The Engel Backpack Cooler is a more mobile-friendly soft-sided option for people who are willing to sacrifice a bit of storage space for an easier time transporting. It comes in a single 23-quart size and promises impressive ice life for a backpack. Notable features include the internal radiant barrier, large front pocket, and grab handles. It falls into the premium price tier.
Insulation Ability –
For a backpack, you will be very impressed with how well this keeps items cold. This achievement is thanks to the 1” thick closed foam insulation in conjunction with the inner reflective foil barrier that blocks out radiation from the sun. In optimal conditions, you can enjoy up to 65 to 70 hours of ice life (which is among the longest we have seen for backpack coolers).
Mobility and Durability –
This is an extremely tough competitor. The outer shell is protected thanks to the high-quality 500-denier polyester diamond ripstop material. This material is essentially rip and puncture-proof so you can brush it up against abrasive surfaces without concern. The zippers, while not waterproof, are still very tough and can open and close easily without snagging.
Being a slightly smaller bag, it is very easy to transport. There are two different carrying methods. That being said, we do wish that there was a traditional double strap. This would make it more like a backpack (as the name suggests).
Visual Appeal –
There are 4 color choices and we find all of them to look pretty nice. The dichotomy between dull grays/blacks and bright colors is well done and should appeal to the masses.
While it is a bit cheaper than other premium soft-sided coolers, for the storage space, this is still a premium-priced product. But for those with the pocketbooks, you will enjoy a truly special backpack cooler that will out-hustle just about anything else out there.
Overall Rating –
The Engel Backpack Cooler is extremely impressive both in terms of ice retention as well as build quality. The high-end components come together nicely and this item should last for quite a few years without concern. The ice life, while not quite as long as some of the largest soft-sided coolers on the market, is still among the tip top for backpacks. Despite being somewhat expensive, it is a great buy in our opinion.