When the weather warms up and summer turns to spring, it’s a safe bet that campgrounds all over are going to fill up quickly.

More than 50% (59%) of campers stay within 100 miles of home when camping. What’s more millennials and Gen Xers make up three-quarters of all campers.

Any experienced camper knows there’s plenty of stuff you need for a camping trip: tents, camping chairs, a camp stove, firewood, marshmallows for roasting, etc. One of the other important things you need for camping is a cooler. If you’re camping right in the heat of summer, having a cooler full of cold drinks can keep you hydrated and refreshed.

If you’ve visited the camping section of your local store, you’ve likely seen coolers of all shapes and sizes. If you’re caught between choosing a hard sized cooler or a soft side cooler, here are some helpful things to know.

One of the most important questions you’ll want to ask is how is it used?

When it comes to choosing between a hard side cooler and a soft side cooler, you’re going to want to think about how your cooler is going to be used. When you compare them on a basic level, they’re both going to do the same thing: keep things cool. But there’s a lot more to it than that. There are important questions you’ll want to ask yourself. Things like, what kinds of things are you trying to keep cold? How long are you trying to keep those things cold for? How are you trying to keep things cold?

Soft side coolers

Soft side coolers offer plenty of versatility and are best used on a daily basis. If you’re going for a hike in the woods or taking a day trip somewhere, a soft side cooler is the one you’re going to want to have by your side.

Soft side coolers are just that, soft. That means they’re not made of hard plastic. That means they’re lighter, is easier to carry and transport and will keep your food and drinks cold during a trip. Some soft sided coolers that you can buy are shaped similar to rucksacks or backpacks, so you’ll be able to carry it on your back instead of having to strain your arm muscles if you’ve got it loaded down with food and drinks.

As if that wasn’t enough, soft side coolers are easy to store. Since they’re made of lightweight materials, they can easily be stored in places that hard sided coolers can’t. You can easily put a soft side cooler underneath a seat or fold it up and store it when it’s empty.

Hard side coolers

If you’re looking for something on the other end of the spectrum, hard side coolers are what you need. If you’re going on an extended camping trip, a hard side cooler is a must. Hard side coolers have better ice retention, which is great if you’re storing anything for a short length of time (things like pre-cooked meals that need to be heated up later).

Hard side coolers also have a greater capacity than their soft side counterparts. Soft side coolers are designed to be portable and their capacity can vary depending on the design. If you carry too much, you may have a potential problem on your hands. Hard sided coolers have greater capacity and can carry both food and drinks for long periods of time. If that wasn’t enough, they’re also more durable. Since they’re made of hard plastic, they are more rugged and can hold up well against the elements.

If you’re going camping anytime soon, you’re going to need a cooler. If you’re looking for something to store all your cold food supplies while you camp for two weeks, a hard side cooler is the way to go. If you’re looking for something that’s more portable and can easily be carried and transported while you go on day trips, a soft side cooler should do the trick.

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