"Experience Ice-Cold Refreshments All Day Long: Discover the Top 9 Backpack Coolers for Optimal Food and Drink Chilling"
Looking to keep your refreshments chilled on the go? Look no further than backpack coolers! When compared to hard-sided coolers, which can be cumbersome and heavy, backpack coolers offer an easy-to-carry solution that allows you to stay hands-free while out and about. Whether you're setting out for a hike or simply enjoying a pleasant afternoon stroll, backpack coolers can come in handy in a variety of situations. The best options will keep your drinks and food cold all day while also being comfortable to wear, but you may be surprised at the additional quirks and features some models have.
Some backpack coolers in this selection boast added storage space for your dry goods, while others stick to tried-and-true features like excellent insulation and a durable strap system. Check out our top picks below to find the right option for your next adventure! For additional expert advice, be sure to read our buyer's guide section, where we speak with International Mountain Leader and wild chef Kieran Kreevy about safe food storage when out and about.
Looking for a versatile backpack cooler you can take anywhere, from the beach to the backcountry? Look no further than the Hydro Flask backpack cooler! Lightweight and easy to carry, this cooler boasts enough space for 36 cans of your favorite beverage, and it will keep them chilled for nearly two days thanks to its excellent insulation. Its Tru Zip zipper and welded seams ensure that you never have to worry about leakage, while its large mesh side pocket is perfect for stashing a water bottle or other gear. And if you need even more storage space, simply clip on a waterproof dry storage bag! This backpack cooler even comes with a 5-year warranty, though it's unlikely you'll have any issues.
- More affordable than other high-end soft coolers
- Roomy side pocket for a water bottle or phone
- Padded strap system
- Lack of hip belt limits carrying comfort
Looking for a smaller, more portable backpack cooler that's perfect for everyday use? Look no further than Carhartt's backpack cooler, which comes in at just 1.5 pounds. This durable and lightweight cooler is the ideal choice for a daily lunchbox and features a clever 2-in-1 design that allows you to pack your essentials in the top section of the backpack while keeping your cold drinks and snacks in the insulated bottom compartment. Front pockets provide additional storage space, though the side pockets are only suitable for 12-ounce cans.
- Functions as a traditional backpack with a cooler base
- Small and portable for everyday use
- DWR finish isn't waterproof
- Shallow side pockets
Finally, if you're seeking a large backpack cooler that can hold all your essentials and then some, look no further than the REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack. Made from recycled nylon and polyester, this backpack boasts an impressive 31-liter capacity and can hold up to 17 cans with plenty of room to spare for food, gear, and other essentials. Its insulation is top-notch, and it even has a built-in hydration sleeve for your water bladder. This backpack also features a handy zippered front pocket for quick access to important items.
- Large capacity for extended trips
- Built-in hydration sleeve
- Zippered front pocket for easy access
- No dedicated water-bottle pocket
Introducing the REI Cool Trail Pack Cooler - a backpack that seamlessly combines the functionality of a hiking pack with a cooler bag. Perfectly suited for hikers who intend to carry perishable foods or chilled beverages on long treks, this pack employs an adjustable shoulder strap and a contoured hip belt to ensure maximum comfort during hikes. The hip belt is also padded, providing all-day carrying comfort to hikers. Additionally, the cooler insert is removable, allowing you to use it as a standard pack when necessary.
Apart from being highly functional, this pack also boasts a classic trail aesthetic, thanks to its front lash straps. These lash straps not only add to the pack's appearance but also serve as ideal points for anchoring larger gear items such as picnic blankets. Its mesh exterior pocket together with a roomy zippered pouch, that fits a water bottle and snacks together, makes it an incredibly effective gear for hikers seeking to strike a balance between functionality and ice retention.
- Padded hip belt for all-day carrying comfort
- Removable cooler insert
- Large external side pockets
- Only fits waists up to 46 inches
- Not 100% leakproof
Material: Polyamide, Polyethylene co-vinyl acetate, Polyethylene terephtalate | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Capacity: 30 liters
Looking for a practical, comfortable, and feature-packed cooler backpack? Look no further than the Decathlon cooler backpack! This backpack features innovative technology that can keep your food cool without ice for five hours. Alternatively, you can add ice blocks to keep your beverages and food fresh for the whole day. With this backpack, you get excellent value for your money, which is frequently on sale and cheaper than a six-pack of artisanal IPA.
The Decathlon cooler backpack is unbelievably light, weighing only 1.5 pounds when empty, making it the perfect shoulder gear for hiking. Additionally, its shoulder straps are well padded, and there are chest and waist straps included for extra support. There are also zipped and mesh pockets outside the cooler, allowing you to keep your belongings dry while carrying your drinks and perishable foods.
However, it's not watertight and is, therefore, not suitable for carrying ice. You may experience condensation from the ice blocks, but having internal pockets ensures that the ice blocks don't come into contact with any food.
- Unbeatable value for money
- Excellent straps
- Practical layout
- Limited capacity
- Not watertight
Material: MuleSkin 1000D fabric | Weight: 7.2 pounds | Capacity: 24 cans with ice
If you are going on a fishing trip, a hunting trip, or a camping trip and need multi-day ice retention, then look no further than the IceMule Boss cooler backpack. It's a backpack cooler that's not just designed like a hiking backpack but also provides top-level soft coolers' performance. Featuring welded seams and a roll-top closure design that creates a completely water and weather-proof interior. Its side pockets also serve as dry-storage compartments, equipped with PakShield zippers that keep your drinks cold and electronics dry.
The IceMule Boss backpack cooler is referred to as the "Boss" for more than one reason - it's large, durable, and can withstand even the harshest weather conditions. However, its bulk and weight make it less preferable for casual users. Nevertheless, if what you seek is premium performance, the IceMule Boss backpack cooler is a perfect choice.
- Outstanding ice retention for multi-day use
- Waterproof pockets store essentials and electronics
- Lashing straps secure extra layers or towels
- Too heavy for casual use
The Neoprene and recycled Primaloft Gold insulation of the Igloo Reactor Soft Sided Backpack Cooler may be a thing of the past, but fret not, the Moxie is here to take its place. With its urban aesthetic and impressive cooling capabilities, this backpack is the perfect companion for your park outings or festival excursions. The tapered design may only hold 18 cans, but it’s ideal for keeping a couple of wine bottles chilled at the right temperature. The leak-resistant liner and zips make sure that everything stays in place, as long as you don’t use loose cubes of ice. The side pocket, perfect for a water bottle, and cinch-opening flip-top allow for effortless access, without the conventional clunky ‘cooler’ design. Although the backpack straps lack padding and there’s no waist support, this backpack was never meant for long hikes or extreme camping.
- Compatible with wine bottlesPrimaloft Gold insulation made from post-consumer wasteAlternative cooler designCons:
- Low capacityBasic backpack straps
The CamelBak ChillBak 30 may set you back a hefty $325, but the versatility it offers is unmatched. Not only does it hold 24 cans and 15 pounds of ice, it even has a six-liter reservoir bladder, complete with a spigot for sharing with friends. The waterproof design includes a roll-top closure and sealed seams, ensuring your drinks stay cold for up to 72 hours. The enormous backpack comes with harness and waist straps for support, but the weight may prove to be a challenge for some. However, with its incredibly padded back panel, watertight zipper, and tap-like spigot, the ChillBak 30 has everything you need for a fabulous weekend.
- Versatile designWaterproofLarge hydration reservoir, complete with spigotCons:
- Heavy materials
The Arctic Zone’s Eco Picnic Backpack Cooler is a unique addition to this list but offers something that others do not. Fully equipped with cutlery, wine glasses, cloth napkins, plates, and a bottle opener, this is the ultimate picnic backpack. The front compartment has all the necessary tools for a party of four, and the cooler lined with Microban in the main compartment is perfect for keeping your food fresh and cold. Although it may not keep ice frozen for too long, it’s quite compact and lightweight, making it a perfect option if you plan to spend the day outdoors.
- All-in-one picnic systemPadded backpack straps with side pocketsEasy to clean
Material: This backpack cooler is made from 600D polyester, resulting in a durable and robust build. Weight: At only 2 pounds, you won't have to worry about hauling around a heavy cooler all day. Capacity: With a 28-liter capacity and the ability to hold up to 24 cans, it's perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway.
Looking for a stylish and affordable backpack cooler that doesn't skimp on performance? The Stoic Hybrid might just be the cooler for you. Boasting a Hydro Flask-inspired design at a fraction of the cost, this cooler is built to keep your drinks ice-cold for the whole weekend, thanks to its thick padding and 600-denier polyester construction.
While it doesn't have the biggest storage capacity out there, it more than makes up for it in comfort. With a well-padded back panel and sturdy straps, you won't have to worry about any discomfort or frosty coldness on your back. It even includes a handy bottle opener attached to the webbing straps, which can also be used to attach extra gear.
- Eye-catching design at a pocket-friendly price
- Comfortable and sturdy build
- Durable and robust base
- Zipper is not waterproof
- No additional storage pockets
Our team has gone through extensive research and user reviews to bring you a list of some of the best backpack coolers out there. We have personally tested a few of these coolers and have included detailed descriptions, prices, and specs to keep you updated. This article was last updated in July 2022.
What to Consider When Purchasing a Backpack Cooler
Consider how long you need the backpack cooler to preserve ice. Are you going on a weekend trip, or do you only need it for a few hours? High-end brands like Yeti and IceMule offer longer preservation, but it comes at a cost. Alternatively, brands like Igloo and Arctic Zone offer more affordable options with less preservation time.
Think about how long you'll be carrying the backpack cooler and look for one with a comfortable and supportive strap system. If you plan on hiking for an extended period, look for one with a hip or chest belt to reduce the weight on your shoulders.
Choose the size that suits your needs, whether you need a small lunch box or a large backpack cooler that can fit up to 36 cans. Keep in mind that ice also takes up space, so choose one that suits your needs.
Consider if you require additional features like pockets or dry storage, or if you're only using it as a convenient carrying method. Pockets come in handy for carrying personal items like a phone, wallet, keys, and a water bottle.
Decide between a boxy, stiff cooler or a flexible, soft-sided cooler. Box-shaped coolers are great for loading and fitting more food and drinks but can be less comfortable to move around. Soft-sided backpack coolers, on the other hand, feel more natural on your back and provide more comfortable carrying but can be slightly harder to load up with cans.
Expert Tips on Packing Your Backpack Cooler
International Mountain Leader and backcountry chef, Kieran Kreevy, suggests preparing your backpack cooler and contents like a pro to enhance your outdoor experience.
Maintaining the proper temperature of your backpack cooler is essential to ensure your food stays fresh and safe to eat. Ice blocks and ice packs should be your primary method of cooling, with ice cubes used to fill any empty spaces. To maximize the cooling capacity of your backpack cooler, it's crucial to fill it as full as possible. Chilling your backpack cooler in the fridge or freezer before loading it can also help to keep foods cool for longer periods.
Kieran advises that you ensure all products that go into the backpack cooler are chilled properly. Even if you're in cold conditions, direct sunlight can spoil food quickly, and it's essential to be vigilant. If you're carrying meat for a barbecue, it's best to stick to fish and beef since they're more robust to transport. Raw chicken can be pre-cut, frozen, and transported in a Ziplock bag or container to avoid contamination.
Using insulated containers is an excellent additional guarantee against ingredients becoming warm. Kieran suggests using one to store ice cream, which can then be carried in a cooler for up to five hours without melting. Pre-preparing food is another excellent way to save time cooking while reducing the weight of what you are carrying. Banana peels can take months to decompose, so they should always accompany you while coffee grounds can easily be disposed of.
Proper loading is essential, especially when carrying delicate ingredients like leafy vegetables and fresh berries. These should be kept apart from the ice and cool blocks since they may be too cold, spoiling them. Separately grouping cold goods like drinks, snacks, and meal ingredients means that you won't have to open the backpack cooler frequently, which can help to maintain the temperature.
In terms of putting ice in your backpack cooler, it's absolutely possible, but remember that ice will eventually melt. Soft coolers may also leak, so ensuring your backpack cooler is entirely waterproof is necessary. Ice blocks stay colder for more extended periods, making them a more efficient cooling option compared to ice cubes.
Using dry ice in a soft cooler like a backpack cooler is not recommended since it could damage the insulation and soft materials.
The length of time that ice lasts in your backpack cooler is dependent on several factors, including the type of insulation, the outside temperature, and how often the cooler is opened. Premium hard coolers provide the most extended period, while simple soft coolers may only last for about a day in the sun.
Although the Yeti Hopper M20 Soft Backpack Cooler can be used as a cooler, the brand has since been recalled due to a magnet-lined lid that can release its magnets. We recommend submitting a recall claim and returning the cooler to the brand.
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