Get the Scoop on the Top 23 Backpack Coolers We Tried and Loved
The definitive list of the best backpack coolers you need for your next outdoor trip has been determined after we tested 23 models from top brands like Hydro Flask and Igloo.
Enjoying chilled food and drinks while on an outdoor adventure is now easier and more portable with backpack coolers. Whether you're planning a beach trip, picnic in the park, or day hike, the padded straps keep you comfortable and hands-free as you carry your cooler along. Aside from its portability, backpack coolers can be easily stored in a packed vehicle and tight storage when not in use.
We assessed 23 backpack coolers in terms of insulation, design, capacity, comfort, and durability to come up with our top choices. Each backpack cooler on our list has a 20 to 30-liter capacity on average, lined with insulation to keep your things cold for hours. Like regular coolers, you can add loose ice or ice packs to prolong the temperature maintenance.
Read on to find the perfect backpack cooler for your needs.
Pros: Keep up to two dozen cans chilled for 36 hours with this cooler plus five years of purchase protection.
Cons: The cooler's opening is too tight for larger items.
Hydro Flask has earned high scores across all categories. It boasts superior insulation, leak-proof seams, and padded shoulder straps. It's also a durable choice that can last for years, plus a five-year warranty in case of manufacturer defects. Beyond its superb functionality, the Hydro Flask backpack cooler looks sleek and aesthetically pleasing. "It looks like a very high-end bag," said one tester.
It is available in three sizes, with the 18- and 26-liter options as shoulder totes. Remember to mind the opening of the backpack is too narrow for larger items.
Price at time of publish: $200
Size: 8.47 x 18.52 x 18.12 inches
Capacity: 20 liters
Weight: 2.63 pounds
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Cooler Reviews: Stay Chill with These Top Picks
Option 1: Backpack Cooler
Advantages: This cooler is both odor and stain-resistant, plus it provides excellent insulation.
Shortcomings: Some leakage occurred after the ice melted.
For less than $50, this backpack cooler offers dual layers of insulation - one for heat protection and the other for water resistance - and also features a leak-proof lining. Our team was impressed with the insulation capabilities, with one tester remarking "The cans were nearly as cold as if they were freshly out of the fridge, maybe even a bit colder," following two hours of storage.
The lining of the cooler is reflective and contains antimicrobial material that prevents bacterial growth. Additionally, the padded back offers comfortable wear, even when traversing rough terrain, and the adjustable straps make it easy to customize for various body types. It's a compact option that's easy to pack and carry around. However, we recommend keeping it upright to minimize leakage, as our testers experienced leaks when it was laid on its side after the ice melted.
Price (at time of publication): $45
- Size: 10.5 x 7.5 x 16.5 inches
- Capacity: 24 liters
- Weight: 1.53 pounds
Photo Credit: Food & Wine / Jhett Thompson
Option 2: Icemule Boss Cooler
Advantages: A great option for lengthy day trips, the Icemule Boss can hold up to 24 cans with ice and maintain a cold temperature for hours.
Shortcomings: Due to its larger capacity, this cooler is bulkier than other choices.
For those with camping or picnicking needs, the Icemule Boss sports a whopping 30-liter capacity, which can easily accommodate a significant quantity of ice along with 24 cans. Furthermore, the exterior of the cooler showcases three separate pockets and bungee storage, eliminating the need for an additional vessel. Its roll-top design allows quick and effortless accessibility to its contents.
Our expert raved about the comfort of the bag during testing, stating "many straps secure the bag tight to your body, making this a perfect hiking accessory." That said, it's ideal for recreation by the river, too, since it has floating capabilities. To make it float, simply add air to the insulation through a valve, and voila - it can glide down the river right beside its owner.
Price (at time of publication): $375
- Size: 11.02 x 16.93 x 24.02 inches
- Capacity: 30 liters
- Weight: 7.9 pounds
Photo Credit: Food & Wine / Jhett Thompson.
Looking to carry your wine with you wherever you go? This backpack cooler is perfect for wine enthusiasts on the move, with enough room to store up to five bottles or a combination of bottles and cans for a more diverse experience. It also comes in an array of colors to suit any style.
Not only is this backpack functional, it's also incredibly stylish, made from durable vegan leather with welded seams and adjustable straps for ultimate comfort. The closed-cell foam insulation ensures your drinks stay chilled for hours on end, while the sturdy base guarantees that even heavy glass bottles won't cause any spills. However, during our durability tests, we noticed minor scuffing after a few falls, so it may show signs of wear and tear over time.
This backpack cooler is priced at $160 and measures 16 x 12 x 11 inches, with a weight of two pounds.
If you're planning a day out on the water, this waterproof, floatable cooler is the perfect addition. Whether you're at the beach, lake, river, or pool, this practical cooler will keep your drinks chilled all day long. Available in two sizes, it can fit up to 20 or 30 cans, and we found that it could even accommodate food on top of the maximum number of drinks.
Our testers were pleased with the cooler's comfort and durability during our tests, with its padding providing ultimate comfort during long wears. The leakproof design also ensures that the contents of the cooler remain safe and dry, with sturdy zippers for long-lasting use. The only downside? It doesn't have any pockets.
This cooler is priced at $170 and measures 12 x 6 x 16 inches, with a weight of 3.7 pounds.
For those looking to tackle the trails, this backpack boasts a hip belt and chest harness for ultimate comfort during long treks. Perfect for hikers or backpackers, it offers ample space to store your drinks and snacks with ease.
Drawbacks: It is advisable to use ice packs instead of loose ice to prevent any spillage.
This backpack contains a leak-proof cooler insert that enables you to carry chilled food and drinks or even use it as an ordinary backpack. We discovered that loading the cooler with ice and drinks was extremely effortless due to the incredibly wide opening. Multiple compartments are available to hold items like your phone and trail maps, with an additional pocket spacious enough for a water bottle.
One of the aspects we admire most about this cooler is its comfort. It includes padded shoulder straps, an adjustable chest harness, and a cushioned hip belt and back panel to distribute weight optimally. Following full packing, these superior features make it imperceptibly heavy. “I believe I can carry this for much longer periods,” one tester commented.
Cost at time of publication: $100
Size: 22 x 16 x 8.5 inchesStorage capacity: 30.5 litersWeight: 3.5 lbs
Food & Wine / Jhett Thompson
Positive Aspects: You can conveniently pack your office work, workout clothing, or personal belongings on top while still leaving ample space to accommodate a day's worth of food in the bottom cooler compartment.
Drawbacks: It lacks large capacity for maintaining items' low temperature.
This Carhartt cooler backpack feels and looks just like a typical backpack, but the insulated bottom compartment makes it ideal for both office and outdoor activities. There is enough room on top for either a change of clothes or a picnic blanket, and there is ample space on the bottom for lunch accompanied by an ice pack. Despite it not being your typical backpack cooler, it earned a flawless rating during durability testing. After tossing the backpack off a table, there were no indications of any leakage or harm.
In the insulated section, you can fit ten cans along with ice if you only want to carry drinks. As an added bonus, the material is treated with Rain Defender, which is suitable for outdoor job sites and overnight camping trips.
Cost at time of publication:
Size: 12.5 x 8 x 17.75 inchesStorage capacity: 4.25 litersWeight: 2.1 lbs
Food & Wine / Jhett Thompson
Our overall favorite, the Hydro Flask Escape Soft Cooler, stands the test of time due to its comfortable cushioning, chic design, and ability to keep items fresh for thirty-six hours, making it suitable for frequent use. The Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Backpack cooler is also a perfect alternative if you are searching for something less expensive yet still reliable.
We took on the challenge of assessing 23 different backpack coolers, each with its own unique size, price, and style. We scored each cooler's design, capacity, portability, durability, insulation, and overall value, ranking them on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score. Our evaluation was based on a set of rigorous tests, including how many cans could fit inside the cooler with or without ice, ease of carrying when full, spillage, and damage resistance when shoved off a table, as well as the temperature inside after two hours. We also paid attention to other factors such as extra compartments, the functionality of the openings, and the price-performance balance.
All the backpack coolers on our list have excellent insulation that effectively maintains desired temperatures. Some incorporate multiple layers of insulation to ensure contents stay chilled for extended periods, for instance, multi-day trips, while others offer only one layer. The insulation is usually attached to the backpack, but in some versions, there's a removable insert to make the cooler double as a regular backpack.
The backpack's size is a crucial consideration, as it should be proportional to the user's size and the items they intend to carry in it. Our tests showed that backpack coolers filled with ⅔ of ice could hold anywhere from eight to twenty-four cans. Look out for key features such as adjustable straps and a padded back to ensure maximum comfort, while chest and hip straps can provide additional support to distribute weight evenly. Be mindful that some backpack coolers are best suited for specific torso lengths, so you may need to measure ahead of time.
When choosing a backpack cooler, consider your destination and what you'll be putting inside it. For instance, if you're carrying a bottle of wine, go for the tall cooler type that holds bottles snugly and upright. For backpackers or hikers scaling long distances, extra compartments to hold other supplies, and well-padded weight-balancing straps can come in handy.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you load a backpack cooler?
Start by placing large food and drink items at the bottom. Add a layer of ice and then the items you'll need sooner, starting with the heaviest. Delicate items such as fruits and crackers go on top. To reduce air gaps, add ice or ice packs to any empty spaces.
Will water spill as the ice melts?
If your cooler is leakproof, it won't spill water when the ice melts. You can also avoid spills by using ice packs instead of loose ice. Keep in mind that certain coolers may not have waterproof zippers, so they can leak if they get wet.
How do you clean a backpack cooler?
Use a damp cloth and mild soapy water to clean the interior. If it's excessively soiled, wash with warm water and dish soap, then turn it upside down to air dry. Avoid machine-washing the cooler, unless it's specified as machine-washable.
Igloo Outdoor Pro Water Repellent Backpack Cooler ($140 at Amazon)
Coleman High-Performance Leak Proof Soft Cooler (currently out of stock at Amazon)
Looking for the perfect backpack cooler to keep your drinks and snacks chilled on your next outdoor adventure? Check out our top picks, each with their own unique features and benefits.
First up is the Icemule Pro Collapsible Backpack Cooler, available for $145 on Amazon. This cooler is perfect for those who want a lightweight option that is easy to carry on long hikes.
If you're looking for a backpack cooler that can withstand more extreme conditions, consider the Arctic Zone High Performance Welded Backpack Cooler. This cooler is waterproof, leakproof, and made with high-quality materials. It's available for $165 on the Arctic Zone website.
For those willing to splurge on a high-end backpack cooler, the Pelican Dayventure Backpack Soft Cooler might be your best bet. It's priced at $290 on Amazon and is designed with maximum insulation to keep your drinks and food cold for hours on end.
If you're looking for a more affordable option, the Ozark Trail Welded Cooler is a great choice. This backpack cooler is priced at just $48 on Walmart and is designed for those who need a reliable cooler without breaking the bank.
Another budget-friendly option is the TourIt Cooler Insulated Backpack Cooler, priced at $42 on Amazon. This cooler is designed to be lightweight and easy to carry, making it perfect for day trips and short hikes.
Igloo also offers a great backpack cooler option with the Igloo Switch Backpack, priced at $50 on the Igloo website. This cooler is compact and designed to fit all of your essential items while keeping your drinks and food cold.
The Magellan Outdoors Pro Backpack Cooler is another great option, priced at on Academy. This cooler is designed with leak-proof technology and is perfect for those who want a reliable cooler without breaking the bank.
Coleman offers a soft cooler backpack option with their Chiller Series Soft Cooler Backpack, priced at $35 on Amazon. This cooler is designed to be compact and easy to carry, making it perfect for those who need a reliable cooler on the go.
If you're looking for a more eco-friendly option, consider the Arctic Zone Eco Picnic Backpack Cooler, priced at on the Arctic Zone website. This cooler is made with recycled materials and is perfect for those who want to reduce their carbon footprint.
Unfortunately, the Cotopaxi Hielo Backpack Cooler is currently out of stock on Backcountry, but keep an eye out for when it's back in stock.
Last but not least, the Otterbox Backpack Cooler is a great option for those who want a reliable and durable cooler. It's priced at on the Otterbox website and is designed to withstand the elements while keeping your drinks and food cold.
Contributor Ariane Resnick used testing insights from our staff to determine the best backpack coolers on the market. With so many great options to choose from, you're sure to find the perfect backpack cooler for your outdoor adventures.
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