The Best Backpack Cooler (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Keep your items cool in a convenient way with these handy backpack coolers.
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BY Noelle Talmon / LAST UPDATED ON March 31, 2021
Carrying a cooler can be a bit of a hassle, but there is an alternative: a backpack cooler. A relatively new type of outdoor accessory, backpack coolers are similar to traditional backpacks in that you carry them on your shoulders and back. This is in contrast to traditional coolers that you typically carry with one hand or pull on wheels. Not all backpack coolers are the same. They have different features geared towards different activities. Make sure to check out all the options before choosing one for your needs. We've compiled a list of some of the best backpack coolers available, so you're sure to find one that ticks all the right boxes. Check out our buying guide below.
This cooler can hold 28 cans and has adjustable shoulder, back, and waist straps. The bag is also BPA- and phthalate-free.
- Comfortable to carry
- Lining is resistant to odor, mold, and mildew
- Easy to clean
- Zippers aren’t waterproof
- Bag is not completely leak-proof
This cooler can hold 20 cans and ice. The no-leak liner is designed to last five years. It measures 12.25 x 16.5 x 7.75 inches.
- Several pockets and bungee cord for storage
- Discreet looking
- Zipper may catch on liner and tear it
- Pockets aren’t particularly large
This bag holds 20 cans, and the main compartment is 12 5/8 x 6 1/2 x 15 inches.
- Ergonomic shoulder straps
- Waterproof shell
- UV resistant
- MOLLE system
- May emit an odor upon arrival
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Benefits of a Backpack Cooler
- Keeps items cool. Cooler backpacks are ideal for drinks and snacks that require refrigeration. If you want a cold drink while you're out and about, a backpack cooler is a great option.
- Great for a variety of activities. You can carry a backpack cooler on a hike or to a picnic in a park. It's also nice to have if you visit a theme park.
- Keeps your hands free. Compared to traditional coolers that require you to hold them with one hand or sling them over one shoulder, a backpack cooler is truly a hands-free alternative.
Types of Backpack Coolers
One-Compartment Backpack Coolers
This type of cooler is designed to do one thing: keep beverages and snacks cool. These coolers often have a few additional pockets and storage areas, but the main large compartment is insulated to hold ice, soda, etc. These coolers are not designed to carry other gear you may choose to take on a trip.
Split-Design Backpack Coolers
This type of cooler has more than one compartment. They may both be insulated, or only one will have insulation. Users like these coolers because you can store clothing and other equipment alongside chilled food and beverages. That makes it a little more versatile. However, the cooler area will be smaller compared to models that feature a one-compartment design.
W.C. Coleman created the first gas-powered lantern in 1900 and a camping stove for soldiers in 1942. Over 120 years later, Coleman is renowned for its variety of outdoor gear, including tents, sleeping bags, and other camping equipment. Check out the Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler.
Based in Tallahassee, Fla., OA Gear is an outdoor and sporting goods company that makes a variety of coolers, chairs, blankets, and other items for hunting, fishing, etc. We recommend the OAGear Backpack 20 Can Cooler.
YETI, based in Austin, Texas, was founded in 2006 and is known for products geared towards serious outdoor enthusiasts. The company also makes drinkware, bags, and other types of gear. One popular product is the YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack.
Backpack Cooler Pricing
- Under $30: The good news is that you can get a decent backpack cooler without spending a lot of money. These basic coolers get the job done and are very functional as well as affordable.
- $30- $70: Many backpack coolers fall within this price range. They may have more features or accommodate more beverages than less-expensive options. They come in a range of designs.
- $100 and up: Premium backpack coolers are the highest quality models and are designed to be extra durable. Some brands are completely waterproof, and others can take a little abuse yet still function as required.
Size and Capacity
The first thing you need to consider when choosing a backpack cooler is its size and capacity. They can hold a couple dozen cans of soda or they can hold quite a bit less, depending on their capacity. Plus, do you want to lug around a giant backpack on your back or one that's a little lighter weight? Check the dimensions before placing an order or making a purchase.
Backpack coolers typically have padded shoulder straps, so they're easier to carry. The straps are also usually adjustable. However, only select models have waist and chest straps as well. These additions can make carrying a cooler more comfortable, particularly if you have to hike a certain distance. Comfort is key because you don't want to experience back pain or feel weighed down.
Some backpack coolers keep items cooler longer than others. Check the specs to see what the manufacturer promises. It could be anything from 24 hours to 48 hours or more. Less-expensive options usually have a range between 12 and 24 hours. Premium options tend to keep beverages and snacks chilled for a longer period.
Backpack coolers are made with a variety of different materials. If you want one to last, make sure it's made of tough exterior fabric that is tear and puncture-resistant. Also, check to see if it can tolerate UV rays and whether or not it's waterproof or water-resistant. As for the interior, it should be leak-proof and mildew-resistant.
- Extras. Since many companies design backpack coolers, they come with all sorts of extras. Some have several pockets or compartments to hold items such as a phone, wallet, or keys. Some have spots to store cutlery. Others have bungee cords to strap down a blanket or areas to hold water bottles.
- Design. Do you want to look like you're lugging around a giant cooler on your back, or would you prefer to carry a product that's a little less conspicuous? Backpack coolers come in several shapes in designs. They can be boxy, or they can resemble a traditional backpack. Some look like a lunch bag.
Best Backpack Coolers Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Backpack coolers are generally designed to be carried short distances. That's largely because they can get quite heavy when filled with ice, cans, and snacks.
- While a company may state that its cooler can accommodate a certain number of 12-ounce cans, don't forget to factor in the space required for ice or ice packs.
- Put ice packs on the top of the cans and snacks because cold air sinks. It's the best method for keeping contents chilled.
Q: What soft cooler keeps ice the longest?
There are many brands of soft coolersthat keep ice cool for a long period, and we include several options on this list.
Q: Who makes the best backpack cooler?
There are several good brands when it comes to backpack coolers. We recommend coolers by companies such as Coleman, RTIC, and Yeti, but there are others you may want to consider, such as Hydro Flask, Igloo, and IceMule.
Our pick for the best backpack cooler is the Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler. It can hold 28 cans and has back and waist straps in addition to shoulder straps, which makes it more adjustable. The bag also features antimicrobial properties. For a more budget-friendly option, consider the OAGear Backpack 20 Can Cooler.