Reviews

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.

Best Overall
Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler
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Summary
Summary

This cooler can hold 28 cans and has adjustable shoulder, back, and waist straps. The bag is also BPA- and phthalate-free.

Pros
Pros
  • Comfortable to carry
  • Lining is resistant to odor, mold, and mildew 
  • Easy to clean
Cons
Cons
  • Zippers aren’t waterproof
  • Bag is not completely leak-proof
Best Overall
Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler
Best Value
OAGear Backpack 20 Can Cooler
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Summary
Summary

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.

Pros
Pros
  • Several pockets and bungee cord for storage
  • Compact
  • Discreet looking
Cons
Cons
  • Zipper may catch on liner and tear it
  • Pockets aren’t particularly large
Best Value
OAGear Backpack 20 Can Cooler
Honorable Mention
YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack
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Summary
Summary

This bag holds 20 cans, and the main compartment is 12 5/8 x 6 1/2 x 15 inches.

Pros
Pros
  • Ergonomic shoulder straps
  • Waterproof shell
  • UV resistant
  • MOLLE system
Cons
Cons
  • Pricey
  • Heavy
  • May emit an odor upon arrival
Honorable Mention
YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack
Backpack Cooler Close Up
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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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.

Top Brands

Coleman

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.

OA Gear

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

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.

Key Features

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.

Comfort

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.

Cooling Ability

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.

Construction

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.

Other Considerations

  • 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

Best Overall
Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler

The Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler is our top pick because it's affordable and stylish, and it accommodates up to 28 cans. The bag features padding in the back and waist as well as adjustable padded straps, which make it more comfortable to carry compared to other options. The main compartment is insulated with leak-proof, heat-welded seams to keep items cold. It's also BPA- and phthalate-free. The lining is designed with antimicrobial properties, which makes it resistant to odor, mold, and mildew. It has a zippered front pocket to store napkins, snacks, and other accessories. There are also two mesh side pockets, and a bungee cord on the front if you need quick access to certain items. Plus, it's easy to clean. 


One downside is that the zippers aren't waterproof, and the bag is not completely leak-proof. Also, the handle on the top of the bag is a little thin.

Best Value
OAGear Backpack 20 Can Cooler

One of the least expensive items on our list is the OAGear Backpack 20 Can Cooler. This budget-minded backpack cooler can hold 20 cans as well as ice. The interior space is insulated with a heat-sealed, no-leak liner that's designed to last for five years. It also has a zippered front pocket, two mesh side pockets, and a bungee cord on the front for even more storage. The straps are padded and adjustable for comfort, and there's a carrying handle on the top. The bag is made of 600D polyester and measures 12.25 x 16.5 x 7.75 inches. Users report that it is well made, compact, and discreet looking. 


However, if you're not careful you may catch the insulated liner in the zipper, which can tear it. There have also been a few complaints that the compartments aren't large enough.

Premium Pick
YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack

The YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack is pricey, but it has several features that make it worth the extra money. The BackFlip is taller and wider than its predecessor, the Yeti Hopper Flip, yet it capably distributes the weight of its contents. It can hold 20 cans. It comes with ergonomic shoulder straps and a removable chest strap and waist belt, so you can customize it to suit your needs. The bag has a high-density, dry hide shell that is waterproof as well as puncture-resistant. It's also UV-resistant. The waterproof HydroLok zipper is 100 percent leak-proof, and the main compartment, which is 12 5/8 x 6 1/2 x 15 inches, features closed-cell rubber foam insulation. The BackFlip also uses a MOLLE system across the entire pack for extra storage. Essentially, your ice will stay frozen all day if you're at the beach in direct sunlight. 


However, the bag is a little heavy at 7.5 pounds, and it's expensive. It may also emit an odor when you first receive it.

Most Versatile
Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack

As its name suggests, the Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack does two things: it keeps food and beverages cold, and it has space to carry other items, such as clothing and accessories. The base of the bag is insulated, and on top is a large compartment for other types of gear. That way, you don't have to carry two separate bags. It is made of heavy-duty polyester and measures 12.5 x 17.75 x 8 inches. It's easy to carry, and the cooler compartment can hold up to 12 cans, an ice pack, and any snacks you want to keep chilled. The contents will stay cold for more than 24 hours. The water-repellent backpack also has a front zippered pocket for smaller items, such as a cell phone or keys, and two mesh side pockets for water bottles. 


One downside is the shoulder straps can be difficult to adjust. Also, items on the top half can put pressure on items in the cooler section because there’s no support in the bottom compartment.

Best Lightweight
TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler

The TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler weighs just 1.1 pounds, which makes it easy to carry. Made of 600D Oxford fabric that is tear-resistant and water-repellent, this backpack cooler has a spacious main compartment that can accommodate 28 cans. Overall, it has a 25-liter capacity and measures 17.7 x 13 x 7.5 inches, so you can also store snacks, ice, and other items inside of it. The insulation is leakproof, which provides peace of mind. The bag also features a large front zippered pocket, two side mesh pockets, and a bungee cord for extra items. Plus, the shoulder straps are adjustable and padded for comfort.


Unfortunately, this backpack does not have chest or waist straps for added security. The front pocket is also a little on the small side.

Honorable Mention
Lifewit Cooler Backpack

The Lifewit Cooler Backpack stands out from the pack in that it can hold 32 to 34 cans. It has an 18-liter capacity, measures 11.22 x 7.87 x 14.96 inches, and is made of durable, water-resistant 1680D Oxford fabric that is easy to clean. The two leak-proof cooler compartments are made of food-grade PEVA and thermal-resistant 8-millimeter EPE foam. With the proper ice packs, the contents will stay cool for 12 hours. Also, the shoulder straps feature mesh for airflow and are padded for comfort. There's also a front pocket for small items and two side pockets for extra storage. Users report that it's soft and comfortable to carry for several hours and is extra convenient because it features two compartments. 


However, it can be a hassle to open the bottom compartment if the top half is filled with heavy items. Items in the top half can also squish items in the bottom half.

Honorable Mention
IceMule Pro Cooler

The IceMule Pro Cooler is a great option if you need a backpack cooler that is truly leak-proof, waterproof, and buoyant. Since it has welded seams and a roll-top closure, this bag is ideal for kayaking and other water activities because it can float. Another great feature is its PolarLayer insulation, which keeps "ice-like temperatures" for up to two days. This soft-sided muleskin bag measures 14 x 11 x 17 inches and can hold 18 cans and ice. It has air mesh shoulder straps and a sternum strap, so you can keep it on your back while you're fishing or performing other outdoor activities. Contents are easy to access due to its roll-top design, and it also has bungee straps on the front in case you want to store other accessories. It also collapses when it's not in use, so it's easy to store. 


However, it's a little pricey, and there have been some complaints that the straps may break after a short period of use.

Honorable Mention
ONIVA Turismo Insulated Backpack Cooler

The ONIVA Turismo Insulated Backpack Cooler measures 19 by 16 by 5 inches and can hold about six cans in its two insulated interior compartments. Constructed of polyester canvas, the bag also has a multi-use mesh pocket, a zippered pocket under the exterior flap, a carabiner utility clip, and a detachable water bottle pouch. The straps are non-slip and padded for comfort, and it feels good when you wear them. Users love the versatility of this backpack, including its six pockets. The manufacturer also backs up this product with its "BUILT TO LAST" lifetime guarantee. 


Unfortunately, some users have complained that the stitching falls apart after a short period of use. And while it can be repaired, it's a hassle. Also, it doesn't have a chest or waist strap.

Honorable Mention
Coleman Soft Cooler Bag

The Coleman Soft Cooler Bag measures 12.99 x 9.06 x 18.31 inches, and it can keep as many as 24 cans cold for as long as 34 hours due to its premium insulation. The liner is leakproof. The bag is durable with welded construction and water-resistant, easy-to-pull T-shaped zippers. The straps and top handles are padded for comfort, which makes it easy to carry. This backpack cooler also has a zippered front pocket, two mesh side pockets, and bungee straps for additional storage. And unlike most of the other options on this list, it features an integrated bottle opener. Plus, the bag features an exterior coating that is easy to wipe clean. 


Unfortunately, it can get quite heavy when it's full. The zippers are also a little hard to maneuver.

Honorable Mention
TOURIT Backpack Cooler

The TOURIT Backpack Cooler is 15.8 x 11.8 x 7.0 inches, weighs 1.6 pounds, and has a 25-liter capacity, which means it can hold about 28 cans. The exterior is made of durable, leak-resistant, Oxford fabric, while the liner is leakproof. It will keep the contents cool for up to 16 hours. In addition to its large main compartment, the backpack has a large front pocket, two mesh side pockets, and a pocket on the lid. Users report that the bag is well-made and the zippers function well even after a long period of use. Also, it's comfortable to carry and is very popular with those who like to use it as an insulated lunch bag. 


One drawback is that the front compartment is tiny. Ice may also melt faster in this cooler compared to some other brands.

Tips

  • 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.

FAQs

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.

Final Thoughts

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.