Whether you need to carry your food and drinks on your favorite trail or a handy sack for your family picnics, the best backpacking cooler is a great option. These insulated backpacks are versatile, stylish, and will fit into any lifestyle.
When you’re traveling off the beaten path, you need to carry all your meals, snacks, and beverages with you to keep you well fed and hydrated throughout your trip.
But carrying a regular cooler while hiking or climbing is bulky and difficult, especially when you need your hands. Having the best backpacking cooler takes care of all of these aspects.
These handy insulated backpacks keep your food from spoiling and your drinks at the optimal temperature for the perfect taste and to cool you off on a hot day.
They have other regular pockets for you other necessary gear, plus keep your hands free to carry fishing rods, beach bags, or to climb those rocky hills and mountains.
Backpack coolers are also versatile, giving you a great bag for on the trail or closer to home. They come in a variety of sizes to meet the needs of individuals as well as large groups.
No matter what you’re style or use, you’ll have no trouble picking the best backpack cooler for all your adventures.
- 1 Best Backpack Cooler 2018
- 2 Backpack Cooler Reviews
- 2.1 YETI Hopper Backflip Review
- 2.2 Rtic Backpack Cooler Review
- 2.3 IceMule Pro Cooler Review
- 2.4 Polar Bear Cooler Backpack Review
- 2.5 Igloo Sportsman Backpack Cooler Review
- 2.6 Arctic Zone Ultra Cooler Backpack Review
- 2.7 OA Gear Backpack Cooler Review
- 2.8 North Coyote Hiking Backpack Cooler Review
- 2.9 Coleman Backpack Cooler Review
- 2.10 Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler Backpack Review
- 2.11 Picnic Time Zuma Insulated Backpack
- 2.12 Picnic Time Turismo Cooler Backpack
- 2.13 Engel Backpack Cooler Review
- 2.14 Igloo Daytripper Backpack Cooler Review
- 2.15 Leopard Outdoor Vinyl Backpack Cooler
- 2.16 TOURIT Insulated Cooler Backpack
- 3 Guide to Finding the Best Backpack Cooler
- 3.1 What is a Backpack Cooler?
- 3.2 Advantages of Backpack Coolers
- 3.3 Who Needs a Backpack Cooler?
- 3.4 Is There a YETI Backpack Cooler?
- 3.5 Things to Consider When Finding the Right Backpack Cooler
- 3.6 The Bottom Line
Best Backpack Cooler 2018
|Name||Image||Material||Capacity (liters)||Weight (lbs)||Price||Our Rating|
|Rtic Backpack Cooler||Nylon||33||6||$$$$||5|
|IceMule Coolers Pro Cooler||MuleSkinET||20 / 33 / 40||3.2||$$||5|
|Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series Backpack||Nylon||25||5||$$||5|
|Igloo Sportsman Backpack Cooler||Nylon||16||6||$$$$||5|
|Arctic Zone Ultra Backpack Cooler||Rhino-Tech polyester||15||0.7||$$$||4|
|OA Gear Backpack Cooler||Polyester||21||3||$||4|
|North Coyote Hiking Backpack Cooler||Polyester||42||2.4||$$||4.5|
|Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler||Polyester||10||1||$||4.5|
|Igloo Marine Ultra Square Cooler Backpack||Polyester||25||1.2||$$||4|
|Picnic Time Zuma Insulated Cooler Backpack||Polyester||24 backpack / 8 cooler section||2.5||$||4|
|Picnic Time Turismo||Polyester||21||3.75||$||4|
|Engel Coolers Prym1 Backpack Coolers||Polyester Diamond Ripstop||21||6||$$$||4.5|
|Leopard Outdoor Vinyl Backpack Cooler||Vinyl||n/a||2.9||$||4.5|
|TOURIT Insulated Cooler Backpack||Nylon||25||1.1||$||5|
Backpack Cooler Reviews
And although YETI may be late to the game with it’s release of a backpack cooler, don’t let that deter you. The Hopper Backflip is one of the most rugged, well-built backpack coolers out there.
What do you get when you cross YETI’s extremely popular Hopper Flip with a hiking backpack? The YETI Hopper Backflip.
This rugged backpack cooler is ready to traverse even the roughest terrain, all while transporting your cold goods. Plus it’s comfortable as hell.
Built with the proven design of the Hopper Flip, this YETI backpack cooler features the same ColdCell closed-cell rubber foam insulation wrapped in a FDA-approved food-grade liner. It’s both puncture and odor resistant. On top of that it’s easy to clean when your guac explodes inside.
Ergonomic padded shoulder straps make carrying the Yeti’s backpack cooler a comfortable endeavor, even when fully loaded. A removable chest straps and waist belt help keep your load stable when the going gets rough.
Resistant to punctures, mildew and UV rays its DryHide Shell will hold up after the toughest abuse. Throw in a leakproof HydroLok Zipper and you’ve got the most dependable cooler closure system on the market.
When you read your destination, or just ready for a mid-trek break, just pop open the Backflip’s easy access wide-mouth top and grab a brew. Plus it fits 20 cans, so you’ll plenty left over. Realistically you can fit a days worth of food and drinks in the Backflip 24.
So if you ever have the dilemma where you need to move your beers, brats, or whatever else you may want into the backcountry. The YETI Hopper Backflip has your back.
YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Tech Specs
Material: DryHide™ Shell
Capacity: 24 liter
Weight: 5.3 lbs
Features: Ergonomic padded shoulder straps, waterproof HydroLok Zipper, welded seams, wide-mouth flip-top opening, d-rings and molle Hitchpoint Grid
If you prefer to travel hands-free, a lightweight cooler backpack is the way to go. This backpack cooler from RTIC weighs only 6 lbs empty but has more than enough room to store up to 30 cans of your favorite drinks, along with a full bag of ice to keep them as cold as possible. Even during a heat wave of the highest temperatures, you won’t be sipping on lukewarm beverages.
The padded shoulder straps are adjustable for the perfect fit, plus have a padded waist strap to keep these insulated backpacks from shifting during your travels for less discomfort.
RTIC backpack coolers also include a few features to make them waterproof, to keep outside water from getting in as well as reducing the chances of leaking when the ice melts inside.
The material is durable nylon, which resists punctures and tears. There is a roll-top design, which means no zippers to malfunction or leak. The seams are all fully welded as well for even more protection.
As well as reducing leaking, these waterproofing features also let this backpack float, which is essential boating and fishing, just in case your backpack goes overboard.
And when your trip is over, you can just roll up your best backpack cooler to a small size and store it away until you need it again.
As of publishing this article there is no YETI backpack cooler on the market. And when it comes to coolers comparable to YETI, RTIC coolers builds some of the best YETI cooler alternatives. So if you are looking for a cooler like YETI but cheaper, consider looking at an RTIC cooler.
Capacity: 33 liter
Weight: 6 lbs
Features: Waterproof, welded seams, roll-top design, compact for easy storage, adjustable backpack straps, elasticized gear straps on front
The IceMule Pro Cooler may just be the best soft cooler backpack around, thanks to their unique fabric and features. It is also extremely lightweight, at just over 3 lbs, so it is also one of the most portable models around.
The MuleSkinET is IceMule’s exterior fabric, which is rugged enough to withstand even the harshest elements. Inside these cooler backpacks is the MuleSkin EV, which is tough and sturdy, while helping to increase ice retention. In between these layers is the PolarLayer foam insulation, which boasts over 24 hours of ice retention.
IceMule has also included their own IM Airvalve, which is their original feature for increasing the insulation. This valve allows you to add air to the insulating layer, which the company claims will increase its capabilities.
This valve has another use as well. When your small cooler backpack is empty, you can open the valve to help release any air inside for a more storable package.
Waterproofing features include the roll-top design, the lack of zippers, and the welded seams, which work together to help this durable cooler float. The IceMule Pro also comes in 33L and 40L sizes, and all three have two or three colors to choose from.
Material: MuleSkinET fabric
Capacity: 23 liter
Weight: 3.2 lbs
Features: PolarLayer foam insulation, IM Airvalve, roll-top design, welded seams, waterproof, elasticized gear straps on front
This insulated backpack cooler bag from Polar Bear Coolers is built to last through even the roughest outdoor adventures. It has a heavy duty nylon shell, coated with TPE for water resistance. T
he Dura-Temp liner is certified as FDA food grade, and is both leak and sweat proof, so the melting ice inside won’t drip through and soak you while you walk. This liner is also easy to clean if you should have any unexpected spills.
To add to the strength of this backpacking cooler bag, Polar Bear has added YKK zippers. These are heavy duty, to reduce damage to the teeth. These zippers are also weatherized to protect the metal against moisture damage.
As well as the adjustable backpack straps, there are also a couple of carry straps on the top of the backpack, with a velcro wrap to keep them together and to increase the comfort when carrying the pack in this fashion.
Other handy features on Polar Bear’s best backpack cooler are the side pockets, front mesh pocket, the zipper pull-tab that doubles as a bottle opener, and the side buckles to compress the bag and keep it as compact as possible. You can also customize these backpacks with your name or company logo.
Weight: 5 lbs
Features: High density 5 layer Open Cell Foam insulation, FDA food grade leak and sweat proof, Dura-Temp liner, YKK #10 zipper, multiple pockets, bottle opener, side release buckles, adjustable backpack straps, carry handles
The Igloo Sportsman Backpack Cooler is one of the most durable Igloo cooler bags available, with hefty nylon and welded seams to increase the backpack’s waterproofing.
There is a high impact base on this bag, which reduces tears and punctures if it is dropped or set on sharp rocks or other hazardous surfaces. The liner is antimicrobial to keep mold and mildew from forming inside the bag.
The ultra-thick insulation boasts up to 2 days of ice retention, even when you’re traveling on those extra hot days. Igloo’s Cool Riser Technology keeps the bag off the hot ground, which helps increase the bag’s performance and reduce melting inside of it.
When the ice eventually does melt, you can use the drain plug for easy removal. The tether keeps the plug from getting lost when you let it go.
There are four D-rings on the outside of the bag to make it easy to tie it down during travel. The daisy chains on the front give you multiple points to attach carabiners to carry other items, keeping your hands free while you walk. There are also a couple of pockets on the front and back of this Igloo cooler backpack for extra storage of small items.
The wide mouth opening uses a roll-top design, which together give you fast access while keeping the ice, water, food, and drinks inside where they belong. A removable carabiner and bottle opener combo device is also included.
If you are in the market for one of the most durable backpack coolers that is ready to tackle any outdoor adventure you can throw at it, the Igloo Sportsman Backpack Cooler is one to consider.
Capacity: 16 liter
Weight: 6 lbs
Features: Waterproof, wide mouth roll-top opening, tethered drain plug, high impact base, Cool Riser Technology, removable and adjustable backpack straps, pockets, D-rings, daisy chain, carabiner/bottle opener, antimicrobial liner, anti-mold additives
The best backpack cooler gives you the room you need to carry your food and drinks, plus anything else you may need for an all-day adventure. This insulated backpack cooler from Arctic Zone has so much space, you’ll be hard-pressed to fill it all.
First, there are four insulated compartments, the large main one, plus a top, side, and front area for adding more food and drinks to keep everyone fed and watered throughout the day. Then there are multiple pockets located on the outside of these areas, including a hidden fleece-lined pocket inside the front compartment to keep your valuables out of sight.
To keep you comfortable during your travels, the Arctic Zone Ultra Cooler Backpack has padded backpack and sternum straps, all of which are adjustable for the perfect fit for anyone in your party. The back is also padded, with a Cool Stream airflow system to keep your back from sweating under the pack.
The Rhino-Tech outer material on the Arctic Zone Ultra Cooler Backpack has a UV, water, and stain resistant coating for extra protection.
The main and front compartments have high performance SuperFoam insulation, with high-density thermal insulation in the other two cold areas. Together, these keep up to 24 cans of beer or soft drinks cold for up to 2 days.
Material: Rhino-Tech polyester
Capacity: 15 liter
Weight: 0.7 lbs
Features: Super-Foam insulation, Thermal insulation, Therma-Flect radiant barrier, multiple pockets, elasticized gear straps, padded back, Cool Stream air flow system, adjustable backpack straps and sternum strap, water resistant, stain resistant, UV resistant
If you are in need of a mobile cooler bag, but can’t afford the hefty price tags on the high end backpacks, the OA Gear Backpack Cooler is a great option.
The cost is quite low, fitting into any budget, while still giving you the features you need to get through a day of hiking, fishing, or any other outdoor activity.
First of all, it has the capacity to hold up to 20 cans, plus the ice needed to keep them at the perfect temperature. The liner is double heat sealed PEVA, which is leak-proof to keep any melting on the inside instead of soaking you while you walk.
For storing your other items that don’t necessarily need to be kept cold, there are two mesh side pockets, a zippered front pocket, and some gear straps near the top of the bag.
The padded backpack straps are adjustable to reduce shifting when you walk, but some have found these to wear out easier than the straps of some other backpacks, so you may want to keep a close eye on them before and after every trip.
The OA Gear Backpack Cooler come in six colors, including a camo cooler backpack for those who like to blend in with their surroundings.
Capacity: 21 liter
Weight: 3 lbs
Features: Double heat sealed PEVA no-leak liner, multiple pockets, adjustable padded backpack straps, elasticized gear straps
Insulated backpacks for food and drinks are great, but you probably won’t use them very much if they don’t have the room to carry your other essentials.
North Coyote has given you the best of both worlds, ample cooler room with a large area for anything else you might need.
The cooler portion is located on the bottom of the bag. It has a 17L capacity, giving you more than enough room to pack some drinks, meals, and a few snacks.
This insulated area is waterproof, to keep melting ice in and rain or other dampness out. There is a zipper opening, which splits the bag in the middle, giving you full access to the cooler area.
The top compartment has a large 25L storage capacity, making this a great option for those who need a change of clothing, or even books or papers for work or school. This area is also waterproof to keep your belongings safe from the elements. Instead of a zipper, there is a drawstring closure with a buckled flap. There are also 5 pockets located on the top and sides of the bag.
To increase your comfort while wearing the bag, there are adjustable padded shoulder straps, plus a sternum strap and hip belt for extra support.
Though it was designed for hiking, this may also be the best backpack cooler for day trips to the beach, picnics in the park, or any other activity you or your family prefer.
Capacity: 42 liter
Weight: 2.4 lbs
Features: Waterproof, 2 large storage compartments, multiple pockets, adjustable padded shoulder straps, sternum strap, hip belt, compression straps
You may not want to keep everything you carry covered with ice, so having a few different compartments in your insulated cooler backpack is a must. The Coleman Backpack Cooler makes sure you can carry everything in the pack, keeping your hands free for fishing rods or walking sticks.
The large main compartment has the capacity to hold up to 28 cans, plus the ice necessary to keep them chilled to perfection. This area is free of both BPAs and phthalates, plus has the added security of heat welded seams to eliminate leaking. Dual zippers give you full access to the contents of this area, making it easier to find what you’re looking for.
There is also a large zippered front compartment, for snacks you may not want to risk getting wet, as well as electronics, notebooks, or anything else you may need to carry with you. A bungee gear strap on the front keeps any essentials close at hand.
There is an antimicrobial liner inside the bag, which not only helps to reduce mildew or mold if you don’t dry it out thoroughly enough at the end of your trip, but is also easy to clean if a spill should occur.
Built like a outdoor daypack the Coleman Backpack Cooler is a versatile option for anyone who wants to keep their good cold while enjoying outdoor activities.
Coleman Backpack Cooler Tech Specs
Capacity: ~10 liter
Weight: 1 lbs
Features: BPA- and phthalate-free main compartment, heat welded seams, zippered front pocket, padded back, adjustable padded shoulder straps, adjustable waist strap, antimicrobial liner
This Igloo cooler bag is both lightweight and durable, making it a great addition to any outing, from easy day trips in the car to two-day hiking excursions down some rugged trails. It can hold up to 18 cans, or half that with some food as well, plus the ice needed to keep everything tasting its best.
The outer shell of the Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler Backpack is made of thick PEVA, which is both puncture and leak resistant. It is also protected against UV rays for reduced deterioration on those long days under a hot sun. The antimicrobial inner liner resists both stains and odors, plus is easy to clean with no more than a damp cloth.
In between the two layers of the Igloo soft-sided cooler backpack is their MaxCold insulation, which has 25% more foam for better ice retention.
There is a small top compartment that is made of moulded EVA to keep your valuables safe from harm. There are also a couple side mesh pockets and a front zippered pocket for any other small items you need to store during your trip.
The backpack straps are padded for comfort, with air mesh to keep you cool instead of sweating underneath them. They are also adjustable, with a chest clip for extra support when Igloo’s best backpack cooler is filled to capacity.
Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler Backpack Tech Specs
Capacity: ~25 liter
Weight: 1.2 lbs
Features: Waterproof, leak-proof, UV protected, MaxCold insulation, crushproof top compartment, multiple pockets, non-corrosive hardware, adjustable padded straps, antimicrobial liner
The Picnic Time Zuma Insulated Backpack gives you the perfect bag to carry all your essentials for the beach, a picnic, or a hike in the woods. It splits down the middle, giving you two large storage areas to hold everything you need for any type of outing.
The top section is meant for clothing, beach towels, notebooks, or other larger items. This compartment has a drawstring closure for easy access, plus mesh sides to let this area breathe, letting damp clothes dry faster instead of creating nasty odors inside your bag. A top flap covers the drawstring, buckling down for a more secure closure during your travels.
The bottom compartment is the cold area of this Picnic Time backpack cooler. It uses the same 600D polyester outer shell for durability against rough handling, but has ThermoGuard insulation inside.
This area has the capacity to hold up to 20 cans of beer or soft drinks. There is a heat-sealed, water-resistant lining inside as well, to reduce leaks from the slowly melting ice.
The best backpack cooler also keeps you comfortable while it cools your food and drinks. This one has padded adjustable straps with mesh on the underside to keep you cool as well.
There is a media pocket on the right strap, to keep your phone or other media device close at hand during your trip. There are also two large zippered pockets and two mesh side pockets for all your other smaller gear.
Picnic Time Zuma Insulated Backpack Tech Specs
Capacity: 24 liter backpack with 8 liter cooler compartment
Weight: 2.5 lbs
Features: 2 large compartments, ThermoGuard insulation, heat-sealed and water-resistant lining, multiple outer pockets including smartphone pocket, adjustable padded shoulder straps with mesh underside
The Picnic Time Turismo insulated backpack cooler was made to go with you anywhere, from outdoor activities, to work, to school, and anywhere else your day takes you. The shell is durable 600D polyester, which is water and tear resistant.
There are two insulated interior compartments. Open the zipper at the top to reveal the larger one, and beneath the lid is a smaller one for the items you may want to keep out of the moisture the ice or ice packs creates. This gives you ample space for food and drinks.
There is a water duffel included, that fits into the mesh pocket on the outside of the bag. Or, you can carry it by the shoulder strap and put other small items in this pocket, keeping them secure with the drawstring closure.
There are also a few other pockets on the sides of this Picnic Time backpack cooler, and a few more on the inside and outside of the exterior flap.
For easy carrying, you can choose either the comfortable non-slip shoulder straps or the padded carry handle found on the top of the bag. Though this may not be big enough to supply all the essentials for a large group, it is the best backpack cooler for personal use.
Picnic Time Turismo Cooler Backpack Tech Specs
Capacity: ~21 liter
Weight: 3.75 lbs
Features: 2 large main insulated compartments, multiple pockets, padded non-slip shoulder straps, paddle handle on top, detachable water duffel with shoulder strap, utility clip, NCAA customizable
You need durable coolers for outdoor trips, especially if you’re going to be traveling off the beaten path. The Engel Prym1 Backpack Cooler has an extremely rugged outer shell made of 500D diamond ripstop polyester, which is tear-resistant for a longer lasting bag. There is also a TPE coating on the outside to make this a fully waterproof cooler backpack.
Inside is an inch of closed-cell foam insulation, plus a radiant barrier liner. The insulation helps maintain the temperature inside the bag and the liner helps reflect the heat of the sun away from the bag for better ice retention.
Together, these will give you up to 3 days of cold drinks and food, which is essential for those weekends away from home.
The backpack straps are padded and breathable for less discomfort while you walk, plus there are both tote handles and a padded shoulder strap for multiple carry options. Non-skid feet keep your bag exactly where you place it, even on slick surfaces.
Next to the large main compartment’s dual water-resistant zippers is another zipper, which opens up an extra storage compartment for ice packs or even more snacks.
There are two mesh pockets for small items that don’t need to be chilled. A large front pocket holds cooking utensils, plates, or a variety of other items, with an open outer pocket for items you want easy access to.
Engel Backpack Cooler Tech Specs
Material: Polyester Diamond Ripstop
Capacity: 21 liter
Weight: 6 lbs
Features: Waterproof TPE coating, closed-cell foam insulation, radiant barrier lining, multiple pockets, non-skid feet, tote handles, padded breathable shoulder straps, sternum strap
The Igloo Daytripper Backpack Cooler is more than just an average backpack cooler bag. It adds a touch of class to every outing, supplying you with everything you need to set out an elegant outdoor meal, outside of the food and drinks, of course. You’ll have to pick your favorites of those.
There is a large main compartment on the top, perfect for carrying a couple of bottles of wine, with a divider to keep them from bumping into each other and breaking while you walk. Or take the divider out and fill this area with beer or soft drinks, whatever your party prefers.
The small bottom compartment is also insulated, giving you room for your snacks, like cheese and chocolate to go with your favorite wine. Or you can store plates, utensils, or other essentials in this area. The liner of both of these areas is antimicrobial and leak-resistant to keep everything clean and dry.
Included with this bag is a bamboo cutting board and a few cheese knives, each with their own individual pocket. A corkscrew is also included, plus a bottle opener on one of the padded shoulder straps.
There are a few more pockets on the sides and front for anything else you need to carry.
If you find yourself in the wilderness more than the city, check out the Igloo Realtree backpack cooler that features a rugged camo design.
Igloo Daytripper Backpack Cooler Tech Specs
Capacity: N/A liter
Weight: 3.4 lbs
Features: 2 cooler compartments, padded removable divider, bamboo cutting board, stainless steel cheese knives, corkscrew, multiple pockets, built-in bottle opener, antimicrobial and leak-resistant liner, adjustable padded backpack straps, adjustable sternum strap, daisy chain
The Leopard Outdoor Vinyl Backpack Cooler may not have all the features and frillls of the best backpack cooler on the market, but in terms of price and capacity, it is a great choice for those who don’t mind the basics.
The outer vinyl shell is waterproof and a bit flashy to look at, due to its bright color. All the zippers are waterproof as well, to protect everything you’re carrying from the elements.
Inside you’ll find an FDA-approved liner that is both durable and leak-proof. This interior compartment holds up to 30 cans, with the room to fit in 5 lbs of ice on top to keep those drinks extra cold.
The back of this large backpack cooler is padded for extra comfort, as are the adjustable backpack straps. There is a wide opening for easy access, and buckles on the sides to compress the bag as much as possible when closed up.
There is a large and a small pocket on the front of this backpack as well, for extra storage.
Though it only comes in one color and size, and doesn’t have the extras you may find on other top rated models, the Leopard Vinyl cooler backpack has a great low price for the budget-conscious, has plenty of room inside, and looks pretty cool in any situation.
Leopard Outdoor Backpack Cooler Tech Specs
Capacity: N/A liter
Weight: 2.9 lbs
Features: Waterproof shell and zippers, adjustable shoulder strap, padded back, FDA-approved leak-proof liner, 2 front zippered pockets
One of the most important things to consider when buying a backpack cooler is comfort. Tourit has paid extra attention to these areas, as well as creating the best backpack cooler to carry all your food and drinks for the day.
They have added thick padded sections to the back area and onto the shoulder straps since these are the areas that will be touching you while you walk. They’ve also ventilated the back, in case it rains or you spill some water on the bag. This will allow it to dry much faster, keeping you even more comfortable while you walk.
The shell is made using high-quality tear-resistant nylon, with a hot-pressed PEVA leak-proof liner inside. Between these two layers is thick foam insulation to keep your food and drinks cold and tasty.
The large main compartment holds over 28 cans. Though you can use ice in the backpack cooler, Tourit recommends using ice packs instead to reduce wear on the waterproof liner.
For extra storage, there is a large zippered front pocket with a mesh divider on the inside flap for utensils or other smaller items, plus a couple of side mesh pockets for items you may want easy access to. This gives you more than enough room for everything you need for a day of hiking, fishing, or lounging on the beach.
Capacity: 25 liter
Weight: 1.1 lbs
Features: Waterproof, leak-proof PEVA liner, adjustable padded backpack straps, ventilated padded back, multiple pockets
Guide to Finding the Best Backpack Cooler
What is a Backpack Cooler?
You’ll be surprised that best backpack cooler look pretty much like a regular backpack or cooler, with a few necessary alterations.
First of all, they have a decent insulating layer to help retain ice and cold air inside the cooler, which is necessary when toting drinks and food, especially in hot weather.
A cooling backpack also has a waterproof liner inside. Even with the best backpack cooler, ice will eventually melt, creating a puddle of water in the bottom of the bag. The liner will keep the water from leaking out of the bag and dripping all over you and every surface around you.
There is usually just one main insulated compartment, but some models add a second to keep your food and drinks separate, or as space to place extra ice packs for extra cooling.
Advantages of Backpack Coolers
The main advantage of using the best insulated backpack is that they can be used completely hands-free. Normal hard shell coolers require two hands, due to their size and their weight, especially when full of drinks and snacks for even short trips. Even normal soft-shell coolers need at least one hand to carry them.
Since the backpack rides on your shoulders, you can keep your hands free for other items you may need to hold, like beach bags, fishing gear, or even a younger child’s hand when traveling over uneven terrain.
If you need to check your phone or handheld GPS, you can do so while you walk, without dropping your cooler and holding up the rest of your party.
Another advantage of these types of cooler bags is that they can usually carry some of your other gear, thanks to the extra pockets they have on the bag’s exterior. Some even have larger compartments for camp towels, rain jacket, or other larger items, making them an all-in-one bag for added convenience.
Who Needs a Backpack Cooler?
The best backpack cooler can fit into almost any activity, but they are best used by those who plan on doing most of their traveling on foot. This means hikers, backpackers, and climbers will need a pack like this for their excursions. Cyclists may also want a backpack cooler for those long days on the road or trail.
But backpack coolers can also fit into a more modern lifestyle. There are some designed with cold compartments as well as normal areas, making them a great option for high school or college students who prefer to pack their own lunch rather than spend their hard earned money on a cafeteria meal.
Even families who just like to stroll to their local park for an afternoon picnic will be thankful to have a backpack cooler to keep their food safe to eat and their drinks icy cold.
Is There a YETI Backpack Cooler?
At this exact time, there is no YETI backpack cooler available for purchase. Those who favor YETI products are a bit disappointed by this since YETI is one of the best brands around when it comes to coolers.
This will be the first YETI backpack cooler ever made, with the capacity for 20 cans or 25lbs of ice. Of course, you can add any combination of those inside this new YETI backpack cooler, depending on how thirsty you are and how hot it is outside.
The new YETI backpack cooler will have padded shoulder straps and yoke, plus both sternum and waist belts to help balance the heavy load. The other features of the Backflip 24 have yet to be mentioned, but I’m sure this YETI backpack cooler will meet the standards of its predecessors upon its release in 2018.
Things to Consider When Finding the Right Backpack Cooler
Choosing the best backpack cooler first depends on how you plan to use it. These coolers are great for hiking trips or picnics in the park because they can hold everything you need without adding too much weight to your back.
But you can also use your backpack cooler to carry home groceries that are best kept cold, like meat and dairy products. If you are bringing hot or cold items to a potluck dinner or a friend’s party, you can use these bags to keep everything at the optimal temperature.
Overnight camping trips are also a possibility with these handy cooler backpacks since they hold everything you need. Many of them can keep the ice or ice packs from melting too much for a day or more, so you won’t need to worry about spoiled food or warm beverages on those shorter excursions.
When you are choosing your backpack cooler, bigger isn’t always better. The reason for this is that the more space there is in the bag, the more air there is for the ice to cool. If your bag is half full, the ice will have to work that much harder to keep everything inside, and all that excess air, at the right temperature.
If you are planning a short afternoon on your own, a smaller cooler bag will be more than enough. There are some that hold as little as 15 Liters, so this will give you ample room for your food, drinks, and ice or ice packs.
Of course, if you’re feeding a group of friends or a large family, there are huge 30 can models available, giving you tons of space to keep everyone fed and watered all day long. But again, make sure it is filled to capacity, or you’ll lose your ice long before you would have with a smaller bag.
Ice Retention / Performance
The exterior shell, liner, and insulation of the bag all work together to hold the cold air inside, retaining the ice for as long as possible. But there are other factors that will increase the performance of even the best backpack cooler.
First of all, as I said above, you want to make sure your bag is filled to capacity. Once the items inside are cold, they’ll help retain the ice, but a wide open space in the bag will reduce your ice much faster.
How often you open your cooler backpack also affects the ice retention. If you are constantly opening the cooler, the cold air gets out and warm air gets in, melting the ice inside the bag. Figure out everything you need and take it all out at the same time instead of going into the bag every few minutes. This will increase the backpack’s performance and slow the ice’s melting.
Comfort & Fit
Let’s face it, carrying all your drinks and food on your back, plus the extra weight of the ice inside the bag, is going to cause some pain in your shoulders and back after a while. But the best backpack cooler companies have done their best to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.
The back of the bag is one thing to look at. Many brands have padded backs with some ventilation to reduce sweating. The shoulder straps should be padded and ventilated for the same reason. But the straps should also be adjustable to give you the right fit. Waist and sternum straps should be included for added support.
The best insulated cooler bag should be wide and tall enough to distribute the weight evenly across your back. They should weigh only a couple pounds, too, so they aren’t adding too much weight on their own.
The beauty of backpack coolers is that they are usually quite versatile. They are meant to carry food and drinks with you anywhere you go, which is why the bags are made of durable material that will last through rugged trips outdoors.
But many of these bags are also made to look as stylish as a regular backpack, so you can use them for other daily activities. This includes as a handy grocery bag, work or school lunch bag, or a beach bag for a day trip with your family.
There are also some backpack cooler combo bags that have an insulated compartment for food and drinks, as well as a normal compartment for clothing, books, or other items you may need for your daily activities.
Durability & Leakproof
The materials used both inside and outside your backpack cooler will determine how durable it is. Most of the brands out there use either polyester or nylon, both of which are tear-resistant and long-lasting. Many of them also have a waterproof coating to protect anything in the pockets or main compartment from the elements.
The insulation layer should be quite thick, usually an inch or so. This helps keep whatever you are carrying from warming up while you walk. Some companies create their own patented insulation, but most of them use foam insulation in their products, which gives you great performance.
Since a leaking bag won’t be used more than once, the best backpack cooler companies also use leak-proof liners to keep you and everything around you dry. If it doesn’t say it is leak-proof, avoid that particular bag, or you’ll likely be soaked long before you reach your destination.
For zipper and seams look for high quality zippers, the bigger the better and YKK brand are always trustable. Seams should be welded and/or include heavy duty stitching so they won’t burst when you are out in the field.
Pockets & Storage
For storage, the insulated compartment should be a decent size, to ensure you’ll be able to pack everything you need. Many backpack coolers have one large main compartment and a smaller insulated area, giving you the option of keeping your food and drinks separate, which can be handy at times.
But you likely will need to carry more than just what’s going in your body. Phones, media devices, notebooks, towels, extra clothing, and many other essentials may have made their way on your list. Having the pockets to hold them all will save you from carrying an extra bag or filling the pockets of your clothing.
Zippered pockets, mesh pockets, and hidden pockets are all great additions, and the best backpack cooler will have at least one of each. Some bags also have larger compartments for the big items, which can be handy for the beach or overnight camping trips.
Backpack coolers come in a variety of styles and colors, so you have quite a few to choose from. Some of them are more rectangular for better weight and item distribution. Others have a more normal backpack look, with a wider bottom and a curved zipper top.
Then there are the other more modern bags, which look more like a stylish carry bag with backpack straps. These are best used for field trips or tours around a foreign city, especially if you’re traveling on a budget and can’t afford to eat out at the fancy restaurants along the way.
As for colors, there are many to choose from. Basic black is common, but you can find bright blues, oranges, and even camo backpack coolers if that’s what you’re into. One of the best options on the market is the Igloo Realtree Backpack Cooler.
There are a few extra features that can turn a decent bag into the best backpack cooler available. Along with regular pockets, security pockets are a must, especially when you’re carrying expensive gear like phones, music players, or other media devices.
Another handy feature is the bungee gear straps found on the front of many cooler backpacks. These give you quick access to anything you tie there and can hold larger items that may not fit into the normal pockets. Daisy chains let you hang other gear off the bag.
Some cooler bags come with attached or removable bottle openers, and a few even add fancier gear like corkscrews, cutting boards, and cheese knives. So, whether you prefer cracking a beer or opening a bottle of wine, you’ll be able to find the right accessories for your personal tastes.
Some of the best backpack cooler brands can cost a pretty penny. These ones are usually durable, lightweight, and come with every feature you need to make your backpack worth the money. But you will likely be paying for the name as well as the bag.
There are 16 cooler bags reviewed here, and the highest price is almost $200+. The lowest price? About $20. The cheapest bag is still made of quality material and has excellent features, including extra pockets and comfortable straps.
So, if you have unlimited funds, you can pretty much choose any brand of cooler backpack you want and get everything you need. But those on a budget will still be able to find the right cooler for their chosen uses, without breaking the bank.
It really just comes down to how long your expect your gear to last and if you prefer to buy a name brand. Another consideration is that you’ll want to consider going with a brand that stands behind their product, which may cost a little extra up front.
The Bottom Line
When traveling for the day or the weekend, you’re going to need to eat and stay hydrated, no matter if you’re hiking a new trail, relaxing at the park, or hanging out at your favorite campground.
Carrying a hefty cooler isn’t always an option, especially when traveling to these areas on foot. These situations pretty much demand the best backpack cooler, and with so many to choose from, there is no reason not to have one at your disposal.
For those who want the best-of-the-best, YETI’s backpack cooler is our top ranked cooler out there. The YETI Hopper Backflip 24 is built ultra-tough and versatile enough to carry along on any adventure you can throw at it.
If you are on a bit more of a budget but still want premium cooler performance, consider looking at the RTIC backpack cooler. It’s the closest YETI like cooler and offers plenty of performance for the weekend adventurer.
Those with more money than they know what to do with can pick whichever one they want, but for those on a budget, you need to choose carefully. For these people, the OA Gear Backpack Cooler is the cheapest option on our list. It is lightweight with a decent capacity, is made of sturdy materials, multiple storage pockets, and even has a few colors to choose from.
If you need as much space for your regular gear as you do for your beverages, the Picnic Time Zuma Insulated Cooler Backpack gives you two separate compartments, one insulated, and one for all the rest of your essentials.
For those who prefer wine and cheese over beer and hot dogs, the Igloo Daytripper comes with more than enough space for a couple bottles of your favorite vintage, plus the accessories necessary to serve those accentuating cheese flavors.