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Best Backpack Cooler [2020]

Columbia PFG Roll Caster 30 Can Insulated Backpack Cooler
  • Fully functional backpack and cooler in one
  • Slime-Tech to help maintain a clean exterior
  • ThermaCool Insulation and Therma-Flect radiant barrier for maximum cold retention


Columbia is one of the largest manufacturers of quality outdoor apparel and equipment. Their PFG Roll Caster Insulated Backpack Cooler was designed to appeal to people who need a practical backpack that is also a portable cooler.

The exterior has a special Slime-Tech treatment which helps prevent stains while repelling mud, grime, and unwanted material. It also has multiple exterior pockets and gear straps for carrying utility items. The padded adjustable shoulder straps with a padded breathable back also improve overall comfort, which is especially handy for solo backpackers who have a long hike ahead of them.

The Columbia PFG Roll Caster Insulated Backpack Cooler has proprietary ThermaCool as the primary insulation layer. It also has a special Therma-Flect radiant barrier to further maximize it’s cold or heat retention. The welded liner is leak-resistant and has a MicroBan antimicrobial treatment.

LUNCIA 33can Collapsible Cooler Bag Leakproof Cooler Backpack
  • Great value for the price
  • 33 can capacity
  • Leakproof PEVA lining


The LUNCIA 33 can Collapsible Cooler Bag was designed with quality materials and thoughtful engineering. Yet it’s priced very affordably for a 33 can backpack cooler. The interior PEVA lining is leak-proof and has been tested to keep food and beverages cold for over six hours.

This backpack cooler has two convenient sides mesh pockets to hold quick-access items like a water bottle or a small snack. The top pocket also adds to its overall functionality. However, it isn’t waterproof, so if there’s a chance of rain in the forecast, you might want to pack vulnerable items in a gallon-size zip-top bag.

This is a great backpack cooler for day hikes, picnics, trips to the beach or just bringing affordable food and drinks with you to the county fair.

IceMule Pro XXL Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag
  • Superior quality materials and innovative design
  • Large 40-liter capacity
  • Waterproof and floats


IceMule has been gradually carving out a large niche for itself in the backpack cooler industry. This is due in part to their innovative engineering with high-quality materials, and customer service.

The IceMule Pro XXL represents the largest of its broad line of backpack coolers. It has an impressive 40-liter interior compartment that will hold up to 36 12-ounce cans, with plenty of room for ice or cold packs.

The MuleSkinET exterior has superior durability. The straps are doubled padded and ventilated. It also has a sternum strap and back pads to maximize comfort for long hikes and portages.

The interior lining is made from MuleSkin EV with welded leak-proof seams with Polar Layer insulation. The cooler compartment doesn’t have zippers. Instead, you access the interior of the cooler via IceMule’s proprietary roll-top closure system. The closure, insulation, and the ability to add air to a special interior layer make this backpack cooler waterproof while also helping it to float.

How We Picked

When it comes to finding the right backpack cooler, it helps to start by thinking about how you will use it. The needs of a day hiker or overnight camper are likely to be a little different than a family who wants to save money by bringing their food and beverages with them to the amusement park.

Capacity is, of course, the first place to start. We tried to look for units where the capacity was tailored to some of its primary uses. Campers who need to bring two days’ food with them ultimately need more storage space than a simple day hiker or someone who needs a convenient way to carry a beach picnic.

Comfort features were also something we kept an eye out for. Straps and back padding play an important role in helping you comfortably carry what is often a heavy, or potentially shifting load.

Leak proofing and liner integrity was also a key priority that we factored in. After all, when a seam fails or tears, the constant drip can do more than compromise cold retention. It can also make things very uncomfortable for the person wearing the pack.

Overall functionality was also a factor we kept an eye out for with some models. If you are hiking with another person, one of you can carry the cooler and the other one can carry the backpack with all the camping gear.

If you need to travel solo though, you want to keep an eye out for a unit that has things like mesh side bags, zippered pockets or gear hooks. This lets you take basic camping gear with you as well as the cooler contents.

Coleman C003 Soft Backpack Cooler

Coleman C003 Soft Backpack Cooler

Specs:

  • 28 can capacity
  • Adjustable padded straps
  • Leakproof welded seams
  • Anti-microbial treatment of cooler compartment
  • BPA free
  • Phthalate-free

Coleman may have started out as a propane equipment manufacturer, but they have since evolved into one of the leading presences in the camping industry.

Coleman C003 Soft Backpack Cooler

This includes lanterns, tents, backpacks, and of course, backpack coolers like their C003 Soft Backpack Cooler.

Coleman C003 Soft Backpack Cooler and lunch

It’s rated to carry up to 28 12-ounce soda cans. The interior soft lining has heat-welded seams that are intended to make it leak proof. The liner is BPA and Phthalate-free. It also has an antimicrobial treatment to reduce problems with bacteria, mildew, mold and other unwanted microbes.

Coleman C003 Soft Backpack Cooler worn by model

The adjustable padded straps help keep it comfortable. There is also a side pocket for a water bottle or other items you might want to keep close at hand while you hike.

What We Liked

The characteristics of the liner stand out from many of its competitors. The heat-welded seams help prevent leaking and it is BPA and Phthalate-free. The antimicrobial treatment is also a nice touch.

Don’t overlook the side pocket as being simple. Staying hydrated is important on a long hike, and you don’t want to have to stop and take the pack off just to get a quick drink of water.

Overall

This is a well-built backpack cooler for the money. The fact that it comes from a reliable industry leader is also an added boost of confidence. Though it would be nice if Coleman included a sternum strap for more comfort and balance fully loaded, 28 cans of soda can weigh in around 21-pounds.

Coleman C003 Soft Backpack Cooler

  • 28 can capacity
  • Leakproof liner
  • BPA and Phthalate free with antimicrobial treatment

TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler Leakproof Lightweight Cooler Backpack

TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler

Specs:

  • 28 can capacity
  • High-density insulation
  • Leak-resistant liner
  • Multiple storage compartments
  • Adjustable padded straps
  • Padded back
  • Water and tear-resistant exterior fabric

Tourit offers a variety of cooler products including this 28-can lightweight model. It’s designed for comfort and the 28-can or 25-liter storage capacity can hold enough food and water to support two people for a full day.

TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler fitting two big soda bottles

It also comes with multiple pockets that allow you to use it as a somewhat functional backpack. This includes a large primary storage compartment, as well as 2 side mesh pockets and a large front zipper pocket with a built-in mesh divider.

TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler and lots of drinks

The soft-sided internal cooler has high-density insulation. The liner was designed to be leak-resistant, and with proper care could be considered “Leak Proof.”

TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler outdoors

You get the feeling that this unit was designed with comfort in mind. The padded shoulder straps are contoured to ride easily on the shoulders, and the back is padded. The exterior fabric is also rated for superior water and tear resistance.

What We Liked

The additional pockets and compartments are a nice touch that let you use the Tourit 28-can backpack cooler as a truly functional backpack, rather than just a cooler with convenient shoulder straps.

Overall

If you need a backpack cooler that can support you for a full day in the bush, yet can also carry all the other little items you need for a simple picnic on the beach, then this cooler deserves to be on your list. Just be careful with how you pack the internal cooler compartment. Sharp items and even bare ice cubes could tear or puncture the lining leading to chronic leaking problems.

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TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler Leakproof Lightweight Cooler Backpack

  • Designed with comfort in mind
  • 28 can capacity
  • Multiple storage compartments for added functionality

IceMule Pro XXL Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag

IceMule Pro XXL Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag

Specs:

  • Large 40-liter capacity
  • 36 cans with room for ice
  • Welded seams
  • Proprietary roll-top closure system
  • Waterproof
  • Floats
  • Rolls tight for compressed storage
  • Polar layer insulation
  • IM air valve for additional air insulation

In recent years IceMule has carved out a nice niche for itself in the backpack cooler industry. They use a lot of innovative engineering and high-quality materials that set their units apart from many other soft-sided backpack coolers.

They have several sizes and color options. The XXL represents the largest of their line. It has a 40-liter interior compartment that will hold 36 12-ounce cans, as well as ice.

color options of the IceMule Pro XXL Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag

The exterior is made from their proprietary MuleSkinET which was designed to be exceptionally durable. The straps are doubled padded and ventilated for superior comfort. It also has a sternum strap and back pads to help distribute the load comfortably. The interior lining is made from a similar MuleSkin EV. The seams are then welded to make them leakproof.

IceMule Pro XXL Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag on a lake

There are no zippers to speak of. Instead, you access the interior of the cooler via IceMule’s proprietary roll-top closure system. This makes it waterproof, as well as helping it to float.

It uses Polar Layer Insulation, along with an optional IM air valve, which allows you to add air. Not only does this rate it to keep solid ice-cold for up to 24-hours it also means the IceMule can float.

What We Liked

There are a lot of special features loaded into this backpack cooler. The things that stand out the most include the waterproof closure, combined with the ability to float, which makes it very appealing for canoe and kayak enthusiasts.

The Polar Layered Insulation and the ability to add air to the interior reinforces the insulation qualities. This combined with the large capacity of the XXL makes it a great option for times when you need a cooler pack to support your food and beverage needs on a multi-day off-the-grid trip.

If the 40-liter XXL is a little too large for your needs IceMule does offer several smaller versions 23-liters IceMule Pro Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag and 33-liters IceMule Pro Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag with all the same hallmark features and quality materials.

Overall

The IceMule XXL backpack has a lot of special features loaded into a premium price, high-quality backpack cooler. While it is geared to appeal to kayak and canoe adventurers it is just like home at the beach or on a deep-woods camping trip.

The only minor knock on it is the lack of any functional pockets or compartments. It means if you are going to take it into the bush with you, that you will need a partner to take the gear pack. Still, with the 40-liter, you might have enough room leftover in the top to hold clothing items and accessories in gallon-size zip-top bags.

IceMule Pro XXL Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag

  • Superior quality materials and innovative design
  • Large 40-liter capacity
  • Waterproof and floats

YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack

YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler Backpack

Specs:

  • 20 can capacity plus ice
  • Closed-cell rubber foam insulation
  • FDA approved liner
  • Hydrolock leakproof zipper
  • DryHide exterior shell
  • Ergonomic straps
  • Sternum and waist straps
  • Mildew, puncture and UV resistant

Yeti is one of the giants in the cooler industry with a reputation for producing high-quality products at every level.

YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler Backpack

So, it was only a matter of time until they threw their hat into the backpack cooler niche with their Hopper BackFlip 24.

YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler Backpack

The exterior is made from their proprietary DryHide shell. Which has superior mildew, puncture, and UV resistance. The ergonomically designed shoulder straps are padded with a sternum strap. There’s also an optional waistband to help comfortably redistribute the weight.

Interior of the YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler Backpack

The internal insulation uses state-of-the-art closed cell rubber foam. The liner is also approved by the FDA. Yeti claims it has a 20-can capacity if you fill it with ice at a 2 to 1 ratio. The HydroLock zippers also make it leak-proof.

What We Liked

The FDA approved liner gives you the confidence to transport food in it. At the same time, the closed-cell rubber foam gives it superior rigidity. It also makes it leak resistant to damage from raw ice, which is known to abrade soft cooler liners.

Overall

With Yeti there is a little bit of “Paying For The Name.” Still, that name was built by consistently offering high-quality products. You see this in spades with every feature of the Yeti Hopper BackFlip.

YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack

  • Durable and rigid
  • Quality strap configuration for comfort
  • FDA approved liner with leak-proof HydroLock zippers

Piscifun Insulated Cooler Backpack

Piscifun Insulated Cooler Backpack

Specs:

  • Exterior high-density nylon fabric
  • Water-resistant
  • A Leakproof liner made from PEVA
  • Welded seams
  • Additional pockets and mesh bags
  • Compression shoulder straps
  • Padded breathable back

Piscifun Insulated Cooler Backpack was designed to be used as a day pack for picnics, beach trips, and day hikes. The exterior is made from high-density nylon fabric which provides superior water-resistance as well as durability.

Piscifun Insulated Cooler Backpack

The structure also keeps the contents stable, which reduces the uncomfortable shifting that sometimes occurs with soft coolers. It also has two additional zippered gear pockets and two side mesh bags to carry functional items.

Piscifun Insulated Cooler Backpack packed with food

The adjustable compression shoulder straps and padded back also make it comfortable to wear for long day hikes.

Piscifun Insulated Cooler Backpack on a fishing trip

The interior liner is made from PEVA, which is a non-chlorinated vinyl that is often used as a direct substitute for PVC. It has welded seams for superior leak resistance and cold retention. Piscifun has even tested the internal chamber to stay below 50-degrees for up to 18-hours.

What We Liked

The PEVA interior liner with leak-proof welded seams, paired with the structure provided by high-density nylon fabric

You also shouldn’t look past the additional two zippered pockets and side mesh bags. They allow you to carry everything you need for a picnic or day trip without having to bring a second pack for other basic items.

Overall

This is a well-designed backpack cooler with quality materials throughout. Just bear in mind that while the liner is leak proof right out of the box, that you will need to take measures to properly maintain it. Things like sharp raw ice and overpacking the somewhat small cooler chamber can damage the welded seams, leading to leaking problems.

Piscifun Insulated Cooler Backpack

  • Designed for picnics and day trips
  • Additional pockets and mesh bags
  • PEVA liner with leak-proof welded seams

SEEHONOR Insulated Cooler Backpack

SEEHONOR Insulated Cooler Backpack

Specs:

  • 25 can capacity
  • Leakproof PEVA liner
  • Heavy-duty nylon exterior
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Padded Adjustable shoulder straps
  • 2 exterior side mesh pockets
  • A large zippered pockets
  • 2 large utility hooks
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee

The SEEHONOR Insulated Cooler Backpack was designed to support two to three people for a single, long day hike. Though with proper packing it could carry enough perishable food and water for an overnight trip.

SEEHONOR Insulated Cooler Backpack

The exterior is made from a heavy-duty nylon material which has superior water and abrasion resistance. It also has two side mesh pockets and a large zippered pocket, as well as 2 utility hooks, which allows you to carry other functional items with you on a day hike.

SEEHONOR Insulated Cooler Backpack

If nothing else, it gives you space to hold things like a water bottle and emergency poncho.

SEEHONOR Insulated Cooler Backpack on a canoe

The adjustable shoulder straps are padded, as is the back. This helps keep it comfortable when worn. Though the shape of the interior compartment might make it prone to unbalanced sloshing. So make sure to pack it firmly before heading out.

The interior cooler compartment is made from PVC alternative PEVA. It’s welded to make it leak proof. However, raw ice can potentially damage it over time. It’s best to bag the ice, use frozen water bottles, or cold packs.

What We Liked

The side mesh pockets, zippered storage compartment and utility hooks let you take a modest amount of functional items with you on a day hike. These seemingly simple compartments mean you can use this cooler backpack for a solo trip, without needing a second person to carry other basic items.

The 100% satisfaction guarantee also speaks to the manufacturer’s commitment to customer service and building a loyal client base.

Overall

This isn’t the kind of cooler backpack that will carry enough food and water for a multi-day trip. If you need something to carry refreshments around an amusement park for the day or something to support you on a long hike through the woods, then the SEEHONOR Insulated Cooler Backpack deserves to be on your list.

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SEEHONOR Insulated Cooler Backpack

  • 100% satisfaction guarantee
  • Pockets and compartments for additional storage
  • Leakproof PEVA interior

Igloo Switch Marine Backpack

Igloo Switch Marine Backpack

Specs:

  • 600 denier polyester material
  • TPE coating
  • Straps are padded, adjustable, breathable, and removable
  • 30 can capacity
  • Max Cold insulation
  • Leak-resistant liner with antimicrobial treatment

Igloo is another established and trusted name in the cooler industry. This translates into quality materials and manufacturing, as well as offering units that are priced to encourage customer loyalty. You see this in the quality materials and thoughtful design of their Switch Marine cooler backpack.

Igloo Switch Marine Backpack

The exterior is made from durable 600 denier polyester. It has been treated with a TPE coating. This Thermoplastic Elastomer provides it with superior water-resistance as well as giving it an additional stretch. It also serves to extend the overall lifespan of the exterior.

Igloo Switch Marine Backpack

The Igloo Switch Marine Backpack cooler comes with a padded, adjustable, breathable strap. They are also removable and can be stowed in the deep front pocket compartment for times when you just want to use it as a quality soft-sided boat cooler.

Igloo Switch Marine Backpack

The Switch Marine has Igloo’s proprietary Max Cold Insulation for superior heat or cold retention. The internal lining is leak-resistant and has an antimicrobial treatment.

What We Liked

The padded, adjustable, breathable, removable straps make it comfortable to wear when you want to pack it with you, as well as easy to use as a boat cooler. The anti-microbial lining is also a nice touch for anglers who might have less than clean hands when they repeatedly reach into the cooler compartment.

Overall

The Igloo Switch Marine was designed to appeal to people who need a quality boat cooler that also doubles as a backpack. The strap configuration makes it great for things like a canoe trip where you need an easy-access cooler when you’re on the boat.

Then once you land, you can attach the straps and carry the cooler as a backpack to keep your hands free for other items like fishing poles and the days catch.

The trade-off is that the detachable shoulder straps don’t always feel comfortable on your back when it’s fully loaded.

Igloo Switch Marine Backpack

  • Removable, padded, adjustable, breathable straps
  • TPE coating for added durability
  • Anti-microbial internal lining

LUNCIA 33can Collapsible Cooler Bag Leakproof Cooler Backpack

LUNCIA 33can Collapsible Cooler Backpack

Specs:

  • 33 can capacity
  • Top front pocket
  • 2 side mesh pockets
  • Made from high-quality polyester
  • The exterior is water repellent
  • Leakproof interior PEVA lining

The LUNCIA 33can Collapsible Cooler Bag was designed to have a quality where you need it, without breaking the budget. For the very affordable price point, you get an impressive 33 can capacity and high-quality polyester exterior.

LUNCIA 33can Collapsible Cooler Backpack

The interior is leak-proof with a durable PEVA lining. It’s also been tested by Luncia to keep food and beverages cold for over six hours. Though you might be able to extend this time with thoughtful packing.

Interior of the LUNCIA 33can Collapsible Cooler Backpack

The two side mesh pockets are handy for holding easy access items like a hiking water bottle. The top pocket also lets you bring other items along for times when you need a little bit of a functional backpack.

LUNCIA 33can Collapsible Cooler Backpack on a family trip

Just bear in mind that for some reason the top pocket isn’t waterproof.

What We Liked

The marriage of the friendly price point with the 33 can capacity is the most appealing thing about this quality bargain backpack cooler. The mesh pockets and the top pocket are also a nice touch. If anything it lets you keep a water bottle and rain poncho close at hand while you hike.

Overall

It might not last you as long as it’s higher-priced competitors, but you could just about buy this exact cooler twice and get three times the use. The Luncia might also be the perfect cooler for occasional trips to the amusement park.

LUNCIA 33can Collapsible Cooler Bag Leakproof Cooler Backpack

  • Great value for the price
  • 33 can capacity
  • Leakproof PEVA lining

Columbia PFG Roll Caster 30 Can Insulated Backpack Cooler

Columbia PFG Roll Caster 30 Can Insulated Backpack Cooler

Specs:

  • 30 can capacity
  • Leakproof interior
  • MicroBan antimicrobial treatment
  • Therma Cool Insulation
  • Slime-Tech exterior
  • Resists mud and other outdoor residues
  • Padded, adjustable straps
  • Padded breathable back
  • Multiple exterior pockets
  • Gear Straps

Columbia is a veritable titan in the outdoor apparel and equipment industry. So, it’s no wonder that they brought some of their best innovations to bear with their PFG Roll Caster Insulated Backpack Cooler.

Columbia PFG Roll Caster 30 Can Insulated Backpack Cooler

The exterior material has been treated with Slime-Tech. This helps repel mud, grime, and other common types of outdoor residue. It’s especially nice for times when you want to bring the pack into your tent with you after a long hike, or you need to put it up in a bear hang.

Columbia PFG Roll Caster 30 Can Insulated Backpack Cooler

Columbia also designed this pack to be a functional backpack just as much as it is a large capacity cooler. It has multiple exterior pockets as well as gear straps. The padded adjustable shoulder straps and the padded breathable back also make it comfortable to wear for long hikes.

The insulation is made from Columbia’s proprietary Therma Cool. It also has a Therma-Flect radiant barrier to further maximize it’s cold or heat retention. The liner is welded to be leak-proof and has a MicroBan antimicrobial treatment.

What We Liked

There are a lot of features to like about the Columbia PFG Roll Caster 30 Can Insulated Backpack Cooler. It is as multiple exterior pockets as well as gear straps to help it serve as a truly functional backpack on solo hikes.

Yet it also is a high-quality, high capacity cooler. The ThermaCool insulation and Therma-Flect radiant barrier maximize its ability to keep the cold food and beverages cold for long-duration trips.

The Slime-Tech exterior and MicroBan antimicrobial treatment also help you keep this backpack cooler safe and clean.

Overall

Columbia brings the thunder to bear with their PFG Roll Caster 30 Can Insulated Backpack Cooler. It’s hard to find. All while keeping it within a very reasonable price point. It’s hard to find something to complain about with this unit. It truly is geared to support a solo hiker on an overnight trip or perhaps longer!

Columbia PFG Roll Caster 30 Can Insulated Backpack Cooler

  • Fully functional backpack and cooler in one
  • Slime-Tech to help maintain a clean exterior
  • ThermaCool Insulation and Therma-Flect radiant barrier for maximum cold retention

Buyers Guide

Backpack coolers are a natural evolution in the cooler industry. To understand what to look for in the one that is right for you, it helps to take a moment to understand how the idea came about.

For decades transporting cold food and drinks from home to camp or the beach was wrought with hassles. Moving a heavy cooler down a trail usually required two people to hold onto two handles that were clearly not designed with ergonomic comfort in mind.

All the while the contents are sloshing around, throwing both people off balance, on what might be a rough trail. Chances were good one or both people ended up with a nasty bruise on their shin and a sore shoulder.

The next step in the evolution of the cooler was to put wheels and a handle on it. People who had a similar piece of luggage quickly flocked to them. Unfortunately, a rough trail through the woods or down to the beach is not as friendly to small wheels as a smooth floor in the airport. Not to mention the handles have a knack for jamming all the way up, all the way down or worse, stuck somewhere in between.

The backpack cooler revolution is the industry next, best attempt to provide people with a safe and effective way to transport cold items with minimal complications. On paper the concept is simple. You have an insulated cooler compartment, that tends to be taller than it is wide. It’s then attached to a sturdy backpack frame.

Yet there are many other material and manufacturing characteristics that might separate one unit from another or makes one backpack cooler better suited to how you will most often use it.

Comfort

Comfort is a major factor for backpack coolers. Just like with a regular hiking pack, increasing the weight generally decreases the comfort. While intelligent packing will help reduce discomfort from an uneven load, you might also want to look for things like padded back support or an integrated frame.

Straps

In a perfect world, padded compression straps made from breathable material will top the list. You might also want to look for backpack coolers that include chest or sternum straps, as well as an optional waistband. This will help redistribute the load to take some of the strain off your shoulders, upper back and surrounding neck muscles.

Capacity

There are two ways that capacity matters when it comes to a backpack cooler. The first is the internal volume it can hold in the insulated chamber. So, take a moment or two to think about how much stuff you’ll need to pack with you on your average outing.

The second is just how much weight the pack itself is rated to carry. Some manufacturers won’t give you a specific weight rating, instead, they will mention the number of “Cans” it can hold. While this is more volumetric, you can still use this number to get a basic barometer of weight capacity.

For example, a single 12-ounce can of soda weighs around .75 pounds on average. So, if you have a cooler that states it can hold 20 cans, you can confidently pack around 15-pounds of food or other items in the cooler compartment.

While you are figuring out the carrying capacity, make sure to also remember to the fact in the weight of you stow in any accessory pockets. Just try not to go more than say 15% more than the weight rating in cans.

Leak Proofing

While this should go without saying, you want to look for a backpack cooler that is in some way leak proof. This matters more with soft-sided coolers where you want to look for terms like “Welded Seams.” Yet it also extends to coolers with a thin plastic interior lining. Something like a minor fall or knocking the cooler over could crack a thin plastic liner. Any melted ice inside can then turn into a major problem. Not to mention that a leaky cooler is also losing cold capacity.

Accessory Compartments And Webbing

On paper, a cooler backpack is little more than an insulated cooler attached to some shoulder straps. Still, accessory compartments, pockets, and webbing can come in handy for bringing other small items with you like an emergency rain poncho or a box of protein bars. If anything a small compartment for your water bottle can help keep you hydrated, without having to stop and dig through the cooler strapped to your back.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What Are Some Of The More Popular Uses For A Backpack Cooler?

A: The first image most people conjure up when they hear the term “Backpack Cooler” is that of a backwoods hiker who needs to bring their food and water supply with them in the wilderness. Yet it isn’t just campers, hikers, and people headed to the beach who use backpack coolers.

If you are going to an amusement park or an all-day county fair, packing drinks and food in a backpack cooler lets you spend more of your money on the fun rather than expensive concession stands. Teachers taking kids on a field trip can also pack multiple backpack coolers with lunches. This is especially handy for locations that don’t have a formal cafeteria like an arboretum or an educational working farm.

A cooler backpack also does a better job of bringing picnic supplies than a traditional picnic basket. Anglers can even bring it with to hold food and beverages for a full day on the boat, without having to stop for shore lunch.

Q: How Can I Keep Things Cold For Longer?

A. Even the best backpack coolers will eventually start to warm up. However, there are some things you can do to keep them colder for longer. This starts with how you pack it. Ice cubes tend to melt faster than solid ice. Yet hauling a big block of ice from the store eats up a lot of room, and space is always at a premium in backpack coolers.

One way around this is to use frozen water bottles. Buy multiple 1-liter water bottles, and pour about 20% out of it, to allow room for expansion. Then place them in the freezer overnight. You then pack the frozen bottles in place of loose ice, which lets you carry drinking water with you. When you get to your destination, simply take one or two out to let them melt in the sun.

Speaking of the sun. Even the best cooler will gradually react to internal heating. While you can’t do much to keep the sun off the cooler while you hike, you should make every effort to keep the cooler in the shade or another sheltered location.

Q: Can Ice Damage A Soft Cooler?

A: Ice isn’t just an issue when it comes to unbalancing the load in a cooler backpack. The sharp edges can start to tear and even lacerate the lining in a soft-sided cooler, which directly leads to leaks. If you absolutely do need to use ice, try to first load it into a quart or gallon-size zip-top bag. This will hopefully buffer any sharp edges or corners from scraping the liner.

Q: Are All Cooler/Freezer Packs The Same?

A: Freezer packs are a handy way to help you keep things cold while reducing the chances of damaging the coolers liner. Freezer packs are relatively inexpensive and with proper care, they can last for years. You might be surprised to hear that there are several different options to consider.,

Traditional hard case cooler backs tend to be a little more affordable. Yet in certain packing situations, they can slosh and bang around inside the cooler compartment. Check out these Healthy Packers Ice Pack for Lunch Box, TOURIT Reusable Ice Packs, and Bentgo Ice Lunch Chillers.

Freezer gel packs can usually be shaped, which will let you maintain a more balanced load inside the cooler compartment. Some have a gel inside them and others you refill with water. So, you may want to freeze them next to the item they will be packed in for a firm fit. Take a look at these Thrive Ice Pack for Lunch Boxes, Cooler Shock 3X Lg. Zero°F Cooler Freeze Packs, Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers, ThermaFreeze Reusable Ice Pack Sheets.

Q: How Can I Make The Backpack Cooler More Stable?

A: Stability can be an issue when you are hiking with a loaded backpack cooler. If you happen to be hiking over uneven terrain a loosely packed cooler can shift its weight and even increase your chances of suffering a mechanical injury.

This again is a place to go with frozen water bottles, blocks of ice, or cold packs to prevent the unbalanced “Sloshing” of loose ice cubes. If you have some voided space inside the cooler compartment, you might want to try putting folded hand towels inside of gallon zip-top bags and wedging them inside the cooler compartment. The goal is to use them as spacers to prevent sudden shifting.

Q: Can I Carry Hot Food Items In A Backpack Cooler?

A. Technically, the insulating value of the cooler compartment will also help to keep hot items from losing their heat energy to the outside world. However, the interior walls of the cooler compartment can still absorb a lot of warmth, which will inevitably bring down the temperature of the food.

If possible, try to keep hot items inside of a thermos or another insulated container. In a pinch, you could put hot items in Tupperware containers and then wrap them in a thermal blanket when loading.

Conclusion

Finding the backpack cooler that is right for you starts with first defining the ways you are most likely to use it. This will help you identify features you prioritize while you shop.

For instance, if you just need a cooler backpack to take a picnic to the beach each weekend, you might only need a modest 24 can capacity. The strap configuration for the long walk from the parking lot to the beach might not matter very much.

On the other end of the spectrum if you are looking for a way to pack in a significant amount of food for a backwoods hiking trip, then capacity and comfort jump to the top of the priority list. A Capacity of over 30 cans lets you carry enough to support you and another person for an overnight adventure. Padded, adjustable straps, a cushioned back and sternum straps will further improve your comfort during the walk-in.

Special interests can also be a factor in the features you need to see in a backpack cooler. For instance, someone who likes to do some solo hiking might prioritize a pack with side mesh bags and additional compartments allow you to carry functional accessory items.

A kayaker or someone who needs a cooler backpack for a canoe-camping trip might also prioritize features like superior waterproofing, the ability to float, and airtight sealing.

Product Boxes: Last updated on 2020-04-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API