We Tested the Best Backpack Coolers to Take Anywhere

We tested over a dozen backpack coolers and like Yeti's Hopper M20 the most

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Best Backpack Coolers
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

Whether you're headed to the beach, a park, or the top of a mountain, a backpack cooler can make a cumbersome carry easier. Hard coolers do a great job keeping drinks and food cold, but even equipped with wheels, they're difficult to take certain places such as beaches that swallow them in the sand, rough trails, or any area that is further than a few hundred yards away from your house or vehicle. Soft backpack coolers offer an ergonomic solution that comes in a surprising array of forms. We tested top options in our Brooklyn lab and the field to dive into the merits of their insulation and extras (as well as discuss the value and what activities they'd be suitable for), to help you decide which backpack cooler is right for you.

Read on for the best backpack coolers available.

Best Overall: Yeti Hopper M20 Backpack Soft Cooler

5
Yeti Hopper M20 Backpack Cooler
TripSavvy / Nathan Allen.
What We Like
  • Excellent cold and ice-retention

  • Sturdy

  • Waterproof

  • Improved sleek design

What We Don't Like
  • No extra storage pockets

  • Miss the sternum and waist straps of the Hopper BackFlip

New this spring, Yeti has replaced its infamous Hopper BackFlip 24 backpack cooler with the Hopper M20 Backpack Cooler. The big difference? Yeti's new soft backpack cooler no longer has a zipper. It now uses magnet technology and clips to close the top of the cooler. One frequent complaint we hear with Yeti and other similar cooler models is how tough it can be to pull the zipper open and closed. Yeti must've been hearing that as well with this swap.

Rest assured, even with a fold, magnet, and clip closure, the M20 still has some serious insulation chops. I put a small bag of ice in the M20 with a few cold beverages, and it took more than 30 hours for all of the ice to melt in temperatures around 70 degrees. That's pretty on par with the Hopper BackFlip testing. The M20 is also a bit sleeker and lightweight compared to its predecessor. We also like that the M20 has a bit more accessible price.

One minor complaint: There are no sternum or waist straps on the M20. Now, that's not a deal-breaker—this backpack cooler is still super solid and comfy to tote around. But for longer approaches, we'd like to see those features added back. However, the upshot is that Yeti did it again, making a top-shelf cooler, and we do think the magnet technology is much easier to deal with than those tough zippers.

Size: 18.5 x 9.5 x 18.75 inches | Capacity: 20 Liters | Weight: 4.8 pounds

Yeti Hopper M20 Backpack Cooler
TripSavvy / Nathan Allen.

Best Overall, Runner-Up: IceMule Boss 30 Liter Backpack Cooler

IceMule Coolers 30L Backpack Cooler
IceMule Coolers 30L Backpack Cooler.
What We Like
  • Waterproof and easy to clean

  • Excellent for carrying

What We Don't Like
  • A bit tough to see items in the main compartment

Like the Yeti Hopper BackFlip, IceMule's Boss is heavy-duty, rugged, and spendy. And while the pack is good and cold and ice-retention (more on that in a bit), our testers particularly enjoyed how easy it was to carry it despite its bulk. "This is the best big cooler for carrying," one tester noted. Our testers loved how the straps are not too thin and not too bulky and the cooler's back padding and ventilation. They also liked the chest and waist straps. IceMule has emphasized the ergonomics of this backpack, including a dual-zone suspension.

We also like some extra touches on the Boss compared to other coolers we tested, like the additional pockets and places to attach gear you don't want inside the actual cooler. We also enjoy how waterproof the cooler is.

It was good in terms of cold and ice-retention, and there was still some solid ice in the cooler 24 hours after initially putting ice in it. But while Yeti's Hopper BackFlip only saw the inside temperature rise by about 7 degrees after 24 hours, IceMule's Boss increased by about 19 degrees. Our conclusion: If ice and cold-retention are most important to you and you don't mind one main compartment, go with the Yeti Hopper BackFlip. But if you prefer organization and a comfortable carry, the IceMule Boss is the way to go.

Size: 12.5 x 9 x 25 inches | Capacity: 24 cans (including ice) | Weight: Not listed

IceMule Boss 30 L Backpack Cooler
Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best Budget: Coleman 28 Can Soft Backpack Cooler

Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler
Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler.
What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Padded waist strap

  • Comfortable

What We Don't Like
  • Minimal leaking through the zipper

Coleman has become reasonably infamous for its budget outdoor gear. And this cooler backpack meets that expectation. Our testers loved how lightweight and comfortable this backpack felt, giving a nod specifically to the plush padding on the sides of the waist straps. We also like the carrying and organizational diversity potential within this bag. There are multiple inner pockets, a couple of outer mesh pockets, and straps on the back for carrying potential.

While the initial temperature wasn't as cold as other cooler packs we tested, the inner temperature only increased by about 11 degrees 24 hours after putting ice in the pack. There was also a bit of minimum leaking from the zippers after the ice began melting. At the end of the 24 hours, there was no solid ice left in the backpack.

This Coleman is a solid choice for anyone looking to find a low-budget and affordable backpack cooler. It'd be ideal for outdoor music festivals, taking lunch to work or on a picnic, or quickly transporting drinks or food to a potluck.

Size: 12.2 x 6.3 x 19.29 inches | Capacity: 28 cans | Weight: 1 pound, 1 ounce

Coleman 28-Can Soft Backpack Cooler
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

Best Value: Igloo Reactor 24-Can Backpack

Igloo Reactor 24-Can Backpack Cooler
Igloo Reactor 24-Can Backpack Cooler.
What We Like
  • Fit 24 cans easily

  • Comfortable and easy to carry

  • Good durability

What We Don't Like
  • Would like to see a waist strap to distribute weight more

Igloo's Reactor backpack cooler performs nearly as well as coolers priced hundreds of dollars more than it. In terms of ice and cold-retention, after 24 hours, the Reactor had amounts of solid ice similar to the IceMule Boss and IceMule Pro. And where the IceMule Pro's inner temperature increased by about 19 degrees, the Reactor's internal temperature only raised less than 10 degrees 24 hours after we filled it with ice.

Our testers also liked how comfortable and easy the pack was to carry—although they did mention wanting to see a waist strap added to help distribute the weight a bit. The waterproof zipper was challenging for the testers to open but not as tough as other coolers. The abrasion-resistant material held up well in our lab testing, and the waterproof material kept liquids from falling in or out of the pack.

Size: 13.4 x 7.9 x 18.5 inches | Capacity: 24 cans | Weight: 3.04 pounds

Igloo Reactor 24-Can Backpack Cooler
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

Best for Paddling: IceMule Pro Cooler 23L

IceMule Pro Cooler 23L

IceMule

What We Like
  • We easily fit more cans and ice than IceMule claims it will fit

  • Air valve to boost flotation or help compress for travel

  • Comfortable padded straps

What We Don't Like
  • A bit heavy

  • Some water did leak from the top roll closure

We love the simple design of the IceMule Pro. But don't let the simple design fool you—the Pro has some suped-up tech and features, making this pack a great option, especially if going onto the water is in your outdoor plans. IceMule employs its double proprietary inner and outer fabric to boost durability. It also uses proprietary insulation to amp cold and ice-retention, making the Pro one of the best performers during our 24-hour ice test. A day after initially putting ice into the cooler pack, the internal temperature only raised about 7 degrees, and some solid ice remained.

Our testers liked how padded and comfortable the backpack's straps were on their shoulders and the chest strap for weight distribution. And while the pack was a bit heavy and some water leaked out of the roll-top closure, our testers still gave the pro top marks across all rated attributes. We also like some travel- and boat-specific features like the air valve, which allows you to add—or remove—extra air from the insulation air. This will help make the cooler buoyant (with extra air) and compact to a smaller size for travel (with less air). Bonus: The straps on the outside of the cooler allow you to attach extra gear to the outside of the pack or secure the pack to a boat, kayak, or SUP.

Size: 14 x 11 x 18 inches | Capacity: 18 cans | Weight: Not listed

IceMule Pro backpack cooler
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

Best for the Beach: RTIC Soft Sided Cooler Backpack

RTIC-cooler-backpack

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Excellent cold and ice-retention

  • Floatable

  • Good padding on back panel

What We Don't Like
  • Potential zipper fails

RTIC's Backpack Cooler had some of the best ice-retention among coolers in our lab test. After 24 hours, the RTIC still had about 50 percent solid ice, on par with Yeti's Hopper BackFlip cooler. Also similar to the Hopper BackFlip, RTIC employs some serious premium insulation to help keep contents inside the cooler cold.

Besides the cold retention, we particularly like some excellent design features like chest and waist straps for even weight distribution, a super padded back panel for boosted comfort, and a floatable structure. RTIC recommends using solid ice packs or putting loose ice into baggies to avoid leaking, but our testers didn't have any issues with leaking despite using free-floating ice.

One note: Many users on Amazon report the zipper into the primary compartment breaking. We still haven't had this issue, but at least a few have. Still, we didn't see many design or performance differences between the RTIC and Yeti backpack coolers, and this RTIC is a lot more affordable.

Size: Not listed | Capacity: 20 or 30 cans with a bag of ice | Weight: Not listed

RTIC Backpack Cooler
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

Best for Camping: Pelican Dayventure Backpack Cooler

Pelican Dayventure Backpack Cooler

Pelican

What We Like
  • Excellent cold-retention

  • Good organization capability with top and bottom compartments

  • Strong and durable outer materials

What We Don't Like
  • Length and height of the cooler a bit too big for smaller testers

  • Straps also bulky and wide for smaller testers

Pelican's Dayventure Backpack Cooler had some of the best cold-retention among all coolers we tested in our Brooklyn lab. Twenty-four hours after filling it with ice and beverage cans, the internal temperature had increased only about 2.5 degrees. Like similar high-end soft and backpack coolers, Pelican uses dense closed-cell insulation to boost its cold-saving chops.

We particularly like the double compartments of this pack, making it ideal for overnights in the wilderness. And because of its total waterproofness and heavy-duty puncture-resistant outer, we'd have no hesitations taking this on a boat, kayak, or SUP.

While the double-compartment organization of this pack is fantastic, our smaller testers didn't like how bulky and wide the straps were on their shoulders. They also thought the height of the pack was a bit too large. Still, we envision this pack as perfect for the adventurer looking to separate food, drinks, and gear out but only carry one pack.

Size: 12.1 x 7.1 x 21.7 inches | Capacity: 18.36 liters | Weight: 9.3 pounds

Pelican Dayventure Backpack Cooler
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

Best for Durability: Otterbox Trooper LT 30 Cooler

otterbox-LT30-cooler

Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Converts to shoulder carry easily

  • Good cold-retention

What We Don't Like
  • Weight felt far from back, throwing off balance a bit

Most widely known for its smartphone protection products, Colorado-based OtterBox also creates other outdoor-focused products. Among those is the Trooper LT 30 soft backpack cooler. As expected, OtterBox takes that same durability for which it became infamous and applies it to the Trooper, creating an incredibly durable product.

But the Trooper also has some cold-retention chops as the internal temperature only increased about 5 degrees 24 hours after we filled it with ice. It's got good capacity—we were able to fit 38 cans without ice and 33 with ice easily inside the cooler. And while the straps were not uncomfortable, we would like to see at least a chest strap to help keep the weight against the back.

Size: 12.1 x 7.1 x 21.7 inches | Capacity: 18.36 liters | Weight: 9.3 pounds

OtterBox Trooper LT 30
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

Best for Picnics: Hydro Flask Unbound 22 L Soft Cooler Pack

Hydro Flask Unbound 22 L Cooler Pack
Hydro Flask Unbound 22 L Cooler Pack.
What We Like
  • Very light weight

  • Great durability

  • Good cold and ice-retention

What We Don't Like
  • Not a ton of padding on the straps or back

Like OtterBox, Hydro Flask is usually first known for products that are not coolers. Hydro Flask's case is the extensive line of high-quality travel water containers, tumblers, and insulated mugs. Naturally, Hydro Flask does an excellent job with cold and ice-retention in its Unbound Soft Cooler Pack. The "smart" insulation Hydro Flask employs helped retain solid pieces of ice 24 hours after being placed in the cooler. And the internal temperature only climbed about 8 degrees 24 hours after we dumped ice into it.

While this pack's cold and ice-retention capabilities are strong, what sets the Unbound apart from other backpack coolers is how lightweight yet durable it is. The pack weighs about three pounds and has a waterproof 420D nylon shell. We like the three external mesh pockets for storing utensils or other items for your picnic that don't need to stay cool.

Our testers would've liked to have seen more padding on the shoulders for more comfortable carrying. But that would also obviously make this a heavier pack.

Size: 12.5 x 8 x 19.5 inches | Capacity: 22 liters | Weight: 3.2 pounds

Hydro Flask Unbound 22 L Soft Pack
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

Best for Work: Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack

Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack
Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack.
What We Like
  • Separate cooler and storage compartments

  • Classic Carhartt design and durability

What We Don't Like
  • Leaked fairly significantly

If you're looking for a backpack and a cooler instead of a backpack cooler, the Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler is just that. Carhartt's backpack cooler is divided into two sections: The insulated bottom fitting up to 12 cans and the top, which is suitable for other items you might need to take hiking, to school, or to work. Bonus: There are numerous pockets and compartments for extra storage.

Carhartt uses its classic 1200-denier polyester and some proprietary durable water repellent to boost the durability of this pack. While it didn't do as well at cold and ice-retention as other packs we tested, our testers did love how comfortable and easy it was to carry. They also enjoyed the cooler pack's simplistic design and school backpack feel. One main issue with this pack is the leaking through the zipper. Our testers noted that this pack couldn't be turned upside down if you use loose ice, which inevitably melts. Of course, the best way around this is to use ice packs.

Size: 12.5 x 8 x 17.75 inches | Capacity: 12 cans | Weight: Not listed

Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

Best for Road Trips: Igloo Pursuit 24-Can Backpack

Igloo Pursuit 24-Can Backpack Cooler
Igloo Pursuit 24-Can Backpack Cooler.
What We Like
  • Very light weight

  • Excellent to carry

What We Don't Like
  • Leaked easily

Our testers loved the very light weight and ease of carrying the Igloo Pursuit 24-Can cooler. In particular, they enjoyed the padding on the back and straps and how not bulky the pack was, especially compared to others tested. Igloo uses a durable and water-repellent outer material yet somehow keeps the weight of this pack down to just 2 pounds.

That lightness likely came at the expense of insulation, as this pack also had some of the worst ice and cold-retention results. There were no remaining solid ice cubes 24 hours after the ice was placed into the cooler. And the internal temperature rose by about 17 degrees 24 hours after ice was placed in the pack. Our testers also had issues with melted ice leaking through the zippers. "When tipped, water pours out easily," they reported. So, if you do decide to go with this pack, make sure you invest in some ice packs or ways to keep melted ice in a secure container.

Size: 18.9 x 7.5 x 12.6 inches | Capacity: 24 cans | Weight: 2.09 pounds

Igloo Pursuit Cooler Backpack
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

Best for Day Hikes: REI Co-op Cool Trail Split Pack Cooler

REI Co-op Cool Trail Split Pack Cooler
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.
What We Like
  • Super light weight

  • Comfortable to carry

  • Good sternum strap placement and thick mesh padding

What We Don't Like
  • Leaked through inner and outer zippers

Sometimes a name says it all. That's the case for the REI Co-op Cool Trail Split Pack Cooler, which has ample plush cushioning and a well-placed sternum strap. Combine that with a very light weight (2.5 pounds), and you've got the ideal trail cooler pack. We also really love that there are separate compartments and pockets to carry gear and items you don't wish to get cold or place with your food and drinks.

Like other light weight cooler packs we tested, the cold and ice-retention were not great. After 24 hours, all of the ice we placed in the pack had melted, and the internal temperature had increased by about 17 degrees. Still, there are other intelligent features to appreciate about this pack, like a removable cooler liner and attachment points for bulky items. Bonus: The pack was crafted with recycled and bluesign-certified materials, making this one of the most eco-friendly constructed coolers we tested.

Our testers did have issues with melted ice leaking through the zippers. As previously noted, the way around that is to avoid loose ice and utilize reusable ice packs.

Size: 22 x 12.5 x 8.5 inches | Capacity: 31.5 liters | Weight: 2.5 pounds

REI Co-op Cool Trail Split Pack Cooler
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

Final Verdict

But if you're searching for a solid backpack cooler that could be your forever pack, we recommend the Yeti Hopper BackFlip 24 Cooler (view at Amazon). It features a waterproof and puncture-proof outside and boasts several straps for easy transportation. We also love IceMule's Boss 30 (view at Amazon) for its waist and chest straps and carrying capacity. And if you're going for a budget option, we recommend the Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler (view at Amazon).

IceMule Boss 30 L Backpack Cooler
Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Other Backpack Coolers We Tested

Yeti Hopper BackFlip 24 (view at Amazon): As mentioned above, Yeti has upgraded the Hopper BackFlip 24 with the Hopper M20. Although, you can still find the BackFlip 24 at some places like Amazon. Design and tech features make the Yeti Hopper BackFlip 24 one of the most durable backpack cooler options. Its waterproof DryHide Shell is mildew, puncture, and UV-resistant, so you can rest assured that the backpack cooler should survive any outdoor adventure. Adding to its sturdiness, the Yeti BackFlip features a chest strap, waist belt, and HydroLok Zippers for leakproof and waterproof protection.

The cooler's tall and expansive design also means you can easily store a day's worth of items or 25 pounds of ice. Better yet, the ergonomic shoulder straps make it a breeze to carry. According to Lindsay Boyers, one of our product testers, "If you're looking for something that can withstand the elements and keep your food and drinks cold for more than 24 hours, you need this backpack cooler."

While the BackFlip is not a backpack cooler that you'll be able to squeeze into tight spaces, the size grew on us after we filled it and strapped it to our back. While the Hopper may be large, it has a well-designed rectangular shape that helps it lie flat against your back. 

Our testing started with capacity, and, as promised, the Hopper BackFlip was easily able to hold ice and 20 cans in a two-to-one ratio. You could probably squeeze even more in there, but the 20 cans fit nicely without causing any bulging at the seams. Even though the backpack was heavy, we didn't feel weighed down once the straps were tightened to our preferred position.  

After hiking six hours in the sun with temps above 80 degrees, most of the ice was still intact, and our drinks were perfectly cold. We left it outside (fully zipped) for 24 hours to see how far we could push the Hopper. Although some ice melted, at least half of it was still frozen, and the ice water mixture was freezing.

Read our full review of the Hopper BackFlip 24 here.

Yeti Hopper BackFlip 24
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

Tourit Loon Insulated Cooler (view at Amazon): The Tourit Loon is a solid budget backpack cooler. We just liked the Coleman a bit better. Our testers liked how comfortable this pack was. And the cold and ice-retention was average compared to the other packs we tested. However, the testers noted that the zippers did come apart slightly, and some moisture leaked out.

Tourit Cygnini Cooler Backpack (view at Amazon): Tourit's Cygnini is another budget option that didn't beat out the Coleman. Our testers didn't like that they could feel the cans inside the pack protruding into their backs when testing. Water did come out through the zippers, and this was the only cooler we tested that had a can inside of it break and leak.

Forich Backpack Cooler (view at Amazon): The Forich is another budget option that didn't score well among our testers across the attributes they were grading. Our testers noted that while the pack was decently comfortable and fine to carry, water leaked out in various places, and the insulation was not excellent.

Hydro Flask 20 L Day Escape Cooler Pack (view at Hydro Flask): We were surprised that this popular choice from Hydro Flask scored the lowest in many attributes among our testers. While the durability was solid, the cold and ice-retention were not. What's more, our testers did not like how heavy and uncomfortable the pack was to carry.

Backpack coolers testing
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

Product Selection

Backpack coolers were selected based on the prior knowledge of TripSavvy editors and writers of top brands and coolers, researching online product reviews, and what other sites have listed as top backpack coolers. We narrowed it down to 16 popular choices to test in our Brooklyn lab and in the real world. We picked items that had a wide range of price points and uses.

How We Tested

Our lab testing team consisted of editors from TripSavvy and other Dotdash Meredith brands. All coolers were also sent to editors and writers to test in the real world. We tested for design features, capacity, portability, insulation, and durability in the lab. After an initial examination of the coolers, we attempted to fill them all to their max capacity. Then we filled them to their max capacity, including ice. Once filled with ice and cans of beverages, we took an initial internal temperature reading.

Then we tested for portability and durability by wearing the packs around the lab, including walking up and down multiple flights of stairs. We also pushed the coolers off tables onto a concrete floor, turned the backpack coolers upside down, and tipped them over. We left the coolers filled with ice and beverages for 24 hours and then took a final internal temperature rating and ice melt observation.

Backpack coolers testing
Tamara Staples / TripSavvy.

What to Look for in a Backpack Cooler

Insulation

Because backpack coolers are a type of soft cooler, many use open-cell foam because it’s more flexible while still insulating, though not as well as the closed-cell foam of a hard cooler. However, there are a few backpack coolers that do use closed-cell foam. Closed-cell insulates better but generally costs and weighs more, so be sure you’re willing to pay literally and figuratively for the increased performance.

There are two other things to look for in your backpack cooler’s insulation: thickness and evenness. Not surprisingly, the thicker the insulation, the better the cold preservation, no matter what type of insulation is used. You should also look for weak areas in the insulation. The insulation needs to surround the inner compartment to be most effective. If there’s only insulation on three sides, the fourth side will be a weak link that can significantly decrease chill time, especially if it’s the side against your back.

Extras and Padding

The world of backpack coolers is a surprisingly sophisticated one—these days, there are plenty of advances in design and fabric technology that add to what seems like a reasonably necessary purchase. Look for the extras that are right for you, whether it's multiple storage spaces for cutlery, anti-mildew fabric, or an attached bottle opener.

Also, like any backpacking backpack, consider what you'll primarily be using the cooler for and how much padding you'd like (and where you'd like that padding to be). If you're taking a cooler on an extended hike, you probably want to look for lighter weight packs with hip and sternum straps and some extra padding. If you're planning on taking your pack on a SUP or kayak, a more minimalist design that you can pack down when not in use is probably the way to go. Or, if you're planning on using the cooler for extended camping trips, opt for a highly-insulated and durable cooler.

Value

If you need this cooler for a single hunting trip each season, you can likely get away with quality but a cost-effective option. However, if you’re looking for a cooler you can take on those twice-monthly camping trips, you may want to splurge on one that’s exceptionally comfortable, durable, and tailored to your needs. Again, when it comes to coolers, often what your paying more for is increased and improved insulation to keep items colder for longer.

Activity and Durability

All-purpose coolers do the job, but you'll also find ones explicitly built for specific activities—like overnight hikes into the woods, picnics, beach and water days, and hunting. Think about how you'll use this cooler and look for models that cater to your pursuits.

If you're like us, durability also matters. A cheaper option might initially be more appealing, but if it tears after minimal use or leaks when it gets tipped or inverted, you might quickly purchase another cooler. Our humble opinion: Spend a bit more for durability.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Will water leak out as the ice melts?

    The answer varies from pack to pack, but if the product description doesn’t specifically mention features that will prevent water from leaking out (or getting in, for that matter), there’s a good chance it may leak. Features include a waterproof cooler compartment, watertight zippers, and sealed seams.

  • How should a backpack cooler be cleaned and stored?

    The process for cleaning is the same as a regular hard or soft cooler. Often, simply rinsing and drying before storing is enough. If there’s more than water inside to be cleaned out, consider using disinfectant wipes after thoroughly cleaning with water and soap, then rinsing to remove any debris.

  • Are backpack coolers heavy?

    Because of their construction and likely contents, backpack coolers are heavier than typical soft coolers. The more effective coolers are generally the heaviest, but these aren’t intended for overnight or long-distance hikes. (Those camping in the backcountry overnight will need more gear than they can carry with a backpack cooler!)

    While the packs themselves are heavier than average, the ice and liquids carried are also very heavy. A quart of water weighs over 2 pounds, not counting the water bottle. But, keep in mind, that any soft cooler will generally be lighter than a hard cooler.

  • How many drinks can fit in a backpack cooler?

    Again, this depends partly on the pack and its dimensions, but it also depends on the size and shape of the drinks being carried, and the ratio of ice to drinks preferred. A commonly recommended ice to drinks ratio is 2-to-1, and some cooler manufacturers will list estimated drink counts based on that specific ice ratio.

    If the product description lists several cans capacity without a specific amount of ice, assume that this number is much lower when accounting for ice. For example, a cooler that can hold 24 cans without ice would likely have eight cans if using a 2-to-1 ice to drinks ratio. If capacities are unclear from the product description, try contacting the manufacturer directly to clarify or find the product locally to assess the capacity firsthand.

IceMule Pro Backpack Cooler
Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Why Trust TripSavvy

Mattie Schuler is a Boulder, Colorado-based adventure journalist specializing in gear reviews, adventure sports, and travel. She has written hundreds of gear reviews for various outdoor gear-focused publications.

Nathan Allen is TripSavvy's Outdoor Gear Editor. He distinctly remembers using Coleman hard coolers on family camping trips as a kid. Nathan has used or tested many coolers on this list. The Yeti Hopper BackFlip has been a go-to cooler for years, but he has recently loved the IceMule Pro for its simplicity and ability to fit multiple outdoor pursuits. He's thrown it on his inflatable SUP, taken it fly fishing, and hiked miles with it.

A team of editors and testers from TripSavvy and Dotdash Meredith's food group sites like Simply RecipesSerious EatsThe Spruce Eats, and Liquor conducted testing in our Brooklyn lab.

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