The 10 Best Backpack Coolers of 2021

Take your drinks and snacks anywhere with a backpack cooler

Backpack Coolers

Tripsavvy / Chloe Jeong

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The Rundown

Best Overall: TOURIT Insulated Cooler Backpack at Amazon

"The leak- and water-resistant backpack has a large insulated main compartment that can fit 28 cans."

Best for Durability: YETI Hopper BackFlip 24 Cooler at Amazon

"Its waterproof DryHide Shell is mildew-, puncture-, and UV-resistant."

Best Lightweight: Hydro Flask Day Escape Soft Cooler Pack at Hydro Flask

"Weighing 3 pounds, the 17.7 x 13 x 7.8-inch pack is extremely light for its capacity size."

Best for Hiking: Carhartt Cooler Backpack at Amazon

"Made from water-resistant heavy-duty polyester and is rugged enough for all your outdoor treks."

Best for Picnics: Icemule Boss Cooler Pack at Walmart

"Has all the amenities you need for a perfect picnic."

Best for the Beach: Coleman 28-Can Portable Soft Cooler Backpack at Walmart

"The pack even has an integrated bottle opener so you'll never lose it or forget it at home."

Best for Families: Arctic Zone Titan Guide Series Backpack Cooler at Arctic Zone

"It features multiple accessory pockets to stash other essentials, ranging from first aid kits to kids' toys."

Best Soft-Sided: Polar Bear Coolers Soft Cooler at Amazon

"This soft cooler backpack uses an interior double-coated nylon to keep your goods frozen for 24 hours."

Most Versatile: Igloo Switch Backpack Cooler at Igloo Coolers

"Sport this pack as a backpack or as a tote."

Best Value: OAGear Backpack Cooler at Amazon

"Features two outside mesh pockets, one front zipper pocket, and a front-facing bungee for extra storage."

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 really any place 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 offer up our favorites here, doing a deep dive into the merits of their insulation and extras (as well as discussing value and what activities they'd be good for), to help you decide if a backpack cooler is right for you and, if so, which one.

Read on for the best backpack coolers available.

Our Top Picks

01 of 10

Best Overall: TOURIT Insulated Cooler Backpack

4.3
What We Like
  • Portable

  • Minimalist

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Uses ice packs instead of ice

  • Heavy when filled to capacity

For a lightweight yet roomy backpack cooler, opt for the Tourit Insulated Cooler Backpack. It weighs just 1.1 pounds and as our tester found that it can "hold 28 cans and a few ice packs, even leaving a little room to spare." The leak- and water-resistant backpack has a large insulated main compartment (25 liters) and a smaller front zippered pocket for extra gear. On the outside of the pack are two mesh pockets and a front bungee for extra storage. The insulated compartment provides 16 hours of cold. Colors include black, blue, light gray, and red.

Size: 17.5 x 13 x 7.5 in. | Capacity: 25 L | Weight: 1.1 lbs.

“The backpack’s shoulder straps are padded and extra comfy, especially when the added weight of cans and ice packs pulls down on the backpack, putting extra pressure on your shoulders.”— Lindsay Boyers, Product Tester
02 of 10

Best for Durability: YETI Hopper BackFlip 24 Cooler

YETI Hopper BackFlip 24 Cooler

Courtesy of Yeti

4.8
What We Like
  • Holds ice for more than 24 hours

  • Sturdy

  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • No extra storage pockets

  • Zipper can be difficult to pull

A combination of design and tech features make the Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 Cooler one of the most durable options on the market. Its waterproof DryHide Shell is mildew-, puncture-, and UV-resistant, so you can rest assured knowing that the backpack cooler will 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 wide design also means you can easily store a day’s worth of items, or up to 25 pounds of ice. Better yet, the ergonomic shoulder straps make it a breeze to carry. According to Lindsay Boyers, our product tester, "If you’re looking for something that can withstand the elements and keep your food and drinks cold for more than 24 hours, this is the backpack cooler you need."

Size: 13.75 x 19.12 x 8.5 in. | Capacity: 24 L | Weight: 5 lbs.

“After six hours in the sun, most of the ice was still intact and our drinks were perfectly cold. The straps also held up nicely and didn’t show any signs of wear.”  Lindsay Boyers, Product Tester
03 of 10

Best Lightweight: Hydro Flask Day Escape Soft Cooler Pack

Hydro Flask Day Escape Soft Cooler Pack

Courtesy of Hydro Flask

4.8
What We Like
  • Durable

  • 5-year warranty

  • BPA-free liner

What We Don't Like
  • Can be tough to store

Hydro Flask delivers a backpack cooler that performs just as well as its other insulated beverage holders. Weighing 3 pounds, the 17.7 x 13 x 7.8-inch pack is extremely light for its capacity size (it's actually roughly the same weight as its previous model, but has an extra 5 liters of space). It's made of durable 600D nylon and holds 20 liters. The inside is insulated, keeping food and snacks cold wherever you are, while the welded seams ensure liquids don't leak out while you're en route. All this and the backpack cooler is travel-friendly, with adjustable padded straps, mesh back panel, and carrying handles. And unlike the previous version, it offers a chest strap to help lighten the load.

Size: 17.7 x 13 x 7.8 in. | Capacity: 20 L | Weight: 3 lbs.

“The manufacturer specifications state a 36-can capacity, but our real-world testing found that 20 cans with ice was a more realistic ratio to achieve the claimed 36-hour performance.” – Justin Park , Product Tester
04 of 10

Best for Hiking: Carhartt Cooler Backpack

What We Like
  • Compartments for food and gear

  • Good for a day trip

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Not enough capacity for a group

  • Uses ice packs instead of ice

If you're going on a day hike, consider the Cooler Backpack from Carhartt. This dual-compartment backpack holds 12 cans and has enough space to hold all of your essentials. It features an insulated base where you can carry an icepack to keep your food cold for up to 24 hours. On top of the cooler section, this bag has a main compartment to store all your non-perishables. On the exterior, there is a zippered front pocket and two mesh side pockets for a water bottle, bug spray, or umbrella. This cooler backpack is made from heavy-duty polyester that's water-resistant, so it's rugged enough for all your outdoor treks. It weighs 1.5 pounds and is available in brown or black.

Size: 12.5 x 17.75 x 8 in. | Capacity: 12 cans | Weight: 1.5 lbs.

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Best for Picnics: Icemule Boss Cooler Pack

Icemule Boss Cooler Pack

Courtesy of Icemule

What We Like
  • Durable

  • Lots of pockets

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Heavy

The Icemule Boss Cooler Pack has all the amenities you need for a perfect picnic: one large rectangular insulated interior space, two insulated side pockets for water bottles, and a large zippered front pocket to hold tiny objects, such as utensils and cameras. There are also no-slip shoulder straps, plus a grab handle on the top of the bag. With a durable zipper closure over every insulated compartment, it's sleek and streamlined.

Size: 17 x 24 x 11 in. | Capacity: 30 L | Weight: 7.5 lbs.

06 of 10

Best for the Beach: Coleman 28-Can Portable Soft Cooler Backpack

Coleman 28-Can Portable Soft Cooler Backpack

Courtesy of Coleman

What We Like
  • Padded side handles

  • Comes with bottle opener

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly stiff

Coleman's Soft Cooler Backpack will make transporting your food to the beach worry-free. This backpack has a zippered wide-mouth top pocket that's easy to load and unload and includes zippered side pockets to store dry goods. It features premium insulation that can keep 28 cans cold for up to 42 hours. Both the inner and outer layers are heavy-duty, as are the reinforced adjustable backpack straps and padded side handles. The pack even has an integrated bottle opener, so you'll never lose it or forget it at home.

Size: 17 x 7 x 12.5 in. | Capacity: 16.5 L | Weight: 2.15 lbs.

07 of 10

Best for Families: Arctic Zone Titan Guide Series Backpack Cooler

Titan 30 Can Cooler
What We Like
  • Many large, deep pockets

  • Water and stain resistant

  • Durable

What We Don't Like
  • Bulky

The Titan Guide Series 30 Can Backpack Cool makes transporting everything you need for the squad easy. This backpack has a massive main compartment to comfortably store a full rack of cans, with a handy separate interior ice pack pocket so you're not digging through the ice to get to the bottom. It features multiple accessory pockets (some insulated, some not) to stash other essentials, ranging from first aid kits to kids' toys to energy bars, as well as elasticized gear straps for extra storage. The five-layer DeepFreeze Performance Insulation keeps your food and drinks cold for up to three days and the exterior is made of waterproof Rhino-Tech fabric, so it's made to last. Even though it has such a large capacity, the breathable mesh panels and adjustable, padded straps make it easy to carry.

Size: 12.75 x 22 x 12 in. | Capacity: 30 cans | Weight: 2.93 lbs.

“The sheer size and number of pockets means this is the only bag I need to bring on single day adventures. It's my one and done carry-all.”Bailey Berg, Update Editor
08 of 10

Best Soft-Sided: Polar Bear Coolers Soft Cooler

What We Like
  • Sturdy

  • Puncture resistant

  • Easy-to-grab top handle

What We Don't Like
  • Could use more pockets

  • Doesn't have waist or chest belt

Even though this is a soft-sided cooler, it's made from extremely durable and strong materials, both inside and out. This Polar Bear Coolers soft cooler backpack uses a sturdy, UV-resistant nylon exterior and double-coated nylon for the interior. The insulation is made from high-density open cell foam to keep your goods frozen for at least 24 hours. The square-shaped backpack has adjustable shoulder straps, as well as a grab handle on the top. There is also an exterior mesh pocket on the front of the cooler backpack to carry extra goodies, such as snacks and drinks.

Size: 12 x 7 x 18 in. | Capacity: 18 cans | Weight: 5 lbs.

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Most Versatile: Igloo Switch Backpack Cooler

Igloo Switch Backpack Cooler

Courtesy of Igloo

What We Like
  • Comes in a variety of fun colors

  • Can be carried two ways

  • Adjustable padded straps

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't have chest or waist belt

  • Few pockets

For versatile carrying options, sport this Igloo pack as a backpack or as a tote. The insulated backpack features MaxCold cooling technology, two exterior side mesh pockets, a deep front exterior pocket, an integrated grab handle on the top, and adjustable padded straps. It can hold 30 cans in the main insulated storage space.

Size: 15 x 13 x 8.75 in. | Capacity: 30 cans | Weight: 2.24 lbs.

10 of 10

Best Value: OAGear Backpack Cooler

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Easy to store

  • Helpful pockets and bungee straps

What We Don't Like
  • Runs a bit small

  • Thin straps

The OAGear Backpack Cooler has enough space to hold 20 cans of soda, plus even more room for ice. Load it up for a day at the beach or a tailgating session before a game and all your goodies will stay cold. Along with the large insulated interior space, the pack has two outside mesh side pockets, one front zipper pocket, and a bungee on the front for extra storage. It also has adjustable padded backpack straps and a carry handle on top. Colors include gray, black, blue, and camouflage.

Size: 12.25 x 16.5 x 7.75 in. | Capacity: 25 L | Weight: 1.2 lbs.

Final Verdict

If you're in the market for a cooler that's leak-resistant, lightweight, and spacious, check out the Tourit Insulated Cooler Backpack (view at Amazon). Weighing only 1.1 pounds, this versatile backpack cooler can hold 28 cans and keeps drinks cold for 16 hours. But if you're searching for a durable option, 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.

What to Look for in a Backpack Cooler

Insulation

Because backpack coolers are basically a form 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 more and weighs more, so be sure you’re willing to pay both 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. To be most effective, the insulation needs to fully surround the inner compartment. 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

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 fairly basic purchase. Look for the extras that are right for you, whether it’s multiple storage spaces for cutlery or anti-mildew fabric.

Value

If you need this cooler for a single hunting trip each season, you can likely get away with a quality but 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 especially comfortable, durable, and tailored to your needs.

Activity

There are all-purpose coolers that definitely do the job, but you’ll also find ones built specifically for certain activities—like overnight hikes into the woods, picnics, and hunting. Think about how you’ll use this cooler and look for models that cater to your pursuits.

FAQs

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 leaking out (or getting in for that matter), there’s a good chance it may leak. Features to look for 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 normal coolers. The more effective coolers are generally the heaviest, but keep in mind these aren’t intended for overnight or long-distance hikes. (Those camping in backcountry overnight will need more gear than they can carry with a backpack cooler!)

While the packs themselves are a bit heavier than normal, the ice and liquids carried are also very heavy. A quart of water weighs over 2 pounds and that’s not counting the water bottle.

How many drinks can fit in a backpack cooler?

Again, this obviously depends in part 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 common 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 a number of 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 hold at most 8 cans if using a 2:1 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.

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