Lightweight and portable
Lots of color options
Doesn’t stay cold all day
Let’s face it: when it comes to backpack coolers, there are a lot of options out there. They all make big promises about capacity and cooling power, but do they live up to those claims? To find out, we put the OAGear Backpack Cooler to the test. Read on to see how it held up to a long day at the beach.
Design: Standard and underwhelming
The best way to describe the design of the OAGear Backpack Cooler is underwhelming. It’s reminiscent of any standard backpack, with a large storage compartment as the main body and a smaller, zippered pocket in the front. It also comes with two mesh bottle holders on the sides, where you can store drinks, extra snacks, or an umbrella, and a bungee cord that you can use to strap in a towel or an extra sweater.
There’s a carry handle on top and adjustable backpack straps with standard pull strings that you can use to move the backpack up and down and shift its weight so that it sits comfortably on your back. The OAGear is available in six different colors: black, green, grey, red, royal blue, and camouflage.
Features: Insulation without any bells and whistles
The OAGear Backpack Cooler’s main compartment is made up of an insulated liner that is leak-proof and heat sealed. The front pocket doesn’t have any insulation, which is the case for most backpack coolers in this range, so we didn’t hold that against it. The backpack boasts a storage capacity of up to 20 cans, plus ice, and promises to keep drinks and snacks cold all day.
Although most of the features are pretty standard, the OAGear does have a unique shape. It leans more toward a square than an oblong rectangle, like most backpacks. We thought the shape made it look a little awkward when carrying it, so if you’re looking for function and style, you may want to look for a slimmer profile.
Performance: Just okay
Along with an underwhelming design came underwhelming performance. With the lower price point, we really weren’t expecting much, but in this case, you definitely get what you pay for.
Along with an underwhelming design came underwhelming performance.
While it’s true that the backpack can hold 20 cans if you really Tetris them in there, the weight of the cans pulls down on the shoulder straps in a way that makes it feel like both the straps and zipper could burst at any moment. Plus, filling the backpack up with so many cans doesn’t leave too much room for ice, so you lose cooling power if you fill it to capacity with food or drinks.
We brought the can-filled backpack to a long day at the beach and found that it couldn’t stand up to the heat. The ice was gone within a couple of hours, and while the drinks stayed cool, they weren’t ice cold like you would get with a regular cooler. Of course, unlike a regular cooler, the backpack did offer the convenience of being hands-free and easier to carry out onto the sand since we didn’t have to drag it on wheels. But still, it wasn’t entirely comfortable or effective.
Since the backpack is made of a soft canvas material that offers no extra support for all of the added weight, the cans are unevenly distributed and the bag sags in the middle, becoming bottom-heavy and uncomfortable to carry. While this may be okay for sparse beach trips, we wouldn’t want to regularly carry it on a hike.
In a second test, we packed the backpack with a lighter load. Instead of filling it with cans, we packed a light picnic lunch with sandwiches, some fruit, a couple bottles of water, and ice. The backpack handled this lighter load—which seemed more on par with what it was truly designed to carry—with no problem.
Since the backpack is made of a soft canvas … cans are unevenly distributed and the bag sags in the middle, becoming bottom-heavy and uncomfortable to carry.
By the time we sat down to eat, about two hours later, our food and drinks were cold and there was still ice in the backpack. The lining held up well and there wasn’t any leakage, even though some of the ice had melted.
Price: Reasonable, but for a reason
The OAGear Backpack Cooler will set you back about $20 to $25, which is reasonable for a backpack of its size. If you’re looking for something that will keep your food and drinks cold for a couple of hours, it’s worth the investment, but if you need something with longer temperature control, save your money and splurge on something better.
Competition: A lot out there
TOURIT Classic Insulated Backpack Cooler: There are many backpack cooler options out there, so if it doesn’t sound like the OAGear can give you what you need, you’re bound to find something else that’s a good fit. If you’re looking for a backpack that’s a step above the OAGear, but still budget-friendly, try the TOURIT. The bag is available in four different colors and runs for roughly $10 more than the OAGear, but it’ll keep your food and drinks cold all day.
Polar Bear Coolers Solar Bear Backpack Cooler: If you have a little more wiggle room in your budget, the Solar Bear Backpack Cooler, which retails for around $105, is a sturdier option that can keep your food and drinks cold for up to 24 hours. It might cost more upfront, but it’s UV-resistant exterior and double-coated nylon interior give you way more bang for your buck.
If you’re looking for a backpack cooler that can live up to a rugged lifestyle or even a full day at the beach, this isn’t it. Although the OAGear is probably a good option for keeping your lunch cold while you’re at work or during an afternoon sports game, we don’t recommend it for longer excursions.
- Product Name Backpack Cooler
- Product Brand OAGear
- Price $36.99
- Weight 1.2 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 37.5 x 22.5 x 16.6 in.
- Color Black, green, grey, RealTree APX (camo), red, and royal blue