Summertime means fun in the sun, and for a lot of people, that means road trips and camping expeditions. Say goodbye to warm drinks and melted ice cream! These six backpack coolers will keep all of your food and beverages cold, whether you’re hiking or hanging out at the beach.
They’ll keep your food and drinks cold for hours, so you can enjoy yourself without worrying about packing a ton of snacks. Plus, they’re all really stylish and perfect for any outdoor activity!
We will also provide a buyer’s guide to help you choose the best backpack cooler for your needs. Let’s get started!
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BEST AFFORDABLE DAY TRIP COOLER: COLEMAN 28-CAN BACKPACK SOFT COOLER
- INSULATION: Main compartment keeps contents cold and prevents leaks with heat-welded seams
- CAPACITY: Holds up to 28 cans
- EASY TO CARRY: Backpack design with adjustable padded straps for maximum comfort
- EXTRA STORAGE: Large front pocket for quick access to napkins and accessories
Our first option is the Coleman 28-Can Backpack Soft Cooler, perfect for short trips or days spent outdoors. We added this affordable cooler for budget-conscious shoppers who want an option to keep things cold without breaking the bank. Coleman is a trusted name when it comes to coolers, so you can trust their products.
This is the best option if you just need a small backpack to keep things cold for a few hours. It’s ideal for taking to the ballpark or your local zoo. The Coleman 28-can backpack will also work just fine for a short day hike or a quick trip to Disney. The padded shoulder straps make it easy and comfortable to carry, even when fully loaded.
This cooler is very stylish, looking just like a regular backpack. The khaki color is especially popular this season and features red accents that make it pop. The heat-welded seams make this backpack 100% leakproof to prevent spills when the ice melts. Thus, you can add a bag of ice to your backpack without any worries.
Coleman’s 28-can backpack has a lot of compartments for food and drinks. The front zippered compartment can hold things like your phone, wallet, and keys. The main compartment is large enough to fit up to 28 cans, and there’s even a mesh side pocket for quick access to your water bottle. With a 10-liter capacity, this backpack can hold quite a bit.
Understandably, this super-affordable option will not keep your drinks cold as long as some of the more expensive bags are on our list. Coleman rates their 28-can backpack to keep things cool for up to 12 hours, which is only a fraction of the time of some of our other picks. But, if you’re only planning to be outdoors for a few hours and want to save some money, this is the best backpack cooler for you.
Finally, a germ-resistant and antimicrobial liner protects your food from bacteria. This is a great feature, especially if you’re packing food for small children. Plus, it makes cleaning easy if anything happens to spill inside.
MOST VERSATILE BACKPACK COOLER: RTIC SOFT PACK
The RTIC Soft Pack Backpack Cooler is great because you can either wear it as a backpack, or you can carry it like a regular soft-sided cooler. It’s perfect if you’re not sure if you actually need a backpack cooler and lets you decide how to use it, depending on the activity.
The RTIC Soft Pack Backpack Cooler comes in two sizes — both a 20-can version or a 30-can one. The RTIC Soft Pack will keep your food and drinks cold for days.
Unlike other backpack coolers, this one doesn’t lose shape at all. It’s pretty structured, which means the food and drinks you put inside will stay that way and not move around too much.
The RTIC Soft Pack floats as well, so you can take it with you out on the water, and it’s waterproof. This is a great backpack cooler that can be used in a variety of different ways.
BEST WHEN YOU NEED AN OVERNIGHT WATERPROOF OPTION: ICEMULE BOSS
- RUGGED AND VERSATILE – From our proprietary MuleSkin fabrics and the game-changing IM AirValve, to the welded seams and padded straps — these soft sided cooler bags are built to outlast your next beach day, hike, picnic and more.
- 24+ HOURS OF COOLING – Ultra-tough Muleskin Exterior and Interior plus PolarLayer Insulation ensures strength and superior ice retention to maintain ice-like temperatures for 24+ hours. Holds 30 Liters or 24 cans + ice; 12.5”L x 9”W x 25”H
- HANDS FREE COOLER – This backpack-style cooler has two padded airmesh straps, a cushioned hip belt, and a sternum strap so both arms are free to grab your surfboard, fishing pole, or other adventure gear. Perfect portable cooler for men or women.
- EASY ACCESS INTERIOR – Roll-top design opens wide, letting you load and find what you're looking for easily. Store everything you need with exterior bungee storage and 3 large zipper pockets, makes the perfect carry on for traveling parents.
- WATERPROOF & BUOYANT – Welded seams and PakShield waterproof top zipper closure makes this a waterproof, floating cooler. The IM AirValve allows air to be added to insulation layer – so the ICEMULE can float right next to your kayak.
An overnight camping trip requires a little more planning than a day hike. If you want to bring fresh food and drinks, you need a backpack cooler that can keep things cold for longer periods of time. The Icemule Boss is our top pick for an overnight option because it’s tough, waterproof, and insulating.
This backpack can handle 24 12-oz cans, including ice, making it ideal for a group camping trip. With up to 55 hours of cooling action, your food and drinks will stay cold for a full weekend trip. The waterproof material makes it ideal for outdoor adventures, and the sternum strap makes it easy to carry for extended periods of time.
The Icemule Boss is also one of the most versatile coolers on the market. You can use it as a traditional backpack, a shoulder bag, or a hand carry. The double-padded shoulder straps and sturdy top handle make it easy to switch between modes, so it’s comfortable to carry in any position. There is also a hip belt, so you can be sure the bag will stay in place no matter how you carry it.
This model’s style is also quite different from the others. The bag’s top features a roll-top closure, which looks and serves like a dry storage bag. It makes loading and unloading much easier because you don’t have to fight with a zipper. And the roll-top closure creates a seal that is super effective at keeping things cold.
The Icemule Boss has three insulated and waterproof exterior pockets, a great feature if you need to keep things like your phone or camera safe from the elements. And if you’re carrying extra gear, the industrial clip system makes it easy to attach things to the outside of the bag. Finally, the dual suspension system keeps the bag close to your back for extra comfort and support.
If you like IceMule products, the IceMule Pro is also a great option. It’s slightly smaller, so it doesn’t have as much storage space, but that might be what you need for a shorter trip. Of course, it is also less comfortable to carry and only has 24-hour ice retention. But if you’re looking for a cheaper option, the Pro is a good choice.
BEST BACKPACK THAT ALSO HAPPENS TO HAVE A COOLER: CARHARTT COOLER BACKPACK
- Carhartt Insulated 24 Can Two Compartment Cooler Backpack. A 2-in-1 pack, it features an insulated base compartment that keeps food and drinks cold, and a large main compartment for carrying gear and accessories
- Backpack and cooler in one is built of sturdy 600 denier fabric with Rain Defender water repellent. Fully insulated base compartment holds up to 12 cans and keeps them cold for 8+ hours. Contour fit shoulder straps
- Features large main compartment with mesh pockets for additional food items, apparel or other gear, front zippered pocket with two mesh pockets and key fob, two exterior elastic mesh pockets, and two additional front slash pockets
- Ideal for camping, picnics, tailgates, beach trips, festivals, concerts, and job sites, it eliminates the need for both a cooler and a backpack, by combining the essential features into one convenient, easy-to-carry bag
- Dimensions: 21” X 16.5” X 10”
Next up on our list is the Carhartt Cooler Backpack, and this one is a bit different than the others. It’s not specifically designed as a cooler backpack, but it does have a large, insulated compartment that can hold up to 12 cans without the ice. That makes it ideal for short trips or picnics where you want to keep things like sandwiches and drinks cool.
It’s better to use ice packs instead of loose ice in this backpack. They will fit better and keep the contents cold for longer periods. But that doesn’t mean it’s not waterproof! The compartment is made from heavy-duty polyester fabric that can handle a little moisture. Just be sure to drain any melted ice before packing things up.
The Carhartt Cooler Backpack will keep your food and drinks cold for up to 18 hours. That’s not as long as some of the other options on our list, but it should be more than enough for a day trip. This backpack makes up for it by being one of the most stylish options on the market. The black and tan color scheme looks great, and the Carhartt logo adds a touch of class.
Carhartt markets this bag as a job site cooler, but we think it would be great for any type of outdoor activity. The outside is made from RainDefender water-resistant fabric, so you don’t have to worry about the contents getting wet. It’s also one of the most affordable options on our list, so it’s a great value for the money.
If you want to use it as a traditional backpack, the large front pocket is perfect for holding your gear, and the webbing on the sides is perfect for attaching cans or water bottles. A front zipper pocket is also perfect for holding smaller items like your phone or keys. The straps are adjustable, so you can find the perfect fit for your body.
The price tag is also closer to that of a backpack than a cooler, which makes the Carhartt Cooler Backpack a great value. It’s not the cheapest option on our list, but it is one of the most versatile and stylish. This is the one for you if you need a backpack that can do double duty. For example, many people use it as a diaper bag!
MOST AFFORDABLE FOR LONGER TRIPS: HYDRO FASK 20 L DAY ESCAPE
If the Yeti Hopper M20 is a bit out of your price range, the Hydro Flask 20 L Day Escape is a great alternative. This backpack cooler has a lot of the same features as the Yeti, but it comes at a fraction of the price.
For starters, the design is very similar. It’s a wearable cooler with a trademark square shape. The body is made from durable 600D polyester, and the heat-welded seams make it completely waterproof. It’s very light, too, so it won’t weigh you down on a long hike. This model has a stiff zipper that is completely watertight. While this leakproof zipper isn’t as easy to use as the magnetic closure on the Hopper, it’s still pretty straightforward.
At only 3lbs, the Hydro Flask Day Escape is light enough to take on any type of trip. The bag comes in two fashionable colorways. Peppercorn sports two shades of gray, and the Talus has beautiful blue hues. Both are perfect for summertime adventures and match any type of outdoor gear.
The Hydro Flask 20 L Day Escape has a 20-liter capacity, which is enough to hold 36 cans without ice. That makes it perfect for overnight trips or long days out. The insulation is top-notch, so your contents will stay cold for up to 48 hours.
There is no outside storage per se, but like the Yeti models, you can attach additional gear to the webbing loops on the sides. The company also sells a separate dry storage pouch that you can use to keep your valuables safe and dry. Hydro Flask is a brand that’s known for its high-quality water bottles, and this backpack cooler is no exception. It’s one of the best on the market, and it comes at a very reasonable price.
The main downside of the Hydro Flask 20 L is that it feels a bit more cumbersome to wear than the Hopper models. Considering the $100 price difference, the trade-off might be worth it. But if you can splurge, the Hopper is definitely the better option, especially if you plan on using it a lot.
MOST COMFORTABLE OPTION: REI CO-OP COOL TRAIL PACK COOLER
Last but not least, we have the REI Co-Op Cool Trail Pack Cooler. This backpack is specifically designed for comfortable wear on long hikes, and it shows. The shoulder straps are well-padded, and the back panel has a lot of ventilation to keep you cool. A padded hip belt completes the fully adjustable fit, so you can tailor it to your body.
Note that the hip belt carries a lot of weight, so this backpack is not as comfortable to wear without it. The Cool Trail Pack is also one of the larger options on our list, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for something compact.
As for functionality, the Rei Co-Op Cool Trail Pack Cooler can hold 20 cans, including the ice, and the lining ensures that they’ll stay cold for 40 hours. This model is known for its deep side to mesh pockets, which can hold a combination of phones, wallets, keys, and bottle openers. This makes it perfect for camping trips when you need to keep your hands free.
This backpack-to-cooler pack has a removable cooler bag, which is great for easy cleaning. And when you’re not using it as a cooler, you can unzip the back panel and use it as a regular backpack. This model will begin to leak when using loose ice, so be sure to use ice packs. It also features a front lash tab for attaching things like blankets or even a camp chair.
Design-wise, the Rei Co-Op Cool Trail Pack Cooler is almost indistinguishable from a regular hiking backpack. It makes it versatile enough to use all year round, even when you’re not packing any food. And if you care about the environment, you’ll be pleased to know that the Cool Trail Pack is made from recycled materials.
So there you have it—our six favorite backpack coolers of 2022. If you’re still having trouble deciding, the next section will help you narrow down your options.
HOW TO PICK A BACKPACK COOLER
Now that you know a bit more about some of the best backpack coolers on the market, it’s time to decide which one is right for you. Here are a few factors to keep in mind as you shop.
HOW LONG DO YOU NEED THE COOLER TO LAST?
First, think about how long you’ll need cold beverages. We presented models that range from 24 hours to a few days. If you need it for shorter outings, such as the beach, something like the Hydro Flask 20 L Day Escape will benefit your cold drinks.
It’s also worth considering how often you’ll be using the cooler. Remember that every time you open it, the contents will start to warm up. So if you’re planning on using it multiple times a day, you might want to choose a model with a longer cooling time or ice retention. In that case, you’ll need the Yeti or Ice Mule Cooler Backpack.
HOW WILL YOU BE USING THE COOLER?
Next, think about how you’ll be using your backpack cooler. If you’re planning on using it for long distances, day hikes, camping, or other day trips, choose a model with a comfortable sternum strap or sturdy chest strap. Other comfort considerations include adjustable straps and waist belt/hip belt to distribute the weight.
Most models will work if you plan on short distance-carry, meaning staying in town or going on road trips. You won’t necessarily need ergonomic shoulder straps, but be sure to pick one with important features, such as extra storage or a leakproof design. You might also want to consider the style of the backpack, as some are more fashion-forward than others.
FOR HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE YOU CARRYING DRINKS?
The size of your cooler compartment will also be determined by how many people you plan on serving. If you’re going on a solo hike in the morning, you won’t need as big of a backpack cooler as if you’re packing drinks for the entire family.
Backpack coolers also come in different shapes. Some are tall and narrow, while others are shorter and wider. However, a large-capacity backpack is always good to have on hand, even if you’re not using it to its full potential. That way, you’ll be prepared for anything.
Depending on how much each person drinks, you might need an even larger option. But remember that if there are many people, each person can bring their backpack, effectively doubling or tripling the number of drinks you can carry.
DO YOU PREFER A HARD OR SOFT-SIDED COOLER?
Backpack coolers come in both hard and soft-sided designs. Hard-sided coolers are great for long-term use because they’re more durable. They also make it easier to pack because they have less give. However, they can be heavier and more difficult to carry long distances.
Soft backpack coolers, on the other hand, are more lightweight and easier to transport. They’re also more comfortable to wear since they conform to your body. They can be more difficult to pack, however, because they don’t have as much structure. Plus, they often don’t have as much storage capacity as hard-sided coolers.
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