Backpack Coolers: The Best for Every Adventure, Whether you’re heading to the beach, the park, or the top of a mountain, a backpack cooler can make carrying a cumbersome carry easier. Hard coolers work great for keeping drinks and food cold, but even when equipped with wheels, they can be used in certain places, such as the beach, rough trails, or anywhere beyond a few hundred yards. There is also difficulty in swallowing in the area. away from your home or vehicle.
Soft Backpack Coolers offer an ergonomic solution that comes in a surprising number of forms. We tested the top options in our Brooklyn lab and the area to dive into the merits of their insulation and extras (plus discuss price and what activities they’ll be suitable for), to help you decide. Which Backpack Cooler Is Right for You. ,
Read on for the best backpack coolers available.
- Yeti Hopper M20 Backpack Soft Cooler
This spring, Yeti has replaced its infamous Hopper Backflip 24 Backpack Cooler with the Hopper M20 Backpack Cooler. big difference? Yeti’s new soft backpack cooler no longer has a zip. It now uses magnet technology and clips to close the top of the cooler. One complaint we often hear with Yeti and other similar cooler models is how difficult the zipper can be to open and close. Yeti will be listening with this swap as well.
Rest assured, even with a fold, magnet, and clip closure, the M20 still has some serious insulation chops. Our testers placed a small bag of ice with a few cold beverages in the M20, and it took more than 30 hours for all the ice to melt into a nearly 70-degree temperature. The M20 is also a bit sleeker and lighter than its predecessor. We also like that the M20’s price is a bit more accessible.
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 comfortable to carry around. But for the longer view, we want to add those features back. The result, however, is that Yeti did it again, creating a top-shelf cooler, and we think the magnet technology is a lot 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
- IceMule Boss 30 Liter Backpack Cooler
Like the Yeti Hopper Backflip, IceMule’s boss is bulky, rugged, and expensive. And while the pack is nice and cool and ice-retention (more on that in a bit), our testers particularly enjoyed how easy it was to carry, despite its bulk. “This is the best big cooler to carry,” said one tester. Our testers loved how the straps aren’t too thin nor too bulky and the cooler’s back padding and ventilation. He also liked the chest and waist straps. IceMule has emphasized the ergonomics of this backpack, which also includes dual-zone suspension.
We also liked a few extra touches on the Boss compared to other coolers we tested, like extra pockets and space to attach gear you might not want inside the actual cooler. We also enjoy how waterproof the cooler is.
It was good in terms of freezing and ice retention, and there was still some solid ice in the cooler 24 hours after it was initially iced. But the Yeti’s hopper backflip only saw the inside temperature rise by about 7 degrees after 24 hours, while IceMule’s boss rose by about 19 degrees. Our conclusion: If ice and cold-retention are most important to you and you don’t mind the main compartment, go with the Yeti Hopper Backflip. But if you like organization and 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
- Coleman 28 Can Soft Backpack Cooler
Coleman has become famous for its budget outdoor gear. And this cooler backpack lives up to that expectation. Our testers loved how light and comfortable this backpack felt, especially thanks to the plush padding on the sides of the waist straps. We also love the carry and organizational variety capability within this bag. There are multiple interior pockets, exterior mesh pockets, and straps on the back for carrying capacity.
While the starting temperature wasn’t quite as cold as the other cooler packs we tested, the internal temperature only rose about 11 degrees 24 hours after the ice was added to the pack. There was also some minimal leakage from the zipper after the snow melted. At the end of 24 hours, there was no solid ice left in the backpack.
This Coleman is a solid choice for anyone looking for an affordable backpack cooler. It would be ideal for outdoor concerts, lunch at work or picnics, or to quickly take drinks or food to a potluck.
Size: 12.2 x 6.3 x 19.29 inches | Capacity: 28 Cans | Weight: 1 pound, 1 ounce
- Igloo Reactor 24-Can Backpack
Igloo’s Reactor Backpack Cooler performs almost as well as a cooler that costs hundreds of dollars more than it costs. In terms of ice and cold retention, after 24 hours, the reactor had the same amount of solid ice as IceMule Boss and IceMule Pro. And while IceMule Pro’s internal temperature increased by about 19 degrees, the reactor’s internal temperature rose by less than 10 degrees just 24 hours after it was filled with ice.
Our testers also liked how comfortable and easy the pack was to carry—though they did mention adding a waist strap to help distribute the weight a bit. Opening the waterproof zipper was challenging for testers but not as tight 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
- IceMule Pro Cooler 23L
We love IceMule Pro’s simple design. But don’t let the simple design fool you—the Pro has some supped-up tech and features, which make this pack a great option, especially if going on the water is in your outdoor plans. IceMule uses its dual-proprietary inner and outer fabric to promote durability. It also uses proprietary insulation for cold and snow-retention, making the Pro one of the best performers during our 24-hour snow test. One day after initially putting the ice in the cooler pack, the internal temperature only rose by 7 degrees, and some solid ice remained.
Our testers liked how padded and comfortable the backpack’s straps were on their shoulders and chest strap for weight distribution. And while the pack was a bit bulky and the roll-top closure did leak some water, our testers still gave the Pro top marks across all rated features. We also like some travel- and boat-specific features like an air valve, which allows you to add or remove excess air from the insulation air. This will help make the cooler compact in size for enthusiasts (with extra air) and smaller for travel (with less air). Bonus: 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
- RTIC Backpack Soft Cooler
The RTIC’s backpack cooler had some of the best ice-retention among coolers in our lab testing. After 24 hours, the RTIC still contained about 50 percent solid ice, the equivalent of Yeti’s Hopper Backflip Cooler. Similar to the Hopper Backflip, the RTIC uses some seriously premium insulation to help keep the contents inside the cooler cold.
Aside from the cold retention, we especially like some of the outstanding design features like chest and waist straps for weight distribution, a super padded back panel for comfort, and a floatable structure. The RTIC recommends using a solid ice pack or adding loose ice to the bag to avoid leaks, but our testers had no problems with leaking, despite using free-floating ice.
One note: Many users on Amazon report the Zip to the primary compartment breaking. We still don’t have this problem, but at least some have. Still, we didn’t see many design or performance differences between the RTIC and the Yeti Backpack Cooler, and this RTIC is a lot more affordable.
Size: Not listed | Capacity: 20 or 30 cans with a bag of ice | Weight: Not listed
- Pelican Dayventure Backpack Cooler
The Pelican’s Dayventure Backpack Cooler had some of the best cold-retention of all the coolers we tested in our Brooklyn lab. Twenty-four hours after filling it with ice and beverage cans, the internal temperature had risen only 2.5 degrees. Like similar high-end soft and backpack coolers, the Pelican uses dense closed-cell insulation to boost its cold-saving chops.
We especially like this pack’s double compartments, making it ideal for an overnight in the woods. And because of its total waterproofness and heavy-duty puncture-resistant exterior, we won’t hesitate to take it on a boat, kayak, or SUP.
While the double-compartment organization of this pack is great, our little testers didn’t like how heavy and wide the straps were on their shoulders. He also thought that the height of the pack was a bit high. Still, we find this pack to be perfect for the adventurer looking for different food, drink, and gear out there but only carry one pack.
Size: 12.1 x 7.1 x 21.7 inches | Capacity: 18.36 liters | Weight: 9.3 pounds
- Otterbox Trooper LT 30 Cooler
Most widely known for its smartphone security products, Colorado-based Otterbox makes other outdoors-focused products as well. Among them is the Trooper LT30 Soft Backpack Cooler. As expected, Otterbox takes the same durability it became infamous for and applies it to the Trooper, creating an incredibly durable product.
But the Trooper also has some cold-retention chops as the internal temperature has only risen about 5 degrees in 24 hours after filling it with ice. It has a good capacity – we were able to easily fit 38 cans without ice and 33 with ice inside the cooler. And while the straps weren’t uncomfortable, we’d like to see at least one 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
- Hydro Flask Unbound 22 L Soft Cooler Pack
Like Otterbox, Hydro Flask is generally known for products that aren’t cooler. Hydro Flask Case is an extensive line of high-quality travel water containers, tumblers, and insulated mugs. Naturally, the Hydro Flask does an excellent job with cold and ice-retention in its Unbound Soft Cooler Pack. The “smart” insulation Hydro Flask helped keep ice solids in place for 24 hours after being placed in the cooler. And the internal temperature only climbed 8 degrees after 24 hours when we put ice in it.
While the cold and ice-holding capabilities of this pack are strong, what sets the Unbound apart from other backpack coolers is how lightweight it is yet durable. The pack weighs about three pounds and has a waterproof 420D nylon shell. We like the three exterior mesh pockets for holding utensils or other items for your picnic that don’t need to stay cool.
Our testers would have liked to see more padding on the shoulders for more comfortable carrying. But that would also obviously make it a heavy pack.
Size: 12.5 x 8 x 19.5 inches | Capacity: 22 liters | Weight: 3.2 pounds
- Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack
If you’re looking for a backpack and 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: 12 compartments and up to the insulated bottom fitting, perfect for other items you might need for hiking, school, or work. Bonus: There are multiple 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 wasn’t as good at cold and snow-retention as the ones we tested, our testers loved how comfortable and easy it was to carry. He also enjoyed the cooler pack’s simplified design and school backpack feel. One of the main problems with this pack is leaking through the zip. Our testers noted that this pack can’t be turned upside down if you use loose ice, which inevitably melts. Of course, the best way to do this is to use an ice pack.
Size: 12.5 x 8 x 17.75 inches | Capacity: 12 Cans | Weight: Not listed