The record-breaking heat this summer has been great for getting out and about. But it’s not so much fun when the ice-cold water you prepared the night before has become hot enough to boil an egg.
But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Times have moved on since your parents’ gigantic plastic cool box that requires at least two people to carry it. Now lightweight, comfortable and easy-to-carry backpack coolers are all the rage.
The following guide help you choose the best backpack cooler for you, so even when everything around you is hot, your food and drink won’t be.
Quick Answer: The 7 Top Rated Backpack Coolers For 2018
- YETI – Hopper BackFlip Cooler Backpack
- Coleman – C003 Soft Backpack Cooler
- Polar Bear Coolers – Solar Bear Soft Cooler
- TOURIT – Insulated Cooler Backpack
- OAGear – Ultimate Backpack Cooler
- Igloo – Outdoorsman Gizmo Backpack
- MIER – Insulated Cooler Backpack
Here is a feature comparison of my top backpack coolers with reviews and our buyers guide below.
Best Backpack Coolers
Backpack Cooler Reviews
- 20-can capacity (2:1 ice-to-can ratio)
- 20.6 x 14.7 x 11.3 inches
- 7.8 pounds
- Mildew, puncture and UV-resistant exterior
- Coldcell Insulation
With a price tag that could make your eyes water, the YETI Hopper BackFlip has a lot to prove and is our Editors Choice for the best backpack cooler.
So how does Yeti justify the cost?
As you would expect from YETI, they go the extra mile in terms of quality. Never satisfied with standard materials, the exterior features the Hopper’s high-density fabric, the dryhide shell. Resistant to mildew, punctures and UV rays, it is tough, practical and stays waterproof even when dropped directly into water.
The top-quality materials extend to the shoulder straps, grab handle on top of the cooler and the two side handles if you want to share the weight.
On the inside, you’ll find an FDA-approved food-grade liner covering the Coldcell Insulation. This closed-cell rubber foam means the Hopper BackFlip can’t be flattened or folded, but offers superior cooling properties for a longer period of time when compared to products which are closer to backpack than ice chest.
The hydrolok zipper does it all. Waterproof, leak proof and as tough as old boots, it is the perfect zipper for a backpack ice chest as it prevents leakage even when on its side.
If you’re feeling flush and want the hardiest, coolest and most high-tech insulated backpack cooler on the market, the YETI Hopper BackFlip Cooler Backpack is it. Oh, and a three-year guarantee means even if anything does go wrong, you’re covered.
- 28-can capacity
- 12 x 6.5 x 19.5 inches
- 1.06 pounds
- Leak-proof heat-welded seams
- BPA- and phthalate-free germ-resistant liner
The Coleman backpack cooler bag is a great choice if you need something practical that won’t slow you down. Weighing in at just 1.06 pounds, it is among the lightest of our choices with top features that make it a solid option.
The capacity and its stylish design combine well, especially if your main objective is to transport 28 cold beers to the beach. The weight and style combination also makes it popular as a bag to take lunch to work in, and the BPA– and phthalate-free germ-resistant liner prevents mold, mildew and bad odors while at the same time being good for the environment and easy to clean.
For longer-distance treks, there is extra padding in the back and waist for comfort and adjustable shoulder and waist straps that can spread the weight out. The bag also features heat-welded seams which prevent leaks. This is an advantage for extended adventures in hot weather in which many bags leak melting ice.
The Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler has a lot of extra storage space. The main compartment is complemented by a zippered, insulated front pocket for smaller snacks and drinks, while the bungee cords on the front of the bag and the mesh side pockets can hold easy-access items such as water bottles and electronics.
While the Coleman C003 may not be quite at the level of the YETI Hopper BackFlip in terms of technology, its specification list is impressive. Its capacity, style and weight make it a serious contender on the insulated backpack market.
- 18-can capacity (with 7 pounds of ice)
- 20.6 x 14.5 x 6.8 inches
- 5 pounds
- Keeps ice for 24 hours in 100+ degree heat
- Tough-as-nails exterior
Polar Bear Coolers are very confident about their Solar Bear range.
Implementing their own technology at nearly every stage, they boast that the Solar Bear can keep ice for 24 hours in over 100 degree heat. This is in part due to their one-inch thick 10 gauge high-density foam insulation. This combines with the durable interior liner which consists of antimicrobial tpu double-coated nylon.
On the outside there is a UV-resistant 840-denier outer shell and to guarantee no leakage, all of the seams are double hemmed and anchor stitched. Similarly durable are the buckles and zippers. These heavy duty YKK components are super tough and super reliable, as you would expect from a backpack cooler bag of this price range.
The focus on durability does have an effect on the overall weight, 5.2 pounds, but most users see this as a more-than-worthwhile tradeoff.
Pockets on the exterior include a front zippered pocket which can be custom embroidered with a design of your choice. You can also find a pocket on one of the shoulder straps for all of your essential devices. And just as an additional extra, you’ll find a metal bottle opener attached to the zipper.
Like the YETI Hopper BackFlip, the Polar Bear Solar Bear Soft Cooler is tough, practical and keeps things cool for an impressive amount of time. At a fraction of the price and with a lifetime leakage guarantee, it also provides good value for money.
- 21-can capacity
- 12.2 x 7.1 x 17.5 inches
- 1.1 pounds
- Keeps cool for 16 hours when below 60 degrees with freeze packs
- Lots of extra pockets
This versatile backpack lunch cooler works for all kinds of outside pursuits as well as for taking things to work. Not as cumbersome as the most specialized insulated backpacks, but lightweight, with a good capacity and discreet look, TOURIT’s contribution is a great all-rounder.
It is well made, with a ventilated back to keep you cool and with a PEVA lining on the inside to help with leakage as well as maintaining temperature. However, it is only one of two products on the list that claims to be leak resistant as opposed to leakproof.
The TOURIT insulated cooler backpack comes with a wealth of extra pockets for anything else you need to carry or access quickly. There are two front zipper pockets for small accessories, two side bottle holders and a mesh pocket on the strap.
This doesn’t mean the main compartment suffers though. With room for 21 cans, it holds its own against most other backpack coolers in this list.
In terms of coolness, it doesn’t really match up to the high-tech, high-price options. Keeping your snacks and drinks cool for 16 hours only when using freeze packs and when the outside temperature is under 60 degrees is far from best on this list. But bear in mind that not everybody needs to keep things cold for much more time, and the pay off is that it is very light (1.1 pounds) and can be folded nicely for storage.
This is a great backpack for those of you that are happy to live without the best possible quality. Compared to others, it could be seen to not hold its temperature or its water well enough, but considering its price, anybody who is not a hardcore adventurer would most likely be more than happy with the TOURIT Insulated Cooler Backpack.
- 20-can capacity (plus ice)
- 12 x 10 x 14 inches
- 1.5 pounds
- Lots of extra pockets
- Leak-proof double heat sealed PEVA liner
Toward the lower end of the price range, the OAGear Ultimate Backpack Cooler provides a lot of chill for your buck. It is a stylish backpack ice chest which won’t look out of place whether you’re taking lunch to work, chilling out on the beach or going for a walk in the woods.
At just 1.5 pounds, it is light and easy to carry.
Despite the lower price, the OAGear Ultimate Backpack Cooler has an impressive capacity, with room for 20 cans plus ice. It is a very practical bag, with two zippered side pockets that can easily hold any kind of phone, sunglasses or some smaller snacks. A large front slip pocket can is for all kinds of other gadgets, even up to the size of a tablet.
The guys at OAGear don’t skimp on quality, with a double-heat-sealed PEVA no-leak liner preventing any melted ice dripping through. The exterior is made up of 600 denier polyester with 600 denier ripstop trim.
The OAGear Ultimate Backpack Cooler is among the best value for money options in this list. It is suitable for most normal activities, such as trips to the beach or family hikes. Only when you start getting really serious should you consider splashing the cash on something more specialized.
- 20-can capacity
- 12 x 17 x 10 inches
- 1.85 pounds
- Lots of extra pockets
- Leak-resistant, antimicrobial liner
Improving on its predecessor, the Outdoorsman Gizmo Backpack features MaxCold insulation, which translates to 25% more foam and more chill time for your food and drinks. Even so, this is not the best option if your main objective is to keep things cold for the longest possible time. It can keep ice frozen for around 5 hours, but is not ideal for much more than that.
It has a leak-resistant, antimicrobial liner which works well for comfort and hygiene, but some users have reported leakage in higher temperatures or when used for prolonged periods.
Its forte is its practicality. The side mesh pocket allows for easy access to water bottles that you want to keep handy and the front pocket works for snacks, devices or a wallet. The almost hidden padded back pocket is great for flat objects, such as books and magazines, and can easily be used for devices such as e-readers, tablets and more.
Although it doesn’t have the spec list of the more expensive models, Igloo’s Outdoorsman Gizmo Backpack is a highly practical piece of kit. With good storage both in the cooler part and in the extra pockets, this is a worthy contender for leisure activities.
- 24-can capacity
- 11 x 7.9 x 13.8 inches
- 1.4 pounds
- Good value for money
- Leak-proof heat sealing
Again for those who want value for money, the MIER Insulated Cooler Backpack offers excellent quality at a very low price. Its discreet, sporty look is great for family days out to theme parks or just a day trip.
The thick insulation works in combination with the leak-proof PEVA liner to keep everything in your ice chest fresh. The vast interior holds 24 cans, or easily enough food for four people for a day.
Aside from the large interior, it is full of other practical pockets. The inner mesh pocket on the lid is great for storing small items that need to be kept cool, while the two side mesh pockets are easy-access spaces for things like water bottles. The larger of the front zipper pockets has a mesh divider for utensils, while the smaller one provides storage for anything you haven’t already found a home for.
The padded grab handle on the top lets you pick it up easily when you’re moving it a short distance
As one of the low-cost choices on this list, the MIER Insulated Cooler Backpack cannot offer the latest in ice chest technology, but is still a solid option. This stylish, spacious and practical bag is ideal for moderate hikes or fun days out.
Backpack Cooler Comparison Table
|YETI Hopper BackFlip Cooler Backpack||20 cans||7.8 pounds||20.6 x 14.7 x 11.3 inches||4.3 / 5.0|
|Coleman C003 Soft Backpack Cooler||28 cans||1.06 pounds||12 x 6.5 x 19.5 inches||4.4 / 5.0|
|Polar Bear Coolers Solar Bear Soft Cooler||18 cans||5 pounds||20.6 x 14.5 x 6.8 inches||4.5 / 5.0|
|TOURIT Insulated Cooler Backpack||21 cans||1.1 pounds||12.2 x 7.1 x 17.5 inches||4.5 / 5.0|
|OAGear Ultimate Backpack Cooler||20 cans||1.5 pounds||12 x 10 x 14 inches||4.4 / 5.0|
|Igloo Outdoorsman Gizmo Backpack||20 cans||1.85 pounds||12 x 17 x 10 inches||4.3 / 5.0|
|MIER Insulated Cooler Backpack||24 cans||1.4 pounds||11 x 7.9 x 13.8 inches||4.4 / 5.0|
How to Choose the Best Cooler Backpack
- Considerations for Backpack Coolers
- Cool time
- Final Thoughts
Considerations for Backpack Coolers
The following questions should help you to decide which backpack cooler is right for you.
What do you need it for?
All of the backpacks listed here are top-quality products, but choosing just one really depends on what you want to use it for.
When time and heat are a concern, then you should start looking at the more specialized models. Fishing, hunting and hiking are all the kinds of activities which should make you consider going for a model which is closer to a traditional ice chest in terms of cool time and durability.
A backpack lunch cooler for family hikes should focus on comfort and weight, while maximum capacity is not quite as important. Walkers can also benefit from extra pocket spaces which come in handy when you have a lot of gadgets you need to carry around.
As impressive as the high-tech models in this list are, if you just want a bag to take to the beach, spending big is probably not worth the money. However, if you’ll be hiking through the wilderness for hours on end, perhaps on a fishing trip or a trekking holiday, one of the sturdier options, which stays cooler for longer and has a tougher exterior, is what you need.
Many users need an all-rounder which works just as well by the sea, on the trail and in the office. These bags are usually at the lower end of the price range, but are high on practicality, with extra pockets, a sleek design and can possibly be folded.
What will you be storing in it?
Let’s not kid ourselves; there are some of you reading this who know that you only need a beer cooler backpack to keep those precious cans cold all day long while you’re lying on the beach. In that case, weight and comfort won’t be too much of a concern, whereas capacity and how long it stays cool will be top priority.
For taking your lunch to work on a daily basis, there is no need to go for the top-spec models. One of the lighter, more discreet models will work perfectly well.
Will you be wearing it for extended periods?
For beach trips where your cooler will be going from the car to the sand and back again, you won’t need to focus much on the comfort side of things.
However, all outdoorsy people will know that carrying a lot of weight on your back all day long isn’t fun, so hikers and people who will use the bag on a daily basis should take weight and comfort into consideration.
The technology used to keep your gear cool improves year on year, and as with most things, you get what you pay for.
Industry-standard foam does the job, but the specialist insulation from YETI and Polar Bear are on another level, capable of keeping their cool for up to 24 hours.
Size always matters when choosing a bag.
Both inside and out, all of these backpack coolers are tough. However, there is still a vast difference between the most expensive and the least.
Regarding the exterior, high-density materials are more resistant to tears, while ripstop fabrics can keep your straps and handles in tact even when subjected to considerable weight.
One key problem with some cheaper beer cooler backpacks are that as soon as the ice inside melts, the back of your legs know about it. However, all of the products you can find in this article are at least leak resistant due to their superior build quality.
Again, leakage won’t be a problem if you only need your bag for a few hours, but anything more than that and you should really start looking at the pricier options.
One way of reducing the effect of leakage is to buy ice packs. They don’t turn to water like ice cubes do and in the long run, the fact that they are reusable means they work out cheaper than buying bags of ice.
A backpack’s durability and cold retention capabilities have an effect on the weight. The more effective the insulation, the heavier it will be.
Some of the less expensive bags on this list have the serious advantage of being lightweight and having a range of pockets to use.
This is especially beneficial for users who use their backpack on a day-to-day basis. The advantage is that it is closer to being a backpack which is also a cooler, rather than a cool box on your back.
Whatever your needs, there is a quality backpack cooler out there for you. Think about whether you need to sacrifice capacity for a lightweight model, or cool time for a bag that is easier to store and light weight.
Note down the factors which are important to you and we’re sure you’ll find what you’re looking for in this list. I hope you found this guide useful in choosing your the best insulated backpack cooler for you.