Backpack coolers are a convenient way to keep your drinks cold for hours while you travel. There are many different kinds out there, but what should be taken into consideration before buying one?
There are a few factors to consider before buying a backpack cooler. Choose its capacity based on the number of people in your group and your chosen activity. It should have a decent insulation time, be waterproof, be made of quality fabrics, and be comfortable to wear.
Aside from these, there are other things you should think about before deciding on a backpack cooler. Read on below to learn more.
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Features Of The Best Backpack Coolers
Backpack coolers are a travel essential: they keep your food and drinks cool for several hours while keeping your hands free. Whether it’s for a day trip, picnic at the park, camping, or just about any trip in the outdoors with your family and friends, backpack coolers are the perfect way to transport your beverages.
Because they are so convenient for traveling, it’s no surprise that backpack coolers have become so popular. They are now something essential for anyone who spends lots of time outside of the home. Additionally, they are an excellent alternative to traditional hand-held hard-side coolers, which can be uncomfortable and heavy to carry around.
Backpack coolers come in a wide range of styles, shapes, sizes, and features. Before you decide on a backpack cooler, think about these:
How and where do you intend to use your backpack cooler? How many people are you packing drinks for? Are you going to a place with hot temperatures or one that’s cool?
The answer to these questions should influence the capacity you choose, as well as its insulation and design. Some backpack coolers are waterproof and compact enough to be strapped onto a stand-up paddleboard, while others are bulkier and designed to keep drinks cool for a large group of people. There are also some models that are designed to help you carry other items other than just snacks and drinks so that it’s more convenient for you to travel.
You may need significantly more features and waterproofing ability if you are going to use the cooler pack on a boat or fishing excursion, though simple features will do for picnics, a trail hike, or a backyard bbq.
Cooler backpacks range in capacity from 10 liters to as much as 65 liters. Small and compact coolers can accommodate drinks for 2 people, while larger coolers can store beverages for a big group going to the beach for the weekend. Most cooler backpacks are between 20 to 30L, which is enough space for a few bottles of wine, plus cheese and fruit for around 4 to 5 people.
Choose the size and capacity of the backpack cooler carefully. You shouldn’t opt for a 40L cooler if you plan to go hiking in the backcountry, because it can weigh as much as 60 pounds once it’s loaded with drinks and food. It may have lots of room, but in reality, they are far too heavy to carry.
If you need to keep drinks for up to 3 people for a few hours, such as a football game or picnic, choose a backpack cooler that’s around 20 liters. On the other hand, if you are going on a weekend or road trip, opt for a 30-40 liter backpack, which is suitable for keeping enough drinks for you and your friends.
When shopping around for backpack coolers based on capacity, you may find that how many cans a cooler can hold might be a more useful metric. Small coolers can hold around 6 cans plus ice, while larger coolers can accommodate as many as 25 beer cans or soda with ice. Knowing how and when you’ll be using the backpack cooler will ensure you always have ample space for everything.
Insulation and Cooling
Backpack coolers have varying ice retention capabilities. Some models are better equipped to stay cool for 24 hours, while some are only able to keep the contents cold for 12 hours. Higher-end models made of premium insulating materials will be able to stay cold for much longer.
Generally speaking, it’s standard for most coolers to offer ice retention for 24 hours. However, remember that there are many other factors that will affect insulation even if you invest in a pricey backpack cooler. How often you open the lid, temperature, and the sunlight the cooler is exposed to will all impact how long the cooler's contents stay cool.
To increase the insulation capabilities of your cooler, you can fill it up with ice packs a few hours before you head out on the road. This will effectively reduce the interior temperature and help it stay colder for longer.
Check out the manufacturer’s claimed ice retention before buying; most brands provide this information to let customers know how long it can stay cool, on average.
Different kinds of soft, pliable fabrics are used to manufacture cooler bags. Interiors are usually made with open-cell foam or closed-cell polyurethane foam, though the latter is typically used in higher-end models because of its superior cooling abilities.
However, if you intend to store food such as produce and vegetables, it would be wise to choose interior linings that are also food-safe.
When it comes to exteriors, choose a cooler pack made with durable polyester fabrics that are at least tear and rip-resistant. A cooler with waterproof material is recommended if you intend to bring it with you on the beach or boating excursions. Avoid backpack coolers made with canvas or other fabrics that are not water-resistant because they are prone to leaking melted ice.
Keep in mind that the type and quality of materials used in backpack coolers (insulation, exterior, interior liner, back panel, shoulder straps, etc) will have a great influence on how waterproof it is. The fabrics will also play a role in its insulation, breathability, comfort, and durability.
As with other backpacks, premium fabrics will cost more. However, high-end fabrics will also last you a much longer time, especially in the outdoors, where regular exposure to the elements can damage a backpack more quickly.
Backpack coolers come in a variety of designs: some are softer and more comfortable, while others are more rigid and tough.
Check for the bag’s denier rating, which tells you how thick and durable the fabric is. Coolers with more solid construction and shape will usually have a higher denier rating (around 800-1000D); these are better suited for rugged outdoor use.
Softer backpacks are more comfortable to wear. They may break easily but are recommended for casual, occasional outdoor use.
Without quality waterproof materials and construction, a backpack cooler can be prone to spills, risking the safety of the rest of your gear. The exterior fabrics and interior liners should be waterproof to prevent this; also look out for welded seams and a waterproof lid zipper. If the exterior fabric produces condensation due to its contents, you may also have to deal with puddles later on.
Some people may also appreciate water-tight and airtight backpack coolers. Water-resistant zippers are excellent for this, as well as preventing leaks. Some coolers are made with dry-bag materials, which even allow you to submerge them in water.
A waterproof model is perfect for paddleboarding, boating, kayaking, fishing, and other water sports.
Backpack coolers make traveling or hiking with cold drinks so much easier.
That said, they aren’t meant to be carried for long periods of time. They are not like backpacking backpacks that you can trek distances with because the nature of their contents is simply far too heavy for one person to haul for several hours at a time.
Most people can carry backpack coolers for under an hour. Perhaps you just need to transport drinks from a vehicle to a campsite, a tailgating party, short day hikes, or a nearby beach.
Regardless of where you are going, always go for backpack coolers that have adjustable, wide, padded straps for added comfort. Padded shoulder straps are non-negotiable; otherwise, thin straps may dig into your shoulders and be uncomfortable to carry.
Some backpack coolers are equipped with padded back panels for more support and comfort. Some models have hip straps to distribute the weight to your hips – this is an extremely handy feature for those who will be walking long distances.
Backpack cooler prices range from $25 to as much as $700. There are many things that affect the price, such as the brand, insulation, size, and materials used.
The most popular backpack cooler models have an average price of around $50, which is fair if you are buying from a reputable brand that is known for durability. You’ll be able to score a great deal if a brand goes on sale too.
Optional Features To Consider
Check out these additional features to consider before buying a backpack cooler:
Pockets and compartments allow you to keep your valuables, not just perishables, in your backpack cooler. For example, you might find it handy to have a small zip compartment on the cooler exterior as storage for your keys, phone, or wallet. Side pockets are beneficial for keeping other valuables, such as your utensils or water bottles, in easy reach.
These are extremely helpful, especially if you don’t plan on bringing another bag for a day at the beach. Bonus points if the pockets are waterproof too. It will give you a bit more assurance that your essentials stay dry even when there is some precipitation from the cooler’s contents.
Being able to switch from backpack to a hand-carried cooler is a convenient option for some travelers. The top handle will allow you to grab the cooler by your hands and transport it a short distance, in case your back starts hurting or you want to give your shoulders a break.
A beer opener is a useful extra feature that is found in many cooler products. If you frequently tend to forget to bring a beer bottle opener, this will come in handy. Few things can be more disappointing than setting out to relax in your campsite after hours of driving, only to realize you left a beer opener behind.
Durable & Easy Clean Bottoms
The bottom of a backpack cooler will be exposed to sand, soil, dirt, rocks, and other terrain. That said, it’s going to get dirtier much quicker than the rest of the pack.
Backpack coolers with reinforced bottoms, and those that are easy to clean with a quick wipe, will save you loads of cleaning time. More durable bottoms will also last longer.
Our Recommendations for the Best Backpack Cooler
There are plenty of great backpack coolers in the market. Choosing the right one can be daunting, but in this section of the article, you can browse a list of consumer picks that are popular.
Read the review, then click on the links to find out more about them (note: we earn a small commission if you decide to purchase any of these coolers):
Yeti Hopper Backflip 24: Yeti, a renowned American brand name specializing in insulated drinkware and outdoor accessories, has an incredible line of coolers with serious outdoor enthusiasts in mind. The Yeti Hopper Backflip 24, together with the Yeti Hopper M20, are two of its most famous products in the backpack cooler category.
However, the Hopper is slightly larger, plus it’s wider and taller than other Yeti backpack coolers. It’s one of the pricier models out there, but it’s certainly constructed with world-class tech and parts that ensure it lasts a lifetime. The ColdCell rubber foam insulation offers superior cooling, while the 840D double-sided thermoplastic insulation is ultra-tough.
In addition, Yeti’s Tough DryHide exterior shell is resistant to damage caused by UV rays, punctures, and mildew. Inside, it can hold up to 20 cans. Aside from drinks, the elegant yet useful HitchPoint Grid accessory attachment on the front lets you easily attach other gear.
Trek and travel in comfort thanks to the Yeti Hopper’s ergonomic shoulder straps with padding. The removable hipbelt and chest strap lend more support, while the Hydrolok Zipper is completely waterproof for your peace of mind.
Rockbros Backpack Cooler: The Rockbros Backpack Cooler is a tough, durable option that will keep your drinks cool for up to 68 hours. It’s designed with air-tight zippers that are sure to prevent the loss of cool air, perfect for transporting meat, cheese, and other temperature-sensitive foods – ensuring they are fresh when it’s time for lunch or dinner.
The unisex design makes this backpack cooler essential for adventurous men and women. Constructed with leak-resistant fabric, you can take this cooler with you to picnics, barbecues, camping, and many other activities. Inside, it can store at least 36 cans plus ice – lots of space for a weekend of fun in the outdoors.
The Rockbros Backpack Cooler has an oval zippered opening for easy access, and the T-shaped slider, as well as the serrated zippers, contribute to fuss-free organization and packing. Reach for your favorite ice-cold beverage in no time as soon as you’ve arrived at your destination. Other great features include the high-density insulation foam made from waterproof 840D Nylon and TPU, airtight zippers, and padded shoulder straps.
It also comes with thoughtful accessories, including key rings where you can attach gear and durable yet simple buckles that enable you to mount and dismount whenever you need to. The Rockbros Backpack Cooler is a winner for any adventure.
Icemule Boss: The Icemule Boss is recommended for travelers who need loads of space. Whether you are transporting cans, wine bottles, meat, cheese, or other food, you’ll certainly have ample space inside this cooler. The Muleskin exterior can tolerate harsh conditions and hot temperatures while protecting the bag’s contents and providing superior insulation for up to 24 hours.
The top opening is 20” large, and it has large zippered pockets on the front and sides for your dry valuables. Exterior bungee storage in the front is ideal for additional attachments. It boasts multi-day ice retention, perfect for longer adventures, enabling you to enjoy cold drinks for days in a row.
The Icemule Boss is designed with a roll-top opening, making it easy to load and locate all the items inside with ease. You can even take this with you on sea excursions and water sports: it’s completely waterproof and buoyant. This cooler is constructed with welded seams plus a waterproof top zipper closure.
Even if you’ve packed the cooler to the brim, it ensures users are always comfortable. Two padded air mesh straps, a sternum strap, and a cushioned hip belt leave your hands free to hold your outdoor gear while ensuring proper weight distribution. Given all the fantastic qualities and features of the Icemule Boss, this is a cooler backpack definitely worth investing in.
Polar Bear Soft Side Cooler Backpack: The Polar Bear Soft Side Cooler Backpack is an affordable product considering the premium fabrics and parts used to construct this incredible, lightweight cooler. It can keep ice for as long as 24 hours, even when it’s blistering hot outside!
The food-grade TPU double-coated nylon interior lining lets you store just about any perishable goods, with the assurance that it won’t spoil. Meanwhile, the rugged outer shell is made from 840D luggage-grade nylon, one of the toughest fabrics out there that can withstand everything in the outdoors. The heavy-duty YKK zippers are weatherproof and rust-proof as well.
The Polar Bear Soft Side Cooler Backpack is equipped with a zippered pocket on each side for dry goods, even a small water bottle and other belongings. Overall, this is among the best backpack coolers in the market – you can’t go wrong with this choice.
Coleman 28-Can Backpack Soft Cooler: If you are budget-conscious or looking for a backpack cooler for casual, infrequent use, look no further than the Coleman 28-Can Backpack Soft Cooler. Its sleek yet rugged style doesn’t look like a backpack cooler at all – yet it’s a high-performance choice that’s big on functionality and comfort.
It can accommodate up to 28 cans, perfect for going to the beach or tailgating with your crew. Heat-welded seams prevent any leaks, and excellent insulation keeps your drinks cold for hours. The adjustable padded straps are extremely comfortable to wear, while the spacious front compartment lets you easily grab snacks, napkins, and other gear.
The Coleman 28-Can Backpack Soft Cooler is also designed with an antimicrobial liner, which prevents mold, mildew, and odors from forming. Easy to clean, terrific value, washable, and compact: what else could you want out of a great-looking backpack cooler?
Hydroflask 20L Day Escape: It just seemed right that Hydroflask, a brand name that’s famous for beautiful and colorful world-class insulated bottles, released a line of stunning backpack coolers. The 20L Day Escape has quickly become one of the top backpack coolers in the market not long after its release – and it’s easy to understand why.
Made from toxin and BPA-free materials, you can have the assurance that your food and drinks won’t be contaminated. The waterproof zipper and airtight seams ensure that nothing leaks or spills. It promises 36 hours of insulation in a sturdy, elegant backpack cooler design.
Fans of Hydroflask’s other products will be delighted to know that the Day Escape comes with welded loops, from where you can quickly attach other items from the brand. The cooler, made from 600D polyester, is among the lightest around.
Hydro Flask is a trusted brand, so you can be assured that this backpack cooler will not disappoint.
Backpack coolers are an effective way to travel while keeping your food and drink cold for several hours. There are many high-quality options to choose from, making it easy to find one that caters to your travel needs.