The best backpack cooler

Coolers

Only open your backpack cooler when necessary, and grab items quickly. The longer it’s open, the more chilled air will escape.

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Which backpack cooler is best?

With any physical activity, it’s important to stay hydrated. When that activity takes you outdoors, however, finding something suitably refreshing can be difficult. Backpack coolers offer you the chance to enjoy a cold beverage of choice even if you’re in the hot sun, humid forest, or simply away from a fridge. Backpack coolers are insulated and easy to carry and are offered in various sizes and weights to accommodate your needs.

Our buying guide details what you should look for, and, at the end, we also highlight our top pick from  Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack, which has plenty of pockets and compartments for all your must-have items.

Considerations when choosing backpack coolers

Size

Most backpack coolers measure size based on how many standard beverage cans they can hold. Some may hold as few as six, while others can go up to forty. Keep in mind that most large backpack coolers have separate compartments for food or other items. For hikes or camping, you may need storage for clothes, food and other personal items.

Weight

Most backpack coolers are relatively light at around two or three pounds, and rightly so. That’s because when filled with cans, ice, and any other items you may be bringing along on your excursions, the backpack is quite full and heavy. Consider the weight of a full backpack and if you or someone you’re with is up to the task of carrying it. After a couple of drinks or snacks, the backpack will lighten.

Structure

Most backpack coolers are soft, though some may be semi-rigid or hard. Softer backpacks are easier to carry and store, but hard options are likely more durable and can withstand more intense outdoor adventures. Harder options are less common and more expensive.

Insulation

Check to see how insulation is incorporated in your backpack cooler in order to note how easily items may warm up. The ice compartment needs to be sealed effectively; while most coolers boast long chill times, that’s under ideal circumstances and not necessarily the case when you’re regularly opening and closing the backpack. If the ice compartment is exposed to too much outside air, it won’t stay chilled as long. Some backpacks may come with ice packs or have compartments that can be enlarged or condensed with removable partitions.

Features of backpack coolers

Storage

Naturally, backpack coolers aren’t just for storing beverages. Many have a variety of other storage options that are worth considering, depending on the type of outdoor excursion you’re undertaking. Some back coolers have spots to safely store or clip sweaters, jackets, smartphones, tablets, food, and even bottles of wine. Take note of both internal and external compartments, and which ones are designed to allow for quick, easy access.

Price of backpack coolers

You can find a wide range of backpack cooler options with useful features for between $30-$50. Premium backpack coolers, which may feature extra durability or much longer cooling retention, may range much higher.

Top backpack coolers FAQ

Q. How do I clean and store a backpack cooler?

A. After use, make sure your backpack cooler is fully drained and left to completely dry before storing. You can use a damp cloth and soap to clean the fabric on the inside and out if needed. Provided it’s fully dry, you can usually simply hang or store the backpack in a closet or drawer.

Q. How long does a backpack cooler keep items chilled?

A. A variety of factors play a role in maintaining a cool temperature, but most backpack coolers are designed to keep things chilled for 24-48 hours. For maximum cooling, use larger blocks of ice around the items, with smaller cubes filling in gaps. Keep the backpack cooler crammed to reduce air circulation, and make sure all the compartments are fully zippered and sealed.

Backpack coolers we recommend

Best of the best

 Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack

 Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack

Our take: Large backpack complete with useful features and accessories for all outdoor excursions.

What we like: Mesh pockets for food and an insulated cooler compartment that can store up to 12 cans and keep everything cold for more than 24 hours.

What we dislike: Removing food can be tricky. Heavy when full.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best bang for your buck

Coleman’s Soft Backpack Cooler

Coleman’s Soft Backpack Cooler

Our take: Stylish soft backpack cooler that’s durable and reliable.

What we like: Quick access to compartments and pockets. Cooler holds up to 28 cans. Comfortable and adjustable fit.

What we dislike: Leaks may occur if the backpack ends up on its side.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

TOURIT Leak-Proof Soft Sided Cooler Backpack

TOURIT Leak-Proof Soft-Sided Cooler Backpack

Our take: Well-insulated, large backpack meant for keeping a lot of items cool for a long time.

What we like: Comfortable to wear. Easily accessible pockets for dry items. The strap has a beer opener. Can keep food hot or cold for up to three days.

What we dislike: When full, this backpack can be quite heavy.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Anthony Marcusa writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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