Whether chilling poolside, paddling down the river, picnicking, or camping, cooler backpacks provide an efficient, easy-to-carry means to bring food and drinks with you, and have them stay chilled the whole time. There’s a lot of range in what’s on the market, so we laid out what you need to consider when choosing one — and listed a few top choices.
- Durability and Closures: Even if a backpack is leak proof or waterproof, its closure may not be. Look for waterproof zippers or roll-top closures if you want it to be truly impermeable. Likewise, the fabric used — inside and out — matters greatly as far as how long your cooler will last, but so does the quality and weight-bearing capacity of the seams, straps, and zippers.
- Capacity and Carrying Comfort: Different brands list their capacity differently, often in liters or cans…and with or without factoring in ice. Read carefully, check dimensions, and don’t assume an apples-to-apples comparison. Remember too that cooler contents are heavy, and consider the back support, strap comfort, etc. in choosing your pick.
- Cold Retention: You need different levels of chill for an afternoon picnic, a day hike, and a weekend camping trip. Likewise, the weather surrounding the cooler pays a role, so think about if the bag will be out in the sun, or mostly in a climate-controlled car.
- Leak Proofing: Between melting ice and condensation off of cold cans and packages, leak proofing is non negotiable on a backpack cooler, unless you’re hoping to get icy drips running down your back. Impermeable materials, as well as fully sealed (not stitched!) seams are essential.
Our Picks for the Best Cooler Backpacks on Amazon
Top Pick Overall: YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack
Affordable and Super Functional
At just over 10 percent of the price of our top pick, price is a category this one certainly wins. It’s leakproof, holds enough beverages for a few people, and has extra pockets to carry whatever other supplies you need. TOURIT
Chill Looks: Lekesky Cooler Backpack Large Insulated Cooler Bag
Function and Looks
If you want a unit that doesn’t scream its function, here’s the one for you. A twill-like appearance (that’s actually water-resistant heavy-duty polyester) and stylish handles and hardware give it a polished look. Lekesky
Cold and Casual: Wise Owl Outfitters Backpack Cooler – Ultra Insulated Waterproof Cooler Bag Back Pack
Roll-Top Dry-Sack Style
You know the impermeable dry sack for hauling camping gear…this is the adjustable air-padded version for keeping your food and beverages cold on the go. Wise Owl Outfitters