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11 Best Insulated Backpack Coolers

By Andrew Peloquin  |  Updated November 29, 2023

11 Best Insulated Backpack Coolers
Courtesy of YETI

A backpack cooler is the perfect summer companion.

Think about it: they’re built with the cold-trapping properties that keep your drinks frosty for hours at a time, but they’re also designed to be a backpack you can easily sling on your back at a moment’s notice.

Over the last few summers, I’ve fallen in love with backpack coolers. They’re honestly the perfect blend of convenience and versatility. All I’ve got to do is fill them with my favorite bevvies and I’m ready for any summer beach, lake, river, or camping trip. Heck, I can even hoof them up a mountain and enjoy a cold one with a spectacular view.


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
  • Take-anywhere design: These coolers are built to be easy to carry anywhere, but are built tough enough to withstand the rigors of a hike, kayak trip, or bike ride.
  • Built to accommodate weight: Water weighs roughly 1 pound per pint, so that 24-pack of beer will end up adding a lot of extra weight to your walk or hike. Thankfully, backpack coolers are designed with features that support and distribute the weight efficiently to make it easier to hoof over long distances.
  • Insulation matters: Every brand has their own claims of their insulation’s effectiveness (X number of hours kept cold or hot). Always read reviews (and, if possible, test yourself) to know exactly how long your items will be insulated within these backpacks.

I’ve spent three years testing out all the top-rated backpack coolers on the market, assessing all the factors that matter most: durability, insulation properties, convenience, comfort, and versatility.

Check out my list of the best cooler backpacks below. I guarantee one of them will be just the thing to serve your needs to perfection, giving you an easy, comfortable way to make sure you’ve always got a drink close at hand.

Best Overall

YETI Hopper M20 Backpack Soft Cooler

Why did I choose it?

Padded for comfortable carry, insulated to preserve interior temperatures for days, and made from a truly tough fabric that can withstand just about anything, it’s the backpack cooler I recommend to anyone and everyone who asks.



Best Overall

YETI Hopper M20 Backpack Soft Cooler


$325
 

No one does cooling like YETI. Their travel mugs are my all-time favorite for keeping my iced coffee frosty and my cappuccinos piping hot. So when I saw they released a backpack cooler sized to fit 18 cans (plus ice!), I knew I had to get my hands on one. Money well spent, I promise.

This soft backpack is incredibly comfortable, with an ergonomic design and well-padded shoulder straps that I’ve literally hauled for 2+ hours with no discomfort or shoulder strain.

The interior features ColdCell Insulation (closed cell technology) that guarantees not a wisp of cold air can escape, and it’s sealed using a special magnetic closure system that snaps open easily but seals the backpack airtight.

Add to that a UV, puncture, and scuff-resistant exterior made from DryHide high-density nylon, and it’s a durable solution that can withstand hardcore hikes, treks, mountain climbs, and my weekly kayaking adventures.






IceMule Boss


$280
 

The IceMule Boss cooler is designed to be your constant companion no matter how far out into the wild you venture or how tough the terrain.

One look at the backpack, and you’ll see why it became one of my instant favorites. The cooling container is built into a waterproof, ultra-rugged backpack, which features MOLLE webbing that lets me customize what I carry, three insulated cargo pockets, industrial clip points, a hyper-tough MuleSkin exterior, and double-padded, mesh-backed straps.

Add to that a cooler bag of your desired size—I prefer the 20-liter size, but the IceMule (not the Boss) is available as small as 9 liters—and it’s the perfect recipe for summer relaxation.

I can personally attest that the cooler bags are capable of keeping your food cold and ice frozen for up to two days. It took 52 hours after loading for my ice to be fully melted.






Hydro Flask 20L Day Escape Soft Cooler


$200
 

When I pack for an overnight camping escape with just my wife, this is the cooler I’ll usually take because it’s sized just right for two. Thanks to its 20-liter size, it’s got space enough for food, drinks, and fresh water for a simple dinner and breakfast, and it keeps the food cold for up to 36 hours at a time.

It’s waterproof and wonderfully lightweight, with padding on the straps and back panel that makes it comfortable to haul to and from my camp site. It’ll also stand up on its own (thanks to the compression molded base) and the zipper top makes accessing its contents a breeze.

It’s tough enough that I can throw it in the back of my kayak or onto my paddleboard and use it to bring food and drinks across a lake or downriver. Adventure-ready all the way.






Igloo Pursuit 24-Can Backpack


$90
 

What makes this Igloo cooler backpack worth including on my list? I definitely appreciate its 24-can capacity, the built-in bottle opener, the included storage pocket, the adjustable and ultra-comfortable straps, and its waterproof design.

But what makes it a real winner in my book is that it’s one of the more affordable options on the list, too, and backed by the quality manufacturing that makes Igloo one of the best-known names in the cooler game.

The backpack itself weighs just over two pounds, and is just 19 inches tall—small enough to fit into the trunk of my Toyota Corolla or any corner of my RV or truck bed.

It’s super tough and even includes extra space to carry other picnic and camping supplies that my wife likes to pack for a “classy” evening meal or snack with the kids.

Thanks to the addition of the top grab handles and quick-grab side handles (on top of the standard backpack straps), we can always find the easiest, most comfortable way to carry it.






Carhartt Insulated 24-Can Two Compartment Cooler Backpack


$65
 

My household has been die-hard Carhartt users for years, because they make some of the best, most reliable work gear for my mechanic and welder sons. So when I spotted this bad boy for sale, I snapped it up to give it a try.

It’s a purchase I haven’t regretted once. Sized for 24 cans, it’s got two compartments—one for food and drinks, one for accessories and extras—so I can pack everything I need for a proper picnic or a full day of paddleboarding on my favorite lake.

The 600-denier fabric is tough, waterproof, and abrasion-resistant. I’ll strap it to my paddleboard and take it out on the water with me to enjoy a snack or drink while floating on the lake.

Thanks to the front zippered pocket, two mesh pockets, and attached key fob, I’ve got all the storage space needed for my EDC gear and even somewhere to stash my empties and wrappers.






Pelican Dayventure Backpack Cooler


$280
 

Out of all the backpack coolers I’ve tested, I have yet to find one as versatile as this Pelican backpack cooler. I recommend it as the ideal companion for an overnight or day-long adventure.

The dedicated cooler compartment at the bottom can store up to 6 cans, and features both a closed-cell insulated wall and waterproof/leakproof design. The compression molded base ensures it can stand up on its own even when empty, making it easy to add in the extra supplies—snacks, water, chips, even a rolled-up blanket—into the upper compartment via the wide roll-top opening.

The puncture-resistant material is more than capable of keeping up with any outdoor adventure—I’ve taken it hiking, car camping, kayaking, and paddleboarding. It’s tough enough that I can see it withstanding many happy years of use.






REI Co-op Cool Trail Split Pack Cooler


$79
 

REI is a brand best-known for its adventure-ready gear, not just clothing, but also bags and backpacks like this amazing cooler backpack.

Sized to hold 12 cans plus six ounces of ice, it’ll keep its chill for up to 40 hours in its removable (and easily washed) cooler insert.

The backpack itself can hold up to 31.5 liters, more than space enough for all your clothes, gear, and food for an overnight jaunt into the wilderness or a long-distance backpacking trip.

Weighing less than 3 pounds, it’s made using recycled materials that meet the BlueSign criteria, so it’s as eco-friendly as you are.






Coleman High-Performance Leak Proof Soft Cooler


$150
 

Wear this cooler bag like a backpack or carry it by the handles—however you transport it, rest assured that it’s got the chilling under control. It comes in three sizes (24, 30, and 42 cans), both in bag and wheeled cooler style, so it offers versatility as well as reliability.

My kids have put the welded construction to the test (you know how rough kids can be), and this bag has proven that it won’t break, tear, or leak.

The premium insulation offers an excellent 34 hours of cooling capacity. If I ever need more carrying space, the bungee straps integrated into the bag’s top makes it easy to strap additional supplies onto the pack.

Best of all, I never have to worry about forgetting to pack a bottle opener, because it comes with one built right into the straps.






Herschel Little America Backpack Pro


$140
 

With this backpack on your back, you can take the perfect picnic literally anywhere! It’s sized to fit 32 cans in its airtight, leakproof, and waterproof cooling compartment, which will keep your drinks cold for a full 24 hours (and then some!).

The attached carabiner doubles as a clip for your keys and a bottle opener. Thanks to the air mesh-padded straps, the bag will be comfortable on your shoulders all day long.

It’s also designed for extra carrying capacity, with a drawcord closure that can expand in order to accommodate additional gear—perfect for packing a blanket or sheet to put down on the ground to enjoy your outdoor feast.






BruMate BACKTAP


$200
 

It may look like a bucket on a pair of backpack straps, but the BruMate Backtap is so much more!

It’s really the ultimate cooling solution, featuring a stainless steel interior lining that locks in the chill for a full day and a tap that makes it easy to dispense your favorite alcoholic brew on the go.

It can hold 3 gallons of liquid (if you want to make “jungle juice” or margaritas for your trip or party), or it’s capable of storing 5 bottles of wine, 12 standard cans, or 14 slim cans, plus enough ice to keep everything frosty.

Backed by a 5-year warranty, it’s one of the toughest, most durable cooler backpacks on our list—and it makes drinking while you hike, or more likely, party, extremely convenient.






IceMule Jaunt Collapsible Backpack Cooler


$67
 

In all my testing, I have yet to find a backpack cooler as tough as the IceMule Jaunt Collapsible Backpack Cooler. Made from the brand’s proprietary “MuleSkin” synthetic fabric, it’s abrasion-resistant, puncture-resistant, stretch-resistant, and tear-resistant enough that it’ll last for years of regular use.

Thanks to the PolarLayer Insulation, the contents will stay cold for over 24 hours.

It’s a bit on the smaller side (just space enough for 6 cans plus ice), but it’s the ideal bag to pack for a quick afternoon or evening trip to paddle a nearby lake.

The backpack-style design makes it easy to carry when hiking or camping. When not in use, just roll it up like a dry bag and tuck it into any tote, backpack, or bag.

One very cool feature I love: the IM AirValve lets me inflate it with a bit of air so that when I’m kayaking or paddleboarding, it’ll float along beside me rather than weighing me down.





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