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The 8 Best Backpack Coolers in 2021

Keep your drinks cool with these hands-free solutions.

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It’s a fact—most outdoor summer activities are better with a cold beverage. Whether you’re going for a long, challenging hike or a mellow stroll on the beach, or just heading to the park to meet up with friends, it can be cumbersome to lug around a large, heavy cooler, particularly on a hot day. Backpack coolers are the perfect solution. Designed to be light, comfortable, and practical, they come in a vast array of sizes and styles to suit every occasion or excursion.

With a backpack cooler, your cold drinks can go wherever your feet can. Take a look at this curated list of best backpack coolers on the market right now, and see which one is best for you!

Best Overall: Igloo Reactor 24-Can Backpack

igloo-reactor-backpack

Courtesy of Igloo Coolers

Pros
  • Sleek, attractive design

  • Durable, waterproof, and effective

  • Comfortable and easy to wear

  • Can hold a bottle of wine upright  

Cons
  • Waterproof zipper can be challenging to grip 

  • Limited color options

This stylish, sleek backpack has a streamlined design that takes up minimal space while providing maximum functionality—all at a great price, considering the high-quality craftsmanship Igloo is known for.

Durable, waterproof exterior fabric, a sturdy, stable structure, and a leak-proof zipper help this cooler backpack withstand the elements through your outdoor excursion, while advanced insulation means that once the journey is over, you’ll be rewarded with a delicious, ice-cold drink. Padded and adjustable shoulder and sternum straps, as well as a padded back panel, offer plenty of comfort, while versatile carrying options (backpack straps, top handle, dual side handles) allow you to switch things up if you need a break. 

What’s included: Cooler backpack 

Best Budget: Wise Owl Outfitters Backpack Cooler 20 L

Wise Owl Outfitters Backpack Cooler 20 L

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Inexpensive

  • Compact, lightweight, comfortable 

  • Adjustable insulation

Cons
  • Not recommended for longer duration use 

  • Awkward closure system 

This leakproof, waterproof backpack cooler packs a lot of features into a compact, inexpensive package. Keep drinks ice cold all day long with soft layers of customizable insulation—an adjustable air valve lets you add or remove air as needed. Lightweight but durable, this bag is designed to withstand the elements, making it great for kayaking, hiking, camping, rafting, or just lounging on the beach. Adjustable straps ensure maximum comfort, wherever your adventure takes you. With ice, the Wise Owl backpack cooler holds up to 24 cans. 

What’s included: Backpack cooler 

Best Luxury/Splurge: IceMule Boss

IceMule Boss

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Long-lasting temperature control  

  • Large capacity

  • Engineered for maximum comfort 

  • Durable to withstand heavy use 

Cons
  • Bulky compared to similar styles

  • Expensive

This top-of-the-line backpack cooler is the winner for heavy-duty use. Serious outdoor adventurers agree that the functionality and performance of the IceMule Boss are second to none.

Lightweight and ergonomically designed—with padded air mesh shoulder straps, a cushioned hip belt, and a chest strap—this cooler backpack leaves your hands free to haul everything else you need for your adventure. Keep 24 cans ice-cold for up to two days while camping, fishing, backpacking, or rafting. No matter how extreme it gets, the waterproof, leakproof, ultra-durable Boss can handle it. 

What’s included: Backpack cooler 

Related: The Best Soft Coolers

Best Design: Corkcicle Brantley Backpack Cooler

Corkcicle Brantley Backpack Cooler

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Stylish, minimalist design

  • Comfortable and lightweight

  • Unisex design with several color options

Cons
  • Not ideal for long-duration use

  • Not a high-performance option

If your ideal summer day is focused more on socializing than sweating, a compact, simple backpack cooler with a fashion-forward design might be just right. This streamlined model from Corkcicle puts a modern spin on a chic classic, with clean lines and an assortment of color choices to match your personal aesthetic.

Stroll to the park or beach in style with up to 24 cans—or 16 cans, plus two bottles of wine. The zippered outside pocket is just the right size to hold all of your other small necessities, and each side of the bag has an expandable bottle sleeve, which can hold your water bottle...and perhaps a backup bottle of wine. 

What’s included: Backpack cooler

Best Set: Sunflora Picnic Backpack

Sunflora Picnic Backpack

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Includes everything you need for a four-person picnic

  • High quality

  • Stylish design in a range of colors

Cons
  • Blanket must be hand washed 

  • Some minor quality control issues

Packing a picnic is effortless with this backpack cooler set—just add food, drinks, and ice! The attractive, unisex design, available in several colors, comes with everything you need for a group of four, including plates, flatware, cloth napkins, plastic wine glasses, salt and pepper shakers, a cutting board, a bottle opener, an insulated wine pouch, a detachable waterproof ice pouch, and a fleece picnic blanket. The large, insulated food and drink compartment keeps your picnic at the perfect temperature for hours. This high-quality, well-priced picnic set also makes a great gift.

What’s included: Backpack cooler, plates, flatware, napkins, wine glasses, salt and pepper shakers, cutting board, bottle opener, insulated wine pouch, detachable waterproof pouch, blanket

Best Insulated: Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack

Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Attractive color options

  • Exceptional performance and durability

  • Sleek, modern design


Cons
  • Expensive

YETI is one of the top names in coolers, so it’s no surprise that their backpack cooler knocks it out of the park. The brand is known for its hip yet classic design, which is ideal for a cooler you intend to wear, especially since this one has the durability to last for many years to come. But aesthetics aside, the Hopper Backflip is also a top performer. Its thoughtful ergonomic design carefully distributes the contents’ weight, while padded chest, hip, and shoulder straps add comfort and stability so you’ll be happy to carry the bag as long as your drinks stay cold—which is a long time, thanks to YETI’s special rubber-foam insulation.

Any extra accessories you may need, like ice packs or bottle openers, can be purchased separately from YETI and attached to the outer grid loops.

What’s included: Cooler (compatible accessories sold separately)

Related: The Best Beer Koozies

Best For Durability: Otterbox Trooper Cooler

OtterBox Trooper Cooler

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Designed to maximize durability Lifetime warranty 

  • Insulation lasts up to 3+ days

  • Mounting system for accessories

  • Optional shoulder or backpack carry

Cons
  • Can be difficult to open and close

Otterbox is widely known for making practically indestructible mobile phone cases, so the company clearly knows a little something about durability. Case in point: the Trooper Cooler, a backpack designed to withstand the most rugged, harshest elements, while keeping its contents ice cold.

Rushing rapids and pounding waves are no match for the Trooper’s water-, puncture-, UV-, and chemical-resistant coated nylon exterior, and rough, abrasive surfaces can’t scratch its heavy-duty base. And since the Trooper is backed by a lifetime warranty, you can rest easy knowing you have a trustworthy sidekick for all of your future adventures. 

What’s included: Backpack cooler, bottle opener 

Best For Hiking: REI Co-op Cool Trail Split Pack Cooler

REI Co-op Cool Trail Split Pack Cooler

Courtesy of REI

Pros
  • Great for separating chilled items from other gear

  • Removable leak-proof cooler insert

  • Insulation lasts for up to two days

Cons
  • Smaller beverage capacity

  • Exterior is not waterproof 

For hikes that require more supplies than a few cold drinks, this split cooler backpack is perfect for storing all of your gear. The top compartment can hold everything you need for a day hike, while the removable cooler insert can keep twelve cans chilled for up to 40 hours. For hikes that don’t require ice (or for travel), you can still use this lightweight, comfortable bag, which meets TSA carry-on standards—just remove the cooler insert, and you’ve got the whole interior to work with. The bag’s front straps can hold a towel, blanket, or camp chair, and the external side pockets offer great bonus space.

What’s included: Backpack cooler

Related: The Best Coolers

Final Verdict

For its price, quality, durability, and efficiency, the Igloo Reactor 24-Can Backpack (view at Igloo) is outstanding. Its deceptively minimalist design offers everything you need in a backpack cooler without any unnecessary frills or gimmicks. From the social butterfly to the weekend warrior to the fearless explorer, everyone can appreciate this versatile, functional backpack cooler. 

FAQs

What is the average size and capacity of a backpack cooler?

Most backpack coolers are fairly compact—typically around 13-14 inches in length, 7-9 inches in width, and 17-19 inches in height, but this can vary widely depending on the style and function of the specific backpack cooler. Most can hold around 24 12-ounce cans, or 16 12-ounce cans and two bottles of wine, with ice. The general rule of thumb is to use a 2 to 1 ratio of ice to drinks—this is typically factored into the manufacturer’s capacity estimate. 

How heavy is the average backpack cooler?

Most backpack coolers are relatively lightweight when empty. The average backpack cooler weighs around 1-3 pounds, with higher-performance models often leaning toward the heavier end of the range. Naturally, the weight when the cooler is full will depend on its contents—including the ice, the liquids, and the containers that hold the liquids. 

What's the best way to clean a backpack cooler?

Most backpack coolers are easy to clean if they are not heavily soiled and can be cleaned just like any other hard or soft cooler. Empty the contents of your backpack cooler and hand wash with dish soap or mild detergent. If a deeper cleaning is needed, hose down the cooler and coat it with a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. Let it sit for several minutes before scrubbing and rinsing. You can also use disinfectant wipes to clean your backpack cooler. Ensure that the inside is completely dry before storing your backpack cooler. 

Why Trust Liquor.com?

Nikki Goddard is a wine writer with 14 years of industry experience as well as CSW and WSET Diploma certification. She is passionate about taking the intimidation out of wine education and has taught classes for WSET levels 2 and 3. In 2019, Nikki was named a top young wine writer by Vinous Media.

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