8 Best Cooler Backpacks | March 2017

Tote all the drinks and food you need while keeping them nice and cool in one of these cooler backpacks. These insulated carry-alls make it easy to prepare for picnics, beach outings, camping or hiking, or let students and office workers take their own lunch each day. Skip to the best cooler backpack on Amazon.
8 Best Cooler Backpacks | March 2017

Overall Rank: 5
Best Mid-Range
Overall Rank: 1
Best High-End
Overall Rank: 3
Best Inexpensive
Don't let its stylish looks trick you, the Picnic at Ascot Diamond Collection Cooler Backpack is a formidable piece of hardware, capable of toting 22 cans with ease. It has shoulder straps and a handle for your convenience.
If you don't mind colors and a pattern that grab the attention, you certainly won't mind the overall quality of the Picnic Time Pismo Insulated Cooler Backpack, either. It has dual internal compartments and exterior cargo space.
The Eastsport Backpack is a unique blend, as it has both an electronics pocket and a cooler pocket. The slot for your laptop or tablet is carefully padded, while the compartment for your lunch or beverages is carefully insulated.
The Igloo 59804 Realtree Hard Top cooler backpack is a great choice for the camper or hunter. Its coloration and pattern blend in with the wilderness, and its hard top compartment protects sundry goods. The shoulder straps are padded and adjustable.
  • leak-resistant antimicrobial liner
  • separate front zipper pocket
  • fabric tears easily under load
Brand Igloo
Model 59804
Weight 1.1 pounds
The OAGear Cooler Sports Pack is a basic, no-frills way to get cold foods from point A to point B. It has padded straps, two exterior pockets, and it is priced fairly. It won't win any beauty contests, but it was never meant to. Good to use with ice too.
  • weighs just 1.5 lbs. empty
  • wide mouth opening
  • zipper sometimes separates from fabric
Brand Outdoor Active Gear
Weight pending
The Picnic Time Zuma Insulated Cooler Backpack comes in an array of bold colors or in a demure black or beige. No matter the look you choose, you'l love its twenty-can capacity and its external mesh pockets, which add cargo space.
  • straps have air mesh undersides
  • handy cell phone pocket
  • heat-sealed, water-resistant lining
Brand Picnic Time
Model 634-00-139-000-0
Weight 1.6 pounds
The Hydracentials Insulated Backpack Cooler has a durable PEVA insulated liner that keeps its contents cooler, or warmer, and also resists punctures and tears. The pack also has two mesh pockets for water bottles. It's tough enough to carry heavy loads too.
  • zipper compartment on top
  • exterior is durable 420d polyester
  • great low price tag
Brand Hydracentials
Model pending
Weight pending
The Polar Bear Coolers Backpack is not joking around when it comes to keeping it cool. This pack can keep ice frozen for 24 hours in temperatures measuring as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It can also keep foods warm. It's not machine washable, but is easy to wipe clean.
  • 1000 denier cordura nylon shell
  • leak-proof and sweat-proof design
  • ergonomic and supportive straps
Brand Polar Bear Coolers
Model PB 295-P
Weight pending

Carrying The Cool

A good cooler is a necessary item for your safety, especially if you're consuming foods that have a tendency to decay quickly and attract dangerous bacteria with ease. Less dire, but equally important in the eyes of many, is the pleasure that increases when foods and beverages remain at their proper temperatures. Whatever your concern, whether it be food safety or food flavor, the backpack coolers on our list give you a portable opportunity to take care of both.

Coolers operate by simple tenets of thermodynamics, specifically by reducing conduction and convection. Conduction occurs when molecules in higher states of excitement (hot ones) bump up against those in lower states of excitement (cold ones) and transfer some of their energy.

Picture a quiet bookworm studying away in the library. A bunch of loud jocks charge in, making noise, shutting his books on him, breaking his glasses, etc. At a certain point, the bookworm snaps, and screams at the jocks, maybe even getting violent himself. It's as though their energy transferred over to him. This is conduction in a library nutshell.

Convection transfers energy in a similar process, but it's dependent on currents of air. Using the analogy above, it'd be more like a parade of flying jocks passing over and harassing the bookworm, rather than a single group getting up next to him.

Coolers minimize both of these phenomena by insulating their interiors against them with a thick layer of foam. Styrofoam was once popular for this, but its environmental impact was too great, and manufacturers have since switched to ABS resins and urethane materials. What all of these insulators have in common is a peppering of air pockets throughout their cores, which stifles the flow of heat energy by letting the gasses within them receive and contain the excitement.

As long as you keep a well-insulated cooler closed as often as possible to reduce the transfer of heat energy by air currents (convection), your food and drinks should stay cool (or hot, if that's your thing) for hours, even days.

Where Will You Take The Cold?

I would advise against heading down to your local big box department store, buying a large, rectangular cooler and couple of tow straps, then lugging the giant thing around on your back. It's senseless when such wonderful cooler backpacks exist. At their hearts, each of these backpacks is simply a soft-shelled cooler with straps attached to it.

While perusing our list, it'd be helpful to ask yourself how far you need to take your cooler, and into what environment. The answers to these questions should narrow down your selection process to only one or two models.

For example, if you're headed into the wilderness, and you're using the cooler to keep perishable foods fresh, it'd be wise to get the model with the most comfortable straps for long hikes. Conversely, if you're only headed to a picnic or an outdoor concert, you don't need your cooler to look or work like a backpacking rig.

In either case, it's also vital to consider how many people you intend to feed out of the cooler. The internal dimensions of each cooler range from sizes ideal for one or two diners to sizes suited for up to four people. Depending on the types of food the group eats, having extra storage compartments for dry goods, napkins, flatware, etc., might be a smart idea.

Once you've taken all of these variables into account, you can fall back on style. After all, and especially if you're doing the outdoor concert thing, you'll have your cooler strapped to your back where many eyes can see. You'll want to get something that works with your common attire. Maybe try pairing it with your favorite jacket or hat, so it'll always match a part of you.

Sealing In Centuries Of Ice

It's hard to imagine a time before convenient access to ice and refrigeration. I've taken my fair share of risks eating foods that had been left out a little too long in the heat, and I've been lucky in my body's response for the most part. Others throughout history have not been so lucky.

Attempts to preserve food and maintain stores of ice have dotted the landscape of human eating for centuries. In the cliffs above the Lincoln Tunnel heading into New York City from New Jersey, you will find old caves carved out of the rock face where, in centuries past, ice-hauling ships installed blocks of frozen water from the north to cool stores of locally brewed beer.

For the larger portion of cooling history, the devices and methods in question had only industrial uses, and it wasn't until the common ice box–the predecessor to the modern refrigerator–hit the scene, that things began to change for the average consumer.

While iceboxes have been around since the middle of the 19th century, the cooler as we know it wouldn't make its debut for another 100 years. In 1951, an inventor from Illinois named Richard C. Laramy patented the first portable ice chest. By 1954, Coleman brought their first galvanized portable coolers to market, and the landscape of cool changed forever.

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Last updated: 03/30/2017 | Authorship Information