The 10 Best Cooler Backpacks

Updated March 27, 2018 by Gabrielle Taylor

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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Tote all the drinks and food you need while keeping them nice and cold in one of these cooler backpacks. These insulated carry-alls make it easy to prepare for picnics, beach days, camping, or hiking. They're also great for all-day family outings, like a trip to an amusement park, or making sure hungry mouths stay fed on long flights. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best cooler backpack on Amazon.

10. Tourit Insulated

The Tourit Insulated weighs just 1.1 pounds when empty, yet provides ample room for up to 28 cans, or anything else you need to keep you going on a day trip in the sun. Its durable construction from eco-friendly materials is well-protected against leaks.
  • can keep ice frozen overnight
  • rear bungee cord for gear attachment
  • zippers are cheap and fail quickly
Model pending
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. Igloo Marine Ultra

The Igloo Marine Ultra is a great choice for summertime hikes or trips to the beach, as its MaxCold insulation features plenty of foam to keep your food cold. The shoulder straps are padded and adjustable, and it's easy to clean, inside and out.
  • leak-resistant antimicrobial liner
  • corrosion-resistant hardware
  • straps are not very durable
Brand Igloo
Model 60429
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

8. Picnic at Ascot Diamond

Don't let its stylish looks trick you -- the Picnic at Ascot Diamond is a formidable piece of gear, capable of toting 22 cans with ease. It is equipped with shoulder straps and a handle for your convenience, plus two side pockets and a buckled rear compartment.
  • drawstring-secured side pouches
  • available in seven designs
  • strap stitching could be stronger
Brand Picnic at Ascot
Model 537-DO
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

7. Mojecto Heavy Duty

The Mojecto Heavy Duty is large and sturdy, with ample room for everything you and your family or friends will need to stay satiated. Its main compartment can hold up to 36 cans, and features an angled opening for easy access.
  • made from tear-resistant polyester
  • heat-sealed peva liner is removable
  • a bit wide for small-framed users
Model pending
Weight 2.6 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. OAGear 20 Can

The OAGear 20 Can is a basic, no-frills way to keep food cold from point A to point B. It has padded straps, two side mesh pouches, and one front zippered pocket. It's fairly priced, and may not win any beauty contests, but it was never meant to. It just gets the job done.
  • made of lightweight material
  • can hold up to 20 pounds
  • zippers could be more durable
Brand OAGear
Model wclbp-gray
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

5. VonShef 4 Person Picnic

An ideal companion for dining in the great outdoors, the VonShef 4 Person Picnic has room for everything you need. A large insulated compartment keeps your lunch cool, while side straps accommodate a blanket to ensure you have a comfortable seat wherever you go.
  • comes with four full place settings
  • includes salt and pepper shakers
  • stylish blue tartan design
Brand VonShef
Model 07/297
Weight 6.1 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

4. Oniva Zuma

The Oniva Zuma comes in bold blue or red, or in a demure black, but no matter which look you choose, you'll love its 13-can capacity and external mesh pockets. Plus, its noninsulated drawstring top compartment is great for non-food-related gear, like towels or clothing.
  • heat-sealed water-resistant lining
  • cell phone holder on strap
  • perfect for parents on the go
Brand ONIVA - a Picnic Time b
Model 634-00-139-000-0
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. IceMule Pro

Extra thick, but still lightweight, the IceMule Pro is great for longer trips when you'll be carrying it for a while. It sports a unique valve feature that allows you to add air for an extra layer of insulation, and once it's deflated, it rolls up compactly for storage.
  • welded seams make it waterproof
  • keeps ice frozen for 24 hours
  • available in a variety of sizes
Brand IceMule Coolers
Model 1010
Weight pending
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. Coleman Soft

While it may not be a conversation starter from a stylistic perspective, the Coleman Soft is an extremely functional option. It features two insulated compartments with a padded back and straps for comfort, plus a hip belt to keep the weight off your shoulders.
  • liner is bpa- and phthalate-free
  • a good choice for long treks
  • holds up to 28 cans
Brand Coleman
Model 2000015223
Weight pending
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Polar Bear Nylon

The Polar Bear Nylon is not playing around when it comes to staying cool. This pack can keep ice frozen for 24 hours in temperatures as high as 100º Fahrenheit, and can also keep food warm. It's not machine washable, but it is easy to wipe clean.
  • rugged tear-resistant shell
  • won't ever leak or sweat
  • ergonomic and supportive straps
Brand Polar Bear Coolers
Model PB 299
Weight 3.4 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

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 on March 27, 2018 by Gabrielle Taylor

Gabrielle is a writer and hopeful entrepreneur who hails from a tiny town in Virginia. Earlier in her career, she spent a few years in Southern California before moving back to the east coast (but she misses LA every day). An avid and enthusiastic home cook, she is somewhat of an expert at fending off attempted food thievery by her lazy boxer.

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