Coolers are a crucial piece of equipment for keeping food and drink cold when you’re spending time in warm weather, but hard-sided coolers can be a hassle to carry from place to place. Of course, they’re often bulky and heavy as well. That’s where the venerable backpack cooler comes in. This clever design allows you to carry drinks (and food) hands-free, wherever you roam, whether you’re embarking on a hike with friends or simply ending your day with a walk to the local lake. Of course, the best backpack coolers retain ice all day and are comfortable to carry.
Some backpack coolers on this list have storage space for dry goods, while others stick with the basics, like premium insulation and a strap system. And while you may or may not consider this a virtue, some make you look like an astronaut. Ready for liftoff? Check out our picks below to find the best option for your next adventure.
Best Backpack Cooler Overall
Versatile And Comfortable For Any Adventure
Best Lightweight Backpack Cooler
The Ideal Work Companion
Best Hiking Backpack Cooler
Supportive Pack For Day Hikes And Backcountry Picnics
Best Budget Backpack Cooler
Keep Your Lunch Cool On A Budget
Best Waterproof Backpack Cooler
Keep The Elements Out (And The Cold In)
Best Value Backpack Cooler for Day Use
All The Essentials, Without Breaking The Bank
Best Backpack Cooler for Ice Retention
Keep Your Goods Cool With This High-End Pack
What To Consider When Buying A Backpack Cooler
When you’re shopping for a backpack cooler, consider how you intend to use it. Do you need to keep food and drinks cold for a weekend trip, or will you be using it for less than 24 hours? High-end brands like Yeti and IceMule offer longer ice retention but premium insulation comes at a price. Alternatively, brands like Igloo and Arctic Zone are more affordable, but the ice will melt faster.
You should also consider how long you plan to carry your backpack cooler. If you’re hiking for more than a mile, look for a cooler with supportive and comfortable padding, as well as a hip or chest belt to reduce the weight on your shoulders.
Can You Put Dry Ice In A Backpack Cooler?
Most backpack coolers are soft coolers, which means they’re constructed from more pliable materials than those found in hard-sided coolers. With this in mind, you should avoid using dry ice in soft coolers as it could damage the insulation and soft materials.
How To You Keep a Backpack Cooler Cold As Long As Possible
To keep a backpack cooler cold as long as possible, you should pack it with pre-chilled food and drink and reference the manufacturer’s recommendations for the proper ice-to-goods ratio. Your primary cooling method should be ice blocks or ice packs, and then you can use ice cubes to fill in any empty space. When possible, chill your backpack cooler in the fridge or freezer before loading it up so your ice or cold packs won’t have to expend energy to cool down the backpack.