It’s Time to Replace Your Cooler With One of These Awesome Insulated Backpacks
If you haven’t shopped for a cooler in a while, you might hear the phrase “backpack cooler” and imagine strapping one of those classic Coleman red and white plastic rectangles to your back. Not a spinally appealing thought, but there’s no need to call up your chiropractor just yet. Backpack coolers are a more recent addition to the insulated cooler bag lineup. They still pack the insulation you need, but can be carried on your shoulders just like a standard backpack rather than wheeled over bumpy gravel or draped over one uncomfortable arm.
Some cooler backpacks are entirely insulated, while others have a split design to carry your room-temperature-friendly snacks on top. They also vary in which side of the cooler versus backpack aesthetic they lean toward, with some options looking stealthier than others. You want to find one that appeals to your use case and that you can comfortably carry even when it’s loaded with ice and a 24-pack.
In general, these are better suited to shorter outings than lengthy excursions. No matter the bag, nothing is light when it’s filled with ice and cans, and they will all interfere with your ability to carry a hiking pack. But whether you’re heading into the backcountry or a backyard, one of these should meet your needs.
Yeti Hopper Backflip 24
Unlike its namesake snowman, the Yeti backpack cooler is only mythical in how popular it is, winning praise from multiple publications for its durability, insulation, and comfort.
To buy: amazon.com, $300
Hydro Flask Unbound 22-liter Waterproof Cooler Backpack
Hydro Flask shipped ice to the T+L offices in this cooler and it lasted for more than 24 hours, which seems like solid proof of insulation to us, and it comes with reviews to back it up. It’s also one of the sleekest options on the market if you’re looking for something with a more modern design.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $275
Igloo Sportsman Backpack
The Boss earns its name with a slew of excellent reviews, and it’s got a full suspension carrying system with hip and sternum straps so you can carry it in comfort regardless of how heavy it gets. Every one of its pockets is padded and insulated, even the smaller outside ones.
To buy: amazon.com, $300
The smaller IceMule Pro is also popular, winning Outdoor Gear Lab’s top pick across the soft cooler category. It’s fully collapsible when you aren’t using it, and when you are, the dry bag–style top closure keeps its contents sealed even when it’s — hopefully not — floating downriver.
To buy: amazon.com, from $100
Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler
Camping standby Coleman’s soft backpack cooler looks just like a regular backpack, down to the front dry pocket for your non-cooler snacks, but also boasts a 28-can capacity in the insulated interior.
To buy: amazon.com, $26
Dakine Party Pack
With two attached koozies, a sneaky can-sized side pocket if you don’t want to open the full cooler, dry upper snack section, on-strap bottle opener, and even a fleece-lined sunglasses pouch, the Party Pack will make you the talk of your next barbecue.
To buy: amazon.com, $70
Tourit Cooler Backpack
Petunia Pickle Bottom Axis Insulated Backpack
If all you need is a smaller insulated pocket, try out this street-friendly backpack that comes with a bottom cooler compartment.
To buy: nordstrom.com, from $109