It's Time to Replace Your Cooler With One of These Awesome Insulated Backpacks

Our top pick is the spacious and durable Yeti Hopper Backflip 24.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Cooler backpacks
Courtesy of Amazon/Nordstrom/Otterbox

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 of drinks.

We recommend the Yeti Hopper Backflip 24 because it is highly durable and has an impressive 20-can capacity.

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.

Here are the best backpack coolers for every activity:

Best Overall: Yeti Hopper Backflip 24

Yeti cooler backpack
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: It has an ergonomic design with ample padding and support straps.

What to Consider: It's on the heavier side.

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. Its patented DryHide shell is made of dense fabric that is waterproof as well as resistant to UV rays and punctures, ideal for outdoor environments. Yeti's MagShield Access allows users to easily open and closes the top of the backpack with strong magnets that are leak-resistant. This cooler boasts space for 20 beer cans plus ice, so it will easily carry accommodate food and drinks for a group for a day. And, it has tough water and leakproof cooler zippers to prevent spillage from melted ice. Weighing 5.3 pounds, the backpack is on the heavier side, but the sternum strap and padded straps, and cushioned back should help with weight distribution while wearing the backpack.

Dimensions: 13.75 x 10 x 14.5 inches | Capacity: 19.8 liters | Weight: 5.3 pounds

Best Waterproof: IceMule Boss 30L Backpack

Icemule cooler backpack
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: It's completely waterproof and floatable.

What to Consider: It may feel slightly bulky or heavy.

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. The best part is this cooler is completely waterproof thanks to the patented waterproof MuleSkin material and zipper system at the top. And if the cooler ends up in the water, it has an air valve for pumping air into a layer of insulation making the cooler buoyant enough to float.

Dimensions: 12.5 x 9 x 25 inches | Capacity: 30 liters | Weight: 7.2 pounds

Best Collapsible: IceMule Pro

IceMule cooler backpack
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: It can be rolled up for easy storage.

What to Consider: Users may notice condensation on the bottom of the backpack when it's filled with ice.

The smaller IceMule Pro is also popular, winning Outdoor Gear Lab's top pick across the soft cooler category. It's fully collapsible and can easily roll up when you aren't using it, making it ideal for storing the backpack at home or placing it into another bag when all of the contents are gone. Similar to the IceMule Boss 30L Backpack, the IceMule Pro is completely waterproof and the dry bag-style top closure keeps its contents sealed even when it's — hopefully not — floating downriver. And it has an air valve to make the backpack float if it's being used on the water.

Dimensions: 11.02 x 14.17 x 16.93 inches | Capacity: 23 liters | Weight: 4.4 pounds

Best Lightweight: Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler

Coleman cooler backpack
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: It weighs just over 1 pound.

What to Consider: It has a smaller 10-liter capacity.

Camping standby Coleman's soft backpack is the perfect cooler backpack for hiking, biking, or any other activity where the weight on your back could be uncomfortable over time. Weighing 1.06 pounds, the cooler can still fit an impressive 28 cans and it has a spacious front pocket for storing a sandwich or snacks. There are two mesh slip pockets on either side of the backpack to hold a water bottle or a few more snacks for an outing. While the capacity is smaller than other backpack coolers on our list, we think this one is a solid pick for outdoor activities or everyday use,

Dimensions: 12.2 x 6.3 x 19.29 inches | Capacity: 10 liters | Weight: 1.06 pounds

Best Organization: Tourit Cooler Backpack

Tourit cooler backpack
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: There are lots of pockets.

What to Consider: The backpack isn't waterproof.

Another stealthy option, the Tourit Cooler Backpack has plenty of pockets for storing picnic essentials. The main compartment is lined with leak-proof insulation and it has a large 25-liter capacity for drinks and food. For other items like snacks, utensils, or a picnic blanket, there are two large front pockets, a top pocket, two mesh slip pockets on the side, and there are front adjustable straps for holding a rolled-up blanket. The backpack weighs just 1.6 pounds, making it a great option for those in search of a lightweight backpack, too.

Dimensions: 17.75 x 11.8 x 7 inches | Capacity: 25 liters | Weight: 1.6 pounds

Best for Families: Petunia Pickle Bottom Axis Insulated Backpack

Black and grey insulated cooler backpack
Courtesy of Nordstrom

Why We Love It: It includes thoughtful features for parents like a removable changing pad.

What to Consider: Only the bottom compartment is insulated.

If all you need is a smaller insulated pocket, try out this street-friendly backpack that comes with a bottom cooler compartment. Perfect for parents, the bottom compartment can fit plenty of drinks and snacks without taking up the entire backpack. The main storage is spacious enough for jackets, toys, and electronics, which are stored separately from the cooler. Other family-friendly features include two D-rings on either side making it easy to clip the bag onto a stroller with valet clips and the backpack comes with a removable machine-washable changing pad.

Dimensions: 17 x 12 x 6 inches | Capacity: 22.4 liters | Weight: 2.2 pounds

Best Discreet: Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack

Black backpack
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: It doesn't look like a bulky cool backpack.

What to Consider: Only the bottom compartment is insulated.

This canvas Carhartt backpack looks like a standard backpack on the outside, but inside you'll find a soft cooler compartment that can hold 12 cans and an ice pack. The backpack splits into two main compartments where the insulated bottom pouch will keep beverages or food cold for up to 24 hours. For items that don't need to be kept cold, the top compartment is spacious enough to fit picnic essentials, jackets, or snacks. Whether you're commuting to work or going for a hike, this backpack is equipped for any type of adventure.

Dimensions: 12.5 x 8 x 17.75 inches | Capacity: Not listed | Weight: 1.45 pounds

Best for Picnics: Seehonor Insulated Cooler Backpack

Grey and black cooler backpack
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: The rectangular shape makes it easy to pack food containers.

What to Consider: It could be hard to store the cooler with its unique shape.

This cooler backpack has an impressive 25-liter capacity, with a roomy insulated main compartment, as well as exterior pockets for wine bottles, dishes, and more. The slip pockets on the side can fit up to four wine bottles without sacrificing room for meals in the main compartment and the backpack has a built-in beer bottle opener. The rectangular shape is ideal for efficiently packing food containers, but it might be tough to find room to store the backpack if you don't have a lot of storage room. However, given its space and organization, this backpack is a must-have for picnics.

Dimensions: 13.3 x 8.6 x 14.9 inches | Capacity: 25 liters | Weight: 1.5 pounds

Best Style: Picnic at Ascot Insulated Backpack Cooler

Navy insulated cooler backpack
Courtesy of Wayfair

Why We Love It: The canvas fabric exterior appealing for a variety of activities.

What to Consider: There isn't a larger zippered pocket for storing valuables like a wallet or phone.

Whether you're tailgating or picnicking, this insulated cooler backpack is helpful for any occasion with its large interior compartment that holds up to 22 cans and the lining is completely leak-proof so you won't have to worry about melted ice. The exterior boasts one zippered pocket on the top of the bag and four slip pockets for storing water bottles, umbrellas, or extra snacks. We think the sporty canvas fabric and classy gold hardware make it the perfect carryall for a range of activities where perishables need to be kept cool.

Dimensions: 14 x 11 W x 8 inches | Capacity: Not listed | Weight: 2.7 pounds

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Travel + Leisure writers are experts when it comes to researching and recommending products to make traveling easier. Rena Behar has been writing and editing for over eight years and has traveled to 18 countries. She thoroughly researched and vetted backpack coolers to recommend the best ones on the market for a variety of uses.

Love a great deal? Sign up for our T+L Recommends newsletter and we'll send you our favorite travel products each week.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles