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 of drinks.
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
Hydro Flask Unbound 22-liter Waterproof Cooler Backpack
This cooler is one of the sleekest options on the market if you’re looking for something with a more modern design. Plus, it has an impressive 24 can capacity.
To buy: nordstromrack.com, $150 (originally $200)
IceMule Boss 30L 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: target.com, $350
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, $115
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 (originally $30)
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, $139
Otterbox Trooper 30
This cooler from Otterbox has a 30-quart capacity, though it's still comfortable to carry either as a backpack or on your shoulder. If you're looking for long term storage, this cooler is the way to go because it can keep ice up to three days.
To buy: otterbox.com, $300
Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack
This backpack looks pretty standard on the outside, but inside you'll find a soft cooler compartment that can hold 12 cans and an ice pack. Plus, it'll keep items inside the cooler cold for over 24 hours.
To buy: amazon.com, $65
Seehonor Insulated Cooler Backpack
This cooler backpack has an impressive 25 can capacity, with a roomy main compartment, as well as exterior pockets for wine bottles, dishes, and more. Given its space and organization, this backpack is a must-have for picnics.
To buy: amazon.com, $30
Picnic at Ascot Insulated Backpack Cooler
This insulated cooler backpack takes organization to the next level, with a large interior compartment that holds 22 cans, a zippered pocket, and four exterior pockets.
To buy: wayfair.com, $37 (originally $43)
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