The 10 Best Backpack Coolers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

The Igloo Outdoor Pro Water Repellent Backpack Cooler is leak-proof and keeps drinks ice-cold for hours.

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Igloo Outdoor Pro Water Repellent Backpack Cooler

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

The beauty of a backpack cooler is that it combines the functionality of a cooler with the portability of a backpack, making it a must-have for outdoor enthusiasts. We tested 23 backpack coolers that are comfortable to wear and keep your drinks ice-cold for hours whether you’re spending a beach day with the family or hiking solo.

When testing the backpack coolers in our New York City lab, we evaluated and compared the bags based on design, capacity, portability, durability, and insulation. (Read more about our testing process below.) The Igloo Outdoor Pro Water Repellent Backpack Cooler has plenty of padding and adjustable straps for comfort, it didn’t leak at all, and it kept our seltzer cans perfectly chilled for several hours, making it the best pick for all types of adventurers. Keep reading to learn more about nine other backpack coolers that won categories after stellar performances during testing.

Best Overall

Igloo Outdoor Pro Snapdown 42-can Backpack

5
Igloo 36-42 Can Soft Sided Outdoor Pro Water Repellant Bags

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4.8/5
  • Insulation
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Portability
    5/5
  • Capacity
    5/5

Why We Love It: The backpack didn’t leak at all, plus the ice was intact and the cans were perfectly chilled after sitting out for a few hours.

What to Consider: It’s not the most stylish backpack cooler.

“I love how durable and secure this bag is,” a Travel + Leisure writer gushed after testing the Igloo Outdoor Pro Water Repellent Backpack Cooler. “After two hours, the cans were very cold and most of the ice was intact, so I'd feel comfortable taking this on a long day trip or camping trip.” This backpack cooler snagged the highest scores in all of our testing categories, but it particularly stood out for its functionality. It has a sturdy roll-top opening that made it simple to pack 40 cans that felt fresh out of the refrigerator after sitting for two hours. When we tested durability by throwing the cooler off of a table, there wasn’t a single can that was damaged and we didn’t see any leaking.

The ripstop poly materials feel tough and water-resistant, and the straps and back panel make the backpack more comfortable to wear and adjust for a customized fit. Plus, the bag has padded tote straps so it can be carried in several ways while on the go. Additionally, the two side pockets, back mesh pocket, front zippered pocket, and built-in bottle opener are thoughtful touches that solidified our decision to make this backpack cooler the overall winner.

Price at time of publish: $127

Dimensions: ‎13 x 7 x 17.5 inches | Capacity: 25 liters | Weight: 2.1 pounds

Best Multi-use

REI Co-op Cool Trail Pack Cooler

4.7
REI Co-op Cool Trail Pack Cooler

REI

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Insulation
    4/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Portability
    5/5
  • Capacity
    5/5

Why We Love It: The cooler insert can be removed so the bag can be used as a regular backpack.

What to Consider: There was quite a bit of leakage and melted ice after two hours.

We think the ability to use the REI Co-op Cool Trail Pack Cooler as a backpack cooler or as a regular hiking backpack makes it a winner for versatility. The cooler insert can be taken out of the bag for day trips, and when you want to have chilled drinks for an adventure, we found that the backpack has an excellent capacity that can fit 20 cans with ease. There are also several exterior pockets that are useful for other items like a water bottle or utensils. The adjustable straps and back panel are nicely padded with mesh fabric so the backpack was comfortable and breathable to wear while testing. However, when we threw the backpack on the ground, there was already a noticeable amount of melted ice leaking, and after two hours, most of the ice had turned to water. While the drinks were still very cold, we wish the zippers had been a bit more leak-resistant.

Price at time of publish: $100

Dimensions: 22 x 16 x 8.5 inches | Capacity: 30.5 liters | Weight: 3.5 pounds

Best Large Capacity

IceMule Boss 30 Liter Backpack Cooler

5
IceMule Boss 30 Liter Backpack Cooler

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Insulation
    5/5
  • Durability
    4.8/5
  • Portability
    5/5
  • Capacity
    5/5

Why We Love It: It’s a heavy-duty backpack cooler designed for outdoor use like camping, kayaking, or hiking.

What to Consider: The backpack feels a little bulky to wear.

The IceMule Boss 30 is fully equipped for any type of outdoor activity like a solo camping trip or family beach day. This heavy-duty backpack cooler is easy to pack with up to 24 cans and ice thanks to the roll-top that opens up to reveal a spacious rectangular main compartment. The backpack is made with IceMule’s welded MuleSkin fabric that is designed to be ultra-durable and waterproof. There’s an air valve that can be opened to fill up the insulated layer with air so the backpack can float, too. Our tester raved about the durability and design of the pack, saying that “it's clearly designed with durability and function at the forefront and it showed that during testing. The ice remains completely unmelted and the bag itself feels insanely durable.” We also like the insulated side and front pockets for storing snacks separately, and the adjustable backpack straps are padded for extra comfort, which helps distribute weight to offset the slightly bulky feel of the large cooler.

Price at time of publish: $375

Dimensions: 11.02 x 16.93 x 24.02 inches | Capacity: 30 liters | Weight: 7.9 pounds

Best Soft Bag

IceMule Pro Cooler 23L

5
IceMule Pro Cooler 23L

Walmart

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4.8/5
  • Insulation
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Portability
    5/5
  • Capacity
    5/5

Why We Love It: The capacity is generous for keeping lots of cans cold, and the bag can collapse down for easy storage.

What to Consider: It doesn’t have any other storage besides the insulated main compartment.

If you’re looking for a backpack cooler that doesn’t have a structured rectangular shape, consider the soft-side IceMule Pro. We love that the roll-top bag has more of a tote style to it, making it simple to load cans and ice into the main compartment. While the listed capacity is 18 cans, we could have easily fit double that amount plus ice thanks to the spacious interior. We were skeptical of the roll-top opening when it came to the leak test, but this backpack thoroughly impressed us by only leaking a drop or two after half the ice melted. Our drinks were still plenty chilled after two hours, and while we wish there was at least one external pocket, this backpack cooler is ideal for your next trip to the beach. And when the bag isn’t in use, it can easily be flattened for storage. “I love that this bag is collapsible and can be flat. It's ideal that you can tighten the side of the bag and the roll-top so you can adjust the height for more or less items,” a T+L writer shared.

Price at time of publish: $135

Dimensions: 11.02 x 14.17 x 16.93 inches | Capacity: 23 liters | Weight: 2.6 pounds

IceMule Pro Cooler 23L

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Best Lightweight

Igloo Pursuit 24-Can Backpack

4.6
Igloo Pursuit 24-Can Backpack

Igloo

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Insulation
    4.5/5
  • Durability
    3.5/5
  • Portability
    5/5
  • Capacity
    5/5

Why We Love It: The backpack is comfortable to wear, as it doesn’t feel bulky or stiff.

What to Consider: There was some leakage and broken cans after our durability test.

Igloo’s Pursuit Cooler Backpack weighs just under 2 pounds, making it one of the lightest backpacks we tested that still has a generous capacity. We had no issues packing 24 cans and ice in the main compartment through the rectangle-shaped opening at the top of the bag. While the bag has a structured style that stands upright, the backpack didn’t feel stiff or cumbersome to carry around like other structured backpacks we tried. We appreciated the adjustable chest and backpack straps for evenly distributing weight, and the cushioned back panel added extra comfort, too. The only downside to this backpack cooler is the durability, as we noticed the polyester material and zippers couldn’t contain the water from the melted ice, which led to a noticeable amount of leaking coming from the compartment. However, we still think that the backpack cooler did a great job of keeping our drinks chilled, and it was noticeably comfortable and lightweight, making it a great option for light hikes or walks on the beach. We suggest using ice packs instead of ice cubes to avoid leakage issues.

Price at time of publish: $160

Dimensions: 18.9 x 7.5 x 12.6 inches | Capacity: 8.5 liters | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Igloo Pursuit Cooler Backpack

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Best for Commuters

Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack

4.8
Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4.5/5
  • Insulation
    4.7/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Portability
    5/5
  • Capacity
    4.5/5

Why We Love It: It looks like a standard backpack with a bottom insulated cooler for small food and drinks.

What to Consider: The top part of the backpack isn’t insulated and the bottom section leaked a bit after the two-hour mark.

We love that the Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack has a regular backpack style with a small insulated section at the bottom. It has a top compartment with plenty of room for items that don’t need to be chilled. For snacks and drinks, the bottom compartment is insulated and has enough room for 10 cans plus ice for keeping everything cold on the go. Although the bottom leaked a bit of water after it sat for two hours with cans and ice, the drinks were still cold. We wouldn’t pack electronics or anything that could get damaged by water in this. Still, we were impressed with the comfortable and functional design of the bag, which has a few external pockets for accessories. “It was super comfortable to carry. It felt like a normal backpack but with padding as well that makes it much more comfortable. Even when it was full, it was still comfortable,” our tester raved.

Price at time of publish: $65

Dimensions: 12.5 x 8 x 17.75 inches | Capacity: 4.25 liters | Weight: 2.1 pounds

Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Best Dual-compartment

Pelican Dayventure Backpack Cooler

4.7
Pelican Dayventure Backpack Cooler

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Insulation
    4/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Portability
    4.5/5
  • Capacity
    5/5

Why We Love It: The separate top and bottom compartments make it easy to store a range of items for easy organization.

What to Consider: The cans in the bottom compartment were colder than the ones in the top compartment after two hours.

For packing a variety of food and drinks, we recommend the sleek, dual-compartment Pelican Dayventure Backpack Cooler. The roll-top backpack has a larger top section that could fit 16 cans, and the separate bottom compartment fit about six cans plus ice. We discovered that after two hours, most of the ice had melted, but the drinks in the lower part were still frigid, whereas the cans in the top part were cold but not as chilled as the drinks above. Despite most of the ice melting over the course of a few hours, the waterproof sealed zippers and TPU-coated nylon material kept all of the water inside of the cooler without any leakage. A T+L editor raved about the comfort of this backpacking, noting that “the backing is extremely well-padded, as are the straps. The straps are adjustable to hit at a nice spot on my back."

Price at time of publish: $280

Dimensions: 12.1 x 7.1 x 21.7 inches | Capacity: 13-liter top, 4-liter bottom | Weight: 3.1 pounds

Pelican Dayventure Backpack Cooler

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Most Comfortable

Arctic Zone 24-Can High Performance Welded Backpack Cooler

4.7
Arctic Zone 24-Can High Performance Welded Backpack Cooler

Arctic Zone

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Insulation
    4.8/5
  • Durability
    3.8/5
  • Portability
    5/5
  • Capacity
    5/5

Why We Love It: The padded back panel and curved, adjustable straps made the fit comfortable and customizable.

What to Consider: The top zipper leaked a bit and several cans were dented or popped.

While schlepping food and drinks to the beach or lake can sometimes be a hassle, the Arctic Zone High Performance Welded Backpack Cooler will make the trek a lot more comfortable. The back panel is lined with a thick foam, and the adjustable backpack straps are also padded and have a slight curve for a natural and customizable fit. Despite the impressive 24-can capacity, we found the bag to be noticeably comfortable with ample padding at the hip and arms. We’re big fans of the dual-compartment design that makes it easy to pack food and cans separately for a waterside picnic. There was a bit of leakage that came out of the top zippers, but the zipper is not advertised as leak-proof, so we still think the backpack did a solid job of containing most of the melted ice. We also found that the insulation kept the cans very cold after two hours, and only one popped during our drop test for durability.

Price at time of publish: $165

Dimensions: 15.5 x 8.25 x 21.5 inches | Capacity: 16 cans on top, 8 cans on bottom | Weight: 3.2 pounds

Arctic Zone Titan High Performance Welded Backpack Cooler

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Best Budget

Ozark Trail 24-can Welded Cooler Backpack

4.5
Ozark Trail 24 Can Welded Cooler Backpack

Walmart

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4.5/5
  • Insulation
    4.8/5
  • Durability
    4.5/5
  • Portability
    3.8/5
  • Capacity
    4.5/5

Why We Love It: The bag didn’t leak, and the ice was almost completely intact after sitting in the backpack for two hours.

What to Consider: This wasn’t the most comfortable backpack we tried.

Referring to this bag as a Yeti dupe, our tester appreciated the sturdy feel of the Ozark Trail 24-can Welded Cooler Backpack. The backpack is made with UV-protected and welded EVA material that proved to be completely leak-proof when we tossed the backpack filled with ice and cans off of a table. The rectangular shape of the backpack provided easy access to fill the main compartment with 24 cans with ice, and after sitting for several hours, the cans were noticeably chilled. The ice was hardly melted at all, which was a big win considering we tried a lot of bags that were almost entirely filled with water after two hours. While the backing and straps have some padding, we wish the bag was a bit more comfortable to wear, but we still think it’s plenty comfortable for a beach day or short hike.

Price at time of publish: $43

Dimensions: 8 x 14.17 x 17.72 inches | Capacity: 24 cans | Weight: 3.5 pounds

Ozark Trail 24 Can Welded Cooler

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Best Floatable

RTIC Backpack Soft Cooler

4.8
RTIC Backpack Soft Cooler

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Insulation
    4.5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Portability
    4.3/5
  • Capacity
    5/5

Why We Love It: The backpack felt very durable during testing, and it has ample padding for extra comfort.

What to Consider: There aren’t any pockets for additional storage.

Beach goers and river rafters will appreciate the floatable and waterproof RTIC Backpack Soft Cooler. During testing, the exterior nylon material resembled the feel of an inflatable raft and the zipper teeth felt sturdy and watertight. After throwing the packed cooler off of a table, all of the 20 cans packed inside remained in perfect, chilled condition, and there wasn’t any spillage from the melted ice. The exterior also had no damage or scuff marks from a little rough handling, and although the backpack felt a little heavy to carry, the plush padding in the backing and the adjustable straps provided plenty of comfort and even weight distribution. We wish that there were a few pockets for extra storage, but we don’t think that is a deal-breaker since kayakers or boaters will appreciate the waterproofness and float-ability of the backpack in the event that it lands in the water. “The material feels completely waterproof, like if it dropped in a lake or river, it would float and keep everything dry on the inside,” our tester concluded.

Price at time of publish: $170

Dimensions: 12 x 6 x 16 inches | Capacity: 20 cans | Weight: 3.7 pounds

RTIC Backpack Soft Cooler

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Other Backpack Coolers We Tested

The backpack coolers listed below were close to making our top list, but they fell slightly short during our lab tests for various reasons. We still think these are great options, though.

Tourit Cooler Backpack 30-can Backpack Cooler: We like that it looks like a regular backpack, but the capacity was only about 20 cans, and a few were dented in the packing process with one breaking open.

Cotopaxi Hielo Backpack Cooler: Our tester thought the stylish backpack was comfortable to wear, and it has a solid 20-can capacity, but it leaked a noticeable amount of water out of the zippers.

Otterbox Backpack Cooler: The bag is very comfortable to carry and easy to pack thanks to the wide opening. However, the ice melted quickly so the cans weren’t able to stay cold until the two-hour mark.

Magellan Outdoors Pro Leakproof 24-can Backpack Cooler: The backpack feels premium and very durable, but it leaked quite a bit when it was tipped over and not all of the cans were cold after several hours in the cooler.

Our Testing Process

Icemule Pro Large 23L

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

T+L’s expert product testers spent a day in our New York City lab testing 23 backpack coolers from notable outdoor brands like Yeti, Igloo, IceMule, and more. We evaluated each backpack based on design, capacity, portability, durability, and insulation to rate them on a scale of one to five.

After weighing each bag and closely examining the quality and functionality of the zippers and pockets, we packed the main compartments with as many 12-ounce cans as the interior could hold comfortably. Then, we repacked the backpacks with ice and cans to judge the capacity and prepare for the timed insulation test where each bag sat for two hours. When the timers went off, we tipped over the coolers to see which ones had the most melted ice and leakage. We also checked to see how cold the cans were, and if any broke or were dented after being packed.

RTIC Backpack Soft Cooler

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

In the end, our favorite backpack coolers were easy to pack, comfortable to wear, kept our drinks chilled, and didn’t leak (too much, at least). We kept the prices hidden from our testers so they could only compare the fairness of the price to the backpack cooler’s performance after the test was complete.

Tips for Buying a Backpack Cooler

Consider storage features

Not all backpack coolers come with extra storage for items besides food or drink, so it’s important to consider what kind of special features you want, like slip pockets for water bottles, zippered pockets for accessories, or separated compartments for food or snacks. If you’re looking for a backpack cooler with a little more versatility for different activities, be sure to get one with plenty of storage solutions.

Buy for your intended use

Some backpack coolers are specifically designed for a variety of activities like hiking, going into the office, or kayaking. If you’re planning on bringing food or drinks near or into the water, opt for a backpack cooler with watertight zippers and floatable materials for river rafting, boating, or other waterside activities. For office-goers or casual picnickers, consider getting a cooler with a more traditional backpack style or dual compartments so you can use the bag for different occasions.

Plan to use ice packs instead of ice

Nearly all of the backpack coolers we tested had some level of leakage — even our top performers. We suggest using leak-proof ice packs instead of actual ice when carrying a backpack cooler.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do I clean a backpack cooler?

    You should always consult the instructions that come with your backpack cooler, but in the event that guidelines aren’t included, you can consult the manufacturer’s website or rinse the backpack using soapy water.

  • Can all backpacks be coolers?

    Backpack coolers are made with insulation that’s designed to keep the contents of the bag cold over a period of time. While you can certainly use a backpack for snacks and drinks, it won’t keep the items temperature-regulated like a backpack cooler can.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Anna Popp is a Commerce Writer at Travel + Leisure, where she writes and reviews travel products. She has been travel writing since 2018 and product testing since 2021. Anna worked with travel editors to determine the results for the best backpack coolers based on a series of tests completed by herself and other expert product testers in our New York City lab.

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