The Best 9 Backpack Coolers 2023 For Travel According to Tourist and Expert Reviews

Backpack Coolers – Whether you’re hiking to your favorite lake for an afternoon paddle or heading to a campsite deep in the woods, backpack coolers provide the ultimate in portability for covering longer distances. Although they lack the durability and ice retention of traditional hard-sided coolers, they are lighter, easier to pack, and feature suspension systems and padded straps, similar to those found in hiking daypacks, to ensure maximum comfort while being carried. The best backpack coolers for 2023 are listed below, and they range from bulky waterproof options to two-in-one designs that store both the cooler and gear. Check out our in-depth comparison table and buying advice below the picks for additional background information. We’ve also compiled lists of the best soft-sided coolers and hard-sided coolers if you’re looking for something different.

The Best 9 Backpack Coolers

Whether you’re made a beeline for the ocean side, a recreation area, or the highest point of a mountain, a knapsack cooler can make a bulky convey simpler. Even though hard coolers come equipped with wheels, they are difficult to transport to certain locations, such as beaches that swallow them up in the sand, rough trails, or any location that is more than a few hundred yards away from your home or vehicle. However, hard coolers do an excellent job of keeping drinks and food cold. Soft backpack coolers come in a surprising variety of designs and provide an ergonomic solution.

In order to assist you in selecting the backpack cooler that is best suited to your needs, we put the best options through their paces in our Brooklyn lab and out in the field to examine the advantages of their insulation and extras, as well as their value and the kinds of activities they would be suitable for.

The Best 9 Backpack Coolers 2023 For Travel According to Tourist and Expert Reviews

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The Best 9 Backpack Coolers 2023

Backpack coolers are a great way to keep your drinks and snacks cold on hot days. They’re also a great way to avoid packing a lot of extra weight on your back. In this article, we’ll discuss the best 9 backpack coolers that are available on the market today. We’ll also give you some tips on how to choose the best one for you. So read on to learn more about these amazing coolers!

ICEMULE Boss Backpack Cooler

If you’re looking for a large backpack cooler with a lot of features, the ICEMULE Boss is one of the best and most luxurious options available. With a thick, waterproof exterior, welded seams, coated zippers, and a practical roll-top closure that makes it easy to access and effectively seals out moisture, the rugged design is built to last. There are also a lot of features, like three large zippered pockets—one on each side and one at the front—exterior bungee straps, a lot of lash points and gear loops for attaching smaller items to the outside, and so on.

A cushioned mesh backpanel that effectively isolates your back from the contents of the bag and thick padding along the shoulder straps and hipbelt make the suspension system well-equipped to handle a full load. It is one of the most complete and feature-rich backpack coolers on the market when taken as a whole, and it is ideal for activities that require more gear, such as fly fishing, kayaking, or paddle boarding (bonus: It floats).

The ICEMULE Boss, on the other hand, weighs a hefty 5 pounds and is bulky in comparison to more malleable options like the Hydro Flask Day Escape above and others below. It is also the most expensive option on our list at $350. The design is clearly overkill in both price and performance for short day trips like picnics or quick afternoon paddles, and this lack of packability is limiting for those who are short on storage space in their garage or vehicle.

The Day Escape comes in at a significant savings of $150, ticks most of the boxes for recreational use, is over 2 pounds lighter, and looks much sleeker and more streamlined. Yet, in the event that you intend to pull a ton of additional items and can legitimize the additional cost, the Supervisor passes on very little to be wanted with regards to capacity and abilities to convey.

The Best 9 Backpack Coolers 2023 For Travel According to Tourist and Expert Reviews

YETI Hopper M20

With the Hopper M20, YETI has brought the high-end performance and outstanding build quality of their premium hard-sided coolers to the backpack cooler market. The M20, like the majority of YETI designs, combines a burly, tough shell that inspires confidence and is highly resistant to snags and tears with thick, closed-cell foam insulation. We were also impressed by the robust feel of the Hopper M20’s opening, which uses powerful magnets to close and has quick-release buckles to prevent leaks while traveling. Finally, the M20, like all of their soft-sided products, has the company’s trademark HitchPoint Grid, which makes it simple to connect accessories like the Rambler Bottle Sling or SideKick Dry Gear Case (sold separately). It is built well, looks great, and performs better than most other products on the market taken together.

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The Hopper M20, like the majority of YETI products, costs a whopping $325. You can upgrade to their Tundra 45 hard-sided cooler, which has the best ice retention for the same price. All things considered, the Container is a lot more straightforward to convey with liberally padded shoulder lashes and thick snatch handles at the edges. In addition, the magnet-equipped top of the M20, like the soft-sided M30, is extremely rigid and can require some force to open wide enough for loading large items (though it does close easily with a gentle push).

Lastly, the M20 does not compress as well as the Hydro Flask Day Escape above or the ICEMULE Jaunt below, which are both softer and more adaptable options. But the YETI brand is hard to beat, and the Hopper M20 is a good option for serious weekend and day trippers who want to get the most out of durability and cold retention.

The Best 9 Backpack Coolers 2023 For Travel According to Tourist and Expert Reviews

Hydro Flask 20 L Day Escape

Coolers shaped like backpacks are a lot of fun: They are lighter and easier to carry than traditional hard-sided models. They are also heavily inspired by hiking daypacks with padded suspension systems and storage on the outside for small extras. During our testing, Hydro Flask’s 20 L Day Escape quickly won us over because it ticks all of those boxes: It has well-padded shoulder straps, a thick waterproof exterior that holds up well to rough use, handles on the sides and back, and exterior lash points that are extremely useful for strapping it to a kayak or boat.

The conclusion framework is another feature, including a smooth-working zipper that requires insignificant power to open (not generally the situation with watertight plans), gives a dependable seal, and is not difficult to realign assuming it isolates. Overall, it has a clean, well-rounded design and a size that is ideal for everything from grocery shopping to picnics and day trips to the lake or river.

However, there is no perfect backpack cooler, and the Hydro Flask Day Escape does have a few drawbacks. First, it was difficult to fit bulkier items like egg cartons through the smaller opening (YETI’s Hopper M20 below has a much wider and more accommodating shape). Second, the cooler doesn’t have any storage with zippers, but most people should be able to use the lash points and side water bottle pocket.

Last but not least, you won’t be able to shift the weight onto your hips with a hipbelt, but most people won’t be carrying their cooler more than a mile or two from their car—they certainly aren’t a replacement for a full-on backpacking pack. However, the Day Escape is our top pick for 2023 due to its attractive design, thoughtful construction, and competitive insulating performance for short excursions to your preferred fishing hole or picnic spot.

The Best 9 Backpack Coolers 2023 For Travel According to Tourist and Expert Reviews

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Coleman 28-Can Soft Cooler Backpack

The YETI Hopper M20, which retails for $325, and the ICEMULE Boss, which retails for $350, demonstrate how expensive backpack coolers can get. The good news is that there are a lot of low-cost alternatives, like this Coleman 28-Can Soft Cooler Backpack. The Coleman has an impressively functional design and a generous 28-can capacity (without ice) for about $43 on Amazon at the time of publication. It has side handles for one-handed carrying, a mesh pocket under the lid for storing a freezer pack or other flat items, a large front pocket for small accessories and valuables, and a tall, rectangular shape with a wraparound zipper that makes loading and unloading a breeze (uncommon at this price point).

For an affordable price, the 42-hour listed ice retention provides reliable performance for all-day trips to the park or beach. The Coleman is also quite light for its capacity at 1 pound 9 ounces.

However, the Coleman 28-Can Soft Cooler Backpack, like the majority of budget designs, has a distinct lower price point than many premium (read: pricier) rivals. One obvious area of discomfort is the lid: When closing the lid, the fabric often gets pinched in the corners, requiring two hands to avoid snagging. Additionally, the non-waterproof zipper may cause leaks. Additionally, despite being reasonably priced, the Coleman’s basic foam insulation will not keep ice frozen for more than a day, resulting in a soupy interior during warm summertime excursions in full sun. However, the 28-Can Soft Cooler Backpack is a great option for people who value value more than waterproofing and ice retention for multiple days. You won’t find a better combination of features and price anywhere else.

The Best 9 Backpack Coolers 2023 For Travel According to Tourist and Expert Reviews

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While ICEMULE’s Jaunt 15L here will appeal to those on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Boss above stands out as one of the most expensive and feature-rich options on the market: people who are minimalists and place an emphasis on portability and weight. The 2-pound Jaunt is a great companion for grocery shopping, farmers’ market runs, keeping a lunch and drinks cold for the day, and short trips to the park or beach, despite the 15-can capacity. It also comes in a nice selection of vibrant colorways and patterns, is easy to clean (just wipe down the liner), and compresses down really well for storage due to the flexible materials and valve to release excess air. The Jaunt, like the Boss and ICEMULE’s own Pro Large below, has a roll-top closure that seals out moisture well and makes packing and unpacking simple.

However, the Jaunt’s minimalist design comes with some inherent compromises. First of all, the ICEMULE has few features and only one exterior pocket that is very small and narrow (it won’t fit a smartphone of a plus size, for example). In addition, it does not include a hipbelt, which is not uncommon in this category and is not require for such a small pack. However, it is still appreciate for extend carrying comfort. Finally, we found that the Jaunt kept food and beverages cold all day in the sun when use, but by late afternoon, most of the crush ice had turned to water. This makes the 24-hour listed ice retention seem overly optimistic.

Coleman’s Soft Cooler is larger, offers better storage, and performs similarly in terms of insulation for about $60 less. However, if you have reasonable expectations, the Jaunt is a great companion for solo travelers with limited space due to its lighter weight and better packability.

The Best 9 Backpack Coolers 2023 For Travel According to Tourist and Expert Reviews

CamelBak ChillBak Pack 30

We think CamelBak did a great job integrating that technology into their new ChillBak Pack 30, which was release in early 2022. CamelBak is best known for their high-quality hydration reservoirs. The most notable feature is the include 6-liter Fusion bladder, which is hidden behind the backpanel and has a handy spigot on the side for quick filling. It can be access through a U-shaped zipper. The rest of the design is pretty standard, but it was done well. It has a roll-top closure for easy access, a sturdy base that gives it structure even when empty, well-pad back panel and shoulder straps, exterior side pockets and gear loops for dividing up smaller items and attaching gear, and so on.

In this category, the performance of insulation is also impressive: The ice retention time stated by CamelBak is 72 hours, which is fairly consistent with our testing results. Overall, it’s a new design that looks promising and is great for group activities like single-pitch climbing or a day at the beach when everyone needs water.

Having said that, we do believe that the brand-new ChillBak 30 still has some room for improvement. In particular, it is difficult to fill the bladder while it is secure in the pack, and removing it requires some effort (you will need to undo the buckle and disconnect the hose from the base of the reservoir, which requires patience and finesse due to the small space). The exterior is relatively barebones, with only a couple of lash points and a single grab handle at the upper back, and the side pockets are also prohibitively small and narrow, making it almost impossible to fit a water bottle or cell phone inside.

Last but not least, the ChillBak costs $300 and is definitely big, bulky, and expensive. However, the 6-liter Fusion reservoir costs $75 on its own, which does help close the gap. Overall, the first iteration is not perfect, but we commend CamelBak for their inventiveness and consider the ChillBak to be one of the most innovative new options currently available.

The Best 9 Backpack Coolers 2023 For Travel According to Tourist and Expert Reviews

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REI Co-op Cool Trail Split Pack

The aforementioned options are excellent for storing a full day’s worth of food and beverages, but one of the few backpack coolers that can also hold gear is REI’s Cool Trail Split Pack. The hybrid design is straightforward but effective: The top of the pack is uninsulated and provides a separate area to stuff clothing and other day-hiking necessities, while the bottom compartment is leakproof and rated to keep contents cold for up to 40 hours. Alternately, we enjoyed using this upper compartment to store fruit and crackers and other non-perishable snacks.

You can also take out the cooler insert, which makes cleaning it a breeze and gives you more room to store your gear when you travel or just leave camp for a short time. The Cool Trail Split Pack, like the majority of the other designs on this page, has shoulder straps that are well-pad and can be adjust, external pockets for small accessories, and front lash points for attaching items to the outside.

The two-in-one design of the REI Cool Trail Split Pack is a great feature. Cooler capacity is the most important compromise: The insulated insert is much smaller than conventional models like the Hydro Flask Day Escape above, which offer approximately triple the space (36 cans without ice). It can only hold 12 cans with ice. The standard Cool Trail Pack Cooler is available from REI, but it costs $20 more and can hold 20 cans, ice, and tacks on a padded hipbelt. Carhartt’s Insulated Two Compartment Cooler Backpack and Pelican’s Dayventure Backpack Cooler are two other hybrid cooler/daypack designs to keep an eye on. However, we believe that the REI is the best-executed of the bunch and is $200 cheaper than the Pelican. If you pack light, it’s an innovative and useful choice for people who want a daypack and cooler in one.

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The Best 9 Backpack Coolers 2023 For Travel According to Tourist and Expert Reviews


ICEMULE’s Pro Cooler splits the difference between the packable Jaunt above and the fully featured Boss. The smallest “Large” model, which comes in sizes of 23, 33, and 40 liters, is our favorite: With an 18-can capacity (including ice), it’s manageable in size, the padded shoulder straps keep it comfortable even when loaded, and the ventilated backpanel keeps you cool while you move. It has welded seams, a roll-top closure that effectively seals out water and makes it easy to fit over a half-full load (the air valve at the top helps, especially when you want to roll the cooler up for storage), and a thick (1,000D) waterproof construction. Last but not least, we adore the front’s stretchy bungee system, which is ideal for securing heavier items like a light jacket or small towel.

The lack of structure in the ICEMULE Pro is one benefit of its dry bag-like construction. The Pro can be compress with the roll-top closure, but it can feel a little looser than many other designs here if load improperly. Even though the Pro’s 24 hours of ice retention are actually quite good in this category, this also results in less insulating power. You can go colder with alternatives like YETI’s Hopper M20 or more modern with the Hydro Flask 20 L Day Escape above, both of which offer more structure and leak protection, when comparing the Pro to other backpack options. However, value sets the ICEMULE Pro apart: It offers superior durability and performance at a price that is still competitive with the majority of the competition.

The Best 9 Backpack Coolers 2023 For Travel According to Tourist and Expert Reviews

RTIC Backpack Cooler 20 Can

Despite the fact that RTIC is not as well-known as Hydro Flask or YETI, there is no doubt about it: This brand, which is based in Texas, makes high-quality designs at much lower prices that perform as well as top brands. One example is their Backpack Cooler, which comes in a 20- and 30-can versions. In terms of ice retention and overall build quality, including a durable exterior, the smaller version here costs approximately half as much as the YETI Hopper M20 above. We also like that it is tall enough to fit standard-sized wine bottles and has a wraparound zipper that lets everyone in and out of the main compartment easily. Lastly, the RTIC is attractive for water-based activities like kayaking and paddle boarding because it is both waterproof and floats.

The RTIC Backpack Cooler has nothing negative to offer. RTIC sells directly to consumers, which means that their products are only available online. This is in contrast to a lot of the other brands we see. Although you won’t be able to walk into the store and get a feel for the cooler before making a purchase, this allows them to maintain prices that are lower than those of their rivals. In addition, availability can fluctuate, particularly during peak seasons. And a few final criticisms: The rigid backpanel makes it uncomfortable to carry and the top zipper is rather stiff, necessitating some effort to open.

However, we always return to value: With only minor compromises in terms of performance, the RTIC significantly undercuts the high-end competition. Additionally, RTIC offers their over-the-shoulder 15 Can Soft Pack Sling Cooler ($80) and Chillout Backpack Cooler ($65), both of which are cost-effective alternatives to the REI Cool Trail Split Pack previously mentioned.

The Best 9 Backpack Coolers 2023 For Travel According to Tourist and Expert Reviews


They fall under the umbrella of soft-side coolers and are design specifically for people who want the insulating performance of a cooler with the ease of portability of a backpack. We’ve found them useful for quick trips to a picnic spot or fishing hole and for a day of basecamping by the water. When going camping with a larger group, they can also be a useful addition to a larger hard-sided model because they give you more room to store extra food or drinks.

All things considered, rucksack coolers have restrict appeal for the time being trips and multi-day excursions. Backpack coolers are not design to keep contents cold for more than a few days at most, unlike hard-side models. Which can keep food and beverages cold for days (or even weeks). In addition, they typically have a capacity of approximately 30 liters at the highest end, making them significantly smaller than hard-sided designs. Last but not least, backpack coolers are quite costly in light of their limited storage capacity and overall performance. However, they are a worthwhile purchase if hands-free hauling is a priority for your day-to-day adventures.

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