The Best Backpack Coolers (Review & Buying Guide) | Autance

We all know that having a reliable cooler is a necessity for warm-weather outings. They keep all of our favorite…

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The Best Backpack Coolers (Review & Buying Guide) | Autance © The Best Backpack Coolers (Review & Buying Guide) | Autance
Best Choice Columbia PFG Roll Caster 30 Can Insulated Backpack Cooler Columbia PFG Roll Caster 30 Can Insulated Backpack Cooler
Best Value Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler
Premium Pick YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler

We all know that having a reliable cooler is a necessity for warm-weather outings. They keep all of our favorite food and drinks cold and refreshing, whether it’s at a picnic, tailgating party, family reunion, camping, hiking, or going to the beach. There’s nothing better than an icy beverage on a hot day. The not-so-great thing about coolers is that they can be really heavy, cumbersome, and hard to carry, especially by yourself. Thankfully, someone has designed the brilliant and user-friendly backpack cooler.

The backpack cooler is a must-have for all your summertime excursions. If you’re in the market for a great backpack cooler, Car Autance has got your back with our top picks for the best backpack coolers and what to look for when you’re deciding which one will be best for you.

This is a rugged polyester cooler that features Columbia’s own “Slime-Tech” exterior, which is guaranteed to be resistant to water and wipes clean easily every time. It’s also equipped with a special “ThermaCool” high-performance insulation with a “Therma-Flect” radiant barrier that stops heat absorption, keeping your food and drinks colder longer. The interior liner is also BPA, lead, PVC, and phthalate-free for added safety. A well-padded back with breathable mesh panels and adjustable straps allows you to carry up to 30 cans at a time effortlessly. Elasticized gear straps on the front of the pack will enable you to carry accessories, like towels, shoes, and more. A front zippered pocket and side pockets are great for discreetly and securely holding your valuables.

However, this backpack is relatively bulky, and this isn’t the slimmest wearable cooler on the market. Also, there are limited color options compared to other models.

Key Features
  • 30-can capacity
  • Multiple exterior pockets for carrying accessories
  • Slime-Tech exterior resists water, mold, gunk, and stains
  • Therma-Flect interior reflects heat to keep items colder longer
  • Brand Columbia
  • Model 1-16900-03-7E
  • Weight 1.75 pounds

Ruggedly designed to withstand some harsh conditions

Liner is food safe and BPA, PVC, lead, and phthalate free


Limited color options

Bulkier than some other models

A little pricier than some other options

Offered at one of the most competitive prices on the market, this cooler is our favorite budget-friendly option. It utilizes the same heat-welding technology on the seams that are used on Coleman tents to prevent leakage. This cooler is more compact than some other models on the market but can still hold up to 28 cans, giving you plenty of capacity to carry whatever food and drinks you might want for the day. A special antimicrobial lining in the inner compartment is BPA and phthalate-free to keep your foods safe and ready to consume. The large zippered front pocket is great for storing cutlery, napkins, cell phones, wallets, and much more.

Keep in mind that this cooler’s regular backpack opening can allow for the accidental spilling out of items. This cooler might also not be the most sturdy or as supportive as other models.

Key Features
  • Lightweight water-resistant 28 can cooler
  • Antimicrobial inner lining protects your food and drinks
  • Heat-welded seams to prevent leakage
  • Multiple outer pockets and elasticized compartment for carrying accessory items
  • Brand The Coleman Company, Inc.
  • Model 2000015223
  • Weight 1.1 pounds

Features a rugged lumbar support strap to help take some pressure off the shoulders

Functions just like a regular backpack and can double as such

Folds down for ultra compact storage


Regular backpack opening can allow for accidental spilling out of items

Limited color options

Sides are not as sturdy or supportive as other models

This backpack cooler has a 24-can capacity that is relatively easy to carry when fully loaded. The outside of this high-tech cooler is constructed from high-density “DryHide” that is not only waterproof, but also resistant to mildew, UV, and punctures, making it one of the most durable coolers on the market.  This model also features cold cell rubber foam insulation with a superior cooling capacity. The proprietary Hydrolok zipper is one of the toughest, waterproof and leak-proof zippers in the world. This backpack also features a removable chest strap, extra wide backpack straps, and a waist belt for added comfort on longer walks, which is good because this is one of the heaviest coolers on our list.

The major downside to this rugged backpack cooler is that it is heavier than many other models. Also, there are no additional pockets for carrying gear and accessories.

Key Features
  • 24-can capacity free-standing cooler
  • Hydrolok waterproof and leak-proof zipper
  • Midlew-, UV-, and puncture-resistant “DryHide” outer shell
  • Closed cell foam rubber insulation
  • Brand YETI
  • Model 27747527229512
  • Weight 7.5 pounds

Super tough and durable

Stands alone and won’t tip as easily as some other models

Outer and inner linings are super easy and quick to clean


Very pricey

Heavier than many other models

No additional pockets for carrying gear and accessories

Available in five great color choices, this model is made with a thick, well-insulated interior lining that is fully waterproof and leak-proof and will keep your food cold for hours. The durable exterior and the inner lining can easily be cleaned by simply wiping down with a damp cloth and mild cleaning solution. This cooler has lots of room for carrying valuables and accessories, including two large zippered pockets for dry items, two large mesh side pockets that can hold up to two bottles of wine, soda, or water each, and a handy pocket on one strap that will fit your phone and cash. There’s even an included bottle opener for added convenience.

However, there has been some concern over this cooler’s long-term durability, specifically with the stitching along the seams. Also, some customers have reported that the zipper can easily split if the backpack is too full.

Key Features
  • Modern-looking 30-can capacity cooler
  • Available in five color options
  • Included multiple pockets and storage options for accessories and gear
  • Mesh padding on shoulder straps and back for added comfort
  • Brand Forich
  • Model N/A
  • Weight 2 pounds

Classier looking than some other models

Top-sided zipper minimizes spilling out of items when opening

Can double as a daypack for hiking


Included bottle opener is a little flimsy

Some concern over long-term durability of stitching along the seams

Some reports that zipper splits easily if backpack is too full

This backpack cooler will withstand the rigors and harsh weather environments of serious hiking or other outdoor activities. The outside of the cooler is constructed from tough, water-resistant neoprene with a Rhino-Tech barrier that also makes it abrasion- and puncture-resistant and makes it super easy to clean. The multi-layer deep freeze insulation will keep food and drinks cold all day. The back of this cooler features very well-padded and ventilated mesh with fully adjustable straps and a convenient chest-strap to help take the pressure off your upper back while walking. It also features three thick layers of SuperFoam at the base to keep ground heat out and water in so that your cooler stays dry on the outside.

One downside to this cooler is that there has been some concern about seam strength and durability over time.

Key Features
  • Rhino-Tech neoprene outer shell
  • Triple layered SuperFoam bottom
  • 30-can capacity
  • Top-loading zipper keeps items secure
  • Brand Arctic Zone
  • Model 1739ILA18001
  • Weight 2.5 pounds

A nicely designed fleece-lined interior pocket keeps fragile valuables safe

Lots of additional pockets for accessories

Chest strap helps relieve upper back pressure


A little on the pricey side

Limited color options

Some concern about seam strength and durability over time

This backpack cooler’s double-decker design allows you to carry and insulate both hot and cold foods simultaneously, making this one of the most versatile options on our list. Its inner lining is 100-percent waterproof and leak-proof and will keep foods cold or hot for four-12 hours. This model is also ultra lightweight since it’s made of durable tear-proof nylon. It comes equipped with a heavy-duty multi-function bottle opener for added convenience. This large-capacity backpack cooler also features two large mesh side pockets that can accommodate two larger bottles each, two large front zippered pockets for cutlery and other accessories, and a zippered mesh pocket in one of the straps for quick and easy phone and cash storage.

Keep in mind that this cooler backpack can get very heavy when filled to capacity, and there aren’t chest or lumbar straps to help alleviate upper back stress.

Key Features
  • Double-decker cooler compartments allow for hot and cold storage at the same time
  • Durable, water-resistant and tear-resistant outer nylon shell
  • 49-can capacity
  • Keeps food hot or cold for 4-12 hours
  • Brand Smile+
  • Model N/A
  • Weight 1.7 pounds

Super lightweight when not filled to capacity

A great option for families with larger food requirements

Great for multi-day trips


Can be very heavy when filled to capacity

No chest or lumbar straps to help alleviate upper back stress

Concern about long-term durability of stitching if backpack is frequently loaded too heavily

This backpack cooler is guaranteed to be 100-percent leak-proof and waterproof and can keep drinks cold for up to three days, making it an excellent go-anywhere option for extended trips. This backpack can hold up to 36 cans with a 21-liter capacity. Its durable, high-density insulation is also BPA-free and safe for all your favorite foods. This model also features two handy side pockets and adjustable front straps for carrying accessories. It also comes equipped with its own bottle opener, which comes in super handy when you forget yours at home.

However, this backpack cooler is pretty heavy and bulky, so it’s not the best option for hiking long distances. It’s also a lot pricier than other models on this list.

Key Features
  • 100-percent waterproof and leak-proof durable cooler
  • 21-liter capacity can hold up to 36 cans
  • High-density BPA-free liner can keep drinks cold for up to three days
  • Interior and exterior both wipe clean easily and quickly
  • Brand Tourit
  • Model TR0260014A008-FUS
  • Weight 4.6 pounds

Rugged enough to handle some major wear and tear

Sturdy construction easily stands alone without tipping over and spilling contents

Comes with a bottle opener included


Pricier than other models

Heavier and much bulkier than other options

Not comfortable for wearing on long walks or hikes

Best Backpack Cooler Buying Guide & FAQ

Now that you’ve seen our top picks for great backpack coolers, it’s time to learn why we chose those specific models over some of the many other good options and the not-so-good options currently on the market. 

Our buying guide will help you how to decide for yourself if the backpack cooler you’re considering will be a reliable, user-friendly option that will last you for years, or if it’s merely a well-marketed product that you shouldn’t waste your money on.

Benefits of a Backpack Cooler

Backpack coolers have numerous benefits over traditionally designed coolers. For starters, being able to wear the weight on your back allows you to carry heavy loads with less risk of injuring your lower back or spine. Evenly distributing the cooler’s weight throughout your whole body also means you can take your food and drink over longer distances.

Backpack coolers also allow you to keep your hands free while carrying your food and beverages. This is especially helpful if you have lots of camping gear you want to carry at one time.

Backpack coolers are also a great option if you don’t have a ton of storage space. They’re usually soft-sided and can compress down to fit into a much smaller storage space than a regular hard-sided cooler. Many of them can also do double duty as a traditional backpack or backpack for cycling or camping, eliminating the need for another piece of equipment that you have to find space to stow when you’re not using it.

  • Today’s backpack coolers are made with top-of-the-line high-tech materials that are super lightweight and easy to carry, empty or full.
  • Backpack coolers usually have lots of pockets and additional storage options to allow you to carry extra gear and accessories that many traditional coolers don’t have.
  • Lightweight yet high-quality insulation inside most backpack coolers will enable you to keep food and drinks cold just as long as you would in a heavier, hard-sided cooler.

Types of Backpack Coolers

Backpack coolers have tons of convenient features and benefits.

When it comes to the various types of backpack coolers to choose from, you’re limited to only a couple of different styles, each with its own pros and cons. Deciding which kind of backpack cooler will suit your needs best will help you quickly and efficiently narrow your options and make the selection process a lot less daunting and confusing.

Vertical Zippered Backpack Cooler

This type of backpack cooler looks and functions just like a regular backpack with zippers running vertically from one side to the other, allowing you to fully open the cooler just like you would with a traditional backpack. They often have several accessory pockets and compartments for carrying other snacks or gear. They may or may not be collapsible, depending on the construction materials used to make them.

These coolers have the benefit of being able to do double duty as a regular backpack for motorcycling, walking, or carrying on day trips, eliminating the need for another piece of gear you only use occasionally. They can often be folded down pretty compactly for easy storage when not in use. Since they have such a large opening, you can easily access your food and drinks and see deeper inside than with a freestanding, taller cooler.

The drawback is that their reservoirs for holding ice are usually less, and since they can open so far, you risk having the contents of your cooler accidentally spilling out all over the place while trying to search for your food.

Horizontal Zippered Backpack Cooler

This type of cooler is almost always a freestanding cooler. Usually more squared off in shape than vertical zippered options, they load from the top only and can accommodate larger capacities, sometimes upwards of 40 liters. Most of these coolers will also come equipped with various pockets or accessory storage options, although not always, so decide in advance if that’s a priority for you or not.

Built with wide, stable bases, these types of coolers tend to have less risk of accidentally tipping over. Depending on what they’re made from, these coolers can also be much more durable and rugged than vertical zippered options.

Their drawback is that they’re less comfortable to carry over long distances, can be heavier, and are often more expensive.

What to Consider When Buying Backpack Coolers

Backpack coolers come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and designs.

There are a few important factors to consider when purchasing a backpack cooler that will also help narrow your options and avoid getting one that doesn’t really meet your needs or isn’t made rugged enough to last more than a couple of uses.


Choosing the most appropriately sized backpack cooler for you will be vital in determining how often and how enjoyably you use it. If you’re on the smaller side and plan on hiking, biking, or walking far distances with it, don’t go with a 40-liter, hard-bottomed cooler that will weigh 75 pounds when it’s fully loaded—those types of coolers are best for people who want to lug them from the car to the campsite or beach blanket. However, if you have a family that you’re routinely packing for, maybe a bigger cooler is right up your alley.

Construction Material

Look for outer materials like rugged nylon, polyester blends, neoprene, or polyurethane, and tough waterproof zippers and seams. Inner insulation should be thick and lightweight, not to mention fully waterproof. Closed-cell foam, heat-refracting foils, and multi-layered foams are great options that will guarantee your food and drinks stay cold as long as possible. Antimicrobial coatings also help ensure food safety. Also, be sure to look for well-padded and breathable mesh on the back and the shoulder straps.


A solid warranty that accompanies your backpack cooler tells you that you’re buying from a reputable company that stands behind their product. It’s great to have the peace of mind of knowing that your investment is protected in the event of any unforeseen or manufacturer’s defects.

Best Backpack Coolers FAQs:

By now, you should have a pretty clear idea of which backpack coolers will be ideal for you, but just in case you still have some unanswered questions, we’ve taken the liberty of providing answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Q: Who makes the best backpack cooler?

While there is a solid camp of people that will argue that YETI makes the best backpack cooler, we take the stance that there are several great manufacturers out there that offer top-quality products. Coleman, Columbia, and Arctic Zone are some of our other favorite brands.

Q: What is the best bag cooler?

The best bag cooler has many of the same elements as the best backpack cooler. It’s made with durable and rugged materials that will keep your food and drinks cold as long as possible and is backed by a solid warranty.

Q: What soft cooler keeps ice from melting the longest?

This depends on how often you open the cooler, exposing the insides to warm air, which will naturally cause ice to melt much faster. That being said, some soft coolers, like the Engel HD30 Waterproof Soft-Sided Cooler can keep ice for four to five days, while many other top-notch soft coolers can keep ice for two to three days.

Our Top Pick

It’s probably easy to see why our top pick is the Columbia PFG Roll Caster 30 Can Insulated Backpack Cooler. It’s a rugged polyester cooler that features Columbia’s own “Slime-Tech” exterior, which is guaranteed to be resistant to water, gunk, mold, and more, wiping clean easily every time. It’s also equipped with “ThermaCool” high-performance insulation with a “Therma-Flect” radiant barrier that stops heat absorption, keeping your food and drinks colder longer. The interior liner is also free of BPA, lead, PVC, and phthalates for added safety.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the selling points of backpack coolers, you only have to decide between the Columbia PFG Roll Caster 30 Can Insulated Backpack Cooler, the Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler, or one of our other high-quality, reliable options.


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