Best Backpack Coolers – (Reviews & Buying Guide 2019)

Best Backpack CoolersBackpack coolers have a simple, yet efficient design. Instead of using thick walls to create an insulation compartment, these coolers use an insulating lining for the same purpose. And while the insulating walls of the rotomolded coolers are more efficient, the thin lining will also maintain a cool temperature inside the insulation compartment for a good deal of time. But can the thin insulation lining keep the food and drinks stored in the compartment cold, no matter what?

Not exactly.

Because these coolers don’t use an external power source, even the best backpack cooler will only keep the insulation compartment cool for as long as there is enough ice or cold freeze packs to do so.

However, unlike other cooler models, backpack coolers are highly portable and they can be used in multiple situations. They look exactly like regular backpacks, and they have dry storage compartments that can hold clothes, gadgets, and other items.

Thanks to their good storage capacity and pleasant appearance, backpack coolers represent a good solution for everyday occasions. Let’s take a look at some of the best models currently available on the market.

Best Backpack Cooler Reviews

OAGear Backpack Cooler

OAGear Backpack Cooler

  • Price : $
  • Cold For : up to 8 hours
  • Capacity : up to 20 cans
  • Dimensions : 12.25 x 16.5 x 7.75″
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Coleman C003 Backpack Cooler

Coleman C003 Backpack Cooler

  • Price : $$
  • Cold For : 6 – 8 hours
  • Capacity : up to 28 cans
  • Dimensions : 19.38 x 14.76 x 1.78″
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TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler

TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler

  • Price : $$$
  • Cold For : 16 hours
  • Capacity : up to 28 cans
  • Dimensions : 17.7″ x 13.0″ x 7.5″
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MIER Backpack Cooler

MIER Backpack Cooler

  • Price : $$
  • Cold For : up to 10 hours
  • Capacity : up to 24 cans
  • Dimensions : 10.7 x 7 x 11.8″
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North Coyote Backpack Cooler

North Coyote Backpack Cooler

  • Price : $$$
  • Cold For : up to 10 hours
  • Capacity : 17 L or 19 cans
  • Dimensions : 20 x 7.3 x 30″
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ONIVA Insulated Backpack Cooler

ONIVA Insulated Backpack Cooler

  • Price : $$$$
  • Cold For : about 12 hours
  • Capacity : up to 6 can
  • Dimensions : 19 x 16 x 5″
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1. OAGear Backpack Cooler

OAGear Backpack CoolerWe’re going to start off this list by introducing one of the cheapest options currently available on the market. The OAGear backpack cooler might not have the bells and whistles offered by other models, but this model can do exactly what you’re buying it for. It can keep anything you put in it at a cool temperature.

This backpack cooler comes in six different colors, so you can choose one that matches your trekking outfit or simply one you consider visually attractive. The backpack offers a good holding capacity, and you should be able to fit up to 20 cans in it, besides the ice that keeps them cool for up to 8 hours, depending on the ambient temperature. The no-leak liner protects the backpack against spills and leaks, and the mesh side pockets offer you the possibility to keep several items close at hand.

Besides the obvious advantage of being cheap, this model is also a public-favorite because it’s really comfortable. The straps are padded, and their length is adjustable. And the backpack is lightweight, so it won’t add to the weight you have to carry.

Overall, this is a high-value model, especially if you factor in the price.

2. Coleman C003 Backpack Cooler

Coleman C003 Backpack CoolerThe Coleman C003 is a comfortable backpack cooler you can carry for a long time without hurting your shoulders or your waist. The backpack comes with padded straps and back that provide much-needed comfort and support when carrying a heavy load.

As far as the backpack’s storage capacity is concerned, this model can hold up to 28 cans and some ice to keep them cool. The cooling compartment has an insulation lining that will prevent the melted ice from spilling from the backpack. The front compartment can be used for dry storage, and the bungee cord on the compartment will allow you to keep several things close at hand. We found that the dry storage compartment is large enough to accommodate a tablet or a large smartphone comfortably.

One of the advantages of using this model is that the insulation lining it comes with is also antimicrobial and mold and mildew-resistant. This is an advantage because it will allow you to clean the backpack between uses without any problems, lowering the unit’s maintenance.

Another good thing about this product is that it’s really comfortable to carry for a long time. This makes the backpack suitable for those who like to trek, allowing them to store drinks and snacks for the road. The dry and cold compartments are large enough to fit a lunch for four people, including their drinks.

3. TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler

TOURIT Insulated Backpack CoolerThe TOURIT insulated backpack comes in 4 color varieties which will allow you to choose one that will match your preferences. This backpack has a carrying capacity of 28 cans, and it can hold your lunch and snacks at a cool temperature for hours at a time.

One of the main advantages of using this product is that it’s lightweight and comfortable. For one, this will prevent the backpack to add to the weight you have to carry when you’re trekking, which will allow you to fill it up with supplies. The backpack’s padded shoulder straps and midsection improve the unit’s comfort, allowing you to carry it with ease over long distances.

The backpack’s main storage compartment is insulated and leak-proof, so the melted ice won’t spill when you’re walking. The side mesh pockets offer the possibility of holding some items close at hand, while the dry storage compartment offers an more space for your belongings.

Thanks to the backpack’s large storage capacity, you will be able to carry your whole family’s lunch without any problems. You can fit up to 3 20 oz water bottles next to the food you pack.

4. MIER Backpack Cooler

MIER Backpack CoolerThe MIER backpack cooler is a good all-around model that comes at a decent price. This unit comes with a top-open design that will hold up to 24 cans in its insulated compartment, which should be sufficient to store plenty of supplies and keep them at a cool temperature.

One of the advantages of using this model is that it has a very user-friendly design. The insulated compartment is large and easy to access. Besides the cooler compartment, this backpack comes with two other zippered dry-storage compartments that will extend the unit’s storage capacity. The side mesh pockets are useful and easy to use, allowing you to store something you need close at hand.

Another advantage of using this model is that it’s very comfortable to carry. The shoulder straps, the midsection, and the top handle are padded, so you will be able to carry heavy loads while using this model.

The top-open design will ensure that the water created by the melted ice won’t reach the zippers, so you won’t have any problems with leaks or spillage when using this model. Thanks to its design, you will be able to pack some wine bottles and keep them upright while you carry the backpack.

5. North Coyote Backpack Cooler

North Coyote Backpack CoolerThe North Coyote backpack cooler is a stylish model that offers plenty of storage space. This is the largest unit we included in our list, and it offers up to 42 liters of storage, 17 of those being insulated.

One of the main advantages of this model is that it’s very versatile. Unlike the other backpacks we reviewed so far that only had a large compartment and one or two smaller ones, this model offers 6 pockets besides the insulated one. This will allow you to compartmentalize your supplies as you see fit, and it also allows you to store your valuables in the interior zippered pocket, offering a much-needed protection when you travel.

As far as the cooling compartment is concerned, its total capacity is of 17 L or 19 cans, which is more than plenty. The lining is leak-proof and odor-resistant, so you won’t have any problems cleaning it between uses. The insulated compartment has a top-open design, so the chances of leaks seeping through the zipper lines are small to none.

We liked that the backpack’s dry storage capacity is also large, of up to 25 Liters or 28 cans. Not only will this allow you to store plenty of food or supplies, but it will also offer you the possibility to store some clothing articles separated from the food items.

6. ONIVA Insulated Backpack Cooler

ONIVA Insulated Backpack CoolerThe ONIVA insulated backpack cooler is a nice and compact model that offers a surprisingly large storing capacity. This unit comes with not one, but two insulated storage compartments that will hold your food and drinks cold throughout the day.

A great thing about this model is that it has a clever design. There are two insulated storage compartments you can use to store your food and drinks instead of a single large unit. This is an advantage because it will allow you to store different items in separate compartments if you want to. One of the compartments can hold less ice, for the items you’re planning on consuming early in the day, and the other can hold more ice so it will maintain a cool temperature for a longer time.

Besides having two insulated compartments, this backpack also has a compartmentalized dry storage zippered pocket you can use to store your valuables. The side mesh pockets are useful when you want to store something that’s easily accessible. This backpack also comes with an insulated water bottle compartment that holds a 40oz bottle or water thermos comfortably.

Despite its large storage capacity, this model has a compact design that will allow you to use it for everyday purposes, such as going to and from work or going to the gym. However, loading the backpack at its maximum capacity can make it heavy, so it won’t be too comfortable to carry.

Buying Guide: Choosing The Right Backpack Cooler

Backpack Cooler Buying GuideThe purpose of a backpack cooler is to keep your food or drinks at an appropriate temperature – no matter if they are supposed to stay hot or cold. However, for that to happen, the backpack cooler should also have adequate features. Whether you are more focused on comfort or usage, here are some factors that you might want to give serious consideration to:

  • Comfort

If you are in need of a backpack cooler for your escapades, the chances are that you’ll be walking quite a distance with it. After all, if you need such a backpack, it’s likely that you’re hiking somewhere with no restaurant or food sources – such as a peak, a forest, or any other nature spot. The last thing you want is to be walking miles with an uncomfortable backpack, wishing that someone would just put you out of your misery.

Even if the backpack itself is not particularly heavy, you need to keep in mind that you’ll likely fill it with a fair amount of food or drinks – all of which can drag you down. If the straps aren’t comfortable, you’ll feel them digging in your skin – which will ruin your trip entirely.

This is why you need to make sure that the straps of the backpack are comfortable and well-padded. Make sure that they will not start digging into your shoulders and that they manage to even out the weight on your back, allowing you to remain pain-free.

  • Size

Size really matters when it comes to backpack coolers – and that’s for a very good reason. Let’s say that you are generally a size S – and you go for an XXL backpack. Sure, you can fit a lot of things in that backpack – but can you carry it once you pack it with all the food and drinks?

Sure, you want to feed all the people in your group with the contents of that bag – but if you have a small frame, you won’t be able to carry a large backpack. Similarly, if your backpack is too small, it may not fit all the products that you have in mind – so, choose one that has the appropriate size.

  • Max Weight Capacity

When browsing for a backpack, consider its maximum capacity. How many cans of beer do you actually intend to carry with you to the top of the peak? Let’s say that you want to jam as many contents as you can in that cooler; your back might be able to carry it, but the backpack might not. You might find yourself halfway to your destination, with the straps giving up under the weight.

This is why it is always a good idea to check what the maximum weight capacity is. Think about how much food or drinks you plan on taking with you. Do you want a 20 lbs cargo, or do you feel like a 30 lbs one might be more suitable? Make sure that the design is ergonomic enough to support the weight and that you are not faced with any unfortunate incidents.

  • Pockets

You surely love some extra space or pockets that can help you keep things organized. Let’s say that you buy one big backpack with only one storing area – and no pockets. If you have smaller items, you’ll be stashing them together with the larger ones and you may end up crushing them. You can also lose a lot of time fishing through your backpack, looking for them.

This is why you may want to ensure that your backpack cooler has a lot of extra pockets – both on the inside and the outside. This way, you’ll be able to keep things more organized, leading to a more time-efficient hike.

  • Insulation

This is perhaps one of the most important factors that you might want to consider – the insulation from the inside out. First things first, you might want to ensure that the layer of insulation is thick enough to keep the contents cool the entire day – and not be affected by the temperature outside.

Secondly, you should ensure that the backpack cooler you purchase is also leak-proof. The problem with some cheaper bags is that they begin to leak the moment the ice starts melting – and your back and legs will be the first to find out about it.

This is why you need to find models that are leak-proof thanks to their superior build. Granted, they might not be very cheap – but at least your back will be dry.

FAQ about Backpack Coolers

  • For how long can a backpack cooler keep my items cold?

This will depend on a variety of factors. First, it will depend on how cold your items are, to begin with. If they were not that cold from the moment you placed them in the backpack, there’s a chance that they might lose from their coolness in just a couple of hours.

The next deciding factor is its insulation; the thicker it is, the more it will last. Plus, an increased outside temperature might lead to the food and drinks getting warmer – particularly if you don’t have any ice packs.

The typical backpack should keep your items chilled for at least 6 hours. However, if you have no ice and you constantly open the backpack, it might last even less.

  • Do I have to clean the cooler?

You have to clean your fridge every now and again – so, you definitely have to clean your cooler as well. Coolers can be prone to developing a variety of bacteria – which is why you need to clean them properly.

Plus, ice packs have the tendency to burst – so, you can imagine the result when that melted ice begins to mix with the food you may have stored in your backpack. Leave it unattended long enough, particularly in hot weather, and you might realize that some very interesting smells are coming from your backpack.

  • How do I clean my backpack cooler?

When cleaning your backpack cooler, you might want to refrain from using any strong chemicals. You may end up staining it because of the presence of bleach. Also, the chemicals might damage the quality of the material itself. So, this kind of treatment might damage your cooler in the long run.

Instead of using strong chemicals, try using a mild detergent and warm water. If it’s particularly clad with mold or any stains, you might want to use a mix of water and vinegar. Thoroughly rinse everything with water and leave it out to dry. Make sure that it dries thoroughly so that it doesn’t develop mold or mildew.

  • Can I use a backpack cooler without ice?

If the bag itself and your products have been chilled beforehand, you may use the backpack cooler even without packing it with ice. If the products you put inside are cold, a well-insulated backpack will ensure that the food and drinks stay cold for a longer time.

Bear in mind that the more often you open the backpack, the faster the food will warm up. If you add ice in the cooler, you won’t only preserve the chilling effect – you will be creating it. This is why you may want to add at least one ice pack in the bag, particularly if you plan on being away for a longer time.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Backpack Coolers

As you could see from our short reviews, backpack coolers can offer many advantages. Unfortunately, backpack coolers are not suitable for every occasion, so they also have some disadvantages.

1. Advantages

  • Easy To TransportThe main advantage of using a backpack cooler is that you can transport it with ease. You don’t have to worry about it being too heavy to carry comfortably in your arms because its weight will be evenly distributed across your shoulders and back, making it easier to move.
  • Versatile – Unlike other cooler models, backpack coolers are more versatile. They offer a large insulated compartment and at least one dry storage compartment. Not only will this allow you to carry both refrigerated and unrefrigerated food items, but it will also allow you to carry clothing items, gadgets, and other objects.
  • Low MaintenanceBackpack coolers have low maintenance. The insulated compartment is leak-proof and more often than not bacteria and fungal-resistant, so you can wash it with water and detergent. The outer layer is often made out of nylon and you can wash it or brush it off when necessary.
  • Collapsible – Unlike other cooler models that are bulky and difficult to store, most backpack coolers are foldable or collapsible, so you can easily find a storage place for them. Using a collapsible unit will also be an advantage when you want to travel because it will allow you to store the backpack in a simple suitcase when you’re not using it.
  • Comfortable – Most coolers are uncomfortable to carry because they have hard plastic handles. The handles are uncomfortable to hold, and they can really hurt the palm of your hands when you load the cooler with drinks and food. Backpack coolers come with padded straps and handles, so they’re more comfortable to carry.
  • Secure – Backpack coolers use zippers or Velcro to secure your belongings when you travel. This will be an advantage, especially if you travel in foreign new places.
  • Aesthetically Pleasing – A major advantage of using a backpack cooler is that they look nice. Coolers are usually bulky and ugly, so most people avoid carrying them when they travel or when they’re trekking. However, cooler backpacks look exactly like regular backpacks, so you won’t have any problems carrying them wherever you go.

2. Disadvantages

  • Limited Storage Capacity – Even though some models like the ONIVA Insulated Backpack Cooler offer a great storage capacity, the storage capacity of backpack coolers doesn’t come near the one offered by rotomolded coolers or metal coolers. Since the backpack coolers are designed to be portable, most manufacturers limit their storage capacity so they won’t be too heavy to carry comfortably.
  • Limited Cooling Period – Unlike electric coolers that use electricity to maintain a constant temperature inside the cooling compartment, backpack coolers rely on their insulation proprieties to keep the insulation compartment cool throughout the day. You have to put some ice or freeze packs inside the insulation compartment at the start of the day, and then lock the insulation pocket. This will maintain the temperature at a cool level as long as the ice or freeze packs are cold. Depending on the ambient temperature and the quality of the insulation lining, the backpack coolers can be effective for as long as 10 hours and as little as a single one.

When Should You Use A Backpack Cooler?

Backpack Cooler Reviews

Backpack coolers are comfortable and easy to transport, so they’re suitable for multiple occasions and purposes.

  1. Camping – Camping has many benefits, but one of the problems people going camping often experience is that they leave their main cooler, usually a rotomolded or a soft-sided cooler at their campsite and they don’t bring anything along for their daily expeditions. This can be a disadvantage, especially since most people enjoy camping during the warm season. A backpack cooler can be the perfect solution for that. You can store most of your supplies in the large cooler you leave behind at the campsite and fill the backpack cooler with drinks, sandwiches, and snacks for your expedition.
  2. Picnics – You don’t have to carry a large cooler if you want to keep food fresh while on a picnic, especially if you’re not going in a large group. A backpack cooler offers enough storage space for a family of four, and it’s way more comfortable to carry. You could say that the backpack cooler is the modern equivalent of a picnic basket.
  3. Sunbathing/Going To The Beach – There’s nothing worse than drinking out of a lukewarm bottle of water when you’re going to the beach or you’re sunbathing. Wait, we take that back. There is something worse than drinking lukewarm water. It’s drinking lukewarm beer or soft drinks. A backpack cooler can be the perfect solution for this problem. You pack some ice to keep your water, soft drinks, and beer cool throughout the day, put a bathing suit and a towel in the dry storage compartment and you’re all set. You can just relax and enjoy the sun.
  4. Travel – Traveling is one of the best things you can do to broaden your horizons. But it’s impossible to visit remote locations and have cold beverages close at hand if you don’t carry your own cooler. And a backpack cooler is perfect for people who travel because it can keep food fresh on long trips. The insulated compartment can provide ample space for food and drinks, and the other pockets can hold your maps and souvenirs. Some models like the North Coyote Backpack Cooler come with a zippered inner pocket that will protect your valuables.
  5. Trekking – Trekking is great because it can boost your physical and mental health at the same time. But many people associate trekking with the discomfort of being dehydrated or tired. While using a backpack cooler can do nothing to improve your fitness levels so you won’t feel tired, at least it can hold your water bottles at a cool temperature so you can hydrate properly.

Best Backpack Coolers Comparison Chart

OAGear Backpack Cooler
$up to 8 hoursup to 20 cans12.25 x 16.5 x 7.75"
Coleman C003 Backpack Cooler
$$6 - 8 hoursup to 28 cans19.38 x 14.76 x 1.78"
TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler
$$$16 hoursup to 28 cans17.7" x 13.0" x 7.5"
MIER Backpack Cooler
$$up to 10 hoursup to 24 cans10.7 x 7 x 11.8"
North Coyote Backpack Cooler
$$$up to 10 hours17 L or 19 cans20 x 7.3 x 30"
ONIVA Insulated Backpack Cooler
$$$$about 12 hoursup to 6 cans19 x 16 x 5"

Wrap Up

As you could see from our backpack cooler reviews, they are not as efficient as other cooler models, but their versatility and portability make up for whatever they lose in efficiency.

Finding the best backpack cooler is only a matter of preference. You should take into account the cooler’s capacity, its compartmentalization, its design, and also its appearance. Of course, you should also factor in the backpack’s price and search for the unit that seems better suited for your needs.

Keep in mind that you can use a backpack cooler to store and carry other items besides food and drinks, which makes them more versatile than other cooler models. If you don’t think that this type of coolers isn’t really right for you, there are a lot of other types you can choose from. You will surely find the best cooler in no time whatsoever.

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