The 7 Best Backpack Coolers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

After testing 23 backpack coolers from brands like Hydro Flask and Igloo, we named the winning models.

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Backpack Cooler

Food & Wine / Kevin Liang

Backpack coolers are the best way to enjoy chilled food and beverages during your outdoor adventure, whether it’s a beach trip, a picnic in the park, or a day hike. The padded straps rest comfortably on your shoulders, allowing you to either walk hands-free or carry other items. Along with their portability, backpack coolers easily fit in packed vehicles during transport and in tight storage spaces when not in use. 

We tested 23 of the best backpack coolers on the market and rated each one based on their insulation, design, capacity, comfort, and durability. Our top choices carry an average of 20 to 30 liters, and each one is lined with insulation to keep things cold for hours, but like regular coolers, you can add loose ice or ice packs to maintain its temperature longer. Read on to see which backpack cooler is right for you.

Best Overall

Hydro Flask Escape Soft Cooler

Hydro Flask Escape Soft Cooler


Pros: Keep two dozen cans chilled for 36 hours with this cooler, which comes with five years of purchase protection.

Cons: The opening of the cooler bag is very tight, so it would be difficult to pack larger items.

With superior insulation, leakproof seams, and padded shoulder straps, the Hydro Flask earned high scores across all categories. It’s a durable choice that you can count on for years to come, plus, it comes with a five-year warranty if there are any manufacturer defects. Along with its functionality, we loved the look of it. “The backpack cooler looks very sleek with its slim profile,” one tester said. “It is so aesthetically pleasing; it looks like a very high-end bag.”

It comes in three sizes, with the 18- and 26-liter options available as shoulder totes rather than backpack-style coolers. Keep in mind that the opening of the backpack cooler might be too narrow for large items.

Price at time of publish: $200

  • Size: 8.47 x 18.52 x 18.12 inches
  • Capacity: 20 liters
  • Weight: 2.63 pounds
Hydro Flask Escape Soft Cooler

Food & Wine / Jhett Thompson

Best Value

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze 24 Can Backpack Cooler

Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze 24 Can Backpack Cooler


Pros: This cooler protects against odors and stains and has excellent insulation. 

Cons: There was some leakage after the ice melted. 

For under $50, this backpack cooler features two layers of insulation, one of water resistance, one to protect against heat, and a leakproof lining. That insulation lived up to our expectations, with one tester saying, “the cans were about as cold as they would be coming out of the fridge, perhaps a tiny bit colder,” after two hours of being in the cooler. 

There’s an antimicrobial material built into the lining to prevent bacterial growth, and that lining, which is also reflective, is quite easy to wipe down. The back is padded so that even if you are carrying it on rough terrain, it won’t rub against you in an uncomfortable way. Our testers said that it was easy to pick up and put on with its upper handle and compact size, as well as fit their body thanks to the adjustable straps. We recommend keeping it upright as much as possible because there was considerable leakage on its side after the ice melted. 

Price at time of publish: $45

  • Size: 10.5 x 7.5 x 16.5 inches
  • Capacity: 24 liters
  • Weight: 1.53 pounds
Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Backpack Cooler

Food & Wine / Jhett Thompson

Best Large Capacity

IceMule Boss 30 Liter Backpack Cooler

IceMule Boss 30 Liter Backpack Cooler


Pros: It’s a great choice for longer day trips, as it fits 24 cans with ice and stays cold for hours.  

Cons: Due to its high capacity, it’s bulkier than other choices. 

If you’re camping or picnicking with a crowd, the 30-liter capacity of the Icemule Boss will suit your needs. You can fit a substantial quantity of ice in addition to a full 24 cans, and the exterior features three pockets and bungee storage, meaning that you shouldn’t need an additional vessel. Plus, it has a roll-top design that provides easy access to everything inside.

When testing its comfort, our expert said “there are many straps that secure the bag tightly to your body, which allows it to be a perfect hiking bag.” If you’re not hitting the trails, it’s also an excellent choice for water activities thanks to its floating capabilities. To use it as a floating cooler, you’ll simply add air to the insulation through a valve, and then it can roll down a river right beside you. 

Price at time of publish: $375

  • Size: 11.02 x 16.93 x 24.02 inches
  • Capacity: 30 liters
  • Weight: 7.9 pounds
Icemule Boss Backpack Cooler

Food & Wine / Jhett Thompson

Best for Wine

Corkcicle EOLA Cooler Backpack

Corkcicle Eola Bucket Cooler Bag


Pros: It fits five bottles of wine and comes in various colors.

Cons: The fabric’s quality is lacking, as it scuffed after falling off the table a few times.

If you love to sip on wine, this backpack cooler makes it a breeze to take bottles with you on the go. It provides enough space for five wine bottles, two wine bottles with eight cans, or 12 cans, allowing you to pack something for everyone’s needs. 

Not only will you be able to carry plenty of drinks and even a few snacks, but you’ll also be able to do it in style thanks to its sleek design. It’s made of vegan leather, has seams welded to stay put, and adjustable straps. The closed-cell foam insulation will keep everything chilled, and the sturdy base means you won’t have to worry about heavy glass bottles tipping it over. During our drop test to analyze its durability, we noticed some scuff marks after a few falls. This isn’t a major issue, but it might show signs of wear quicker than expected. 

Price at time of publish: $160

  • Size: 16 x 12 x 11 inches
  • Capacity: 12 cans or 5 wine bottles
  • Weight: 2 pounds
Corkcicle Eola Bucket Cooler Bag

Food & Wine / Jhett Thompson

Best for the Beach

RTIC Backpack Cooler

RTIC Backpack Cooler


Pros: It’s durable, floatable, and waterproof, making it suitable for beach and lake outings. 

Cons: It doesn’t have any pockets. 

Whether you’re going to the beach, lake, river, or pool, this floatable, waterproof cooler is a must. Since you’ll mostly be in the sun, you’ll appreciate its outstanding insulation that keeps inside contents cold all day long. It’s available in two sizes suitable for 20 or 30 cans, plus we found it fits food on top of the maximum number of drinks. 

During our comfort and durability tests, we were impressed with the cooler’s padding and leakproof design. “The backpack has three strips of thick padding on the back, which made it feel cushioned and comfortable to wear,” our tester said. “It didn't leak at all, and the zippers still felt sturdy and watertight.”

Price at time of publish: $170

  • Size: 12 x 6 x 16 inches
  • Capacity: 20 cans 
  • Weight: 3.7 pounds
RTIC Backpack Cooler

Food & Wine / Jhett Thompson

Best for Camping

REI Co-op Cool Trail Pack Cooler

REI Co-op Cool Trail Pack Cooler


Pros: It features a hip belt and a chest harness, providing a comfortable fit for longer wears or for trekking the trails. 

Cons: You might want to use ice packs instead of loose ice to prevent leaking. 

This backpack features a leakproof cooler insert, meaning you can carry chilled food and drinks or use it as a non-insulated backpack. We found that the cooler was very easy to load with ice and drinks because the opening was so wide. There are several compartments to carry items like your phone and trail maps, plus it even has a pocket large enough for a water bottle.  

One of our favorite parts about this cooler is how comfortable it was. It has padded shoulder straps, an adjustable chest harness, and a cushioned hip belt and back panel for optimal weight distribution. Because of these excellent features, it was not noticeably heavy after the pack was fully packed. “I feel I can carry this for a longer duration,” one tester said.  

Price at time of publish: $100

  • Size: 22 x 16 x 8.5 inches
  • Capacity: 30.5 liters
  • Weight: 3.5 lbs
REI Co-op Cool Trail Pack Cooler

Food & Wine / Jhett Thompson

Best for Work

Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack

Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack


Pros: Store your office work, gym gear, or personal items on top and still have space to fit a day’s worth of food in the bottom cooler compartment. 

Cons: It doesn't have a large capacity for keeping items cold. 

This Carhartt cooler backpack looks and feels like a regular backpack, but the insulated bottom compartment makes it ideal for a day in the office or outdoors. There’s plenty of space for a change of clothes or picnic blanket on top and lunch with an ice pack on the bottom. Though it’s not your typical backpack cooler, it earned a perfect rating during our durability test. After throwing the bag off a table, there were no signs of leakage or damage. 

If you just want to carry drinks, you can fit 10 cans with ice in the insulated section. As a bonus, the material is treated with Rain Defender, which means it’s safe for outdoor worksites and overnight camping trips. 

Price at time of publish: $65

  • Size: 12.5 x 8 x 17.75 inches
  • Capacity: 4.25 liters
  • Weight: 2.1 lbs
Carhartt Insulated Two Compartment Cooler Backpack

Food & Wine / Jhett Thompson

Our Favorite 

The Hydro Flask Escape Soft Cooler is our overall favorite for its comfortable padding, stylish design, and ability to keep items cool for 36 hours. Ideal for frequent use, it will stand the test of time. If you're looking for something less expensive yet still reliable, the Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Backpack cooler is a smart choice.

The Tests

We tested 23 of the most popular backpack coolers on the market, ranging in size, price, and style. Each cooler was rated on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the best) in six categories: design, capacity, portability, durability, insulation, and overall value. To determine the scores, we put them through a series of tests, including how many cans fit with and without ice, how comfortable it was to pick up and carry when full, how much or little leakage or damaged items occurred after being knocked off a table, and how cold inside contents were after two hours. We also made notes about extra compartments, the functionality of the coolers’ openings, and whether or not the price matched their performance. 

Factors to Consider


All the backpack coolers on our list featured top-notch insulation to keep temperatures down. Some coolers feature multiple layers of insulation so things stay cold for extra long durations, such as multiple days, while others just have a single layer. The insulated part is typically attached to the backpack, but some models feature a removable insert so the vessel can be used as a regular backpack. 


The size of your cooler should be determined by how much you want to keep in it and how large of a backpack you can carry comfortably. The more items placed inside, the heavier it will inevitably be. Filled ⅔ of ice, the backpack coolers we tested could fit anywhere from 8 to 24 cans. 


Look for features like adjustable straps and a padded back to ensure that your backpack cooler offers the comfort level you want. Chest and hip straps are also helpful with weight distribution, especially if you’ll be walking with the backpack for long distances. If they only work for certain torso lengths, you’ll want to measure ahead of time to avoid a cooler that doesn’t suit your frame. 

Intended Use

Think about where you’ll be taking your backpack cooler and what you’ll put in it. If you want to keep a bottle or two of wine chilled, a tall option that can hold the bottle upright is best. For people hiking or walking long distances, look for backpack coolers with extra compartments to store other items and lots of comfortable padding and weight-balancing straps. 

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do you properly pack a backpack cooler?

    First, add large food and drink items that you won’t need immediately to the bottom. Next, add a layer of ice and then other items you’ll want sooner, with the heaviest going in first. On top should be delicate items, such as fruit and crackers. You’ll want to avoid excess air and space, so fill any empty areas with ice or ice packs.

  • Will water leak out as the ice melts?

    If a leakproof cooler is worth its salt, water won’t leak out as the ice melts. If you’re worried about that, opt for ice packs instead of loose ice. Additionally, it’s worth noting that some coolers don’t have waterproof zippers, so if they get wet they may leak more and become difficult to use.

  • How do you clean a backpack cooler?

    Use a damp cloth and warm soapy water to wipe out the interior. If it’s very soiled, you can wash it out completely with warm water and dish soap. To facilitate air drying, turn the backpack upside down to dry. Unless a backpack cooler says it’s machine washable, that should be avoided.

What Didn't Make The List

Strong Contenders 

  • Igloo Outdoor Pro Water Repellent Backpack Cooler ($140 at Amazon)
  • Coleman High-Performance Leak Proof Soft Cooler (Out of stock at Amazon)
  • Icemule Pro Collapsible Backpack Cooler ($145 at Amazon)
  • Arctic Zone High Performance Welded Backpack Cooler ($165 at Arctic Zone)
  • Pelican Dayventure Backpack Soft Cooler ($290 at Amazon)
  • Igloo Premium Soft-Sided Insulated Cooler Bag ($160 at Amazon)
  • Ozark Trail Welded Cooler ($48 at Amazon)
  • TourIt Cooler Insulated Backpack Cooler ($42 at Amazon)
  • Igloo Switch Backpack ($50 at Igloo)

Results Still Simmering 

  • Magellan Outdoors Pro Backpack Cooler ($90 at Academy)
  • Coleman Chiller Series Soft Cooler Backpack ($35 at Amazon)
  • Cotopaxi Hielo Backpack Cooler (Out of stock at Backcountry)
  • Otterbox Backpack Cooler ($70 at Otterbox)
  • Seehonor Insulated Cooler Backpack at Amazon ($20 at Amazon)
  • Arctic Zone Eco Picnic Backpack Cooler ($90 at Arctic Zone)

Our Expertise

Contributor Ariane Resnick is a special diet private chef, certified nutritionist, and lifestyle writer with two decades of culinary and literary experience. Her work has been featured in Simply Recipes, The Spruce Eats, Clean Plates, Huffington Post, Verywell, and more. For this article, she used testing insights from our staff to determine the best backpack coolers on the market.

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