Backpack coolers are ideal for summer travels. You stock up on six-packs, cans of wine and some snacks and then load it with ice to carry on your standup paddle board, the back of your jeep or on your shoulders as you walk into that private little lake you stumbled upon last year. Straps on coolers is not a new thing, but comfortable, padded ones with extra bands to secure the pack to your waist are relatively new.
While we likely wouldn’t want to hike Mt. Baker or Mt. Washington with any of these cooler backpacks, we wouldn’t mind kayaking to a small island and setting up camp for the night with all our preferred beverages. They’re easier to carry than hard-sided coolers and allow you some creature comforts (half and half! cheese! yogurt! eggs! butter!) without the noose that car-camping provides.
Seemingly in the last year, every brand that we know and love for adventure coolers now has a backpack cooler, too. Here are a few of our favorites right now.
Yeti Hopper Backflip 24L
Yeti and durability go hand in hand, and that extends to the brand’s first backpack cooler. Molle straps on the sides and front make it easy to add attachments or loop through a few carabiners or bottle openers. During testing, we liked how hard the top of this cooler was; we used it as an extra table while camping.
Otterbox Trooper LT 30 Cooler
With dual straps, you can quickly convert this Trooper LT Cooler from a backpack to a shoulder carry, meaning you won’t feel any discomfort over a long hike to the campsite. Of the ones we’ve tested, this is one of the most comfortable at the largest size. A bright interior helps you spot the food you’re looking for right away. So when you get to camp, it’s a breeze to grab those Reese’s cups you stashed for your reward.
Hydro Flask Unbound Soft Cooler Pack
At 22 liters, the Unbound is slightly smaller than both the Yeti and the Otterbox coolers but is the sleekest of the three. The slim side pocket holds your phone or speaker so you can blast tunes while you get to where you’re going. In a pinch, this one also works as a regular backpack. It can even serve as a carry-on if your hiking adventure extends past an airplane ride.
The Orca Podster is one of our best coolers of 2019, but thanks to padded shoulder straps it works double duty as a backpack cooler as well. The bright color stands out in a sea of green, grey and black bags, plus the plethora of molle-webbing adds infinite storage capabilities. While the shape is a bit unconventional, it still leads the pack thanks to its 14.25-quart interior that stays just as cold as its competitors.
IceMule Classic Medium
The heavy-duty IceMule Coolers Boss also made our list for Best Coolers, but if you’re looking for something slightly smaller and more comfortable to carry in addition to a board or on a boat, this 15-liter Classic Medium is for you. The roll-top and single strap make this cross-body bag extremely portable. If you’re spending the day picnicking at the park or the beach, this bag will carry all the snacks and booze you need.
Pelican Dayventure Backpack Cooler
Two distinct compartments on this Dayventure Cooler provide more versatility than any other backpack on this list. The 13-liter bag has a bottom section ideal for carrying six-packs, and then the rolltop works as more cold storage — or a place to stuff a change of clothes, pots and pans or a towel for an easy overnight. We like the breathable straps and back panels that keep this cooler airy while you carry.
Built NY Welded Soft Cooler
This Built NY rolltop backpack is very similar to the Large Welded Cooler we recognized in our Best Coolers of 2019, just with more straps and a way to carry on your back. The large front pocket offers storage for extra cords, batteries, wallets and phones, while the molle straps above feature a bottle opener, which is always, always handy.
Corkcicle Eola Bucket Bag
When we tested out this padded, adjustable cooler bucket bag, we were pleasantly surprised by how cold everything stayed. It’s likely the smallest of the bunch, but also the best looking. Black camo is our pick: fill it with 12 cans or a couple of wine bottles, plus cans, and you’re good to go into the wild.
Coleman Soft Backpack Cooler
Coleman soft coolers are leak-proof with a 28-can capacity that’s shockingly easy to carry in a backpack. The bungee cord front means you can stash an extra pair of sneakers or sandals for any water crossings you may encounter as you hike into the perfect location.