The 10 Best Cooler Backpacks 2017

Are you looking for the perfect cooler backpack? After doing an extensive research and performing various tests on different cooler backpacks, we are convinced that the Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series Backpack is the top cooler backpack available in the market.

People who love spending time outdoors know there is no shortage of situations when having a cooler can save the day. The problem is, lugging a traditional cooler around is not the easiest thing and might end up ruining the fun for you. This is where backpack coolers come in handy. A backpack cooler provides an easy and convenient way of bringing some goodies from home to wherever the party is happening. All you need is to pack your snacks and beverages, throw in a couple ice packs and then sling it on your back like you would with a regular backpack. You leave your arms free to do as you please (which can make a big difference especially if you are hiking) and you don’t have to argue with security about whether containers are allowed at the festival or not. Since it is our mission to ensure you always have the best of the best, we did a test on various backpack coolers and compiled a list of the best backpack coolers to help you choose the perfect one for you.

Our selection of the 10 best cooler backpacks

Here is our list of the 10 best cooler backpacks that are currently in the market based on features, carrying capacity and durability.

1. Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series Backpack

Polar bear coolers nylon series backpack'The Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series Backpack clinched the top position on our list of the 10 best cooler backpacks, and you’ll see why no other cooler backpack can stand up to it. The backpack measures 18 x 12 x 7 inches. This size allows it to hold up to 24 cans, which is more than enough for you and a few friends. The high-quality insulation on the Polar Bear has a one-inch thickness with a “5 layer air trap” design. This allows the backpack to keep your ice packs frozen for over 24 hours. For optimal performance, you should pre-cool your drinks and pack the backpack with enough ice packs.

Despite the inch thick insulation and big carrying capacity, the Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series Backpack weighs a mere 3 pounds when empty. The exterior of the backpack is made out of a tough 1000D Nylon shell that will take a beating without any signs of damage. The zippers are heavy duty weatherized, so you don’t have to worry about them coming off or getting damaged. The shoulder straps are soft for maximum comfort when wearing the backpack. It also has a Velcro wrap for gathering small handles into a manageable bunch when you want to carry it in one hand.

The Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series Backpack comes with a number of pockets to help you keep everything in its proper place. Apart from the main cooling compartment, there is a rubber coated zipper pocket on the back, a handy mesh pocket, and two easily accessible side pockets. It also has a pull-tap bottle opener built onto the cooler. Talk of convenience! When empty, the backpack folds to half its size, therefore storing the backpack will not be much of a problem. The Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series Backpack is available in an array of colors to suit everyone’s preferences.

Available at: Amazon.

2. OAGear Cooler Sports Pack

OAGear Cooler Sports PackMade by Outdoor Active Gear, this cooler sports pack is one of the best cooler backpacks you will find on the market. This is a heavy duty backpack designed to give you hands-free convenience while carrying a ton on your shoulders. The backpack has double heated PEVA liner that ensures that it remains leak-proof. The OAGear Cooler Sports Pack measures 12.25 x 16.5 x 7.75 inches. The large size allows it to hold approximately 20 cans plus ice, allowing you to bring the party wherever you go. The large front pocket, drawstrings, and open mesh side pockets give it a cool, sporty look.

The backpack is designed in a way that allows it to sit securely on your back, ensuring complete comfort as you go about your activities. The design allows for even weight distribution, making your load easier to carry. The shoulder straps are padded, making the backpack easy to wear and taking the strain off your shoulders.  This allows you to carry the backpack for greater distances effortlessly. The mesh side pockets on the side of the back pack provide some extra space and easy access, convenient for stashing a bar of chocolate, snacks or any other essential item you may prefer.

The OAGear Cooler Sports Pack is a great choice if you are looking for a heavy duty cooler backpack that will hold a large number of drinks. The price is quite pocket-friendly. As a plus, it looks just like an ordinary backpack, which makes it perfect for sneaking your own drinks into a sports event.

Available at: Amazon.

3. Coleman C003 Soft Backpack Cooler

Coleman C003 Soft Backpack CoolerThe Coleman C003 soft backpack cooler is a stylish and large backpack that can carry up to 28 cans, making it the perfect choice for large families or extended outings. It measures 12.2 x 6.3 x 19.3 inches. The backpack is comprised of the main cooler compartment, a dry zippered front pocket and two small mesh pockets on the sides, near the base of the backpack. The main cooler compartment is made from a durable, BPA and phthalate free, heat welded material that enables the backpack to keep drinks and snacks cold for extended periods.  It’s also good to note that the lining of the main compartment is mold, odor and mildew resistant.

While the mesh pockets provide extra space for holding small items, they do not have zippers, which means they are not ideal for holding valuable items such as cellphones, keys or wallets. Instead, these can be kept in the zippered dry storage pocket located on the front panel of the Coleman. This pocket is large enough to hold an iPad mini or any other small tablet. It can also be used for storing snacks that do not need cold storage.

The Coleman C003 soft backpack cooler is designed to be stylish, lightweight, comfortable and spacious. It comes with fully adjustable shoulder and waist straps, which are fully padded to ensure carrying comfort. The waist straps have a wide base to prevent them from cutting into your sides due to the weight of the bag. The back area of the Coleman is also padded, not only to provide comfort but also to ensure that your back does not get cold.

Available at: Amazon.

4. Igloo Marine Ultra Square Cooler Backpack

Igloo Marine Ultra Square Cooler Backpack

Igloo is a renowned brand in the cooler backpacks space, with the Marine Ultra Square being among one of their best offerings. The marine cooler back pack is resistant to leaks and is very easy to clean. It is made out of anti-mildew and UV protected outer material. One of the key features of the Igloo Marine Ultra Square Cooler is the MaxCold Insulation with 25% more foam. This feature allows the Marine to keep your snacks and beverages cold for extended periods of time. It is specially fitted with extra 1.1-inch thick extruded closed cell foam with a 0.35mm thick PEVA that enables it to keep ice for up to two days. The backpack measures 8.5 x 16 x 11.75 inches, making it quite spacious, with a capacity of up to 24 cans.

The marine cooler backpack is designed to suit your lifestyle. In addition to the various pockets, it has adjustable straps fitted with breathable material, which allows for cooling and extra comfort. It also has a chest clip that comes in handy especially when you need to carry heavier goods. The Marine is made to be used in marine environments, therefore it is built using non-corrosive hardware that will comfortably handle the cruel marine conditions. The antimicrobial liner is both odor and stain resistant and allows for easy cleaning. It has a fully insulated compartment that will provide full protection to the chill fragile products inside. The Igloo Marine Ultra Square Cooler comes at a reasonable price. However, some users have raised complaints about the zippers and handle stitching.

Available at: Amazon.

5. Picnic Time ‘Zuma’ Insulated Cooler Backpack

Picnic Time ‘Zuma’ Insulated Cooler BackpackThe Picnic Time ‘Zuma’ Insulated Cooler Backpack is a stylish backpack that can be easily mistaken for an ordinary backpack. However, unlike a regular backpack, it comes with a water resistant, heat sealed lining that allows it to keep your snacks and beverages chilled while you are out on your adventures. The Picnic Time ‘Zuma’ Insulated Cooler Backpack is made out of a kind of polyester that is both light and durable. Measuring 19 x 11 x 7 inches, the backpack is spacious enough for most of your outdoor requirements. It can hold up to 16 cans with ice packs or up to 20 cans without ice packs if the cans are already chilled.

The Picnic Time ‘Zuma’ Insulated Cooler Backpack is divided into two sections. The upper section, which is fitted with a draw string closure mesh, is reserved for storing goods that do not need to be kept chilled. The bottom section, which is the main cooling compartment, is fitted with Thermo-guard insulation, is heat sealed and has a water resistant lining. The exterior of the backpack has zippered pockets that provide extra space for storing your other stuff. The lining is heat sealed and water resistant to prevent leaks. The padded shoulder straps are equipped with a breathable mesh material that makes it comfortable to carry the backpack for extended periods and keep you from sweating. On the underside of the shoulder strap is a small pocket which can be used to carry a mobile phone. The Picnic Time ‘Zuma’ Insulated Cooler Backpack is available in a number of colors, including blue, red, black and black US army.

Available at: Amazon.

6. Igloo Real Tree Soft side Hunting Cooler Backpack

Igloo Real Tree Soft side Hunting Cooler BackpackThe Igloo Real Tree Soft side Hunting Cooler Backpack is perfect for hunting trips and other varied outdoor activities. The backpack measures 9.8 x 19.3 x 13.8 inches. This provides ample space to carry up to 18 cans. The Igloo Real Tree Soft side Hunting Cooler Backpack is built with a cool outer fabric design that is outfitted with authentic RealTree Camo print. This is something that most outdoor enthusiasts will love. The main compartment of the backpack is insulated, allowing it to keep your food and drinks insulated all day long. Apart from the main compartment, it has other exterior pockets for storing extra snacks and gear. These include one zippered pocket on the flap, another zippered pocket on the front of the backpack and two meshed pockets on either side of the backpack, near the base.

The main compartment of the Igloo Real Tree Soft side Hunting Cooler Backpack is made out of a light but strong molded EVA foam that makes the compartment crushproof, keeping the fragile items inside both cold and secure. It also has a leak resistant, antimicrobial lining that can be cleaned easily. The shoulder straps are padded, adjustable and are covered in a breathable mesh, making the backpack very comfortable to carry. Some users have raised some complaints about the quality of the shoulder strap stitching and the zippers. However, the Igloo Real Tree Soft side Hunting Cooler Backpack comes with a one year manufacturer’s warranty against any material or workmanship defects, therefore if you find any of these problems, you can get in touch with RealTree and they will replace the backpack for you.

Available at: Amazon.

7. Picnic Time ‘Turismo’ Insulated Cooler Backpack

Picnic Time ‘Turismo’ Insulated Cooler BackpackThe Turismo cooler backpack is among one of the coolest offerings you are going to find on the market. It packs a lot of storage space, has a very sleek design and comes with a nicely designed and insulated water bottle holster, complete with the water bottle itself. It is designed to be a backpack with a cooler, rather than a cooler with shoulder straps. The backpack measures 19 x 16 x 5 inches. This allows you to carry up to 12 cans with you. The Turismo cooler backpack has two main insulated compartments, which are covered by a fold over flap. The fold over flap itself has two zippered pockets for extra storage. Below the fold over flap is a hidden zippered compartment, while on each side you will find smaller pockets which can be used to hold cell phones or keys. The water bottle is removable and has an adjustable shoulder strap.

The insulated interior compartments on the Turismo cooler backpack will keep your beverages chilled for up to 12 hours. The backpack is fitted with non-slip, extra comfort shoulder straps, which provide more comfort as compared to standard padded shoulder straps. It also has a padded handle grip at the top. If you are in the market for a versatile and sleek cooler backpack that you can use for hikes, sightseeing, vacations, fieldtrips, beach trips and amusement park trips, the Picnic time ‘Turismo’ Insulated cooler Backpack is the perfect choice. It is also backed by Picnic Time family of brands ‘built to last’ lifetime guarantee.

Available at: Amazon.

8. Oagear Ultimate Backpack Cooler

Oagear Ultimate Backpack CoolerThe OAGear Ultimate Backpack Cooler is the perfect choice for people who have frequent outdoors adventures. The sturdy backpack is made from 600D polyester and a 600D rip-stop trim, making this one of the most durable cooler backpacks you are going to find on the market. Apart from the highly durable polyester exterior, the OAGear Ultimate Cooler Backpack is also fitted with heavy duty, thick PEVA liner on the interior. It is also fitted with a bottom board which allows the cooler to easily stand by itself. Few cooler backpacks can match the durability provided by this backpack.

The OAGear Ultimate Backpack Cooler measures 5.4 x 15.3 x 19.6 inches, allowing it to hold up to 20 cans plus ice packs. Despite its huge capacity, the backpack remains pretty compact and can be carried quite easily. It comes with adjustable shoulder straps that are padded with breathable mesh material for enhanced comfort as you carry the backpack. It has heavy duty zippers which will serve you for years without ripping. It has a smart, simple design. It has one main compartment which is insulated to keep your snacks and beverages cold as you enjoy your excursion. The compartment is insulated in such a way that it won’t allow the ice to melt. On top of the main compartment is a zippered front pocket that can hold a cell phone, map, keys or any other small stuff you want to bring with you. On each side, you will find an easy-to-reach extra pocket where you can stow your water or soda bottle.

Available at: Amazon.

9. AO Coolers Backpack Soft Cooler With High Density Insulation

AO Coolers Backpack Soft Cooler With High Density InsulationOne of differences between the AO coolers backpack and most other cooler backpacks is that it is actually made of fabric. In spite of this, its insulation properties are twice those you will find on regular cooler backpacks. It comes with a leak-proof liner that prevents the backpack from leaking in the case of spillages. Another unique thing you will notice with the AO coolers backpack is that it is designed in such a way that it can be used both as a backpack or a duffel bag. If you do not want to carry it on your back, you simply need to attach the removable shoulder strap, allowing you to carry it as a duffel.

The backpack measures 16 x 7 x 14 inches. This size allows it to hold up to 18 cans. This makes it an ideal cooler backpack whether you are alone or with a couple of friends. The ¾ inch, high density closed cell foam insulation works as advertised – it will keep your snacks and beverages chilled for up to 24 hours. Apart from the main insulated compartment, the backpack also boasts one large front pocket and two small side pockets, which can be used for storing dry items. The shoulder straps on this backpack are fitted with extra thick padding for maximum comfort when wearing the bag. It also comes with a shoulder strap and a chest clip. The exterior material of the AO Coolers backpack soft cooler is resistant to tears, impacts and abrasions, making the backpack quite durable as well.

Available at: Amazon.

10. Mojecto Heavy Duty Large Cooler Backpack

Mojecto Heavy Duty Large Cooler BackpackJust like its name suggests, this is a big cooler backpack. It has capacity to hold up to 40 cans (355mls) without ice packs. . It is made from heavy duty 1680D tear resistant commercial grade polyester fabric, unlike the 600D, 400D and 300D polyester fabrics that are commonly used on regular cooler backpacks. The inside is layered with high density thick foam insulation and thick, heat-sealed removable PEVA liners. The stitching is strong, the zippers are large and tough, while the shoulder straps are padded and adjustable for enhanced comfort. Clearly, the guys at Mojecto did not scrimp on quality with this backpack.

The backpack has an insulated central compartment which keeps your drinks and snacks chilled. Apart from the main compartment, there are two fully padded and zippered pockets for keeping things that need to be kept dry and other accessories. In between these two pockets is a meshed pocket for holding a water bottle. On top of the main compartment flap is another zippered pocket that you can use for napkins and other stuff. It also has two large D rings on the sides for your keys. Talk of enough space for everything!

The thick insulation on the backpack provides maximum cooling efficiency. However, it is good to note that that the Mojecto Large Cooler Backpack is not meant for use with open liquid, open ice or homemade plastic ice packs. Instead, make sure you use it with ice packs and ice gels that are meant for use with cooler backpacks. Mojecto provides a worry-free, no questions asked lifetime warranty against material and workmanship defects. If for any reason you are not satisfied with your backpack, you will get a replacement or refund.

Available at: Amazon.

About cooler back packs

A good cooler backpack is a great investment for those who like spending lots of time outdoors. Not only does it help to keep your drinks chilled for a more fulfilling taste, it also ensures your safety by preserving your foodstuffs, especially those that tend to decay quickly. Have you ever wondered how cooler backpacks work?

Cooler backpacks operate by simply following the principles of aerodynamics, specifically by preventing or reducing convection and conduction, which are processes by which heat is transferred from one object to another. Cooler backpacks minimize these processes by keeping their interiors insulated from the exterior environment. Traditional ice chests use a layer of dense Styrofoam in between a double wall to provide insulation. However, though Styrofoam is a good insulator, it requires a relatively thick Styrofoam layer to keep the internal temperatures insulated. Additionally, Styrofoam is not flexible, which means it cannot be used in cooler backpacks, since the backpacks are not rigid.

Instead of Styrofoam, the exteriors of cooler backpacks are made using heavy but flexible fabrics, such as polyester. The interior is fitted with heavy duty foil lining. In between the heavy outer fabric and the heavy duty inner foil are layers of thin but dense, flexible foam-like materials. This setup helps to maintain the internal temperatures of cooler backpacks for quite a long while. This allows for the manufacture of thin and flexible backpacks of various shapes and sizes that are easy and convenient to transport.  

Buying a cooler backpack

While cooler backpacks come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and with different features, there are some few considerations you need to keep in mind when shopping for one. These include:

Pockets and Storage: Ideally, you should go for a backpack that allows you to carry as much food and beverages as you want without the fear that they won’t fit or that your backpack will hang too loose. Apart from your snacks and drinks, you might also need to carry along some other stuff, could be a few electronic gadgets, napkins, keys, etc. Generally, the rule of the thumb is the more pockets on the backpack, the better. This ensures you have space for everything you want to carry with you.

Size: This depends on how you are going to use the backpack. Are you going to carry stuff for yourself only or for a group of people? Will you need to carry a lot of stuff? You should choose the size of the backpack depending on the number of things that you need to carry.

Comfort: Comfort is one of the key things you should keep in mind when buying a backpack, regardless of whether you want to carry foodstuffs or anything else. Think about where you will be taking the backpack with you. Will you need to carry it for extended periods of time? Will you be carrying lots of items in it? Carrying something heavy on your shoulders for extended periods of time can be very comfortable and might cause strain on your shoulders. If you will be carrying a lot of items or if you will need to carry the backpack for extended periods of time, you should go for a backpack with thick padding, both on the shoulder straps and on the lower back.

Another thing you need to consider when thinking about comfort is the weight distribution. While some people prefer one-strap backpacks since they look cool, they can provide a lot of discomfort if you have to carry them for long or if you have to carry a huge number of items. You should go for a two-strap backpack that provides even weight distribution.  

Materials and Durability: A cooler backpack’s durability is generally determined by the kind of materials used to manufacture the backpack. Though majority of cooler backpacks are made out of polyester and nylon, you might also find some that are made of fabric and canvas. When it comes to durability, nylon backpacks are the most durable, since nylon is a more expensive and tougher version of polyester. Additionally, it also has better leak-proof properties. Though you might find some backpack brands using high quality polyester whose waterproof properties are almost similar to nylon, it might not be as durable as nylon itself. However, there may be exceptions where the polyester is used in combination with nylon.

If possible, you should avoid canvas and fabric since these materials do not do an excellent job of keeping the warm air out of the interior of your backpack. Their leak-proof properties are not the best either, though there could be some exceptions.

Use: Where and how do you intend to use your cooler backpack? Will it be a replacement for your lunch cooler? Will you need to use it on your next fishing trip or on a hike up the nearby mountain? Your intended use will determine the kind of backpack you need to choose.

Budget: All said and done, this is the most important consideration. Always go for the cooler backpack that will provide the best features and most benefits while still remaining within your budget.

Wrapping up

All said and done, the best cooler backpack is one that will keep your snacks and beverages fresh and chilled throughout the day, even on the hottest summer days. We hope that after going through this review, you can identify a nice cooler backpack when you see it. We have also provided you with a list of some of the best cooler backpacks you are going to find on the market. According to our tests, the Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series Backpack seems to be the best cooler backpack. Even so, the other cooler backpacks in this list are just as good, and it is up to you to make your choice depending on your specific needs and preferences.

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