The 5 Best Backpack Coolers in 2021

Coolers Gear

If you want to find the best backpack coolers, you’ve come to the right place.

A good backpack cooler is going to keep your food nice and cold, as well as feeling comfortable to wear. We’ve taken an in-depth look at 5 of the best out there, with all the important information you need to know about each one, covering a range of sizes and price points – so, hopefully, you can find the best one for you.

The bottom line up front: we like the Lifewit Cooler Backpack. It’s durable and super-lightweight, and the padding on the straps and back is useful for long journeys.

We also like:

In this article, we’ll be looking at:

  • The best backpack coolers compared
  • What to look for in a backpack cooler
  • 5 of our favorites, including their key features, pros, and cons
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Which one we like the best, and why

Keep reading to find out more!

Best Backpack Coolers Compared

Feature
Most Durable
Most Lightweight
Good on a Budget
Good All-Rounder
Good for Lunch
Model
YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Can Soft-Sided Cooler Backpack
Lifewit Cooler Backpack
FORICH Soft Cooler Backpack
Double Deck Insulated Cooler Backpack
Ozark Trail 24 Can Insulated Cooler
Capacity
24 Cans
34 Cans
30 Cans
25 Cans
24 Cans
Weight
7.5lbs (3.4kg)
1.14lbs (0.52kg)
1.81lbs (0.82kg)
2lbs (0.90kg)
1.38lbs (0.63kg)
YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack, Charcoal
Lifewit Cooler Backpack Leakrproof 32 Can Insulated Lightweight Backpack Cooler, Large Capacity Soft-Sided Double Decker Cooler Bag for Men Women to Beach/Picnic/Camping/Hiking/Day Trips
FORICH Soft Cooler Backpack Insulated Waterproof Backpack Cooler Bag Leak Proof Portable Small Cooler Backpacks to Work Lunch Travel Beach Camping Hiking Picnic Fishing Beer for Men Women (Orange)
Double Deck Insulated Cooler Backpack, Leakproof Spacious Lightweight Soft Cooler Bag Backpack Cooler for Men Women to Work Travel Hiking Beach, Black
Ozark Trail 24-Can Thermal Insulated Cooler Backpack, Black/Gray
-
1,533 Reviews
1,631 Reviews
1,149 Reviews
600 Reviews
22 Reviews
Feature
Most Durable
Model
YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Can Soft-Sided Cooler Backpack
Capacity
24 Cans
Weight
7.5lbs (3.4kg)
YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack, Charcoal
-
1,533 Reviews
Feature
Most Lightweight
Model
Lifewit Cooler Backpack
Capacity
34 Cans
Weight
1.14lbs (0.52kg)
Lifewit Cooler Backpack Leakrproof 32 Can Insulated Lightweight Backpack Cooler, Large Capacity Soft-Sided Double Decker Cooler Bag for Men Women to Beach/Picnic/Camping/Hiking/Day Trips
1,631 Reviews
Feature
Good on a Budget
Model
FORICH Soft Cooler Backpack
Capacity
30 Cans
Weight
1.81lbs (0.82kg)
FORICH Soft Cooler Backpack Insulated Waterproof Backpack Cooler Bag Leak Proof Portable Small Cooler Backpacks to Work Lunch Travel Beach Camping Hiking Picnic Fishing Beer for Men Women (Orange)
1,149 Reviews
Feature
Good All-Rounder
Model
Double Deck Insulated Cooler Backpack
Capacity
25 Cans
Weight
2lbs (0.90kg)
Double Deck Insulated Cooler Backpack, Leakproof Spacious Lightweight Soft Cooler Bag Backpack Cooler for Men Women to Work Travel Hiking Beach, Black
600 Reviews
Feature
Good for Lunch
Model
Ozark Trail 24 Can Insulated Cooler
Capacity
24 Cans
Weight
1.38lbs (0.63kg)
Ozark Trail 24-Can Thermal Insulated Cooler Backpack, Black/Gray
22 Reviews

What to Look for in Backpack Coolers

Here’s a quick guide on what to look for when shopping for a backpack cooler.

Capacity

Beer in closed aluminum cans in a black tourist backpack on a natural background

The capacity of a backpack cooler is usually measured in the number of cans you can fit into it, which gives you a good idea of how much food you can fit into it. You can get anything from a cooler big enough to fit a 6-pack of cans, right through to 34 cans and beyond.

Cooling Power

Water bottles in a soft sided cooler or ice chest. Close up in horizontal format isolated over white

The most obvious thing you may want to focus on is how well your backpack cooler will keep your food cold. Soft-sided coolers don’t keep food cold for as long as hard-sided coolers (which can stay cold for a few days), but you can still expect a backpack cooler to last for a day out.

Look in the product description for an idea of how long it will stay cool – 12 hours is a good amount to aim for. Backpack coolers are made from insulating materials, like closed-cell rubber foam, which helps to keep cold air in and warm air out.

Durability

Waterproof zipper black camera backpack

Another thing to look out for is durability. If you’re investing in a new cooler, you’ll want one that is going to last, especially if you’re taking it out on hikes, on fishing trips, and so on.

One key thing to look for is the quality of the zippers. A busted zipper is going to stop you from being able to use the cooler properly, so you’ll want to find one that is durable and strong enough to last through a lot of use.

You can also look for extra features, like waterproof outer materials and UV-resistant outer fabric, which will help your backpack cooler to last longer. The outer fabric should be resistant to rips and tears, too.

Comfort

Traveler Explorer Hands Holds Backpack Strap On Waterfall Background Hiking Journey Travel Trek Concept

Carrying a cooler on your back can get heavy pretty quickly, once you’ve added the weight of the food, drinks, and ice packs. One thing to look for is adjustable padded shoulder straps, as well as a padded back panel to help take some of the pressure away from your back. You can also look for a carry handle on the top, which will enable you to switch positions if you need to.

Extra Features

Red backpack with black zipper

There are some useful extra features that you can get on a backpack cooler, including side and top pockets, which are great for storing your phone, keys, wallet, or any other items that are not waterproof. You can also look for daisy chains, which are webbing loops sewn to the side of the cooler. This allows you to attach extra gear to your backpack.

Top 5 Best Backpack Coolers

Now, let’s take a look at the top 5 backpack coolers out there. We’ll look at them in detail, including their key features, specs, pros, and cons.

YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Can Soft-Sided Cooler Backpack – Most Durable

YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Soft Sided Cooler/Backpack, Charcoal

Key Features

  • Capacity: 24 Cans
  • Materials
    Outer: High-density waterproof material
    Insulation: Closed-cell rubber foam
  • Color: Gray
  • Weight: 7.5lbs (3.4kg)

The YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Can Soft-Sided Cooler Backpack is a durable, reliable backpack cooler. It has a hydrolock zipper, which is known as one of the toughest zippers you can get, so you won’t have to worry about it failing. The YETI Hopper Backflip can be quite stiff, so YETI has a guide on how to ‘break-in’ their zippers on their Hopper FAQ page. It also has a tough outer shell that is resistant to mildew and punctures. It also has UV protection.

In terms of insulation and cooling power, YETI has a good reputation in this regard. YETI doesn’t like to estimate the ice retention time that their coolers offer, but you can expect it to last for a hike or a day out.

The backpack cooler has a wide-mouthed zipper, making it really easy to get the contents in and out. It has a hitchpoint grid, which is an attachment point for some YETI accessories. It also has padded, adjustable straps with padding on the back, to help you to stay comfortable even after a long haul. The main downside is the price point, as it’s ten times more expensive than the others.

Pros

  • Durable with extra tough zipper
  • Good capacity at 24 cans
  • Padding on the straps and back
  • Wide mouth makes it easy to access contents

Cons

  • Hard to tell the ice retention time
  • On the pricier side for a soft-sided cooler
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Lifewit Cooler Backpack – Most Lightweight and Largest Capacity

Lifewit Cooler Backpack Leakrproof 32 Can Insulated Lightweight Backpack Cooler, Large Capacity Soft-Sided Double Decker Cooler Bag for Men Women to Beach/Picnic/Camping/Hiking/Day Trips

Key Features

  • Capacity: 34 Cans / 18 liters
  • Materials
    Outer: High-density, water-resistant Oxford cloth
    Insulation: 8mm EPE (rigid, closed-cell foam)
  • Color: Grey
  • Weight: 1.14lbs (0.52kg)

The Lifewit Cooler Backpack is a lightweight cooler (1.14lbs/ 0.52kg), so you won’t have to worry about it feeling heavy on your back before you even start to fill it with food, drinks and ice. The Lifewit has a water-and-dirt-resistant outer shell, although it doesn’t have UV protection. We should also add, that it has decently tough zippers, too.

It has high-density foam insulation, and it can keep the contents cool for up to 12 hours, which is pretty good for a soft-sided cooler.

The backpack cooler has the largest capacity of all backpack coolers on our list, so you can fit enough food for a small family, and it has two large compartments for food. Plus, it has padded adjustable shoulder straps and a padded back panel for extra comfort. It has side pockets and a zippered front pocket, so you can keep non-food items in there safely. It also has a wide mouth which you can unzip completely to access the contents.

Pros

  • Super lightweight
  • Large capacity
  • Padding on the straps and back for comfort
  • Wide mouth to make it easier to access the contents
  • Lasts for a full day out

Cons

  • Doesn’t have UV protection
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

FORICH Soft Cooler Backpack – Good Value for Money

FORICH Soft Cooler Backpack Insulated Waterproof Backpack Cooler Bag Leak Proof Portable Small Cooler Backpacks to Work Lunch Travel Beach Camping Hiking Picnic Fishing Beer for Men Women (Orange)

Key Features

  • Capacity: 30 Cans
  • Materials
    Outer: High-density Oxford cloth
    Insulation: Insulating closed-cell foam
  • Color: Black, blue, gray, yellow, red, pink
  • Weight: 1.81lbs (0.82kg)

The FORICH Soft Cooler Backpack is pretty lightweight. It is fairly durable, with rip and scratch-resistant outer fabric. The FORICH soft cooler backpack has a high-quality zipper, but it can leak from the zip if you lay it down on one side, so it’s important to keep it upright. It doesn’t have UV protection on the outer shell.

The backpack cooler has an insulated storage compartment inside, with thick foam insulation to keep food cool. The FORICH backpack cooler also has insulation in the top pocket, so you can keep smaller food items cool, making it last for a picnic or a day out.

The backpack cooler has very good capacity (30 cans) with some side pockets, including mesh pockets on the side for bottles or cups. It has adjustable padded straps and a padded area on the back too. It also has a small pocket to keep valuables, as well as a bottle opener on the shoulder.

Pros

  • Good price for the size
  • Comfortable padding on the straps and back
  • Should last for a day out
  • Good storage pockets and a bottle opener included

Cons

  • Doesn’t have UV protection
  • May leak if you let it lay down on one side
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Double Deck Insulated Cooler Backpack – Good All-Rounder

Double Deck Insulated Cooler Backpack, Leakproof Spacious Lightweight Soft Cooler Bag Backpack Cooler for Men Women to Work Travel Hiking Beach, Black

Key Features

  • Capacity: 25 Cans
  • Materials
    Outer: Heavy-duty nylon
    Insulation: Insulating foam
  • Color: Black
  • Weight: 2lbs (0.90kg)

The Double Deck Insulated Cooler Backpack is a good all-rounder. It has a tough nylon outer shell. It does lack UV protection, and the zippers are not as strong as some of the other coolers we’ve looked at.

The insulation is pretty good, and it should keep your food hot or cold for up to 6 hours. It also has a lot of pockets, which is ideal for keeping things organized. It has two large, insulated compartments, and two good-sized outer zipped pockets.

The capacity is pretty good (25 cans), and it has padding on the straps as well as padding on the back. It has a top handle for carrying, and side pockets for water bottles or cups. Plus, it has a wide zipper that can be unzipped all the way, so you can get the contents in and out easily.

Pros

  • Comfortable straps and padded back
  • Lots of pockets to make it easier to organize contents
  • Good insulation (should keep food hot or cool for 6 hours)

Cons

  • Doesn’t have UV protection
  • Zippers are not as durable as some other backpack coolers
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Ozark Trail 24 Can Insulated Cooler Backpack – Good for Lunch

Ozark Trail 24-Can Thermal Insulated Cooler Backpack, Black/Gray

Key Features

  • Capacity: 24 Cans
  • Materials
    Outer: Waterproof coated tear-resistant material
    Insulation: High-density superfoam
  • Color: Black
  • Weight: 1.38lbs (0.63kg)

The Ozark Trail 24 Can Insulated Cooler Backpack is a good, durable backpack cooler. The outer coating is waterproof and tear-resistant, and the inner lining has antimicrobial properties. It doesn’t have UV protection on the outside. Although the zipper is decently durable, some people have had issues with leaks from the zip area if the backpack is laid flat.

The insulation is good. It has high-density superfoam, which will help to keep your food cool all day. The backpack cooler has one main insulated area, so it’s a bit more difficult to keep your food organized. It would work well as a lunch bag, as there is also a large pocket on the front for dry goods or valuables.

The backpack cooler has padding on the straps and padding on the back, and the straps are fully adjustable. It has mesh pockets on the sides for drinks, too.

Pros

  • Padded straps and back
  • Tough outer shell
  • Good insulation

Cons

  • Doesn’t have UV protection
  • May leak from the zipper if laid down on its side
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about backpack coolers:

How can I safely pack food in my soft-sided cooler?

top view of sandwich and carrots with apple in lunch bag isolated on white

You can follow a few safety tips:

  • Pack perishables straight from your freezer or refrigerator into the cooler, as quickly as you can
  • Fill the cooler as much as you can, as the fuller it is, the colder it will stay
  • Keep raw food (like meat or poultry) away from other types of food. Ideally, you should keep these in a separate cooler but if not, make sure you wrap them so tightly that liquid from the raw food can’t contaminate anything else
  • Store food in watertight, sealed containers

The USDA has a guide on How to Pack a Cooler to Prevent Food Poisoning if you want more information on this. YETI also has a guide on how to pack a soft cooler in their video on Hopper M30 Soft Cooler Loading Tips.

What do I need to do to clean my backpack cooler?

Top view of backpacks soak in powder detergent water dissolution with blue basin

Use a soft cloth and soapy water. Gently clean the inside and outside and leave it to dry. Washing a backpack cooler in a washing machine could damage the insulation, so it’s worth cleaning them by hand only. You can find out more in the Mier Sports guide on How to Clean Insulated Lunch Cooler Bags.

How can I make my backpack cooler stay cold?

You can keep your backpack cooler cold by following a few tips:

  • Make sure it’s packed as fully as you can, as this helps to keep it cold
  • Put ice packs on top, rather than on the bottom
  • Make sure you keep it latched and closed when not using it

You can find out more tips in Outside Online’s guide on How to Properly Pack a Cooler.

What’s the best cooler brand to buy?

Pelican vs ORCA vs YETI coolers

It’s hard to quantify this, as there are some great cooler brands out there. We can recommend:

  • YETI – their products are expensive but very tough and durable. You can read about YETI in our guide to YETI cooler sizes and our Hydro Flask vs YETI Rambler comparison, as well as our detailed guide on whether YETI cups are dishwasher safe.
  • ORCA – these products are a little cheaper than YETI’s, but they make high-quality coolers (especially their hard-sided coolers). You can read more about ORCA in our ORCA vs YETI comparison.
  • Pelican – Pelican makes durable, hard-wearing coolers that are ideal for travelling or camping. You can find out about Pelican in our Pelican vs YETI comparison.

To Sum Up… Which are the Best Backpack Coolers?

Backpackers hiking into white sands national monument along the gypsum dunes at sunset

If we had to pick a favorite, we’d go for the Lifewit Cooler Backpack. It’s durable, it has good insulation, and it’s comfortable to wear. It’s also super-lightweight, making it ideal for long walks or hikes, and the padding on the straps and back is useful.

We also like the YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Can Soft-Sided Cooler Backpack. Ideal for those wanting something tough and durable, YETI has a good reputation. That being said, it is almost ten times more expensive than the others, so you’ll want to weigh up whether it’s really worth it.

If you don’t have as much money to spend but are looking for a good value option, you could check out the FORICH Soft Cooler Backpack. While it’s not perfect, it’s pretty durable and comfortable.

We hope this has helped you to find the best backpack cooler for you!