Best Backpack Cooler [2020]

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Columbia is one of the largest manufacturers of quality outdoor apparel and equipment. Their PFG Roll Caster Insulated Backpack Cooler was designed to appeal to people who need a practical backpack that is also a portable cooler.

The exterior has a special Slime-Tech treatment which helps prevent stains while repelling mud, grime, and unwanted material. It also has multiple exterior pockets and gear straps for carrying utility items. The padded adjustable shoulder straps with a padded breathable back also improve overall comfort, which is especially handy for solo backpackers who have a long hike ahead of them.

The Columbia PFG Roll Caster Insulated Backpack Cooler has proprietary ThermaCool as the primary insulation layer. It also has a special Therma-Flect radiant barrier to further maximize it’s cold or heat retention. The welded liner is leak-resistant and has a MicroBan antimicrobial treatment.

The LUNCIA 33 can Collapsible Cooler Bag was designed with quality materials and thoughtful engineering. Yet it’s priced very affordably for a 33 can backpack cooler. The interior PEVA lining is leak-proof and has been tested to keep food and beverages cold for over six hours.

This backpack cooler has two convenient sides mesh pockets to hold quick-access items like a water bottle or a small snack. The top pocket also adds to its overall functionality. However, it isn’t waterproof, so if there’s a chance of rain in the forecast, you might want to pack vulnerable items in a gallon-size zip-top bag.

This is a great backpack cooler for day hikes, picnics, trips to the beach or just bringing affordable food and drinks with you to the county fair.

IceMule has been gradually carving out a large niche for itself in the backpack cooler industry. This is due in part to their innovative engineering with high-quality materials, and customer service.

The IceMule Pro XXL represents the largest of its broad line of backpack coolers. It has an impressive 40-liter interior compartment that will hold up to 36 12-ounce cans, with plenty of room for ice or cold packs.

The MuleSkinET exterior has superior durability. The straps are doubled padded and ventilated. It also has a sternum strap and back pads to maximize comfort for long hikes and portages.

The interior lining is made from MuleSkin EV with welded leak-proof seams with Polar Layer insulation. The cooler compartment doesn’t have zippers. Instead, you access the interior of the cooler via IceMule’s proprietary roll-top closure system. The closure, insulation, and the ability to add air to a special interior layer make this backpack cooler waterproof while also helping it to float.

How We Picked

When it comes to finding the right backpack cooler, it helps to start by thinking about how you will use it. The needs of a day hiker or overnight camper are likely to be a little different than a family who wants to save money by bringing their food and beverages with them to the amusement park.

Capacity is, of course, the first place to start. We tried to look for units where the capacity was tailored to some of its primary uses. Campers who need to bring two days’ food with them ultimately need more storage space than a simple day hiker or someone who needs a convenient way to carry a beach picnic.

Comfort features were also something we kept an eye out for. Straps and back padding play an important role in helping you comfortably carry what is often a heavy, or potentially shifting load.

Leak proofing and liner integrity was also a key priority that we factored in. After all, when a seam fails or tears, the constant drip can do more than compromise cold retention. It can also make things very uncomfortable for the person wearing the pack.

Overall functionality was also a factor we kept an eye out for with some models. If you are hiking with another person, one of you can carry the cooler and the other one can carry the backpack with all the camping gear.

If you need to travel solo though, you want to keep an eye out for a unit that has things like mesh side bags, zippered pockets or gear hooks. This lets you take basic camping gear with you as well as the cooler contents.

Coleman C003 Soft Backpack Cooler

Specs:

  • 28 can capacity
  • Adjustable padded straps
  • Leakproof welded seams
  • Anti-microbial treatment of cooler compartment
  • BPA free
  • Phthalate-free

Coleman may have started out as a propane equipment manufacturer, but they have since evolved into one of the leading presences in the camping industry.

Coleman C003 Soft Backpack Cooler

This includes lanterns, tents, backpacks, and of course, backpack coolers like their C003 Soft Backpack Cooler.

Coleman C003 Soft Backpack Cooler and lunch

It’s rated to carry up to 28 12-ounce soda cans. The interior soft lining has heat-welded seams that are intended to make it leak proof. The liner is BPA and Phthalate-free. It also has an antimicrobial treatment to reduce problems with bacteria, mildew, mold and other unwanted microbes.

Coleman C003 Soft Backpack Cooler worn by model

The adjustable padded straps help keep it comfortable. There is also a side pocket for a water bottle or other items you might want to keep close at hand while you hike.

What We Liked

The characteristics of the liner stand out from many of its competitors. The heat-welded seams help prevent leaking and it is BPA and Phthalate-free. The antimicrobial treatment is also a nice touch.

Don’t overlook the side pocket as being simple. Staying hydrated is important on a long hike, and you don’t want to have to stop and take the pack off just to get a quick drink of water.

Overall

This is a well-built backpack cooler for the money. The fact that it comes from a reliable industry leader is also an added boost of confidence. Though it would be nice if Coleman included a sternum strap for more comfort and balance fully loaded, 28 cans of soda can weigh in around 21-pounds.

TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler Leakproof Lightweight Cooler Backpack

TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler

Specs:

  • 28 can capacity
  • High-density insulation
  • Leak-resistant liner
  • Multiple storage compartments
  • Adjustable padded straps
  • Padded back
  • Water and tear-resistant exterior fabric

Tourit offers a variety of cooler products including this 28-can lightweight model. It’s designed for comfort and the 28-can or 25-liter storage capacity can hold enough food and water to support two people for a full day.

TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler fitting two big soda bottles

It also comes with multiple pockets that allow you to use it as a somewhat functional backpack. This includes a large primary storage compartment, as well as 2 side mesh pockets and a large front zipper pocket with a built-in mesh divider.

TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler and lots of drinks

The soft-sided internal cooler has high-density insulation. The liner was designed to be leak-resistant, and with proper care could be considered “Leak Proof.”

TOURIT Insulated Backpack Cooler outdoors

You get the feeling that this unit was designed with comfort in mind. The padded shoulder straps are contoured to ride easily on the shoulders, and the back is padded. The exterior fabric is also rated for superior water and tear resistance.