Buying Guide for Cooler Backpacks
Why buy a cooler backpack?
Buy a cooler backpack if you like to get out of the house for long enough that you’ll need food and something to drink. You can pack a lunch and water bottle in a regular backpack for the day, of course. However, an insulated backpack will keep your food and drink much more enjoyable (and safe) to eat. These backpacks have room for other things too, so you won’t be sacrificing space if you want to bring a lunch and a book, for example, for a day touring the city. They’re especially convenient for hiking, days at the beach, fun picnics or barbeques, busy college students, and business travel.
What should you look for in a cooler backpack?
- Compartments: Having compartments arranged in a useful and accessible manner is essential. The backpack you choose should depend on your storage needs as well. If you want to travel light, a simple, single-compartment insulated backpack could work well. However, a family headed to the beach or park will likely have a large main compartment for ice and food and beverages, plus compartments for utensils, keys and a wallet, and a large blanket.
- Insulation: The goal is to keep hot things hot and cold things cold, so quality insulation is a must-have. Look for backpacks with double-layer foam insulation with a PEVA lining for optimal waterproofing. The backpacks that perform best in terms of insulation can keep your stuff at an ideal temperature for up to 24 hours. Some quality cooler backpacks stand out for other important qualities like versatility and less insulation. Just think about what you want in a cooler bag as you peruse your options.
- Fit: It’s easy to overlook the importance of a cooler backpack that can actually be worn comfortably for as long as you need it to. When you go for products with main compartments with a capacity for dozens of soda cans, side holders for wine bottles, and top compartments for wallets and keys, the weight adds up quickly. Such insulated backpacks won’t serve you well if you want to go on a day-long hike. These are better suited for walking a relatively short distance. Regardless of your picnicking plans, look for nicely padded, adjustable shoulder straps.
What if you carry food with you only 50% of the time?
Many cooler backpacks are designed to be adaptable to suit the occasion. We’ve reviewed a few options that offer more in the way of non-food storage but have a small, insulated compartment too. In this case, you can fill the insulated section with whatever you want. Nothing bad will happen if you use the insulated portion for things other than food or drinks.
Our Picks for the Best Cooler Backpacks
Everlasting Comfort Insulated Cooler Backpack
A large-capacity cooler for all kinds of beverages with holders for four wine bottles.
Pros: This backpack features extra-thick foam insulation to keep beverages cold for up to 24 hours and prevent leaks. Its large capacity holds around 54 cans of your favorite beverages. Additionally, there are two wine bottle holders on each side of the cooler backpack, so you can tote a total of four bottles of wine. If you’re planning a picnic, you can easily pack food into the main compartment or in one of the multiple pockets. You can count on a comfortable experience wherever your destination as this backpack features padded adjustable straps.
Cons: If you fill the backpack to its max capacity and add four bottles of wine, you may find it hard to walk very far with it.
Bottom Line: The Everlasting Comfort backpack cooler could be ideal for future trips to the beach, drive-up campsites, or birthday celebrations at a local park. If you want to walk or hike with it, pack some food, water, and gear, and you’re off!
RTIC Lightweight Insulated Backpack Cooler
A colorful backpack cooler geared toward outdoor activity.
Pros: Take this high-performing backpack cooler on a day hike. There’s lots of space to pack perishable food, snacks, as well as cold beverages. The high-density insulation and FDA-approved contact lining keep everything cold for up to 24 hours. In addition to the spacious main compartment, there are front, side, and top pockets. Also crucial to a comfortable excursion is well-designed, adjustable, and padded shoulder straps. What’s the use of carting cold food and water around if it starts to hurt? There is none! A real selling point is the array of color and pattern polyester outer material.
Cons: Several users point out that the backpack is not waterproof. So, it may leak as ice melts, and rainwater may leak inside.
Bottom Line: This cooler backpack is an excellent combination of high-performing insulation, great capacity, and style. Choose from camo, light blue and black, royal blue and orange, and more.
SEEHONOR Insulated Lightweight Cooler Backpack
This cooler backpack will keep food hot or cold and comes in several colors.
Pros: Here’s another large-capacity (25 L) cooler backpack that’s leakproof and has padded, adjustable shoulder straps. So what sets it apart from others? The SEEHONOR cooler backpack comes with a beer opener and two D-shape hooks for attaching keys, hand sanitizer, or a flashlight. The backpack also features organizing compartments: the main cooler, two exterior side mesh pockets, a large front zipper pocket with a divider for utensils, and an interior mesh pocket. Also nice to have is inner insulation and a leakproof PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate) liner, which works to keep your food items hot or cold.
Cons: We found this product to be an all-around good buy. You may find that the backpack leaks a bit or that the zipper is lower quality than you’d hoped.
Bottom Line: The backpack cooler is made of durable nylon material that won’t rip or tear, no matter how hard your kids or pets try. It’s a great portable container for family and friend gatherings or a romantic picnic.
MATEIN Insulated Cooler Backpack Lunch Box
This versatile backpack works great for camping or business travel.
Pros: The MATEIN cooler backpack is much more than an insulated lunch box. It’s a multi-use commuter or school backpack with an insulated section for your food. Store your 17-inch laptop in the deepest compartment where it stays safe right against your back. The main compartment has two smaller front pockets for accessories, two side mesh pockets for drinks, and an anti-theft pocket. The cooler compartment at the bottom of the backpack essentially cuts the main one in half. Choose to use the lunch box section for food or non-food items like books or extra clothes.
Cons: The backpack is not waterproof, so if you take it on camping or fishing trips and it rains, the interior will likely get wet.
Bottom Line: This insulated backpack offers so much more than a lunch box container. It makes a great hybrid bag for those who want to go from work to play much easier.
TOURIT Insulated and Lightweight Cooler Backpack
A simple, large-capacity cooler backpack for the hiker in you.
Pros: Sometimes, it takes a simple design to make a genius product. This insulated cooler backpack is a great example. There’s one main cavity large enough to hold a mixture of food, water, and other necessities. This compartment comprises high-density insulation and a leakproof liner to keep your perishables hot or cold for up to 16 hours. Then there are two front zipper pockets and one top compartment. These extra spaces are perfect for personal items, extra snacks, or emergency items. Also, there are two side bottle holders and a mesh pocket just for your iPhone.
Cons: You may be disappointed if you want to use the backpack to port heavy loads. For example, it may not work well for groceries.
Bottom Line: This bag may sound like a luxury backpack, but it’s designed for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and picnicking. And it’s not just for outdoors lovers, but beer lovers too, since it comes with a built-in bottle opener.
Cooler backpacks are super convenient travel accessories. If you’re an avid hiker, a busy student, a frequent beach-goer, or a commuter, you could benefit significantly from these cooler backpacks.