Coolers are no longer associated with those big cumbersome boxes that are difficult to carry. Whether you’re heading out to the beach, a kayak or a boat, having a cooler bag means that you can easily carry your favorite cold drinks wherever you like.

Finding a backpack cooler though means taking plenty of things into accounts such as size, material, and insulation. In order to find the best insulated backpack for you, we not only have created a buying guide in detail but also looked through reviews to show you the best backpack coolers on the market. 

How To Choose A Backpack Cooler – Buying Guide



If you’re going to be hiking, then size is a crucial factor as weight is going to be a big issue. If you get a huge cooler bag that is able to hold a vast amount of items then it will take a heavy toll on your shoulder and your back. You wouldn’t want to too small either as then you might be limiting the number of items you can carry. 

If you intend to be using a cooler bag for a number of different uses then it might be best to err on the slightly larger size. The reason for this is that if you do have to walk a long distance then you obviously would have to fill it up to the full capacity so you’ll be able to save weight that was as well. 

The size of a cooler should be measured in liters which can be a large figure to grasp but some will also give you the figure in the number of cans which can be an ideal reference point. If you are getting a larger backpack then it makes features such as straps even more important to ensure that you’re getting a suitable amount of support to match it. 

Construction Material

First and foremost, you want to ensure that your backpack is highly durable against any bumps and scraps. The material on the outside needs to be durable enough to resist any cuts or scrapes but it also needs to be light enough so that it remains easy to carry and flexible. Zips and the buckles have to be strong enough to be able to absorb the weight and the straps have to be made with comfortable padding as well.

On the inside of the bag, you need to look for a one that is water-resistant especially if you plan on storing ice in the cooler section. You also need to look out for the seams being welded shut as this can often be a source of weakness for products which try and protect themselves from water.

Insulating Material

If you’re looking for a cooler which is going to provide you with a high level of ice retention then it’s highly likely that you’re going to be left disappointed as the products which look like traditional backpacks won’t keep things frozen but will instead keep them cooled as they try to retain as much of the temperature as they can.

There are products out there on the market which are able to offer a good amount of ice retention such as the IceMule Coolers Classic Cooler but these are more specialized products that don’t look like a standard backpack and instead is hung over the shoulder with no additional features. Most of these backpacks instead will have a foam or foil wall around them which will be able to keep the temperature as stable as possible.

These products won’t be able to offer any significant form of ice retention but they will still keep the temperature inside of the cooler backpack as low as possible. These backpacks have to consider weight and flexibility but also have to be highly portable as well which is why they can’t offer the same level of protection as a traditional cooler box.


There is a word of warning when it comes to warranties. As many people may know, it’s not always as friendly as it seems as companies will offer a limited warranty which will only cover any defects that are in the manufacturing of the product. This can mean that you’re not covered for a lot of problems that can come from regular backpack use. If you see a company offering a warranty then it’s important to look into it further to see what it actually covers or you may end up being a little disappointed. Due to this, it’s important to inspect and test your bag before you use it. 


Hiking is one of the most popular uses as you are able to have amenities such as cold food and cold drinks. The beach is another commonplace. These backpacks can also be great for activities such as fishing and hunting as well where you might be away from amenities for a long time. There are plenty of other uses that you can have as well such as general travel, picnicking, heading out on a boat and they are able to be securely fastened enough so that you’re able to cycle with them as well.


A lot of the interiors for these types of bags are polyurethane which is the exact type of material that you should be looking for. This is due to the fact that that they are easy to clean but also durable as well. These bags come with are secure pockets where you will be able to place your valuables. Being water-resistant both on the inside and the outside is also very critical. Another such essential feature is the straps, and getting any bag that has an unpadded strap would be a huge no. Having mesh pockets on the sides of your bag can be a great way of storing your bottle without having to constantly go back into your bag.


It’s important to check the bag to see which type of cooling it will provide. Cooling boxes generally work by having rigid walls with a vacuum layer inside which obviously wouldn’t be practical for a backpack coolers so a compromise has to be made. Whether you are packing ice into there or you know there is going to be some condensation from your drinks, it’s likely that the product will get wet from time to time and keeping that water in the backpack is a key function of them. Whilst these are key functions in relation to the cooler section, you also want to ensure that the product will be able to function effectively as a backpack too.


Some companies offer their product in just one color while others will offer it up and a few different options. With backpacks, you also have the option to have a one strap model or a two-strap model. One strap model can look great as you throw them over one of your shoulders but if you’re carrying it over a long distance then it’s not going to have the same level of support as a two-strap bag. Size can play an important role when it comes to style, if you’re a smaller person then it makes sense to get a slightly smaller bag. Carrying a bag that is too large can be very uncomfortable but it could also cause issues such as back pain too.


The straps need to be thickly padded so that they are able to protect your shoulders and equally distribute the weight. If your backpack is going to be particularly heavy then you don’t just want straps around your shoulder either, as a strap around your waist can add additional support. Not only will this help keep the backpack tight to your body but it will also help take some of the weight off those shoulder straps. With those straps you also need to look at how adjustable they are, as loose straps will make the backpack move around more freely on your shoulders which can quickly make it feel more uncomfortable. 

Weight Capacity

Weight is a key issue when it comes to backpacking as you want a product that is as light as possible while still carrying plenty of gear. With weight capacity this often largely comes down to the size of the bag, as the bigger it is, the more it’s going to be able to hold. If you’re taller with strong shoulders then the natural inclination is to look for a cooler which is the biggest you could possibly find. When you are packing your backpack it’s important to distribute the weight evenly. Weight capacity though is a decision that you need to make based on how much you think you can carry. If you are able to carry a lot of weight then by all means look for a bag which is at the top end of the scale but if you’re smaller then it’s probably for the best to dial it down a few sizes.


It could also be that you are looking for a cooler which has more than one cooling compartment which can be a useful feature as then you would be able to split the items that you wanted to cool such as food and drinks. There are some backpacks that have secure pockets where you are able to store valuable items which can be a very useful feature. On the outside of the backpack, there should also be a few pocket options as they will have another product on the front as well as having two mesh pockets on the sides. The front pocket can be great for storing multiple different things and is often referred to as a dry pocket in contrast to the wetter items. The mesh pockets on the sides are great as well for storing such things as water bottles and other items that you want quick access to. 



Q: Do I Need To Cool The Backpack Before Use?


When you’re using a backpack with cooler it’s obvious that the contents that you put into it aren’t going to get any colder than what they already are, so, therefore, it makes sense to give it a cold starting point so that you’re contents are going to be at the temperature you want for as long as possible.

This can be done in a few ways with one of them being to stick the bag somewhere that’s cold so that when you come to use it your contents aren’t being placed in a warm bag. Another way to do it is to fill out your bag with ice packs that will immediately be able to bring the temperature of your bag right down.

This isn’t too crucial though as if you’re putting cold contents into the bag then they are going to quickly cool it right down. It also depends on how long you intend to be staying out as well.

Q: How Long It Will Keep Cool?


This entirely depends on the type of product that you have and also varies based on other factors such as how many times you will be opening it. These backpacks aren’t meant to function on the same level as a box cooler though so you need to lower your expectations if that’s what you’re looking for.

The IceMule Coolers Classic Cooler will be able to retain ice for 24 hours in perfect conditions so it is one of the products on the market which has this higher level of cold. For the other backpacks, they simply aim to keep your contents cold which they do a great job. As long as you limit the times when you use the bag and open the bag and close it quickly, then these bags will keep your contents cool for a whole day.

Q: What Size Should I Buy?


This generally depends on how big and strong you are. Of course, you don’t always have to fill your bag to full capacity but at least you’d have that option.

It could be though that you are buying your bag for a specific use and know that you’ll never need a huge amount of cooler space for your trip. If this is you then you can just get a bag that provides you with the space that you need for your specific trip. 

The size options that are available will be shown in a few ways. Firstly you want to look at the physical dimensions of the backpack and see the height, width, and depth of it. This might not always give you the best idea though as if you had a bag which was big but light, then it’d still be easy to carry. You want to see how many liters it will be able to hold as this will give you a better idea of capacity and therefore its weight when fully packed.

Q: How Do I Keep My Cooler Clean?


The cooler section of your backpack should be made from a water-resistant material such as polyurethane which you will be able to easily wipe down with a cloth after each use. It’s important to get rid of any odors and it’s best to clear out your coolers with fresh water and be left out to fully dry in the air.

If there is anything that has been spilled or anything else which might cause an odor then you can add a little soap to your cloth to give it a more thorough clean. Due to the type of material, these coolers are made out of the cleaning process should be quite simple and a lot easier than with regular backpacks.

Q: Do Backpack Coolers Come With Accessories?


Generally, backpack coolers don’t come with many accessories as they have their soft cooler backpack as their main focal point with a few additional pockets to go with that. A few do some with aspects like a detachable water bottle which can be useful. Some of the bags also have D-strings or other attachments where you can put additional items to make everything easier to carry.

Q: Can Backpack Coolers Hold Ice?


Some can hold ice for a significant period but don’t offer a great deal of ice retention. If you have an ice cooler backpack then it’s probably for the best to avoid placing ice directly in there as this will mean that you don’t have to clear any water out or have water swilling around your bag.

Instead, it’s a better idea to invest in some ice packs which will be solid blocks of ice but which are self-contained in a plastic casing than therefore won’t spill out into your bag. This will be able to keep your contents cold while not worrying about a mess.

Q: Can A Backpack With Cooler Hold Hot Food?


As a cooler works by insulating what’s on the inside and protect it from the outside then the answer would be yes. You just need to be extra careful when doing this as hot food needs to be kept in a more sensible manner. You also have to appreciate that it’s likely to chill to some degree so it won’t stay as how as when you put it in.

Globo Surf Overview

A backpack cooler is an innovative solution to having a great cooler on the go as you can just throw it over your shoulder and head out onto your trip. Whether you want a hiking cooler backpack or one that you can simply take to the beach, these products can be used for multiple different occasions.

Using the best cooler backpack can transform your trip and make it into a much more enjoyable one as you have access to cold drinks and food that you otherwise wouldn’t have had. Choosing which one is the best cooler backpack though involves making sure that you choose the right size for you and the one that is going to most closely match the use that you’re going to have for it. 

Hopefully, this buying guide has given you all the confidence that you need in order to make a great buying choice for you and your trip. Then you can head to the great outdoors knowing that you’ve got one of the best cooler backpacks for you to enjoy cold food and drinks all day long.

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!