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The Best Backpack Cooler for 2023

Bringing food and drinks along on a hike, picnic, or tailgate makes the experience so much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, carrying a heavy cooler around can be such a pain! That’s why you need a good backpack cooler to make things easier.

With a hands-free cooler, you can bring whatever you need without having to worry about lugging around a big bulky ice chest.

Here I’ve done the research for you to come up with a list of the best backpack coolers on the market. Whether you’re looking for a premium bag, a budget option, or something in between, this list has you covered. Keep reading to find the best backpack cooler for your next adventure.

A TOURIT brand backpack cooler.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall:
Maelstrom Cooler Backpack

Best Budget Option:
TOURIT Cooler Backpack

Best Premium Option:
Earth Pak Insulated Backpack Cooler

Best with a Dispenser:
BruMate BackTap Rotomolded Backpack Cooler

Best in a Compact Size:
ICEMULE Classic Collapsible Backpack Cooler

Best Overall

Maelstrom Cooler Backpack

Maelstrom Cooler Backpack,35 Can Backpack Cooler Leakproof,Insulated Soft Cooler Bag,Beach Cooler Camping Cooler,Ice Chest Backpack,Travel Cooler for Grocery Shopping,Kayaking,Fishing,Hiking,Orange

Our favorite backpack cooler has it all. It’s huge, so it holds a ton of drinks or food. Multiple exterior pockets give you plenty of storage space to hold extras like utensils, keys, a cell phone, or anything else you might need. The bag is well constructed for durability and it’s at a great price point.

One of the best things about the Maelstrom cooler is how comfortable it is. The bag is ergonomically designed to be worn for long hours on the trail. The back and shoulder straps have extra cushioning and they’re made with breathable fabric to help keep you cool. The bag also includes an adjustable chest strap to evenly distribute the weight, making the bag even more comfortable to wear.

Product Features

The large cooler compartment keeps food and drinks cold for up to 16 hours. The backpack measures 19” x 13” x 9” and can hold up to 35 cans. Multiple compartments and pockets of different sizes are available to hold supplies and extras. The bag comes in five different colors to match your style.


  • Great value
  • Includes lots of exterior pockets
  • Comfortable to wear


  • The bag is somewhat large and can feel bulky
  • Not as well insulated as some of the other models

Best Budget Option

TOURIT Cooler Backpack

TOURIT Cooler Backpack 30 Cans Lightweight Insulated Backpack Cooler Leak-Proof

With the TOURIT cooler backpack, you don’t have to sacrifice quality to get an affordable option. This bag has some great features, including high-quality insulation. You won’t feel the cold on your back while you wear this bag and the contents stay nice and cold for up to 16 hours.

This bag has an attractive, slim design and comfortable straps for carrying. It has fewer pockets than the Maelstrom model, but there are still plenty of places to store the essentials. The mesh side pocket is big enough to hold a large water bottle.

Product Features

The backpack measures 13″ x 7.5″ x 17″ and can hold up to 30 cans. It comes in six different colors and patterns so there’s something for everyone. A bottle opener is included on one of the back straps so you don’t have to worry about packing one separately. With this model, reusable ice packs are recommended instead of ice cubes.


  • Holds a lot but doesn’t feel bulky
  • Low price
  • Good insulation


  • Exterior pockets are small
  • The bag materials (including the liner) are waterproof but the stitching isn’t waterproof so it can leak if there is a lot of liquid inside.
  • Not as durable as some other options

Best Premium Option

Earth Pak Insulated Backpack Cooler

Insulated Backpack Cooler Holds 24 or 35 Cans for 72 Hours - Perfect Lunch or Drink Bag for Camping, Hiking, Beach, Kayaking, Sports or Fishing - 100% Waterproof Heavy Duty Construction by Earth Pak

If you’re looking for a premium bag check out this insulated cooler from Earth Pak. The price is high but not as high as some other high-end brands which makes this one of the best backpack coolers for good value.

This bag is made from premium materials that are completely waterproof-including the stitching and zipper. You won’t end up with drips down your back or a puddle on the floor when you use this bag, even if you leave it upside down.

Everything about this bag demonstrates its quality. The exterior material is tough and durable. The bag is lined with high-density foam for superior insulation that keeps your food and beverages cold for days. Even with such good insulation, it’s still lightweight so you won’t hurt your back carrying it around.

Product Features

The bag measures ‎8″ x 11″ x 18″ and holds up to 35 cans. The cooler keeps the contents cold for up to 72 hours. It’s completely waterproof inside and out. The lightweight foam causes the bag to float which is helpful for kayaking or other boating trips. Extra straps make the bag comfortable to wear and reduce fatigue.


  • Extra-long cooling time
  • High-quality
  • Comes in two different sizes


  • Expensive
  • Exterior pockets are on the smaller side

Best With a Dispenser

BruMate BackTap Rotomolded Backpack Cooler

The Best Backpack Cooler for 2023 1

If having a convenient dispenser on your new backpack cooler sounds appealing, check out the BruMate cooler from Moosejaw.

This bag features a tap right on the front so you can pour drinks on the go. Mix your drinks inside the cooler or pour in up to 15 entire bottles of wine. The cooler contains a stainless steel insert that keeps your drinks cold while you’re using it and then comes out for easy cleaning when you’re done.

Made from high-quality materials, this durable cooler is hard-sided with a sturdy handle for carrying. Comfortable, padded shoulder straps are available to turn it into a backpack.

Product Features

The cooler measures 13.5″ high by 14.7″ wide. It can hold pretty much anything including cans, bottles, food, ice, water, or your favorite premixed drinks. The cooler holds up to 3 gallons of liquid, 14 cans, or 5 wine bottles. It features a flip-top opening with a secure latch to keep the cooler sealed nice and tight and prevent leaks.


  • Includes a dispenser
  • Easy to clean
  • Durable


  • Hard-sided construction isn’t as comfortable to carry
  • No exterior pockets
  • Shoulder strap isn’t included, must purchase separately.

Best Compact Size

ICEMULE Classic Collapsible Backpack Cooler

ICEMULE Classic Large Collapsible Backpack Cooler – Hands Free, 100% Waterproof, 24+ Hours Cooling, Perfect Soft Sided Cooler for Hiking, Camping, Fishing & Picnics, 20 Liter, Fits 18 Cans + Ice, Blue

If you’re looking for a smaller bag, the ICEMULE classic is a great option. This bag has a lot of the same great features as the ICEMULE pro but in a smaller size. The classic bag holds just enough for a small picnic or afternoon hike.

A high-quality insulated lining keeps everything nice and cold. Like the pro, this model also features an air valve. Adding air improves insulation and has the added benefit of helping the bag float- even when it’s full. What’s more, adding air doesn’t add any extra weight to the bag, keeping it light and easy to carry.

Product Features

The bag measures 7” x 7.5” x 14” and holds up to nine liters or six cans with ice. The cooler stays cold for 24 hours or even longer in some cases. Instead of two straps, this bag features one cross-body adjustable shoulder strap. It’s lightweight and comfortable to wear, perfect for shorter trips.


  • Small size is convenient and easy to carry
  • Floats even when full
  • Long cooling time


  • Doesn’t hold as much as bigger bags
  • No exterior pockets
  • The roll-top closure is hard to seal tightly so liquid can sometimes leak out.

IceMule Pro Cooler – 33 Liters

The Best Backpack Cooler for 2023 2

The ICEMule pro is a great outdoor bag. The nylon/polyester outer shell is incredibly durable. It holds up well to whatever you throw at it. An air valve allows you to add air, improving insulation to help keep the cooler cold longer. When you’re done using the bag, simply release the air and the entire bag rolls up for easy storage.

The shoulder straps are padded and fully adjustable for extra comfort. The back of the bag is also padded with vented cushions to keep you comfortable and cool. A large opening at the top of the bag makes it easy to get things in and out and makes cleaning the interior a breeze.

Product Features

The bag measures 20″ x 14″ x 11″ and can hold up to 33 liters or 24 cans plus ice. A thick layer of insulation keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hours. The bag features a roll-top closure that’s easy to open and close. Since the bag is collapsible, it’s easy to mold to make it fit into tight spaces.


  • Large capacity
  • Durable
  • Bag rolls up for easy storage


  • Heavy
  • No exterior pockets
  • Roll-top closure doesn’t always seal tightly so water can leak out if the bag is on its side.

Best Backpack Cooler Buyer’s Guide

An insulated backpack cooler.

Backpack coolers come in many different sizes, shapes, and styles. Each includes different options and features in a wide range of price points. This next section is a guide to help you decide which features you might want to look for.

Here are some things to consider when deciding what type of cooler is right for you.

Comfort and Ease of Use

Comfort is one of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a bag. If it’s not comfortable, you won’t want to wear it and that defeats the whole purpose of having a backpack cooler!

Adjustable straps, padding, size, and the weight of the bag itself are all things to look for when considering how comfortable a bag is going to be.

Another thing to think about is how easy the bag is to use. Does it have helpful features like large pockets, easy opening and closing, or easy cleaning? Think about what features are important to you or what would be most helpful and look for a bag that includes those features.

Materials and Durability

Depending on how you plan to use the cooler, durability and the materials it’s made out of could be a big consideration for you.

For example, if you plan to do a lot of hiking where you’ll toss the bag up a slope, carry it in the rain, or set it down at a muddy campsite, then a durable, waterproof, bag is a must-have.

If you’re just planning to use the bag for a day trip to the beach or to hold your lunch while at a theme park or the zoo, then extra durability isn’t as big of a concern.

Keeping Things Cold

Backpack coolers come in a wide range of how long they keep things cold. Some keep things cold for a few hours while some stay cold for days.

Look at how long the bags stay cold to make sure it meets your needs. If you’re planning to use the bag for quick trips like picnics or a tailgate, then an extra-long cool time might not be an important feature. For longer excursions like an overnight camping trip or road trip, extended cool time is going to be much more useful.


Last but not least is size. Backpack coolers come in all different sizes from large to small. How you plan to use the bag will help you determine what size you need.

The online description of most backpacks will tell you how many cans they hold. For example, the Maelstrom backpack cooler can hold up to 25 cans. This is a good way to get a practical idea of how much fits in each cooler.

Backpack Cooler Frequently Asked Questions

Can you turn a backpack into a cooler?

Sort of. Regular backpacks don’t usually have any insulation for keeping things cold. If you want to use a regular backpack as a cooler, it’s possible. But you’ll need to add insulation or use a separate cooler bag inside the backpack.

Since many of the best backpack coolers on our list are pretty affordable, it’s probably easier to purchase a separate backpack cooler for that purpose rather than reconfiguring an existing bag.

What kinds of things can you pack in a backpack cooler?

Anything you want to keep cold! Most coolers have space for food, drinks, ice packs, and more. You can pack an entire day’s worth of meals or bring a case of drinks to share with friends.

Some coolers, like the BruMate are even designed to hold liquids so you can pour your drinks directly into the cooler.

Can you put ice cubes in a backpack cooler?

In most cases, yes, you can add cubed or crushed ice directly to the cooler section of your backpack. Some models recommend using reusable ice packs instead of ice.

Reusable freezer ice packs.  These can be used in the best backpack coolers for extra-long cooling times.

Tips for Using a Backpack Cooler

Once you decide on a cooler, here are some tips to help you make the most out of using your new bag!

Pre-Cool the Bag

Believe it or not, pre-cooling makes a huge difference in how well a cooler keeps things cold.

When you start with a cold internal temperature the bag itself is able to keep the contents cold, not just the ice packs you add to it. Starting with a cold bag means the ice won’t melt as fast giving you hours longer than if you started with a warm bag.

The easiest way to pre-cool a bag is to fill it with ice for a few hours before using it. If you have the space, you can put the entire bag in a refrigerator or freezer. On a hot day, that cold bag will feel great when you start wearing it!

Pack It Full

The fuller the bag is, the better it stays cold.

When a cooler is packed full, the contents actually act as insulation, preventing warm air from circulating within the cooler and warming up the contents.

If you don’t have enough food or drinks to pack the bag full, consider adding extra ice packs, towels, or other supplies to keep the bag colder longer.

Keep It Closed

Frequent opening and closing cause cold air to come out of the cooler and warm air to get in, raising the internal temperature of the bag.

To keep the cooler cold, keep the backpack closed as much as possible. Of course, it’s fine to get things in and out as needed but try to close the bag as soon as you’re done and avoid leaving it open for extended periods of time.

Time to Get the Best Backpack Cooler

A woman carrying a water bottle.

Are you ready to pick out a backpack cooler? For the best value, you can’t go wrong with the Maelstrom cooler backpack. This product has all of the things you need in the best backpack cooler and you can’t beat the price.

For more gear recommendations, check out the gear page on our website. There you’ll find reviews on all kinds of camping and outdoor gear to give you some ideas for your next trip.