What Makes A Good Backpack Cooler? The Ultimate Guide

So you're looking for the best backpack cooler? What exactly does it need to have to make it amazing.

Size, comfort and style are the key components to look at in a backpack cooler. You want a cooler that is big enough to fit what you need, but not too big as when completely full they get very heavy. You want a backpack that is extremely comfortable to wear, with thick padded straps and ideally a waist strap.

You'll likely want a bag that is stylish and that you can feel proud wearing, as well as one that is durable enough to take a beating and still hold up. Ideally one that will last for years and still be in good condition.

Ice Retention Is Important, But Not THAT Important

Unlike other coolers ice retention is not the most important aspect of a backpack cooler. You want something that will keep ice at least a full day (if not 2) but given you're unlike to get more than 2 days of ice out of a cooler this is less important than something like a Yeti that can keep ices for 5-10+ days.

Waterproofing Is A Vital Component

I think it goes without saying that waterproofing is a baseline requirement. You don't want to be out for a hike having water drip down your back and into your trousers. That is definitely not a vibe.

Most coolers achieve this quite well, with the more expensive coolers obviously being a lot better at maintaining that waterproofing and sometimes even extending it to the pockets of the bag so you can keep your phone and other items completely dry.

Budget Will Play a Big Role

Budget is also going to a primary consideration. In my list of the best backpack coolers a lot of the coolers I rate as the best are quite expensive at around the $200-$300+ dollar mark. But not everyone wants to spend that or has the money to spend that.

For me personally a backpack cooler is great for a short hike, or trip to the beach or national park. But I am unlikely to be hiking for days and I don't go hiking that often, so I wouldn't want to spend as much as someone who hikes every single weekend.

You can get cooler backpacks for a cheap at around $20-$30 (like this cooler) but you will make some serious sacrifices in style, ice retention, durability and comfort.

The $80-$100 mark can be a sweet spot where you still get style, quality and durability but for a fraction of the price of more expensive coolers.

When It Comes To Size, Be Like Goldilocks

Not too big, not too small you want a backpack cooler to be just the right size.

Too small and you can't fit everything in there, or you'll have to sacrifice on ice meaning your items will get warm (which no one wants).

Too big and you'll have a tendency to put too much in it making it heavier, or it will be loose and floppy which means you'll sacrifice on comfort.

Most backpack coolers are fine for size, but if you won't be carrying much or if you are someone who likes to carry a lot then this is definitely going to be a big consideration for you.

If It Ain't Comfortable Don't Buy It!

When you start filling up a backpack with ice, drinks, food as well as any other items you want for your trip it can get really heavily really quickly.

You don't want to get partway through your adventure only to have your straps painfully digging into your shoulders, or for your back to get sore because the weight distribution is just wrong.

Look for wide padded straps that are going to be comfortable to wear for an extended period of time. Thin straps without padding are going to be the ones that dig into your shoulders and make them sore.

Having a waist strap can also help to take some of the weight off your shoulders further adding to the comfort of the bag. If you're travelling light this is not going to be a big issue, but if your bag is going to be full and heavy you might want to buy something with a waist strap just in case.

A Stylish Bag To Be Proud Of

There are some fugly cooler backpacks out there…like “make me want to vomit a little in my mouth fugly” and “I wouldn't be caught wearing that fugly.”

For me style is important, I take pride in my appearance I want a backpack to match my style. One that is both stylish in its appearance but going ever further I want something that is impressive in its design and practicality.

So if the bag ticks the budget, size and comfort box then style is the next consideration.

I would personally give up some ice retention, or even sacrifice on the perfect size, in order to buy a bag that looked great on me and that I felt amazing wearing. You might be different from me and practicality may be more important than fashion. You do you.

You Want A Bag That Will Be Durable and Last

Chances are you aren't just using this backpack around the house, you're out and about roughing it up and having a great time. You want a bag that can keep up with you and not have to worry about damaging it.

Generally speaking the more expensive the bag, the more durable the material.

Pockets and Accessories

The last thing that I will touch on here is the external pockets and accessories of the bag. Most of us want somewhere to put our phone, headphones, maybe a camera and other accessories as well as food like sandwiches that we don't want to get wet.

This is where the Yeti Hopper Flip really falls on it's ass. It's basically just a cooler with shoulder straps. There is no where to put your phone or other items unless you buy an extra accessory for even more money.

So a combination of a good capacity cooler compartment with some external pockets for other items is something most of you will want to look out for.

Which Backpack Cooler Is Going To Be Best For You?

Ultimately deciding which backpack cooler is going to be best for you will be a personal decision.

How much money do you want to spend? What kind of style do you like? Which type of backpack is going to be the most comfortable and practical for you?

I hope this guide has helped you in making your decision. For more help choosing the right backpack cooler to buy check out my ultimate guide on The Best Backpack Coolers.

Until next time,

Stay Cool!