Hit the Trails with the Best Backpack Cooler for Hiking: Our Top 3 Selections

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who loves to take hiking trips, you’re likely familiar with the struggle of keeping your food and drinks cool. Enter the backpack cooler – a champion among hiking gear that fuses portability with insulation. But, with myriad options available, choosing the best backpack cooler for hiking can be quite a challenge.

In this article, we’ve handpicked and reviewed our top three selections, to help you make an informed decision. Whether you’re looking for the largest backpack cooler to store food for a large group or an insulated cooler backpack that performs best for a solo hiking trip, we’ve got you covered.

What Features to Look for When Choosing the Best Backpack Cooler for Hiking

Best backpack cooler for hiking

When looking for the best cooler backpack for hiking, some fundamental features should be considered. These factors combined will help you find the insulated cooler backpack best suited for your hiking needs.


Consider the size and capacity when choosing a cooler. While bigger may seem appealing, it’s important to remember that coolers can become heavy, especially when loaded with cans of soda. Look for a backpack cooler that offers both comfort and functionality, whether it’s empty or full. Additionally, taller individuals may find larger coolers more suitable as they provide a better fit on their backs. Conversely, those of smaller stature may prefer a more compact option.


Most backpack coolers are crafted from soft materials, often padded or insulated. Having insulated linings and pockets is desirable as it ensures better temperature retention. A soft construction not only guarantees a lighter and more pliable pack but also enhances wearing comfort – three crucial factors we prioritize in a backpack cooler. Some of the brands we feature offer hard shells, which aid in temperature retention and maintain the pack’s shape, making it easier to pack.

The choice of material also determines whether you can use ice or rely solely on ice packs to keep your food cool. We recommend following the brand’s guidelines, which can be found on the backpack cooler’s tag or owner’s manual.

Ice/temperature retention

Backpack coolers with thicker padding are generally more effective at keeping drinks colder for extended periods. However, if you mainly intend to use your backpack cooler for park picnics rather than long, hot hikes or beach days, a bulky option may not be necessary.


At the core of a superior backpack cooler lies its insulation, setting it apart from a standard pack. However, the quality of insulation can significantly vary among products and often plays a pivotal role in determining the price. Some bags feature closed-cell foam designed to retain ice for multiple days, but these options tend to be dense and heavy. On the other hand, certain models utilize open-cell foam, which is more lightweight and flexible but generally provides only one-day heat resistance.


A well-organized backpack cooler or a sling cooler can greatly enhance your outdoor adventures. Look for one that offers multiple internal sections to help you maintain tidiness and easy accessibility. (Extra points if it includes external mesh pockets for storing water bottles or essentials like sunscreen.) Beyond the convenience it provides, there’s also a matter of safety to consider. The compartments prevent the weight from shifting within the backpack, ensuring stable footing and sparing your muscles and joints from unnecessary strain.


When considering a backpack cooler, it’s important to think about how you’ll use it and the distance you’ll be carrying it. After all, when you’re on the move, you want to avoid shoulder pain and discomfort. Will you be taking it to the beach for some drinks and lunch, or are you planning a five-mile hike for a picnic by the lake? If you’ll be traveling a significant distance, look for a backpack cooler with a well-padded back panel to reduce pressure points. Also, make sure it has padded and adjustable shoulder straps as well as a sternum strap to stabilize and evenly distribute the weight.


Backpack coolers offer varying levels of waterproofing. Heavy-duty options feature welded seals to effectively keep water out and in. On the other hand, soft-sided coolers are mostly waterproof but may leak through the zipper if not handled with care. If you’re planning a day at the park, a top-of-the-line cooler may not be necessary. However, if you want it to float alongside your tube during a river adventure, opt for one that offers full waterproofing.

Best Backpack Cooler for Hiking Reviewed in This Article

Whether you’re looking for the best hiking cooler backpack or the largest backpack cooler that can accommodate a large group, we have you covered.

Wise Owl Outfitters Backpack Cooler

Best backpack cooler for hiking
  • Ice Cold Performance: Crafted with multi-layered soft, waterproof insulation, this cooler backpack ensures your beverages and snacks stay refreshingly cold from sunrise to sunset.
  • Comfortable and Adjustable: Designed for ease, the large and leakproof kayak cooler comes with adjustable straps, providing comfort and convenience for carrying your essentials on various adventures, from beach outings to bonfires.
  • Customizable Insulation: Featuring an adjustable air valve, the picnic cooler backpack allows you to customize insulation according to your preference, allowing you to regulate air intake as needed.
  • Durable Construction: Constructed with heavyweight PEVA nylon and a robust 1-inch thick thermal shield, this beer cooler backpack is not only leak-proof but also weatherproof and fully submersible. It boasts the capacity to hold up to 24 cans along with ice.
  • Perfect Camping Gift: Whether it’s camping, hiking, backpacking, or a day at the beach, these insulated camping backpack coolers are essential for adventurers.

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Not only is this backpack functional, but it’s also incredibly comfortable. With adjustable straps and a leakproof design, it’s easy on your back and makes bringing your bites with you anywhere a breeze. Whether you’re heading to the beach or gathering around a bonfire, our backpack has got you covered!

You can easily customize the level of insulation to your liking, adding air when and where you need it. Durability is key, and our backpack delivers.

Made with heavyweight PEVA nylon and a 1″ thick thermal shield, it is not only leak-proof and weatherproof but also fully submersible. You can trust that it will withstand any adventure.

Looking for the perfect gift for the adventurer in your life? Look no further than this insulated camping backpack cooler. Whether it’s hiking, backpacking, or a day at the beach, these coolers are the must-have necessities.

Buffalo Gear Cooler Backpack

Best backpack cooler for hiking
  • Insulated Cooler Backpack: The advanced insulation material and leak-proof liner collaborate to maintain temperatures for over 16 hours, ensuring effective anti-leaking.
  • Firm & Durable: Constructed from durable high-strength 500D PVC mesh cloth, the backpack effectively resists punctures and tears, protecting it from scratches by branches or stones.
  • Easy to Carrying: The neoprene shoulder strap, known for its elasticity, shockproof, waterproof, and breathable properties, provides comfortable carrying.
  • Multiple Uses: With its effective waterproof design, this portable cooler backpack is versatile, suitable for a range of outdoor activities such as beach outings, picnics, hiking, fishing, camping, road trips, travel, kayaking, and more.
  • Large Capacity Cooler: Measuring 17 x 12.6 x 7.1 inches with a capacity of 18L, the backpack can hold up to 30 cans (330ml), making it spacious enough for all your essentials during outdoor adventures.

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This will be the ultimate companion for keeping your items cold or hot for over 16 hours! With its insulation material and leak-proof liner, this backpack ensures anti-leaking and temperature control. The interior lining is made of excellent upgrade material, making it easy to clean.

Made of durable high-strength 500D PVC mesh cloth, this backpack is built to last. It effectively resists punctures and tearing, protecting your belongings from scratches caused by branches or stones. All seams are thermo-welded and strengthened, guaranteeing a leakproof design.

Carrying this backpack is a breeze. The shoulder strap is made of high-quality Neoprene, providing elasticity, shock absorption, waterproofing, and breathability. Its flexibility allows you to carry it comfortably in various situations.

Not only is this backpack perfect for keeping your essentials cool and dry, but it also serves multiple purposes. Take it to the beach, picnic, hiking, fishing, camping, road trips, travel, kayaking, or any other adventure you have in mind.

Maelstrom Cooler Backpack

Best backpack cooler for hiking
  • Leak-proof & Insulated: Crafted with high-density insulation material and a leak-proof liner, this cooler backpack ensures anti-leaking and maintains the temperature of your food for up to 16 hours.
  • Large Capacity & Multiple Compartments: The backpack boasts a substantial capacity of 35 cans (32L), making it perfect for various occasions.
  • Ergonomic & Comfortable Design: Adjustable, breathable, and padded S-shaped shoulder straps contribute to reduced fatigue during extended trips.
  • Unique Function Design: Innovative features include a tabletop with space for condiment bottles, a stainless steel bottle opener on the shoulder strap, and various webbing holes for hanging keys, water bottles, or tools. An adjustable buckle for wine bottle storage and a stretch cord for sunglasses on the shoulder strap add to its unique functionality.
  • Versatile: Beyond being an excellent soft cooler, this backpack serves as a lightweight and practical companion for lunch outings, hiking, camping, fishing, travel, and other outdoor activities.

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This leak-proof and insulated Cooler Backpack is designed to keep your food hot or cold for up to 16 hours! With its high-density insulation material and leak-proof liner, this backpack ensures no leaks and maximum temperature retention.

With a large capacity of 32L (19x 13x 9), our backpack cooler can hold up to 35 cans, perfect for gatherings with friends and family. The multiple compartments provide handy storage and easy organization for all your essentials.

The five webbing holes above the net bag on the left side allow you to hang keys, water bottles, and other tools securely.

Versatile and lightweight, the leakproof backpack is not only excellent for keeping your food cool but also serves as a lunch backpack, hiking backpack, camping backpack, fishing backpack, travel backpack, and more.

Types of Coolers for Hiking

Best backpack cooler for hiking

Backpack coolers

Backpack coolers are a convenient option for those on the go, especially if you plan to consume your goods within a few hours. Our tests have shown that they may not offer the same level of temperature retention as traditional coolers, but there are certainly some that perform better than others. We recommend using them for short day trips when you want to have your hands free. They provide ease of carrying and allow you to stay mobile.

Soft-sided coolers

Soft-sided coolers provide a delightful balance between backpack coolers and hard-sided coolers. Through our comprehensive cooler testing, we discovered that some soft-sided coolers perform on par with their hard-sided counterparts in terms of temperature retention, all while being more lightweight and easier to carry.

Hard-sided coolers

Hard-sided coolers are renowned for their exceptional temperature retention and spaciousness. Although they might be cumbersome to carry, certain models come equipped with wheels, making transportation a breeze. Moreover, they often feature convenient cup holders and can even serve as impromptu tables.

Common Questions About the Best Backpack Cooler for Hiking

Best backpack cooler for hiking

How to pack a backpack cooler?

To maximize the cooling efficiency of coolers, it’s beneficial to pre-chill them before use. This can be achieved by loading them with ice or ice packs several hours in advance.

When you’re ready to pack your backpack cooler, ensure that the items you’re placing inside are already chilled, and add extra ice or ice packs for insulation. While the cold items will help maintain the temperature, it’s important to note that they won’t retain it for long without the addition of ice or ice packs. While ice can melt and create a mess, ice packs can be heavy, so choose the option that suits you while considering the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Remember that opening coolers frequently will cause temperature fluctuations, so it’s best to only access them when necessary.

Will your backpack cooler leak?

The majority of today’s backpack coolers are designed with waterproof liners and zipper seals to keep liquids contained. However, if the cooler is not correctly sealed or you overfill it, leakage may occur.

To avoid this, ensure that it is properly closed and use enough ice packs to fill any voids in your bag. This will help ensure that your food and drinks stay cool and mess-free.

How much ice should you put in a backpack cooler?

In an ideal scenario, it is recommended to fill any type of cooler with approximately two-thirds of ice and one-third of cans, bottles, food, or any other items you wish to keep cool. This ensures maximum coldness for an extended period of time, although it does occupy a significant portion of the storage space with ice.

Video Best Backpack Cooler For Hiking And Camping I Hiking Trekking Cooler Bag Reviews

For those who like to limit their options, we invite you to watch the following video and discover five more fantastic backpack coolers ideal for hiking.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best backpack cooler for hiking comes down to several factors: insulation quality, organization, comfort, and waterproofing features. It’s crucial to consider how and where you plan to use it, as well as the distance you’ll be carrying it.

Whether you’re after the best insulated cooler backpack for a long hike or a large-capacity solution for group outings, understanding these key aspects will help you make an informed decision. With the variety of options available on the market, you’re sure to find a backpack cooler that meets your needs and enhances your outdoor adventures. Happy hiking!


Photo of author
Hey there, I'm Chris. I love hitting the road for some adventure on the weekends. I believe in buying the absolute best, which led me to a quest for the perfect cooler. Frustrated with the lack of reliable info, I started reviewing coolers myself. At OKCoolers.com, I dive into the nitty-gritty details so you know exactly what you're getting. So stick around, get the facts, and let's stay cool together.
Photo of author
Hey there, I'm Chris. I love hitting the road for some adventure on the weekends. I believe in buying the absolute best, which led me to a quest for the perfect cooler. Frustrated with the lack of reliable info, I started reviewing coolers myself. At OKCoolers.com, I dive into the nitty-gritty details so you know exactly what you're getting. So stick around, get the facts, and let's stay cool together.