Lugging around a heavy, hard-sided cooler to the beach or on a camping trip can be a pain. For moments like these, and many moment in between, having a smaller, lighter, portable cooler can come in very handy.
Whether it’s a cooler tote or a cooler backpack, the best cooler bags should be comfortable to carry, well-made and keep you food fresh and your drinks cold.
To make life easier for you, I’ve compiled a list of five of the best cooler bags that range in style and price. Wether you’re looking to haul 20 beers and keep them cold for days, or you’re just looking for something to bring on a picnic, you should find a bag that’ll do the trick for you below.
The 5 Best Cooler Bags and Backpacks For An Ice Cold Summer
Often considered one of the best cooler backpacks for its quality construction, unique design and ability to retain ice for up to two days, the Igloo Waterproof Backpack Cooler is a solid choice for those headed to the beach, to the lake, or on a short camping trip. It features padded backpack straps that can easily be removed if you’d prefer to carry the bag like a tote and it’s waterproof (thanks to its roll top closure and durable, waterproof nylon fabric). Another distinctive feature is the cooler’s rugged base that allows it to easily stand on its own and puts space between the cooler and any hot surface you lay it down on. Unlike most soft-sided coolers, it also has a threaded drain plug for super easy draining, The 13.75-by-7.25-by-20-inch interior provides enough room to carry ingredients for camping meals, a large picnic lunch or 12 cans of beer. And to top it off, it even comes with a built-in bottle opener. Price: $179.99 // Buy It Here
Unlike any other portable cooler out there, the IceMule Pro is a simple yet rugged and capable option designed to retain ice for 24 hours. Featuring padded backpack straps and known for its comfortable wear, the bag is waterproof thanks to its heavy duty, waterproof fabric, waterproof welded seams, and roll top closure. Due to its non-structured construction, you may not want to fill it with glass bottles, but you’ll be able to haul 18 beer cans plus ice in the IceMule Pro Large (which is actually the smallest size of three different sizes they offer). Plus, when you’re not using your IceMule, it folds or rolls up flat flat for easy storage. Price: Starting at $99.95 // Buy It Here
For a portable cooler disguised as a regular-looking backpack, consider the Party Pack by Dakine. True to the bag’s name, this cooler will help you bring the party wherever you go thanks to its insulated, interior cooler pocket (located at the bottom of the bag) and its uninsulated top pocket for stashing the rest of your dry party gear. The cooler pocket, with room for 12 beer cans, features a “beverage garage” that allows for super easy access to a drink and a special zippered pocket to hold an ice pack. This cooler bag also has three built-in, insulated koozies (two on the back and one right on the shoulder strap for easy access), a built-in bottle opener, and front straps that’ll allow you to easily carry a beach towel or picnic blanket. Another nice addition: a fleece lined pocket perfect for storing a camera or sunglasses. Price: $69.95 // Buy It Here
If you’re looking for something simple and inexpensive, consider the Coleman C003 Soft Backpack Cooler. It featuring a spacious, insulated main compartment (with enough room for 28 cans), a smaller front pocket, mesh stash pockets on the sides, and bungee tie-down at the front (ideal for holding a light jacket or blanket). Padded backpack straps and the bag’s traditional backpack size and shape make it easy and comfortable to carry. Price: $28 // Buy It Here
If you truly want the best of the best when it comes to portable coolers, consider expanding your budget and buying yourself a Yeti. Yes, they’re expensive, but they’re tougher than tough and they’ll keep your items colder, longer. Both the Hopper and Hopper Flip can hold ice for several days thanks in part to their thick, ColdCell insulation technology (made of closed-cell rubber foam) and their leakproof HydroLok Zipper (similar in design to the zippers used on HazMat suits). Both offer a unique design, super strong construction, durable materials, and detachable shoulder strap for easy carrying. Hopper Price: Starting at 299.99 // Buy It Here // Hopper Flip 12 Price: $249.99 // Buy It Here
Don’t Forget To To Buy Ice Packs: Yeti Ice
Equally as important as the quality of the cooler, is the quality of the ice (something people often overlook). Run-of-the-mill options like these will work, but I like to do everything I can to help ensure I’m keeping the item in my cooler as cold as they can be. That’s why I use Yeti Ice, which freezes quicker and stays frozen longer. Plus, these strong ice packs are nearly impossible to break. Price: Starting at 14.99 // Buy It Here
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links” — which means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission (and you’ll have helped support this site). However, I only recommend products I believe in and/or have used personally.