We reviewed 2018 cooler backpacks from YETI, OtterBox, Hydro Flask, and extra to seek out out which is greatest. Learn our tackle ice retention, portability, and cooler options.
In 2018, cooler manufacturers massive and small invested in creating backpack fashions. Cooler backpacks haul ice, beer, and meals simply to the campsite, park, or climbing path. However every cooler comes with benefits and drawbacks.
In our check, we found ice retention isn’t every thing. With cooler backpacks, key attributes have been portability and luxury. Once you load a whole backpack filled with ice, water, and beer, it will get heavy shortly.
Caveat: There wasn’t one clear winner on this evaluate, and the manufacturers aren’t listed in any specific order. However every cooler succeeded in sure areas. We’ve organized this evaluate with modules detailing every product, noting the place every excelled and lagged.
For a strict rundown on which cooler held ice longest, hop right down to the ice retention check.
The YETI Hopper BackFlip 24 is a rugged, well-built cooler with lash factors on all sides. It sports activities one central zipper, YETI’s beefy HydroLok — which we’ve examined earlier than, and it didn’t break or leak. And it makes the BackFlip waterproof.
YETI’s DryHide shell is on the surface. It withstands abrasions nicely, didn’t rip in our subject exams, and is identical shell you’ll discover on the remainder of the Hopper cooler collection. The cooler’s backside permits it to face straight up, and you may haul it with a prime lid, backpack straps, or two aspect straps.
The YETI excels at delivering a compact package deal and proved one of many comfier fashions we examined. The shoulder straps are broad, and it comes with an optionally available hip belt.
Loaded full, the cooler was snug on brief hikes of as much as 2 miles. Holding the cooler for various hours began to really feel uncomfortable. However load discomfort was widespread throughout all manufacturers — these merchandise are coolers first and backpacks second.
There aren’t any zipper pockets on the BackFlip apart from the primary compartment. So if you wish to connect your cellphone and keys to the cooler, you in all probability have to improvise.
As an add-on, you should purchase a SideKick Dry, $50, which acts as an exterior compartment ripe for keys and small belongings.
In all, the YETI was one among our favorites. It stored ice for a day or two in 100-degree warmth and can probably final for years.
One of many largest coolers we examined, with thick insulation, the Cordova Smooth Sided Backpack cooler held ice for a very long time and was snug to hold. And at $200, it presents a discount for its measurement in comparison with different cooler backpacks.
The Cordova was bulkier than different choices, with loads of exterior zipper pockets and lash factors. In complete, 4 zippered pockets ought to maintain a couple of individuals’s belongings. It comes with a hip belt and was snug sufficient to hold on hikes as much as three miles.
On the surface, a 1,000-denier nylon shell withstood abrasions tenting and climbing. Cordova touts its cooler can maintain as much as 36 12-ounce cans of beer and 15 kilos of ice. That’s a big capability!
Whereas we examined this pack for just a few weeks, it impressed us with its efficiency at this worth level. Time will inform if the supplies maintain up, however for now, the Cordova Smooth Sided Backpack is a favourite.
The Boss is a roll-top, waterproof backpack cooler from Icemule. Its capability is 30 liters (24 cans), and the outside is filled with lash factors and pockets for securing additional gear.
Throughout a four-day, 60-mile float journey on the Buffalo River in Missouri, the beer stayed cool and the Boss by no means broke.
On the surface is a super-durable material that holds as much as abuse. It’s extra inflexible than anticipated due to the froth insulation. Nevertheless it didn’t really feel like you possibly can rip it in our checks.
Its important compartment completely matches a 24-pack of beer, with the case on. And when you’re actually pushing it, you’ll be able to match one other six in. And on the surface are two waterproof zippered containers. These stayed dry within the river, which stunned us.
The shoulder straps really feel good throughout heavy masses, and it disperses weight evenly alongside your again and hips.
The Icemule Boss is pricier than a number of the coolers on this record, however its superior waterproofing and sturdiness make us assume its well worth the price ticket.
From Hydro Flask, the Unbound Collection 22L is a water-proof choice with many zippered pockets on the surface for carrying your belongings. Its giant shoulder straps facilitated snug carrying for hikes of as much as 2 miles, and it held ice for one to 2 days in 100-degree warmth.
The cooler has a glossy, minimal look with one zippered mesh pocket, one giant prime pocket, and one other mesh pocket.
The Hydro Flask additionally makes use of a big-toothed, watertight YKK AQUASEAL zipper that stored water out. Opening and shutting the zipper required some pressure — so, sadly, the zipper pull broke in regular use throughout our check.
This was annoying however simply fastened by including a zip-tie loop. We’re testing one other Hydro Flask cooler now to see if this particular person zipper pull was defective or if this can be a design situation.
The Hydro Flask’s insulation stored ice for a good period of time whereas maintaining the backpack compact. And a pleasant function, Hydro Flask gives the Unbound Collection in 4 colours: Goldenrod, Mist (grey), Storm (blue), and Black.
As for caveats, when not filled with stuff, the highest pocket may give a droopy and deflated look. And the cooler doesn’t have a hip-belt choice. However in all, the cooler suited our wants and provides a little bit of customization with all the colour choices.
The Orca Podster is a sturdy and small cooler that prices a lot lower than a lot of the coolers on this evaluation. It has a bounty of attachment straps on the surface, is waterproof, and makes use of a German TIZIP Masterseal zipper.
The Podster we examined holds 13 liters and prices $200, however Orca additionally makes a 27-liter choice. We discovered the Podster nice for day journeys the place we didn’t want beer and meals for greater than two meals. For in a single day journeys, you could have to refill this cooler typically.
In testing, the cooler held ice for a good period of time. Its stout development didn’t break down nor did any elements fail.
The Orca’s straps have been thinner than these of different coolers, nevertheless it didn’t maintain as a lot as others. It is available in seafoam, fuschia, coral, and Realtree camo.
For a smaller and cost-friendly choice that may simply maintain ice for a whole day, we advocate the Podster.
The OtterBox Trooper, far and away, gained the ice retention check. However it got here with the draw back of being one of many extra uncomfortable coolers we examined.
OtterBox constructed the Trooper with a clamshell opening on prime, which may be tough to function at first. Inflexible plastic strains the highest, and the cooler can open vast shortly however feels clunky to make use of and align correctly.
On the surface are loads of extras like a bottle opener, a dry storage pouch, and a zipper pocket. It had the most important capability at 28 liters, which was lots for 2 nights of tenting. The Trooper is available in camo, Hazy Harbor (grey/blue/inexperienced), and Alpine Ascent (inexperienced/black/orange).
The shoulder straps are shut collectively and could be uncomfortable for individuals with bigger chests. And due to its elevated capability, this cooler will get very heavy when absolutely loaded, which shortly interprets right into a burden on the again.
Go for the OtterBox if ice retention is your largest shopping for level in a cooler. However the Trooper’s strap development and clamshell opening left us questioning if that perk was well worth the buy.
When you don’t intend on lengthy hikes of three or extra miles, it’s a sensible choice and has a a lot totally different design than all the opposite coolers on this listing.
Editor’s notice: We acquired a preproduction mannequin that skilled minor delamination on the inside and exterior. We spoke with representatives for the model, and OtterBox stated it had addressed the difficulty previous to the product’s launch. In response to OtterBox, consumer-model coolers won’t face comparable defects.
Probably the most fashion-forward and least costly choice on the listing, the Corkcicle Eola Bucket Bag was a enjoyable choice for day journeys.
Corkcicle designed the Eola Bucket cooler with one zippered opening on prime and an adjunct zippered pocket on the again of the pack. It holds 12 12-ounce cans and makes use of a non-waterproof YKK zipper in addition to a vegan-leather deal with and base.
It’s the smallest cooler of the bunch, and we discovered it an amazing choice for days on the park or brief hikes. Ice lasted greater than 24 hours on this cooler. In comparison with the opposite coolers, nevertheless, it lasted the least period of time within the ice retention check.
The shoulder straps are skinny, and due to its smaller capability, the cooler not often felt uncomfortable. I additionally received probably the most compliments on this one by far once I wore it round.
The Eola Bucket Bag prices a fraction of the opposite coolers on the listing and is available in grey, black camo, and seafoam colours. We think about this to be a sensible choice in case you don’t intend on roughing it round or counting on it for a number of days.
Ice Retention: Which Backpack Cooler Lasted the Longest?
The identical week Denver tied its all-time report excessive temperature, we carried out the backpack cooler ice retention check. For 3 days, we pitted the coolers towards 100- to 105-degree Fahrenheit warmth.
We crammed every cooler to half capability with ice, then crammed the remaining space with 12-ounce cans. Then we zippered ’em shut and let ’em bake.
3 times a day we checked the contents and measured the temperature. When the ice began to look slim, we checked hourly. After working hours (5 p.m.), we moved all the coolers indoors in order that they wouldn’t get stolen. We positioned them outdoors once more at 7:30 a.m. Due to this, we didn’t attain actual occasions for the YETI and Hydro Flask, which each ran out of ice after hours. For these coolers, we offer one of the best estimate on ice retention time.
This check doesn’t yield arduous and quick guidelines for a way lengthy the coolers will final. We carried out the check this manner so all of the coolers confronted the identical circumstances, and to get a tough concept of how lengthy ice will keep frozen.
Listed here are the outcomes:
- OtterBox lasted 56 hours
- Cordova lasted 51 hours
- YETI was almost out of ice at 32-35 hours
- Hydro Flask was almost out of ice at 32-35 hours
- Orca lasted 30 hours
- Corkcicle lasted 29 hours
Along with the ice retention check, we introduced the coolers on weekend tenting journeys and hikes, days on the park, and weeknight barbeques.
Hikes ranged from 1 to three miles in wooded, rooty, and rocky terrain. The tenting journeys have been sometimes automotive tenting with minimal hikes to the campsite. The coolers often moved from outdoor, indoors, and in automobiles.
Editor’s Observe: We reviewed the Icemule Boss after the preliminary ice retention check, therefore its exclusion.
Which Cooler Is Proper for You?
Backpack coolers strike a distinct segment within the cold-storage market that places portability on the forefront. Whereas different coolers really feel cumbersome or require two individuals to hold, cooler backpacks are straightforward for one individual to hold.
That stated, hard-sided coolers will virtually all the time maintain ice longer than soft-sided coolers. And for those who’re tenting for greater than three days in a single spot alone, we advise a hard-sided cooler. They’re rugged, you possibly can sit on them, they usually maintain ice for a really very long time.
On the opposite finish, soft-sided coolers emphasize accessibility. That’s a part of the rationale this assessment didn’t emphasize ice retention, because it’s not the only think about selecting a cooler.
For those who’re going for a day journey, contemplate the Orca or Corkcicle. For weekend tenting journeys, attempt the Hydro Flask, YETI, Icemule, or Cordova. And for decent prolonged weekends, the OtterBox is your greatest guess.
Make sure you think about every cooler’s distinctive accessibility choices, attempt one out in a retailer to see if it matches, and get one which fits your particular wants.
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