Whether you are going to school or taking a day hiking trip, an insulated backpack cooler will keep your food and drink cool, yet not occupy your hands. Unlike traditional coolers, these collapsible coolers are lightweight with various compartments so you will have access to everything close at hand. Unlike a rolling cooler which you have to drag around, these coolers are usually smaller and more compact. Collapsible coolers are made with soft sides and material that won’t weigh you down while walking.
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Collapsible Cooler Comparison Chart
Best Uses For Folding Coolers
The portability of folding coolers makes them perfect for a variety of actives as seen below. In addition to being perfect for certain outings and activities, these coolers are incredibly storable. They take up very limited room when not in use. In fact you could even use many of these backpack style coolers as an additional luggage bag to get where you are going, and then use it as a cooler.
Common activities an insulated backpack cooler would be a great accessory for include:
- Sightseeing Trips
- Field Trips
- Beach Trips
- Sporting Events
- Amusement Park Trips
- Mountain Trips
- Outdoor Music Concerts
- Overnight Camping Trips (if camping in bear country, consider a bear proof cooler)
Collapsing Cooler Buying Considerations
This is the most important consideration to make when choosing this style of cooler. Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong way to go about picking the best size. However, as we have said in many of our cooler reviews, if you even think you might need the extra room, buy the bigger size. We receive a lot of questions from readers asking which is better, for example a 40Qt or a 50Qt? Our answer is the same every time, if you think you may use the extra room, buy the larger size. It better to shy on the side of caution and have the extra room than not. With Collapsible coolers the same principle applies but be sure that if you do choose a large size it does not compromise portability.
How Long & Well It Holds Ice
This is less of a concern with folding coolers as the primary use of these is for a day or two at most. However, you don’t want a cooler that can only hold ice for a few hours. Or worse yet, leaks water as ice melts. Therefore, pick a cooler that can hold ice for a minimum of a day and be sure that the seams of the liner are water tight. If on the off chance you do want a cooler than can hold ice for more than a day, we have conducted numerous test (video below) which have revealed the best collapsible coolers.
The portability of a cooler is usually directly correlated with size. However, as more and more high end cooler manufacturers enter this space, they are producing larger, ultra portable insulated backpack coolers. Take for example the Orca Pod, which held ice for 3+ days in 90 degree heat. The most important take away being this cooler is still super comfortable to wear. We have a full Orca Pod Video Review Here which describes how to wear the cooler.
Best Bag Cooler Video Test
Top Ten Insulated Backpack Cooler Options:
This cooler can collapse down to a fraction of its open size. However, it has a space on the top for four cup holders even when collapsed down. It also has a bottle opener zipper pull so even your favorite craft beverage will never be left unopened. It holds a total of 45 cans so that you can use it for a variety of activities from lunch box to camping cooler. You can also carry it by using the handles or on your shoulder. It is easy to clean and will resist mold, mildew, and odors; even between uses. It weighs only 3.5 pounds and measures 13.4 x 9.1 x 10.2 inches when uncollapsed.
If you do not have a lot of storage space, you may love this very large, collapsible cooler. It folds flat, but measures 15.94 x 15.75 x 15.75 inches when opened. It can hold an impressive 80 cans. The Arctic Zone promises to keep items cold thanks to its thermal insulation. The top even functions as a makeshift table. It weighs very little when empty, but some say that carrying it full requires two people because of its size and the weight of the beverages inside. It is completely leak-proof and easy to clean with microban antimicrobial protection.
This collapsible cooler is superfoam insulated and has a therma-flect radiant barrier lid. It is leak proof and will not sweat. The lining is protected with microban antimicrobial protection. There is an external zipper pocket for carrying accessories and there are bungees on the side for even more gear. Carry handles are located on each side. The “table top” lid opens completely or partially to give you either easy access to the interior or a place to keep drinks in ice while you eat lunch on the “table”. Open, it measures 17 x 11.8 x 11 inches, but it folds flat when not in use.
This beautiful cooler is available in four color combinations including charcoal/black, black/black, blue/charcoal, or light grey/teal. It can carry up to 50 cans, or 50 pounds. The Clevermade also offers a storage area outside for those items that do not need to be chilled. It is leak-proof so that you do not have to worry about spilling water and it is made with rip-stop fabric. It has two carry options including side grips and duffle bag handless. It collapses to only 3 inches despite its 18.35 x 12.25 x 12in open size.
This insulated tub cooler comes with a stand. It comes in several colors including black, navy, orange, red, and blue. It is ideal for picnics and tailgating, but also works great for just about anything else since it holds over 72 cans of your favorite beverages. It is large and leakproof since it is made with 600D polyester on the outside. The zippered top closes tightly enough to keep ice cold for hours. When the party is finished, you simply fold everything up and put it inside of the included travel bag. When set up it measures 18 x18 x 33 inches, not including the stand’s height and it weighs only 7.2 pounds when empty.
This is considered one of the top selections for the best soft sided cooler due to it possessing three enormous pockets. The huge, top mesh compartment has the ability to hold extra clothing and other personal items needed for your day. To keep the drawstring in place and for added security, there is a flap that covers the drawstring, as well as two adjustable straps which further holds the drawstring in its place. Besides coming in a number of colors and being stylish, the huge ThermoGuard insulated section makes this cooler practical. The front zipper pocket can hold your keys, sunglasses, and several other toiletries. Check available colors here⇒
The first thing you will notice that is different with this insulated cooler is that it is a combination of a chair and a cooler. The chair is constructed with aluminum and steel, as well as being able to convert into five positions, including lying flat.
To move from one place to another, this chair/backpack combo collapses and possesses carry straps. The armrests are made with sturdy plastic. Additionally, there is a towel bar that doubles as legs when the chair is fully reclined. Unlike other cooler/chairs, there is an adjustable pillow when you want to relax and take a nap.
On the back side of this cooler/chair, the upper storage pouch holds any personal items, as well as snacks and other non-perishable food items. The lower cooler pouch is insulated for your water, drinks, and food that need to stay cold. The cell phone pouch keeps your mobile nearby, and the cup holder on the armrest holds your drink.
The material is sturdy and even after using it for a period of time, there should be no wear or tears in the fabric. Made and imprinted with the well-known “Tommy Bahama” logo on it, this one is reasonably priced for what it offers. More On Tommy Bahama Backpack Cooler⇒
Constructed with sturdy aluminum and steel, the weight capacity for this cooler chair is 300 lbs. The top storage pouch has the ability to hold clothing, an extra towel, and even your flip-flops. The lower insulated pouch is where this can serve as a beer cooler backpack. It is big enough to hold at least four bottles of beer. Similar to the other Tommy Bahama cooler/chairs, this one possesses a towel bar that doubles as legs, an adjustable pillow, and comfortable shoulder straps for when you have it on your back.
Another great item from their insulated backpack cooler line, this chair/cooler can hold up to 300 lbs., thanks to the heavy-duty aluminum and steel frame and 600 denier polyester fabric material available in a variety of colors. Just like the other Tommy Bahama cooler chairs, there is a convertible towel bar/legs, an upper storage pouch and lower insulated pouch.
The one thing this insulated backpack has that the other does not is a totally separate padded area for your laptop. It has a zipper and encloses the area completely. This is a bonus if you have cold drinks inside your backpack that can sweat leaving the interior wet. Students will love that these backpacks are available in several fabrics and colors. They will also love the many pockets for pens, calculators, lunch items, and cell phones.
Although crafted with students in mind, this backpack can serve a purpose for non-students as well. There are two exterior side pockets, two small exterior zipper pockets, and a large exterior zipper pocket. Furthermore, the small exterior pocket in the front of the backpack holds an additional hidden zipper pocket.