Hydro Flask 20 L Insulated Tote ($65)

From light and portable designs to burly options for days on the water, we break down the best soft-sided coolers

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18 cans (with ice)

3 lbs. 8 oz.

33L (24 cans), 40L (36 cans)

Durable, waterproof, and relatively inexpensive.

Less structure than many competitors and no hipbelt.

To provide the best in portableness, backpack coolers are the best choice. They’re also a lot of them such as the ICEMULE Pro series, have many features with normal daypacks. The Pro’s straps for the shoulder are cushioned to ensure that it is comfortable when filled with food, ice and drinks, and the back panel that is ventilated can be quite effective at keeping your cool. With a 1000-denier, waterproof design the drybag-like ICEMULE will be able to endure almost all scrapes, scratches, and tussles you encounter on the trail or on the water (we’ve also found it suitable robust for travel).

To cut down on weight and weight, some backpack coolers, like that of the ICEMULE Pro lack structure. In comparison to other models with soft sides the Pro may feel unwieldy if it is loaded incorrectly (the benefit is that it is able to be compressed using rolling top closure). This can also mean lower insulation, though the Pro’s 24-hour storage of ice is pretty impressive in this regard. When comparing the Pro against other backpacks that are colder, you could go by using alternatives such as Yoti’s Hopper M20 or more modern with the Hydro Flask 20 liter Day Escape, and both have more structure and leak-proofing. However, what makes it is that the ICEMULE Pro stands apart is its value. It’s priced below the majority of the competitors in terms of cost, but still delivers excellent performance and overall functionality.