RovR Products’ RollR collection put them on the map in the wheeled cooler category with a competitive mix of durability and ice retention. Their new TravelR 30 takes aim at the soft-sided market but retains much of what we love about the RollR, including a sturdy build and high attention to detail. The two coolers also share key features like waterproof zippers and shoulder straps that are both nicely padded and removable. Added up, the TravelR is another premium and thoughtfully built design from the Boulder-based brand. For the ultimate in portability, backpack-style coolers are the clear winners. And many of these bags, including Hydro Flask’s 20 L Day Escape, share a lot in common with regular daypacks.
Coolers like the OtterBox Trooper 20 Cooler with a broad, flat surface that rests against you can help absorb that swing and bounce. With a unique spin, the cooler is compatible with a removable insert called the KeepR ($150), which organizes fare into different compartments like a golf bag. The dividers are secured via Velcro, so the compartments are adjustable. The center of the basket has a circular sleeve for the 3L Icer ($50), a double-wall vacuum-sealed ice holder with a 3.5-pound capacity. We could stuff lots of goods inside or squish the cooler down for storage.
Traveling in the outdoors may require carrying certain amounts, or sizes, of items each day or for the entire journey. That’s where the Realtree group comes in, as you’ll be able to choose between the Tactical Duffel, Gizmo, Square 30, Launch 2 Go and HLC 12 Cooler Bags. The waterproof design keeps everything inside and outside from getting too wet.
In the face of some innovative competition, for years now, the IceMule remains the most comfortable model we’ve tested for carrying moderate provisions on a multi-mile hike. The price spread among soft coolers is significant, ranging from just $26 for the Coleman 24-Hour 16-Can Cooler all the way up to $350 for YETI’s top-end M30 above. That said, even the cheapest options on our list are reasonably well built and will get the job done for days at the beach or packing a lunch on the road, which will be enough to sway many.
Both the Otterbox Trooper and Arctic Zone Titan Zipperless also come with bottle openers on the outsides of the bag, though we struggled to effectively use the one on the Titan. The bottle opener on the Otterbox is actually a flat multi-tool, which we found useful occasionally but not enough to be a deal-breaker. The REI Trail Pack has several extra pockets around the outside and top of the bag, aiding in your long-distance adventure. Additionally, the entire cooler component can be removed, converting the entire thing into an uninsulated backpack when you need it. Though robust and watertight, its zipper is much easier to use and comes with zipper lubricant included, helping it to remain explicative-free. The Yeti Flip and the RTIC SoftPak also come standard with zipper lubricant that helps their zippers glide more easily, though they aren’t as smooth as the Engel.
Icemule’s Boss Backpack Cooler is incredibly rugged and has some serious insulation. “The design reminds me of a single big backpack that people use for backpack travel,” igloo water cooler is how one of our testers put it. Icemule uses proprietary fabrics, welded seams, and extra-padded straps to make this one heavy-duty yet comfortable backpack.
The design is super lightweight and felt comfortable to carry around. The material dried surprisingly fast after it got wet while paddling. This design is too small for an all-day adventure, but for a lunchbox or outing, it’s great. And the wide shape allows easy access to the grub inside the cooler. The exterior is made of synthetic plastic and nylon, so it’s not resilient for a rugged whitewater trip but is suitable for basecamp.
The insulated walls have an interior aluminum coat that helps trap cold air, and the ice retention is adequate for single- and 2-day adventures. Some of these designs are actually very rigid, stout, and stackable. Others are fully collapsible and pliable, and we celebrate the space-saving option for storage. We didn’t throw this backpack cooler off the side of a mountain (yet), but we probably could, and it’d be fine.