Imagine going on a long hike and looking forward to settling down in a nice spot to eat your pre-packed food. Then imagine opening the bag and realising that everything has become so warm that it's simply inedible (and possibly riddled with bacteria).
At this point, you'll wish you had taken along a cool bag. But which one? There are so many on the market that you're going to be spoilt for choice. Ultimately, the one you choose will depend on how you're likely to use it. If you're going solo, for instance, then the smaller the better; however, if you're going to be out all day with friends, then big and long-lasting is key.
Different cool bags will keep food and drink fresh for different times, so it's important that you pay attention to the stated period and work out whether that would be enough. Sometimes a bag won't tell you how long it will keep items cool for, in which case you should assume a few hours: if it's much longer then, believe us, the manufacturer would make a song and dance about it.
Size matters, of course, and many will indicate the carrying capacity by the number of cans a bag will hold. Comfortable carrying is also important, as is whether or not a bag is leakproof and waterproof. Indeed, some bags go further than others and actually allow you take them into water. Finally, think about where you'll keep the bag when it's not being used – those that can be folded down and stored away neatly are great for infrequent users.
IceMule Pro Insulated Backpack Cooler
A cooler that's equally at home on land and water
Offering the versatility of a cool box in the form of a bag, the IceMule sure won't leave you cold. With a capacity of 23 litres, it is big enough for 20 cans and since it has double-padded backpack straps, it can be slung over your shoulders to keep your hands free.
A dual-layer construction means the cooler can retain solid ice for 24 hours and, because it uses a roll-top design, there's no need to mess around with zippers. Users can also add air for extra insulation via an airvalve, releasing it whenever the bag needs to be rolled up small for storage.
On top of that, the bag is fully waterproof – just as well really because it can also float. This makes the bag ideal for tying to a boat or a kayak, but we also reckon it would prove popular on hikes and at festivals.
TOURIT Insulated Cooler
A lightweight leak-proof bag with a shoulder strap
Making use of high-density insulating material, this bag will keep food and drink cool for 16 hours at a temperature below 15 degrees Celsius. To do so, you'll need a couple of freezer blocks, but the PEVA liner is designed not to leak and you can hold about 15 cans in the main compartment.
We like that it has a couple of zipped pockets and two side meshes for extra capacity. It also comes with a bottle opener so that you don't get caught short when you're on the go. It also comes with a detachable shoulder strap as well as handles so you can decide how you want to carry it. The exterior is made from an easy-to-wipe material too.
Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze
A bag packed with innovation and three-day cooling
If you're hungry, then you'll want to get at your food and drink without delay. Say hello to the Arctic Zone cool bag, with its patented and zipperless flip-open lid. It has been designed for speedy access to the bag's contents, but the innovations don't stop there.
Inside the bag is a removable box and this is topped off with a shelf. The idea is that you can keep the heavy stuff at the bottom of the bag and then place anything crushable in a separated area at the top.
An additional – zippered – section is provided at the front and it also comes with a connected bottle opener. The leak-proof lining has also been developed to prevent bacterial odours and stains and it claims to keep ice for up to three days. Impressive.
Lifewit Double-Decker Soft Cooler Backpack
Why have one large compartment in a cool bag when you could have two? The Double-Decker from Lifewit gives you a top and bottom section for different foodstuffs – perfect if you want to separate meat from veg or food from drink. It is also lined with padding and a leakproof food-grade aluminium foil.
We love its smart design and the decision to use a water-resistant, dirt-proof Oxford fabric. It also able to hold 34 cans and items in three pockets front and side, while weighing just 0.52 kilograms itself. The back of the bag is made from a padded mesh, as are the shoulder straps, so it shouldn't prove a burden when being carried around.
Winmax Lunch Cooler Bag
A small cooler best suited for a solo traveller
This bag won't fail to catch the eye given its lovely, vivid leaf pattern. So if you are looking for a small cooler that has been designed to carry a few lunch items, then this should be on your list for consideration.
Its three-layer insulation will keep your food cool for a few hours and the bag will fold down once the items have been consumed, enabling it to be slipped into a larger bag. In that sense, it would suit a traveller who just needs a few fresh bits to eat to keep them going through the day, while doubling up as a cool storage for work.