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REI backpack cooler

The REI Co-op Cool Trail Pack Cooler is the ultimate beach companion. Photo: Rebecca Parsons/The Inertia

The Inertia

I love going to the beach. But when I say that, I mean that I’m the type of person who arrives at sunup and doesn’t leave until the sun goes down. As such, I need a reliable cooler that can store food and drinks for me and my friends for the entire day.

Sometimes I visit beaches where the parking lot is easily accessible. But other times, the beaches are a little harder to get to. I also regularly go camping and the same situation applies. So, I prefer a backpack cooler as opposed to a traditional cooler so I can easily haul everything on my back and keep my hands free for surfboards, the dogs, and anything else I have with me. The REI Co-op Cool Trail Pack Cooler has proven to be a favorite for my adventures.

Pros Cons
Chest, waist, and sternum strap Straps are on the big side (not great for smaller people)
Lots of pockets Not as durable as some other brands
Removable interior Needs more exterior attachment points

Cool Trail Pack Cooler: First Impressions

Upon first glance, the REI Cool Trail Pack Cooler is fairly subtle, but quite the looker. It comes in a cool blue color with burnt orange accents, which just happen to be two of my favorite colors. It’s plenty big, has two exterior pockets with water bottle holders, and it includes shoulder straps and a waist strap. At $99.95, it’s a relatively affordable cooler, so I was eager to test it out.

rei co-op cooler backpack

Notable Features of the Cool Trail Pack Cooler

Gear Capacity: 30.5 Liters
Dimensions: 22 x 16 x 8.5 inches
Weight: 3 lbs. 4 oz.
Can Count: 20 cans
Ice Count: 10 lbs.
Cold Time: 40 hours

One of my favorite features on the Cool Trail Pack Cooler is the fully removable interior. Coolers can sometimes be a bit of a pain to wash and if you don’t keep up with it, they can quickly acquire a funky smell and mold, which can be hard to get rid of. The removable interior allows for easy cleaning. Plus, if you don’t require its leakproof properties, you can remove the cooler lining and use the pack as a day pack for hiking or anything else — kind of cool.

This pack is designed for trekking. It has padded shoulder straps, a padded waist strap, and a sternum strap. The whole setup is pretty comfortable and feels very similar to a backpacking backpack. I’m slim, but at 5’7” I’m not tiny and I had to cinch all the straps up – almost as tight as they could go. It worked, but for a smaller woman or a kid, the backpack would be a little big. REI does list the measurements for who it fits on their website, though, so if you’re on the small side you may want to check them before purchasing.

Holy pockets. Not only is this cooler large enough to carry 20 cans inside, but it is decked out with pockets galore on the exterior. It has a generous top pocket for trail and beach supplies and two zippered pockets with mesh water bottle sleeves on either side of the backpack to boot. You can also easily attach a blanket, towel, or chair to the front of the pack, which proved to be super helpful on treks to the beach.

REI backpack cooler

The fully removable interior is a game changer. Photo: Rebecca Parsons/The Inertia

According to REI’s website, the Trail Pack is capable of keeping things cold for 40 hours. In order to confirm this fact, I took it upon myself to do a little testing. I filled the cooler a quarter of the way full with ice, added in a couple of beers and sodas, and left it overnight. The following morning, the ice was not melted and my beverages were still cold. On the second morning, the ice was a bit melty but there was still ice and my beverages were still ice cold, so I’d say the 40 hour marker is pretty accurate.


The REI Trail Pack Cooler is incredible, but there are a few things I would alter if I could. As mentioned before, this pack is a little on the large side so read the sizing before purchasing. Maybe in the future they’ll make a smaller side geared towards women and children (hint, hint, REI).

The pack is made from a recycled nylon outer/recycled polyester liner, which I love, but it definitely doesn’t feel as durable as some of the other coolers we’ve tried like YETI and RTIC. It still feels well-made and durable, but not quite as hefty as some other brands. That said, coolers like the YETI Hopper M20 cost three times as much.

Other than that, I wish REI would have added a few more attachment points for clipping on carabiners and gear (although the generous amount of pockets definitely makes up for this). And if I’m being really picky, I wish this pack came in a few additional color options for those that don’t appreciate the orange and blue color scheme in the same way that I do.

REI backpack cooler

Whether you use them to stash extra beer or water bottles, the plethora of pockets is amazing. Photo: Rebecca Parsons/The Inertia

Final Thoughts

All and all the REI Co-op Cool Trail Pack is a great pick for a cooler backpack. It looks cool, feels comfortable to wear, has tons of pockets and storage, the interior is fully removable, and it can keep lots of food and drinks cold for an extended period of time. While it might not be suited for smaller humans, it works well for most and has been a great addition to my camping and beach trips near my home on Oahu, Hawaii.

Check Price on REI

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