You can throw your lunch into almost any bag or container and tote it to work, school, or wherever you’re going. If you want it to arrive in edible condition or you are heading into the great outdoors you might want to invest in something a bit more sturdy than a paper sack.
The most convenient way to carry your lunch along with all the other sundry items you may need is a backpack designed to double as a lunchbox. In this category, you will generally find one of three types of backpack lunch box arrangments:
- Backpacks with a built-in lunch boxes
- Detachable lunch box backpacks
- Backpack coolers
If you are wondering which is right for you and what the best lunch box backpack on the market is, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we will break down what you should look for in a backpack lunch box, Offer our recommendations on what the best available are, and answer a few questions related to lunch box backpacks.
Don’t have time to sort through all the details and just want a quick recommendation of what backpack lunch box you should buy, we have you covered. In this table, we offer a quick list of what we consider the best the market has to offer.
|Product Name||Why We Chose It|
|King Kong ZONE25 Backpack||Best Backpack With a Built-in Lunch Box Compartment|
|Yeti Hopper M20||Best Backpack Cooler|
|J World New York Kids‘ Duet Backpack||Best Detachable Backpack Lunch Box|
|Coleman Soft Cooler Backpack||Best Budget Buy|
|Fuel Backpack Lunch Bag Bundle||Best Value|
|Pelican Dayventure Backpack Soft Cooler||Best for the Beach|
|Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack||Best for Camping|
|RTIC Lightweight Backpack Cooler||Most Durable|
|Hydro Flask Unbound 22L Soft Cooler Pack||Best for Picnics|
|Primocean Laptop Backpack with Detachable Lunch Box||Best for Work|
Best Backpack Lunch Boxes
Best Backpack With a Built-in Lunch Box Compartment: King Kong ZONE25 Backpack
The Zone25 was originally intended to be a meal prep bag but can be pressed into service in an almost endless list of roles including toting your lunch.
It is a full 25-liters bag made of food-grade TPU coated 1000d Nylon with close cell EVA insulation. It also features leak-proof zippers, a large top-mounted accessory pocket, a front pocket with slips for pens and pencils, and a 16-inch laptop compartment with padding to spare.
When used to carry heavy items you will appreciate the ergonomic shoulder straps and adjustable chest straps and at lunch, you will never go hungry for lack of space. Designed with a zone system there is room for an icepack, 6-pack of cans, and 2 meal containers.
KingKong even included plenty of extra straps and attachment points to make this a very customizable backpack.
The one negative that we have found with the Zone25 is that there is no false bottom in the laptop compartment. If you tend to drop your pack, or even set it down hard this could be a problem.
Best Backpack Cooler: Yeti Hopper M20
If you have been using or looking at backpack coolers for any length of time you have probably come across references to the Yeti Hopper BackFlip 24. As great a backpack cooler as it was it did have detractors and shortcomings.
In classic Yeti style, they listened to their customers, revamped the design, and introduced the Yeti Hopper M20.
To begin with, the tough-to-pull zippers have been replaced with a magnetic fold and clip closure that is very secure yet easy to open and close. They also made the M20 slightly smaller and slimmer for easier carrying and lowered the price point slightly.
What didn’t change is the great insulation properties that made the Backflip so popular. Ice and drinks will stay cold for over 30 hours when left undisturbed.
With a 20-liters capacity, the M20 offers plenty of space for food and other items and has plenty of mounting points for a picnic blanket. The one shortcoming we found is that the M20 doesn’t have the waist and sternum straps that were featured on the Backflip.
Cooler backpacks are becoming more common but Yeti is still way ahead of most of the competition.
Best Detachable Backpack Lunch Box: J World New York Kids‘ Duet Backpack
The name of this lunch box backpack is kind of misleading. It may have been intended as a backpack lunch box combo for kids to take to school but it is so well designed and engineered that it works great for adults as well.
Featuring a detachable lunch box with a decent-sized cooler area, secured with two buckles and velcro., it also has plenty of room in its main compartment.
It will easily hold a 14-inches laptop or tablet and has inner mesh pockets and zippered compartments for silverware and other small items like pens, pencils, lighters, etc.
The S-shaped shoulder straps of the J World New York Kids‘ Duet Backpack make it very easy to carry and the fact that the entire lunch box backpack combo weighs in at less than 1,5 pounds is just icing on the cupcake.
Best Budget Buy: Coleman Soft Cooler Backpack
If you are on a tight budget then the Coleman Soft Cooler Backpack might be the ideal lunch box backpack for you.
While much cheaper than other backpack models on our list it has all of the ket features that would make it an ideal dedicated lunch backpack. The main compartment is spacious enough to hold a full case of drinks along with ice packs.
This compartment has welded seams to prevent any worries you may have about spills or leakage. Of course, it is also well insulated and will keep most items cool or warm for 10-hours or more.
There is also a secondary compartment and side pockets giving you plenty of room for travel mugs, cell phones, silverware, and pens or folders.
Not fancy or with many bells and whistles, still for day to day use it performs its job well and with reasonable durability.
Best Value: Fuel Backpack and Lunch Bag Bundle
When you look at all the different factors that make a great lunch box backpack the Fuel Backpack and Lunch Bag Bundle, checks all the boxes. No, it is not at the top in any particular area. However, it’s adequate in all of them at a price point that is more than reasonable.
The well-insulated lunch bag fits nicely in its own little pocket keeping it away from school or office supplies. The main compartment can carry a 14-inches tablet or laptop with ease and there are side and mesh pockets for all those little items that tend to get lost when left loose.
Best of all it can often be found for less than thirty dollars and even off-sale is rarely priced much above forty.
Best for the Beach: Pelican Dayventure Backpack Soft Cooler
To be perfectly honest we listed the Pelican Dayventure as the best for the beach but it came very close to being the top overall cooler backpack.
Pelican uses dense closed-cell insulation technology that is reported to limit thermal transfer to 2.5 degrees over a twenty-four-hour period. They also construct the Dayventure Backpack out of military-grade canvas that is completely waterproof and puncture-resistant.
If that wasn’t enough, consider that this backpack cooler has two compartments to separate hot and cold items as well as provide plenty of extra space for any accessories you might want to take along.
Comfortable to carry, even walking sand the Pelican Dayventure Backpack Soft Cooler is ideal for the beach but would be just as much at home in any environment you could possibly ever want to visit.
Best for Camping: Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack
Our pick among the best backpacks for camping is the Carhartt 2-in-1 Insulated Cooler Backpack. This unique design features an insulated lower compartment that is independent of the main top compartment.
Capable of holding 12 drink cans plus cold packs it has plenty of room for your lunch. There are also water bottle holders built into each side and three catch pockets across the front for keeping pens, pencils, cell phones, or other small items organized but accessible.
Best of all it is made by Carhartt to the same exacting standards that have made the company a household name among people who are tough on their clothing.
If you want a lunch box backpack that will stand up to daily use even in the roughest conditions this is the backpack for you.
Most Durable: RTIC Lightweight Backpack Cooler
RTIC’s motto is “Overbuilt, not overpriced” and their Lightweight Backpack Cooler definitely lives up to that ideal.
The entire pack other than the closed-cell, high-density insulation is made of food-grade polyester canvas making it water and abrasion-resistant. Luckily for those among us with fumble fingers, it is also easy to clean.
Other niceties include multiple interior and exterior accessory pockets for your cell phone, water bottles, corkscrews, etc, and padded shoulder straps for easy carry.
Not the fanciest bag on our list but engineered to last and is very functional.
Best for Picnics: Hydro Flask Unbound 22 L Soft Cooler Pack
Hydro Flask is better known for its cups and water bottles than for cooler or backpacks. With their intensive knowledge of thermal transfer prevention though it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the company has ventured into offering a backpack cooler.
One of their first offerings is the Unbound 22 L Soft Cooler Pack and we have to say we have been impressed.
With a temperature shift of only eight degrees every twenty-four hours it has excellent thermal retention to keep food hot or cold. The pack only weighs slightly more than three pounds, is water-proof, abrasion-resistant, and has three external mesh pockets to help keep things organized.
The only negatives we found are that the straps are thinner than we would have liked and the pack itself lacks sufficient padding against your back. These are, of course, a matter of taste.
Best for Work: Primocean Laptop Backpack with Detachable Lunch box
In our opinion, this is one of the most impressive lunch box backpack combos on the market. The lunch box has a capacity of 15-liters while the entire unit has a total capacity of 40-liters.
What all this space means is that you can carry everything you need for a day or possibly a weekend in one easy-to-carry package. There is even a sealed TSA-friendly laptop compartment and an antitheft pocket at the back.
A USB charging port and multiple accessory pockets round out the package to make this a wonder lunch box backpack for daily use to and from the office or to carry with you when doing business on the road.
What to Consider When Buying a Backpack Lunch Box
Depending on your personal situation and needs there could be dozens of things you may want or not want in a backpack lunch box. Unfortunately, we can’t cover every conceivable situation. However, there are seven key areas that we feel you should always take into consideration before buying a backpack lunch box.
Some people work and play in large open spaces and travel solo with room to spare. Others aren’t so lucky. They work in tiny cubicles and commute by subway or train.
Depending on your particular lifestyle, size may definitely matter. A large backpack simply may be too cumbersome or occupy too much space to fit into your daily environment.
Be sure to consider where you will actually be using your lunch box backpack and the size restraints you will need to deal with.
Mother Nature doesn’t always smile on us and provides us with a beautiful sunshiny day. In fact, sometimes she can be downright cruel.
To avoid ending up with a soggy lunch, make sure that your backpack is at least water-resistant and preferably waterproof. This includes the material it is made of and the zippers.
One other thing to consider is the barrier between the lunch box compartment and the main compartment of the backpack. It can be heartbreaking to find that the report you spent weeks putting together has been ruined because your juice box sweated and moister wicked through.
Lunch Box Compartment Size
Everyone has their own idea of what the perfect-sized lunch box should be. Some are happy with a piece of fruit at midday. Others believe anything less than a three-course meal is bordering on privation.
You know how much you need to pack for whatever activities your day may hold. Our advice is to make sure and get a backpack with a lunch box compartment that is large enough to suit your needs plus a little extra room to spare. It never hurts to be able to carry an extra apple or banana in case your day runs long or you want an extra snack along the way.
Modern science has made great strides in developing materials that are thin light and resist thermal loss or gain. Unless you plan on having nothing but cold sandwiches and warm soda you are going to want to have an insulated lunch box backpack.
At a minimum, your pack should have an insulated cooler compartment and it is better if the entire bag is insulated.
Just as we considered moister seeping through from one area of your backpack to another also consider heat or cold being able to migrate from one area to another. Some lesser packs are insulated on the outside of the bag but not between the different compartments.
Other Compartment Sizes
The entire point of a lunch box backpack is to be able to pack everything you need in one easy-to-handle bag. Whether you will be toting your back to work, the gym, or on a hike be sure it has room to carry everything you need for the day.
A large main compartment for your laptop, paperwork, clothes, etc. is always a necessity but also consider smaller pockets for water bottles, spare change, pens, pencils, or whatever other things you may need during your trip.
Ergonomic shoulder straps are one of the greatest things ever developed. Those who ever carried one of the old-school backpacks with thin straight straps no this is true.
At a minimum, you want adjustable shoulder straps that are well-padded and shaped to fit your body. The wider the straps are the more evenly weight is going to be distributed and the more comfortable the pack will carry.
One often overlooked feature that is nice to have is an adjustable tie strap between the shoulder straps. You click these together after you have your backpack in place and they prevent the straps from crawling outwards. If you are going to be carrying heavier loads these can be a godsend.
There are many extra features available on backpack lunchboxes, from keyfobs to charging ports, and water bottle holders to degaussing pockets to protect electronic gadgets you can probably find any feature you can dream of.
The value of these little niceties is purely a matter of personal taste and needs. We do have to admit though that some of them can be quite handy.
Price is always the 400-pound gorilla in the room. Sadly, few of us live in a price is no object world. A quality lunch box backpack will run slightly less than fifty dollars and from there it is whatever you want to spend. At most you should expect to pay three to four hundred for a top-of-the-line model with all the bells and whistles.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best brand of backpack coolers?
There is no single best brand of backpack cooler. There are specific models that are best at meeting certain needs offered by various brand names.
There are top quality brands such as Yeti, KingKong, PrimOcean, and Colman that have sterling reputations for building quality products and providing excellent customer service. Which is actually best will depend on your personal needs and criteria.
What is the best insulator for a lunch box?
For preventing thermal transfer without adding weight or bulk multi-layer reflective insulation is widely considered the best choice. It has been in use for over 40 years and has an excellent track record.
That being said, some of the newer materials like Thinsulate have established a reputation for working well. and many companies now have proprietary insulating materials they use. Our best advice is to do your research and compare the data that each company provides.
Do thermal lunch bags work?
Yes, thermal lunch bags work very well. Of course, some work better than others. The determining factors seem to be the amount and efficiency of the insulating material used in them.
Choose one that has multiple layers of reflective insulating fabric for the best results. With the addition of ice or heat packs, it is amazing how long food and beverages can be kept hot or cold in a very light bag.
Hey, I’m Joey. I’ve been cooking since I was a little kid and love everything about it. You can find my writing about food, kitchen appliances (such as blenders) and much more. Thanks for stopping by!