Review: Hydro Flask (Finally) Built a Reliable Backpack Cooler
Lightweight, leak-proof and insulated for hours of cold
Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.
Please note: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.
It seems wherever you go, there’s someone nearby sporting a colorful, insulated Hydro Flask bottle. Rugged and reliable, these reusable canteens are no longer a chore to carry for the sake of hydration. If anything, they’ve become a lifestyle all their own.
But Hydro Flask is more than the maker of bottles it once was. These days, the Oregon brand also designs an assortment of coolers and totes, including the Day Escape Cooler Pack. Stylish and simple, it features a roomy 20-liter main compartment and top-of-the-line insulation to keep food and drink cold for up to 36 hours. Oh, and it comes with a set of backpack straps, which gives you an excuse to haul it (almost) anywhere.
So that’s exactly what we did.
Design and Materials
This isn’t Hydro Flask’s first attempt at a backpack cooler. The Unbound Cooler made its debut in 2019, and it too featured backpack straps, a stretchy exterior pocket and a food-grade liner. But the Day Escape improves upon a couple of features from the outgoing design. Most notably, the flip-open lid now opens from the top, and the zipper is toothless (and thus easier to open). Its 600-denier polyester shell remains waterproof and highly durable, and it’s finished with gear loops for hauling or lashing.
There’s room for 36 cans of your favorite beverage inside (without ice), but Hydro Flask takes storage options a step further with woven loops along the front. Pick up a dry storage bag to haul food, supplies or tech that actually remains functional thanks to an integrated touchscreen window. When other backpack coolers are prone to tipping over, the molded base of the Day Escape promotes an upright position, and features added insulation to prevent cold from escaping.
I brought the Day Escape cooler on a number of walks and hikes in the midst of a pre-summer New York heatwave. Temperatures climbed into the 90s, and the heat index may have sent the mercury into triple digits (I was too afraid to check). After repeatedly loading the backpack cooler with ice, drinks and cold foods, I was surprised to find it managed the weight with relative ease. Padding along the straps and backpanel offered comfort for miles, but I wouldn’t recommend taking this pack up a mountain under the assumption that it will perform like a traditional backpack. After a day of use, ice still retained its form, and the watertight housing kept liquids inside, which made for easy cleanup at the end of the day. I love backpacks that feature a chest strap to properly position the weight, but the cooler’s tiny dimensions forced me to shift the position of the strap in order to find a comfortable fit; this wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s something to consider, especially if you’re tall. All told, it offered plenty of room for cold storage and remained incredibly comfortable while keeping goods chilly. Not to mention it looked good from the trailhead to the post-hike taproom.
What We Like
- Durability. A combination of superior materials helps this pack shrug off every bump, drop and bang. It survived casual tumbles, steep falls and a fumbled toss or two. And it washes off at the end of the day to look new once again.
- Accessories. Most of our favorite backpack coolers embrace a what-you-see-is-what-you-get design, but Hydro Flask thinks outside the cooler (literally). Adding any number of accessories grants more room for more things. And we love more things.
- Insulation. Hydro Flask built a reputation on its insulative bottles. The same chilly-inducing magic is found in the Day Escape, allowing us to store whatever cold goods we please for hours on end. It’s cool, it looks cool and it makes you cool too.
What We Don’t
There’s a reason Hydro Flask dubbs this backpack cooler the “Day” Escape. It’s well-suited for short outings from the crag to the campsite, but I don’t recommend hauling it on long treks. That said, the 36 hours of cold retention are more than enough to support car camping trips and casual weekend outings.
Should You Buy It
Once upon a time, our favorite coolers were boxy, cumbersome and unapologetically unwieldy. Sure, they looked good in the bed of a truck at a tailgate party but you can’t haul a Yeti Tundra to the top of a mountain (or at least you shouldn’t). For that reason, the latest backpack coolers offer portable cold storage that goes where you go, and the Day Escape is one of our favorites. Its durability, design and superior insulation is backed not only by a five-year warranty, but Hydro Flask’s unbeatable reputation as well. If you don’t own it, you should.
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