This seems to be the summer of the soft-sided cooler…I’ve seen them everywhere. My favorite by far are the backpack designs, so that I can be hands-free to carry more gear to the lake, river, or campsite. I’ve found soft-sided coolers to be winning in the road trip department as well, as they’re easy to pack amid other duffels and bags, as opposed to huge hard-sided coolers that nearly require their own vehicle.

The Pelican Dayventure backpack cooler is rugged (think Yeti-rugged) and yet more lightweight and slightly more flexible than the aforementioned brand. I love the design, which features bottom storage and top storage compartments, both of which are insulated. The bottom is a dedicated cooler compartment with a leak-resistant zipper to keep your ice all day long (ice packs work better than cubed), and fits six cans. Or, I discovered, it fits a growler nicely, on its side. The top compartment has lighter insulation but can still be used as a cooler compartment, or can be used to stow gear such as a picnic blanket, snacks that don’t need to remain cold, like chips or crackers, or fruit.

The materials is compression-molded to stand on its own, and the outer shell is water-resistant enough to make me comfortable bringing it into the kayak. The shoulder straps and ergonomic and padded, and you get a rubberized handle as well, if you want to carry the pack that way. I really appreciate the inclusion of an exterior pocket, perfect for cell phones, car keys etc. There are also loops, so if you had a carabiner or five, you can attach hats, water bottles and the like.

The interior dimensions are 10.60 x 5.10 x 5.30 in and the exterior is 12.10 x 7.10 x 21.70 in, for a volume of 19.4 QT. The pack weighs under 10 pounds, but once ice and food and cans are all added, yep…it’s heavy. Thank goodness for the padded shoulder straps. Still, you don’t want to carry this cooler further than through a parking lot to a festival or from a short trailhead to a lake.

Pick up the Dayventure on the Pelican site for $249 in one of two colors: coyote (khaki) or light gray. The interior is nicely lined: my gray cooler has a soft aqua-toned liner.