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IceMule Pro Review

This backpack-style cooler is our favorite model to carry over longer distances
IceMule Pro
Photo: IceMule
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $115 List | Check Price at REI
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Pros:  Durable design, comfortable to carry when full, good capacity, relatively inexpensive
Cons:  Learning curve for best use, not 100% leakproof, no extra pockets
Manufacturer:   IceMule
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 15, 2019
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 15
  • Insulation Value - 30% 7
  • Ease of Use - 25% 8
  • Portability - 25% 9
  • Durability - 20% 6

Our Verdict

Carrying your cooler far away from your car is no longer a chore with backpack coolers, and we think the IceMule Pro is the best one of the bunch. Despite many new backpack models to the market, this impressive model remains our favorite to carry like a backpack. Of all the backpack coolers we tested, this one is the most comfortable to carry when fully loaded. It has soft, wide shoulder straps and a ventilated back. Designed to use air as insulation, the IceMule is a much more flexible cooler than most, which helps it stay comfortable on your hike to your secret spot. Though its roll-top design and air filling have a bit of a learning curve, they offer a durable design with a decent capacity - like an insulated dry bag.

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IceMule Pro
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Pros Durable design, comfortable to carry when full, good capacity, relatively inexpensiveWatertight fabric and zipper, good insulation value, great size to capacity ratio, convenient top handle, great valueSimple and easy to use, decent insulation, folds flat for storage, duffel handlesComfortable to carry, convenient design, good features, tons of dry storageLightweight, lots of features, inexpensive
Cons Learning curve for best use, not 100% leakproof, no extra pocketsNo external storage options, plastic D rings twist, doesn't come with zipper lubricantShoulder strap a little short, zipper and exterior fabric are not waterproof, less durable materialsZipper not leakproof, thin insulation, less durable, loose sternum strapNot rugged, not spillproof, noticeably inexpensive
Bottom Line This backpack-style cooler is our favorite model to carry over longer distancesA watertight cooler that's convenient to use, with above-average insulation for a below-average priceA solid performer that's simple to use, easy to carry, and costs less than mostThough not as hardy as some others, this design combines cooler space and dry storage for an all-in-one packA simple cooler that functions well without a high price tag
Rating Categories IceMule Pro Igloo Reactor Porta... 24 Pack Canvas Cooler Cool Trail Split Pack Titan Deep Freeze Z...
Insulation Value (30%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
4.0
6.0
Ease Of Use (25%)
8.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
Portability (25%)
9.0
7.0
6.0
9.0
5.0
Durability (20%)
6.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
4.0
Specs IceMule Pro Igloo Reactor Porta... 24 Pack Canvas Cooler Cool Trail Split Pack Titan Deep Freeze Z...
Measured Capacity (qt) 25 qt 26.5 qt 24 qt 13 qt 21 qt
Measured Capacity (cans with no ice) 39 cans 30 cans 39 cans 16 cans 30 cans
Carry Style Backpack Messenger Bag Duffel Bag Backpack Lunchbox
Internal Maximum Height (in) 17" fully closed
23" max
9.5" 11" fully closed
12.5" max
11" flex 10.5" total
(3" above shelf)
Fits Standard Wine Bottle Standing Upright? Yes No - will fit on side Yes - some flex required, no zipper strain Yes - some flex required, no zipper strain No - will fit on side
Shelf Life of Food (Measured Hours Below 40ºF) 52 hr 51 hr 55 hr 32 hr 40 hr
Days of Cold Beverages (Measured Hours Below 50ºF) 55 hr 54 hr 63 hr 37 hr 48 hr
Measured Weight (lb) 3.0 lb 3.1 lb 2.7 lb 2.4 lb 3.4 lb
Exterior Fabric Mule SkinET 1000D ripstop tarpaulin/vinyl/nylon Unspecified water resistant polyester exterior, nylon interior 1000 x 1300D heavy duty polyester with vinyl coating Recycled ripstop nylon outer/polyester inner 840D polyester
Closure Method Roll-top Zippered flip top, watertight zip Zippered top Zippered flip top, dry storage cinch and clip No-zip flip top
Handles and Straps Backpack straps, sternum strap Shoulder strap, end handles, top handle Shoulder strap, duffel handles Backpack straps, top handle, sternum strap Shoulder strap, end handles
Additional Storage No; exterior shock cord panel No Yes; 1 very large zippered exterior pocket Yes; top half of pack, brain pocket, 2 mesh side pockets Yes, 2 zippered and insulated external pockets, 2 mesh pockets, top shock cord
Removable Liner? No No No No Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The IceMule Pro is one of several backpack coolers we tested and the only model in this review with a roll-top closure rather than a zipper. It features 1,000D ripstop tarpaulin/vinyl/nylon with a 23L capacity.

Performance Comparison


The IceMule features. 1,000D ripstop fabric, welded seams, and an...
The IceMule features. 1,000D ripstop fabric, welded seams, and an air valve for added insulation.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Insulation Value


When it comes to insulation, the IceMule Pro surprised us.


During our intensive insulation testing, the IceMule kept its contents under the FDA-approved 40º F for 52 hours. It lasted 55 hrs with delicious beer-serving temperatures below 50º F. Which, if you're planning to head out for a hot day hike or even a single overnight in the desert, is plenty of time to keep your food and beverages on ice.

The performance of backpack models in our insulation testing.
The performance of backpack models in our insulation testing.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Compared to the other backpack coolers we tested, the IceMule Pro performs at the top of the group. This bag has a double layer of waterproof fabric sandwiching insulating foam and featuring an air valve to add air into the insulating layer, which theoretically should keep ice in solid form for longer. IceMule claims that it is waterproof when you roll the top three times before clipping it. We were only able to achieve three full rolls with next to no insulating air in the cooler, and even then, a little water dripped out when we inverted the whole thing.

The IceMule fits a fair amount of contents and after a little...
The IceMule fits a fair amount of contents and after a little experimenting, you can find the right amount of air inside the walls that works for you.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Ease of Use


At first, we found the IceMule to be a bit challenging to use. While the top opens easily and quite wide, the material starts very stiff and is difficult to roll appropriately. The more we used it though, the more the material softened up, and we got used to how it works. As a roll-top bag, it's a bit odd to load and unload when it's open because the roll-top makes the cooler so much deeper than it looks when it's closed. But the cooler is wide and has a pretty good sized capacity of 25L, making it fairly straightforward to fit everything we needed along with ice inside.


This tall, roll-top design can't quite compete with the easy zippered, flip-top models we tested. However, it also will never need zipper lubricant for an overly sticky zipper, like many of those models do. Additionally, using air as an insulator means that when done with the IceMule Pro, you can roll it up and put it away - a fairly unique feature among options we tested. It even comes with a handy security strap precisely for that purpose. And while we appreciate the ability of the bungee cord on the front, most of the other options we tested have one or several pockets to store non-chilled items or other handy things like a bottle opener, silverware, or your keys. Having extra pockets like these would certainly make the IceMule even more pleasant to use.

We couldn't quite get the IceMule to be leakproof, but we still...
We couldn't quite get the IceMule to be leakproof, but we still enjoy the ease of this roll-top design.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Portability


This aspect is where the IceMule shines. While we do our best to factor in the weight of each cooler only as it relates to its usable capacity, the IceMule is the best of both worlds. Not only does it have a large capacity that can fill with tons of heavy drinks in glass bottles (if you so desire), but it's also one of the most comfortable coolers to carry of any we tested. Even among the numerous backpack models we tested, the IceMule shines brightly.


This drybag-style cooler has the longest torso of all the backpack models we tested. Combined with that air insulation and a more flexible shape, the IceMule Pro is quite rounded and more forgiving to carry up that summit. While the back panel provides a moderate amount of padding, covered in mesh to aid airflow, the shoulder straps are wide and soft and set far enough apart to fit most sizes of shoulders. For people with narrower shoulders, a sternum strap allows you to keep the shoulder straps exactly where you want them. In contrast, several of the other backpack models we tested have straps that are thick and stiff and trap heat against your back. Many also have shorter torsos with more rigid corners, which are far less comfortable against your back during a trek up a steep hill.

Wide straps, a ventilated back panel, a longer torso, and a flexible...
Wide straps, a ventilated back panel, a longer torso, and a flexible shape help make the IceMule our Top Pick for Long Distance Carrying.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


This pack is built to last. Made of 1,000D ripstop tarpaulin/vinyl/nylon with welded seams, the IceMule is one among the most intense-feeling coolers we tested. Not only does meltwater not soak into the inside lining of this cooler, but no water from the outside will soak in either. Even after sitting in a sizeable puddle at the bottom of a kayak for a full day, the IceMule took on no water.


We had no issues with the durability of the IceMule during our testing, despite all the shenanigans we put it through. However, we do have a few questions about the durability of the plastic clips, as they seem like the least beefed-up part of this bag. We also scoured the internet looking for issues others have had with this model, and a handful reported the buckle on the top failing and a few reported the integrity of the fabric that gets constantly rolled down was starting to fail after years of use. While we didn't personally experience either of these failures, we also couldn't get years' worth of use into just a few short months. In our experience, the IceMule is a solid piece of gear.

Even sitting in a puddle all day, it never took on any water.
Even sitting in a puddle all day, it never took on any water.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


Falling on the lower side of average price among coolers we tested, we think the IceMule Pro offers a great value for what you get. If you're not game for a backpack cooler, this one might not be enough to sway you. But if you want to be the hero of your next adventure climbing expedition, we think the price of this cooler is worth it.

Unlike most the other coolers in this review, the IceMule can be...
Unlike most the other coolers in this review, the IceMule can be rolled up for storage when you're not using it.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Conclusion


The IceMule Pro is an excellent backpack cooler, and remains our Top Pick for Long Distance Carrying. Its ability to hold a good amount of weight while remaining fairly comfortable to carry is unmatched by the competition. It features durable construction to last you a long time and without any zippers to get stuck, will never require zipper lubricant. Though it lacks additional pockets and we couldn't get it 100% leakproof, we continued to come back to this comfortable and handy cooler for all our long distance picnic destinations.

Just a girl and her dog - and a really useful cooler.
Just a girl and her dog - and a really useful cooler.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg