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So you’re headed out for the day or for several days on your next kayaking adventure. One of your challenges is how to keep your beverages, any perishable food, bait you may take along to do some fishing or how to store any fish you may catch at an appropriate temperature. Obviously, you are going to need a storage system that maximizes your ability to maintain a suitable temperature for the items you are transporting.
Because there are many models, features and styles of coolers available today, we’re here to make your choice an easy one! To make your investment a simple one that you’re happy with for many adventures to come, keep reading to find a buyer’s guide and 10 of the best kayak coolers on the market today.
Choosing the Right Kayak Cooler for Your Adventure
Your decision for a kayak cooler will depend on your needs, the number of individuals in your group, the length of time you will kayak and how much you are willing to pay for a cooler.
You would think this would be a pretty straightforward choice, however coolers come in a variety of sizes, materials they are constructed from, how durable they will be, how well they maintain ice, along with a whole host of other considerations (latches, hinges, carrying handles, wheels for transporting, features and add ons).
For the purposes of our recommendations and buyers guide we have focused on coolers that are ideal for kayaking. These coolers come in two basic styles: hard-shelled ice coolers and soft-sided ice coolers. In the frequently asked questions we will provide a few tips for how to make your ice last longer but understand that with the large number of coolers on the market there is only so much a cheaper cooler can do.The coolers we have reviewed and recommended are intended to provide you with a quality product for extended periods on the water. If you only need something for an hour or so on the water a $20 plastic cooler with minimal insulation may be all you need. The following coolers are appropriate for a kayak outing and will give you an extended cooling system to ensure the items are maintained at cool temperatures.
Top 5 Comparison Chart
10 Best Kayak Coolers Reviewed
1. YETI Hopper TWO Portable Cooler
Yeti is one of the most popular and best known manufacturers of coolers, and this product is highly rated and reviewed by many happy customers. The Yeti hopper is a soft-sided cooler that holds 18 cans and up to 20 pounds of ice, all in a slim design that makes it easy to carry and highly portable.
This convenient cooler design features a tapered body making it easy to haul and to strap onto your kayak for easy access while paddling. It also has a waterproof DryHide Shell, which makes it easy to clean, maintain, and able to withstand marine environments. Additionally, the extremely durable straps and convenient carrying handles make this cooler easy to transport to and from the beach with ease. As an added benefit, the Hydrolok Zipper ensures the cooler is leakproof and that items inside are safe and secure.
The cooler bag weighs only 4.4 pounds empty, has cold cell insulation, and a hitchpoint grid, which allows you to easily attach a Yeti bottle opener, side pack or just about anything you wish to bring along. Investing in a Yeti brand means you’ll probably spend a bit more, but you will have the comfort knowing you have purchased a top quality constructed and designed product that will have longevity for many kayaking trips to come.
2. IceMule Pro Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag
The IceMule Pro is a soft-sided cooler that will hold 23 liters or 18 cans and ice in a sleek backpack design, which makes carrying this cooler to and from the beach a breeze. With a versatile and durable design, this kayak cooler is fully waterproof, providing a multifunctioning bag that also acts as a dry bag when not in use as a cooler. The convenient backpack both makes carrying gear hassle-free and keeps you hands-free to ensure you have the ability to carry other kayaking gear.The IceMule Pro comes in three different sizes: 20L, 30L, and 40L. Additionally, it’s available in a variety of colors, offering you an opportunity to choose one that fits your style and personality. Their cylinder shape makes it easy to stow inside your kayak or secure it to the kayak’s deck with a couple of bungee cords. Additionally, this cooler bag is constructed using an extra durable ripstop nylon material for ultimate durability, and it’s fully waterproof and floats in the water. The IceMule will keep your items cool for at least 24 hours, providing plenty of time to enjoy a day paddling.
3. YETI Roadie 20 Cooler
Another in the line of great Yeti coolers, the Roadie 20 is a hard-sided cooler that will hold 14 cans with a recommended 2:1 ice-to-contents ratio. The hard-side cooler design means the Roadie is heavier and bulkier than it’s soft-sided brother the Hopper Two, but it hosts other features kayakers find useful. While it’s too large to store in most dry hatches found on the typical kayak, it offers ultimate insulation in hot weather and ensures food and drinks stay cold for an extended kayaking trip. Additionally, the hard shell is ideal for withstanding rugged outdoor adventures.
Different from some of the soft-sided coolers on this list, the YETI Roadie is designed for maximum durability and will need to be stowed on your kayak deck. To ensure it stays securely in place, it features durable rubber non-slip feet to keep it in place throughout the day.
Along with a quality construction, durable build, and incredible insulation to keep items cold, this cooler also has a long list of convenient features. The 2 hinge pins and interlocking design ensure secure use, and prevent the hinge from breaking during use. It also has heavy-duty rubber latches and a rotomolded construction, making it nearly indestructible. If you’re looking for the most durable and protected cooler on the market, the YETI Roadie may be it.
4. ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box
The ENGEL is a hard-sided cooler with a large interior capacity and a durable build designed to withstand marine environments. It has a 19 quart capacity, and the leakproof design also has an internal dry box included which holds up to 12 cans and the necessary ice. This cooler is ideal for kayakers who are also anglers, because it includes 4 rod holders that are great for storing your fishing poles, nets or even an umbrella!
Along with a sturdy and convenient build, this cooler also features quality design and construction that’s made to last. Including stainless steel latches and molded polystyrene insulation, this cooler is designed to keep contents plenty cold throughout your adventure. It also features a waterproof and airtight EVA gasket. Additionally, for easy carrying and transport this cooler has a central carry handle in the lid and an integrated adjustable shoulder strap.
5. Polar Bear Coolers (best value)
The Polar Bear cooler is a soft-sided cooler that comes in a variety of 6 colors, and 4 different sizes (6, 12, 24, 48 pack), as well as a backpack option. The capacity for the different sizes varied from 6 to 48 cans, along with 10 pounds of ice. The backpack cooler also holds up to 18 cans and 10 pounds of ice giving you plenty of room for food and beverages on your paddling adventure.
Polar Bear has designed this cooler with ultimate portability in mind. It features both easy carrying handles and adjustable shoulder straps, making transporting this pack on adventures a breeze. For added storage, it also features an exterior pocket for storing valuables or additional gear. Along with durable materials and build, the convenient design of this cooler bag is great for easy access on the go. It will fit easily into most kayaks or can be secured to the kayak deck.
6. AO Coolers Original Soft Cooler
The AO Cooler is a soft-sided cooler bag with a large interior capacity, holding 48 cans and 15 pounds of ice. Aside from its outstanding storage space for keeping food and beverages cold while kayaking, it also has high density insulation to ensure the contents are kept plenty cold throughout the day. Additionally, the strong and durable polyester canvas material is great for withstanding the marine environment, and the leak proof liner ensures everything stays where it needs to be. To ensure you get a cooler that fits your style, needs and personality, this product comes in a variety of 6 different colors and 4 different sizes, ranging from 12, 24, 36 and 48-pack storage capacity.To make carrying and transporting this cooler bag a breeze, the AO Cooler Original features a removable and adjustable shoulder strap and convenient carrying handles. Both have added padding for comfort while transporting. In addition, this cooler has clip-down ends, meets airplane carry-on requirements, and features an exterior side pocket for storing valuables and dry items. This pocket is great for items like your phone, keys, wallet, or other gear you need to keep separate and safe. Additionally, the liner material is made from a TPU material, similar to what is used in above ground pools, making it very resilient and ensuring it’s longevity for many kayaking adventures to come.
7. RTIC Soft Pack 30
The RTIC Soft Pack 30 is a soft-sided cooler with a large interior capacity for storing food and beverages, holding 30 cans with ice. This model also comes in the RTIC Soft Pack 20, which holds 20 cans and ice, making it a smaller and more portable version for individuals or light packers. The cooler is designed using 2 inches of quality foam insulation, ensuring it keeps contents cold for extended kayaking adventures. The manufacturer claims that this cooler can hold ice for up to 5 days, making it a great option for both short and lengthy adventures on the water.
Thd RTIC 30 features 2 external storage pockets for holding valuables and kayaking gear. It also has a durable inner liner that is mildew resistant and antimicrobial, which is great for preventing a breakdown of materials or unpleasant smell. Additionally, this cooler has 2 carrying handles, as well as a removable and adjustable shoulder strap which make taking it to and from adventures a breeze. It can be easily stored conveniently inside your kayak or strapped to the kayak deck for easy access.
8. CreekKooler Floating Cooler
The CreekKooler is a hard-shell and floating cooler that will save space in your kayak, as it can be pulled behind your watercraft. This is ideal for leisurely paddling, and adventures with a group. It has a 30 quart capacity that holds up to 30 cans and 20 pounds of ice, making it one of the largest capacity coolers on this list. It’s constructed with 2 inches of insulation that has been injected into the hull, ensuring the double wall insulation keeps food and beverages plenty cold throughout your adventure. Additionally, it has a deck that the company states will retain ice for up to 48 hours.The CreekKooler features a watertight lid that locks, securing contents inside. It also has built-in drink holders, 2 towable handles, and 2 reinforced tow points, allowing you to secure the cooler to your kayak for easy access. This cooler is an option to consider as you determine what you will be taking on your kayak trip.
9. K2 Coolers Summit 20 Cooler
The K2 Summit 20 is a hard-sided cooler that has a 20 quart capacity, holding 12 cans with ice. This is a quality medium capacity cooler that offers plenty of room for storing food and beverages during a paddling adventure. It features a durable, single piece roto-molded polyethylene construction and thick insulation for maximum ice retention. This build ensures contents stay cold throughout the day. Additionally, it has a quality lid gasket and latches to keeping everything securely inside.The SURE Grip rubber feet on this cooler make it great for securing to the deck of your kayak during your adventure. The feet keep it in place, and ensure it’s easy to access whenever you need. Along with secure placement, this cooler is UV resistant and dry ice compatible making it highly versatile and durable for long term use. Additionally, it features a padded and adjustable shoulder strap that makes carrying and transporting this cooler to and from your adventure a breeze. Weighing in at 14 pounds when empty, this cooler is one of the heavier options on this review list.
10. IceMule Classic Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag
The IceMule Classic Insulated Backpack is a soft-sided cooler that comes in a 10, 15, or 20 liter capacity, offering plenty of room for food and beverages on your paddling adventure. The 15 liter cooler will hold 12 cans with ice. This is a sling style backpack cooler design that you can throw over your shoulders, leaving your hands free to carry your kayak or other gear items. The backpack also features double padded and ventilated straps providing comfort and minimal effort to carry your cooler and it’s contents to and from your adventures.
This cooler has a unique and versatile design. It’s fully collapsible and it floats in the water ensuring it’s durability and convenience in marine environments. It also features the IceMule closure system that is designed without zippers, for easy closure and access. Additionally, the cooler comes in a variety of 6 colors to suit your style and personality.
There are a variety of features to consider when choosing the best kayak cooler for your needs. There are a ton of options for you to consider, which provides you with the opportunity to be a little finicky about which cooler or coolers you will choose. The space you have available on your kayak and how you plan to use it should guide your decision. The following information are some of the factors you will want to consider as you begin your search:
Manufacturers usually list the capacity in terms of quarts, liters or the number of cans and ice the cooler can hold. You will need to determine how much you intend to store in your cooler, how long you will be storing the items and how you want to stow the cooler while you are on the water.
The materials kayak coolers are made from varies significantly. Soft-sided coolers will be made out of fabric that is laminated and insulated, making them flexible and able to fit in a variety of spaces. They also will be lightweight and easier to carry and transport. Hard-sided coolers are usually constructed using hard plastic or rubber materials. They are designed to be more durable and are usually watertight.
This is not always a factor when choosing a regular cooler, however when you are using it while you are kayaking it should be an important consideration. All of the coolers we have recommended are leak proof and air tight. If you are an angler and going to use the cooler for transporting your catch you may want to consider a cooler with a drain plug.
Keeping Items Cool
The temperature your cooler will maintain and for how long items will stay cool should be the most critical feature you consider. Any cooler you choose should be insulated and offer between 24 to 72 hours for maintaining ice and keeping your items cool. We recommend you get a cooler with a higher rating as often you will be in direct sunlight, which will reduce the cooling limits.
The kind of closure your cooler has will be important both to secure your items and to keep them dry. Soft-sided coolers often have a zipper, make sure it is a quality closure. Hard-side coolers should have a durable latch that tightly secures the top.
You will need to factor in how you will be transporting cooler, whether it will be inside, secured on the deck of your kayak or floating alongside. Also, you will want to consider how easy it will be to transport as you move from one place to another.
Several of the coolers we have recommended can be used as a place to keep items cool or if you choose can be used for dry storage. If this is something you are interested in you will need to select coolers that are also waterproof.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can you make ice last as long as possible?
The first thing to consider is the quality of your cooler. Do not expect a $20 cooler that is thinly insulated to last more than an hour or two. However, if you get a quality cooler, under the right conditions and stored appropriately you can maximize the time your ice is retained and items stay cool. The coolers we have recommended all last between 24 and 120 hours.
To get the greatest amount of time you can retain ice and maintain cool conditions for your items the following tips will help:
- Refrigerate or chill your cooler with ice prior to adding items
- Refrigerate or cool items prior to placing into the cooler
- Place as much ice as you are able into your cooler, ideally a 2 to 1 ratio of ice to items
- Keep your cooler out of direct sunlight as much as possible
- Keep your cooler in a cool area
- Airflow under your cooler will help maintaining your ice
- Do not drain your cooler
How big of a cooler should I get for a kayak?
The size cooler you decide to purchase will depend largely on how you intend to use the cooler and the size of your kayak. If you only plan to use the cooler for day outings versus taking a trip for several days will direct your decision making. You need to compare the size and measurements of your cooler with the area(s) you plan to stow the cooler on your kayak to ensure it will fit appropriately.
How do you secure the cooler to the kayak?
Soft-sided coolers may be stored inside the kayak depending on your storage areas. The soft cooler can be manipulated to fit in to storage spaces, as well as storing on the deck of the kayak. Larger coolers or hard-sided coolers will need to be secured using bungees on the deck of your kayak. Floating coolers are simply secured to the rear or side of your kayak so they can be towed.
As you begin your search, you will first need to consider how you intend to use the cooler, so you can narrow your search to a specific style and design. Choosing a soft-sided cooler bag will reduce the weight for both transporting and carrying your items, while also freeing up your hands. A hard-shelled cooler will be more durable and often provide longer periods to retain your ice.
The recommendations are made with the confidence that they all provide excellent choices for you to consider, while giving you a selection of designs and options. They all have a minimum of 24 hours of cooling capabilities, are made with quality design, construction and materials, and will meet a variety of needs and uses. As always, safety is a top priority and you should always avoid overloading your kayak.
Let us know in the comments section which kayak cooler you choose and how it functions during your kayaking experiences
For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, please visit the following articles.
Megan Jones leads the editorial staff of Seaside Planet. They are a multidisciplinary team of outdoor adventurers, water sports lovers, and passionate beach goers. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.