10 Best Kayak Coolers (2022 Reviews and Guide)

Spending hours on the water is fun, but can also drain your energy. You need food and drinks to keep you going. Not to mention keeping your worms or other bait in a cool, dry place. You might even need space to keep the fish you catch!

When you are limited you need the best kayak cooler to keep food, drinks, and live bait cold.  In this article, we will take a look at coolers that will fit well on your kayak, and also talk about what to consider before you make your purchase.

A kayak cooler will keep your stuff nice and cold. It should fit nicely on your boat and not weigh you down.

In case you are in a hurry, here are the top picks:

Best kayak cooler reviews

A good kayak cooler will keep all your food and drinks cold for the entire trip, so you can relax and enjoy yourself without having to worry about getting hungry or thirsty. There are a lot of different coolers on the market, so it can be tough to know which one is right for you.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide to the best kayak coolers available today. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about how coolers work, and which kinds of coolers are best for different situations. You’ll be able to make a smart buying decision even if you’ve never bought a cooler before.

Coleman Collapsible Cooler

Coleman 18-Can Collapsible Cooler with 20-Hour Ice Retention | Soft-Sided Cooler Bag Folds Flat for Compact Storage, Slate
  • Ultra-portable 18-can cooler designed to fold flat for space-saving storage
  • Premium insulation keeps ice up to 20 hours in temperatures as high as 90°F
  • Zippered main compartment keeps in the cold and secures your haul on the go
  • Treated liner resists the forming of odor, mold, and mildew between uses
  • Liner's sealed seams prevent leaking of melted ice

Features:

  • 9-can to 54-can sizes available
  • Premium insulation
  • Space-saving

Review

This highly-rated soft kayak cooler will fit a variety of needs.  There are multiple sizes available. The small nine can model is great for short trips and is super easy to store on your kayak.

Tue to its name, the Coleman Collapsible Cooler will not take up much storage space when you are not using it. The cooler is small enough to fit between your legs when you are on the water.

The cooler has premium insulation so it’s designed to keep your food and drinks cold. Each size has its own specs on how long it will keep ice. Take these as a guide, every situation is different.

The main compartment is zipper sealed, and there is a front pocket for easy access to items that don’t need to be kept cold.  The liner is sealed and treated to prevent leaks and mildew.

PROS

Folds down for secure storage when not in use
Variety of sizes available
Inexpensive
Can fit in tight spaces
Three colors to choose from

CONS

Does not have a removable liner

Summary

If you are looking for an inexpensive, soft kayak cooler, this model from Coleman might just do the trick. Keep your food and drinks cold while you are on the water, without breaking the bank.


IceMule Pro Cooler – Best kayak cooler bag

Sale
ICEMULE Pro Large Collapsible Backpack Cooler – Hands Free, 100% Waterproof, 24+ Hours Cooling, Soft Sided Cooler for Hiking, Camping, Fishing & Picnics, 23 Liter, Fits 18 Cans + Ice, Grey
  • RUGGED AND VERSATILE – From our proprietary MuleSkin fabrics and the game-changing...
  • 24+ HOURS OF COOLING – Ultra-tough Muleskin Exterior and Interior plus PolarLayer...
  • HANDS FREE COOLER – This lightweight, backpack-style cooler has two padded and...
  • COLLAPSIBLE DESIGN – When your cooler is empty and you’re on the move, just roll...
  • WATERPROOF & BUOYANT – Welded seams and zipper-less closure makes this a...

Features:

  • 23L and 33L sizes
  • Backpack cooler
  • Waterproof

Review

The IceMule Pro is an excellent soft-sided cooler for your next day on the water.  As a backpack cooler, it is easy to transport and leaves your hands free for other things. If you want to park your kayak on the beach and explore, you can take your cooler with you.

IceMule has become popular when it comes to outdoor activities, especially when it comes to kayaks. The IceMule Pro is completely waterproof thanks to welded seams. 

The best part about this kayak cooler? It floats!  If you knock the cooler off your boat, no worries.

You can expect the cooler to keep your drinks cold. IceMule uses proprietary technology to keep your contents cold, and you can add air for extra insulation. Also, there are no leaky zippers.

There are different colors and sizes available so you can find the one that will work best for you.

PROS

Waterproof
It floats
Very well insulated
Backpack cooler
Compact
Variety of colors available

CONS

More expensive than other coolers
It can be heavy when it’s fully loaded

Summary

IceMule is an excellent choice for your next kayak cooler bag.  It’s a backpack cooler, it floats and is waterproof, making it great for kayaking activities. If you are looking for a versatile, easy-to-use cooler, be sure you check out the IceMule Pro.


ENGEL HD30 Waterproof Soft-Sided Cooler

Engel HD30 Waterproof Soft-Sided Cooler Bag - Grey/Orange
  • High performance soft sided cooler (hold ice up to 4 days).
  • Waterproof full length zipper for easy access and front accessory pocket.
  • Patent pending vacuum valve technology - improves insulation performance
  • Rugged TPU outer wall construction. This cooler has a capacity of 32Qts
  • Includes ergonomic shoulder strap, bottle opener and zipper lube.

Features:

  • TPU outer wall
  • Closed foam insulation
  • Water-resistant front pocket

Review

ENGEL takes kayak coolers to a whole new level. The high-performance soft-sided coolers are entirely welded, which keeps warm air out. 

This is great if you are on the water for long hours, especially in warm climates. The welded seams also make sure there are no air or water leaks. This is also one of the best coolers for kayak camping due to its durability.

The HD30’s outer shell is made of 840D fibers, which makes it very durable.  Also, the front and back of the cooler are reinforced with a TPU film for added strength.  Long story short, this is a very rugged cooler that can take a beating.

At 32 quarts, it’s a bigger cooler, but it’s very well built.  The zipper is waterproof and air resistant an excellent feature for a kayak cooler.  Closed-cell foam insulation keeps air from passing through. This cooler is designed to keep the cold air in and warm air out.

The ENGEL HD30 has a larger opening than other coolers in this class and it’s also much cheaper than comparable coolers.

The cooler has a solid, flat bottom, so it won’t tip over, which is a plus when you are paddling. The neon interior makes it easy to find your food or drinks inside the cooler.

One last thing, the cooler has anchor holes included so you can strap it down. So, you can securely strap the cooler on the back of your kayak so you don’t have to worry about it.

PROS

Easy carry handles
Large capacity
Durable
Welded seams
Tough outer shell

CONS

You must lube the zipper
Might not be ideal for a sit-inside kayak since it’s kind of large

Summary

The ENGEL HD30 is a great kayak cooler and would be ideal for a sit on top kayak.  You will need some room for this cooler, so an open deck would be great.  This is one of the best kayak coolers because it is well built, durable, and keeps things cold.


Pelican Elite Soft Cooler

Pelican 48-Can Elite Soft Cooler
  • Pelican Elite 48 Can Soft Cooler - Black

Features:

  • Three sizes available
  • Leakproof zipper
  • Rugged TPU outer

Review

The Pelican Elite kayak cooler is 55% lighter than a comparable hard cooler.  When you are on the water, your kayak is limited when it comes to weight. Having a lightweight cooler is fantastic, you don’t need extra bulk.

This is one sturdy cooler, featuring a double-coated 840D TPU, it will handle whatever you throw at it.  Closed-cell insulation keeps cold air in and warm air out.

The cooler is available in various sizes to fit your needs.  The smaller models are excellent for kayaks.  You can put it behind your seat or strap it under your bungees.

The TIZIP zipper is 100% leakproof, which makes this an excellent cooler for kayaks. The only bummer with these heavy-duty zippers is that some people find them hard to operate. But these zippers are extremely important for ice retention.

The Pelican Elite is at the high end of the price spectrum. High-end coolers carry a high-end price tag. if you are in the market for a less expensive cooler, I suggest you try the ENGEL HD30 (above) or YETI Hopper (below).

This is one of the best coolers for kayak camping due to it’s capacity and durability.

PROS

Durable construction
Leakproof zipper
Lightweight
Smaller sizes are great for kayaks

CONS

The zipper is kind of hard to operate

Summary

Pelican coolers are a favorite for outdoor enthusiasts.  What makes this one of the best kayak coolers? It’s durable, lightweight, and keeps your stuff cold.  The smaller sizes are great for behind the seat of your kayak.


YETI Hopper Flip Portable Cooler

YETI Hopper Flip 12 Portable Cooler, Charcoal
  • The Hopper Flip 12 has ColdCell Insulation, a closed-cell foam that offers superior...
  • Features a 100% leakproof HydroLok Zipper and high-density fabric that withstands...
  • Its DryHide Shell is waterproof and resistant to punctures, and abrasions so it will...
  • The only personal cooler that’s game for full days in the tree stand, early...
  • The Hopper Flip 12 dimensions are 12 5/8 in long x 10 in wide x 11 ½ in high and an...

Features:

  • 12 can cooler
  • Leakproof zipper
  • Waterproof shell

Review

YETI is a trusted and well-known name when it comes to coolers.  The YETI Hopper Flip has closed-cell foam insulation that keeps cold air in and warm air out. 

The insulation is firm but does have some give if you pinch it between your fingers. This cooler is designed to hold twelve cans plus ice, making it an excellent size for kayaks.

You can store this soft cooler behind your kayak seat, or on deck, under your bungees. The outer shell is very durable, waterproof, and resistant to mildew. 

Going fishing? This is by far the best cooler for kayak fishing with its ice retention and storage capacity.

The Hopper Flip can withstand punctures as well as the elements. The heavy-duty zipper is leakproof but does require lubrication.

Some people complain that the heavy-duty zippers on these types of coolers are challenging to operate.  I can see that since they are very tight. 

I have not had a problem zipping or unzipping a Yeti.  It’s not as easy as zipping up a jacket. You do have to give it a good tug.

The Flip is portable, with an ergonomic shoulder strap and double-stitched handles, perfect for carrying to and from the water.

Another thing that is often overlooked is the wide mouth opening. Some coolers are tight and hard to get into, not so with the Flip.

PROS

Wide variety of colors available
Durable
Waterproof outer shell
Keeps food and drinks cold for hours on the water

CONS

The zipper is tight
More expensive than other models

Summary

The Flip is a heavy-duty leakproof cooler. It’s great for kayaking because it’s durable, will keep your food and drink cold, and store it behind your kayak seat. When you are on the water for hours, or an overnighter, you want a kayak cooler you can rely on. The YETI Flip fits the bill.


CreekKooler PuP Floating Cooler – Best floating cooler

CreekKooler PuP Floating Cooler, 15 Quart, Tow Behind, Green, 15 QT
  • Crafted from the highest quality material
  • Perfect for outdoor and even indoor use
  • Made in United States

Features:

  • Can serve as extra dry storage
  • It floats
  • 15 quart or 30-quart capacity

Review

If you are looking for the best floating cooler out there, look no further. I included this floating kayak cooler because I love the idea of it. 

This floating kayak cooler will follow you along on your journey. It will keep your food and drinks cold, but not as well as most others on this list.  It is a good tag a long cooler. It’s great for short trips.

It’s great for a morning or an afternoon on the water, but not an overnighter.  You will not lose sight of this cooler, and it works well for tubing, canoeing, kayaking. This floating cooler has a quick connect lid and two cup holders.

If you know what you are getting with this kayak cooler, it works. It serves its purpose. It’s suitable for a recreational day on the lake.

PROS

It floats, and that is the primary feature/benefit
It has two cup holders
Carry handles for easy transport
Saves valuable space on your kayak

CONS

It’s expensive, and the 30-quart model is even more expensive

Summary

I think it’s overpriced, but again, if you are looking for the best floating cooler, this is it. This floating cooler saves a ton of space since it floats in the water behind you. It doesn’t take up valuable room on your kayak.


Giantex 20 Quart Portable Cooler

Sale
Giantex 20 Quart Portable Ice Cooler, Heavy Duty Ice Chest with 2 Cup Holder, Fish Ruler, Bottle Openers, Camping Cooler for Beach Boat Fishing Hunting BBQ (20 Quart)
  • 【Keep Cool】: The insulation design enables to cool your items perfectly. It...
  • 【Last Long Using】: Integrated pure white body with comfort black top handle, our...
  • 【Portable Design】: The comfortable top handle allows you to take it hither and...
  • 【Wide Application】: Good helper for you when go outside. Featuring portable, it...
  • 【Strong Practicability】: The graduation (scale) on the item enables you measure...

Features:

  • Available in 20 quart
  • Hard plastic
  • Heavy-duty silicone latch

Review

This is a heavy-duty hard-sided kayak cooler that will keep your items cold for a long time.  It comes with an aluminum carry handle, so it’s easy to transport.  The silicone latches tightly secure the lid.

There is also a freezer-style silicone gasket, which creates a really nice seal. This seal keeps cold air from escaping and warm air from creeping in.

As for capacity, 20 quarts is a good size for kayaking. You can store this behind the seat on your kayak, or tie it down to your bungee deck.

You can expect this to work well for a day on the water.  It’s also easy to clean since it’s hard plastic.

If you have space for this cooler on your kayak, it’s a solid price point and good value.

PROS

Durable
Large, silicone gasket
Tough silicone latches
Great size for a day of kayaking
Built-in bottle opener

CONS

Doesn’t keep ice as long as high-end coolers

Summary

At this price point, I think this cooler is a good value and works well for kayaking.  It’s durable, has a good seal gasket, and closes tight.  It’s probably not going to serve you as well as a high-end cooler, but it’s solid for the price.


AO Coolers Stow-N-Go Cooler

AO Coolers Stow-N-Go Cooler, Black, 38 Pack
  • Soft-sided cooler designed to fit in tight places; ideal for ski boats, fishing...
  • 3/4-inch thick, high-density, closed cell foam inner insulation
  • Soft exterior won’t scratch gel coat or tear up upholstery
  • Measures 23 by 15 by 8.5 inches

Features:

  • 38 can capacity
  • Closed-cell foam insulation
  • Five-layer construction

Review

This cooler is designed to fit in tight spaces, so it’s a great kayak cooler bag. The low-profile cooler will fit in smaller spaces, so it’s great for a kayak.

The Stow-N-Go cooler is lightweight with a soft but durable outer layer. It is built with five layers, including ¾ inch thick closed-cell foam.  All of these layers help keep your food and beverages nice and cold.

It is made to be leakproof and will keep your perishable items cold for a long time.

Stow-N-Go has a 38 can capacity plus holds 14 pounds of ice. That means you can pack a lot of sandwiches and water bottles on your kayak day trip. The zipper is heavy-duty and zips up very well around corners.

The cooler is not as deep as other coolers, so it’s easier to get to the things you want.  You don’t have to dig around as you do with other coolers. It’s also available in a variety of colors.

PROS

Low profile
Easy to slide in and out of tight spaces
Large capacity
Thick liner
Performs well in the sun

CONS

It doesn’t have a drain

Summary

This highly-rated soft-sided cooler is one of the best kayak coolers because it is low profile, so it fits in tight spots.  The cooler has a large capacity, and since it is shallow, you can easily find what you are looking for.  Overall, it’s an excellent cooler for kayaking.


ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box

Engel UC13T 13qt Leak-Proof Air-Tight Drybox-Cooler-Lunchbox Tan.
  • Keeps food and drinks cold and doubles as a dry box - keeping out moisture and/or...
  • Features a unique airtight EVA gasket around the lid - for excellent ice retention...
  • Features a recessed central carry handle in the lid & integrated adjustable shoulder...
  • All fittings secured with stainless steel screws. Rear hinges are self stopping....
  • Non-Absorbent surfaces are easy to clean and are stain and odor resistant.

Features:

  • 13-quart capacity
  • Airtight gasket around the lid
  • Waterproof seal

Review

The ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box is an excellent option for day trips, and it’s by far the most affordable.  This kayak cooler has an airtight seal designed to keep cold in and warm air out. 

This isn’t an ultra-insulated cooler like many others on the list, but it is very solid.  This cooler doubles as a dry box.

The hinges and latches are durable, it shuts like a toolbox.  The cooler has a nice carrying handle. The kayak cooler is great for kayaks and will fit nicely behind the seat or tied down with bungees on the deck. The lid is designed to make the cooler easy to access.

This cooler is an excellent size for kayaking day trips.  It’s a bit old-fashioned, but it certainly gets the job done.

PROS

Designed to hold a lot of ice
Solid closing mechanism
Stainless steel hardware
Fits behind the kayak seat
Spacious

CONS

No drain
Some users are unhappy with the plastic hinges

Summary

If you are looking for a no-frills kayak cooler, this might be the one for you.  This cooler is robust, compact, and holds enough food and drink for a kayak trip.  For the price, it’s a great kayak cooler.


RTIC Insulated Soft Cooler Bag

RTIC Soft Cooler 30 Can, Insulated Bag Portable Ice Chest Box for Lunch, Beach, Drink, Beverage, Travel, Camping, Picnic, Car, Trips, Floating Cooler Leak-Proof with Zipper, Blue/Grey
  • UP TO 24 HOURS OF COOLING – The RTIC soft insulated cooler is the perfect insulated...
  • IT’S A FLOATING COOLER – Not to mention it’s a floating cooler, it floats, so...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT AND DURABLE – The soft cooler is lightweight yet tough to take on any...
  • MULTIPLE USES – It’s the perfect ice cooler, drink cooler, travel cooler, beer...
  • LEAK-PROOF WITH ZIPPER – This outdoor cooler is a 100% leak-proof cooler thanks to...

Features

  • Holds up to 30 cans
  • Heavy-duty vinyl shell
  • 100% leakproof

Review

The RTIC Soft Cooler is lightweight, easy to transport, and has a shoulder strap.  The zipper seal is 100% leakproof when it’s closed.

I can tell you that zippers on these types of higher-end coolers are tough at first. But these tight zippers serve to keep the cooler very well sealed. The zippers break in with time, and with lubrication, but they are not easy to zip in the beginning.

The closed-cell foam insulated interior is very well built. The foam is firm, but you can squeeze it if you pinch it with your fingers.  The kayak cooler bag is designed to keep your perishables cold without letting heat in.

The exterior is made of heavy-duty vinyl and will take a beating.  The lid opens up wide, so you can easily find what you are looking for.

One of the great features of this kayak cooler is its upright design. The shape of the cooler makes getting in easy, because of the wide top opening. It’s also easy to find items in the cooler with a bright blue interior.

Also, this boxy design helps stabilize the cooler to keep it from tipping over, which is important for a kayak cooler.

PROS

Durable
Well insulated
Leakproof zipper
Less expensive than other coolers in this class
Great size for a kayak trip

CONS

The zipper takes some time to break-in
No drain

Summary

The RTIC cooler bag is the best soft cooler for kayaking because it’s small enough to fit behind a kayak seat, it’s well built and insulated. For a cooler in this class, RTIC has built an excellent option for kayak coolers.


How do I choose a kayak cooler?

When you are looking for the best kayak cooler, you need to consider things like capacity (how much the cooler can hold), durability, construction, and ice retention.

What size cooler is good for a kayak?

The cooler capacity is often measured by the number of quarts or cans it can hold.  I find that a 12 to 24-can capacity is suitable for most day trips, which works well for my wife and me.

Capacity based on can count is kind of arbitrary. Oftentimes, you are not going to fit 24 cans AND a bunch of ice in a 24-can cooler.  Use this as a guide.

The capacity you need will depend on things like:

  • How long will you be on the water
  • How hot will it be (ice will melt faster)
  • How much food and drink are you taking?
  • Are you going for an overnight trip?
  • Will you keep fish in the cooler?

There are a lot of different things to factor into capacity. This will be based on your preference and how you plan to use the cooler.

What’s it made of?

You want your kayak cooler to last a long time. Also, you might be jamming it into a tight space.  Small, portable kayak coolers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. There are soft coolers and hard coolers.

soft sided kayak coolerPin

There are pros and cons to soft and hard coolers. For instance, a soft cooler can fit in places a hard cooler can’t.  But a hard cooler might be better insulated, keeping your ice, food, and drinks colder longer.

If you decide on a soft-sided cooler, you may want to choose a waterproof model in case it ends up in the lake. What separates an excellent soft-sided cooler from the rest comes down to materials and construction.

Look for a cooler that is made with PVC, TPU, or high-denier nylons.  Check to see if the cooler has any type of coating to make it waterproof.

Construction

Construction is vital for kayak coolers, and especially those soft side varieties. You want your cooler to last a long time and stand up to use. 

With a soft cooler, look for stitching, welded seams, and other ways the cooler is reinforced. When a cooler has welded seams, it keeps the warm air out, which increases the life of your ice.

For a hard plastic cooler, pay attention to latches, hinges, and wheels (if it has them).  Rotationally molded coolers, aka roto-molded, are excellent for keeping ice for a long time.  Rotomolding ensures that the cooler walls have consistent thickness throughout the cooler.

This might be more than you wanted to know, but it’s good to keep these things in mind if you want a cooler that will last.

Weight

Your kayak is weight rated, and gear adds up in a hurry.  By the time you add ice, food, and beverages to your kayak cooler, it can weigh a lot. Keep this in mind as you are shopping for a cooler.

Think about what you absolutely need to pack with you to keep the weight down. Empty coolers don’t weigh much, whether they are cloth or hard plastic, but when you load them up, they quickly get heavy.

Use

Are you using your kayak cooler to keep food and drinks cold? Or are you using your kayak cooler to keep your fish fresh? Whether you need a cooler for kayaking day trips, kayak fishing, or kayak camping, you need the best cooler for your activity.

If you plan to keep the catch of the day in your cooler, you might want to look for some separation between your fish and your food.

If you want the best cooler for kayak fishing, you might want to consider buying a fish bag.  These coolers are longer and more narrow than a traditional cooler and are designed to keep fish fresh.

Ice retention

Many times coolers will have a rating as to how long they keep ice at a specific temperature.  For instance, you might see a cooler that will keep ice for up to 30 hours in temperatures as high as 95 degrees.

This gives you an idea of how long you can expect your stuff to stay cold. Use these numbers as a guide only. Different weather conditions, and the contents of your cooler, play a factor in how long ice will last.

Does it float?

Some kayak coolers float, and they are pretty cool. You can tow them behind your boat. It’s up to you if you want a cooler that floats, or is specially designed to float behind your boat.  It’s always nice to have things that float when you are spending a day on the water.

The best floating cooler is the CreekKooler PuP Floating Cooler.

Does it need to be waterproof?

It sure is helpful if your soft-sided cooler is waterproof.  If it’s on your kayak, there is a pretty good chance it’s going to get wet.  Your average, run of the mill soft-sided cooler is probably not waterproof. If this is a concern, look for a kayak cooler that specifically calls out that it’s waterproof.

Wrapping up

Best cooler for kayaking - Yeti soft sided cooler ready to usePin

If you are looking for the best kayak cooler, you have many options to choose from.  Beware that some of the options will be somewhat difficult to zip at first.  Once you get the hang of it, and you break in the zipper, it’s fine.

Many of these coolers are great for a day of kayaking, some even for a camping trip. Keep in mind when a cooler touts certain levels of ice retention, that will vary greatly depending on the conditions.

I hope you have found the right cooler for your next kayak outing.  Let me know if you have any questions.

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About the author
Steve
Steve is the owner of Paddle About, a blog that's all about helping people get out and enjoy nature. He loves to kayak, camp, hike and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not out exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.