Spending hours on the water kayaking is fun but can also drain your energy. You need food and drinks to keep you going. If you are a kayak angler, you need a place to keep your worms or other bait cool and dry. You might even need space to keep the fish you catch!
This article shares the best kayak coolers to keep food, drinks, and live bait cold, perfect for those long days on the water.
In case you are in a hurry, here are the top picks:
Best Kayak Cooler Reviews
Finding the ideal kayak cooler can be tough, with many designs, sizes, and options available. We’ll break down what makes each cooler unique and offer product suggestions that fit any budget.
So, read on to learn everything you need to know about coolers.
Perception Splash Seat Back Cooler
- The ultimate slim seat-back kayak cooler
- Designed to fit any kayak with lawn chair style seating systems this cooler also...
- Attaches to the back of a lawn chair style kayak seats via strong bungee ball system...
- A zippered opening on top provides the ultimate convenience when accessing drinks and...
- Strong webbing loops and D-rings for additional lash down options or for attaching...
- Attaches to a lawn chair style kayak seats
- Premium insulation
- Rod holders
The Perception Splash Seat Back Cooler is ideal for any kayaker with a lawn chair-style kayak seat. The slim seat back cooler saves space and keeps your food and drinks close at hand.
The cooler fits the Perception Pilot, Pescador Pro, and all Perception Tribe kayaks but can also fit other kayak seats.
The soft cooler attaches to the back of the seat with included bungee balls. The great thing is that this cooler design makes excellent use of space on your kayak without filling up your tank well.
This soft shell cooler has a strong, durable, water-resistant zipper and welded internal seams. 3/4 inch insulation keeps contents cold for hours. The zippered top opening is convenient for quick access to food and drinks while you paddle.
Plus, it can be outfitted with rod holders and organizers to help keep all your fishing gear in easy reach. Paddlers can attach even more gear with webbing loops and D rings.
It fits most lawn chair-style kayak seats
Can accommodate two rod holders
It doesn’t take up tankwell space
Not as big as other coolers
The Perception Splash Seat Back kayak cooler is an innovative kayak cooler that allows for maximum efficiency in terms of storage. Its unique features set it apart from other coolers with its space-saving design.
Coleman Collapsible Cooler
- 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
- 9-can to 54-can sizes available
- Premium insulation
This highly-rated soft kayak cooler will fit various needs, and multiple sizes are available. The small nine-can model is great for short trips and is super easy to store on your kayak.
True to its name, the Coleman Collapsible Cooler does not take up much storage space when you are not using it. And the cooler is small enough to fit between your legs when you paddle.
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.
The cooler has premium insulation to keep your food and drinks ice cold. Each size has its specs on how long it will keep ice. Take these as a guide depending on weather conditions.
Folds down for secure storage when not in use
Variety of sizes available
Can fit in tight spaces
Three colors to choose from
Does not have a removable liner
This model from Coleman might do the trick if you are looking for an inexpensive, soft kayak cooler. Keep your food and drinks ice cold while on the water without breaking the bank.
IceMule Pro Cooler – Best kayak cooler bag
- 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...
- 23L and 33L sizes
- Backpack cooler
The IceMule Pro is an excellent soft-sided cooler for your next paddling trip. As a backpack cooler, it is easy to transport and leaves your hands free for other things. You can take your cooler if you want to park your kayak on the beach and explore.
IceMule is popular for outdoor activities, especially kayaking and paddle boarding. 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 ice cold. The IceMule Pro cooler offers features you’d expect from top-tier brands, like advanced insulation technology and a padded shoulder strap for easy transportation. Also, there are no leaky zippers.
Different colors and sizes are available, so you can find the one that will work best for you.
Very well insulated
Variety of colors available
More expensive than other coolers
It can be heavy when it’s fully loaded
IceMule is an excellent choice for your next kayak cooler bag. It’s a backpack cooler, floats, and is waterproof, making it great for kayaking activities. If you are looking for a versatile, easy-to-use cooler, check out the IceMule Pro.
ENGEL HD30 Waterproof Soft-Sided Cooler
- 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.
- TPU outer wall
- Closed foam insulation
- Water-resistant front pocket
ENGEL takes kayak coolers to a whole new level. The high-performance soft-sided coolers are entirely welded, which keeps warm air out. This powerhouse cooler has a padded shoulder strap, so it’s easy to haul around.
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 and 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 the warm air out.
The ENGEL HD30 has a larger opening than other coolers in this class and is much cheaper than comparable coolers.
The cooler has a solid, flat bottom, so it won’t tip over, which is a plus when you paddle. The neon interior makes it easy to find your food or drinks inside the cooler.
Lastly, the cooler has anchor holes so you can securely strap it down to a kayak or SUP.
Easy carry handles
Tough outer shell
You must lube the zipper
Might not be ideal for a sit-inside kayak since it’s kind of large
The ENGEL HD30 softshell cooler bag is ideal for a sit-on-top kayak. You will need 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
- Three sizes available
- Leakproof zipper
- Rugged TPU outer
The Pelican Elite kayak cooler is 55% lighter than a comparable hard shell cooler. Kayaks have limited storage space and weight capacity. 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, making this an excellent kayak cooler. 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 soft shell cooler 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 its capacity and durability.
Smaller sizes are great for kayaks
The zipper is kind of hard to operate
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
- 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...
- 12 can cooler
- Leakproof zipper
- Waterproof shell
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 the ideal 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 the best kayak fishing cooler 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 complain that the heavy-duty zippers on these 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.
Wide variety of colors available
Waterproof outer shell
Keeps food and drinks cold for hours on the water
The zipper is tight
More expensive than other models
The Flip is a heavy-duty leakproof cooler. It’s great for kayaking because it’s durable, will keep contents cold, and will store 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.
Seattle Sports Kayak Insulated Deck Top Catch Cooler
- KEEP YOUR CATCH FRESH - Deck Top Cooler Allows You to Keep Your Catch Fresh During a...
- EASY TO CLEAN - Removable Internal Liner for Easy Cleaning
- EFFICIENT - Heat Reflective Body and Closed Cell Foam Insulation Keeps Your Goods...
- VERSATILE - Works Great for Food Items When Not in Use for Fish
- SPECS - Dimensions: 19" H x 12" W x 5" D, Capacity: 1140ci/18L
- Deck top catch cooler
- Easy to clean
- Saves space
The Seattle Sports kayak cooler is ideal for kayakers and anglers. The 18L capacity is excellent for keeping food, drinks, and other contents cold.
The unique design is fantastic because it saves space inside the kayak. Paddlers can strap this unique insulated kayak bag to the deck without taking up valuable space by your feet or legs.
You can strap this cooler bag to the front deck, over the top of a hatch, or it will slide nicely into a rear tankwell.
The cooler comes with an inner bag, and the nice thing about this two-piece design is that it allows you to keep your fish away from other cold items. The bag is a good size, and anglers can keep some decent sized fish cold for hours.
If you struggle to keep your fish separate from your food and drinks and want to keep both cold the Seattle Sports kayak cooler is an excellent option.
Saves valuable kayak space
Straps to the kayaks deck
Keeps contents cold for hours
More expensive than other coolers
Doesn’t work for all kayaks
The Seattle Sports Catch Cooler is the perfect accessory for your kayaking trip. It keeps your snacks and drinks cold and secure, and easily attaches to the deck of your kayak. The roomy design can keep fish and food, and drinks cold.
CreekKooler PuP Floating Cooler – Best floating cooler
- Crafted from the highest quality material
- Perfect for outdoor and even indoor use
- Made in United States
- It can serve as extra dry storage
- It floats
- 15-quart or 30-quart capacity
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.
The Creekkooler 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 tagalong 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; it works well for tubing, canoeing, and kayaking. This floating cooler has a quick-connect lid and two cup holders.
It works if you know what you are getting with this kayak cooler. It serves its purpose. It’s suitable for a recreational day on the lake.
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
It’s expensive, and the 30-quart model is even more expensive
I think it’s overpriced, but again, if you are looking for the best floating cooler, this is it. The Creekkooler floating cooler saves space since it floats in the water behind you. It doesn’t take up valuable room on your kayak.
Giantex 20 Quart Portable Cooler
- 【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...
- Available in 20 quart
- Hard shell cooler
- Heavy-duty silicone latch
This heavy-duty hard shell kayak cooler will keep contents cold for a long time. It has 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 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. In addition, the Giantex is a great tool to keep fish cold while on the water.
If you have space for this cooler on your kayak, it’s a solid price point and good value.
Large, silicone gasket
Tough silicone latches
Great size for a day of kayaking
Built-in bottle opener
Doesn’t keep ice as long as high-end coolers
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 will probably not serve you as well as a high-end cooler, but it’s solid for the price.
AO Coolers Stow-N-Go Cooler
- Soft-sided cooler designed to fit in tight places; ideal for ski boats, fishing...
- to hold ice for 24 hours in 120 degree weather; 38-can capacity plus 14 pounds of ice
- 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
- 38 can capacity
- Closed-cell foam insulation
- Five-layer construction
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.
Easy to slide in and out of tight spaces
Performs well in the sun
It doesn’t have a drain
This highly-rated soft-sided cooler is one of the best kayak coolers because it is low profile and 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
- 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.
- 13-quart capacity
- Airtight gasket around the lid
- Waterproof seal
The ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box is an excellent option for day trips and is 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 solid. This cooler doubles as a dry box. It also works well to keep fish cold.
The hinges and latches are durable, and 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 ideal size for kayaking day trips. It’s a bit old-fashioned, but it certainly gets the job done.
Designed to hold a lot of ice
Solid closing mechanism
Stainless steel hardware
Fits behind the kayak seat
Some users are unhappy with the plastic hinges
This might be the one for you if you are looking for a no-frills kayak cooler. This cooler is robust and 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
- 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...
- Holds up to 30 cans
- Heavy-duty vinyl shell
- 100% leakproof
The RTIC softshell cooler bag is lightweight, easy to transport, and has a padded shoulder strap for easy trasnport. The zipper seal is 100% leakproof when it’s closed.
I can tell you that the zippers on these 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 lubrication, but they are not easy to zip initially.
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 wide, so you can easily find what you want.
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.
Less expensive than other coolers in this class
Great size for a kayak trip
The zipper takes some time to break-in
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 to Choose a Kayak Cooler?
When looking for the best kayak cooler, you need to consider 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 will not 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 various shapes, sizes, and materials. There are soft shell coolers and hard shell coolers.
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 made with PVC, TPU, or high-denier nylons. Check to see if the cooler has any coating to make it waterproof.
Construction is vital for kayak coolers, especially those soft side varieties. You want your cooler to last long and stand up to use.
With a soft cooler, look for stitching, welded seams, and other ways the cooler is reinforced. A cooler with welded seams keeps the warm air out, increasing your ice life.
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.
Your kayak is weight-rated, and your gear adds up in a hurry. Adding ice, food, and beverages to your kayak cooler can weigh a lot. Keep this in mind as you are shopping for a cooler.
Think about what you need to pack to keep the weight down. Empty coolers don’t weigh much, whether cloth or hard plastic, but when you load them up, they quickly get heavy.
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.
You might buy a fish bag for the best kayak fishing cooler. These coolers are longer and more narrow than a traditional coolers and are designed to keep fish fresh.
Coolers will often have a rating of 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 good chance it will 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.
You have many options if you are looking for the best kayak cooler. 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 okay.
Many of these coolers are great for a day of kayaking, and some even for a camping trip. 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.