Are you looking for the best kayak cooler? When you are limited with space, a small, portable cooler will 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.
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!
A kayak cooler will keep your stuff nice and cold. It should fit nicely on your boat and not weigh you down.
- 1 Best kayak cooler
- 2 Coleman Collapsible Cooler
- 3 IceMule Pro Cooler
- 4 ENGEL HD30 Waterproof Soft-Sided Cooler
- 5 Pelican Elite Soft Cooler
- 6 YETI Hopper Flip Portable Cooler
- 7 CreekKooler PuP Floating Cooler
- 8 Giantex 20 Quart Portable Cooler
- 9 AO Coolers Stow-N-Go Cooler
- 10 ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box
- 11 RTIC Insulated Soft Cooler Bag
- 12 How to choose a kayak cooler
- 13 Wrapping up
This guide will help you find the right kayak cooler for your next adventure. There are a variety of price points and options to choose from, so let’s get to it.
In case you are in a hurry, here are the top picks.
Best kayak cooler
This guide will help you find the right kayak cooler for your next adventure. There are a variety of price points and options to choose from, so let’s get to it.
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 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. This model will not take up much space, and you can even put it between your legs.
Premium insulation is 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 cold. The liner is sealed and treated to prevent leaks and mildew.
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
If you are looking for an inexpensive 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
- RUGGED AND BUILT FOR THE OUTDOORS: Engineered for portability and high-performance,...
- EFFORTLESS HANDS-FREE CARRY: Lightweight, backpack-style cooler with 2 padded,...
- EASY ACCESS INTERIOR: Accessible roll-top design opens wide, letting you load up and...
- 24+ HOURS OF COOLING: Ultra-tough Muleskin Exterior and Interior plus PolarLayer...
- LEAKPROOF, BUOYANT, AND WATERPROOF: Welded seams and zipper-less closure means no...
- 23L and 33L sizes
- Backpack cooler
The IceMule Pro is an excellent option 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.
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. 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
- 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 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.
The HD-30’s outer shell is made of 840D fibers, which make 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.
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 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 is dedicated to growing globally by providing quality products and services...
- Pelican's Vision: Protecting all that you value
- Pelican includes a wide range of consumer products imbued with the same...
- Pelican products are designed and built to last a lifetime
- Pelican products are depended on by professionals in the most demanding markets
- Three sizes available
- Leakproof zipper
- Rugged TPU outer
The Pelican Elite 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 three sizes, 12, 24, or 48 can sizes. The smaller models are excellent for kayaks. You can put it behind your seat or strap it under your bungees.
The 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.
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...
- The Hopper Flip 12 features a 100% leakproof HydroLok Zipper and the wide-mouth...
- 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 an excellent size for kayaks.
You can store this cooler behind your kayak seat, or on deck, under your bungees. The outer shell is very durable, waterproof, and resistant to mildew. 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 very portable, with an ergonomic shoulder strap and double-stitched handles. 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 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
- Crafted from the highest quality material
- Perfect for outdoor and even indoor use
- Made in United States
- Can serve as extra dry storage
- It floats
- 15 quart or 30-quart capacity
I included this kayak cooler mostly because I love the idea of it. I think if you know what you are getting with this kayak cooler, it’s okay. I think it serves its purpose. It’s suitable for a recreational day on the lake.
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.
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 a legitimate floating cooler, this is an option to take a look at. This kayak cooler does save 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 plastic
- Heavy-duty silicone latch
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.
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’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
- Soft-sided cooler designed to fit in tight places; ideal for ski boats, fishing...
- Guaranteed to hold ice for 24 hours in 120 degree weather; 38-can capacity plus 14...
- 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. 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. 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 cooler is one of the best kayak coolers because it is low profile, fits in tight places, and is shallow. 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 option for a kayak trip.
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
This 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.
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
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 day trip. For the price, it’s a great kayak cooler.
RTIC Insulated Soft Cooler Bag
- HOLDS UP TO 30 CANS PLUS ICE: This bag is 100% leak proof, puncture-resistant and...
- NO LEAK ZIPPER: Coolers like this make other ones look like toys for children....
- AN RTIC COOLER WON'T SWEAT: You will never be left with a wet mess. Wrapped in a...
- OVERBUILT, NOT OVERPRICED: At RTIC we don’t see the reason for making products that...
- OUR RTIC PROMISE: If you have an issue with your product, let us know and we will...
- Holds up to 30 cans
- Heavy-duty vinyl shell
- 100% leakproof
This kayak 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. They do break in with time, 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 cooler 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.
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 an excellent option for kayaks, 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
What size kayak cooler should you buy? Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. This will depend on factors like how long your trip is, even how warm the weather will be. If you are going out for a morning row, you won’t need a big cooler, like you would for an overnight trip.
A bigger cooler can hold more ice and more supplies but will weigh you down. The bigger the kayak cooler, the more valuable space it will consume, and the heavier it will be. Keep this in mind when you are deciding on the right size.
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.
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 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.
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.
Are you using your kayak cooler to keep food and drinks cold? Or are you using your kayak cooler to keep your fish fresh? 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 plan to keep a lot of fish, you might want to consider buying a fish bag. These coolers are longer and more narrow than a traditional cooler and are designed for fish.
Does it stay cold?
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.
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.
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.