A kayak cooler is an absolute must if you’re looking to keep your beverages and daily catch as cold as can be before you get back to the car.
But, finding the right cooler for a kayak isn’t easy because there are just so many great options to choose from.
Thankfully, we’re here to help.
We know how hard it is to choose the best kayak cooler for your needs, so we’ve created this ultimate guide to doing just that. Up next, we’ve put together a list of the best kayak coolers on the market today so you can spend less time researching your gear and more time enjoying yourself out on the water.
Plus, we’ll walk you through the basics of choosing a cooler for kayaking and answer some of your top questions about these awesome pieces of gear.
The Best Kayak Coolers
Here are the 7 best kayak coolers on the market today:
1. Best For Sit On Top Kayaks: Yeti Hopper Flip 12
- Dimensions: 10″ x 11.5″ x 12.6″
- Weight: 3.4 lbs
- Capacity: 13 cans
Highly Portable Insulation
When searching for a cooler for your sit-on-top kayak, it’s critical that you have a model that’s both portable and well-insulated. The Yeti Hopper Flip 12 fulfills both of those needs.
This soft-sided cooler is built with Yeti’s DryHide Shell fabric, which is both waterproof and UV-resistant. Thanks to this uber-durable fabric, the Hopper Flip also resists punctures and mildew build-up for long-lasting quality.
As far as insulation goes, the Hopper Flip features ColdCell technology. This is a type of high-end insulating material made from closed-cell rubber that’s leaps and bounds beyond traditional closed-cell foam when it comes to ice retention.
The Hopper Flip also boasts a Hydrolok Zipper, which is a tough-as-nails waterproof and provides a leakproof closure system. That way, this cooler is completely waterproof, preventing any unfortunate leaks, which can certainly put a damper on any kayak trip.
Oh, and the Hopper Flip even comes with a HitchPoint Grid system. This attachment system makes it super easy to strap the cooler down to the back of your kayak without interfering with your ability to access your drinks.
If you have a sit-on-top kayak, you need a cooler that can keep your drinks cold while also being exposed to the elements. The lightweight Yeti Hopper Flip 12 can accommodate a respectable amount of food and drink for a day on the water and can also easily attach to your kayak for easy transport. What’s not to love?
2. Best For Sit-In Kayaks: IceMule Pro
- Dimensions: 14″ x 11″ x 17″
- Weight: 3.2 lbs
- Capacity: 18 cans
Finding a cooler for a sit-in kayak can be a bit of a challenge because you’re working with limited cargo space that’s not very forgiving of large, bulky items. However, there are ways to keep your drinks cold when paddling your sit-in kayak, namely, the IceMule Pro.
The IceMule Pro is a revolutionary soft-sided cooler, which functions as a dry bag, backpack, and cooler all at the same time. With 23 liters of storage capacity, this cooler can easily accommodate 18 cans, plus some ice for a day on the water.
Despite its light weight, this cooler can keep ice cold for up to 24 hours. This is because it’s made with a sizable amount of high-end PolarLayer Insulation. Plus, the unique design of this cooler’s IM AirValve allows you to add air into the insulation layer for better heat retention. At the same time, it allows you to release air from the interior compartment for easier storage in your boat’s dry hatches.
We also particularly like that the IceMule Pro has two extra-thick layers of MuleSkin fabric, which provides a durable exterior for use in rugged environments.
Additionally, the IceMule Pro features two comfortable shoulder straps for use as a backpack. It also comes with a roll-top design that’s completely waterproof and allows you to easily fit the cooler into your kayak’s dry storage hatches.
There’s no room in a sit-in kayak for a bulky cooler, which is why the IceMule Pro is a sure bet. Thanks to its roll-top design and ample insulation, it’s a great cooler bag option for storing inside your kayak’s dry hatches for longer days of paddling.
3. Best For Fishing Kayaks: Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler
- Dimensions: 29″ x 16″ x 7″
- Weight: 5.26 lbs
- Capacity: 27.6 L – fish up to 25″ long
Keeps Your Catch Ice Cold
If you’re out for a day of fishing on your trusty kayak, you need a cooler that’s reliable enough to store your day’s catch. The Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler is a fully-featured fishing-specific cooler that straps down easily to the deck of most sit-on-top kayaks.
It is built with an extra-durable 420 deniers ripstop nylon interior that’s specifically designed to withstand punctures from sharp fish fins. The cooler is also TPU coated for added durability and water-resistance.
Interestingly, the Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler has two storage areas. It allows you to keep your catch cold in a highly-insulated compartment while simultaneously storing your drinks and snacks in a separate insulated pocket. Both compartments have separate access points and the fish storage area also has a rigid bottom with elevated beams that make it easier to drain water out of your cooler.
To help you keep things ice cold, the Catch Cooler also comes with built-in pockets that can store ice packs and keep your day’s catch fresh.
In addition to being easy to strap onto a kayak, this cooler bag even features a dual shoulder strap carry system for easier transport to and from your car.
The bottom line? The Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler is a versatile option for paddlers that need to keep their catch and their drinks cold while on the water. Its host of fishing-specific features, as well as its easy transport system, make it an ideal choice for paddlers that need highly functional gear.
4. Best Pull Behind Cooler: CreekKooler Floating Cooler
- Dimensions: 39.5″ x 21″ x 12″
- Weight: 17lbs
- Capacity: 30 cans
Endless Fun On The Water
Sometimes, you just need a buddy on your adventures. That’s where the CreekKooler Floating Cooler comes in the picture.
The CreekKooler Floating Cooler is a great companion for paddling excursions where maneuverability and convenience are key. This unique cooler is shaped just like a tiny kayak and has a nifty design that attaches to the back of your boat so it can tag along on your paddles.
It is made from blow-molded plastic, just like many kayaks, for durability, and has a thick layer of close cell foam insulation to help with ice retention.
Thanks to its kayak-shaped design, the CreekKooler Floating Cooler is capable of tracking on the water so it doesn’t throw you off course as you paddle. The cooler’s reinforced tow points also provide ample durability and a strong connection when paddling through choppy water or a slightly turbulent river.
One of the best features of the CreekKooler Floating Cooler is its large opening. When you remove the cooler’s lid, it reveals a spacious interior that can hold up to 30 cans of a beverage of your choice, plus up to 20lbs of ice. It also has four molded cup holders for added convenience during your on-the-water pit stops.
If you’re in need of a large cooler for kayaking adventures that isn’t a pain to try and fit onto your boat, the CreekKooler Floating is a fantastic option. It’s a great companion on the water, especially when paddling in large groups where carrying capacity is key.
5. Best For Live Bait: Engel Live Bait Cooler 7.5 Quart
- Dimensions: 11.5″ x 10″ x 8″
- Weight: 2.5 lbs
- Capacity: 8 cans
Keep It Reel
Keeping live bait, well, alive, during long days on the water is no walk in the park. Therefore, having the right cooler is key.
The Engel Live Bait Cooler 7.5 Quart is a high-end bait cooler that doesn’t break the bank. Built with an injection-molded copolymer exterior and stainless steel fittings, this cooler is designed to provide a durable carry-case for your live bait.
When it comes to insulation, the Engel Live Bait Cooler doesn’t disappoint. It has molded polystyrene foam as well as an airtight EVA gasket that helps to trap cold air in and keep the heat out.
This cooler comes with an aerator to help ensure that your bait stays fresh inside. To make it easier for you to fetch your bait with one hand as you fish, Engel also outfitted this cooler with a pullout net for easier access.
For kayak anglers, this cooler really shines in terms of its portability. Not only is it small and lightweight, but it also comes with two attachment points (one on either end) that strap down to the deck of your kayak. That way, you can focus more on fishing and less on your gear.
When you’re out on the water with pricey live bait, you don’t want to risk ruining your bait before you ever get a chance to cast your lines. The Engel Live Bait Cooler is a budget-friendly option for kayak anglers that need both performance and portability out of their paddling cooler.
6. Best Cooler For Ice Storage: Yeti Roadie
- Dimensions: 17.5″ x 16.5″ x 15.25″
- Weight: 12.8 lbs
- Capacity: 18 cans
Keeps Ice Seriously Cold
When it comes to keeping your drinks cold and your ice frozen while cruising around the lake on a bluebird day, the Yeti Roadie is hard to beat. As one of the smallest hard-sided coolers that Yeti makes, this burly cooler is perfect for ice storage for longer days on the water.
The Yeti Roadie wins our award as the best kayak cooler for ice storage because of its high-end Permafrost Insulation technology. Included standard on all of the company’s award-winning hard-sided coolers, this insulation is able to keep ice cold for days, even in the sweltering heat.
Plus, the Roadie is built with a rotomolded construction, which is durable enough to withstand frequent use on the water. Its NeverFail hinge system even integrates an interlocking design that eliminates weak points between the lid and the cooler to prevent serious damage.
For added convenience, Yeti built this cooler with a QuickLatch system, which allows for one-handed cooler access. This makes it particularly useful while kayaking, especially if you need to keep one hand on your paddle as you reach back for a refreshing drink on the water.
When it comes to portability, the Roadie has one large HeftyHauler handle that allows for easy carrying. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have side handles, which are helpful for strapping down a cooler on a kayak. That being said, with some ingenuity, it’s possible to attach the Yeti to a kayak while still allowing it to be accessible during your paddle.
At the end of the day, if you need long-lasting insulation that can keep ice cold for hours and days on end, the Yeti Roadie is a solid choice. Sure, you’ll pay a high price typical of any Yeti cooler, but it might be worth it for the quality you get in terms of durability and insulation.
7. Best Cooler For The Money: Polar Bear Coolers Eclipse
- Dimensions: 18″ x 10″ x 12″
- Weight: 6.2 lbs
- Capacity: 24 cans
Quality doesn’t always have to come with a big price tag. The Polar Bear Coolers Eclipse is a more affordable alternative for kayakers that need performance that doesn’t break the bank.
This soft cooler is made with 840 denier TPE, which is both waterproof and UV-resistant for long-lasting durability. Thanks to this thick fabric, the Eclipse is also leak-proof and sweat-proof, which helps avoid messes on the water.
However, it’s important to note that, in the interest of cost savings, Polar Bear Coolers did not design the Eclipse with a waterproof zipper. So, it will leak if you flip it upside down – but not if you keep it upright.
Additionally, the Eclipse comes with a 1-inch thick layer of closed-cell foam that provides ample insulation for long days on the water.
For transportation, this cooler has a single padded shoulder strap to make it easier for you to transport your drinks to and from the car. It also has two grab handles and an assortment of daisy chains that allow you to quickly secure the cooler to your kayak.
With the Polar Bear Coolers Eclipse, you don’t have to spend your life’s savings to get a quality kayak cooler bag. When it comes to day trips, the Eclipse’s top construction provides enough insulations to keep ice nice and cold and is portable enough to easily strap down onto your boat.
How To Choose Coolers For Kayaks
A cooler might seem like a simple piece of gear, but there’s a lot that goes into making a well-insulated storage system for keeping food, drinks, and ice freezing cold. Here are some of the most important things to consider when choosing a kayak cooler.
Soft-Sided vs Hard-Sided
Modern coolers are either soft-sided or hard-sided. The type you choose will have a major impact on how your kayak cooler performs in the real world.
For the most part, soft-sided coolers are lighter and more portable. They’re also generally easier to fit into your standard kayak dry hatch, which makes them a better choice for use with sit-in boats. Additionally, soft-sided coolers tend to be more affordable.
However, in terms of overall insulation and the ability to keep your drinks ice cold, hard-sided coolers are difficult to beat. In general, hard-sided coolers are big, bulky, heavy, and expensive. But, they are jam-packed with insulation and are usually the better choice when it comes to long-term ice retention. Just keep in mind that their size makes them a better choice with sit-on-top rather than sit-in kayaks.
The amount of carrying capacity you need in a kayak cooler depends on how much you need to keep cold while you paddle. Of course, larger coolers can carry more, so they’re ideal if you’re looking to pack food and drink for a big group outing.
That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re also limited by the size of your kayak. This is particularly true if you have a sit-in boat, where your best storage areas are in your dry hatches. Sit-on-top kayak owners have a bit more wiggle room in terms of size, but it’s critical that you measure the amount of space your boat has for storage before you commit to a kayak cooler.
The main purpose of a cooler is to keep your food and drinks cold, even when you’re in hot conditions. Thus, the insulating ability of a cooler is of the utmost importance.
While every company uses their own proprietary insulation system, hard-sided coolers tend to provide longer-lasting cold than their soft-sided counterparts. Foam and injected polystyrene are some of the best insulating materials out there, so keep an eye out for them as you shop.
For kayakers, one of the most important things to consider in a cooler is how you’re actually going to transport it on your boat.
Sit-on-top kayakers have things a bit easier as these boats are better prepared to accommodate a bulky cooler on their back deck. Nevertheless, you’ll still need a cooler with a good attachment system so that you can secure it to your boat as you paddle using straps or spare rope.
For sit-in kayak owners, it’s generally best to opt for a soft-sided cooler that can easily fit in your boat’s day well or dry hatch.
In some situations, depending on the size of your boat and the cooler in question, you may also be able to fit it behind your seat or further toward the bow of the boat within the cockpit itself. The key is to find a cooler that’s just the right size for your boat’s storage spaces.
Last update on 2020-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API