Have you ever gone to load your kayak by yourself, only to find that it's…
Being able to relax on your kayak with a drink and a bite to eat is one of life’s simple pleasures. Finding that perfect sunny spot to kick back and relax, cracking open a can, only to find that… it’s gone lukewarm. You need a kayak cooler.
A kayak cooler is a lightweight and portable cooler that can be strapped or stored on a kayak. The cooler keeps food and drinks chilled, no matter how long you stay on the water. But with so many to pick from, how do you know which kayak cooler is right for you?
Whether you’re after a massive capacity ice chest, or a foldable and portable cooler bag, we’ve rounded up the best options for kayak coolers. With one of these onboard, you never have to worry about damp sandwiches and lukewarm drinks again!
5 Best Kayak Coolers
Yeti has become the biggest name in coolers, and it’s a well deserved reputation. A Yeti cooler can keep your ice frozen for days across a long trip, and the exceptional designs make them incredibly easy to use.
For the Kayak, we recommend the Yeti Hopper Flip 12. But honestly, you can’t go wrong with any Yeti.
The Yeti Hopper is a soft shell cooler, but it behaves like a hard shell when it comes to cold retention. The ColdCell insulation traps the cold in, while the Hydrolok Zipper stops any chill (and water) from leaking out.
The DryHide shell completes the excellent design, providing a waterproof and puncture resistant material that's also resistant to UV rays.
Able to hold up to 12 cans, the Hopper Flip 12 has a large mouth for the easiest of access. The shoulder strap feels comfortable, and carry handles allow for hitching and an easy hold.
The only real disadvantage to the Yeti cooler is the price. These are not budget coolers, and if you only need a cooler for the occasional casual day trip, then it may not be worth the cost.
But Yeti coolers are durable, so you can get a lot of use out of it.
- ColdCell insulation - Impressive cold retention, perhaps the best on the market.
- Hydrolok Zipper - Stops any leakages.
- DryHide shell - UV, water, and puncture resistant, for increased durability.
- Price - It might be the best around, but Yeti comes with a high price tag.
Also available to purchase at
Best Floating Cooler
The benefit of a floating cooler is that it doesn't matter how short on space the kayak is — you always have room for the cooler.
The CreekKooler is one of the best floating coolers we’ve tried. It stays buoyant even when fully loaded, and adds minimal drag to the kayak.
The dynamic shaping of the CreekKooler moves with the wake of the kayak, rather than against it. Even once you’ve packed this cooler with the 30 cans it claims to hold, it still floats well.
Two inches of insulation are injected into the walls of the CreekKooler, creating an ice retention of 48 hours.
The dual-wall blow molded construction keeps this cold locked in, and the watertight lid keeps everything else out.
And to finish it all off, the CreekKooler comes with 4 molded drinks holders, so you can enjoy a drink on the water!
Floating coolers such as the CreekKooler are less maneuverable, and the unusual shaping can make them difficult to pack. But for long trips and small kayaks, the CreekKooler is excellent. It means you never have to choose between your beers and your gear again!
- Watertight seal - Keeps the cool trapped, while preventing water from leaking in.
- Injected insulation - 48 hour ice retention.
- 4 drinks holders - Molded drinks holders add extra functionality.
- Difficult to pack - The CreekKooler can hold a lot, but getting it all in there is a bit of a puzzle.
CreekKooler.com and REI.com.
Best Hard Cooler
The Engel 19 Quart Cooler is an excellent option for a hard shell cooler. It’s airtight, waterproof, and surprisingly affordable. However, with such a bulky and unyielding shape, the Engel is only good if you have the room for it.
The Engel cooler is roomy, able to store up to 32 cans at once. The airtight EVA gasket installed around the edge of the lid is unique, and helps keep the cold locked in.
It also means that if your cooler gets wet, the insides stay dry. There’s also a removable hanging tray that can be used to keep your dry goods safe.
The Engel works as both a hard shell cooler, and a dry box. Use it as extra storage to keep moisture and dust off your valuables. It can also adapt into a fishing cooler, although serious anglers should look for something shaped.
A recessed carry handle makes the Engel cooler maneuverable, but the shoulder strap isn’t great quality. It feels uncomfortable on the shoulder, and doesn’t have the durability of the box itself.
And while the Engel can keep your ice solid for a period, it lacks the longer retention times of better brands.
- Airtight EVA gasket - A waterproof seal that provides better ice retention, and prevents dust from getting in.
- Cooler/dry box - A versatile item that can match your needs.
- Stainless steel fittings - No worries of rust and wear.
- Not as cold as some premium coolers.
Also available to purchase at
Hard/Soft Hybrid Cooler
The Arctic Zone Titan cooler is a cooler with some versatility. The soft outer body provides extra insulation, and a durable shell. The hard interior gives the cooler a sturdy shape, keeping your stored goods safer than ever.
A SmartShelf is also included in the hard interior, for better storage on your trips.
As well as combining the hard and soft body, the Arctic Zone Titan can be used as either! Remove the hard shell, for a collapsible soft cooler.
A triple layer ColdBlock base and Deep Freeze insulation reflects heat, allowing you to keep ice in the Arctic Zone Titan for up to 3 days.
And a Rhino-Tech exterior is water and stain resistant, as well as wipe clean. Ideal for trips on the kayak.
The Arctic Zone cooler has several neat features, to improve usability. The adjustable shoulder pad keeps the Titan comfortable on your back, and there are plenty of pockets and storage space.
We like the 30 can option, but the Arctic Zone Titan comes both larger and smaller. Our only complaint is the no-zipper seal. Although it does make accessing your cooler easier, we’re not convinced of its durability.
- FDA compliant HardBody liner - Safe to use for food storage, retains shape.
- Adjustable Backsaver Shoulder Strap - Carry the cooler for longer with this comfortable strap.
- Price - A budget option with an impressive performance.
- Zipperless lid - Although convenient, it seems less durable than the standard zip.
Also available to purchase at
Best Cooler For Fishing
Getting onto the water and catching a fish within minutes is an incredible feeling. But if you don’t have a good cooler with you, then your luck runs out quickly.
Which is why kayak fishers should take a look at the Seattle Sports Kayak Catch Cooler.
The long Seattle Sports cooler makes it easy to store all kinds of catches, with a wide mouth to make access easier. Once you’ve filled up the inside fish bag, it can be removed and transported, while the bulkier cooler stays on the kayak.
This also makes it easier to clean! Simply pull out the inner bag, and wash it through.
Even on warm days, the closed-cell foam insulation and heat-reflective exterior keeps your catch cool. This is an efficient insulation system, designed precisely for storing your fish.
Even the bungee cords and fitting on the front of the cooler were placed with anglers in mind.
But this Seattle Sports cooler isn’t only good for one thing. Plan on heading out without your rods? The Catch Cooler can be used as a regular cooler, keeping cans and foods at the ideal temperature.
- Shaped design - Long with a wide mouth, access is easy.
- Inner bag - Cleaning and transport are easier with the fish stored in a separate inner bag.
- Lightweight - Won’t weigh down the kayak when you’re on the water.
- Some small issues with leakage.
If you plan on spending a day on your kayak, then a cooler becomes a necessity. If you’ve ever ended a kayak trip sipping on a lukewarm drink and a damp sandwich, you’ll understand why.
But before you decide on your cooler, you need to know the necessary features. Check out this buyer’s guide, to help you pick the perfect kayak cooler.
Soft Shell VS Hard Shell
There are two distinct types of coolers: soft shell, and hard shell. These are sometimes known as cooler bags and ice chests.
A soft shell cooler is made using fabric, packed with insulating materials. The soft shell cooler is foldable, and often comes with comfortable shoulder straps for portability. Pockets and zips make the soft shell cooler versatile.
They take up less room on the kayak, especially when empty. However, cooler bags tend to be smaller, and not quite as cold as the ice chest.
Hard shell coolers are tough, rigid, and tend to be icy cold. In most cases, the hard shell cooler will beat out the soft shell cooler for ice retention.
They typically come with a large amount of storage which, when combined with the ice retention, makes an ice chest perfect for longer trips.
However, they’re big and bulky, and difficult to maneuver.
There are also combination coolers, such as the Arctic Zone. These coolers have a hard inner shell, encased in a soft outer bag.
The capacity refers to the size of the cooler, and this can be a tricky decision to make. It’s important that the cooler is large enough to store everything that might be needed for your trip.
But if the cooler is too big, then it won’t fit on or in the kayak.
Cooler capacity is typically measured in quarts, but companies often simplify things by explaining how many 12oz cans can fit inside. This can help you visualize the amount of space.
For short trips and days out, 10 quarts should be a large enough capacity. But if you like to spend the weekend on your kayak, you may prefer a 30 quart cooler.
Be careful with going any larger than this, especially if you’re buying an ice chest. It will be tough to get this on the kayak.
Consider the weight as well, especially if you’re buying an ice chest. The cooler has to be light enough to sit on the kayak, without exceeding the weight limit.
Ice retention is the period of time in which ice in the cooler will stay solid. Manufacturers will often provide an ice retention time as a number of hours or days.
However, as many factors can affect ice retention, the number isn’t entirely accurate.
The longer the period of ice retention, the better the cooler is at keeping the cold in.
This is all to do with the materials and build used for insulation. With a good cooler, your drinks will stay chilled until night, even when in direct sunlight.
Good quality coolers can retain cold for 24 hours or more. This is more than enough for a day trip, and possibly a weekend away.
If you plan on a longer excursion, consider investing in a cooler with a longer ice retention period.
Waterproofing And Materials
There are two reasons why a cooler for a kayak needs to be waterproof. First, it will be sat on the water, and is likely to get splashed. Second, the better the waterproofing is, the less the cold can leak out.
Waterproofed designs keep your food and drinks cold, and stop them getting damaged by water. The waterproofing of a cooler is determined by the materials used, and the fastenings.
Always look for waterproof, airtight coolers.
Type Of Kayak
This relates back to the size and weight of the cooler, but it’s worth mentioning again. Whatever cooler you choose, it has to be a good fit for the kayak. That means, don’t pick a massive ice chest for a narrow sport kayak.
If you have a sit-in kayak, double-check the storage room. And if you have a tandem kayak, make sure the cooler fits in regardless of number of passengers, or gear.
In some cases, the best choice may be a towable cooler. These attach to the back of the kayak, and are pulled along in the wake. With a towable kayak, you don’t have to worry about making room on the kayak itself.
However, if you selected your kayak for speed, then a towable cooler will add drag.
For the most part, kayak coolers are used to keep food and drinks cool for a long day on the water, and for easy transport. However, there is one other distinct type of cooler: the fishing cooler.
This is for storing anything you may have caught that day, so you can keep fishing in peace.
Catch coolers are specifically designed for fish. Although regular coolers can often be used in the same way, the box shapes aren’t ideal for fish storage.
Consider your budget before you begin to look for your cooler. Kayak coolers can cost anywhere from $50 to $500. If you only plan on using your cooler for drinks on the occasional trip, good quality coolers can be purchased for under $100.
However, if you intend for frequent usage, or long excursions, consider paying extra for better ice retention.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Put A Cooler On A Kayak?
Yes, you can put a cooler on a kayak. The easiest way to attach a cooler to a kayak is using bungee cords, but some kayaks may have enough room in storage to fit a cooler.
If you’re really struggling for space, consider a towable cooler, which attaches to the kayak and floats behind.
How Do I Choose A Kayak Cooler?
The most important factors of a kayak cooler are the materials, the ice retention, and the capacity. The cooler must be an appropriate size for the kayak, while also accommodating your needs.
The cooler should keep ice frozen for several hours, and potentially even days. The material used in construction must be waterproof and durable, and either hard or soft.
What Is A Good Kayak Cooler?
The Yeti brand makes some of the best coolers around, and their hard and soft coolers are both appropriate for kayaks. We like the Yeti Hopper Flip 12 for its versatility and portability.
Other good brands include Arctic Zone and Engel, or consider Seattle Sports Or CreekKooler, for a specialized design.