Best Kayak Cooler For All Types Of Kayaks And Activities

Young woman in kayak enjoys relaxing with her Yeti cooler
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If you are new to kayaking, you may be preparing yourself to eat only snack foods when out on the water. You may even be mentally preparing yourself to get used to the idea of drinking warm soda or water.

However, fear not because we’ve got you covered. Whatever the size of your kayak, we’ve reviewed the best kayak coolers that fit in easily and keep your lunch fresh and tasty.

IN A HURRY? HERE ARE OUR TOP PICKS…

What Is The Best Cooler For Kayak Camping

Best cooler for kayak camping

This high-performance cooler offers quality insulation with a radiant heat barrier. This barrier reflects heat instead of absorbing it, promoting better and longer cooling. This product has a HardBody liner and removable SmartShelf. The liner is FDA compliant.

This cooler also features a patented Zipperless lid that flips open for fast, easy access to food and drink. The Ultra Safe interior lining ensures protection for leaks and easy cleaning. This model displays an insulated front pocket, which is convenient for storing and accessing snacks.

Both water and stain resistant, this cooler also resists punctures, cracks and other surface damage. This product can be wiped clean, making upkeep easy while kayaking for fishing or leisure. The Backsaver shoulder strap is adjustable and includes a shoulder pad for comfort, centering load weight and long-term wear.

This popular cooler is available with 9, 16, 30 or 48 can capacity. It is made of durable ripstop fabric and comes in blue and other color choices.

Pros
  • The ergonomic shoulder strap of this bag centers load weight well.
  • This cooler keeps ice from melting for 15 hours or more on a sweltering summer day.
  • The plastic separator inside this cooler is ideal for keeping sandwiches cool without freezing them.
Cons
  • The plastic liner of this cooler can become brittle and crack.
  • This cooler’s shoulder strap does not stay securely on your shoulder.

Best small cooler for days on a kayak

This DryHide Shell cooler features ColdCell insulation and is made of a closed-cell foam that ensures long hours of high-quality cooling and ice retention. It provides the capacity for up to 12 cans as well as ice. The cooler’s HydroLok zipper is completely leak-proof, and it has a wide opening for accessing contents easily. 

As a waterproof and puncture-resistant cooler, this model also resists surface scrapes and scarring. It is rugged enough in structure to withstand rough weather and countless kayaking trips and adventures. This well-designed cooler is ideal for fishing, camping or sports excursions and leisurely relaxation of the water. 

This portable cooler has the reputation of supplying ice for days at a time on long trips. It functions just as well on smooth, easy waters or on rough, turbulent river trips. This cooler contains some materials that are used to produce HazMat suits and whitewater rafts. Its dimensions are 12-5/8 by 10 by 11-1/2 inches. 

This rough and ready cooler bag will see you through all of your kayaking adventures. Its flexible construction enables this product to adapt to different spaces in kayak hatches. It can also be secured to your kayak with strong bungee cords without any worries of it coming dislodged. 

Pros
  • This very sturdy cooler can outlast many quality models on the market today.
  • Some users carry this cooler as a carry-on bag for train and airline travel due to its strong construction.
  • This cooler and the Yeti 4-lb. ice pack will keep your food and beverages at a great temperature on long water trips.
  • This cooler lightweight cooler is also extremely durable.
Cons
  • The zipper on this cooler can stick and be difficult to open or close.
  • Although this is a quality cooler, it does not cool or keep ice as well as an ice chest.
  • It’s also quite expensive considering what you get in return.

Best cooler for kayak fishing

This hard-sided ice chest is made of sturdy PP Copolymer and is insulated with molded high-quality polystyrene foam. All fittings for this cooler are securely set with stainless steel screws for long-term use. This product has an ergonomic design featuring airtight EVA gasket sealing. 

This cooler resists staining and does not retain odors. It offers a durable self-stopping hinge design, strong carrying handles and an integrated shoulder strap. Its surfaces are non-absorbent material that is easy to clean and maintain. This durable drybox cooler is available in tan and six other popular colors, and it measures 21 x 11 x 13 inches. 

This versatile model is in popular use as a kayaking cooler and for fishing and leisure trips. It is also used as a lunchbox for construction workers and office personnel alike. This sturdy cooler will protect your food and drinks from and damage during rough weather or traveling conditions.

Marine-grade stainless steel latches keep this cooler completely airtight when closed. This product is sold in four desirable sizes, 7.5, 13, 19, and 30-quart for your convenience. You can select the ideal size according to the type and length of kayaking trips you plan to take. 

Pros
  • This cooler is easy to carry, even when completed packed with food and drinks.
  • The strong hinges and latches of this model function well and are durable.
  • The cooler’s top tray stays in place for holding sandwiches or your smartphone.
  • The rod holders for this cooler are very easy to install.
Cons
  • The insulation does not support long-lasting ice retention on lengthy kayak excursions.
  • This model needs a chain to take stress off the hinges when the cooler is open.

Best collapsible kayak cooler

This cooler bag is ideal for kayaking trips, road trips, camping and for carrying your lunch to work. Available in heather grey and black, it is attractive and practical, offering leak-proof storage for food and drinks. This well-insulated model is easy to carry while providing icy cold storage.

Made of durable polyester material, this cooler bag is collapsible for convenient home storage. As a large-capacity cooler, it can accommodate up to 50 cans of your favorite beverages plus ice. Unique SnapHinges on both sides give strong support when the cooler is open.

The flexible sides of this cooler bag make it ideal for use in narrow sea kayaks. It can adapt to the size and shape of your storage space behind the kayak seat or in the hatch areas. This lightweight cooler bag can contain 30 liters (or 8 gallons) by volume, and its load capacity is 50 pounds. 

This model provides a comfortable carrying handle plus duffel bag style handles for lifting, carrying and stowing purposes. Its dimensions equal 18.25 x 12.25 x 12 inches when open. This convenient and versatile cooler will collapse to a 3-inch flat thickness for storing when not in use. 

Pros
  • This cooler bag is strong and well-made for use on all types of kayaking, camping and fishing trips.
  • This cooler is great for carrying perishable foods, including yogurt and ice cream.
  • In this cooler, your food and beverages will stay icy cold, even in 105-degree temperature.
  • This folding cooler can be stored easily at home, even in a shallow drawer.
Cons
  • Some cooler bags of this model tend to slip out of the locked position and start to collapse.
  • The zipper closure of this cooler is not as durable as the bag itself is.

Best portable kayak cooler

This rugged, durable soft-sided cooler bag is designed for all types of outdoor use. It has the capacity to hold 10 liters or six cans of liquid plus ice, with the dimensions of just 8 x 8 x 16 inches. This cooler is perfectly designed and manufactured for top-grade performance and easy portability. 

Designed as a backpack-style cooler, this model features a sling strap that is double padded and ventilated. You can carry all of your edible provisions for kayaking, camping, fishing or sports-related trips easily, on your back. This leaves your hands free for loading other essential items of gear. 

This cooler bag’s roll-top structure offers an easy, wide opening to load and access food and beverages. As a fully collapsible design, it is easy to roll up and store in small spaces. This model’s Mule Skin exterior and interior combined with PolarLayer insulation guarantees strength and great ice retention. 

With a non-zipper closure and welded seams, this cooler bag is completely leak-proof. It can maintain icy temperatures for up to two days at a time for excellent food and beverage storage. This soft-sided cooler bag will adapt to the size and shape of your kayak’s hatch or other storage areas.  

Pros
  • This cooler bag stows easily and can adapt to small or narrow kayak hatch storage areas.
  • You can easily use bungee cords to secure this cooler bag to the top surfaces of your kayak.
  • This cooler can keep ice for at least 24 hours at a time, even in hot weather.
  • This small-size, lightweight yet spacious cooler bag is easy to carry.
Cons
  • This cooler bag’s surface can be susceptible to abrasions and cuts during use.
  • The inner shell of this cooler bag can crease and crack.
  • The cooler bag isn’t compatible with dry ice, which burns the inner fabric of the cooler bag

How to choose the best kayak cooler

Kayak cooler bag

Kayak ice chest

There are two basic types of kayak coolers on the market today, ice chests and cooler bags. While ice chests have hard surfaces and are typically larger than cooler bags, they are perfect for spacious kayaks. Cooler bags, which are normally smaller than ice chests with soft, pliable sides, are ideal for narrow kayaks. 

By comparing the sizes and features of different brands and models, you can identify your ideal kayak cooler. Ice chests are usually square or rectangular in shape and have more storage space than cooler bags. Also, if your ice chest is dropped or knocked over, your food and drink containers will not be damaged.

Cooler bags have soft sides and fit into small or cramped spaces, but cannot protect your lunch from damage. Yet they are a smart choice for use in narrow sea kayaks, and they are lightweight and easy to carry. Buying a pliable cooler bag will save you the aggravation of trying to fit an ice chest into your narrow kayak.

Advantages of kayak ice chests

Aside from their solid construction, kayak cooler ice chests can keep foods and beverages cold throughout the day. You can enjoy a meal or snack at any time during your next kayaking adventure. Although these ice chests often weigh 14 pounds when completely empty, most have padded shoulder straps for easy carrying.

These sturdy chests typically have a thick layer of insulation for optimal ice retention. They are also designed with strong lid latches to prevent accidental spills and food loss. Another common and helpful feature is securely gripping rubber feet to keep them in place.

advantages of kayak cooler bags

Cooler bags have soft, flexible shells and are flat enough to be stowed in your kayak hatches or behind the kayak seat. If your kayak gear includes bungee cords and deck lines, you can secure your cooler bag on the deck. If you buy a long, flat cooler bag, you can easily secure it using bungee cords.

These shell coolers are waterproof, and their openings have leak-proof zippers to prevent spills. These tight, secure closures also lock in the bag interior’s cold temperatures for prolonged food storage. Some cooler bags have updated designs that include tapered shapes, making hauling and storing easier.

Now that you know the difference between a kayak cooler bag and kayak ice chest, let’s have a look at what features to look for in a kayak cooler:

Cooler Size and Load Capacity

First, make a list of the items that you plan to include in your kayak cooler during outings. Consider the size of the food items and beverages that you plan to pack. Both ice chests and cooler bags come in different sizes and shapes.

Also, keep in mind that there are a variety of kayak cooler designs so you should be able to find one best suited for stowing in your kayak. Current models in kayak coolers include box shapes, canoe shapes, squares, spheres, and backpacks.

Material

The majority of kayak cooler bags are composed of extra-durable ripstop polyester. Some even contain material used in making HazMat suits for withstanding heavy-duty use or rugged conditions.

Most ice chests consist of plastic that is blow-molded for durability. They contain a sizable layer of insulation made of close cell foam to ensure top-quality ice retention.

Ice retention

Some models in kayak coolers offer better and longer ice retention that others. If you plan to take relatively short kayaking excursions, long-lasting ice retention is not of great importance. So long as the cooler retains good ice levels for a few hours at a time, you will be satisfied.

However, if you intend to take all-day kayaking trips, you will need a cooler with good ice retaining capacities. If you will be going on extended camping trips, kayaking between camping grounds, superior ice retention can be essential.

Best Kayak Cooler For All Types Of Kayaks And Activities

Purpose

You may want to buy a kayak cooler simply to enjoy a cool, refreshing drink while out on the water. In this case, the size, shape, and stowing ease of an ice chest or cooler bag is most likely most important. If you plan to take longer kayaking trips for camping or fishing, your needs will be different.

On these longer kayak adventures, you may need a cooler with maximum icing and cooling capacities. Perhaps you enjoy kayaking in popular swimming and diving areas. If so, your need for a cooler with superior ice retention and cooling features will most likely increase.

Insights & Takeaways

Before selecting your new kayak cooler, you may want to review the best features and functions of your top choices. We hope this guide discussing five top-rated coolers with different constructions and qualities has been useful to you. After considering what each ice chest or cooler bag has to offer, you can more easily make your purchasing decision. 

We can compare these leading five cooler models and their major styles and options. Looking again at these cooler models, the following features and functions stand out:

Examining the Arctic Zone Titan cooler, we see that it offers excellent insulation with a radiant heat barrier for optimal cooling. It also has a non-zipper lid that flips open and closes quickly for easy access, and it has a HardBody liner and SmartShelf.

The YETI Hopper Flip 12 model utilizes a DryHide Shell and ColdCell insulation to ensure optimal cooling and ice retention. It also can hold up to 12 beverage cans and plenty of ice, and is secured with a HydroLok zipper. 

The Engel 19-Quart Drybox cooler is a hard-sided ice chest with high-quality polystyrene foam insulation. It features an ergonomic design for excellent load weight balancing and has airtight EVA gasket sealing. 

The CleverMade Collapsible cooler bag is a 50-can soft-sided model that is leakproof. It is durable, easy to carry and provides icy cold storage for foods and beverages. 

The IceMule classic cooler is a sturdy, pliable soft-sided cooler bag with the capacity to hold 10 liters (6 cans) of liquid plus ice. Its lightweight, convenient backpack design leaves your hands free to load other items of kayaking gear. 

Although all of these kayak coolers offer top-grade, contemporary features and benefits, our favorite choice is the Engel. This 19-Quart Drybox cooler offers optimal quality durability and cooling features. It is also quite affordable and features an ergonomic design for excellent load weight balancing. 

Of course, your final purchasing decision is entirely your own. After considering the advantages of your own top brand, and models, we know you will make the best decision. You will choose the ideal kayak cooler to meet and even surpass your needs during your exciting kayaking adventures.  –  Happy travels! 

Ally Mash
Ally Mash
Ally is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent most of his free time backpacking through South America, Iceland, Vietnam, and Europe. He loves sharing his experience through blogging. His mission is to get more people in the mindset of protecting our planet by sharing its beauty.

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