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Almost every (if not all) outdoor adventures can be improved by adding just one thing: cold beverages. For your next big kayaking trip, why not take a cooler that fits both your budget and kayak storage space? Whether you’re looking for a cooler bag, chest or insulated case to bring your catch home in, this guide to find the best kayak cooler will definitely be useful to your trip.

Here at The Adventure Junkies, we like to work hard and play hard, just like you. Our goal is to get as many people out into the great outdoors, whether it’s kayaking, climbing, skiing or simply floating down a lazy river through the mountains.

For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, check out the Best Dry Bags for Kayaking.

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Kayaking Gift Guide

 

Quick Answer - The Best Kayak Coolers

  1. Icemule Pro
  2. Yeti Hopper Flip 12
  3. Yeti Hopper Flip 18
  4. RTIC SoftPak 30
  5. Stanley Adventure Cooler
  6. Icemule Classic
  7. AO Canvas Soft 36
  8. IceMule Pro Catch
  9. K2 Summit 20
  10. ENGEL USA Cooler / Dry Box

 

Comparison Table - Best Kayak Cooler

PictureNameMaterialClosureSizePriceRating
Icemule ProSoft-sidedRoll Top17.0 x 14.0 x 11.0 inches$$4.5
Yeti Hopper Flip 12Soft-sidedZipper12.6 x 11.5 x 10.0 inches$$$4.6
Yeti Hopper Flip 18Soft-sidedZipper15.6 x 12.6 x 10.2 inches$$$4.6
RTIC SoftPak 30Soft-sided VinylZipper12.9 x 13.4 x 17.3 inches$$4.2
Stanley Adventure CoolerHard-sidedLatches21.3 x 18.5 x 15.5 inches$4.6
Icemule ClassicSoft-sidedRoll Top16.0 x 10.0 x 10.0 inches$4.3
AO Canvas Soft 36Soft-sidedZipper14.0 x 7.0 x 12.0 inches$$4.5
IceMule Pro CatchSoft-sidedRoll top42.0 x 24.0 inches$$3.6
K2 Summit 20Hard-sidedLatches12.6 x 15.6 x 16.9 inches$$4.2
ENGEL USA Cooler / Dry BoxHard-sidedLatches13.0 x 11.0 x 16.6 inches$4.5
PictureNameMaterialClosureSizePriceRating

Reviews - The Best Coolers for Kayaking

Icemule Pro

Specs
  • Closure: Roll Top
  • Material: Soft-sided
  • Size: 17.0 x 14.0 x 11.0 inches

BEST FOR: PORTAGING

PROS: Backpack straps, doubles as dry bag, holds 18 cans plus ice, floats

CONS: Bulky shape

Yeti Hopper Flip 12

Specs
  • Closure: Zipper
  • Material: Soft-sided
  • Size: 12.6 x 11.5 x 10.0 inches

BEST FOR: SHORT DAY TRIPS

PROS: ColdCell closed-cell rubber foam, flip-top opening, resistant to punctures, mildew, and UV, holds 12 cans

CONS: Price, does not fit long sub sandwiches

Yeti Hopper Flip 18

Specs
  • Closure: Zipper
  • Material: Soft-sided
  • Size: 15.6 x 12.6 x 10.2 inches

BEST FOR: WEEKEND EXPEDITIONS

PROS: ColdCell closed-cell rubber foam, double-stitched top handle, liner is made of FDA-approved food-grade material, resistant to to punctures, mildew and UV, holds 18 cans

CONS: Price, zipper somewhat difficult to open

RTIC SoftPak 30

Specs
  • Closure: Zipper
  • Material: Soft-sided Vinyl
  • Size: 12.9 x 13.4 x 17.3 inches

BEST FOR: ALL-AROUND KAYAK FISHING

PROS: Sturdy construction, arm straps

CONS: Price, does not keep ice cold for 5 days as company claims

Stanley Adventure Cooler

Specs
  • Closure: Latches
  • Material: Hard-sided
  • Size: 21.3 x 18.5 x 15.5 inches

BEST FOR: HARD-SIDED FISHING COOLER

PROS: Large enough to hold small – medium fish, sturdy latches and hinges, durable drain plug is leakproof, tall enough for longneck bottles and standard 2-liter bottles

CONS: Heavy at 13 lbs

Icemule Classic

Specs
  • Closure: Roll Top
  • Material: Soft-sided
  • Size: 16.0 x 10.0 x 10.0 inches

BEST FOR: BUDGET SOFT-SIDED VINYL/NYLON

PROS: PolarLayer insulation keeps ice up to 24 hrs., holds 12 cans plus ice, floats

CONS: Susceptible to rips and tears on sharp edges

AO Canvas Soft 36

Specs
  • Closure: Zipper
  • Material: Soft-sided
  • Size: 14.0 x 7.0 x 12.0 inches

BEST FOR: OVERNIGHT TRIPS

PROS: Guaranteed to hold ice for 24 hours in 120 degree weather, 36-can capacity, side pocket, closed-cell foam, leak-proof liner

CONS: Somewhat large, all available colors are dark

IceMule Pro Catch

Specs
  • Closure: Roll top
  • Material: Soft-sided
  • Size: 42.0 x 24.0 inches

BEST FOR: SOFT-SIDED FISHING COOLER

PROS: Keeps ice intact & catch fresh for 24+ hours, padded carrying strap, multiple tie-down clips and bungee webbing for gear/paddle

CONS: Specific to fish

K2 Summit 20

Specs
  • Closure: Latches
  • Material: Hard-sided
  • Size: 12.6 x 15.6 x 16.9 inches

BEST FOR: HARD-SIDED FISHING COOLER

PROS: Can be used to hold fish, one piece roto-molded polyethylene construction, 7 year warranty, padded shoulder strap,

CONS: Heavy at 14 lbs

ENGEL USA Cooler / Dry Box

Specs
  • Closure: Latches
  • Material: Hard-sided
  • Size: 13.0 x 11.0 x 16.6 inches

BEST FOR: BUDGET HARD-SIDED

PROS: 4 fishing rod holders, 1 year warranty, integrated shoulder strap, insulated with high-grade molded polystyrene foam, holds 19 quarts

CONS: Some users report ice doesn’t last long

 

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST KAYAK COOLERS

SIZE

The cooler you choose should be the right size to carry all of your necessary goods and still fit into your kayak storage compartment. Be sure to measure the storage compartment before purchasing.

 

MATERIAL

Coolers are either soft-sided or hard-sided. Both choices have benefits and drawbacks. Soft-sided coolers are flexible to pressures both inside and out but are also less durable.

They also don’t contain as much thermal mass as hard-sided coolers. Consider the size and shape of the area your new cooler will be sitting in when choosing between materials.

 

COLOR

We all know from elementary school that dark colors absorb the most heat. Look for a kayak cooler that is white or light-colored. Many coolers or bags will come in a gray or light gray color, which is a good compromise between staying cool and resisting stains.

 

PURPOSE

While many of us will be consumed with the thought of enjoying cold beers, sodas, fizzy waters and deli sandwiches while fishing, others are more interested in the enjoyment that will take place after returning home from the water.

Fish bags/coolers are specifically made to accommodate your catch(es) of the day. They are typically longer than they are all tall and sit in the storage area of your kayak, though some are very similarly shaped to cheap plastic cooler bags. Consider what type of cooler you need and want. It may be both!

 

CLOSURE

When it comes to bags of any kind, the closure can make or break the deal. Zippers are a great choice, unless they are of a very cheap quality. Latches are super secure and very durable. Choose a cooler closure that is secure and will not be annoying to use many times throughout the day.

READ MORE

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