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.
Quick Answer - The Best Kayak Coolers
- Icemule Pro
- Yeti Hopper Flip 12
- Yeti Hopper Flip 18
- Stanley Adventure Cooler
- Icemule Classic
- RTIC SoftPak 30
- AO Canvas Soft 36
- K2 Summit 20
- ENGEL USA Cooler / Dry Box
Comparison Table - Best Kayak Cooler
|Icemule Pro||Soft-sided||Roll Top||17.0 x 14.0 x 11.0 inches||$$||4.5|
|Yeti Hopper Flip 12||Soft-sided||Zipper||12.6 x 11.5 x 10.0 inches||$$$||4.6|
|Yeti Hopper Flip 18||Soft-sided||Zipper||15.6 x 12.6 x 10.2 inches||$$$||4.6|
|Stanley Adventure Cooler||Hard-sided||Latches||21.3 x 18.5 x 15.5 inches||$||4.6|
|Icemule Classic||Soft-sided||Roll Top||16.0 x 10.0 x 10.0 inches||$||4.3|
|RTIC SoftPak 30||Soft-sided Vinyl||Zipper||12.9 x 13.4 x 17.3 inches||$$||4.2|
|AO Canvas Soft 36||Soft-sided||Zipper||14.0 x 7.0 x 12.0 inches||$$||4.5|
|K2 Summit 20||Hard-sided||Latches||12.6 x 15.6 x 16.9 inches||$$||4.2|
|ENGEL USA Cooler / Dry Box||Hard-sided||Latches||13.0 x 11.0 x 16.6 inches||$||4.5|
Reviews - The Best Coolers for Kayaking
BEST FOR: PORTAGING
PROS: Backpack straps, doubles as dry bag, holds 18 cans plus ice, floats
CONS: Bulky shape
Yeti Hopper Flip 12
Yeti Hopper Flip 18
Stanley Adventure Cooler
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
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
RTIC SoftPak 30
BEST FOR: ALL-AROUND KAYAK FISHING
PROS: Sturdy construction, arm straps
CONS: Price, does not keep ice cold for 5 days as company claims
AO Canvas Soft 36
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
K2 Summit 20
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.