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.

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QUICK ANSWER – THE BEST KAYAK COOLERS

1. YETI HOPPER FLIP 12 

2. YETI HOPPER FLIP 18 

3. RTIC SOFTPAC 20 

4. ICEMULE PRO

5. AO CANVAS SOFT 36 

6. ICEMULE PRO CATCH 

7. K2 SUMMIT 20 

8. STANLEY ADVENTURE COOLER

9. ICEMULE CLASSIC

10. ENGEL USA 

 

 

 

COMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST KAYAK COOLERS

PICTURE
KAYAK COOLERS
BEST USE
MATERIAL
CLOSURE
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
KAYAK COOLERS
BEST USE
MATERIAL
CLOSURE
PRICE
RATING
RTIC SoftPak 30
Overall
Soft-sided
Zipper
$$
4.2
Icemule Pro
Overall
Soft-sided
Roll top
$$
4.5
Yeti Hopper Flip 12
Overall
Soft-sided
Zipper
$$$
4.6
Yeti Hopper Flip 18
Soft Cooler
Soft-sided
Zipper
$$$
4.6
AO Canvas Soft 36
Soft Cooler
Soft-sided
Zipper
$$
4.5
IceMule Pro Catch
Fish Cooler
Soft-sided
Roll top
$$
3.6
K2 Summit 20
Fish Cooler
Hard-sided
Latches
$$
4.2
Stanley Adventure Cooler
Fish Cooler
Hard-sided
Latches
$
4.6
Icemule Classic
Budget
Soft-sided
Roll top
$
4.3
ENGEL USA Cooler / Dry Box
Budget
Hard-sided
Latches
$
4.5

 

 

KAYAK COOLERS REVIEWS

YETI HOPPER FLIP 12

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Short day trips

SIZE: 12.6 x 11.5 x 10.0 inches (32.0 x 29.2 x 25.4 cm)

MATERIAL: Soft-sided waterproof DryHide™ shell

COLOR: Gray or tan

PURPOSE: Drinks and food

CLOSURE: HydroLok™ Zipper

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

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Weekend expeditions

SIZE: 15.6 x 12.6 x 10.2 inches (39.6 x 32.0 x 25.9 cm)

MATERIAL: Soft-sided waterproof DryHide™ shell

COLOR: Gray or tan

PURPOSE: Drinks and food

CLOSURE: HydroLok™ Zipper

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

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: All-around kayak fishing

SIZE: 12.9 x 13.4 x 17.3 inches (32.7 x 34.0 x 43.9 cm)

MATERIAL: Soft-sided vinyl

COLOR: Gray

PURPOSE: Drinks and food

CLOSURE: Zipper

PROS: Sturdy construction, arm straps

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

 

 

 

ICEMULE PRO

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Portaging

SIZE: 17.0 x 14.0 x 11.0 inches (43.1 x 35.6 x 27.9 cm)

MATERIAL: Soft-sided 1,000-denier ripstop outer layer

COLOR: Gray or green

PURPOSE: Drinks and food

CLOSURE: TriFold DriTop

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

CONS: Bulky shape

 

 

 

AO CANVAS SOFT 36

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Overnight trips

SIZE: 14.0 x 7.0 x 12.0 inches (35.6 x 17.8 x 30.5 cm)

MATERIAL: Soft-sided polyester

COLOR: Black, Charcoal, Mossy Oak, Navy, Red, Royal Blue

PURPOSE: Drinks and food

CLOSURE: Zipper

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

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST FOR: Soft-sided fishing cooler

SIZE: 42.0 x 24.0 inches (106.7 x 60.7 cm)

MATERIAL: Soft-sided 1000 denier outer

COLOR: Gray

PURPOSE: Drinks and food

CLOSURE: Roll top

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

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Hard-sided fishing cooler

SIZE: 12.6 x 15.6 x 16.9 inches (32.0 x 39.6 x 42.9 cm)

MATERIAL: Hard-sided polyethylene

COLOR: Gray, green, white

PURPOSE: Drinks and food, fish

CLOSURE: POSITRAC lid latches

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

CONS: Heavy at 14 lbs

 

 

 

STANLEY ADVENTURE COOLER

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Hard-sided fishing cooler

SIZE: 21.3 x 18.5 x 15.5 inches (54.1 x 45.7 x 39.4 cm)

MATERIAL: Hard-sided polypropylene

COLOR: Green

PURPOSE: Drinks and food

CLOSURE: Latches

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

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Budget soft-sided vinyl/nylon

SIZE: 16.0 x 10.0 x 10.0 inches (40.6 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm)

MATERIAL: Soft-sided waterproof vinyl/nylon

COLOR: Green or blue

PURPOSE: Drinks and food

CLOSURE: TriFold DriTop

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

CONS: Susceptible to rips and tears on sharp edges

 

 

 

ENGEL USA COOLER / DRY BOX

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Budget hard-sided

SIZE: 13.0 x 11.0 x 16.6 inches (33.0 x 27.9 x 42.2 cm)

MATERIAL: Hard-sided PP Copolymer

COLOR: White or tan

PURPOSE: Drinks and food, fish

CLOSURE: Latches

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

 

 

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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.

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