We love long days out kayaking in the sun, but there’s nothing worse than swigging a hot or lukewarm drink in 90+ degree heat. It’s moments like this you wish you had a drinks cooler for your kayak to keep ice and everything cold and refreshing.
Whether you’re just looking to keep some beers on ice or even keep the fish you just caught fresh to cook later that evening, having a kayak cooler dry box to keep your food and drinks fresh can come in handy out on the water.
In this post, we’ll walk you through some of the best kayak coolers for keeping your supplies ice-cold throughout even multi-day trips.
How to Choose A Kayak Cooler: A Guide For Buyers
Before you read some of our top-rated kayak cooler reviews to use when kayaking, we’ll walk you through some of the questions and options that you’ll have to choose from.
We’ll look at the different types of cooler, some of the unique features certain models have as well as other factors that could affect which one will be best suited for you.
Different Types of Kayak Coolers
When it comes to keeping things cold while out on a paddle, you have a few different options.
The first type of cooler is an ice chest. These are the stereotypical cooler dry box that you’ll often see at picnics or beach trips.
They are hard-shelled which has a number of benefits. The first is that they are a lot more durable. The hard materials that they’re made of mean they can take more of a bashing while also protecting whatever you have stored inside. It also means they will typically have very good insulation, keeping their contents cold for longer. A lot of sit-on-top kayaks will have a designated spot built for storing an ice chest cooler, too, which is another benefit.
However, there are a few downsides, the main one being size. Ice chests are usually quite large, so there’s not always room for them. Their large size also means more weight. This can get annoying if you’re having to carry it, and it will also slow you down.
The second type we’ll look at is a kayak cooler bag. These are the lightweight counterpart of an ice chest that is made with a soft shell exterior.
They have a number of advantages the first of which is that they are a lot easier to carry. Some models come as backpacks or with an easy-to-carry padded shoulder strap meaning they’re very portable. The fact that they’re made out of softer materials also means they don’t weigh as much as ice chests. They will typically have more compartments than an ice chest too with zippered pockets to store other items and have good ice retention.
The last type is a towable cooler. As the name suggests these are coolers that you attach to the rear of your kayak and tow along behind you.
These are best for those of you who don’t have much room onboard your kayak. This way you can take all the supplies you need without giving up any space. Plus, they also have the added benefit of being cooled by the water keeping their contents cooler for even longer.
These days, kayak coolers are more and more advanced when it comes to the materials they’re made out of. The softshell coolers are made from a number of different materials like molded polystyrene foam and rubber that are used for their strong, durable qualities but also their insulating properties.
A big consideration when it comes to choosing your kayak cooler is its capacity. Coolers come in a number of different sizes and are able to store very different amounts of items.
Before you purchase your kayak cooler, have a think about how you’re going to use it. Will you be using it to keep your lunch and a few drinks cool on your own? If that’s the case you’ll be fine with a smaller cooler.
Perhaps you’ll be going on weekend-long kayak camping trips, in which case you’ll need a cooler with a lot larger capacity. Or maybe you’re looking for a kayak cooler to keep your catch on ice on your next fishing trip. If that’s the case then you’ll want to look for one that’s designed to hold fish and ice.
As we covered briefly earlier in this article, how much space you have to store your cooler on your kayak will determine which one might be best suited for you. If you have a very narrow kayak with not much space on board, you’ll probably be going for a soft case or towable. But, if you’re getting a larger one with lots of extra space then an ice chest won’t be a problem to take aboard.
A key feature of kayak coolers has to be that they are waterproof. It’s almost inevitable that your kayak cooler is going to get wet whether that be from waves or splashes from your paddle. All the coolers we’ve listed below are waterproof but ensure whichever one you choose that it’s not going to ruin its contents if it gets wet.
Maintaining Their Temperature
The last, but by no means least feature to look for is how long good the cooler bag is at keeping its temperature. If it doesn’t stay cold then it’s not worth it.
Of course, not even the best cooler bags will stay cold forever but make sure you read the reviews to see how long other customers report that it stays cold for.
The Best Rated Kayak Cooler Reviews
Now that we’ve looked at some of the important features to consider when buying a cooler, let’s take a look at our reviews of some of the best-rated kayak coolers on the market.
#1. YETI Hopper Flip Portable Cooler
- The Hopper Flip 12 has ColdCell Insulation, a closed-cell foam that offers superior cold-holding to ordinary soft coolers, with a…
- Features a 100% leakproof HydroLok Zipper and high-density fabric that withstands punctures and UV rays
- Its DryHide Shell is waterproof and resistant to punctures, and abrasions so it will hold its own when faced with the hazards of…
If you’re looking for the best cooler for kayaking then you have to check out the Yeti Hopper Flip portable cooler. YETI are one of the best known brands when it comes to high quality coolers. The Hopper Flip is a completely waterproof, high density fabric that’s also resistant to mildew, punctures and even the sun’s UV rays so it won’t fade over time.
We love the look and design that not only looks great but is really practical and easy to carry with a strong and padded shoulder strap. The interior is kept cool by the closed-cell rubber foam that definitely excels compared to other soft-sided kayak cooler bags we looked at.
It comes in a few different sizes from the Hopper Flip 8 which can hold around standard 8 cans and ice, the Hopper Flip 12 (which can hold around 12 cans), and the Hopper Flip 18 (18 cans) so no matter how much you plan to take with you you’ll find one to suit your needs. The only downside is the price which is a little more than the others but well worth it in our opinion.
#2. YETI Hopper Backflip Backpack Cooler
A great alternative to the Hopper Flip is the YETI Hopper Backflip which is the backpack version. It has all the same features as the regular model like the durable fabric, cold-cell insulation technology, water, and leak-proof zip plus a sleek design but adapts it to be a backpack that’s more convenient to carry.
It utilizes a slight design change to distribute the weight to suit being carried on the back and features ergonomic shoulder straps to ensure comfort plus it has a waist strap to keep it stable. A great option for kayakers who don’t necessarily have spare hands free when carrying their kayak to the launch spot.
#3. IceMule Classic Insulated Backpack Cooler
- RUGGED AND VERSATILE – From our proprietary MuleSkin fabrics and the game-changing IM AirValve, to the welded seams and backpack...
- 24+ HOURS OF COOLING – Ultra-tough Muleskin Exterior and Interior plus PolarLayer Insulation ensures strength and superior ice...
- HANDS FREE COOLER – This lightweight, backpack-style cooler has a padded and ventilated sling strap that leaves both your arms...
Sticking with the convenient kayak backpack cooler theme, we have the IceMule Classic, an inexpensive and portable cooler bag ideal for days out on the water. As you’d expect, it’s completely waterproof being designed with no zip, it even floats so is a perfect choice for paddlers.
It’s available in multiple sizes: 10L, 15L, and 20L, so if you plan on taking more with you they’ve got you covered. IceMule coolers are designed with great insulation in mind, and they claim to be the coldest coolers in the world, keeping ice solid for over 24 hours.
#4. Seattle Sports Catch Cooler for Fishing
- KEEP YOUR CATCH FRESH - Deck Top Cooler Allows You to Keep Your Catch Fresh During a Day on the Water
- EASY TO CLEAN - Removable Internal Liner for Easy Cleaning
- EFFICIENT - Heat Reflective Body and Closed Cell Foam Insulation Keeps Your Goods Cool
If you are an angler and looking for a soft cooler to keep ice and your catch cooler fresh on your way home, then check out this cooler bag from Seattle Sports. It’s specifically designed to keep fish cold and can hold up to 18L, but it is also fine to keep food and drinks in for those long days of paddling.
The main reason we like it is that it has a removable internal section that the fish go in, which is incredibly easy to clean. Pop some ice in, and it’ll stay cool for hours with its heat-reflective exterior and foam closed cell insulation.
#5. CreekKooler Floating Cooler
- FLOATING COOLER - Save space in your small watercraft and tow the CreekKooler.
- INSULATED DESIGN - Two inches of insulation is injected into the hull and deck, giving CreekKooler an ice retention of 48 hours....
- TOWABLE - Tow the CreekKooler behind small watercrafts, float in the water or drag across dry ground.
Last but by no means least is this floating kayak cooler from CreekKooler. If you don’t have much space on board, then this one could be the answer as you tie it behind your kayak, and it floats behind you. It is very well insulated, plus the water keeps it even cooler. It has a big 30 qt capacity or the equivalent of 30 12oz cans with 20lbs of ice.
Depending on your preference, it’s available in five different colors, and we also like that it has four cup holders, so when you stop for a dip in the water, you can just grab your drinks without having to open it up. Completely watertight and even has a flag holder to display stars and stripes proudly.
#6. The YETI Tundra 110 Hard Cooler
- The YETI Tundra 110 was designed specifically with the rafting community in mind, it’s sized to fit all major raft frames…
- Ice stays ice thanks to up to 3 inches of PermaFrost Insulation and an extra thick FatWall design is certified Bear-Resistant
- The Rotomolded Construction makes the Tundra armored to the core and virtually indestructible so wherever you decide to take it,…
The last cooler that we’ll look at in this post is the YETI Tundra 110 Hard Cooler. If you’re looking for one of the best coolers and need a big one to store a lot of stuff, then this is the one for you. It can hold a massive 74 cans of beer, so it is perfect for a larger outing with friends and family or a long weekend camping and paddling trip.
It’s great at keeping its contents cold due to the 3″ PermaFrost insulation to ensure ice stays ice. The outer shell is one of the most durable coolers we’ve come across with Rotomolded polyethylene construction, which is the same material used to make whitewater kayaks. It’s even certified to be Bear Resistant!
Conclusion: Which one Should you get?
We hope that’s helped to break down some of the features you need to look out for when purchasing a cooler for your next kayaking trip. As we mentioned, which one is best for you will depend on what you’re going to be using it for.
If in doubt, though, we’d highly recommend the YETI Hopper Flip Soft Case Cooler. The durable build quality, fantastic temperature control, sleek design, and amazing reviews all point to it being one of, if not the best, kayak cooler on the market today. We highly recommend it. For more information and to get the best price click the button below.