5 Best Kayak Coolers and Buyer’s Guide [2021 Update]
If you are embarking on a multi day kayaking adventure, or even a kayaking fishing trip where you want to keep your catch, a kayak cooler is essential. Whether it is for transporting food or keeping your freshly caught fish cold, selecting the best cooler is important for the success of your trip.
There are many different types of kayak coolers available, from free floating designs or soft packs to hard mounted.
I have gone through 5 of my favorite as well as a list of the top 10 available on the market at the moment. I have also written a buyer’s guide to help you make the best decision and consider all of the key factors.
Table of Contents
- 1 Kayak Cooler Buyer’s Guide
- 2 1. CreekKooler Floating Cooler – 30 Qt
- 3 2. Engel Cooler/Drybox – 13 Qt
- 4 3. Bison Soft Cooler – 12 Cans
- 5 4. Seattle Sports Roll Catch Cooler – Removable Liner
- 6 5. Extreme Sports Outfitter Hydro Kaddy
Quick Summary – Best Kayak Cooler
- Best Overall: Engel Cooler/Drybox
- Best Floating: CreekKooler Floating Cooler
- Best Soft Pack: Bison Soft Cooler
- Best Roll Cooler: Seattle Sports Roll Catch Cooler
Kayak Cooler Buyer’s Guide
There are a variety of designs for a cooler for your kayak that you can pick from, and it really depends on your preferences – towed floating, internal liner, hard mounted, or soft pack.
The towed floating cooler is exactly as it sounds – a miniature kayak that is towed behind you on a rope. This is great as it does not take up any precious space within your vessel and it doesn’t cause any imbalance when it is fully loaded. The downside is that you can really only use it while kayaking – it isn’t the sort of thing you can take to your neighbors cookout.
The internal liner is a cooler specially designed for kayaks that can be forced into the leg wells. This is also great is it utilized the space that might otherwise be left empty. The downside is that it adds a lot of weight to your kayak.
A hard cooler is a common design that you could take on a picnic, except that it has been mounted to your kayak. This really depends on your type of kayak and can create a lot of imbalance if not attached to the centre of the vessel.
The final option is a soft pack cooler that can be stored in the footwell. These are normal smaller and can only fit a few cans of beverage or a few small fish. These are not suitable for an extended fishing trip or kayaking adventure.
Coolers are an expensive item so you don’t want it to be damaged easily. For a kayaking trip they should also be water resistant, so if they are made of a flimsy fabric that can tear and lost both their buoyancy, water resistance, and insulating properties is a recipe for disaster.
Pick a cooler that will last you a lifetime. Hard plastics are the most common, particularly molded plastics.
The number 1 most important factor when selecting a cooler is its insulating properties. The very best coolers can keep ice for many days in a row. For a multi day kayaking trip this is important to keep your food fresh and keep your fish for the return journey.
Most reputable brands will state how long they can keep ice without melting. Keep in mind the more times you open your cooler and let out the cold air the shorter this becomes. Having a cooler that lasts longer than you require is a wise decision.
It is inevitable that at some point in your journey, maybe not this particular trip, that you will capsize or drop your cooler into the water at the river bank. Ensuring that it is water resistance or water proof can be the difference between a full belly and an empty one.
A lot of a kayak specific coolers are designed to be completely water proof and even float. Just make sure that you don’t get a non-water resistant cooler to fit in your kayak only to find out at the worst possible time.
Of course design is important. Picking something that appeals to you aesthetically matters. There are a huge number of different colors, styles, and shapes available. There are coolers with extra straps, no straps, colored lids, zips, velcro and rubber.
A large cooler is a big investment and something you want to get right. This is a piece of equipment that will last for years, so make sure you do not get a dodgy, low quality product.
You need to make sure that you food and drinks will last for multiple days if you are doing a longer trip, and investing in a high quality cooler is critical to making that happen.
- 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. 30 quart capacity holds (30) 12-oz cans and 20lbs of ice.
- TOWABLE - Tow the CreekKooler behind small watercrafts, float in the water or drag across dry ground.
The CreekKooler is one of m favorite kayak specific cooler designs. It is a tow along design which means that you don’t have to fit a large cooler into your already limited space.
It has a good design for towing but when it is full of food (or fish!) then it can really apply some drag and result in a lot of extra paddling.
The cooler is watertight so there is no risk of leakage into your cooler and spoiling your food.
It also holds 30 qts so you can fit quite a lot of food and ice.
- Tow-able with low drag
- Doesn’t take up room in your kayak
- Can leak when lid is not put on correctly
- Keeps food and drinks cold and doubles as a dry box - keeping out moisture and/or dust from your valuable electronics, emergency kits and cameras.
- Features a unique airtight EVA gasket around the lid - for excellent ice retention and a water proof seal.
- Features a recessed central carry handle in the lid & integrated adjustable shoulder strap. Also includes a removable hanging tray - for storing dry goods.
Engel is a renowned brand for coolers. This dry box is particularly good if you are taking it on the river so you don’t have any concerns about it going overboard. It has a hard case so it does take up a lot of room.
At only 13 qts this doesn’t fit a lot of fish, but its advantage is that you can also use it at your neighbors cookout.
All the fittings and latches are stainless steel so you will not see any corrosion if you are spending time in saltwater.
- Heavy duty design
- Stainless steel latches
- Non-absorbent surfaces is good for fishing
- Needs to be mounted to your kayak
- Has some poor insulating properties
- ✅ PREMIUM COOLING: Keeps ice for up to 24 hours in 120-degree heat. With nearly an inch of insulation, this beverage cooler keeps your drinks frosty cold. Twice as insulated as most coolers.
- ✅ HEAVY DUTY DURABILITY: Wrapped in a heavy duty 1000 denier vinyl shell, it’s stronger than other soft-sided coolers, tear resistant up to 375 pounds, and UV protected to ensure it doesn’t...
- ✅30 DAY TRIAL & 2-YEAR WARRANTY: All Bison Soft Coolers products come with an industry leading 2-year warranty and 30-day trial. If you don’t love Bison Coolers, send it back and you’ll receive...
The Bison Soft Cooler’s advantage is its flexibility. Its soft case means you can force it into small foot wells or nooks and cranny that a hard case cooler would never fit.
It claims to be able to keep ice for 24 hours which is on the shorter side when compared to some of the more expensive coolers.
It is very versatile and you can use it in many other social settings as well, not just kayaking or fishing.
I really like the 2 year warranty, as you never know what is going to happen when taking it into the wilderness.
- Can be stored inside kayak foot well
- 2 year warranty
- Not waterproof
- Takes up room in your kayak
- KEEP YOUR CATCH FRESH - Dual Layer Insulation Allows You to Keep Your Catch Fresh During a Day on the Water
- EASY TO CLEAN - 3 Roll Closure and Removable Dual Layer Internal Liner for Easy Cleaning
- EFFICIENT - Heat Reflective Vinyl Exterior and RF Welded Seams Keeps Your Goods Cool
This Seattle Sports roll cooler’s advantage is that you can manipulate it to fit anywhere you can – even on top of your kayak.
It is easy to clean if you are going to fill it full of fresh fish with a removable internal liner.
It can also be manipulated into a low profile design so you can really minimize the drag it applies to your kayak.
- Low profile design
- Flexible and adjustable
- Zipper issues
- Extra storage for your paddling adventure
- Keeps personal items dry and safe- yet convenient- while you are on the water. For example, coolers, food, beverages, smartphones, tablets, jewelry, car keys, medication, first aid kits, sleeping bag,...
- Easy access design to keep everything at your fingertips
The Extreme Sport Outfitters cooler is another tow along design. The kayaking shape of it means that it minimizes drag applied, although when it is full it will still sit long in the water.
I really like this type of design as it doesn’t take up all of your internal space which is already limited. It gives you additional space which is valuable for long kayaking adventures.
It also has a hard case which won’t get damaged if it hits any rocks or logs in the water.
- Doesn’t take up any room in your kayak
- Durable hard case
- Can add drag when full
Going on a big kayaking adventure is a brilliant way to spend a weekend or even a week! But you need to have the right equipment to make sure you are well fed for the entire trip. Paddling makes you hungry.
If you have any feedback or recommendations of the kayak coolers of your own, then please leave a comment below.