5 Best Kayak Coolers and Buyer’s Guide [2020 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.

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.

Durability

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.

Insulating Properties

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.

Water Resistance

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.

Style

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. 

Value

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.

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(215 Reviews)

Features

Floating cooler - save space in your kayak

Two inches of insulation to keep ice for 48 hours

30 quart capacity - holds 20 lbs of ice

Watertight locking lid and o-ring for dry storage

CreekKooler Floating Kayak Cooler

CreekKooler Floating Kayak Cooler

Review

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.

Pros

  • Tow-able with low drag
  • Watertight
  • Doesn't take up room in your kayak

Cons

  • Can leak when lid is not put on correctly
  • Expensive

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(841 Reviews)

Features

Keeps ice cold and doubles as a dry box to store your valuables and electronics

Airtight EVA gasket + watertight latch

Integrated shoulder strap

Stainless steel latches that won't rust

Easy to clean non-absorbent surfaces

Engel Cooler/Dry Box

Engel Cooler/Dry Box

Review

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.

Pros

  • Heavy duty design
  • Stainless steel latches
  • Non-absorbent surfaces is good for fishing

Cons

  • Needs to be mounted to your kayak
  • Has some poor insulating properties

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(239 Reviews)

Features

Keeps ice for up to 24 hours even in 120 degree heat - twice as insulated as most coolers

Wrapped in 1000 denier vinyl

Tear resistant up to 375 pounds

UV protected so it doesn't fade

2 Year warranty

Bison Soft Cooler

Bison Soft Cooler

Review

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.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Can be stored inside kayak foot well
  • 2 year warranty

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Takes up room in your kayak

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(18 Reviews)

Features

Dual Layer insulation to keep ice for longer

Removable internal liner for ease to clean

Heat reflective vinyl exterior to deflect heat

Watertight welded seams

Available in 20" or 32" sizes

Attachment points for kayaks or SUPs

Seattle Sports Roll Cooler

Seattle Sports Roll Cooler

Review

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.

Pros

  • Low profile design
  • Flexible and adjustable

Cons

  • Zipper issues

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(7 Reviews)

Features

Easy access

Extra storage outside your kayak

Watertight - suitable for food, beverages, electronics, camping equipment, fish

Design cuts through the water and minimizes drag

Extreme Sport Outfitters Hydro Kaddy

Extreme Sport Outfitters Hydro Kaddy

Review

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.

Pros

  • Doesn't take up any room in your kayak
  • Durable hard case
  • Dry

Cons

  • Can add drag when full


If you have any feedback or recommendations of the kayak coolers of your own, then please leave a comment below.

Russ Egan
 

Russ is an avid angler. He has fished all over the world, primarily for Saltwater game fish but also for local prize fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.

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