A successful journalist and news reporter in the past, George is now focused on freelance work to be able to dedicate more time to the most important things in his life: family, friends, his dogs, and fishing.
John is an avid traveler, hiker, and RVer. Moreover, it seems like he knows everything when it comes to fishing and hunting: his father started sharing all the tips and tricks he knew when John was a kid. No wonder we trust his opinion every time a new article is being created.
Last updated: February 11, 2021
Outdoorsly is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
There’s nothing that better completes an escape kayaking onto an open lake than having a cold beverage in your hand. By purchasing the best kayak cooler for your adventures, you’ll be able to spend countless hours paddling away with snacks and drinks by your side. Not to mention that kayak coolers are also a popular option for those who want to dabble into fishing as well. Whether you are looking to stash away food and drinks for your expedition or are trying to keep fish fresh on a hot summer day, we have compiled a list of the best kayak coolers on the market to help you choose the one that completes your boat.
Just like with any other piece of equipment in your kayaking arsenal, buying a kayak cooler requires lots of attention to detail. Some of the most important things to take into account when shopping around for the best kayak cooler include capacity, dimensions, and weight. We have found that the K2 Coolers Summit 20 Cooler, our editor’s choice, fulfills the needs of just about any kayaking enthusiast, but you may prefer something with a more budget-friendly price tag.
We spent days researching and reading reviews for the best kayak coolers on the market and came up with a list of seven models that we believe offer the best possible quality out there. Below you will find a comparison table that outlines the specifications of the seven models that made it to our top, as well as in-detail reviews of each of the kayak coolers in the table. Finally, you will also find a buying guide that contains valuable information to help you make the right choice and buy the best kayak cooler for your needs.
Our editor’s choice, the K2 Coolers Summit 20 Cooler is manufactured by a smaller company that has managed to produce a cooler that offers up to eight days of ice life for those multi-day expeditions. This is a cooler that is built to last and is constructed using a rotational molding process. This means that low-pressure application at high temperatures results in a single piece of polyurethane. Unlike many of the models available on the market, this cooler does not have multiple pieces of plastic combined together, which means that it is less prone to breaking, while also being able to keep the ice for longer.
With typical use, you can expect to get 6 to 8 days of ice life, which is more than enough for most expeditions. The cooler features an ICEVAULT™ Gasket, which is a seal between the base and the lid, and perhaps the most important component in a kayak cooler. The gasket of the K2 cooler is made from a flexible, thick rubber that provides a seal that is similar to that of a regular refrigerator. What many reviewers liked about this cooler is the fact that small cuts or scrapes in the gasket don’t allow air to escape easily.
The K2 Coolers Summit 20 Cooler also comes with a selection of convenient accessories that make it very user-friendly. These include a drain plug for quick and efficient drainage, rope handles so you can easily carry the cooler around, and the K2 patented HOLDtight™ Anchoring Points, which allow you to secure and protect your cooler on your kayak.
The CreekKooler Outdoor Insulated Floating Cooler has a watertight locking lid so you can always be sure your drinks and food are safe and dry. It also features foam insulation that will keep your drinks ice cold for hours. We particularly liked this cooler because it works just as well on dry land while being easily towable and floating well on water.
This kayak cooler has a quick connect lid with a gasket that allows you easy access to your drinks. Users who tested and reviewed the CreekKooler Outdoor Insulated Floating Cooler were thrilled about the way it performed on windy days. Many of them mentioned that the cooler did not flip even when tested in touch waters.
The CreekKooler Outdoor Insulated Floating Cooler is available in multiple colors and its design makes it ideal for kayaking or rafting. You can expect it to hold up to 30 cans and a lot of ice. The cooler comes complete with four drink holders and we have found that it holds ice very well, being able to stop it from melting even when you place the cooler in direct sunlight. Because the lid is tight locking, this cooler is not particularly ideal for pool parties but is a very good choice for those who are looking for a cooler that performs well on water and land alike.
Available in 13, 19 and 30 quarts, the Engel Cooler/Dry Box does a great job keeping items hot, cold, and dry no matter the temperature outside. The cooler comes with special non-absorbent surfaces that block out stains and odors, something the users particularly liked because they were able to use the cooler to transport food that may otherwise leave an unpleasant smell.
The EVA foam gasket is truly airtight and watertight and replaces a traditional rubber gasket. This means that the foam expands when you close the lid, which results in an extremely tight seal that keeps out all air. The tough polystyrene core of the Engel Cooler/Dry Box offers unique insulation and is something that you very rarely find on these types of coolers. This is an extremely tough material that has a different feel and look, while also being perfectly suited for a dry box. You will also notice that the wall thickness of this cooler is a lot lower than many of the other models available on the market, but this does not affect its performance. Instead, it comes with the advantage of reduced weight.
The Engel Cooler/Dry Box comes complete with a recessed overhead carrying handle and several accessories including rod holders that you can mount on the side of the cooler for your fishing rods. The cooler is available in multiple color options and comes with a five-year warranty.
The IceMule Classic Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag is a cost-effective solution for those who don’t mind having a bag instead of a regular cooler in their kayak. Available in multiple colors to suit the design of your kayak, this bag also comes in three different sizes large enough to hold approximately 6, 12, and 18 cans respectively. It uses a proprietary IceMule cooling technology to keep your drinks cold all day long even when you’re paddling in full sun.
Users who reviewed the IceMule Classic Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag liked that the bag is very easy to carry, featuring an ergonomic design while being lightweight at the same time. This is a bag that fits easily into your car and that you can use for multiple activities, not just kayaking. For example, it works well for tracking across the country or on the golf course.
The IceMule Classic Insulated Backpack Cooler Bag collapses down, which means that the end of the day you can carry it easily back to the car. According to users, and the materials the bag is constructed from are very high quality and the bag is bound to last for years.
What makes this cooler bag a very good choice for kayaking is the fact that it has a waterproof welded seam, so you don’t have to worry about water getting into it even when you’re paddling in rough waters.
The perfect choice for kayak enthusiasts who are also looking to do a bit fishing, the Seattle Sports Roll Catch Cooler is a versatile cooler that allows you to keep your catch fresh until you get home. The three-roll closure makes it easy to put you catch in and take it out, and the dual internal liner is easy to clean.
The Seattle Sports Roll Catch Cooler has a heath-reflective vinyl exterior to keep your good cool. The RF welded seams make the cooler waterproof and you don’t have to worry about water getting inside while you’re paddling even in rougher waters. Thanks to the multiple attachment points, you can easily attach this cooler to your boat.
Some of the users who tested this cooler mentioned that it feels a bit stiff, but that it does a great job keeping anything you put inside ice cold. The cooler also got praised because it doesn’t leak, and the bag has a very wide opening, so you don’t have to struggle to get your fish other items in and out.
The Seattle Sports Roll Catch Cooler only weighs 1.8 lbs., so it is lightweight enough not to feel it when you’re carrying your equipment. The cooler is made in the USA and has a low-profile design to suit just about any kind of fishing kayak.
This water and stain resistant cooler is a suitable option for those who are looking for a cooler they can use not only for kayaking, but for other types of outdoor activities as well. Featuring a lid that seals without a zipper, this cooler has a removable divider shelf inside, so you can put sandwiches or fruit on top and soda on the bottom. Moreover, it comes with two side pockets, an insulated front pocket and a padded adjustable shoulder strap that makes it very comfortable to carry.
The cooler is available in multiple sizes and dimensions, with capacities ranging from 9 to 48 cans. It features extra D-rings for personal accessories and keys and a smaller pocket on the front pocket that’s very convenient for personal belongings.
The advantage of having a zipper-free design is that it creates a better seal and allows for quicker access to your cooler contents. Many of the users who tested this cooler liked that the cooler is very well-built and durable, offering excellent quality for a model with its price tag. The Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Zipperless Hardbody Cooler is available in three different colors.
The Igloo-HLC 24 Marine Soft Sided Cooler is our budget pick because it offers a good blend of quality and value for money. This lightweight cooler comes with a 24-quart capacity and features a MaxCold® insulation that keeps drinks and food cool for longer. Reviewers liked the removable, hard plastic liner of this cooler that is easy to clean and doesn’t retain odors.
The top hatch of this cooler allows for easy access, and the compact size makes it perfect for both boating and storage. The inside liner is leak-resistant and antimicrobial, while the hardware is non-corrosive and has multiple attachment points.
Besides kayaking, you can use the Igloo-HLC 24 Marine Soft Sided Coolerfor multiple other things, including as a lunch box or for festivals, tailgating, picnics and more. Some users mentioned that the cooler is missing a handle that would have made it more ergonomic. Other reviewers appreciated the clean and simplistic design of the cooler, and the fact that it keeps ice cubes frozen for hours.
The total capacity of the Igloo-HLC 24 Marine Soft Sided Cooler is 24 quarts, which is more than enough for 24 cans. The exterior has UV protection, and the front zipper pocket keeps all your small items secure and handy.
What we liked:
UV protected exterior
What could be better:
Things to Consider
When you’re getting ready to spend a day on the water, you need to take some snacks and drinks with you to conserve your energy. With a kayak cooler, you can keep all your favorite snacks and beverages ice-cold no matter how long your adventure is. Below you will find a comprehensive buying guide with all the information you need to make a good choice.
Why it’s worth investing in a kayak cooler
Kayak coolers are specifically designed to pack on your boat and most if not all of them are waterproof, so your sandwiches and drinks won’t go soggy. With a kayak cooler, you can take everything you need with you and enjoy an entire day paddling. Moreover, many models are also suitable for other types of outdoor activities, so you get a versatile item that you can use many times in different situations.
Features to consider when choosing a cooler for your kayak or canoe
Some of the essential features to consider when buying a cooler for your kayak or canoe include the type of cooler, its capacity, as well as the material it is made from. You should also make sure it has all the accessories you need, for example for your fishing rods. The weight and dimensions of the kayak are also important because they will determine whether you can fit the cooler on your boat.
Manufacturers often list the capacity of a cooler in quarts, but you may want to look at how many cans it can hold. Consider what you intend to fit into the cooler, as some people want to be able to carry a mix of food and drinks. Those looking for a cooler they can use for fishing to bring home the catch safely may want to look at a cooler specifically designed for that, such as the Seattle Sports Roll Catch Cooler.
What is it made from?
Make sure the kayak cooler you choose is made from waterproof materials and if it has a lining, it should be odor repellent and easy to clean. UV protection is often available for the exterior of the cooler, and you should also make sure the overall construction is solid and durable.
Coolers may be soft or hard, and there are pros and cons to choosing either of those styles. Soft coolers are generally made from cloth materials that are insulated and laminated, and they are perfect for users who look for a flexible cooler that can fit in a variety of spaces. They are also lightweight but may be less durable than their hard-shell counterparts. Hard coolers, on the other hand, are made from plastic or rubber materials and they do a better job at protecting the stuff you place inside them.
Lining and insulation
Lining and insulation are very important because they determine the length of time the contents will remain cool for. You can choose models that keep your drinks cool for a day, and others that are only suitable for a couple of hours on the water.
Check the lining as well to make sure its anti-microbial and anti-mold. You should also check to see if you can easily remove the lining to clean.
If you want o put fish into your coolers, you should also make sure that it doesn’t leak. Some models come with a drain plug, but you need to take into account the fact that this may require extra maintenance.
Dimensions and weight
Choosing the right dimensions for a kayak cooler is never easy, but in general, the answer depends on your kayak size, the kind of usage you intend to have, as well as your personal preferences. First, think about how long your tris are going to be, as an overnight cooler may need to be larger. Make sure the cooler you purchase has enough storage compartments to suit your preferences.
Many kayak coolers come with extra features, such as rod holders for those fishing trips and drink holders for your convenience on the water. Some models have extra pockets that you can use for your personal belongings. To attach the cooler to the kayak, you may need straps, especially when it comes to hard coolers, so make sure they are provided.
This depends on the model — you can expect most coolers to keep your drinks and snacks cool for an entire day, but you can also get models that will keep everything cool for over a week. An example of the latter is our editor’s choice, the K2 Coolers Summit 20 Cooler.
Yes, they can keep things warm, particularly if you opt for a bag-type cooler. The bags are not quite coolers, because they don’t have ice inside, but have insulating properties instead so you they regulate temperatures, keeping drinks and food either cold or warm.
Kayak coolers are the perfect solution to enjoy ice-cold drinks as you paddle away on a hot summer day. With so many models available on the market, it may be difficult to find the best kayak cooler for your needs. We have found that the K2 Coolers Summit 20 Cooler, our editor’s choice, has an outstanding ice life so you can rely on it during multi-day kayaking adventures. If you want a smaller cooler that you can also use on land, the CreekKooler Outdoor Insulated Floating Cooler brings on all the insulation you need to keep all your cans ice cold all day long. Finally, those looking for a cooler that does its job perfectly while also being lightweight, the Engel Cooler/Dry Box is an excellent solution. No matter what kind of kayak you decide to go for, it’s essential to consider how many cans or snacks you want to take with you as well as the amount of time you intend to spend kayaking so that you always have a cold drink at hand to quench your thirst.