Best Kayak Coolers
Let’s face it, nobody likes a sweaty sandwich.
And how many times have you downed an entire bottle of water on a blistering hot day, only to realize that it’s warm and nowhere nearly as satisfying or thirst quenching as cool, chilled water (or beer, whatever floats your…kayak)?
Top Choices: Kayak Coolers
(links take you over to the coolers on Amazon - more on each below)
Well, the good news is there are plenty of kayak coolers on the market for all your cooling needs. Whether it’s to store the fish you’ve caught, or to chill those couple of beers you wanted to enjoy on the water, we’ve tracked down the best coolers for kayaking.
Why Use a Cooler When Kayaking?
Whether you are out fishing, on a multi-day outing or just fancy a picnic, a good cooler can make the difference between slumming it and luxury. Particularly if you are fishing, a cooler can keep your catch fresh for as long as you’re on the water (and for the car ride home) so you can thoroughly enjoy the fruits of your labour.
It will also ensure that you are not accompanied by the pesky smell of rotting fish which is always a bonus (for you and everyone around you). Smelling your catch rapidly become inedible is no fun.
If you aren’t fishing, coolers are also great for keeping food and drink nice and fresh until you are ready for a little break from paddling. A nice cold beer on the water is the stuff of dreams. A warm beer on the other hand… doesn’t even bear thinking about!
On a more sensible note, coolers are also important for storing water. If you’re out for several hours in the heat, you will need to keep hydrated. Taking plenty of water with you is key and a cooler will ensure that it’s kept at a temperature that will both quench your thirst and help cool you down.
Video: Keeping Your Catch Fresh
Types of Coolers For Kayaks
There are several types of coolers available on the market. They all have various features aimed at different needs and usages, but on the whole they can be separated into two categories - bags and boxes.
The bags in general can more versatile. Some adjust in size depending on the load you need to carry on each particular outing. If you’re only planning to be on the water for a couple of hours and want somewhere to store your water and a couple of sandwiches, you can shrink a lot of the bags right down. If you’re planning to go for a whole day and want to take several bottles of water, some lunch and a few beers - you can extend the bags to fit. These types of bags are also easy to pack away.
Other bags can be worn as backpacks which is perfect if you’re kayaking to a beach and planning to go on a little hike afterwards. Depending on your needs, bags could be the better value for money as you can use them for multiple activities, not just kayaking.
The boxes, by definition, are more robust and rigid. Ideal for storing fish (or several drinks), they are better for your heavy duty storage needs. If you’re going on a multi-day fishing trip and/or likely to be camping - a box might be the better option for you. That being said, both bags and boxes come with various features for individual needs.
Features to Look Out For
Of course, what you look for in a kayak cooler depends entirely on what you’re planning to use it for. There are therefore some key features and factors that are worth considering.
Firstly, you should think about how long you need your cooler to perform for. Some coolers (particularly boxes) stay colder for longer than others.
You should therefore think about what kind of trips you’ll be taking with your cooler - multi-day or short outings? If you’re going to be using the cooler for elongated periods of time, then you’ll want to look for something with maximum ice-retention.
Size & Practicality
Another thing to consider is how much stuff, and what exactly you’re likely to need to store. Many come with a separate fishing compartment so you can keep any fish you catch away from your pre-prepared food (because that salami sandwich you made earlier doesn’t need to taste and smell like raw fish).
You should also consider transportation. Are you going to be moving to various locations or can you load the cooler on the kayak and leave it there for most of your trip?
And finally, are you looking for something that will also keep your belongings dry or just somewhere to stash ice, fish, beer (beer and cool boxes don't always mix!) and water? Many bags are waterproof so that you can use it as both a cooler and a safe-haven for your precious keep-dry belongings.
This video highlights some of the major things to remember when looking for a high quality cooler.
So with all of these factors in mind, we’ve narrowed down the 6 best, most reasonably priced kayak coolers on the market.
Best Coolers For Kayaks
1: Engel USA Cooler/Dry Box, 19 Quart
This box is good value for money. Complete with solid stainless steel latches, a secure lid and a rubber seal inside, this can be used as both a cooler and a dry box. The seal also ensures that if any items leak whilst inside the cooler, nothing will spill out.
It’s robust and has plenty of space inside for storage over a long time on the water.
Comes with a slider tray which can be used to separate certain items. You could use it to keep your dry items like phone, wallet etc. separate from your keep-cool items or of course you could use it to store your packed lunch and then use the rest of the box for your fish (or vice versa).
It can keep cold for up to two days and also comes with a shoulder strap so that it’s easy to transport.
2: Seattle Sports Kayak Catch Cooler 20
This bag is ideal for fishing. It can of course be used as a general cool bag but many of its features are designed specifically for storing fish. With a heat-reflective exterior and closed cell foam insulation, this bag is perfect for keeping your catch fresh and cool.
It comes with a pull-out bag so that you can keep your catch separate as well as transport it elsewhere and leave the main bag on the kayak if need be. It makes it a lot easier to clean and can also be used as a dry bag.
There’s plenty of storage and there are adjustable bungee cords on the outside of the bag for any further items. It can be stored flat and the adjustable straps on the outside can help secure and tighten the bag.
3: IceMule Coolers Classic Coolers
This cool bag’s most attractive feature is its transportability. It holds up to twenty litres and comes with a padded back-strap so it’s not only easy to carry but is also comfortable.
It’s leakproof and comes with insulating foam that keeps ice cold for up to 24 hours. It also comes with an IM AirValve which can both add air to the insulation layer and also release air so that you can roll the bag up for easy travel and storage.
This bag is perfect for multiple usages. It can keep up with the best technical outdoor gear by keeping your food, water and fish cool and dry for long periods of time but it’s also perfect for hikes and other activities. It also looks nice, which is probably quite far down on your list of priorities, but still a factor to consider if you’d also like something that you can take along to a beach party or picnic that is both practical and easy on the eyes (and able to carry 6 bottles of wine + ice!).
This product is very versatile and great value for money.
4: CreekKooler Floating, Insulated Cooler
The thing that separates this cooler from the rest of the pack is the fact that it’s designed to float along behind your kayak rather than sit on the deck. It’s dual-wall construction and insulation means that it can it can hold 30 quarts (or 28 litres) of goods and keep them cool for prolonged periods of time.
Another handy feature of this cooler is the four drink holders fitted on the deck. And whilst you might not want to leave your beer there when you’re paddling through rough waters, it’s perfect for when you’re fishing in one spot for a while, or even if you’re taking a swim and want to enjoy a few beers with friends.
This probably isn't the best cooler if you are planning on transporting precious cargo. Because it floats alongside or behind you as you paddle, things are likely to get knocked around inside so it’s best for storing beverages. Having said that, you could in theory buy a small dry bag or box and place that inside the cooler for your keep-safe items.
This cooler is more on the expensive side and perhaps more difficult to carry on land than some other coolers on the market. Having said that, if you’re likely to be transporting it on snow or sand, it can trail behind you just like it does in the water. And what it lacks in transportability (on concrete or uneven trails at least), it makes up for in drink holders and is ideal for social gatherings on the water.
5: Vibe Element 45Q Cooler
This is another robust, heavy duty cooler ideal for camping, fishing or hunting. With up to 45 quarts of storage, this is perfect for multi-day trips or for group outings (it can hold up to two cases of canned beers and comes with two built-in bottle openers).
This a serious piece of equipment. It’s designed for durability and comes with many handy features for the outdoor adventure lover. It has an integrated fish ruler so you can measure your catch, a handy rapid flow drain spout and robust heavy duty handles for transportation.
6: Sevylor Inflatable Cooler Float
This one’s not a cooler as such, but rather an accessory for your cooler. Big enough to hold up to a 28 quart cooler, this is an inflatable device that allows your cooler to float along behind your kayak. It comes complete with four cup holders so you can enjoy a drink on the water.
This is a fairly cheap, fun accessory that can give you easy access to your drinks whilst you enjoy a swim or a spot of fishing with friends. With no in-built features to keep anything cool, it’s more of a social accessory than a versatile piece of equipment for serious outdoor adventurers.
In conclusion, the type of cooler you buy depends entirely on your own personal needs. If you’re looking for something versatile that can be used for both kayaking and other outdoor activities such as hiking or cycling, you will probably want to look at the bag option.
If you’re a serious fisherman who is looking to go on multi-day camping trips then you might want to consider a heavy duty box with plenty of storage.
Either way the main things to think about when selecting a cooler is how long you’ll need it to stay cool, how much volume or storage you need and what exactly you’re going to be storing.
Or, if you’re still not ready to commit to a purchase, you could always try and make your own cooler like this guy…