Best Kayak Cooler: Top 7 Picks For Keeping Things Chilly

Kayak, PFD, paddle, dry bag, spare clothes, water bottle, sunscreen, and lunch; everything’s set for your kayaking trip. If only you could figure out a way to keep your drinks cold and refreshing – that would make the outing better. 

Seriously, though: 

Aren’t you tired of having nothing but stale and soggy lunches and lukewarm drinks while on the water? 

Maybe it’s time to get yourself the best kayak cooler – one of the top must-have kayak upgrades

Whether you’d prefer a full-sized ice chest or a more compact cooler bag, this guide will help you pick a cooler for kayak that’s perfect for the job! 

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In A Rush? The Winner After 32 Hours Of Research:

Arctic Zone Titan Kayak Cooler

Arctic Zone Titan Kayak Cooler

Why is it better? 

  • Hybrid design that combines a soft exterior of cooler bags and HardBody interior lining 
  • Deep Freeze high-performance insulation and radiant heat barrier 
  • Retains ice up to three days 
  • Has a massive 48-can capacity 
  • Zipperless flip-open lid for easy access 
  • The removable SmartShelf allows you to organize its contents better 
  • The Ultra Safe leak-proof, easy-to-clean lining is resistant to stains and odors 
  • Water- and stain-resistant Rhino-Tech exterior 
  • Additional insulated front pocket and mesh pockets for non-cooled items 
  • Adjustable shoulder strap with an anti-slip pad makes it easier to carry around 

Why Buy A Kayak Cooler? 

Cooler full of Ice with beer

I don’t know about you – but I prefer my drinks cold and my food fresh, even more so when I’m out on the water. 

And correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the whole point of bringing refreshments is for them to be – well, refreshing? 

If you don’t quite get why you’d need a kayak cooler, it’s safe to assume that you haven’t had the chance to clock in long hours on the water yet. Because if you did, you’d know that coolers for kayaks can be beneficial in more ways than one. 

For starters, hydration

Watching your hydration levels whenever you’re spending time outside – often in relentless heat – is vital. Getting dehydrated while on the water is way easier than you might think. 

But besides having a water bottle on hand, you also want that sip of water to be thirst-quenching and refreshing. Let’s face it; cold beats lukewarm every single time. 

Plus, if you’re going on a long-distance, over-the-weekend kayaking trip, you’re going to need a way to keep your food and drinks fresh. And by “fresh,” I mean safe to consume

Storing beverages and – more importantly – food at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit prevents bacteria growth. 

And if you’re into fishing, you’ll find coolers for kayaks particularly useful. Think about it: 

Where do you plan on storing your catch while you’re on the water? What about the car ride home? And while we’re at it, where will you keep your live bait? 

Equipping your ‘yak with a kayak cooler means you can keep your catch and live bait fresh, rather than putting up with the awful smell of rotting fish all day. 

And top of all the benefits I already mentioned, they are also make excellent gift option for any paddler in your life.

Know Your Options: Types Of Coolers For Kayaks 

Yeti Hopper Cooler in light grey

There are several different types of coolers for kayaks available – and you’re free to pick one that meets your needs the best. 

Ice Chests 

Hard-shelled coolers for kayaks are hard to beat in terms of insulation. If you need long-term temperature retention – as you would for multi-day kayaking trips – an ice chest is, hands down, your best bet. 

The tough and rigid exterior comes with a promise of improved durability and protects the cooler’s contents better, making them ideal for heavy-duty, high-capacity storage needs. 

However, the big-and-bold design of ice chests is every bit of a downside as it as an advantage: 

Hard-shell ice chests tend to be on the bulkier – and, as a result, heavier – side, meaning they aren’t nearly as portable. Plus, they take up more space; you’ll likely have to give up the rear tank well if you plan on having an ice chest on board. 

Cooler Bags 

If you think you’ll have a hard time fitting an ice chest in your kayak, you might want to consider using a cooler bag instead: 

The more compact design and soft exterior shell of cooler bags mean they’re lighter, more portable, and better suited for kayaks with not-so-roomy decks. Shoulder straps are another plus, as they make the soft-sided coolers easier to carry around when needed. 

They often feature more than one compartment with zippered pockets, which adds to the cooler’s versatility. 

Sure, it may not offer the same capacity as a full-sized ice chest. But depending on your cooling requirements, this type of kayak cooler might be right up your alley. 

Towable Coolers (Floats) 

Another type of kayak coolers you may want to consider – especially if you’re already working with limited storage – would be the so-called floats: 

Rather than taking up precious onboard space, these towable coolers attach to the back of your kayak and, as the name suggests, float behind it. 

You still get all the benefits of a kayak cooler, minus the storage issues. That makes it a hard-to-beat solution for long-distance trips and kayak fishing when you’re already carrying lots of additional gear and supplies. 

Plus, water helps with the cooling process. 

How To Choose The Best Kayak Cooler? 

Cooler box on the sea sand

Coolers for kayaks seem deceivingly simple. However, quite a few factors make a genuine difference between a well-insulated, waterproof cooler, and a poorly-made, barely-working one. 

Check out this kayak cooler buying guide, and you’ll see what I mean. 

Size & Capacity 

The first and arguably most crucial choice you’ll make when picking the best kayak cooler is the size and capacity you need. And to be honest, it’s going to be a balancing act of sorts. 

Why? 

Well, on the one hand, you want it to have a large enough capacity to fit whatever you plan on bringing on your kayaking trip. 

But on the other hand, you don’t want to go with a cooler so big that it doesn’t fit your kayak. The cooler’s size is even more critical if you have a sit-inside kayak and plan on keeping it in a hatch. 

Generally speaking, a smaller kayak cooler with a 10-quart capacity should be enough for shorter paddles that won’t last more than a day. If weekend-long excursions are more your thing, consider going with up to 30 quarts, depending on what fits your kayak. 

Construction Materials 

Considering that kayak coolers come in soft- and hard-shell styles, you can expect them to differ in terms of construction material, too: 

Soft-sided kayak coolers are commonly made of laminated fabrics, foam, or even rubber. This material choice ensures that they’re flexible, lightweight, reasonably durable, and inexpensive while still providing sufficient insulation. 

Hard-shelled kayak coolers are often made of high-density plastic or rubber. They may not be as flexible or lightweight as their soft-shell counterparts, but they’re a lot more durable and better suited for heavy-duty use. 

Your choice of construction material ultimately comes down to personal preference. Figure out how you plan to use your kayak cooler and aim to balance flexibility, lightweight design, durability, and insulation whenever possible. 

Cold Retention 

While you shouldn’t expect it to keep your stuff cool indefinitely, a kayak cooler won’t be of much use if it’s not capable of maintaining its temperature for long. 

I mean, you’re getting a cooler for kayak to keep your drinks and food cold, after all. Reliable insulation and cold retention are crucial factors that can make or break your purchase. 

While we’re at it, how long can you expect a kayak cooler to retain its temperature? 

Some of the best kayak coolers should be able to maintain their temperatures anywhere between 24 and 72 hours, even when exposed to direct sunlight. 

Foam and extruded polystyrene, for instance, are known for providing excellent insulation. And, as I pointed out already, hard-shell ice chests are typically superior in that sense. 

My advice is to consider your needs – whether you’re planning multi-day trips or short outings – and choose the level of cold retention accordingly. 

Waterproof Design 

If you think about it, a waterproof – and preferably air-tight – design should be a no-brainer when it comes to the best kayak coolers: 

It will be spending a fair amount of time out on the water, exposed to waves, paddle splashes, and the elements. And if water finds its way inside, the contents will likely get ruined. 

Besides the whole “waterproof” thing, air-tight and leak-proof coolers for kayaks are known to retain cold a lot better. When you don’t have any cold air escaping the cooler – or any warm air getting inside, for that matter – it’s much easier to maintain the desired temperature. 

Also, spills happen, no matter how careful you are; leak-proof construction, paired with a built-in drain plug, makes a difference between a sticky mess and a contained spill. 

Best Kayak Coolers Recommendations: Top 7 Coolers For Kayaks Reviewed 

1. CreekKooler Floating Kayak Cooler 

CreekKooler Floating Kayak Cooler 

  • Best Towable Cooler For Kayak 
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★

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If your kayak’s already rigged to the max, the only way to add a kayak cooler is to tow it. That’s where CreekKooler’s floating cooler comes in: 

This kayak-shaped cooler’s dual-wall blow-molded construction, combined with 2-inch foam insulation and a water-tight locking lid with an O-ring seal, provides 48-hour ice retention. 

Besides an impressive 30-liter storage capacity, enough for 30 cans and 20 lb of ice, you also have four drink holders on the cooler’s “deck” for the drinks you want to keep on hand. 

It’s more expensive and harder to carry around than a soft-sided cooler, which creates drag. But again, if you’re low on space, this may be your best bet. 

Technical Specs 

  • Hard-shell towable kayak cooler 
  • 30-liter capacity 
  • Dual-wall blow-molded polyethylene construction 
  • 2-inch foam insulation 

Pros

  • Retains temperatures up to 48 hours 
  • High enough capacity for longer trips 
  • Drink holders on the cooler’s deck 
  • The water-tight design also provides dry storage  

Cons

  • Not as portable as soft-sided coolers for kayaks 
  • The most expensive option on my list 
  • Creates a lot of drag, especially when fully loaded 

CreekKooler’s kayak-shaped towable cooler is perfect for kayaks with limited storage. It delivers 48-hour temperature retention and follows your kayak around; what more could you want? 

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2. Arctic Zone Titan Kayak Cooler

Arctic Zone Titan Kayak Cooler

  • Overall Best Kayak Cooler 
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★★

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If you’d prefer a kayak cooler with a soft exterior but wouldn’t mind the added sturdiness of a rigid liner, you’ll love the Arctic Zone Titan: 

Thanks to the addition of the HardBody liner, made from food grade material that is FA compliant, it walks the fine line between a cooler bag and a hard-shell chest. The 48-can capacity – coupled with a removable shelf, insulated front pockets, and mesh pockets for non-cooled items – is nothing short of amazing. 

Best of all, it provides up to three days of ice retention thanks to multi-layer Deep Freeze insulation, heat barriers, and a three-layer ColdBlock base.

And while the zipperless lid design ensures ease of access, I’m not sure how well the Velcro latch will hold up long-term. 

Technical Specs 

  • Soft-shell cooler bag with FDA compliant hard interior lining
  • 48-can capacity 
  • TPE ripstop construction 
  • Deep Freeze high-performance insulation 

Pros

  • Massive 48-can capacity with a removable shelf 
  • Additional zippered storage compartments and mesh pockets 
  • High-performance insulation, paired with reflective barriers, keeps content ice cold.  
  • Hard interior lining improves durability 
  • Excellent value 

Cons

  • Not the most lightweight cooler for kayak 
  • The Velcro latch loses its “hold” over time 
  • The plastic liner could break if you’re not careful 

Many people will be surprised not to see Yeti Hopper Flip in this round up –  yes the Yeti Hopper is a great cooler – but Titan matches it punching power and costs a filth of the price.

So if you want a best-of-both-worlds type of cooler, Arctic Zone’s Titan – a hybrid kayak cooler with a staggering 48-can capacity – is hands down your best bet. 

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3. IceMule 1014 Pro Kayak Cooler

IceMule 1014 Pro Kayak Cooler

  • Best Kayak Cooler Bag 
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★

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If you want a soft-sided kayak cooler that nails the balance between portability, capacity, and performance, the IceMule Pro could be the way to go: 

This 23-liter cooler bag features PolarLayer insulation – which retains temperature up to 24 hours – and a roll-top, zipperless design, making it a convenient choice for a day on the water. And when it’s not in use, it can be rolled up for easier storage, which is a definite plus. 

The IceMule’s zipperless design and welded seams also mean it’s buoyant – on top of being waterproof and leak-proof. 

One downside is that the exterior – and backpack straps, in particular –  people have complained they are not lasting as long as expected. 

Technical Specs 

  • Soft-shell cooler bag 
  • 23-liter capacity 
  • MuleSkinET fabric construction 
  • PolarLayer insulation with IM AirValve 

Pros

  • Rolls up for easier storage when it’s not in use 
  • Leak-proof, waterproof, and buoyant 
  • Easy to carry backpack design
  • Substantial capacity and will keep ice cold for 24-hours
  • Easy-to-access zipperless design  

Cons

  • Cargo space is limited to tie-downs 
  • The shoulder straps likely won’t hold up under a full load
  • A bit pricey for a soft-shell cooler bag 
  • May get wet from condensation 

It offers 24-hour ice retention, it’s waterproof and buoyant, and rolls up when not in use; IceMule Pro takes compact cooling to the next level. 

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4. Perception Splash Tankwell Kayak Cooler

Perception Splash Tankwell Kayak Cooler

  • Best Cooler Bag For Sit-On-Top Kayaks
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★

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Perception Kayaks’ Splash Tankwell Cooler is, as the name implies, designed to fit your sit-on-top kayak’s tank well. It’s not intended to be used for storing fish, so I’d say that it’s best suited for recreational SOT kayaks. 

The 40-liter capacity – or 20 cans, if that’s what you prefer – is massive for such a low-profile kayak deck cooler. The heavy-duty bottom panel adds durability, while the top features a zipper opening to allow easy access.

It utilizes 0.5-inch foam for insulation, waterproof materials, and RF welded internal seams to protect the cooler’s contents. However, it doesn’t retain ice as long as I hoped. 

Technical Specs 

  • Soft-shell cooler bag 
  • 40-liter capacity 
  • Constructed out of waterproof materials 
  • 0.5-inch closed-cell foam insulation 

Pros

  •  High-capacity cooler with a low profile design 
  • Fits sit-on-top kayaks with tank wells 
  • Large water-resistant zipper opening for easy access 
  • Lightweight and has adjustable backpack-style straps

Cons

  • Not intended to be used for storing fish 
  • Thin insulation doesn’t retain ice for longer kayaking excursions
  • Some may find it a bit pricey 

If you can afford to dedicate an entire tank well to your kayak cooler, this low-profile, high-capacity Perception Kayaks’ cooler bag is worth considering. 

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5. Perception Splash Seat Back Kayak Cooler

Perception Splash Seat Back Kayak Cooler

  • Best Seat-Back Kayak Cooler  
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★★

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As far as space-saving designs go, this Perception Kayaks’ cooler is pretty impressive: 

This slim and compact kayak cooler is designed explicitly for lawn-chair-style seats. It doesn’t take up precious space or limit your access to the rear tank well but still provides a 12-can capacity. 

It straps to the back of the kayak seat using bungee cords.  Also, you’ll find additional exterior loops and D-rings that can be used as tie-down points. 

The cooler features 0.75-inch closed-cell foam insulation, waterproof materials, and RF welded seams, complete with water-resistant YKK zippers. Unfortunately, though, it’s not submersible – and you can’t use it to store fish. 

Technical Specs 

  • Soft-shell cooler bag 
  • 12-can capacity 
  • Constructed out of waterproof materials
  • 0.75-inch closed-cell foam insulation 

Pros

  • Low-profile and lightweight cooler
  • Doesn’t take up space or limit access to the rear tank well 
  • Has exterior loops and D-rings for attaching accessories  

Cons

  • Can’t be used for storing fish 
  • Doesn’t include a shoulder strap 
  • Might tear along the seams when fully loaded 
  • Has a slightly lower capacity 

Perception Kayaks’ seat-back cooler, although on the smaller side, could be the right fit for your sit-on-top kayak if you’re hoping to keep things low-profile. 

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6. Wilderness Systems Oval Orbix Hatch Kayak Cooler

Wilderness Systems Oval Orbix Hatch Kayak Cooler

  • Best In-Hatch Cooler Bag 
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★

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Wilderness Systems’ oval-shaped soft-shell cooler bag is designed to work with their oval Orbix storage hatch. So, unless your kayak has one, this may not be the right kayak cooler for you. 

Somewhat limited compatibility aside, this cooler seems like a pretty solid option: 

It’s made from polyurethane-coated 420D ripstop nylon with YKK water-resistant zippers and RF welded seams, meaning it’s water-resistant and leak-proof. It also utilizes 0.5-inch closed-cell EPE foam for insulation. 

The cooler bag sits flush with the hatch opening, allowing quick access without making the deck feel cluttered. 

The relatively low 8-liter capacity could be a deal-breaker; I’d only recommend it for shorter trips.  

Technical Specs 

  • Soft-shell cooler bag 
  • 8-liter capacity 
  • Polyurethane-coated 420D ripstop nylon construction 
  • 0.5-inch closed-cell EPE foam insulation

Pros

  • Fits inside the kayak’s hatch and sits flush with the opening 
  • Perfect size for short afternoon paddles 
  • Waterproof materials, water-resistant zipper, and leak-proof seams 

Cons

  • The cooler’s capacity is limited 
  • Only compatible with Wilderness Systems Orbix hatches 
  • The insulation is on the thinner side 
  • No way to secure it

If your kayak features an Orbix hatch and you don’t need a high-capacity cooler, it doesn’t get much better than this compact oval-shaped cooler bag. 

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7. Igloo BMX Family

Igloo BMX Family

  • Best Ice Chest Cooler For Kayak
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★★

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If you’re after an extra-large ice chest, it doesn’t get much better than the heavy-duty, rugged-looking Igloo BMX kayak cooler. And when I say “extra-large,” I mean it:

This cooler comes with a mind-blowing 52-quart of storage space, which translates to about 83 cans, or two tiers of 30-35 cans plus plenty of ice to keep things cold! 

Top tip – The 25 quart model would make an excellent dry box.

And to complement the massive capacity and ruggedness, the blow-molded polyethylene construction features rubber T-style latches and stainless steel components. In addition, the rubber feet and skid pan provide extra shock resistance – this cooler is an all round tough guy.

The extra-thick MaxCold body with 20% thicker insulation, coupled with the reinforced base – so-called Cool Riser Technology – ensures it keeps ice frozen for up to five days. Plus, it has a handy drain plug and a built-in ruler for measuring your catch.

All that toughness adds pounds, though; the empty cooler weighs over 16 pounds.

Technical Specs 

  • Hard-shell kayak ice chest
  • 52-quart capacity, also available in 25 and 75 quart
  • Blow-molded polyethylene construction
  • MaxCold body with 20% thicker foam insulation

Pros

  • Up to five-day ice retention
  • Rugged construction, reinforced base, and stainless steel parts
  • Massive 52-quart capacity
  • Built-in drain plug
  • On-lid ruler for measuring your catch

Cons

  • The cooler alone weighs over 16 pounds
  • Extra-thick walls mean less usable space
  • The lid doesn’t create a waterproof seal and may leak

Extra-large and in charge, the Igloo BMX cooler combines versatility, ruggedness, large capacity, and useful features into one of the probelem most heavy-duty kayak ice chests I tested – great for a multi-day fishing trip. 

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Best Kayak Coolers: Final Verdict 

two gents carry seattle sports kayak cooler surrounded by multicolored kayaks.

Finding a high-quality kayak cooler can be tricky business; there are many different criteria a cooler should meet before being labeled as “kayak-friendly.” 

Think about it: 

It has to be compact, durable, waterproof, and lightweight while providing a high enough capacity and keeping its contents cold for hours on end. 

Those are some pretty big shoes to fill – and out of all the coolers for kayaks I reviewed, no one does it better than the Arctic Zone Titan Kayak Cooler

High-performance, multi-layer insulation, the hybrid design offering the best of both worlds, and massive 48-can capacity; it all makes it the best kayak cooler for the money.