7 Best Kayak Cooler: Guide to Keeping Things Cold on the Water

by | Last updated Jul 10, 2024

Best Overall Yeti Hopper Flip 12
Yeti Hopper Flip 12

Unmatched durability and ice retention (days, not hours!) in a compact, waterproof design. 12-can capacity, perfect for solo or duo kayaking trips.

Best Value RTIC Soft
RTIC Soft

Affordable yet high-performing, this cooler keeps ice for 24 hours and holds 20 cans. Lightweight and durable, it is ideal for budget-minded kayakers.

Most Featured Pelican Elite
Pelican Elite

Virtually indestructible with a lifetime warranty, this cooler boasts 10-day ice retention and comes in various sizes. Freezer-grade gasket make it a top choice for serious adventurers.

Kayak Cooler

Scorching sun, crystal-clear water, and… a lukewarm beer? No thanks!

Imagine paddling through serene waters, knowing your lunch is fresh and your drinks are ice-cold. That’s the kayaking experience you deserve.

But finding the perfect kayak cooler can feel like a challenge.

Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. We’ve tested the top coolers on the market, breaking down their features and drawbacks so you can choose the best one for your adventures.

So, are you ready to up your kayaking game?

1. Yeti Hopper Flip 12

This is the tank of soft coolers. Seriously, it’s like a fortress for your food and drinks. Yeti’s Hopper Flip 12 is known for its near-indestructible build and incredible ice retention.

Yeti Hopper Flip 12

Our Take

0out of 10

The Yeti Hopper Flip 12 is the ultimate investment for kayakers who demand the best in durability and ice retention. While the price tag may seem steep, its exceptional performance and longevity make it worth every penny.

Key Benefits

  • Ice Retention: Keeps ice for days, even in scorching heat.
  • Size and Capacity: Holds 12 cans plus ice or a decent-sized lunch. Perfect for solo or duo kayaking trips.
  • Weight: At 5.1 pounds, it's relatively lightweight for its ruggedness.
  • Durability: Made from DryHide™ Shell fabric and a leakproof HydroLok™ Zipper, this cooler is practically bombproof.
  • Waterproofing: Completely waterproof, so even a capsize won't ruin your day (or your snacks).
  • Ease of Use: Wide-mouth opening for easy packing and access. The ergonomic shoulder strap makes it comfortable to carry.
  • Attachment Points: HitchPoint™ Grid allows for easy attachment of accessories like bottle openers or carabiners.
  • Warranty: Yeti offers a 3-year warranty on their Hopper coolers.

Pricing

  • Price: Starting at $250
Yeti Hopper Flip 12

Pros

  • Unmatched durability
  • Impressive ice retention
  • Waterproof and leakproof
  • Comfortable carry
  • Easy to access contents

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Not the largest capacity

2. RTIC Soft

A no-nonsense cooler that delivers impressive performance without breaking the bank. The RTIC Soft Pack 20 boasts excellent ice retention and durable construction, making it a reliable choice for kayaking adventures.

RTIC Soft

Our Take

0out of 10

The RTIC Soft Pack 20 is a fantastic budget-friendly option for kayakers who want a reliable cooler without overspending. While it may lack some of the bells and whistles of pricier models, its performance and affordability make it a solid choice.

Key Benefits

  • Ice Retention: Keeps ice for up to 24 hours.
  • Size and Capacity: Holds 20 cans plus ice.
  • Weight: Weigh a mere 3.2 pounds when empty.
  • Durability: Made with heavy-duty puncture-resistant fabric and a leakproof zipper.
  • Waterproofing: Highly water-resistant but not entirely waterproof.
  • Ease of Use: Comfortable shoulder strap and side handles for easy carrying.
  • Attachment Points: Includes D-rings for attaching to your kayak.
  • Warranty: RTIC offers a 1-year warranty.

Pricing

  • Price: Starting at $131.74
RTIC Soft

Pros

  • Excellent value for the price
  • Impressive ice retention
  • Lightweight and easy to carry
  • Durable construction

Cons

  • Not completely waterproof
  • Fewer attachment points than some other coolers

3. Engel HD30

If you're looking for a cooler that can withstand the toughest conditions, the Engel HD30 is your answer. This roto-molded cooler is built like a tank, offering superior durability and exceptional ice retention.

Engel HD30

Our Take

0out of 10

The Engel HD30 is the ultimate workhorse for kayakers who demand the best in durability and performance. While it may be heavy and pricey, its exceptional ice retention and rugged construction make it a worthy investment for serious adventurers.

Key Benefits

  • Ice Retention: Keeps ice for up to 10 days.
  • Size and Capacity: Holds 28 quarts or 20 cans plus ice.
  • Weight: 20 pounds (empty)
  • Durability: Roto-molded construction for extreme durability.
  • Waterproofing: Airtight EVA gasket seal keeps contents dry.
  • Ease of Use: Self-stopping hinge and heavy-duty latches for secure closure.
  • Attachment Points: Includes padlock hasps for added security.
  • Warranty: Engel offers a 5-year warranty.

Pricing

  • Price: Starting at $199.99
Engel HD30

Pros

  • Unbeatable durability
  • Outstanding ice retention
  • Secure and leakproof
  • Perfect for extended trips

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Expensive

4. IceMule Classic

The IceMule Classic is a unique and innovative cooler that combines the convenience of a backpack with the functionality of a high-performance cooler. Its roll-top design and comfortable straps make it easy to carry on your kayaking adventures.

IceMule Classic

Our Take

0out of 10

The IceMule Classic is a great option for kayakers who prioritize convenience and portability. While it may not be the most durable or longest-lasting cooler, its comfortable backpack design and affordable price make it a practical choice for many paddlers.

Key Benefits

  • Ice Retention: Keeps ice for up to 24 hours.
  • Size and Capacity: Available in various sizes, from 9 liters to 23 liters.
  • Weight: Varies depending on size, but generally lightweight.
  • Durability: Made with MuleSkin™ fabric and PolarLayer™ insulation.
  • Waterproofing: Completely waterproof and even floats when fully packed.
  • Ease of Use: Comfortable backpack straps and roll-top closure for easy access.
  • Attachment Points: There are no built-in attachment points, but they can be easily secured with straps or bungee cords.
  • Warranty: IceMule offers a 1-year warranty.

Pricing

  • Price: Starting at $56.21
IceMule Classic

Pros

  • Comfortable to carry as a backpack
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Waterproof and floats
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not as durable as hard-sided coolers
  • Less ice retention than some other models

5. Pelican Elite

Pelican is a well-known brand for its rugged cases and coolers, and the Elite line lives up to that reputation. This hard-sided cooler is built to withstand anything you throw at it, making it a reliable choice for kayaking adventures.

Pelican Elite

Our Take

0out of 10

The Pelican Elite is an excellent choice for kayakers who demand the best in durability and ice retention. While it may be heavy and bulky for smaller kayaks, its exceptional performance and lifetime warranty make it a worthy investment.

Key Benefits

  • Ice Retention: Keeps ice for up to 10 days.
  • Size and Capacity: Available in various sizes, from 20 quarts to 70 quarts.
  • Weight: Varies depending on size.
  • Durability: Made with high-impact, UV-resistant polyethylene.
  • Waterproofing: Freezer-grade gasket and latches ensure a tight seal.
  • Ease of Use: Molded-in handles for easy transport, Press & Pull latches for easy opening and closing.
  • Attachment Points: Integrated tie-down points for securing the cooler to your kayak.
  • Warranty: Pelican offers a lifetime warranty.

Pricing

  • Price: Starting at $299
Pelican Elite

Pros

  • Extremely durable
  • Excellent ice retention
  • Secure and leakproof
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Can be bulky for smaller kayaks

6. AO Coolers

AO Coolers is known for its soft-sided coolers with superior insulation. The Carbon Series takes it a step further with a sleek, modern design and enhanced features.

AO Coolers

Our Take

0out of 10

The AO Coolers Carbon Series is an excellent choice for kayakers who want a high-performance soft cooler with a sleek design. While it may not be as durable as hard-sided coolers, its exceptional insulation and lifetime warranty make it a worthwhile investment.

Key Benefits

  • Ice Retention: Keeps ice for up to 24 hours.
  • Size and Capacity: Available in various sizes, from 12 packs to 48 packs.
  • Weight: Lightweight and easy to carry.
  • Durability: Made with high-quality, puncture-resistant nylon and a TPU liner.
  • Waterproofing: High-frequency welded seams for leakproof construction.
  • Ease of Use: Comfortable shoulder strap and side handles.
  • Attachment Points: Includes loops for attaching to your kayak.
  • Warranty: AO Coolers offers a lifetime warranty.

Pricing

  • Price: Starting at $69.95
AO Coolers

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Excellent ice retention
  • Durable construction
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Not as durable as hard-sided coolers
  • Can be expensive

7. Coleman 16-quart

The Coleman 16-quart Excursion Cooler is a budget-friendly option that still delivers decent performance. It's a great choice for casual kayakers or those on a tight budget.

Coleman 16-quart

Our Take

0out of 10

The Coleman 16-quart Excursion Cooler is a good option for budget-minded kayakers who need a basic cooler for short trips. While it may have a different level of performance or durability than more expensive models, it's a practical and affordable choice for casual use.

Key Benefits

  • Ice Retention: Keeps ice for up to 1 day.
  • Size and Capacity: Holds 16 quarts or 22 cans.
  • Weight: 5.6 pounds (empty)
  • Durability: Made with a durable plastic exterior and a leak-resistant liner.
  • Waterproofing: Not entirely waterproof.
  • Ease of Use: Two-way handles for easy carrying, hinged lid with cup holders.
  • Attachment Points: No built-in attachment points.
  • Warranty: Coleman offers a 1-year limited warranty.

Pricing

  • Price: Starting at $39.30
Coleman 16-quart

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Decent ice retention for the price
  • Convenient features like cup holders

Cons

  • Not as durable as higher-end coolers
  • Not waterproof
  • Shorter ice retention compared to other models

What to Look for When Buying a Kayak Cooler?

  • Insulation: Prioritize coolers with high-quality insulation to keep ice for longer periods, ensuring your contents stay cold even on multi-day trips.
  • Size and Capacity: Consider the number of people you'll be kayaking with and the duration of your trips to determine the ideal cooler size.
  • Weight: Kayaks have weight limits, so opt for a cooler that is lightweight yet durable to avoid overloading your vessel.
  • Durability: Choose coolers made from rugged materials that can withstand bumps, drops, and exposure to the elements.
  • Waterproofing: A waterproof cooler ensures that your gear stays dry even if the cooler gets splashed or accidentally submerged.
  • Ease of Use: Look for features like comfortable straps, sturdy handles, and easy-to-open lids for convenient access to your contents.
  • Attachment Points: Some coolers have built-in attachment points or straps for securing them to your kayak, preventing them from sliding around.
  • Price: Set a budget before shopping and compare different coolers to find the best value for your needs.

How Can Coolers Benefit You?

Kayak coolers do more than keep your drinks cold. They extend your adventures by preventing ice from melting prematurely, ensuring your food stays fresh for hours or even days.

Cooler

This means you can pack a wider variety of snacks and meals, allowing you to explore further and stay out on the water longer.

Plus, with features like carry handles and shoulder straps, transporting your kayak cooler is a breeze. No more lugging around heavy, awkward ice chests.

Just grab your cooler and go, knowing you'll have refreshing drinks and delicious food at your fingertips.

Buyer's Guide

When doing our research to find the best kayak cooler, we determined our recommendations using these factors:

Cooler

Pricing: How much did each cooler cost, and does it offer good value for the price?

Features: What are the best features of each cooler, such as insulation type, carry handles, shoulder straps, secure closure type, and additional features like bottle openers or cup holders?

Ice Retention: How long does each cooler keep ice and beverages cold, and does it perform well in different temperatures?

Size and Capacity: How much can each cooler hold, and is it the right size for your needs? How much space is there when the cooler is full of ice?

Weight: How heavy is the cooler, and is it easy to transport to and from your kayak?

Durability: How well-built is the cooler, and will it withstand the wear and tear of kayaking trips?

Waterproofing: Is the cooler waterproof or water-resistant, and will it keep your contents dry even if it gets wet?

Ease of Use: How easy is it to open, close, and access the contents of the cooler?

Attachment Points: Does the cooler have attachment points or straps for securing it to your kayak?

Warranty: Does the manufacturer offer a warranty, and what does it cover?

Reviews: What do other kayakers say about each cooler? We scoured online reviews and forums to gather insights from real users.

By considering all of these factors, we were able to narrow down our list and recommend the best kayak coolers for every budget and need.

We hope this guide helps you find the perfect cooler to keep your drinks and snacks cold on your next kayaking adventure. For more search options, you can explore coolers from different brands and compare their features and prices.

Wrapping Up

Choosing the best kayak cooler can be the difference between a refreshing lunch and a soggy mess by the time your ice melts.

Cooler

With our top recommendations and buying guide, you're equipped to find the perfect match for your needs.

Whether you prioritize a cooler that can keep ice longer, one with a secure rubber gasket seal, or a specific size to fit your kayak's tankwell, there's an option out there for you.

Remember, investing in a high-quality cooler with excellent insulation can significantly enhance your kayaking experience.

So, dive into our list, do some more search options for coolers, and find the one that will keep your snacks and drinks refreshingly cold, even in the heat of the day.

For even more tailored recommendations, consider exploring brands like Wilderness Systems, which are known for their innovative designs and durable coolers. With the right cooler by your side, your kayaking adventures will be even more enjoyable and memorable.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size kayak cooler do I need?

The ideal size depends on the length of your kayaking trips and how much food and drinks you need to keep cold. For solo trips or short outings, a 12-20 quart cooler might suffice. For longer trips or groups, consider 30 quarts or larger. Always remember to account for empty space needed for ice.

Can I use a regular cooler for kayaking?

While you can use a regular cooler, those designed for kayaking are typically lighter and more durable and have features like carry handles or shoulder straps to secure them to your kayak. They're also designed to take up minimal space and not interfere with paddling.

How long will ice last in a kayak cooler?

Ice retention depends on several factors, including the cooler's insulation, the amount of ice used, the ambient temperature, and how often the cooler is opened. High-quality coolers can keep ice for several days, while more basic models might last only a day or two.

What's the difference between hard-sided and soft-sided kayak coolers?

Hard-sided coolers are typically more durable and offer better ice retention but are heavier and bulkier. Soft-sided coolers are lighter, more portable, and often have comfortable shoulder straps for carrying, but they might keep ice shorter than hard-sided models.

Do you know where I can find more search options coolers?

Apart from the brands mentioned here, you can explore other popular brands like Orca, Grizzly, and OtterBox. Check out online retailers like Amazon, REI, and outdoor gear stores for a wider selection of kayak coolers.

Fahim Joharder

Fahim Joharder

Author

An avid kayaker & fisherman, explores waterways globally, sharing his passion for water sports and conservation through captivating stories and tips.

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