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Kayak Cooler: The Must-Have Accessory for Water Enthusiasts

Kayak Cooler 45L Desert Camo

Kayak Cooler 45L Desert Camo

Updated on 6/20/2024
Abigail ScottBy Abigail Scott
Hi, I'm Abigail 👋 Since embarking on my kayaking and boarding adventures in 2010, I've navigated rivers and lakes across North America and beyond. With over a decade of experience and countless waterways explored, I'm here to help enthusiasts like you embark on unforgettable water adventures!
Learn More about Abigail Scott

A kayak cooler is a must to ensure your beverages and daily catch are kept as cool as possible before you return to the car. Kayak coolers are so many great coolers for kayaks that finding the right one can be difficult due to the vast options available. Our goal is to help you find the perfect kayak cooler.

Kayak Cooler

Kayak Cooler

We've created this ultimate guide to help you find the best kayak cooler for your needs. Here is a list of our picks of the best kayak coolers on the market today to spend less time researching your gear and more time enjoying your kayak cooler when you're out on the water.

You'll also learn how to choose a cooler for kayaking and get answers to some of your top questions.


Kayak Coolers: The Best Options

At the moment, the following seven kayak coolers are the best on the market:

Yeti Hopper Flip 12 Is The Best for Sit-On-Top Kayaks.

Key Specs

  • Yeti Hopper Dimensions: 10″ x 11.5″ x 12.6″
  • Yeti Hopper Weight: 3.4 lbs
  • Yeti Hopper Capacity: 13 cans

A well-insulated cooler and a portable model are crucial when shopping for a cooler for your sit-on-top kayak. Yeti delivers both with its Hopper Flip 12 cooler. Yeti's SoftSide Cooler features DryHide Shell fabric, which is waterproof and UV-resistant. Hopper Flip's uber-durable material also prevents punctures and mildew buildup.

Coldwell technology is used for insulation on the Hopper Flip. High-end insulating material from closed-cell rubber is far more effective at retaining ice than traditional closed-cell foam. Hopper Flip also comes with a Hydrolok Zipper, a tough-as-nails waterproof zipper that seals the bag shut without leaking. Also, the Cooler is entirely waterproof, preventing leaks from happening, which can ruin a kayaking trip.

The Hopper Flip is also compatible with the HitchPoint Grid. You can easily attach the Cooler to your kayak using the HitchPoint Grid attachment system without interfering with your drinking ability.

Coolers that can keep drinks cold while being exposed to the elements are essential if you own a sit-on-top kayak. The Yeti Hopper Flip 12 is a lightweight cooler that can accommodate enough food and drinks to last a full day on the water and easily be transported from one kayak to another. 


Best For Sit-In Kayaks: IceMule Classic Cooler

Key Specs

  • IceMule Classic Cooler Dimensions: 16″ x 10″ x 10″
  • IceMule Classic Cooler Weight: 2.8 lbs
  • IceMule Classic Cooler Capacity: 12 cans

A cooler can be a challenge for a sit-in kayak, especially if you are working with a limited cargo space, which isn't very accommodating of large, bulky items. Maintaining a cold drink while paddling your sit-in kayak can be challenging, and you can keep your drinks cold using the IceMule Classic Cooler.  

IceMule Classic Cooler, featuring a dual-purpose design that works as a backpack, dry bag, and more, is a revolutionary soft-sided soft-sided cooler. For a day at the lake, IceMule Classic Cooler can easily hold 12 cans, some ice, and 15 liters of storage space.

IceMule Classic Cooler container can keep ice-cold for up to 24 hours despite its lightweight. A large portion of the insulation is made up of PolarLayer insulation, which is a high-end material. The Cooler's IM AirValve also allows you to add more air inside the insulation layer to keep heat. IceMule Classic Cooler can also release air from the interior compartment, making storing things in the kayak's dry hatches more accessible.

We also like that the IceMule has two extra-thick layers of MuleSkin fabric, providing a durable exterior for harsh environments. Moreover, the IceMule includes a comfortable shoulder strap that can be used as a backpack. IceMule also has an entirely waterproof roll-top design on the Cooler, so you can easily fit it into your kayak's dry storage hatches, allowing you to carry it anywhere.

Product tested by Board and Kayak
Our Overall Review

Things we like:

  • RUGGED AND VERSATILE – From our proprietary MuleSkin fabrics and the game-changing IM AirValve, to the welded seams and backpack sling strap — these soft sided cooler bags are built to outlast your next beach day, hike, picnic and more.
  • 24+ HOURS OF COOLING – Ultra-tough Muleskin Exterior and Interior plus PolarLayer Insulation ensures strength and superior ice retention to maintain ice-like temperatures for 24+ hours. Holds 10 Liters or 9 cans + ice; 9”L x 9”W x 18”H
  • HANDS FREE COOLER – This lightweight, backpack-style cooler has a padded and ventilated sling strap that leaves both your arms free to grab your surfboard, fishing pole, or any other adventure gear. Perfect portable cooler for men and women.
  • COLLAPSIBLE DESIGN – When your cooler is empty and you’re on the move, just roll it up and pack it with you to your next destination. Also makes the perfect carry on for traveling parents or those that want a cooler to use when landing in paradise.
  • WATERPROOF & BUOYANT – Welded seams and zipper-less closure makes this a waterproof, floating cooler. The IM AirValve allows air to be added to insulation layer – so the ICEMULE can float right next to your kayak (even when full!).

Things we don't like:

  • The backpack sling strap may not be comfortable for some users.
  • The cooler's collapsible design may make it less sturdy and prone to damage.
  • It may not be large enough to hold a sufficient amount of food and drinks for a group.
  • The lack of a zipper closure may make it difficult to secure items inside the cooler.
  • The IM AirValve may be difficult to operate and may leak air over time.
Show more
Read full review

IceMule's Classic Cooler is the perfect solution for sit-in kayaks that don't have room for bulky coolers. IceMule's Classic Cooler roll-top design and ample insulation, IceMule Classic Cooler is an excellent choice for storing inside your kayak's dry hatches for longer days of paddling. IceMule Classic Cooler is a perfect option for kayak Cooler bags.


Best For Kayak Fishing Cooler: Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler

Key Specs

    Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler Dimensions: 29″ x 16″ x 7″Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler Weight: 5.26 lbsWilderness Systems Catch Cooler Capacity: 27.6 L – fish up to 25″ long

Coolers provide kayak enthusiasts with the protection they need from the elements when on the water. With the Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler, you can carry a fishing-specific cooler on the deck of most sit-on-top kayaks that you can easily strap down.

Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler has an interior constructed of 420 deniers ripstop nylon. Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler is explicitly designed to resist punctures from sharp fish fins thanks to its extra-durable 420 deniers construction. Also, Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler is coated with a TPU coating, making this cooler extra durable and waterproof.

A unique feature of the Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler is two storage areas. A highly-insulated compartment keeps your catch cold while another case holds your drinks and snacks. Each issue of your Cooler has a different access point, and the fish storage compartment has a rigid bottom and high beams for easy water draining.

With the Catch Cooler, you can keep your catch ice cold with the help of built-in pockets that will store ice packs and save the day's catch fresh. As well as being easy to strap onto a kayak, Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler bag has a dual shoulder strap carry system so you can transfer from your car to your kayak without hassle.

What is the bottom line? Regarding features, the Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler is a versatile option for paddlers who need to keep their catch and their cold drinks while on the water. The number of fishing-specific features and its easy transport system makes Wilderness Systems Catch Cooler an excellent choice for paddlers looking for gear with a high level of functionality.


Best Pull Behind Cooler: CreekKooler Floating Cooler

Key Specs

  • CreekKooler Floating Cooler Dimensions: 39.5″ x 21″ x 12″
  • CreekKooler Floating Cooler Weight: 17lbs
  • CreekKooler Floating Cooler Capacity: 30 cans

You need a friend to accompany you on some of your adventures. The CreekKooler Floating Cooler comes into play. CreekKooler Floating Cooler is easy to maneuver and convenient to use, making the CreekKooler Floating Cooler a great companion for paddling excursions during the summer. A unique cooler shaped like a tiny kayak, CreekKooler Floating Cooler features a design that allows the CreekKooler Floating Cooler to attach to the back of your kayak. So, CreekKooler Floating Cooler can tag along with you as you paddle around.

CreekKooler Floating Cooler is made of blow-molded plastic, just like many kayaks, and CreekKooler Floating Cooler has a thick layer of closed-cell foam insulation for ice retention. The CreekKooler Floating Cooler is designed to track the water so you won't get thrown off your course. Furthermore, the Cooler's reinforced tow points provide plenty of durabilities and a strong connection while paddling through rough waters.

CreekKooler Floating Coolers are known for their large openings, undoubtedly their best feature. After removing the Cooler's lid, you will find an interior CreekKooler Floating Cooler that is spacious enough to hold up to 30 cans of a beverage of your choice and 20 pounds of ice. Additionally, CreekKooler Floating Coolers include four molded cup holders, providing you with even greater convenience during your on-the-water pit stops.

Many kayak coolers are available today, but the CreekKooler Floating is an excellent option if you are looking for one that can easily be attached to your kayak. CreekKooler Floating Cooler is a great companion on the water, especially when paddling in large groups and carrying a large gear is essential.


Best For Live Bait: Engel Live Bait Cooler 7.5 Quart

Key Specs

  • Engel Live Bait Cooler Dimensions: 11.5″ x 10″ x 8″
  • Engel Live Bait Cooler Weight: 2.5 lbs
  • Engel Live Bait Cooler Capacity: 8 cans

Keeping live bait alive is no easy task when you're out on the water, and a good cooler is essential. The Engel Live Bait Cooler 7.5 Quart will not break the bank despite its high quality. Engel Live Bait Cooler 7.5 Quart is designed with an injection-molded copolymer exterior and stainless steel fittings to provide a durable carry case for your live bait.

Engel Live Bait Coolers don't disappoint when it comes to insulation. Molded polystyrene foam and an airtight EVA gasket help keep cold air in and heat out. An aerator is built into Engel Live Bait Cooler to keep your bait fresh. Engel also equipped a Live Bait cooler with a pullout net to simplify access to your lure as you fish.

Regarding its portability, the Live Bait cooler shines for kayak anglers. Also, Engel Live Bait Cooler is both small and lightweight, and on top of that, Engel Live Bait Cooler also comes with two attachment points (one on either end) that you can use to attach Engel Live Bait Cooler to the deck of your kayak. You can spend more time fishing and less worrying about your equipment.

If you're out on the water with some pricey live bait, you don't want to risk ruining them before you even have a chance to cast your lines. Paddling coolers such as the Engel Live Bait Cooler can be a great option for kayak anglers who want their kayak coolers to provide performance and portability.


Best Kayak Cooler For Ice Storage: Yeti Roadie

Key Specs

  • Yeti Roadie Dimensions: 17.5″ x 16.5″ x 15.25″
  • Yeti Roadie Weight: 12.8 lbs
  • Yeti Roadie Capacity: 18 cans

The Yeti Roadie is a fantastic choice if you need a Cooler to keep your drinks cool and your ice has frozen in the middle of a sunny bluebird day as you cruise around the lake. Yeti's burly Cooler is the smallest hard-sided Cooler they make, making Yeti's burly Cooler perfect for ice storage for long trips on the water.

Our award for the best kayak cooler for ice storage goes to the Yeti Roadie cooler is high-end Permafrost Insulation technology. As a standard feature on the company's award-winning hard-sided coolers, Yeti Roadie cooler insulation allows customers to keep ice cold for days, even under sweltering conditions.

Yeti Roadie cooler is built with a rotomolded construction, which is highly durable and can withstand the wear and tear of frequent use. Yeti Roadie cooler is a NeverFail hinge system; the Cooler is designed with an interlocking design that eliminates weak points between the lid and the Cooler, preventing severe damage.

Added convenience is provided with this Yeti cooler by having the QuickLatch system allow easy access to the Cooler with one hand. Yeti Roadie cooler can be beneficial when kayaking, especially if you must keep one hand on your paddle while the other reaches back for a refreshing drink.

Portability is assured by the Roadie's HeftyHauler handle, which allows the Yeti Roadie cooler to be easily carried. Sadly, the Yeti Roadie cooler does not have side handles, making it easier for a kayaker to strap down a cooler to the kayak. However, the Yeti Roadie cooler is true that with some ingenuity, Yeti Roadie cooler is possible to attach the Yeti to a kayak while still allowing the kayak to be accessed quickly during a paddle.

Product tested by Board and Kayak
Our Overall Review

Things we like:

  • The Roadie 24 is 10% lighter in weight and holds 20% more than a Roadie 20, it even performs 30% better thermally
  • It's got a taller build than its predecessor, so it now accommodates a standard bottle of wine (or 2 liter bottle) upright, and is a better fit behind the driver's or passenger's seat of a car
  • ROTOMOLDED CONSTRUCTION - Evolved to be thinner and lighter-weight for easier transport, while still incredibly tough
  • QUICKLATCH - Flexible, simple, and built for quick, one-handed cooler access
  • The Roadie 24 holds 18 cans with a 2:1 ice-to-can ratio or 24 lbs of just ice. It measures 16 1/2” L × 14 1/2”W × 17 1/2” H

Things we don't like:

  • It may be too large to fit in some smaller vehicles or spaces
Show more
Read full review

At the end of the day, if you want insulation that can keep ice cold for hours and days, the Yeti Roadie is a great choice. Even though Yeti coolers are expensive, you may find them worth the price if you want durability and insulation.


Best Kayak Cooler For The Money: Polar Bear Coolers Eclipse

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 18″ x 10″ x 12″
  • Weight: 6.2 lbs
  • Capacity: 24 cans

You don't always have to pay a lot for quality. The Polar Bear Coolers Eclipse is an affordable alternative for kayakers looking for performance without breaking the bank. Polar Bear Coolers Eclipse is made with 840 denier TPE for long-lasting, waterproof, and UV-resistant durability. Besides being leak- and sweat-proof, the Eclipse is also sweat-resistant, which prevents messes on water.

Polar Bear Coolers did not design the Eclipse with a waterproof zipper to save money. Flipping Polar Bear Coolers upside down will result in leaks, but keeping Polar Bear Coolers upright will not. Polar Bear Coolers also come with a 1-inch thick layer of closed-cell foam to provide adequate insulation during long days on the water.

Polar Bear Coolers is a single padded shoulder strap that can assist you in transporting your drinks to and from the car. Polar Bear Coolers also has two grab handles and a variety of daisy chains that allow you to secure the Cooler to your kayak quickly.

Polar Bear Coolers is no need to spend your life savings to get a quality cooler bag for a kayak. With the Polar Bear Coolers Eclipse, you don't have to. For day trips, the Eclipse ice chests feature a top construction that provides enough insulation to keep ice nice and cold and is portable enough to quickly strap down to your kayak.


A Guide To Selecting The Right Kayak Cooler

Even though a cooler might appear like a simple piece of gear, a lot goes into creating the ideal storage system for keeping food, drinks, and ice as cold as possible. Here are some things you should consider when choosing a suitable kayak cooler.

Soft-Sided VS Hard-Sided

Hard-sided or soft-sided coolers are the two types of modern coolers. Your choice of kayak cooler will significantly impact its performance in real life. A soft-sided cooler is typically lighter and more portable than a hard-sided cooler. The soft-sided Cooler fits better into your standard kayak dry hatch, making them a better choice for sit-in kayaks. Soft-sided coolers are also less expensive than hard-sided coolers.

Soft-Sided VS Hard-Sided

Soft-Sided VS Hard-Sided

Hard-sided coolers are challenging to beat in terms of their overall insulation and ability to keep drinks ice cold. Hard-sided coolers are bulky, heavy, expensive, extensive, sturdy, and rich. However, Hard-sided coolers are often the better choice for long-term ice retention because they are jam-packed with insulation. In general, sit-on-top kayaks will enjoy their size more than sit-in kayaks.


Depending on what you need to keep cold when paddling, you need a kayak cooler with a specific capacity. Larger coolers can hold more, which is ideal for large groups looking to pack food and drinks.

The size of your kayak also limits your capabilities. Size is particularly actual if you have a sit-in kayak with the best storage spaces in your dry hatches. Kayak owners with sit-on-top kayaks have more wiggle room in size, but you must measure the storage space available before purchasing a kayak cooler.

Insulation Abilities

A cooler is essential if you want your foods and drinks to remain cold, even in hot weather. The insulating ability is, therefore, a significant factor to consider.

Insulation Abilities

Insulation Abilities

While each company uses coolers' unique insulation system, hard-sided coolers tend to be more effective at retaining cold for an extended time than their soft-sided counterparts. Foam and injected polystyrene are two of the best insulating materials available, so keep your eyes peeled for them as you shop.

Attachment Systems/Transportation

One of the most important things to consider when using kayak coolers is their use. With sit-on-top kayaks, things are more accessible kayaks are better equipped to handle a bulky cooler on the kayak's rear deck than stand-up kayaks. The Cooler must still have an attachment system to attach to your kayak with straps or ropes as you paddle to secure the Cooler as you swim.

Sit-in kayak owners should opt for soft-sided coolers that can be easily tucked into the day hatch or day well. Depending on the size of your kayak and the Cooler in question, you may need to adapt. 

You might also be able to incorporate a Cooler into the cockpit itself, either behind your seat or a bit farther to the kayak's bow. The kayak cooler should be the right size for your kayak's storage spaces.



Frequently Asked Questions

How big should a kayak cooler be?

Generally speaking, a 20-quart cooler will fit most sit-on-top kayak storage wells, is easy to carry from your vehicle to your kayak, and will have enough storage capacity to hold drinks, food, bait, and most catches.

Will a Yeti coolers fit on a kayak?

In terms of size, they're perfect for securely stowing on any standard fishing kayak. Even YETI Roadies are renowned for being too big to fit in many kayaks, but these 19-quart ice chests will fit just about anywhere. Furthermore, you'll be amazed at how much you can fit inside.

Is it possible to bring a cooler on a canoe?

Bringing a cooler to keep food cold on the canoe trails is strongly discouraged.