The 6 Best Kayak Coolers in 2021

The 6 Best Kayak Coolers

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As a kayaker, there are many essential kayaking equipment to be taken into serious consideration before sailing out, one of which is your kayak cooler.

Whether you’ll be kayaking for a full day or days, you’ll need a competent kayak cooler to protect your snacks and keep your drinks and whatever catches you reel in fresh and cold until you get back onshore. 

Pick the wrong kayak cooler, and your chances of ending up with a soggy sandwich, warm soda, and a kayak smelling like fish bait will be almost definite.

Thanks to the various types of kayak coolers we have on the market today, there are a variety of choices. Still, it can be very confusing picking the kayak cooler that just about suits your kayaking needs, but worry not, as we have put together 6 of the best kayak coolers you can find on the market today. Keep reading to make your choice!!

Our Top Picks

ProductWeight Cans Number Plus IceDimensions (LxWxH)Cooler Type 
Seattle Sports Kayak2.1 Pounds18 cans 20 x 17 x 2 inches Soft-sided 
ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box3.5 Pounds32 12-ounce cans16.6 x 11 x 13 inches Hard-sided
YETI Hopper Flip Portable Soft Cooler2.8 Pounds20 cans 15.75 x 10.25 x 12.63 inchesSoft-sided 
IceMule Classic Cooler1.7 Pounds12 -15 cans5.91 x 6.3 x 15.75 inchesSoft-sided
RTIC Soft Cooler 203 Pounds24 cans  14 x 11 x 14 inchesSoft-sided 
YETI Hopper Two 20 Portable Cooler4.4 Pounds18 cans22 x 10 x 16.5 inchesSoft-sided

The 6 Best Kayak Coolers in 2021

Now, without beating around the bush, let’s look into the capabilities and specs of each cooler.

1. Seattle Sports Kayak

Seattle Sports Kayak Cooler

The Seattle Sports Kayak cooler is the first on our list, and from its exterior to its interior, it’s easy to see why. This kayak cooler has a heat reflective body and closed-cell foam insulation, which helps keep your catch cold, and your drinks chilled. 

We love that the cooler supports a removable fish bag that allows you to separate your catch. You don’t have to worry about your other food items in the cooler smelling fishy (pun intended). The removable bag also gives you the option of leaving the cooler’s insulated cover atop your kayak while you carry your catch ashore.

Also, the bag has an internal liner which makes for an easy cleanup whenever necessary. The cooler’s material being on the soft side works as well as the cooler can be easily “squashed” into a narrow space if strapping it atop the kayak isn’t an option for you. 

Pros:

  • The removable fish bag allows for the separate storing of catch
  • Easy cleanup
  • Soft material
  • Can be stored flat
  • Adjustable bungee cords and straps for securing other items on the outside of the cooler
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Cooler’s design majorly supports fishing only

Our Take

The Seattle Sports Kayak cooler is a suitable partner for a kayaker who loves fishing. It’ll keep your catch fresh and cold all day long, and its separate fish bag prevents the smell of fish from permeating everywhere in the kayak.

2. ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box

ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box Kayak

Second on our list is the Engel Cooler, and as we have, you might end up falling in love with this cooler’s ruggedness, which makes it a good companion when kayaking as it’ll keep your food, drinks, and catch cold thanks to its airtight EVA gasket, enabling it to be leakproof and waterproof. 

This same feature makes the Engel Cooler an excellent choice for storing dry equipment and tools without fear of rusting. This heavy-duty cooler can successfully carry 32 12-ounce cans. Not to mention, it has a central holder and an adjustable shoulder strap for ease of carriage anywhere and everywhere. 

Plus, it supports a plastic exterior and two front latches, which are stainless steel. All its fittings have been secured with screws that are also stainless steel, making them resistant to rust. 

Other than that, it has a removable hanging tray for storing or safekeeping of dry items. Its non-absorbent surface keeps it resistant to stain and odor and makes it easy to clean after a long muddy trip. 

Pros:

  • Waterproof and leakproof
  • Good dry box
  • Easily carried around
  • Accommodates up to 30 cans
  • Different cooler colors

Cons:

  • Relatively heavy
  • Ice melts quickly due to poor insulation 
  • The plastic exterior can be broken

Our Take

The ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box is a heavy-duty cooler that’s the right fit for a kayaker who loves to fish and requires a cooler that’ll not only keep things cold but can also effectively keep items dry where necessary. 

3. YETI Hopper Flip Portable Soft Cooler

YETI Hopper Flip Portable Soft Cooler

We call this our grab n’ go adventure cooler, thanks to its compact size and durability. The YETI Hopper Flip Portable Soft Cooler is the next on our list, and we’re about to tell you why. But first, don’t be deceived by its foamy exterior; this cooler is tough as nails. Its cover, made from high-density fabric, makes it resistant to water, UV rays, and even punctures.

Plus, it has cold-cell insulation that puts it above ordinary coolers, making it an ice-for-days kind of cooler. It also features a hydro lock zipper that makes it both leakproof and waterproof, and its wide mouth makes for visibility and ease of access to items in the cooler.

This cooler has its YETI ICE dialed in to the most effective temperature and helps the cooler’s ice retention. It also has its own secure and waterproof YETI SIDEKICK, which helps keep your essential items like phones, keys, cards, and more valuables close at hand, and 100% dry. 

With a capacity for 20 cans, one thing we can point to that stands out for us about the YETI Hopper Flip cooler is that come rain or shine, it has got your back – give it a dust, and it’s ready to go.

Pros:

  • Can withstand abuse 
  • Keeps items cold for long hours 
  • Leakproof and waterproof 
  • Cleans out easily
  • Portable

Cons:

  • Hard zipper
  • Relatively pricey

Our Take 

The YETI Hopper Flip Portable Soft Cooler is perfect for “let’s go on an adventure” days. Its compactness makes it easy to sling along; hence, it’s a fitting companion for a day out kayaking.

4. IceMule Classic Cooler

IceMule Classic Cooler Kayak

Next on our list is the IceMule Classic Cooler. One thing we admire about this cooler is its unique design which makes for an easy carriage anywhere and everywhere. This lightweight back strapping cooler is perfect for a day out kayaking, hanging out on the beach, and more, and it can easily carry 12-15 cans. 

The cooler is double-padded and has a ventilated sling strap which allows you to strap the cooler to your back, leaving your hands free to grab other gears/equipment like your fishing rod or paddle. 

It may look and feel squishy and soft, but you can be sure that its exterior is made from high-quality, ultra-tough Moleskin. This toughness and ruggedness of the cooler make it less susceptible to wear and tear.

Not to mention, its interior plus polar layer insulation aids in keeping your items cold for long hours while allowing the cooler to maintain ice-like temperature for up to 2 days. Its welded seam and zipperless closure make it waterproof, leakproof and give it buoyancy so that you can float this cooler right beside your kayak.

Also, the IceMule zipperless roll-top design allows you broad and easy access to the items in the cooler. This design also makes for more storage space. What’s there not to love!

Pros:

  • Keeps items cold
  • Buoyancy
  • Collapsible 
  • Soft pack/material
  • Zero leaks
  • Attractive price point

Cons:

  • The shoulder/back strap can be tight
  • No dry bag for dry equipment or items
  • Sharp objects can pierce it

Our Take

The IceMule Classic Cooler is a perfect companion for a kayaker who wants to avoid all the bulkiness that may come with kayak coolers.

5. RTIC Soft Cooler 20

RTIC Soft Cooler 20 Kayak

Next up is the RTIC Soft Cooler 20. Now, this soft-sided cooler is wrapped up entirely in a heavy-duty vinyl shell resistant to punctures and tears, also ensuring that even when your ice melts, there are no leaks. Its no-leak waterproof zipper further backs up its leak resistance.

The cooler packs about 24 cans and also has exterior pockets that allow you to store dry items. Its 2 inches closed-cell foam insulation, which is similar to that used in wetsuits, keeps your items cold for long hours, and thanks to its wide mouth, there’s the ease of access to the items in the cooler. 

Last but not least, this cooler has an internal antimicrobial liner that prevents mildew growth, which is a unique and vital feature for kayak coolers due to their constant use in/around water. You can be sure you won’t be seeing those weird-looking splotches on your cooler anytime soon.

Pros:

  • Keeps items iced for days
  • Sturdy
  • Durable
  • Guarantees no water leaks
  • Antimicrobial internal liner 
  • Reasonable price
  • Easy carriage

Cons:

  • Small exterior pocket

Our Take 

Thanks to its durability, ruggedness, and ability to ice items for days, the RTIC Soft Cooler 20 is a fitting companion for long kayaking trips, as it’ll keep your things cold and chilled.

6. YETI Hopper Two 20 Portable Cooler

YETI Hopper Two 20 Portable Cooler

Last on our list is the YETI Hopper Two 20 Portable Cooler, and as it’s an improvement of the original Hopper YETI Cooler, you can be sure this cooler doesn’t disappoint. Its dry hide exterior with RF-welded seams and durable straps make it resistant to UV rays, punctures, water, wear, and tear.

Furthermore, its tapered body shape improves its thermal efficiency and makes for easy carriage over long distances. Additionally, its hydrolock zipper, waterproof and leakproof, locks in the cold and prevents leakage even long after the ice has thawed. 

Attached to the cooler’s carrying handles are hitch-point grids that allow you to easily connect anything to your cooler without fear of losing it—for example, your key holder, bottle opener,  or more. Plus, the cooler supports a shoulder strap if the carrying handles don’t work for you. 

Lastly, its thick closed-cell insulation allows your items to remain chilled for hours, and its wide opening allows you to access your things easily. 

Pros:

  • Easy carriage
  • Can withstand abuse 
  • No leakage 
  • Easy loading and unloading 

Cons:

  • Due to the cooler’s restricting body shape, it might be too small for some

Our Take 

The YETI Hopper Two 20 Portable Cooler’s durability makes it the right companion for extended adventures.

How to Choose a Kayak Cooler 

Before heading out to purchase a kayak cooler, here are seven things to look out for in a good kayak cooler.

Type of Kayak

Considering your kayak’s size and shape will determine the size and shape of a kayak cooler that’s a perfect fit for you.

Kayaks come in different shapes and sizes, and while some of them offer a large storage capacity and can easily accommodate different types of kayak coolers without stress, others, like sea kayaks, are too narrow and have limited storage space; hence, they can only accommodate certain types of kayak coolers.

The weight capacity/limit of your kayak is another determining factor of a perfect kayak cooler. Having a good cooler that fits perfectly into your kayak storage space but weighs down the kayak is as good as having none. 

Purpose 

Next is identifying the function or purpose of the kayak cooler. Ask yourself, “what do I want to use the cooler for?” Whether it’s just drinks and food items or drinks, food items, or bait and catch, the size or amount of items you place in the cooler determines to a large extent the size of the cooler you’ll be purchasing.

Failure to identify the functions the cooler will be performing might leave you purchasing a cooler that’s either too small or too big to meet your needs. 

Material

Kayak coolers can either be soft-sided or hard-sided, and these 2 have their pros and cons.

While soft-sided coolers can be very flexible, easy to carry around, and collapsible, they can also be less durable, unlike their hard-sided counterparts.

The hard-sided counterparts can be heavy, not flexible, and not easily carried around. In some cases, they’re also more expensive than their soft-sided counterparts, but they’re usually solid and more durable. 

Water-Resistance

It goes without saying that a good kayaking cooler must be water-resistant. Whether made of soft or rigid material, the best kayak coolers are those certified as being resistant to water due to their constant use in/around water.

Anti Mildew/Mold

This is another critical factor to consider. Mold or mildew is a type of fungus that thrives in environments exposed to moisture. A kayaking cooler that’s not resistant to both of these might not last very long due to the cooler’s constant use in/around water. 

Ice/Cold Retention

Kayak coolers vary in their ice/cold retaining abilities. Depending on what you intend to use your cooler for, its ice retaining capabilities are an essential factor you don’t want to gamble with.

Easiness of Cleaning

Having a cooler that’s always a hassle to clean up after a long day of kayaking can be frustrating, and that’s why ensuring that you can easily clean up the kayak cooler you’re about to purchase is essential. No one wants a cooler that reeks!

Portability

Some kayak coolers’ nature requires you to carry them to and from the kayak constantly; hence, it’s crucial that they have an easy carriage and can be moved easily.

Another option you have is to opt for a kayak cooler with a removable inner, which you can carry ashore while leaving the cooler’s shell on the kayak.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How Do I Secure My Cooler to My Kayak?

If your kayak has enough storage space and the size of your cooler permits, you should be able to secure your cooler to your kayak at the back of your seat, under your seat or, at both sides of your kayak using a velcro strap that runs through each of the plastic buckles on your cooler and then secured to the kayak. However, this is if your kayak and cooler sizes permit. 

Alternatively, you can place your cooler into a floating cooler holder and attach it to your kayak’s tail.  

Are There Good but Cheap Kayak Coolers? 

Yes! Price doesn’t determine whether a kayak cooler is good or not. This is why to save you the stress of researching all on your own, we’ve done the work for you and reviewed the 6 best kayak coolers that can be a perfect kayaking companion. 

Can My Cooler Weigh Down My Kayak?

Definitely. Your cooler can weigh down your kayak if you purchase a kayak cooler without considering the type of kayak you have and its weight capacity/limit.  Knowing the type of kayak you have is essential to getting a cooler that fits.

Final Thoughts 

As we’re sure you’ve seen, our first runner-up on our list of the best kayak coolers is the Seattle Sports Kayak cooler. Thanks to its material and design, this cooler can be “squished” into a storage space on your kayak. 

Plus, its separate fish bag makes it easy to store other food items without a need for a separate cooler, making it a perfect companion for you if you’re into fish kayaking. 

However, if you’re looking for a cooler that can not only keep things chilled but can also be used to store your equipment and keep them dry and safe from dust, then the ENGEL Cooler/Dry Box is the way to go. 

With the YETI Hopper Flip Portable soft cooler, you can be sure that you have the right adventure companion to withstand the heat from the sun and the water splashes while still keeping your items cold and fresh. 

Happy kayaking!

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