Keeping food and drinks cold when you’re kayaking on a hot day can be a challenge.
Not least because you’ve already got enough gear and equipment on board, and finding space for anything else is like playing a game of Tetris.
And there’s even more to consider when you want to keep fish cold when kayak angling.
That’s where this selection of the best kayak coolers for 2022 comes in.
Chosen for their compatibility with kayaks, compact size, and ice retention, the following products should keep both kayak anglers and recreational paddlers happy.
So, stay cool, and keep reading!
Table of Contents
- TOP 9 Best Coolers for Kayaks 2022
- How to Choose the Best Coolers for Kayak Fishing
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TOP 9 Best Coolers for Kayaks 2022
How to Choose the Best Coolers for Kayak Fishing
Below, you’ll find a handy buyer’s guide to help you choose the right kayak cooler for your needs, and your kayak.
Type of Kayak
Before choosing the best kayak cooler, you first need to be aware of the type of kayak you have. It might go without saying, but a bit of thought in this department can prevent returns and negative reviews.
Is your kayak a sit-inside, or sit-on-top model?
If it’s the former, you probably won’t have the space for large ice chests or hard-sided crates, and might consider compact, soft-sided bags, or even a floating cooler.
You’re not going to have much deck space, and storage will be limited to one or two smaller hatches located at the bow and/or stern. This is where a hatch cooler might be the best option.
For sit-on-top kayaks, more often than not you’ll have the luxury of choosing a larger kayak cooler, as you’ll likely have a spacious stern tank well that can accommodate it.
But there’s more to consider – so don’t go just yet!
Your kayak is also going to be either a hardshell or an inflatable.
Without going into the pros and cons of each, generally speaking, you’ll have more storage space in a hardshell fishing kayak than you will an inflatable – especially when it comes to kayak width.
Type of Cooler
Much like kayaks, there are several types of coolers available, and the type you choose depends on the space you have, and what you want to get out of it.
Ice Chests/Cooler Crates
The largest coolers available, ice chests are basically the same types of cooler you’d find at home, or when you’re tailgating, camping, or entertaining in the garden.
They’re most commonly hardshell, heavy-duty products that offer the best cooling performance, and will keep whatever they contain colder for longer.
When looking for an ice chest/crate that’s specific for kayak fishing, they tend to be more compact than what you’d find at home, but can often be customized with additional gear like fishing rod holders.
Cooler bags tend to be of the softshell variety, and as such, they’re much more portable than ice chests. They’re often more compact, too, which makes them ideal for use on a kayak.
Cooler bags are typically not as cold as ice chests, as they don’t have the same levels of closed cell foam insulation.
As mentioned, some kayaks don’t have a great deal of real estate to play with when it comes to storing gear. Floating coolers are the answer – make the water work for you!
Floating coolers are waterproof, designed to be towed behind your kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. They are an excellent choice when space is at a premium.
The CreekKooler floating cooler is a great example in the review, above – with the Intex Inflatable Cooler an honorable mention – especially if you’re on a budget.
The obvious downsides are that you need to reel them in for access, they can seriously impede kayak performance, and there’s always still a chance – however small – they can float away.
Kayak Tank Well/Hatch Coolers
Some of the best kayak coolers have been specifically designed for use on an actual kayak, and where possible, I’ve included them in this review.
You can always go to this link if you’re looking for more general fishing coolers – although many of them will still be compatible with a kayak.
You can easily identify dedicated kayak coolers with their semi-triangular shape that has been designed to fit perfectly in a stern tank well.
And some are an oval shape in order to fit into a kayak’s dry hatches.
The problem is, while many can easily accomplish this feat, they’re often hit or miss when it comes to actually keeping things cold – as well as the amount of storage capacity they afford.
Size and Capacity
Once you’ve settled on the type of kayak cooler that’s going to be compatible with your setup, the next most important consideration is how big it’s going to be – and how much it can contain.
Thankfully, there are plenty of options, with kayak cooler capacity measured in liters, quarts, and/or how many standard drinks cans it will hold. There’s a size to fit everyone – and every kayak.
It’s not rocket science – the more you want to bring with you, the larger the cooler’s capacity will need to be. And choose a more compact cooler bag if you don’t need to carry much for the day.
Just remember that the cooler’s overall size and the amount it can hold are two different things.
While some of these products are like the Tardis, others leave a lot to be desired on internal storage space compared to how large they are from the outside.
The very best kayak coolers will offer a happy medium, with the ability to pack the most food while keeping the lowest profile possible.
And don’t forget about your kayak’s weight capacity. Coolers and their contents can add a lot of weight – which – when added to everything else, can leave you unbalanced, and in danger of getting into difficulty.
Not to be overlooked, you need to consider how good a cooler is going to be at actually keeping food and drinks ice-cold.
Does it trap cold air effectively? What’s its ability when it comes to ice retention? How long is it likely to stay cold on a hot day?
Sure, it might look good, with a high capacity, and fit the space you’ve reserved in your kayak down to the millimeter – but does it actually keep its contents cold?!
The best coolers for kayaks will have generous insulation, look and feel quality, with efficient zippers, closures, and other hardware for trapping the cold air and keeping the warm air out.
And in some kayak coolers, you can always add extra foam insulation if space allows. You might have found the best cooler for kayaking if it fits on board and does the job it’s designed to do.
Getting gear to and from your kayak as efficiently as possible is an important part of your adventure.
Therefore, it’s worth considering how you carry and transport a kayak cooler, so you’re comfortable, and fatigue doesn’t set in before you’ve even raised a paddle.
Look for lightweight kayak coolers with shoulder or backpack straps for the ultimate in portability, and remember that soft sided coolers are going to be easier to transport than hardshells.
Of course, the trade-off is cold retention is going to be better in a hardshell, so it’s worth considering a good kayak cart if you prefer to use a more heavy-duty cooler for kayak fishing, for example.
Some kayak coolers come with extra features that may or may not be of use to you when you’re out on the water.
These might include:
- Holders for fishing rods.
- Transparent pockets for maps.
- Dry bag storage.
- Removable compartments.
- Waterproof pockets for valuables.
- D-rings and straps for adding tools and gear.
Extra features on cool bags are typically more advantageous for the kayak angler, which is why you’ll often find them in reviews of the best kayak fishing accessories to own.
Unfortunately, when it comes to coolers, the more you pay – the more efficient the cooler bag is likely to be. If you want cutting-edge insulation technology – that’s where the money goes.
That’s why products from the market leaders can set you back an eye-watering sum, and yet the kayak cooler reviews for these products speak for themselves.
If you need a cooler that offers the very best in cold retention, designed for storing fish on ice, and/or to keep food, drinks, and other supplies chilled and fresh for days – then spare no expense.
But for a casual day out on the water, you don’t need the most advanced insulation money can buy.
And as I always say – you should purchase the best you can afford – in relation to how much you’re actually going to use it.
What’s the best kayak cooler?
That’s difficult to say, as the best for me and my kayak, might not be the best for you and yours.
The best kayak cooler is going to be one that keeps its contents cool, is easy to transport, and fits your kayak well. Check the review above, and you’ll surely find the right cooler for you.
Can I put a cooler on a kayak?
Yes, of course!
But the type of kayak cooler depends on the type of kayak. You might struggle to find the space for it on a compact, sit-in play boat, as opposed to a larger pedal fishing kayak, for example.
Of course, you can always try using a floating cooler if that’s the case.
Still, most sit-on-top kayaks will have a stern tank well that offers plenty of space for a hard or soft sided cooler.
What size cooler is good for a kayak?
Again, it depends on the size of the kayak. Fishing kayaks and coolers come in all shapes and sizes, and you can surely find one that fits in your craft.
But when in doubt, choose a cooler that has been specifically designed for use on a kayak, which will help maximize space and efficiency.
How do you strap down a kayak cooler?
Many kayaks come with shock cord deck rigging, bungee tie-downs, or mesh covers over their tank well storage areas, and you can use these features to make sure your kayak cooler is secure.
Alternatively, you can check out YouTube videos like the one below for tips and advice on keeping your gear onboard – and not all at sea.
This selection of the best kayak coolers offers the perfect products for use with your kayak, canoe, or paddleboard.
Whether you’re a keen kayak angler looking for a fish bag, or just a casual paddler wanting to keep food cold, you’ll find the right cooler for you.
Let me know which option you’ve gone for and why – or if you have any kayak cooler tips and tricks you’d like to share with the community.
Stay safe, stay cool, and happy kayaking!