Chill Out Man! The TOP 9 Best Kayak Coolers in 2022 (Guide & Reviews)

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!

TOP 9 Best Coolers for Kayaks 2022

Arctic Zone Titan Hardbody Cooler

The Arctic Zone Titan cooler is one of the most popular and highly rated products in its class.

That’s probably got something to do with the fact that it can keep its contents cold for up to two days, with deep-freeze technology and insulation that reflects heat rather than absorbing it.

Guaranteed to keep drinks cold (and anything else you put inside), this is a hybrid cooler bag/chest that is perfect for adding to your kayak setup.

And that ingenious, zipperless cold-lock lid grants you access to your ice-cold beer without fiddling around.

Pros

  • Affordable price point.
  • Very highly rated.
  • Front cooler pocket.
  • Water and stain resistant.
  • Comfortable strap.
  • Removable shelf.
  • Choice of colors and sizes.

Cons

  • None to speak of.

Takeaway

I can’t fault this product, and I’m not alone. Possibly the best kayak cooler bag on the market – especially considering the price compared to other big-name brands. This will literally keep your food and drinks cold for days.

YETI Hopper Flip 18 Soft-Side Cooler

YETI Hopper Flip 18 Soft-Side Cooler

You can’t have an article about coolers without including at least one product from these guys, and the YETI Hopper Flip is probably one of the best soft-sided coolers ever made.

While not strictly designed for kayak use, its relatively compact size and portability lends itself for inclusion on board your craft.

Fully leakproof, this is a highly durable, robust soft cooler that you can take anywhere, with storage space for up to 20 cans.

That’s more than enough for most paddlers and kayak anglers, as the YETI Hopper range continues to impress.

Pros

  • Market leading cooler company.
  • Premium quality materials.
  • Hitchpoint grid for tools and equipment.
  • Choice of colors.
  • Padded shoulder strap.
  • Rugged, waterproof zipper.

Cons

  • Exorbitantly expensive.

Takeaway

In an already outstanding range of coolers, the YETI Hopper Flip stands out as arguably the best kayak cooler in their portfolio. Compact yet spacious, lightweight yet durable, if you’re looking for that famous YETI quality, then accept no substitute. You’ll just have to pay for it, is all.

TCYC Deluxe Yakcatch Kayak Cooler

This kayak cooler is the first genuine kayak cooler in our review. While the previous coolers are outstanding in their own right, the Yakcatch cooler from TCYC has actually been designed purely for use in a kayak.

Made from 600 Denier water-resistant polyester, it’s padded with thick, closed-cell foam insulation for superior cold retention.

The central zipper offers quick and easy access to the contents, and there are six locking clips around the soft shell cooler bag to help secure it to the deck. Perfect for keeping your catch fresh!

Pros

  • Great price point.
  • Compact and portable.
  • Shoulder strap.
  • Dry bag included.
  • Map pocket.
  • Universal kayak cooler.

Cons

  • The liner isn’t the best quality – not so great for sharp fish fins.

Takeaway

A compact, affordable soft kayak cooler that will fit perfectly in smaller craft/inflatables, and is ideal for lashing to the deck of a sit-inside kayak, rather than storing in a tank well.

CreekKooler Floating Cooler

CreekKooler Floating Cooler

If you’re really short on space on your kayak, or you simply want to make use of an ingenious way to bring more stuff with you on your trip, then you simply must check out the CreekKooler floating cooler.

100% watertight, it’s lined with 1.75-inches of foam insulation, and is designed to be towed behind a kayak, canoe, raft, or paddleboard.

A choice of colors is available – including some smart camouflage designs for hunting and fishing – and it even has a mini-flag port to help you (and it) remain visible in low light or poor conditions.

As a space saver, this is one of the most awesome coolers for kayaks there is.

Pros

  • Solid, durable construction.
  • Versatile.
  • Easy-turn, watertight lid.
  • Four beverage holders on the deck.
  • Generous 30 quart capacity.
  • Can be used as dry storage.

Cons

  • Tow-rope sold separately.
  • On the more expensive side.
  • Can be a drag – literally.

Takeaway

The Creekooler floating cooler is an awesome product for a summer on the water – even if you’re not actually kayak fishing. Hands down the best floating cooler on the market, but you will notice drag when towing – especially if it’s particularly full.

Engel Drybox Cooler with Rod Holders

Engel Drybox Cooler with Rod Holders

Here we have an awesome 30 quart dry box/cooler for kayak fishing, that comes complete with rod holders already built-in.

This ice chest is ideal for keeping your catch fresh, and has an airtight, EVA gasket seal to keep the heat out and the cold in.

Easy to clean and stain and odor resistant, it’s perfect for keeping fish slime locked away, and is compact and lightweight enough to fit seamlessly onto your fishing kayak’s deck.

Designed specifically for hunting and fishing trips, this is a super tough catch cooler for all your outdoor needs.

Pros

  • Choice of colors – including high-visibility.
  • Self-stopping hinge.
  • Excellent cold retention.
  • Can also protect valuables.
  • Accessory hanging tray.
  • Stainless steel hardware.
  • Carry handles and shoulder strap.

Cons

  • I can’t fault it.

Takeaway

Kayak anglers – look no further! This ice chest might be one of the best catch cooler products on the market. Tough, durable, and capable of keeping its contents chilled for days, as far as dedicated hunting and fishing coolers go – this is a quality piece of gear for the outdoors.

YETI Roadie 24 Hard Cooler

YETI Roadie 24 Hard Cooler

One of the newer coolers on the market, the YETI Roadie 24 is a lightweight, compact hard-sided option from the cooler experts.

Offering a significant improvement on the previous model, the Roadie is lighter, and more efficient, as well as holding 20% more to keep plenty of ice frozen and drinks cold.

More robust than a soft cooler, this features YETI’s trademark durability, with a hinge and locking system that has been designed not to break.

Capable of holding up to 18 cans or 24 lbs of ice, this is one of the best new kayak coolers out there for 2022.

Pros

  • Premium build quality.
  • Highly durable design.
  • Robust, never-fail hardware.
  • Easy-to-open latches.
  • Keeps ice frozen for days.
  • Choice of colors.

Cons

  • Pricey.

Takeaway

Another home run from YETI, the Roadie is your perfect, on-the-go cold storage solution, which means it’s ideal for kayaking. It might not be a budget cooler, but quality this good doesn’t come cheap.

Pelican Sport ExoChill Cooler Bag

The ExoChill cooler bag from Pelican provides a 17 liter capacity, in a design that can fit into the stern tank well of a sit-on-top kayak.

Made with 420 Denier material, the 0.5-inch insulation makes it one of the more lightweight coolers on the market, but it will still keep food and drinks ice-cold for hours on the water.

Easy to transport, it has multiple carry handles and a shoulder strap, with a durable, zipper enclosure.

While the best fit is obviously going to be with a Pelican craft, the universal design ensures it will fit almost any sit-on-top kayak – for fishing or recreational paddling.

Pros

  • Rugged, durable construction.
  • Integrated gear loops.
  • Reflective logo for visibility.
  • Can be used as a general storage bag.
  • Highly portable.
  • Universal design.

Cons

  • Probably not suitable for use as a fish bag.

Takeaway

Perfect for day trips on the water, this stern tank well kayak cooler from Pelican is a great option for keeping your lunch on ice. I’m not sure if I’d use it to store fish, however.

Yakhacker Kayak Cooler

Designed to sit behind your kayak seat, the Yakhacker kayak cooler offers a slim profile that’s ideal for use on sit-on-top kayaks.

The soft-shell cooler bag has been made with a high-density insulation material and leak-proof liner, which is capable of keeping food hot or cold for up to 16 hours.

The top opening, leak proof zipper allows easy access to the contents, while the durable, PVC tarp shell keeps things protected.

It can store up to 24 drinks cans, and the carry handles and shoulder strap allow it to be transported with ease.

And for the price, this is easily one of the best kayak cooler bags out there.

Pros

  • Great price point.
  • Well-designed, low profile.
  • Net pockets.
  • Removable storage bag.
  • Waterproof pocket for valuables.

Cons

  • Best suited to lawn-chair kayak seats.

Takeaway

If your vessel has raised seating, then this could well be the best soft sided kayak cooler for you. It fits seamlessly behind the cockpit, taking up minimal space, but affording a generous capacity that should keep you going all day long.

Wilderness Systems Kayak Crate

Rounding out our reviews is a fishing kayak cooler that might cause a few raised eyebrows among readers. That’s because it’s not technically a fishing cooler at all, but a kayak crate for tackle and gear.

However, it can easily double as a cooler, once you’ve packed it full of ice, and/or added some additional polystyrene foam insulation.

It features universal lash down points to secure it to your kayak – so you don’t have to own a Wilderness Systems craft for this to be compatible.

And the four rod holders are a nice touch for keeping your gear organized when you’re on the water. You can always go here to check out the best kayak rod holders if you don’t have enough!

Pros

  • Heavy-duty tackle storage.
  • Watertight seal.
  • Additional storage on the lid.
  • Tough, durable design.
  • Large capacity.

Cons

  • Not a dedicated kayak cooler.
  • Expensive.

Takeaway

Okay, so it’s not marketed as a fishing cooler, but there’s no reason it can’t be used as one, especially because of the watertight seal and durable, thick-walled construction.

And you can always put a soft sided cooler inside for double the ice retention, and to keep a catch cold and odors to a minimum.

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.

angler in a sit-on-top kayak fishing on the river

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.

For more information about the differences between the two, check out this article on the best sit-on-top kayaks for fishing, or go here if you’re looking for the challenge of a sit-inside version.

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.

fisherman putting caught fish in the cooler

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

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.

Floating Coolers

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.

fisherman at the seashore with fishing cooler and fishing rod

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.

Cooling Ability

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.

kayak fisherman on lake fishing

Portability

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.

Extra Features/Customization

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.

two men fishing from tandem kayak

Cost

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.

FAQs

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.

Summary

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!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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