The best kayak coolers are built to fit limited space availability, while also being rugged enough for an outdoor adventure. Whether you’re on a low-key outing on your kayak over a serene body of water, or you plan to fish straight from your ‘yak, the right cooler for kayaking will be adaptable to its surroundings. Cooler bags and soft-sided coolers are of course great options, as well as cooler floats, but you may be surprised to find an ice chest or two that doesn’t take up a ton of space and would fit snugly in your kayak. We’ve researched and discovered seven top-rated kayak coolers, as well as one to avoid.
Reviews of the 7 Best Kayak Coolers, Plus the Worst 1 to Avoid
1. Sak Gear ShillSak Soft Cooler Bag Review
First up is the best kayak cooler of 2018, the Sak Gear ShillSak Soft Cooler Bag. This is a multi-functional cooler bag that is not only ideal for keeping your beers and canned beverages cold while you are out on the water, but also for keeping food cold, ensuring you have ice on hand and even for keeping fish cold should you be into fishing while out on your kayak. While this is not one of the cheaper options on the market, the Sak Gear ShillSak Soft Cooler Bag is made from premium-quality materials to ensure you get a more durable cooler bag to last you several years.
This cooler bag is airtight and contains special insulation on the inside to keep things cool. It also features a waterproof design and has an adequate internal space to fit up to 24 cans. An additional slip pocket makes it easy to store smaller things that you also wish to take with you.
2. YETI Hopper 30 Portable Cooler Review
The best YETI cooler for a kayak would most likely be the YETI Hopper 30 Portable Cooler. This cooler is a favorite among avid Yeti cooler customers and comes with many great features that make it an ideal solution as compared to some of the alternative options available. The cooler comes in a variety of different color and is made from top-quality materials, along with a unique stitch, to offer a 100% leak proof design. The cooler bag is also waterproof, ensuring everything on the inside stays cool and safe even when the cooler falls over into the lake.
The YETI Hopper 30 Portable Cooler comes with the brand’s DryHide Shell design, which provides a more durable performance – even in tough situations. This ensures the cooler bag will last for a very long time before needing a replacement.
3. Engel Coolers HD30 100% Waterproof Soft-Sided Cooler Bag Review
Another great option and probably the best kayak cooler bag if you are looking for a good balance between value and price. The Engel Coolers HD30 100% Waterproof Soft-Sided Cooler Bag features a soft material design, along with unique features, such as a specially designed zipper, to ensure water is kept on the outside of the bag. The cooler bag is also leakproof, which means any spills on the inside will not leak out.
The Engel Coolers HD30 100% Waterproof Soft-Sided Cooler Bag is made from a Rugged TPU material to ensure durability. The vacuum valve technology used for sealing the bag also provides for a more effective waterproofing, as well as ensures that the items held on the inside of the cooler bag can be kept cool for up to four and a half days.
4. Engel USA Cooler Dry Box Review
Looking for a solution for storing your fish without going back to land every 30 minutes? Then opt for the Engel USA Cooler / Dry Box, definitely the best kayak fish bag cooler that you will find at this price. This cooler box features a hardcover design that is fully waterproof. Internal contents of the cooler can be kept cool for several days without having to worry about melting ice or a leaking cooler box. The box has an internal space of 19 quartz, which also means several fish can be stored securely on the inside.
The Engel USA Cooler / Dry Box comes in a variety of colors. These colors include white, Grassland and Tan. For those who wish to use the cooler box specifically for kayak fishing, an alternative version of this cooler box is also available that comes with four-rod holders, two on each side of the box.
5. Fatboy Backpack Soft Cooler Review
We found the Fatboy Backpack Soft Cooler to be the best kayak cooler float that you can buy right now. This cooler bag features a soft-sided design that is made from heavy-duty, high-quality materials to offer you a more durable solution to keeping your drinks and food cold when you are on your kayak. This option also satisfies the need for a floating cooler for kayak outings, in the case where space is of particular concern with a smaller kayak.
The Fatboy Backpack Soft Cooler is extremely easy to carry around, due to its backpack design. The cooler bag features an IP66 Level 3 certification, which means its waterproof features allows the bag to be submerged underwater without the risk of water leaking into the bag. A burping valve has also been added to allow for increasing or reducing air inside of the cooler bag.
6. TOURIT 20 Cans Leak-Proof Soft Pack Cooler Review
The best cooler for kayak fishing that provides an all-inclusive set of features would be the TOURIT 20 Cans Leak-Proof Soft Pack Cooler. This option offers a good balance between everything – it comes at a decent price, provides a high-quality, durable design, is made from top-quality materials, and has an internal insulation system that keeps all content within the bag cool for as much as three days in total. The insulation system has been designed with three separate layers for maximum performance.
In addition to the cooler bag being waterproof, the zipper technology, along with the internal layers and the stitching work, ensures a 100% leak-free performance. An antimicrobial-coated internal layer also helps to prevent the buildup of mildew, mold and other dreadful microorganisms.
7. Mountainsmith The Sixer Soft Sided Cooler Review
The Mountainsmith, The Sixer Soft Sided Cooler, is the best small cooler for kayak, providing a portable way to keep your beer and other drink cold, while also providing enough space to ensure you can keep your lunch or snacks fresh. The cooler bag is made from a special type of material, known as 150d Baby RipStop Poly. It can hold up to six bottles of beer or soda and features a built-in bottle opener for your convenience.
This cooler bag offers a PEVA Waterproof sealed lining, making it virtually impossible for water to enter the bag or for internal contents to leak out of the bag. A special Barrel Top zipper further improves on the fact that the bag is leak proof and waterproof.
Avoid – Arctic Zone Eco Blend 45 Can Freezer Tote Review
While cheap and seemingly packed with some useful features, we did find the Arctic Zone Eco Blend 45 Can Freezer Tote to be the worst kayak cooler. There are features of this cooler bag that is beneficial, but we do not consider this an appropriate option for a day out on the lake. The lining of this cooler ensures internal content will not leak outward and the design also provides a basic level of protection against water – dropping the bag into the water will not, however, guarantee the safety of the internal contents.
The Arctic Zone Eco Blend 45 Can Freezer Tote is also not an ideal option for a multi-day trip. The insulation and overall design are only able to keep the items on the inside, be it fish, food or beverages, cold for a couple of hours – not for several days like the other best kayak coolers we mentioned in this review guide.
2018 Buyers Guide to the Best Kayak Coolers
There are thousands of different coolers that you can choose from in order to take with you on a kayak, but only a few of these will offer you the features you really need. Understanding the main points to be considered when buying one of these coolers will help you make a smarter choice that gives you a better overall performance and more value for the money you spend.
3 Main Factors to Consider
- Durability: The durability of a cooler bag that you will be taking with you on a kayak is one of the most essential factors to consider while searching for the perfect option. While there are many options that you can choose from, not all of them will offer you the same quality and durability. This makes looking into the materials used in the device and its overall features important. By considering these factors, you will be able to identify possible drawbacks regarding the design of the cooler bag that might cause it to wear out more quickly. Ideally, look for a cooler bag that is made from materials that are known to be “heavy-duty.” This will ensure the bag will not start wearing out with just a couple of uses and will also ensure it will last you for several years – this means there would be no need to frequently replace your cooler bag, saving you a lot of money in the long run.
- Waterproof: You should also look at how well the cooler bag you are interested in can perform in environments like a lake – where you will most likely take the bag when you go out with your kayak. There are a lot of cooler bags out there that suggests that the stitching and materials are water resistant or waterproof. Unfortunately, not all of these cooler bags will offer you the features you come to expect from a product that claims to have such features. While shopping for a cooler bag for kayaking, it is important to look at the particular features that are mentioned – particularly the features related to how the cooler bag is waterproof. Consider the material used and the type of sewing that was used in connecting the material. You should also consider customer reviews as this will also help you understand if previous customers have found the cooler bag to offer effective waterproof features.
- Warranty: While not all cooler bags will come with a warranty, especially the cheaper ones, certain kayak coolers will come with a warranty. In some cases, the warranty will be limited to a couple of months or years. Some brands are known to offer a lifetime warranty on their products – these brands tend to offer higher-priced cooler bags, but they also usually make use of better materials than the cheaper brands. Opting for a cooler bag that comes with a warranty may yield better value for your money in the end. This would ensure that tears in the stitching and other particular problems, such as water leaking into a cooler bag that is supposed to be waterproof, does not require you to replace the cooler bag at your own expense.
Are all soft sided coolers also waterproof?
Soft-sided coolers are excellent for spending the day on the water with a kayak. Even though hard coolers have their benefits, many people tend to opt for the soft-sided options due to their unique benefits, often including better portability and a better overall price. When it comes to taking one of these coolers on a kayak with you, understanding their performance in wet environments is important.
To answer the main question here – no, not all soft sided coolers are completely waterproof. There are often different terms used to describe how well a particular cooler can perform in water and on a kayak. Two of the primary terms that you should understand is water resistant and waterproof – while these two terms may sound very similar, they do not refer to the exact same feature.
A cooler that is water resistant means that it can withstand splashes of water, but will not be able to provide optimal protection when submerged under water. A waterproof feature, on the other hand, provides a more effective level of protection against water and will usually not allow any water to enter the bag, even when submerged underneath the water.
Kayak 101: How to Pack a Kayak (Video Guidance):
Final Thoughts on Buying the Best Kayak Coolers
Kayaking is a fun and relaxing activity, but being out on the open water for the entire day calls for cold beverages to be served on demand. If you are planning to fish, then you will need a way to keep the fish cold and not out in the sun. Buying the best cooler for kayak outings will ensure all of your needs for cold storage are met while you are out on the water, with no need to go back to the land frequently to store away your catch, or stock up on food and drinks.