Ice chests and cooler bags are a great addition to your kayak tour. Not only they can help keeping the fish but also allow you to store a lot of other equipment such as water bottles, food items and fishing food. Also there is a limited space in a fishing kayak, so you need to consider using additional storage space that you can move around, eg. a cooler bag. So, what is the best cooler solution for a kayak?

After testing more than a dozen kayak coolers, I decided to purchase the Arctic Zone Zipperless Cooler (link to check the current price on Amazon) for my weekend kayaking. The features of this cooler satisfy all my needs. Easy to clean, spacious and the most important feature for me personally is the ultra safe material usage and being leak proof. The balance between quality and price (around $40) is the greatest I think.

How to Choose a Kayak Cooler?

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If you are planning on taking shorter trips on calm and shallow waters, then any softshell cooler will probably do the work. However, if you intend to go for longer trips and on slightly deeper waters, then you need a cooler that offers greater ice retention. This section is going to deal with the kayak coolers and their usage specifically. This is because before you know which product to buy, you need to know how and when to use a cooler.

Where will you be using it?

It is important to know the destination of your trips and the frequency of it before you decide on your ultimate cooler. If you are used to taking trips that involve churning waters and faster currents, then you probably need something rugged.

Your cooler will also have to be strapped securely onto your kayak. Similarly, if you get involved in a lot of portaging in between trips, then you can also invest in some hybrid coolers. These will have a hard shell or casing, which will allow you to carry them easily.

What are you storing in it?

This is another important factor that you need to keep in mind. A kayak cooler can be used to store your raw fish, cooked food, and even your drinks. It is also quite common for people to keep their coolers fully stocked.

As they are designed to offer greater protection to things inside, they are also used to store fishing equipment that includes food too. If you intend to store perishable items inside, you need to take into consideration the amount of ice or coolants you can add.

How will you store it?

To ensure that your cooler provides the best advantages, you need to ensure that it is well stored. Like we said, you need to first determine what type of water you usually kayak on.

Once you have figured out the basics, you need to ensure that you secure the cooler properly so that it doesn’t fall off. Moreover, most coolers are made to fit on your kayak, so you need to size it appropriately.

Other Things to Consider when Picking out the Best Kayak Coolers

  • Durability: As with most products, durability is an important component of a kayak cooler. You want your cooler to retain its strength for a long time. Not only that, but higher durability is also more likely to offer greater weather resistance. This comes in handy when the temperature is high, and you need your cooler to retain the ice inside.
  • Portability:Kayaking offers amazing benefits, and one of them is being able to explore all kinds of places and see the world from a new perspective. When you go kayaking, you might want to spend a night at an isolated location or an island. This will obviously require you to carry your cooler around. The cooler, therefore, needs to offer higher portability. It should be strong and should have a compact design.
  • Budget:This might seem like an obvious feature, but it should be considered. You don’t want to spend a good amount of money on a kayak cooler. This is especially important if you don’t use your kayak very often. Moreover, you need to know that you can get very good products, even at a reasonable rate.
  • Maintenance: You don’t want to have to clean your cooler or ice chest very frequently. This is why you need to invest in a model that is low maintenance. It should come with a smooth and reliable design that doesn’t require too much care. The interior line of the cooler should also be completely impervious to smells so that you don’t end up smelling like fish the whole time.

How to Choose the Right Cooler for Your Kayak

To enjoy your kayaks to the best of your ability, it is important that you choose the right cooler. There are many different types of coolers that exist in the market. You need to pair the right one with your kayak. To do that, you need to know which kayak you have.

Sit on top kayaks

These are the most user-friendly and are often extremely stable. It is also very easy to get in and out of them. You don’t feel as confined as you would in a sit-in kayak. Another great thing about such kayaks is that you can slip on and off them easily. All these features make up for a great environment. You, therefore, need a smaller cooler to fit perfectly inside.

Sit inside kayak

A sit-inside kayak shelters the lower body from the wind and makes the inside really warm. It also makes it harder to move in and out of it. You need a good cooler to go with such kayaks. By a good cooler, we mean one that comes with a double layer that ensures good ice retention inside.

Narrow kayaks

You can find a good sit in and sit on kayak in a lot of different sizes. What makes a narrow kayak stand out is its smaller size. You need a small cooler to go with your kayak. Its compact size will allow you to leave it and come back on it whenever you want.

Types of Coolers

Like most products, coolers do offer a range of options. This variation is a good thing as it allows users to know which model is best suited to their kayak. These also come with their own set of pros and cons. You can compare them against each other to know which one suits you best.


A thermal bag is a thermally insulated container in the form of a bag that can be carried around easily. It is also made up of refrigerant gel that can retain coolness for longer hours. Moreover, a thermal bag is also used to help maintain the temperature of all the contents consistent throughout your journey.

So if you are looking for a cooler bag substitute that will keep hot items hot, and cool items cool, then this is your best shot. But more importantly, you will get to use a model that is extremely lightweight and highly portable.

Catch Coolers

This is another very efficient design that is used to provide you with the best performance. These coolers also made for a perfect fit on almost all kayaks, especially ones that require you to sit on top of them. They also come with a highly insulated body that keeps your catch fresh the whole time.

Moreover, their double absorbent lining ensures that the smell from the raw fish doesn’t fill your whole place. But the best thing about these fish bags is that they offer two separate access points which ensure that you can keep hot and cold items separately.

Ice Chests

Ice chests are boxes or compartments that contain ice in them. They are usually made with plastic on the outside and hard foam in between. These are a lot cheaper than the other options mentioned above. Their ability to retain ice structures is also amazing.

Moreover, they are available in a range of different sizes and shapes. This allows you to match your kayak with an appropriately sized cooler. You can also get one with wheels if you are traveling with your family.

Not just that, but ice chests also offer more convenience as you can invest in a disposable one that is made from polystyrene foam. This is only 2 cm thick and can be discarded once you are done.

Features of Good Kayak Coolers

Kayaking can be really fun, but only if you have all the amenities to assist you. A cooler is one such luxury that you need. It will keep your stuff retain their freshness, but more on that later. Let’ look at some of the features that you will find in good kayak coolers.

Fresh food

One of the most important features of any good kayak cooler is that it’s completely impervious to water. Whether you get a steel one or an inflatable one, make sure it’s waterproof because you don’t want the water to penetrate the insides and damage your perfectly cooked food.


Kayaks are already small and don’t accommodate a lot of people; therefore, a good kayak cooler will not take up too much space. You can get a compact design such as a cooler bag, or if you want to keep a lot of stuff, you can go for a disposable cooler too. But regardless of what type you end up choosing, make sure it doesn’t take up much of your precious space.

Long-lasting product

This is a very obvious feature that good kayak coolers will have. With a sturdy design, your water cooler will provide you with high reliability. These are often made up of metals or plastics. The best thing about these coolers is that they won’t break even if you come across harsh or unpredictable weather.

Many anchor points

A good kayak cooler will also come with at least one or more anchor points. These will give you the possibility to easily strap down the cooler so that it won’t budge even when you enter slightly rough or harsh waters.

Good storage capacity

One of the main reasons people invest in coolers is to find good storage space for their equipment. If you want one specifically for your fishing expeditions, then you should invest in a model with double lining. This will keep the smells away. However, regardless of what option you end up choosing from our list, rest assured that you will get a good storage capacity.

Overall Best 5 Best Kayak Coolers

#1: Yeti Hopper Two Portable Cooler

The Yeti Hopper cooler is one of the best ones in the market, and it has won this position fair and square. It is the perfect cooler to accompany you on any of your kayaking trips. It is tough as nails, and hence no water or outside moisture can penetrate the body.

The model is mostly known for its super amazing updated design, which allows you to put all the contents easily and securely. Moreover, it comes with a tapered body that comes with extensions and makes hauling more comfortable.

The leak-proof cooler also comes with a fully dry hide shell. This, coupled with its high water resistance, helps keep all the food inside free from any moisture. Moreover, this also ensures that dust particles cannot enter the container.

But what set this cooler apart are its very strong straps. These are completely indestructible and give you more reliability. Moreover, the model also comes with zippers that let you carry multiple food items all at once. The zipper design also offers better protection as the leak-proof design prevents any spilling.

So if you want to continue doing what you love without having to think about your gear or your food, then this is the model for you.


  • Can be hauled anywhere you want
  • The updated design allows you to put contents in very easily
  • The tapered body ensures extended hauling
  • Features a fully waterproof shell
  • The indestructible straps keep the inside safe from intruders


  • Slightly heavier than some other models
  • Less portable

#2: Perception Splash Seat Back Cooler

When you go kayaking, the last thing you want to worry about is your cooler falling off or not retaining the freshness of your food. Luckily for you, both these things are unlikely to happen with this splash seat cooler. It is a compact cooler that offers efficiency.

This ultimate slim kayak cooler is specially designed to fit any lawn chair style seating system on your kayak and doesn’t take up much space for attachment. This not only keeps you tension free but also helps keep your cooler secured in its position.

The model is also known for offering greater durability. This is provided by the very thick and closed-cell foam at the interior, which keeps all your food and drinks retain their temperature. Not only that, but this durability also comes in handy in offering high water resistance. The thick wall keeps rain and dust outside of the bag.

That’s not all; you will also be pleased to know that the cooler comes with a zipper. This makes accessibility to food and drinks very easy. So if you want the ease of usage as well as better affordability, look no further and order this product right away.


  • It is extremely thin that assists portability
  • Offers easy attachment to any kayak
  • Comes with a zippered opening on top
  • Offers easier access to drinks and food
  • RF welded internal seams keeps rain out


  • Does not come with proper screws
  • Repair is difficult if the model gets damaged

#3: Seattle Sports Kayak Catch Cooler 20

If you are a huge fishing enthusiast and like to indulge in the activity now and then, the chances are that you are also always on the lookout for a good cooler. A good cooler will not only help you keep your catch fresh but will also ensure that the smell of raw fish doesn’t penetrate the insides of the cooler, but there is more to this story.

The best thing about this cooler is that it allows for easy maintenance. Unlike other models, you won’t have to spend a lot of time cleaning the inner side with a soap. Instead, you can wash it with soap and hot water after each trip, and it will be ready to go.
Moreover, it won’t retain any of the smells from your earlier foods. This feature is also aided by a removable internal liner that makes it easy to clean the whole box.

The company has also gone to extreme measures to provide all users with maximum efficiency. The model is made with a heat reflective body that is fully closed from all sides. The cell foam insulation also helps keep your entire food cool for a longer time.
High versatility is another noteworthy feature of the model that helps make it suitable for a range of kayaks. It is neither too large nor too small; hence it can fit different kayaks easily.


  • Helps retain the freshness of the fish
  • Very easy to clean and maintain
  • Comes with an internal liner that is fully removable
  • The heat reflective body keeps the inside cool
  • Offers greater versatility than most other models


  • It is slightly more expensive than some other models
  • Does not come with different sections

#4: Yeti Roadie 20 Cooler

Yeti Roadie cooler has made a significant name for itself in the kayaking industry. It is one of those models that offer high variability and high affordability at the same time. It is also highly recommended by many users.

During kayaking, many opportunities can come that can compel you to take a rest at one of the islands or nearby stops. This would require you to carry your cooler to the shore, which can be extremely difficult sometimes. Yeti roadie is one of the most compact designs in the market and offers high portability wherever you go.

It also ensures that the ice inside stays in its original shape for a longer duration. This feature is assisted by the high insulation that the model provides. Its extra-thick wall design also offers high bear resistance. Moreover, you can rest assured that your cold food will stay that way for many hours straight.

The model is also known for featuring a T-Rex lid latch that is constructed with heavy-duty rubber. This will ensure that you don’t see any busted latch anywhere on the cooler. It also comes with one dry goods basket.


  • Has an extraordinary capacity of holding 20 cans
  • Comes with permafrost installation that is extra thick
  • The fat wall design comes with extra bear resistance
  • Comes with a very sturdy construction
  • Makes the model virtually indestructible


  • Not very suitable for sit-in kayaks
  • Construction does not offer very good durability

#5: Engel USA Cooler/Dry Box

This cooler has won huge respect from all recent buyers and potential customers due to its spectacular features. It keeps all your drinks cool for the longest time. It also ensures that no moisture or dust enters the box while you are busy enjoying your trip.

The most unique feature of the model is its recessed central carry handle that comes on top of the lid. It also includes a fully integrated shoulder strap that offers full adjustability. This ensures that you can make any adjustments to the size that you want. Not just that, ease of usage is also provided by a hanging tray that is fully removable.

The inclusion of stainless steel screws keeps all your equipment in place. It also ensures that even when you are kayaking in rough waters, you don’t have to worry about your cooler falling or losing balance.

In addition, it features a spectacular and unique EVA gasket that surrounds the lid. This is completely airtight is excellent for ice retention. It also offers a better water-proof seal. So if you are looking for a cooler that you can use at any time, then this model will prove to be a worthy one for you.


  • It keeps out dust and moisture away
  • Comes with a water-proof seal
  • Allows excellent ice retention
  • Comes with a recessed carry handle on the lid
  • Has a fully integrated adjustable shoulder strap


  • It is relatively expensive than some other models
  • The model is also heavy which hinders portability


How to attach the cooler to a kayak?

This depends on what kind of kayak you have. There is the option of sit in and sit on kayaks. Both of them require different attachments. However, generally, in order to fit a large ice chest comfortably, one can simply keep the water coolers behind the seats. This will ensure that you save some space too. Moreover, if you decide to enter rough waters, then you might need to attach the cooler with the anchor.

Can I keep a cooler on a sit-on-top kayak?

Sit-on kayaks are generally a bit smaller than sit-in kayaks, but that doesn’t mean they don’t let you keep a cooler inside. On the contrary, they make up for a perfect place to keep coolers. You can sit on top of the kayak and have the cooler tightly secured on the inner side.

How long kept cool inside a kayak cooler?

This also depends on what kind of cooler you end up buying at the end. Most of the coolers on our list can keep your food cold for many hours. Some can even help retain the temperature of your food for a day. However, disposable bags and ice chests often have a relatively less retention time.





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