Our Top Pick After 20 Hours of Reviewing and Testing:
Relatively cheap compared to other coolers
Cooler bag comes with removable shoulder strap
Awesome cold retention for a soft cooler bag
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As a kayak angler, one of the most CHALLENGING things you will encounter is fitting all your gear in a small fishing kayak that already barely fits you!
On top of all your fishing gear, you still have to make some space for your fishing haul and your lunch.
This is why finding the best kayak cooler is one of the most crucial things you should consider when going on a fishing trip.
Here are the best kayak coolers that will give you a relaxing kayak fishing experience, so you can AVOID SOGGY lunches and SPOILED fish!
Best Kayak Coolers
1. Best Value For Money: AO Coolers Original Soft Cooler
- Dimensions: 21 x 10 x 12 inches
- Weight: 3.35 lbs
- Capacity: 36 cans
This cooler bag is made of a durable soft canvas material that withstands heavy use when traveling while not scratching your recreational kayak, including your kayak hatch.
Also, the lining is made out of high-quality thermoplastic polyurethane, or TPU that makes cooler bags like this one to be LEAK PROOF.
Thanks to its high-density insulation, this kayak cooler bag has cold retention of up to 24 hours in 120˚F weather.
Along with the 36-can storage capacity of this dry bag, it can hold up to 10 pounds of ice in it, so that’s a lot of space for a fish bag!
This kayak cooler has a removable shoulder strap for BETTER PORTABILITY as well as a side pocket that acts as your dry bag for items you want to keep safe from getting wet!
This kayak cooler bag is for kayak anglers who prefer a LARGE STORAGE CAPACITY to keep a lot of their catch fresh.
Also thanks to this large storage capacity, you can also store food and drinks so you can have a leisurely day taking in the beauty and nature when you go kayaking and fishing.
Although I only reviewed the 36-can capacity, in particular, this kayak cooler also comes in various sizes and can come in different types of insulation material as well.
With TWICE the insulation of your average soft-sided coolers, this kayak cooler can definitely keep things cold!
✓ Relatively cheap compared to other coolers
✓ Cooler bag comes with removable shoulder strap
✓ Awesome cold retention for a soft cooler bag
✕ Water can penetrate into the soft cooler from the zipper
2. Best In Ice Retention: YETI Roadie 24 Cooler
- Dimensions: 17.1 x 14.3 x 18 inches
- Weight: 12.8 lbs
- Capacity: 18 cans
This YETI cooler is made from the same material as your typical kayak – with rotomolded plastic. This type of plastic is so tough, it can withstand significant hits like dropping, and slamming without much damage.
Compared to its predecessor, the Roadie 20, this kayak cooler is TALLER. Tt can even fit a standard wine bottle upright! It is also now a better fit in most cars.
This kayak fish cooler also has its trademarked PERMAFROST insulation made of commercial-grade polyurethane foam in the walls and lid – capable of up to almost A WEEK of ice retention.
This kayak cooler can hold up to 18 cans with a 2:1 ice-to-can ratio, which means that along with 18 cans, you can also fit up to 24 pounds of ice for supreme cooling capability!
In addition to this, this kayak cooler also has an easy-to-use QUICKLATCH system. The latching mechanism is simple, quick, and best of all, it’s capable of one-handed cooler access.
This means you can MULTITASK while opening the latch. Imagine being able to open the latch with one hand while holding fresh fish on the other!
Also, there are anti-slip rubber pads at the bottom of the kayak ice chest to prevent it from sliding.
Without a drain plug, there’s no danger of meltwater dripping in the backseat of your car. To drain the kayak cooler, you will have to lift and carry the cooler.
To help you in lifting the cooler, a padded shoulder strap and a rubber handle can be attached.
10,20,30. This is what YETI boasts in their kayak cooler.
The Roadie 24 is 10% lighter, has 20% more space (while still being compact enough to fit inside your car) and insulates 30% better than its predecessor, the Roadie 20.
And honestly, this is quite hard to argue with.
Just from its appearance, you can already see it’s larger than the previous kayak cooler. However, what sets it apart from other kayak coolers is that it is the best kayak cooler in ice retention.
Keeping ice frozen is difficult, especially in the SUMMER SEASON. Blazing sunlight, and the hot breeze speed up the melting of ice inside the kayak fish cooler.
In my experience, in the hot summer months, it’s DIFFICULT to achieve almost a week of ice retention without pre-chilling the contents of your ice chest.
Without pre-chilling, ice retention would only last up to 3 days at most. By pre-chilling, you can keep your ice cold for well over 5 days. Still not bad for an ice chest!
3. Best Budget Cooler: IceMule Classic Cooler
- Dimensions: 41.9 x 15.2 x 17.8 centimeters
- Weight: 1.93 Pounds
- Capacity: 12 cans or 15 liters
This kayak cooler is made out of waterproof nylon-based material.
Specifically, it primarily uses two layers: a tough, but lightweight material called MuleSkin ET for the EXTERIOR, while the interior is made out of MuleSkin EV to make the kayak cooler waterproof.
IceMule Coolers feature 4 WAYS to ensure superior insulation:
- TriFold DriTop System – sealing system that keeps ice in and air out
- MuleSkin ET and EV – 2-layer material twice as thick as your average soft coolers
- PolarLayer Insulation – Insulating foam that’s better than polystyrene foam insulation
- IM AirValve – allows air into the insulating layer to further enhance insulation
All these combined provide cold retention for up to 24 hours so you can keep your food and drinks fresh for your trip!
You also have the option to just freeze your kayak cooler so you can ditch the ice if that’s your preference.
One of the biggest selling points of this kayak cooler is its SUPERIOR PORTABILITY. This kayak cooler is one of the only few budget kayak coolers that can be stored inside your kayak hatch.
Similar to a dry bag, the IceMule Classic uses a fold-down top design that allows this kayak cooler for easy packing!
Also, due to its lightweight materials, this kayak cooler is also a floating cooler EVEN WHEN FILLED at full capacity.
With this, you can just strap your floating cooler to the stern of fishing kayaks so you’re able to save space.
There are 2 things going for this kayak cooler that I consider it to be one of the best coolers out there: affordability and portability.
Super coolers are all the rage now, but they come with a HEFTY PRICE TAG.
For casual kayak anglers who struggle to have time for outdoor adventures, the investment in expensive hard-sided coolers is almost always not worth it.
Unlike when using a BULKY COOLER, you won’t have to look for specialized large fishing kayaks for this cooler, as you can easily find space for this cooler when you go kayak fishing.
When you lack space, you can either fold it and store it inside your kayak when you still have no catch or simply let it FLOAT when it’s filled with your items.
You can even argue and convince your kayak buddies it’s the best floating cooler out in the market!
These factors along with its decent cold retention make it one of the best coolers available.
However, in my experience, you should be careful in order to not wear down this cooler too much. This kayak cooler isn’t too durable when it comes to SHARP EDGES.
Make sure what you’re putting inside these kayak cooler bags isn’t sharp to protect it from unintended punctures.
Be careful as well when you’re kayak fishing in areas where you can encounter sharp fish fins that may also damage your fish bag.
Overall, this product is a portable, reliable, and cheap kayak cooler that gives you an AWESOME kayak fishing experience.
Just be careful of any possible cuts and punctures that may damage this catch cooler.
4. Stanley Adventure Leakproof Outdoor
- Dimensions: 17.5 x 15 x 12 inches
- Weight: 6.64 pounds
- Capacity: 16 quarts
The kayak deck cooler is made of a high-density polyethylene outer shell and latches that make it durable, even with heavy use.
Even among hard-sided coolers, these ice chests are among the toughest in the market.
On the other hand, the gasket on the lid is made of silicone to PREVENT LEAKAGE when the latches are locked. These gaskets also help in keeping the ice frozen and well-insulated.
On top of all these, NOT A SINGLE PART of the cooler is made from BPA, or bisphenol-A.
If you’re not aware yet, BPA is commonly found in plastic containers and is known to cause health problems as it seeps into your food and drinks.
This cooler dry box has a double-wall foam insulation that ensures your kayak cooler stays cold for up to 36 hours, which is longer than what a typical cooler for kayak can do.
As mentioned previously, the silicone gasket makes the dry box LEAK PROOF and also helps in the cold storage abilities of the kayak cooler.
These kayak ice chests come with a heavy-duty top handle for easier transport. There are also strings at the top of these kayak coolers so you can attach an extra bottle or thermos for your convenience.
This is probably the most impressive feature from Stanley. Stanley products purchased from resellers come with a LIFETIME warranty. Talk about quality that lasts a lifetime!
With a lifetime warranty, you probably won’t need to buy any more ice chests ever!
This cooler is not for everyone because of its size and bulkiness. Fitting this cooler into a small fishing kayak is definitely a challenge.
But if you already have or are planning to buy a large kayak or maybe even a small fishing boat, then this is the BEST KAYAK COOLER for you!
With a lot of space and great insulation, you can definitely do a lot with this kayak cooler. It’s one of the most cost-effective coolers and can truly give you the most value for your money.
Thanks to its SUPERIOR DURABILITY, and MINIMAL COST, your money goes a long way once you factor in their lifetime warranty.
However, if you live far away from any reseller, then you might not be able to rely on their lifetime warranty.
Although you have warranty, SHIPPING COSTS may still take a portion of your fortune away especially if you’re planning to use this cooler for a long time.
If you do so, just plan for these sorts of events. Want our best advice? Practice proper maintenance of any equipment you own.
5. RTIC Soft Pack Cooler
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- Dimensions: 13.75 x 13.5 x 9.5 inches
- Weight: 1.66 kilograms
- Capacity: 20 cans
With a heavy-duty vinyl shell, it’s sturdier than most soft-sided coolers and prevents leaks from occurring. Sweating is not even a problem thanks to its high-quality material of construction.
These cooler bags are also layered with 2 inches of closed-cell foam insulation, so you can be confident in the cold storage abilities of this fish bag.
Thanks to the use of the best materials, this cooler is sturdy and puncture-resistant, 100% leakproof, and well-insulated!
The RTIC cooler uses 2 inches of closed-cell foam insulation. This keeps your drinks ice cold and makes sure they STAY COLD.
With its well-thought-out design and use of high-quality materials, this cooler can maintain the cold air inside and keep your items cool for up to 5 DAYS!
This kayak cooler has attachments for extra comfort when in use. There are parts where you can attach ARM STRAPS so it’s easier to move around while carrying the cooler.
You also have space for dry items with the cooler’s exterior pockets.
The Good: Reliability, Portability
If you’re looking for a portable kayak cooler that’s easy to use, then this kayak cooler is for you.
For a solo, short-distance kayaking trip, you can rely on it to have enough storage for everything that you might possibly need.
If ever you do need more space, you can get RTIC’s 30-can model so you can store more items.
If you tend to keep a lot of your catch and like to enjoy a drink or two, then you’re better off with their 30-can model.
It’s also DURABLE and doesn’t wear off too fast even when used frequently so you won’t have to replace this cooler in a long time.
It’s this mix of GOOD DESIGN and STURDINESS that makes kayak coolers like this one portable and reliable.
The Bad: Zipper
While the RTIC cooler is lightweight, easy to transport, leakproof, and has great cold storage, a major issue I have with this cooler is the ZIPPER.
When I first tried this cooler, I found it so difficult to use OPENING and CLOSING was such a CHORE, and most of the time I was better off avoiding opening and closing the lid.
I would have also preferred that the cooler have two zippers that could meet in between instead of having one main zipper that you need to close all the way.
This would’ve helped in the closing of the cooler, especially since the zippers don’t slide smoothly.
However, as I’ve used the kayak cooler, I noticed that the zipper slides more easily with use.
Buying the cooler also comes in with a LUBRICATING GEL, so this definitely helps with my issues with the zipper.
Its 100% leak proof quality is a great tradeoff for zipper issues that improve over time with lubricating gel and use.
This cooler amazes me to this day because I can still observe ICE-COLD conditions for a long time inside the cooler even when stocked to the brim with all my items.
There is also a ton of room in the cooler, and you can pack a truckload of stuff without worry!
It also doesn’t leave your usual cooler STENCH, so you know it’s well-designed. This cooler reminds me of the Yeti products with supreme ice retention, but at a lesser cost.
However, it’s still more EXPENSIVE compared to your other soft coolers so you might still want to consider cheaper soft coolers that give you more value for your money.
How to Choose the Best Kayak Cooler
Now that we’ve seen some of the best kayak coolers, the question is, which one do you pick?
It can be overwhelming buying and choosing your kayak coolers, so here are some of the things you have to consider when trying to find the best kayak cooler for you.
When you buy your kayak cooler, you have to look within yourself and answer this question:
“What do I want to achieve with my cooler?”
Some people may want a kayak cooler that can just do the SIMPLE things, like provide a cold drink as you leisurely take your kayak to go fishing.
On the other hand, you may want a heavy-duty cooler for your kayak to be able to camp and fish in remote areas for a longer amount of time.
Be as PRECISE and EXACT as possible in determining what you want from your cooler. For me, what helped was closing my eyes and picturing my ideal fishing trip.
Once you know your PURPOSE, you can consider other factors in choosing the best kayak cooler.
Size and Capacity
The size and capacity of both the cooler and the kayak are one of the most important things to consider in your cooler.
Ideally, you want the largest cooler possible, but you can’t always do that if the size of your kayak is small.
First, you have to think of the size of the items you want to put in the cooler. Take note of the dimensions when buying your cooler.
For example, you want to fit in several wine bottles inside your cooler UPRIGHT. For this to be possible, the height of your cooler should be taller than the wine bottles, with a bit of CLEARANCE kept in mind.
The SHAPE of your kayak can differ as well. There are rectangular, cylindrical, backpacks, and even canoe shapes, which float and are towed by your kayak.
Your shape and the size of your kayak then determine where you can put them. Ideal places in your kayak to put your cooler are in your kayak hatch and behind your seat.
Just keep in mind that not only do you have to consider the size of your cooler, but also the size of your kayak.
From there, choose the best size and shape of your cooler to make the MOST of the space around you.
Certain kayak coolers are better at ice retention and maintain the cold air inside them.
Make sure to not just check the manufacturer’s claim of their product’s capabilities, but also check out reviews to get an UNBIASED opinion of the cooler’s ability to hold ice and maintain the cooler cold.
Do your due diligence and lookup at how the cooler maintains the temperature.
For example, if the manufacturer says it uses closed cell foam insulation, then you’re certain it will be effective because you already know how that type of insulation works.
Check the cooler you’re eyeing if it’s made from STURDY, HIGH-QUALITY materials. Do a quick research on the materials used and look at reviews in order to determine if the cooler is truly reliable.
If you always have to maintain your cooler in order to keep it in working condition, then it’s going to COST you a lot more in the end.
Of course, you don’t want to use a cooler that’s hard to use.
Opening and Closing Mechanisms
One of the things to keep in mind when thinking about convenience is the opening and closing mechanisms. These may be latches and locks for hard-sided coolers and zippers for soft-sided coolers.
Imagine the time wasted just trying to access the cooler. You wouldn’t want that, would you?
Another thing to consider is external accessories that are able to hold your gear. For example, the Stanley Adventure Outdoor cooler has strings that are able to hold your water bottle or thermos.
There are also some coolers that have rod holders for your fishing rods. Imagine having rod holders on your cooler. You would definitely save A LOT OF SPACE on your kayak.
If you have a bulky cooler with rod holders, then you may still be able to fit it in your kayak because of the space saved.
Lastly, you can also look at handles and how it makes the cooler easy to transport.
Look for padded shoulder straps for larger coolers so your shoulder isn’t too uncomfortable when carrying the cooler.
On the other hand, for smaller coolers, you can look at other innovative handles such as backpack straps so you can carry your cooler like a backpack for SUPERIOR convenience and portability.
Value For Money
Finally, we have to look at the cost of our cooler. What good is a high-performance cooler with virtually no flaws if you can’t buy it?
On the other end of the spectrum, it doesn’t matter if you buy 10 COOLERS, but it breaks down with every use or can’t even keep your goods cool for over 30 MINUTES.
Pro tip? Strike a balance that gives you the best value for money. This is why it’s essential to know the purpose of what you’re buying so you can prioritize what features you want in your cooler.
Top Cooler For Kayak: AO Coolers Original Soft Cooler
My top pick among the best kayak coolers in the market is the AO Coolers Original Soft Cooler.
It gives the best value for your money, with its superior capacity, great portability, and above-average insulation! PERFECT for a leisurely day trip both alone, or with friends!
Hopefully, with this guide, you now have an idea of what kayak cooler to buy.
There are lots of awesome kayak coolers out there on the market! Just keep in mind your PURPOSE in buying one and PRIORITIZE your preferences.