You’re getting ready for a wonderful day of getting out on the water. You’ve got everything from your sunscreen and paddle to your life jacket and lunch all packed up. However, you’ll be on the water for hours, and every outdoor adventure is made all the better by adding just one thing: cold beverages. However, how are you going to keep your food and beverages all refreshing and cool for a long time while you’re on the water? This is where kayak coolers come in. The best kayak coolers, such as the all-famous ones from Jackson, are perfect for all kinds of water activities such as fishing, kayaking, and more. Today, you have tons of choices when it comes to coolers that take both kayak storage space and your budget into consideration.
So, if you think that packing a lunch means you’ll have to do with warm drinks and soggy sandwiches, then think again! Whether it’s insulated cases, chests, or cooler bags, these babies will definitely add a touch of excitement and comfort to your trip. So, without further ado, here are the 13 best kayak coolers for everything from fishing to sea kayaking.
How To Choose The Best Kayak Coolers?
There are a lot of kayak accessories that need careful consideration before you go looking for them, such as Best GPS Kayaking Units or the Best Kayak Cockpit Covers. There are size, space, and weight considerations, as well as other nitty gritties. So, what should you keep in mind when it comes to kayaking coolers?
Types and size
Essentially, kayak coolers can be divided into two categories – cooler bags and ice chests. Cooler bags are generally smaller than ice chests and are soft-sided. While they might not boast large carrying capacities, they can be customized to fit your needs and your kayak. Ice chests, on the other hand, are similar to traditional coolers, are bigger and box or cube-shaped, and have hard sides. The Onion Core series from Jackson, for instance, are traditional, hard-sided kayak coolers. They might not be easily portable, but they do boast a lot more space. And unlike ice coolers, you can put in food and beverages without the fear of them getting squished.
Knowing what your needs are will help you determine what kind of cooler you need to choose. If you have a hard shell or recreational kayak with lots of space, then you have no problem at all. However, if you have narrower kayaks with less storage, then maybe ice coolers will suit you better.
There are many uses for ice coolers, of which only one is stacking it with sandwiches, beverages, sodas, beers, and what-not. Others might be more interested in stashing their catch or catches for the day! Such coolers for kayak fishing are usually longer than taller in shape and size, and can easily be stashed in the storage area of your kayak. Yet there are others that look like plastic cooler bags but will save you a lot of space. Again, they cannot be considered for stowing your catch. So, consider what you exactly want the cooler for before going to buy.
Coolers can either be hard-sided or soft-sides, and each one has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Hard-sided coolers are more durable than soft-sided ones, but also they’re more flexible to pressures. However, they occupy more space than the soft ones. So, consider the shape and size of your storage area in order to choose a cooler. For instance, most of the Onion Core range of coolers from Jackson are hard-sided ones.
Along with the material, closures of coolers matter to and can literally make or break the day. Latches are extremely durable and super-secure as well. Most of the Onion Core kayak coolers from Jackson come with latches. Zippers, while great, might snap if they’re of cheap quality. Hence, we’d advise you to choose a cooler with a closure that’s secure.
Finally, we come to the color of the cooler, but why is it important at all? that’s because dark colors tend to absorb the most heat, so there’s no point buying a cooler that’s dark in color. So, look for kayak coolers that are light-colored or white. If you’re going for the ones from Jackson, their Core series of kayak coolers even come in designs and prints.
Where do you put a cooler on a kayak?
There are multiple places where you can stash a cooler on board a kayak. One is you can use a floating cooler holder, which allows you to drag it behind your kayak. Another is you can stash it on the side of your kayak, but that’s very rare. The commonest places to stash them are on the kayak either below your seat or behind your seat where you have easy access.
Silver Horde Katchkooler II
The Silver Horde Katchcooler II is one of the best kayak coolers for fishing and specially designed to help anglers. One of the most complicated problems that anglers have is not being able to store their catch of the day properly. The Katchcooler II solves this issue thanks to its design that’s suited for most kayak models. In addition, it keeps the fish cool and fresh for several hours. What’s more, the storage capacity of the cooler is also excellent, as it can hold up to 60 lbs of fish. Also, it’s an ice bag cooler and not a hard-sided one.
According to the brand and most reviewers too, the Katchkooler II keeps the fish fresh for up to 24 hours, that is if you pack it with lots of ice. So, it should last you long enough until the next day when you get home from your fishing expedition. Finally, the full-length YKK zipper boasts an easy-to-pull zipper for easy closure.
- Length and size makes it ideal for larger catches.
- Can be stowed anywhere on the kayak.
- The inner lining can be susceptible to larger fish spines.
THURSO SURF Deck Cooler
The Thurso Surf Deck Cooler is similar to some of Jackson’s best coolers and is perfect for kayak fishing and other adventures as well. If you want something for a brief kayaking expedition, then this compact yet nifty unit is perfect. To begin with, it can fit in the deck of most kayaks. Secondly, it can hold up to as many as 10 cans of drinks, so you’re set for at least a day, if not more. However, what you’ll be most impressed by is the safety levels of this model, which comes with as many as four anchors! So, you can rest assured that it’ll maintain its position even when you navigate on gentle whitewater rapids.
Plus, you can even use the suction cups to secure the cooler, but that might not be able to prevent the cooler from moving heavily if the kayak tilts heavily to one side. Nevertheless, this cooler will keep your beverages cold for several hours, thanks to the inner ultra-thick insulating liner. The mesh pockets on the inside help with storage and the zippers keep everything securely inside.
- Compact and small.
- Zippers keep everything secure.
- Mesh pockets for organization.
- Anchors might not hold up in absolute rough whitewater.
Seattle Sports Kayak Cooler
Another of the best kayak coolers is the Seattle Sports Kayak Cooler, which is specially designed to fit most kayaks including a Jackson one. The thermally efficient cooler keeps your drinks cold and your food fresh throughout the day which is what makes this kayak cooler perfect for fishing too. However, what you’ll like the most about it is that it can keep the catch fresh without retaining the smell that wafts up from them. This is one problem all anglers need to face, and this cooler takes care of it. Luckily, due to the smell-resistant lining, you can keep using this cooler without the fish smell settling in.
When it comes to the cooler’s storage capacity, this one can hold up to 18 cans as well as tons of ice to keep them cool for the better part of the day. What’s more, it’s also easy to clean, making it very convenient to maintain as well.
- Well-designed to fit most kayaks.
- Lightweight and compact.
- Heat-reflective interior.
- Easy to clean.
- Sometimes the cooler doesn’t hold its shape.
K2 Coolers Summit 20
If you’re going fishing, then one of the best kayak coolers is the K2 Coolers Summit 20. Akin to Jackson kayak coolers, the K2 Summit is crafted from a single piece of rotomolded polyethylene. So, not only does that provide better insulation, but also provides increased durability. So, if you want to go on a multi-day kayak fishing expedition, then this cooler is an excellent investment as it can keep your drinks, food, and catch both fresh and cold for up to 5 days. That said, its highlighting feature is that the cooler is sturdy and can keep ice from melting.
Coming to its storage capacity, the cooler can hold up to 24 cans and tons of ice to keep it cool. If that wasn’t enough, it’ll also sit inside any kayak model, complete with room to spare. Finally, it comes with a ton of premium features such as Sure Grip rubber, ENDURA integrated hinge system, POSITRAC lid latches, and a padded shoulder strap.
- Keeps your food, drinks, and catch fresh for up to 5 days.
- Lots of storage capacity.
- Durable and insulated.
- No anchors, so it can’t be tied down.
CreekKooler Floating Cooler
One of the best and most uniquely designed kayak coolers is the CreekKooler Floating Cooler – it’s actually shaped like a mini-kayak! The ingenious design actually means that you attach it to the back of your kayak and tow it behind. So, no matter where you go, your cooler will follow you closely behind. One of the best things about the cooler is its incredible stability when it’s floating, and it neither sinks nor overturns no matter what kind of waters you venture in. When it comes to storage, the model can fit as many as 30 cans in it, along with a few pounds of ice. Hence, this floating cooler is the perfect solution for packing food and drinks for longer kayak trips without sacrificing space onboard your craft.
If that wasn’t enough, you can even use this cooler as a camera mount for recording all your water adventures! All-in-all this large and versatile cooler is just what you need for your kayaking adventures.
- Can hold a ton of drinks and food.
- Durable and stable.
- Comes in many colors, so it’s visible.
- The lid can be better.
IceMule Classic Cooler
If you’re looking for a classic cooler, then you’d want to check out the IceMule Classic Cooler. If you have a small kayak and don’t want your cooler to take up too much space, then go for this one. To begin with, despite its compact size, the IceMule cooler has a storage capacity of up to 12 cans. It might not be the largest one on this list, but the design is definitely excellent. The cooler is compact and easy to store when it’s empty. When you want to use it, all you need to do is unroll it, which fills its walls with air, thus increasing its insulation proprieties. Plus, the IceMule bag can keep your beverages cold for up to 24 hours.
Engineered for high performance and portability, this lightweight, soft-sided backpack-style cooler bag features a ventilated, double-padded sling strap. Thus, it leaves both your hands free to grab your adventure gear such as the fishing pole or your surfboard. Overall, the IceMule makes for an excellent buy.
- Doubles as a versatile dry bag.
- Compact and easy to store.
- Portable with a double-padded sling strap.
- Some users reported that it’s not very tough, but it can be subjective.
Yeti Hopper Two Portable Cooler
If you’re looking for something similar to Jackson coolers, then go for the Yeti Hopper Two Portable Cooler. From the able stable of the well-known Yeti brand, the Hopper Two is one of the best traditional kayak coolers on this list. To begin with, it’s as durable as it gets and can fit as many as 18-20 cans, along with pounds of ice, in a slim bag design. Weighing six lbs, the bag does feel pretty heavy, but since you’re going to be storing it in the kayak, it shouldn’t be an issue. Furthermore, the flatter shape makes it easy to strap the cooler to the back of the seat or to the deck of the kayak.
Everything on this cooler, right from the waterproof liner to the zippers is built to be robust and long-lasting. The high-density fabric, for instance, is resistant to UV rays, punctures, mildew, and is waterproof too. Furthermore, the liner is made from FDA-approved food-grade material, while the closed-cell rubber foam holds cold better than any other cooler. Finally, the hydrolok zippers are the highest-performing, toughest, and most leakproof zippers in the world.
- Multiple loos and rings for strapping the case down.
- Adjustable straps.
- Easy to carry design.
- Excellent shape and durability.
- Slightly expensive.
Reliable Fishing Products Fish Kayak Cooler
The Reliable Fishing Products Fish Kayak Cooler, as the name suggests, is one of the best coolers for kayak fishing. If you like fishing for the big ones such as flounders, sheepshead, and redfish, then this is the cooler you should have. Measuring 10-20 inches in width, this cooler is one massive-sized product. The ice chest boasts closed-cell foam insulation that holds ice incredibly well and lasts it long even on the hottest of days. What’s more, it’s easy to clean, leak-proof, and thick. Furthermore, the bag has six D-rings at the bottom that allow you to tie the bag down to the kayak’s bow, making it easy to slip in your catch.
Another thing you’ll like about this bag is the heavy-duty quality and build. If that wasn’t enough, the cooler is resistant to both mildew and UV rays and doesn’t hold on to the smelly fishy odor either. Rounding up the features are the three handles that make carrying your catch a hassle-free experience. It might not be like the Jackson kayak coolers, but it sure is a value-for-money one.
- Three handles make for an easy carry.
- Odor, mildew, and UV-resistant.
- Closed-cell foam insulation keeps ice frozen for a long time.
- Perfect for holding big fish.
Engle USA Cooler/Dry Box
If you’re looking for a versatile kayak cooler, then the Engle USA Cooler/Dry Box is an excellent option. Shaped like most of the hardshell Jackson kayak coolers, this fishing cooler is perfect if you have space on board for larger hardshell coolers. Since it has a boxy, square shape, it can carry both your catch of the day as well as your food and beverages. If that wasn’t enough, the box even comes with a fitted tray for organizing items separately rather than mixing them all up.
However, that’s not all. There’s a lot of extras that come with this dry box, starting with four rod holders which are perfect for placing extra fishing poles. Plus, you’ll also find an umbrella, a net, and even safety flags. Finally, the tan-colored nature of the box keeps things cool.
- Lightweight design.
- Spacious storage.
- Leakproof gaskets.
- Removable pole holders.
- Slightly bulky and heavy to carry.
Yeti Roadie 20 Cooler
If you have a larger kayak, then we’d highly recommend you to go for the Yeti Roadie 20 Cooler, one of the best Jackson-like coolers for kayak fishing. Not only can this cooler hold 14 cans of beer, soda, and what-not, but also it can hold tons of ice that’ll keep it cold for a good amount of time. It’s available in four light-shaded hues of seafoam, desert tan, coral, and pink, making sure that the ice inside stays as it is for a long, long time. What’s more, the cooler is built from polyurethane foam, and is practically indestructible. So, you can drag it around places and yet the durable build ensures that nothing happens to it.
While it’s slightly big to be stored in the dry hatches, it’ll easily come on the back of a larger kayak. The drain plug makes it easy to drain the excess water, while the handy rubber feet effectively keep it locked in place when the kayak is on the move.
- Lasts a long time, both the cooler and the ice.
- Durable build.
- Bulky and heavy.
IceMule Coolers Pro Coolers
Behold one of the world’s most portable high-capacity kayak coolers, the IceMule Pro Cooler. The sleek design features a pair of padded backpack straps as well as padded back pads, lending it the ultimate carrying comfort. Basically, its design is similar to that of dry bags, thus making it easy to store in the hatches if they’re big enough. Plus, it boasts a 20-liter capacity, which fits in 18 cans comfortably, along with a ton of ice. If that wasn’t enough, the cylindrical shape is perfect for stowing the bag anywhere inside your kayak.
What’s more, you can even stow the bag on the kayak’s deck with bungee cords if you don’t pack it to the brim. To add to that, the bag keeps ice intact for more than 24 hours and will not leak either. While there aren’t any zippers, the welded seams keep everything in place. Finally, when you aren’t using it, the bag even rolls up for easy storage.
- Lots of storage space.
- Padded backpack straps and back for easy carrying.
- Packable design.
- Waterproof seal.
- The size is slightly larger for some kayaks.
RTIC 20 Soft Pack
One of the most wonderful soft-sided coolers for kayak fishing is the RTIC 20 Soft Pack. The large capacity cooler can hold up to 20 cans of ice, along with a ton of ice. But, that’s not all. Thie cooler bag is also resistant to mildew thanks to the antimicrobial layer and is puncture-resistant and 100 percent leak proof as well. That’s what makes it tough as nails and can retain ice for days. This is thanks to the two inches of foam insulation.
There’s a lot more to like about this cooler. To begin with, there are two external storage pockets where you can stash quick-access stuff and even snack packs. Moreover, it’s narrow, which makes storing it in a kayak very easy. Finally, it comes with a removable shoulder strap as well as two comfortable carry handles too.
- Keeps ice intact for two days.
- Ample amounts of storage.
- Fairly heavy.
Polar Bear Coolers Nylon Series 12 Pack
Finally, we come to the top of the list of best kayak coolers – Polar Bear coolers Nylon Series 12 Pack. The easy-to-carry cooler is styled and designed like an average shoulder bag. The cooler comes with an adjustable shoulder strap, carry handles, as well as a convenient outside pocket for stashing snack packs. Moreover, it’s not too bulky or big either, making it easy for stashing it anywhere on the kayak. If that wasn’t enough, the bag even has semi-rigid insulated sides, making it resistant to wear and tear thanks to the durable material.
The cooler bag is even available in five colors – black, green, navy, red, and grey. What you’ll really like is that the high-density foam insulation keeps ice intact for more than 24 hours in the harshest of heated weather. Helping that further is the TPU double-coated, food-grade nylon, making it both durable and long-lasting.
- Keeps ice intact for more than 24 hours.
- Extra exterior pocket for storage.
- East to stow and carry.
- None, really.