How to Choose a Kayak Cooler

Imagine you have been paddling your kayak for a while under the hot sun. You reach for your water or soda to take a sip only to find that it is warm. Disappointing, right? 

That’s why you need the best kayak cooler for your trips.

Someone said, “life is better with a cold drink in your hands.” This couldn’t be truer, especially when taking a break from all the paddling and casting.

Here is everything you should know when buying a kayak cooler.

Types of Kayak Coolers

There are three main types of kayak coolers. 

Take a look.

a. Cooler Bag

These are the soft-sided kayak coolers that look like bags.

They feature foam insulation to keep your refreshments cold.

Some of them have multiple compartments for organized storage.

Most kayak cooler bags don’t have impressive ice retention and may not be ideal for multi-day kayaking trips.

However, you can find quality ones that will keep your stuff cold for a few days.

You have to be willing to dig deeper into your pockets though.

Kayak cooler bags are easy to transport because you can squeeze them into smaller spaces.  

b. Ice Chest

An ice chest is a rectangular or square hardshell chilled box.

Unlike cooler bags, most ice chests have outstanding ice retention.

Some of them being able to keep things cold for days.

They are better suited for overnight or multi-day camping trips.

The downside is that they can be bulky and carrying them will not be enjoyable.

Because of their hard-sided body, you will not be able to fit them in a small space.

On the bright side, you won’t have to worry about your lunch getting crushed.

c. Towable Coolers or Floats

Floats are a great invention. Kayaks aren’t that big and sometimes the storage space isn’t enough for all your gear plus a cooler. Towable coolers float behind your kayak instead of being in it.

The CreekKooler floating cooler is a good example.

Things to Consider When Buying a Kayak Cooler

How do you know that a particular kayak cooler will be right for you? Here are four important factors to help you determine that.

1. Size and Capacity

What do you plan on putting in your ice chest or cooler bag? And will the cooler fit in your kayak?

Kayakers who paddle for a few hours can do with a small cooler. They only have to bring lunch and maybe a bottle or two.

But if you are an angler or you go on long kayak trips, you will need a bigger cooler.

The capacity of kayak coolers is commonly measured in quarts or cans. And most coolers range from 10 quarts to 40 quarts. (You can find a bigger one).

Think about how much time you will spend on the water and what you have to put in the cooler.

In addition to a kayak cooler being big enough for your lunch and refreshments (and maybe fish), it should be able to fit in your kayak.

A big cooler will be awkward on a small and narrow kayak.

2. Material

We have already talked about hardshell and soft-sided kayak coolers.

Hardshell coolers tend to be more durable but you can’t make them fit in a small storage hatch if it comes to it. Soft-sided ones, on the other hand, will fit in a small hatch but may not be as durable.

Regardless of the type of cooler you settle for, find a material that is lightweight and durable, with great ice retention. Tough material is important if you plan on heavily using the cooler.

3. Keeping Temperature

This refers to how long the kayak cooler can keep your drinks cold or ice frozen.

What is the point of having a cooler if things can’t stay cold in it, right?

Some kayak coolers can keep ice frozen for a few hours while others will keep it frozen for days. Others claim to keep your stuff cold for up to 5 days.

Pick whatever works for you based on the nature of your kayaking adventures.

Manufacturers give you an idea of the cooler’s ice retention. But don’t just take their word for it. Read users’ reviews.

4. Waterproof

You can barely prevent water from getting to your kayak cooler when paddling. If water or air from outside gets inside the cooler, it interferes with ice retention.

A kayak cooler should not only be waterproof but also airtight. The zippers, lids, etc. shouldn’t let water and/or air in or out.

Kayak Cooler Q&A

Q: How Do You Attach a Kayak Cooler?

A: This will depend on the type of kayak and cooler that you have. Most kayaks have space at the back. You can strap the ice chest or cooler bag there using straps and D-rings. When tying down the cooler, don’t forget that you’ll want to access whatever is inside. So do it in a way that allows for that.

Another way of carrying a kayak cooler is by stuffing it under the seat. This is more suited for smaller soft-sided coolers.

Q: What’s the Best Cooler for a Narrow Kayak with Limited Storage?

A: If you barely have any space in your kayak, a small cooler bag would be ideal. It can fit somewhere in the cockpit, storage hatch, or tankwell.

Q: What’s the Best Cooler for a Recreational Kayak or a Kayak with a Lot of Space?

A: If space is not a problem, then you have a lot of options. You can get as big a kayak cooler as you want or a small one that suits your needs. But just because you have a lot of space doesn’t mean you should get the biggest cooler in the market.

Q: DIY Kayak Cooler?

A: Maybe you don’t want to buy a kayak cooler. You figure it is easier to make your own with what you have at home. 

It is not an option I would recommend. A homemade cooler will probably have poor ice retention. And it won’t have the features necessary for attaching it to the kayak.

But here is a video of a simple DIY cooler in case you want to try.


You will definitely want a cold drink or something fresh to eat while on a kayak trip. Kayak coolers are essential. You can choose an ice chest, cooler bag, or a towable cooler. Whatever you pick should be durable and not too heavy. Ensure that the size and capacity are right for you. Lastly, don’t forget to check the ice retention to avoid disappointments.

Do you have any questions about kayak coolers? Feel free to ask us below.   

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