Keepin’ it Cool: The Best Kayak Coolers

Kayakers love to discuss (or argue, more like!) the merits of different types of paddling equipment. For example, they talk about the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of sit-in vs. sit-on kayaks, inflatable vs. rigid kayaks, solo vs. tandem kayaks, and recreational vs. touring kayaks.

However, the one thing that almost all kayakers agree on is that paddling is much more enjoyable if you’ve got plenty of cold drinks on hand. Cold food is also often very welcome, especially on a long, hot day on the water.

While you could just tie a line to a six-pack of soda or beer, drop it in the water, and tow it behind your boat, a kayak cooler will be much safer and more effective. Most kayak coolers are compact and designed to fit your kayak perfectly, and you can even use one for keeping your fish fresh if you are a kayak angler.

Not sure what to look for in a kayak cooler? Here are our three favorite models – all tried and tested just for you!

Yeti Hopper 12

best kayak cooler yeti
Price

$$

  • Perfect size for a day trip
  • One of the best coolers money can buy
  • Holding up to a 12-can pack

Engel 13

engel cooler
Price:

$

  • Budget kayak cooler
  • Air tight quality seal
  • Non-absorbent surface

Yeti Tundra

yeti tundra
Price:

$$

  • Made for adventure, ideal for kayaking
  • Ideal for beginners
  • Easy to carry

1. Yeti Coolers Hopper Flip 12 Cooler

Check Price of the Hopper Flip

Yeti make great coolers. They aren’t the cheapest around, but they are amongst the most sturdy and robust. Any Yeti cooler should last you for many years, and this model is exceptionally strong and reliable.

Key features:

  • 62 inches length x 10-inches wide x 11.5 inches high
  • Tough-as-nails DryHide shell
  • Waterproof HyrdoLoc zip
  • Large, flip-top lid for easy packing and unpacking
  • Big enough to hold a 12-pack of cans with a 2:1 ice to can ratio
  • Available in four colors
  • Supplied with an adjustable, removable shoulder strap
  • Side and top handles for easy transport
  • Daisy-chain webbing for secure attachment to your kayak

This leakproof soft kayak cooler is ideal for long, hot days on the water. The wide flip-top lid makes grabbing a drink or some food easy enough that you’ll hardly have to stop paddling to do it. The contents should stay cold for many hours, and because it’s waterproof, you won’t end up with cold water sloshing around inside your kayak.

Pros:

  • Very robust
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Easy to carry
  • Good choice of colors
  • Decent carrying capacity
  • Leakproof construction

Cons:

  • Quite expensive
  • Field Tan model does not come with top handle

The Yeti Hopper Flip 12 is an excellent personal kayak cooler. It’s big enough to keep you hydrated and fed for a day on the water, but also light and compact enough that it won’t weigh you down or cramp your kayaking style. With four great colorways to choose from, you’ll also be able to match your cooler to your kayak.

2. Engel 13 Quart Dry Box Cooler

Check Price of the Engel 13

Kayak coolers can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. In fact, this cooler by Engel is very budget-friendly, and yet it has some great features and works like a dream! It’s still rugged enough for most adventurous kayaking trips, but buying one won’t break the bank.

Key features:

  • Polypropylene shell insulated with high-grade polystyrene core
  • 13-quart capacity
  • Air and watertight seal
  • Non-absorbent surfaces
  • 15 inches long x 10 inches wide x 11 inches high
  • Integrated shoulder strap and recessed handles for easy transport
  • Available in four colors
  • Can keep cold for up to two days

This cool box is completely water and dustproof. That means not only will it not leak, it’s also ideal for keeping sensitive electronic devices dry, such as a tablet, phone, or GPS. It’s also an excellent place to store your first aid kit and emergency rations. While this isn’t a huge cooler, it’s certainly big enough for personal use, and at 3.5 pounds when empty, it won’t weigh down your kayak too much either.

Pros:

  • Leakproof and waterproof lid
  • Easy to clean
  • Strong yet light construction
  • Easy to operate flip-up catches
  • Budget-friendly
  • Won’t stain or hold odors

Cons:

  • Polypropylene shell could crack if crushed or dropped
  • Catches are quite flimsy

Where some coolers use zips to keep them closed, this model uses twin stainless-steel catches. While this should be enough to keep it sealed, they could top open if you catch them by accident. Bear this in mind, especially if you are heading out onto rough water. If you are using it to transport electrical devices, put them in a dry bag for extra security.

3. Yeti Coolers Tundra 35 Cooler

Check Price of the Tundra 35

Personal coolers are great for a solo day out when all you want to do is keep a few beverages and snacks cool. But what if you are going out on the water with your family or a group of friends, or are stopping overnight at your favorite kayaking campsite? You’ll definitely need more than 15 quarts of storage space then. This Yeti cooler box is big enough to keep all your supplies cold, even if you are in a group.

Key features:

  • 21 inches long x 16 inches wide x 15.5 inches high
  • Easy to operate T-shaped flip-up catches with holes for padlocks
  • Two inches of polyurethane foam insulation
  • Dry ice compatible
  • 2-gallon capacity
  • One-piece polyethylene construction
  • Recessed drain plug
  • Available in three colors
  • Built-in handles
  • Self-stopping hinge
  • Includes an internal, removable dry goods rack

Taking this cooler on a kayaking trip is like taking a fridge, except it doesn’t use electricity and weighs a whole lot less! It’s virtually indestructible, and users report that it’s all-but bear-proof and will even survive being dropped from a moving truck. If you are looking for a family-sized cooler that will provide years of hassle-free use, this is the best kayak cooler for you.

Pros:

  • Very large capacity
  • Built to withstand heavy use and abuse
  • Thick insulation to keep contents cold for several days
  • Ideal for family and group outings, especially overnight camps

Cons:

  • Weighs 20 lbs. empty so quite heavy
  • Expensive
  • May be too big for sit-in and smaller kayaks

Kayak coolers don’t come much more robust than this model from Yeti. It’s virtually an ice chest and, while it’s big and quite bulky, for canoeing and kayak camping, it’s still quite manageable. However, for a solo day out, this cooler is much too big, and you may even struggle to get it on your watercraft.

Wrapping up

A good kayak cooler will not only make warm-weather paddling more enjoyable. It could even make it safer. Heatstroke and dehydration can cause serious problems and can creep up on you before you realize it. But, of course, the main reason you want a kayak cooler is to keep your refreshing beverages and tasty snacks cold. Most compact coolers can hold more than enough to keep you supplied all day long with chilled soda, water, or beer. And there should be plenty of space for food too.

Kayak coolers come in a range of sizes, materials, and sizes, so you’ve got plenty of options to choose from. Soft-shell coolers are generally light and pack down smaller when not in use. Hard-shell coolers usually stay colder for longer but are heavier and bulkier.

Once you’ve got your list of requirements, finding the best kayak cooler will be much easier.

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