The 10 Best Kayak Coolers 2018 – Top Reviews & Buyer’s Guide
Everyone knows that a kayaking trip is not complete without a cooler. Where would you put all the fish you catch along the way? What about your drinks and snacks? This is where a good cooler comes into play.
Choosing the best kayak cooler for your paddling trip is a game changer. Some kayaks already have storage compartments or other areas for you to stow away your items. But sometimes these just don't suffice.
But any two coolers are not the same, so it helps to compare them a bit before making your decision.
With various coolers on the market in a range of sizes, they still all aim to do the same thing; keep your items cool and safe from the water.
In this guide, we will be compared the top rated kayak coolers and help you make a smart buying decision.
Table of Contents
- 1 Top 10 Kayak Coolers in 2018
- 2 The Best Kayak Coolers
- 2.0.1 1. RTIC SoftPak 40
- 2.0.2 Pros
- 2.0.3 Cons
- 2.0.4 2. Orca Cooler
- 2.0.5 Pros:
- 2.0.6 Cons:
- 2.0.7 3. Polar Bear 24 Pack H20
- 2.0.8 Pros
- 2.0.9 Cons
- 2.0.10 4. AO 48 Pack Canvas Cooler
- 2.0.11 Pros
- 2.0.12 Cons
- 2.0.13 5. IceMule Pro Cooler
- 2.0.14 Pros
- 2.0.15 Cons
- 2.0.16 6. Engel 19 Drybox Cooler
- 2.0.17 Pros
- 2.0.18 Cons
- 2.0.19 7. Elkton Fish Cooler Bag
- 2.0.20 Pros
- 2.0.21 Cons
- 2.0.22 8. K2 Coolers Summit 20
- 2.0.23 Pros
- 2.0.24 Cons
- 2.0.25 9. Hobie Hatch Cooler
- 2.0.26 Pros
- 2.0.27 Cons
- 2.0.28 10. Yeti Roadie 20
- 2.0.29 Pros
- 2.0.30 Cons
- 3 Before You Buy a Kayak Cooler
Top 10 Kayak Coolers in 2018
RTIC SoftPak 40
Polar Bear 24
24 cans + 10 pounds
AO 48 Pack Canvas Cooler
48 cans + 15 pounds
Ice Mule Pro Cooler
20 liter / 18 cans
Engel 19 Drybox/Cooler
Elkton Fish Cooler Bag
Roughly 25 pounds
K2 Coolers Summit 20
Hobie Hatch Cooler
Yeti Roadie 20
The Best Kayak Coolers
1. RTIC SoftPak 40
The RTIC SoftPak 40 is a spacious cooler that can hold up to a whopping 35 quarts! It is made from a heavy duty nylon shell that is both puncture, and tear resistant. On top of that you also get tough, welded seams that hold the pack together.
The anti-microbial liner keeps your contents and the pack itself from developing mold. The waterproof zipper and StayDry material further help to that end.
It has an easy access, wide mouth lid and can keep ice for up to five days.
- Extremely spacious 35 quart capacity
- Anti-microbial liner to prevent molding is a nice addition
- Laminated fabric insures that your cooler will hold up over time and not break down like other "soft" coolers
- Keeps ice at a max of about 2-3 days although it is advertised as being able to hold up to 5 days
2. Orca Cooler
The Orca cooler is the cooler for the person who wants to customize everything, even their storage units. Seriously, you can get this cooler in a variety of colors and designs, if that is your thing.
Aside from looking really cool, The Orca Cooler comes with a roomy 25 quart capacity and a solid thermoformed ABS plastic interior tray. To keep it in place in your kayak, you have six tie downs and an integrated standing pad.
To hold everything closed and secured inside, the closures are made of lifetime galvanized cam latches.
Oh, and if you plan to have some drinks while you're out fishing, you are in luck! The Orion 25 even comes with 4 built in bottle openers.
- Fully customizable
- Bullet Point 2
- Cam latches are really well made
- None. If you happen to find any cons while using this cooler, let us know
3. Polar Bear 24 Pack H20
If you are on a budget but still want a really nice cooler, take a look at the 24 Pack H20 cooler from Polar Bear Coolers. Made from a waterproof Tarpaulin outer shell and a rubberized bottle saddle, this is one seriously tough cooler.
Coming in your choice of one of three colors, (Ice Blue, Charcoal, or Tangerine) the 24 Pack H20 is one really cool looking waterproof cooler. This cooler can hold up to 24 (12oz) cans and up to 10lbs of ice. The main storage unit is made of 1 inch thick, specialized waterproof insulation.
It's also really easy to clean, so that's always a plus. If you find yourself in need of a drink, now worries, there are two stainless steel bottle openers built on to the cooler shell. Side-release buckles and the quick release heavy duty shoulder strap make transporting this cooler super simple.
The zippers are the trusted, and weatherized, YKK #10 zippers.
- Very stylish design
- Well-made saddle
- Keeps ice for up to 2 days if left closed
- The straps are not the highest quality around
- Fairly small
- Zipper has been known to get snagged
4. AO 48 Pack Canvas Cooler
Guaranteed to never leak or sweat, the 48 Pack Canvas Cooler from AO Coolers is perfect for your next kayaking trip.
This cooler can hold 48 (12oz) cans plus about 15 pounds of ice. It is insulated with 3/4 inch thick, high-density, closed cell foam that will keep ice for up to 24 hours.
The liner is made from a high quality TPU material, which is also the same material used to make waterbeds and most above ground pools. This material is extremely resilient to all sorts of impacts, abrasions, and tears.
This cooler also comes equipped with a removable shoulder strap for easy transport, clip down ends, and a pocket for dry items.
- Keeps ice for up to 24 hours
- Overall build material is of excellent quality
- Shoulder strap is not very comfortable
5. IceMule Pro Cooler
If extreme portability is something you are looking for, then look no further than the IceMule Pro Cooler.
This 20 liter, 18 can capacity cooler is perfect for a day out on the water in your kayak. The PolarLayer insulation material can keep your ice up to 24 hours, while the TriFold DriTop keeps all your ice inside.
The outer shell of this cooler is made from a tough, 1,000-denier ripstop material that is strong and durable. Everything about this cooler is waterproof, and it features welded seams with no zippers.
There is also a built in IM air valve to make it easy to compress the cooler and roll it up to be stored.
- Ripstop material overall build
- No zippers
- Welded seams
- No zippers
- Air valve is implemented poorly
6. Engel 19 Drybox Cooler
The Engel 19 Drybox Cooler is a spacious 19 quart cooler that is completely air and water tight. Anything you put inside of this cooler from simple snacks and drinks, to electronics and other dry items, you can rest assured will be kept dry.
The outer shell is made from a PP Copolymer and is insulated with a high grade polystyrene core and a non-absorbent outer surface. Everything is held together by stainless steel screws and self-stopping hinges.
Overall, this is a very basic cooler but it doesn't need to be fancy to do its job. And it does indeed do its job!
- PP Copolymer build material
- Non-absorbent outer surface
- Self-stopping hinges
- Many people have complained that it is not nearly as airtight as it claims to be
7. Elkton Fish Cooler Bag
Sleek, compact, simple... all of these words could be used to best describe our next cooler.
If you are limited on room in your kayak but still need a place to store the fish you catch, we have a solution for you. Introducing the Elkton Fish Cooler Bag!
This cooler is designed to be compact, easy to clean, and most importantly, waterproof.
It is made from a waterproof, durable nylon on the outside and a thin insulation on the inside. It has handles to make toting it around easy and even lies down flat to save you some room when not in use.
When you have returned from your fishing trip, simply open the drain, rinse it out and then let it dry. When you are ready to put it up until your next trip, you can fold it in half and use the velcro straps to further secure it.
- Easy to clean
- Easy to transport
- Not very well insulated
8. K2 Coolers Summit 20
Looking for a tough cooler that can take more than a little abuse? You need the Summit 20 Cooler from K2 Coolers.
This cooler boasts a 14 can capacity. It is made from food grade material that is both UV resistant and dry ice compatible. It is a one-piece, roto-molded construction.
Inside the cooler, you have an insulation that has been injected under pressure to give you maximum coverage and ice retention. Coupled with the K2 IceVault and LOCKaway lid, you can keep your ice for about 24 hours.
And no need to worry about this thing sliding all around your kayak. It has SUREgrip rubber feet that are non-marking and slip resistant.
- Really well done insulation
- Slip resistant
- Dry ice compatible
- Without anything in it, it is a bit on the heavier side
9. Hobie Hatch Cooler
The Hobie Hatch Cooler is is a multi-purpose, multi-functional cooler that you must get your hands on.
While this cooler was designed to fit perfectly in the Pro Angler 14 forward bucket, we have found that it fits rather well in quite a few kayak buckets. Additionally, it is also perfectly formed for use in the OA 12 forward compartment without the bucket.
It features a good deal of storage space, several mesh side pockets, and carrying handles. The liner is made of vinyl and the seams are welded, which helps to retain moisture within the bag. The insulation is foam based to provide you with the ultimate temperature retention.
Overall, the Hobie Hatch Cooler is actually a pretty nifty, yet very basic, kayak cooler.
- Very basic build
- Several side pockets
- Welded seams
- Very basic construction
- Made to fit the Pro Angler 14 forward bucket but actually fits it poorly
10. Yeti Roadie 20
The Roadie 20 is the smallest cooler in Yeti's Tundra series, but it is a beast. And would you really expect any less than the best from a brand like Yeti?
The Roadie 20 can hold up to 14 cans within its rotomolded construction. Oh, and thanks to 3 inches of PermaFrost insulation you can expect this thing to keep your ice for just about as long as you need.
We haven't tested this out ourselves but most users report that it is anywhere between 24-72 hours depending on various factors.
The lid on this cooler is heavy duty and features the T-Rex Lid Latches that are made of heavy duty rubber. These latches mean business. On the side you have a drain plug for easy cleaning and a steel carrying handle.
- Small size
- Heavy duty lid with T-Rex latches
- PermaFrost insulation
- Drain plug is known to be leak but is rare
- More expensive than coolers of same quality from different brands
Before You Buy a Kayak Cooler
Before you rush out to buy that perfect cooler for your kayak, there are a few things you need to know.
Don't worry though, it is all very basic things that you should look for when shopping around. These are all just suggestions but they are very beneficial things to consider before making your purchase.
Let's go over a few of the most important ones before we dive in to our list.
Before jumping into all of the other things that you should be looking for it's probably best that we start at the most important. The most important thing you should be looking for when buying a cooler for your kayak is the capacity.
This is typically referenced in terms of quarts, but other times you may hear it referred to in terms of cans, liters, or even pounds.
It's important to know what all you plan to keep in your cooler, so that you can find the appropriate size. On average, you probably want something that's at least 10 quarts. But make sure to always get a little extra capacity over the amount you think you will need.
Coolers are made in a variety of different materials. You have hard coolers that are made out of plastics or rubbers. And then you have soft coolers that are made out of a variety of cloths or other laminated materials.
When it comes down to choosing the material of your cooler it's really just personal preference. Some of the soft coolers do just as well as some of the hard coolers and vice versa.
But the number one rule when it comes to choosing the material of your cooler is to make sure that whatever the material is it is durable enough to withstand any abuse you plan to throw at it.
How good of cooler actually is determined in a big way by how well the cooler can actually keep certain temperatures locked in.
Now what we mean by this is that if you put something cold, like ice, in your cooler, you want your cooler to be able to keep that ice frozen for however long you're going to be out on your kayak. The same goes for any items that need to stay warm.
In general a really good cooler should be able to keep your ice frozen for anywhere between 24 to 72 hours.
And lastly but certainly not least we want to talk about waterproof coolers.
Most coolers on the market right now are waterproof and some are even airtight.
If you are buying a cooler to take out on your kayak which if you're reading this article I'm assuming that you will be, then you probably do want to get a cooler that is waterproof, leak-proof, and airtight. Make sure that it has all of its O rings and gaskets intact and if it has a drain plug, that the drain plug doesn't leak.
As always these are only recommendations and suggestions. You can choose to use these to help you make a better decision or completely ignore them, but we highly recommend the former!
Our Final Review
When it comes time to choose the right cooler for your kayaking needs, you have numerous options available to you.
At the beginning of this article we gave you some recommendations for things to look for when buying your next cooler. Just to recap these things are:
- Keeps Temperature
And if you follow along with those suggestions you should have no problem narrowing it down to a few of your favorites.
Once you've narrowed it down, we hope that we have given you enough solid comparisons to make your decision just a little bit easier when you are ready to select "the one".
If you feel that we have left anything out or maybe you have a favorite that didn't make the list and just want to let us know, please feel free to leave us a comment below.
We love to hear any of your suggestions comments or other feedback so that we can bring you the best reviews on the kayak products that you care about most.
Until next time, happy kayaking!