Extreme Nomads is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More

C​rack. Sizzle. Pop! These sounds come not only from a box of Rice Krispies but also from the sounds an ice-cold beer makes when you pop it open on a calm, open lake. Or they’re the sounds your dog makes as he crunches on a handful of carrots (it’s a thing, trust me!).

But to bring these snacks and beverages on your next adventure, you need a kayak cooler. Not just any kayak cooler: you need access to the best ice chests around. One that can store large fish or utilize a no-nonsense water-tight lid for zero leakage.

The truth is every cooler bag has different features, like various carrying capacities, hard body liners, easy-to-access openings, and storage capacities. 

So, what kayak cooler should you buy? Scroll down to find out! 



High Insulation

Ice Mule Pro

  • Material: tarpaulin/vinyl/nylon
  • Item Weight: 3 pounds

The Indestructible

YETI Hopper

  • Material: urethane
  • Item Weight: 4.4 pounds

Most Convenient

Perception Splash

  • Material:nylon
  • Item Weight: 1.1 pounds


RTIC 20 Soft Pack

  • Material: Vinyl
  • Item Weight: 0.01 pounds

Budget Friendly

Perception Splash Tankwell

  • Material: Nylon
  • Item Weight: 5.25 pounds


YETI Roadie 20

  • Material: polyethylene
  • Item Weight: 15.98 pounds

Front Deck Storage

Pelican Sport ExoChill

  • Material: 420 denier
  • Item Weight: 1.28 pounds

Best for Kayak Fishing

Seattle Sports Kayak

  • Material: Plastic
  • Item Weight: 2.1 pounds

Our Top Picks For Best Kayak Coolers

Below, we have listed the best kayak coolers to make your choice easier.

1. Ice Mule Pro Cooler 

ICEMULE Pro Collapsible Backpack Cooler

Introducing the Mule Pro soft-sided cooler, a superior cooler built with hearty mule skin that uses an impenetrable outer layer and welded seams for zero leakage. 

With the Mule, you can rest easy knowing your ice will stay cold thanks to its many air chambers for further insulation. 

The cooler holds 23 liters (about 18 cans plus ice), making it the perfect tote if you’re meeting up with a large group. The Mule also has a rolling top which makes for easy packing as you won’t have to wrestle with a fickle-lidded cooler or stubborn zipper.

As for downsides? Ice Mule says its cooler keeps ice for 48 hours… but in my experience? That 48 is more like a cool 18.  

best cooler for kayaking

Still, the Mule Cooler Pro uses high-quality construction to produce a perfect companion cooler with a high-liter capacity that will undoubtedly last you many adventures.


  • Material: 1,000D ripstop Tarpaulin/Vinyl/Nylon
  • Duration: 2 days 
  • Chamber Depth: 17 inches 
  • Capacity: 23 Liters


  • The cooler floats for better on-the-water safety. 
  • Its air chambers make for personalized insulation times. 
  • A fold-down top makes for easy opening and closing.


  • The ice times don’t last as advertised. 

Ice Mule Pro Cooler 

The Price of “Ice Mule Pro Cooler” varies, so check the latest price at

2. YETI Hopper TWO Portable Cooler 

YETI Hopper Two Portable Cooler

Yeti designed their Hopper Two cooler with a state-of-the-art HydroLok Zipper. If that terminology sounds familiar, it’s because Yeti modeled their designs after literal Hazmat suits.

Needless to say, that zipper is strong. So strong that it’s completely leakproof, preventing spills while simultaneously insulating temperatures. Paired with premier cold cell insulation, your Yeti Hopper Two kayak cooler bags keep ice, beverages, and food cool for days.   

The Hopper Two’s exterior is equally impressive. Yeti encased the entire bag in a hearty DryHide Shell to craft a dry, comfortable outer layer. Its removable shoulder strap can adjust for better comfort, while its durable fabric can withstand any rips, tears, or tugs.

coolers for kayaks

If there’s any downside with the Hopper Two, their hard zipper is equally hard to open and close. Yeti thoughtfully tacked on a sticker that instructs users to “pull hard.” Still, if dirt or sand grains wedge into the track, it can get dicey.  


  • Material: 840D Nylon
  • Duration: 2 days 
  • Chamber Depth: 22 inches 


  • Hazmat technology keeps your drinks ice-cold. 
  • The exterior shell has an extremely durable construction. 


  • The zipper on this kayak cooler bag gets stuck often. 

YETI Hopper TWO Portable Cooler

The Price of “YETI Hopper TWO Portable Cooler ” varies, so check the latest price at

3. Perception Splash Seat Back Cooler

Perception Splash

If you’re a sit-on-top kayak paddler who doesn’t want to stop mid-journey to wrestle with a cooler, the Splash Seat Back Cooler is the right ice chest for you. 

The innovative Perception cooler utilizes a four bungee and ball tether system to secure the kayak bag to the back of your sit-on-top kayak lawn chair-style seats.

A zippered top then allows you to reach behind to grab drinks, even when you’re in the middle of paddling upstream. 

F​or all those skeptics out there, yes, the bungee ball system remains strong, even once you load up the bag with ice, food, beverages, and other stuff.  

While this kayak cooler has less capacity than other brands, it comfortably packs away 12 cans of soda, beer, or La Croix (if you’re feeling fancy). 

coolers for kayaks

This soft shell cooler bag ​keeps contents and drinks cold for eight hours. I wouldn’t try anything crazy like storing fish or meat in it due to lesser insulation, but it’s enough to keep beverages nice and crisp.  


  • Material: Nylon
  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Dimensions: 5 x 18 x 11.75 inches


  • This kayak cooler bag is one of the most affordable on the market. 
  • Its seat design gives you much more storage space 
  • The bag has carry handles for easy transport. 


  • Other soft-sided counterparts have better insulation 

Perception Splash Seat Back Cooler 

The Price of “Perception Splash Seat Back Cooler ” varies, so check the latest price at

4. RTIC 20 Soft Pack

RTIC 20 Soft Pack

The RTIC is perhaps one of the top kayak soft-sided coolers, given how long it keeps contents cold and how long the cooler itself lasts. 2 inches of closed-cell foam preserve drinks and food in insulated temperatures in this durable, long-lasting cooler.

On the outside, the RTIC stitches the cooler with a heavy-duty nylon shell, creating a puncture and tear-resistant fabric body. It’s this hearty construction that enables such a mighty freezer to handle even the toughest on-the-go adventures. 

That Nylon shell also creates a no-sweat exterior, so this ice chest is not cold, wet, or slippery to the touch. Instead, this cooler bag can keep drinks cool for up to five days.

small coolers for kayaks

Even more? The RTIC has both handles and shoulder straps for easy carrying and transport. 

RTIC’s compact cooler bag employs a very stiff zipper, which is its way to keep food cold while also being its only mild drawback. 


  • Material: Vinyl
  • Capacity: 2 Inches
  • Chamber Depth: 11.5 Inches
  • Duration: 5 days 


  • These coolers for kayaks use foam insulation to keep food and beverages cold the longest.
  • It has excellent storage capacity. 
  • Fabric is puncture and tear-resistant 


  • The zipper can be difficult to use. 

RTIC 20 Soft Pack

The Price of “RTIC 20 Soft Pack” varies, so check the latest price at

5. Perception Splash Tankwell Cooler

Perception Splash Tankwell Cooler

Perception hits my list once again with their Splash Tankwell Cooler. Between the soft cooler slim fit and the padded shoulder strap, the Perception Splash is all about convenience at an affordable price. 

When looking at this budget cooler first, you may wonder why it has such a tapered style. This was intentional; since the cooler sits on the top of your boat, its smaller design minimizes wind resistance to keep you paddling all day long. 

But don’t be fooled by its minimalist style; this easy-carrying cooler packs an impressive 40L capacity. 

Fitting in most kayak storage wells, the Splash Tankwell has a water-resistant zipper, a thick Nylon exterior, and welded seams for a foolproof seal. Not only does this keep water out, but it keeps cold temperatures in.  

kayaking cooler

Unfortunately, this small cooler hasn’t as high ice retention as its counterparts. But its double-ended zipper works smoothly, and the seams finish nicely.  


  • Material: Nylon 
  • Insulation Material: Foam  
  • Capacity: 40 Liters
  • Chamber Depth: 7 inches 


  • These are some of the best kayak coolers while on a budget.
  •  Strays and strings are expertly strong 
  • Its pockets present extra storage. 


  • Its foam isn’t great at keeping things cold for long periods. 

Perception Splash Tankwell Cooler

The Price of “Perception Splash Tankwell Cooler” varies, so check the latest price at

6. YETI Roadie 20 Cooler

YETI Roadie 20 Cooler

Ready to pack up the kayak and hit the river? The Yeti Roadie is a compact, brightly colored cooler for any short trip. Constructed with heavy-duty PermaFrost insulation and Rotomolded construction, Yeti includes a double latch system and a gripped handle for easy use.

While some brands assert their products are sturdy, Yeti backs their claims. The Roadie’s hard shell cooler is certified bear-proof. Which, if you ask me, is always a good thing.

Don’t be surprised when you lay your hands on this cooler: the Yeti Roadie is certainly not a large ice chest. Rather, it’s a smaller cooler making this waterproof, hardbody liner item fit perfectly on your kayak seat

cooler for kayak

It also means that if your trip is longer than two or three days, you probably won’t have room to bring all the food and drinks you want. Otherwise, this insulated hard-sided cooler is the perfect choice for a little kayak trip.  


  • Materials: Rubber
  • Insulation Material: Polyurethane Foam 
  • Capacity: 20 Liters
  • Item Weight: 15.98 pounds


  • Bright, fun colors make a thoughtful design. 
  • Its double latches ensure easy opening and closing 
  • Due to their bear-proof construction, these hard-sided coolers are indestructible. 


  • These kayak coolers don’t have a pocket or accessories. 

YETI Roadie 20 Cooler

The Price of “YETI Roadie 20 Cooler” varies, so check the latest price at

7. Pelican Sport ExoChill

Pelican Sport

Pelican clearly paid close attention to detail when crafting their Sport ExoChill kayak coolers. 

The pack is lined with thoughtful designs like loops that can hang gear and other items with the help of a carabiner. And its multiple handles mean you can grab it from every which angle, perfect for when you’re paying attention to the rover and not where your hand falls.

The cooler bags also have reflective logos for better visibility should you need a cool beverage in the middle of the night. 

Unlike their other coolers, these ice-cold bags can slide on the front deck for easy storage.

waterproof coolers for kayaking

So if you’re gung-ho about buying a Pelican but don’t want to wrestle with a bungee system, you might find better luck in their Sport ExcoChill. 

The downside to this kayak cooler is that its insulation veers on the weaker side. 


  • Material: Plastic
  • Capacity: 17 Liters  
  • Chamber Depth: 18.7 Inches
  • Weight: ‎1.28 Pounds


  • Its 17 liters make for ample carrying capacity. 
  • The loops make it convenient to hang other gear. 


  • Low insulation means a max of up to two days but more like a few hours.

Pelican Sport ExoChill

The Price of “Pelican Sport ExoChill” varies, so check the latest price at

8. Seattle Sports Kayak Catch Cooler 20

Seattle Sports Kayak

If you’re an angler, look no further. This soft-sided kayak cooler is great for kayak anglers and kayak fishing paddlers.

Constructed with a thermally efficient, heat-reflective exterior, these deck-side coolers have encased closed-cell foam insulation for holding big fish. 

The easy-to-clean pull-out fish dry bag allows you to keep the insulated shell on the boat while you go ashore with the catch. 

kayaking cooler

However, the soft-sided cooler doesn’t hold its shape well, meaning perishables or other stuff can be easily squished. Additionally, the bag does sometimes leak with excess water. 


  • Material: Plastic 
  • Insulation material: Foam 
  • Capacity: 18 Liters 
  • Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Chamber Depth: 20 inches 


  • The hearty closed-cell foam interior keeps items cold for long periods. 
  • The cooler has a large carrying capacity.
  • A kayaking dry bag makes it the best cooler for kayak fishing 


  • The soft shell can squash other perishables 

Seattle Sports Kayak Catch Cooler 20

The Price of “Seattle Sports Kayak Catch Cooler 20” varies, so check the latest price at

Buying Guide for Best Kayak Cooler

Whether you’re hunting for a cooler that gives you extra space or an ice chest that’s so small it’s basically a small kayak bag, you need a buying guide compass to point you in the right direction.

To truly find the best kayak, you must focus on six key elements: type, size (and capacity), weight, attachments, insulation, and closure. 

soft cooler for kayak


There are two major types of coolers: hardbodies (the ones with a hardbody shell and a hardbody liner) and soft-sided coolers. 

Without getting into insulation, hardbody and soft-sided coolers have one primary difference; soft-sided coolers are much easier to fit, and store (since their lax structure gives them more leeway), and hard-sided coolers provide much more protection for the cooler’s contents.

Size and Capacity

Size and capacity are the elements that every cooling company wrangles with. So how do you fit more food, ice, and beverages inside the kayak coolers without ballooning out the cooler to a bulky, unusable level? The answer lies in thoughtful design and clever innovations. 

Of course, some brands do it better than others. For example, tapering and air chambers make for slim fits while maximizing internal space.

Another element to consider is how much space a cooler takes up. The problem with many coolers is that they have a pesky habit of taking up too much deck space. 

A kayak’s deck is precious real estate; your beverages and food are only part of the excursion (unless you’re off for fishing). In addition, you need to leave space for your gear, apparel, and more. 

Consider how much space your yak realistically has so as not to overdo it.


Like with any equipment, you must consider how much an item weighs before bringing it on your kayak. Consider not only the actual cooler’s weight but also how much it will weigh once it’s filled. The last thing you want to do is bring a heavy kayak and capsize! 

That’s why many kayak coolers are small. Kayak fishing coolers may weigh more because river fishing kayaks tend to be larger. 


Nowadays, many kayak coolers come with backpack straps to lug over your back after you get out of your kayak and unload gear. 

Most coolers are specially designed with an exterior pocket that provides more storage, gives you more space, or uses a removable shoulder strap to carry food and drinks better. 

Attachments are all well; until they’re not. Know your use before you dish out hundreds of dollars for unnecessary storage or attachments. 

Conversely, if you take your kayak on many multi-day excursions or remote camping, you may need to prioritize coolers that come with many attachments to make trekking much easier. 


The perfect cooler is all about insulation. It’s this science that keeps your ice frozen and gives your drinks the ability to stay cold. 

When buying insulation, thicker is often better. Some brands even utilize air chambers, which are great because you can cater the level of insulation to what you need. 

At the very least, most kayaks employ a waterproof seal, waterproof design, and waterproof zipper to further keep temperatures in.


I​ don’t care what you say: you can have the coolest, state-of-the-art, best cooler ever, but if you can’t close it (or worse if you can’t open it), you don’t have much. 

Many brands try to overcompensate for shoddy insulation by making the zippers tight. Unfortunately, that translates to a zipper that’s difficult to use. 

If you have wrists that struggle with opening some zippers, pay special attention to what type of zippers to use.

So Many Choices, So Little Time!

Searching for the right cooler is a lot like dating. Okay, maybe not exactly like dating (a kayak cooler won’t foot you with the whole bill at Sizzler), but there are many fish in the sea, and finding the right one can be difficult. 

To choose the best kayak coolers, you must consider what you value. Do you want extra space? A smaller cooler? What are the qualities you value that you think make ice chests shine?

Once you hone in on the features that matter most, you can find the best cooler to bring on your next excursion to the great outdoors.

But, hey, before buying a kayak cooler for your next adventure, maybe first learn how to kayak!

Categories: Kayaking

Colleen Glennon

Colleen is a writer and explorer based in Los Angeles CA. As a former East Coaster, Colleen grew up snowboarding, skiing, snow shoeing, and ice skating. Once she packed up her gear and moved to the West Coast, she fit right into Los Angeles surf and skate culture. She's particularly excited about trying out new extreme sports and telling her friends, family, or anyone on the Internet how fun it was - and how you can have fun with it, too. When Colleen's not at home writing, you'll find her in shredding Malibu waves, hiking with her fiance and Belgian Malinois, planning her next adventure abroad, or trying out her new snorkeling gear.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

en_GBEnglish (UK)