For kayakers looking to keep their food and drinks chilled while out on the water, a floating cooler is an absolute must-have accessory. The best floating coolers are designed specifically for kayaking and canoeing adventures, keeping your snacks and beverages cold while floating alongside or towing behind your vessel. When choosing a floating cooler for your kayak, there are several key features to consider including capacity, durability, insulation, and ease of transport.
The market offers a range of high-quality floating coolers that are ideal for kayakers. Top recommendations include the CreekKooler Floating Insulated Cooler which has a 30 quart capacity and superior insulation. It can hold up to 30 cans and be towed behind a kayak for hands-free transportation. Other excellent options are the durable vinyl-coated TRC Recreation Super Soft Floating Cooler with 30 can capacity, and the inflatable Airhead Aqua Oasis with built-in drink holders. Brands like ICEMULE produce soft-sided floating coolers in various sizes, all made with waterproof and leakproof designs.
When evaluating the best floating cooler for your kayaking needs, be sure to assess insulation strength, overall durability for wear and tear, storage capacity, ease of carrying and floatability alongside your kayak. The right cooler will securely store your items while floating, keep contents cold for hours, and withstand bumps on the water – allowing you to focus on enjoying your kayaking adventures.
Key Factors to Consider in a Kayak Floating Cooler
Kayaking puts your gear through more wear and tear than everyday use. Your floating cooler needs to stand up to bumps, scrapes and possible spills while out on the water. Look for impact-resistant materials like thick vinyl-coated fabric or rigid plastic. Avoid cheaper models with thin fabric.
Reinforced seams and material overlays provide added toughness against rips, holes and tears that can compromise insulation. Handle mount points should be strongly fastened to avoid ripping. Models with welded seams eliminate leak-prone stitching. Brands like YETI and Pelican offer reputably durable coolers.
Consider how the cooler attaches and floats next to your kayak. Will tie-down points or tow ropes hold up to frequent use and force? Can hooks or clips take the load and impact if you flip? Avoid flimsy hardware and weak plastic clips. Opt for sturdy carabiners, steel D-rings, and padded straps.
Also inspect durability of accessories like exterior pockets, drain plugs, lid hinges, and gasket seals. Your cooler will survive drops into water, UV rays, and more. Choose long-lasting details to match.
Top-notch insulation ensures your ice stays frozen and contents stay frosty cold for hours in the sun while kayaking. Prioritize thick insulation materials like polyurethane foam or rubberized coatings which provide maximum cold retention.
Dual-wall construction with an air layer adds further insulating power. Some higher-end coolers have up to 2-3 inches of insulation thickness to keep contents chilled for days. Accessories like insulating liners and ice packs can also help retain temperature.
The quality and density of the insulating foam make a major difference. High density polyurethane or polystyrene insulation works best. Also seek out foams treated with reflective mylar for increased performance.
Don’t forget about the lid! Pick a model with insulating gaskets and rubber or foam seals to eliminate any gaps where cold air can escape. Some lids attach via freezer-style hinges that maintain the insulation seal.
Consider what size and capacity cooler you need to hold enough drinks, meals and snacks to comfortably sustain your kayaking trip length. Look at internal storage volume in quarts or liters along with the maximum number of cans/bottles the cooler can fit.
Just you or a short trip? Go smaller around 20-30 quarts. For 1-2 people on full day trips, 50 quarts is good. Bigger multi-day excursions may require 70+ quarts of storage. But don’t sacrifice portability for unnecessary excess capacity.
Think about gear you need to store beyond just food and drinks. Do you need room for bait or fish? Extra clothing or emergency supplies? Will you use re-freezable ice packs that take up space? Account for all gear when choosing capacity.
Look for interior shelves, compartments and separators that optimize storage space and organization. This prevents items shifting around and contents getting jumbled up while you kayak. Removable dividers allow customizing the layout.
Ease of Transport
Your ideal floating cooler should be highly portable and easy to manage on your kayaking launch, during paddling stops and at camp. Look for backpack-style carrying straps, top handles and tow ropes to simplify transport and securing to your kayak.
Compact, rounded shapes take up minimal cockpit space. Lightweight materials under 5 lbs keep carrying and loading easy. Some coolers have attachment points to strap onto kayak decks. Easy accessibility via zippered lids or flip-open tops allows hassle-free access to your items while on board.
If choosing a hard-shell cooler, consider if the weight when loaded will be manageable to lift in and out of your kayak. Lighter rotomolded models are much easier to handle than old school steel coolers.
For softer coolers, make sure shoulder straps are padded and adjustable for comfortable carrying. Compression straps help stabilize loads. Look for extra exterior pockets and daisy chains to hold other items you need access to.
Waterproofing is an absolute must for kayak coolers, which will get splashed on and possibly dunked into water. Seek out models with supremely airtight seals and water-tight gaskets around lids and openings. Many heavy duty coolers are certified as 100% waterproof.
Leakproof zipper closures add an extra barrier against moisture and humidity that causes sweating. Foam or rubber gaskets around the lid create a tight seal. Brands like Yeti have specially designed HydroLok closures. Look for welded seams without stitching that can let in water.
Pay attention to any hardware like hinges, latches, and drain plugs. Stainless steel resists corrosion better if submerged. Some drain systems have float balls to prevent water intrusion while allowing melting ice to escape.
If choosing fabric coolers, inspect the waterproofing ratings like denier strength and TPU coatings. These help soft bags achieve reliable water resistance for splashes, but may not be truly waterproof for immersions.
Top-Rated Floating Coolers for Kayaks
Now that you know what to look for in the ideal kayak cooler, here are some of the top-rated floating cooler models that deliver on all fronts:
Pelican Elite Coolers
- Rotomolded construction for extreme toughness
- 2+ inch polyurethane insulation
- Waterproof and leakproof freezer-grade gasket
- Molded-in handles and tow ropes
Pelican makes heavy duty coolers designed for the most extreme kayaking adventures. Their Elite line offers super durable rotomolded construction paired with up to 3 inches of insulating foam for stellar ice retention. Large 45 and 55-quart models available. Fully waterproof freezer-style gasket. Convenient molded-in handles and tow ropes.
Owners praise the extreme ruggedness of Pelican coolers. Despite heavy impacts and rugged treatment, these coolers take everything in stride and keep contents cold for days. The rotomolded material far outlasts cheaper models. Well worth the investment for hardcore kayakers.
CreekKooler Original Floating Cooler
- Patented floating design with tow rope
- Dual-wall construction
- 30 quart capacity
- Zipperless lid
This patented cooler floats right alongside your kayak and keeps contents chilled while freeing up space. It tows easily to follow you anywhere. The dual-wall design provides excellent insulation that can hold ice for days. Generous 30-quart capacity and zipperless access make it very user-friendly.
The CreekKooler excels at stability while floating next to kayaks and canoes. The squared design and foam insulation help it stay upright in rougher water compared to soft-sided models. Interior shelves keep items organized and the exterior net pockets are perfect for quick access to small items.
IceMule Pro Coolers
- Soft-sided backpack design
- 23 liter and 18 liter sizes
- Waterproof fabric
- 24+ hour ice retention
These soft-sided backpack coolers make carrying your chilled items easy. Despite their light and flexible fabric build, they keep ice frozen for 24+ hours thanks to expert construction. The waterproof design ensures zero leakage into the bag. Great insulation coupled with convenience and portability.
The IceMule Pro is praised for its comfortable backpack carry plus smart organization with exterior pockets and bungee attachment points. The fabric exterior sheds water well and remains sand-free after beach use. A great choice for kayak camping trips.
YETI Hopper M30 Soft Cooler
- Durable waterproof fabric exterior
- HydroLok zipper for airtight seal
- ColdCell insulation
- Shoulder strap for carrying
This soft-sided backpack cooler is made by the premium cooler brand YETI. It delivers superior insulation thanks to the ColdCell foam interior. The exterior is made of thick waterproof fabric to handle splashes and spills while out kayaking. The airtight zipper ensures no leakage or moisture penetration.
Reviewers love the Hopper’s tough DryHide shell that easily withstands abrasions from gear. The wide-mouth opening makes it easy to load ice and access contents. While expensive, it excels at keeping ice intact for multi-day trips thanks to superb insulation.
Comparison Table of Top-rated Floating Coolers for Layaks
|Pelican Elite||Hard-shell rotomolded||45-55 quarts||2-3″ polyurethane||Extremely durable, molded handles and tow ropes, waterproof gasket|
|CreekKooler Original||Hard-shell plastic||30 quarts||Dual-wall foam||Patented floating design, zipperless access, tow rope|
|IceMule Pro||Soft-sided backpack||18-23 liters||Reflective mylar foam||Waterproof fabric, backpack straps, exterior pockets|
|YETI Hopper M30||Soft-sided backpack||30 cans||ColdCell foam||Waterproof fabric, HydroLok zipper, shoulder strap|
|TOURIT Cooler Backpack||Soft-sided backpack||30 cans||Leakproof liner||Padded straps, expandable storage, exterior pockets|
Additional Tips for Kayak Floating Coolers
Beyond finding the right cooler, here are some extra tips for seamlessly using your floating cooler while kayaking:
Secure It Properly
Use tow ropes, bungee cords or carabiners to firmly secure your floating cooler to your kayak. This prevents it drifting away if you flip or need to make a sudden move. Stash smaller coolers under bungees on the deck when not towing.
If your cooler didn’t come with attachments, consider adding some. Install eye bolts or cleats that tow ropes can tie onto. Dual side mounts distribute force evenly. Hook straps onto any molded holes or slots in hard-sided coolers if present.
Point bow and stern tie-downs toward the inward side or centerline of your kayak for best alignment while towing. This prevents the cooler pulling you off course to one side.
Pack It Efficiently
Fill it 75% with ice, then items. Keep frequently accessed items on top. Organize with shelves/baskets to prevent digging around. Use block ice for longer melt time vs cubes or nuggets. Pre-chill the cooler overnight before packing.
Take advantage of any interior features to keep items organized and minimized. Removable trays and shelf inserts allow creating zones for different items or people. Some coolers have can holders built into the lids.
Bring separate small dry bags for items you absolutely need to keep dry like phones, keys or wallets. For extra insurance, double bag in Ziploc freezer bags too.
Access Items Underway
Position zipper pulls, opening handles and access points to face inward for easy onboard access without unfastening the whole cooler. Use exterior pockets for items you’ll need while paddling.
If your cooler sits behind you while towing, turn periodically to grab items versus constantly reaching back. Transfer some most-used items to a small cooler, dry bag or drink koozie in your cockpit for quicker access.
Floating backpack coolers allow grabbing items while wearing with the cooler in front. Look for models with chest or waist belts to stabilize the load when reaching inside.
Maintain and Clean
Once home, empty all contents and rinse the interior with mild soap and water to prevent lingering odors. Allow to fully air dry with the lid open before packing for the next adventure.
Check hardware like hinges for salt buildup after ocean trips. Re-grease hinges occasionally to prevent seizing up. Apply marine epoxy to any scratches that penetrate the outer shell. Replace damaged hardware immediately to avoid bigger issues down the road.
For fabric coolers, periodically use a stain guard spray to refresh water resistance. Check for abrasions or damaged coatings. Avoid compressing repeatedly when not in use.
FAQs about Choosing the Best Floating Cooler for Kayaks
What size cooler should I get for kayaking?
Choose a cooler size based on your average trip length and number of people. For solo day trips, 25-35 quarts is good. For 2 people or overnight trips, 50+ quarts allows more storage. Bulky hard coolers over 75 quarts can be difficult to secure.
Are fabric cooler bags really waterproof enough for kayaking?
It depends on the brand and construction. Some lightweight fabric coolers resist moisture well but aren’t 100% waterproof for submersion. Look for durable TPU coatings and high denier strength ratings on kayak-specific models for reliable water protection.
Is it worth paying more for premium cooler brands like Yeti?
Premium coolers from brands like Yeti do cost more but have significant advantages for kayaking thanks to their extreme durability and insulation retention. Less expensive models may work for casual users but often don’t last through years of rough kayaking use.
What features make a cooler easier to use while kayaking?
Prioritize coolers with easy access openings, multiple carry options like backpack straps or side handles, attachment points to secure it, exterior pockets for small items, and light overall weight for portability.
How do I keep a floating cooler attached to my kayak?
Use carabiners, straps, rope with cinch clips, or sturdy bungee cords to firmly tether your floating cooler to attachment points on your kayak. Some coolers have built-in D-rings or hooks to make this easier.
Should I put block ice or regular ice cubes in my kayak cooler?
Block ice lasts longer and melts slower than cubes or crushed ice. Cubes are fine for shorter trips under 6 hours. For all-day or multi-day trips, blocks keep contents colder for extended periods.
Any tips to make my ice last longer?
Start with pre-chilled drinks and cooler. Use at least 2/3 ice to contents. Limit openings. Add ice packs for extra cooling power. Bagging ice helps slow melt, as does using block versus small pieces. Insulated hard coolers retain cold best.
How should I clean and dry my cooler after kayaking trips?
Fully empty the cooler and wipe down the interior with mild soap and water after each trip. Air dry with lid open for at least 24 hours to prevent mold or odors. Grease hinges, clean zippers, and check for damage.
Equipping your kayak with a high-performing floating cooler enables you to carry refreshments and provisions for full days out on the water. When shopping for the ideal model, prioritize rugged durability, thick insulation, adequate storage capacity, easy transport and waterproofing. Leading brands like Pelican, CreekKooler, YETI, and IceMule make quality floating coolers designed specifically for kayaking. With the right cooler in tow, you can explore lakes, rivers and ocean shores without having to cut your paddling trips short due to lack of supplies.