If your hard-sided cooler seems a little bulky and inconvenient for kayaking, you’re not alone.
Many kayakers prefer to use one of the best kayak cooler bags of 2021 to keep their snacks and beverages cold during a full day of paddling.
These soft-sided coolers are much easier to fit in a wide variety of kayaks without compromising your ability to store the rest of your kayaking safety equipment.
They also make it easier to secure the cooler to the kayak so that it doesn’t come dislodged and start floating away if you capsize.
Aside from storing drinks and snacks, some of these cooler bags are seamlessly compatible with the best ocean fishing kayaks.
They fit right in your stern storage compartment so that you can keep fish cold and insulated until you return to shore and get it on ice in a larger cooler.
Whether you’re most interested in recreational kayaking or offshore kayak fishing, a quality kayak cooler bag is a great addition to your gear collection.
Fortunately, we’re going to review 10 of the best cooler options on the market today.
We’ll also provide important insights to help you narrow down your choices and choose the best cooler style for your specific needs.
So, without further hesitation, let’s get right into it!
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Kayak Cooler Bags of 2021
- 2 Buying Guide
- 3 Kayak Cooler Bag Reviews
- 3.1 1. Perception Splash Tankwell Cooler
- 3.2 2. IceMule Classic Cooler Bag
- 3.3 3. AO Coolers Stow-N-Go Cooler Bag
- 3.4 4. Seattle Sports Kayak Catch Cooler Bag
- 3.5 5. IceMule Pro Cooler Bag
- 3.6 6. VAKKER Insulated Cooler Bag
- 3.7 7. TCYC Deluxe YakCatch Cooler
- 3.8 8. Precision-Pak Tournament Kayak Fishing Catch Cooler
- 3.9 9. YETI Hopper M30 Soft Cooler Bag
- 3.10 10. Seattle Sports Roll Catch Cooler
- 4 Our Pick – IceMule Pro
- 5 Enjoyed Best Kayak Cooler Bags of 2021? Share it with your friends so they too can follow the KayakHelp journey.
Best Kayak Cooler Bags of 2021
- Perception Splash Tankwell Cooler
- IceMule Classic Cooler Bag
- AO Coolers Stow-N-Go Cooler Bag
- Seattle Sports Kayak Catch Cooler Bag
- IceMule Pro Cooler Bag
- VAKKER Insulated Cooler Bag
- TCYC Deluxe YakCatch Cooler
- Precision-Pak Tournament Kayak Fishing Cooler
- YETI Hopper M30 Soft Cooler Bag
- Reliable Fishing Products Insulated Kayak Bag
Before you read through our reviews, let’s talk about how to choose the best cooler bag for your kayak.
While you could always attempt to build a cooler for your kayak, we think you’re better off using these criteria to choose one that’s ready for use now!
Size and Capacity
It’s important to be aware that a larger cooler doesn’t always mean a cooler with more capacity.
When you’re comparing cooler models, pay close attention to both their advertised interior and exterior dimensions.
Use a cooler’s exterior dimensions to make sure it will fit in the tankwell or bulkhead compartment of your specific kayak.
Then you can use the interior dimensions to determine whether the cooler will give you enough capacity for the kinds of beverages, food, or fish you want to store in it.
Another consideration is whether you’re going to store your cooler bag in the open tankwell of a sit-on-top kayak or the enclosed bulkhead compartment of a sit-inside kayak.
For open tankwells, the low-profile designs can be best because they reduce wind resistance and allow you to strap other gear to the top of your cooler (in many cases).
For enclosed bulkhead compartments, you’re better off with a smaller dry bag-style cooler (or multiple of them).
This is because they’ll more easily fit through the smaller hatches that provide access to these types of compartments.
Some of these cooler bags are specifically designed for storing fish while others won’t give you that option at all.
As you might imagine, some of them are versatile enough to handle the needs of everyone from serious kayak anglers to casual recreational paddlers.
If you know you’ll be using your kayak for multiple purposes, a versatile design is going to be essential.
That also includes consideration of whether the cooler you buy will need to work with different styles of kayaks.
Kayak Cooler Bag Reviews
The Perception Splash Tankwell Cooler is made specifically for fishing or recreational kayaks with open stern storage areas.
It boasts a 40-liter capacity and includes a full half-inch of foam insulation throughout to keep your beverages or catches cool.
This cooler is intended to be used for personal beverages and snacks only (even though it appears to be similar to some of the other catch coolers we’ll review below).
It features a super low profile design that reduces wind resistance compared to many other kayak coolers.
The interior dimensions of this cooler measure 18.5” long by 7” high by 16.5” wide at the wide end and 9.5” wide at the tapered end.
To help you make sure it will fit in the stern compartment of your kayak, the external dimensions measure 21.5” long by 8” high by 17.75” wide at the wide end and 10” wide at the tapered end.
It does include a total of four D-rings at each corner to make it easier to clip or otherwise secure down to anchor points on your kayak.
The zippered opening on top makes it easy to retrieve items from the cooler without having to completely remove it from the storage area.
Speaking of that zipper, this cooler features YKK zippers that are widely considered to be the toughest and most durable available on the market today.
It’s also made with water-resistant materials and RF welded seams to keep splashing water out (but it’s not meant for full submersions).
The IceMule Classic Cooler Bag is available in 10-liter, 15-liter, and 20-liter sizes.
This cooler bag is best for recreational day trips where you just want to keep sandwiches or a six-pack of beverages cold.
It features a roll-top design that keeps water from entering the enclosed part of the cooler.
The exterior of this bag is made with a durable MuleSkin material that’s resistant to scratches or tears from rugged use.
The interior of the cooler is lined with a thick layer of PolarLayer insulation that’s rated to keep the cooler’s contents icy for up to two days.
Because it has a roll-top, this cooler bag can also be used as a dry bag for keeping contents dry if you don’t need cold storage for your particular kayaking trip.
This cooler is essentially the little brother to the IceMule Pro (which we’ll review later).
It provides all the same features (including backpack straps for easy, hands-free carrying) in a more compact package that’s more appropriate for day trips.
This cooler also boasts welded seams that keep its contents watertight in wavy or rainy conditions.
It can be rolled up and stored in a super-compact space when you’re done using it (just make sure you let the interior dry completely before storing it!).
The AO Coolers Stow-N-Go Cooler Bag is another option that features the kind of low-profile design that’s perfect for kayakers that frequently experience windy conditions on their favorite waterways.
Plus, it includes an easy-access top zipper so that you don’t have to move the entire cooler to access its contents.
This cooler measures 23” long by 15” wide by 8.5” high and relies on ¾”-thick, high-density, closed-cell foam insulation to keep its contents icy cold.
In fact, AO Coolers guarantees that it will still hold ice for up to 24 hours in 120-degree temperatures (Fahrenheit, of course).
It offers a 38-can capacity, plus the ability to hold up to 14 pounds of ice on top of that.
That equates to roughly 28 quarts (or 35 pounds) of total capacity for your kayaking trips.
This cooler also boasts a lightweight polyethylene exterior film that helps to prevent moisture from saturating the entire cooler.
It also includes a TPU leakproof inner liner that keeps melting ice inside from soaking through to the outside of the cooler.
The Seattle Sports Kayak Catch Cooler Bag is the first one on our list that is specifically made for kayak anglers.
It will help you keep your catch fresh as you try to add a few more to your collection before you finish your day.
But this cooler can also be used for storing snacks or beverages on casual kayaking days where fishing isn’t your primary objective.
We just recommend thoroughly cleaning the cooler’s interior between each use (especially if you’re going back and forth between storing fish and snacks/beverages).
This cooler offers an 18-liter capacity and offers exterior dimensions measuring 20” long by 17” wide by 6” high.
The interior storage area of this cooler actually measures closer to 19” long by 12” wide by 5” tall.
One thing I really like about this cooler is that it includes a removable inner liner.
This makes it easier to clean the space that you’re using to store fish, but it also means that you can remove the liner and use it to pack items before sliding the liner back into the exterior insulated bag.
This cooler relies on closed-cell foam insulation to keep its contents cool for long days on the water.
Plus, it also boasts a heat reflective body that further serves to keep the cooler’s internal temperature down and protect your catch from spoiling before you can get it home.
The IceMule Pro Cooler Bag is available in several sizes, but the large size is a great balance between size and capacity.
It will hold up to 23 liters and the bag itself weighs just over three pounds before it’s loaded down.
This is one of the few cooler bags on our list that includes backpack straps that make it much easier to carry down to the water.
You can put it on your back and keep your hands free to carry your kayak, paddle, and other accessories down to the shore in a single trip.
This cooler also has a criss-crossed bungee cord across its front section.
This section of bungee cord can either be used to secure the cooler bag to your kayak or to secure other items (like your sandals) to the bag while you’re paddling.
With a MuleSkin exterior and interior PolarLayer insulation, this cooler is both rugged and functional.
It’s rated to maintain icy temperatures for up to 48 hours and includes a roll-top, zipperless closure that keeps the cold in and water out.
The VAKKER Insulated Cooler Bag is perhaps the most stylish option on our list. It boasts a seven-liter capacity, which is enough to fit about 36 cans plus five pounds of ice.
This cooler’s exterior dimensions measure 20” long by 16” wide by 10” high and it features the kind of closed-cell foam insulation that you should be looking for in one of these cooler bags.
It also boasts RF welded seams to keep moisture from saturating the bag (whether it’s coming from the inside or outside).
The wide, zippered opening at the top of the cooler makes it easy to access your foods and beverages stored inside.
You’ll also be able to make use of the small zippered pocket on the side of the cooler for items that don’t necessarily have to be on ice.
When you need to carry this cooler, you’ll have a couple of options.
You can either use the dual handles (which velcro together at the center for added security) or the attached shoulder strap to keep your hands free.
The TCYC Deluxe YakCatch Cooler is another model that’s designed specifically with the kayaking angler in mind.
It can function as a storage space to keep your catch fresh or to store beverages or food items that you want to keep cold on recreational paddling days.
The body is made of a durable 600-denier polyurethane polyester material that’s water-resistant and durable enough to hold up against scratching or tearing.
The interior is fully padded with thick, closed-cell foam insulation and then sealed with a tarpaulin thermal lining to prevent heat transfer.
There’s also an inner dry bag that comes with this cooler that allows you to keep fresh catches separate from other items inside the cooler (or vice versa).
That dry bag can also be removed for easier cleaning or to be used as a stand-alone dry bag as needed.
It also allows you to take the dry bag into your house to pack everything you’re going to put into your cooler for the day instead of having to bring individual items out to the cooler bag that stays secured into the stern storage area of your kayak.
Speaking of security, you’ll find a total of six locking clips on the edges of this 42-inch cooler to help you secure it down to the anchor points on your kayak.
Plus, this cooler features two clipped straps on top that can be used to attach other items directly to it.
You’ll be able to access this cooler from the end or the top, using the top zipper or the velcro-and-clip closure at the end.
As an added bonus, the end of the cooler includes a clear sealed compartment that’s great for storing waterproof maps or other thin gear items.
The Precision-Pak Tournament Cooler boasts a similar design to the TCYC cooler, but it’s slightly more affordable.
It still features a 42-inch length and a low-profile design that makes it perfect for ocean kayak anglers that often experience windy conditions.
This cooler is made with a 420-denier polyurethane polyester body material and closed-cell foam insulation.
It also boasts a reflective thermal interior liner and a removable dry bag for keeping items organized and easier cooler cleaning.
This cooler doesn’t feature any zippers, but it still gives you two options for accessing its contents via the top or the wide end.
There’s a long velcro opening that can easily be used to access items located further down towards the tapered end.
There’s also a top panel that also secures with velcro that makes it easier to slide fish into the cooler from the wide end.
When it comes to securing this cooler down, six heavy-duty locking clips on the edges (three on each side) make it easy to clip down to anchor points on your kayak.
The YETI name is synonymous with high-performing coolers and their coolers regularly outperform the competition when it comes to cold retention.
The Hopper M30 is one of their best cooler bags for kayakers.
This cooler boasts a 7.2-gallon capacity, which gives you enough space to hold up to 20 cans or 28 pounds of ice (if you just need to keep ice cold for some reason).
It also boasts an extremely tough design that’s great for rugged kayaking experiences.
All of the seams on this cooler are RF welded to eliminate stitching and every single pick-up point is reinforced to prevent damage from occurring when you move the cooler.
The waterproof exterior of this cooler is also resistant to punctures and damage from UV radiation.
The cooler’s interior includes a leakproof liner that keeps melting ice or condensation from saturating through the entire bag.
And, just like all of the best kayak coolers, this one uses closed-cell foam insulation to keep its contents cold.
Instead of using a zipper to close the top of this YETI cooler, they’ve replaced the entire zipper with magnets.
This still provides a secure closure but it eliminates the possibility of zipper malfunctions and also makes it easier to access your contents in seconds.
In addition to its magnet HydroShield closure that keeps water from leaking into the cooler, it also includes two quick-release buckles for added security.
Plus, this cooler has multiple tie-down points on either side that make it easy to secure down in your kayak’s storage compartment.
The final cooler bag on our list is another low-profile design that is made specifically for keeping your catch fresh. The Seattle Sports Roll Catch Cooler bag measures 32” long by 5” tall by 19.5” wide.
This entire kayak cooler features dual-layer insulation to keep fish fresh for longer, and it includes an inner liner for separate storage spaces. That liner features a roll-top closure to keep its contents completely protected from the ingress of water and other debris.
Plus, the liner can be removed to make the entire bag (and liner) much easier to clean between uses. It also makes it easier to load up snacks and beverages in your house (if you’re using it this way) and then brings everything out to your car or kayak in a single trip.
The Roll Catch Cooler also features a heat reflective exterior layer that further serves to keep the cooler’s internal temperature where you want it. And clip-on attachment points on the sides of the cooler make it super easy to secure to your kayak.
This cooler also boasts RF welded seams to further prevent water or debris ingress. This gives it the versatility to function as a dry bag for gear storage if you don’t always need it for cold beverages or fish storage.
Our Pick – IceMule Pro
The IceMule Pro is our top pick for the best kayak cooler bag of 2021 because it’s versatile enough to be used with any type of kayak imaginable.
If you don’t necessarily always need a cooler to keep things cold, this bag can double as a dry bag to keep clothing or other items dry while you’re paddling.
Its design allows this bag to easily fit into the open storage compartment of a sit-on-top kayak or the enclosed bulkhead area in a sit-inside kayak.
Plus, it includes backpack straps that make it super easy to carry over any sort of distance.
Those backpack straps make this cooler ideal for any kayaking trips that require portages or a long walk just to get your kayak to the shoreline.
This cooler is also one of the few that takes up minimal space in your vehicle when you’re not using it.
It can be rolled up to a fraction of its open size when you’re ready to store it.
Finally, this cooler bag is our top pick because it makes it easy to secure additional items to the outside of the cooler to further maximize the storage space in your kayak.