How Do You Carry a Cooler on a Fishing Kayak?

Kayak Cooler

With a limited amount of storage space on a fishing kayak, you need to be creative and smart when deciding where to carry a cooler on your kayak. There are several ways and different styles of coolers you can bring along with you!

It’s easy to secure a cooler in your kayak behind the seat with straps or bungee cords. Smaller soft-sided coolers may be stored in a compartment or even stuffed inside of a sit-in kayak between your legs. Another option is a tow-behind cooler!

We’ve all taken a smaller six-pack type of cooler with maybe a couple of water bottles and a sandwich in it. You can use inexpensive bungee cords to secure this cooler to your seat base. Taller or larger coolers may require a substantially more durable strap or bungee.

Let’s take a quick look at the different types of coolers you can use on your kayak. One may fit your needs better than the others!

Four Basic Types of Kayak Coolers

  • Hard-sided Coolers
  • Soft-sided Coolers
  • Catch Coolers
  • Tow-Behind Coolers

Hard-sided coolers are square and larger than their soft-sided counterparts. These will have more room in them to store items and ice packs to keep your things cool. They are also the heaviest of all the options, but your sandwiches will never get crushed!

Soft-sided coolers are by far the most popular type of cooler. They are generally smaller than the hard-sided coolers, but you will find them in larger sizes as well. These smaller coolers can fit into tighter areas, where hard sides won’t fit and will also come in the shape of large bags.

Catch coolers are also soft-sided coolers. They are secured to the front of your kayak and designed to carry the fish you keep. Several kayak companies have fish storage coolers which are tailor-designed to fit on their specific kayaks and streamlined like your kayak.

Tow-behind coolers are becoming popular with a growing group of folks. They look just like a little kayak and are towed behind your kayak, leaving you more room in your kayak. The tow-behinds are quite a bit larger and have a larger carrying capacity.

My Top Choices for Kayak Coolers

Hard-side Cooler

The cooler I chose is a hard-side made by Ozark Trail. I have them in different sizes, and my favorite is the Ozark Trail 26-Quart High-Performance Cooler, which you can give a quick look on Amazon. I picked mine up at a local Wal-Mart, and it’s comparable in construction to the Yeti brand coolers, yet affordable.

The reason I chose a hard-side as my main cooler over a soft-sided cooler is its functionality. With the Ozark Trail cooler, I can easily carry it in my truck or at work and not worry about it being crushed.

The one thing I like about this type of cooler is they are very durable and can take a beating! Plus, they are super simple to secure in your kayak.

Soft-side Cooler

Many people use a soft-side cooler, and they are excellent. But I travel quite a bit, and a soft-side won’t do it for me in the long run. I don’t care for a crushable cooler the way I travel. Ozark Trail makes high-quality soft-sides. From a small 6-pack can cooler to their well constructed Ozark Trail 30 Can Leak-Tight Cooler.

The 30 Can leak-Tight Cooler is heat welded and has a bottle opener on the front. It can double as a terrific fish carrier as well. I could get behind a multipurpose cooler and will certainly be adding this one to my gear pile soon!

With soft-sides, you can push them into tighter spots since they will give quite a bit. The downside is they tend to let items inside become crushed.

A soft-side cooler making a strong showing is the IceMule Classic and comes in small, medium, and large sizes. Very similar to a dry bag, it folds over, has a sling for hiking, and can pack into a small storage compartment on your kayak.

There are so many cool options anymore when it comes to coolers for your kayak. This link will take you to a short 47-second video on Amazon, where you can view the IceMule Classic.

Catch Coolers

Catch coolers are unique to the kayak fishing industry. Initially designed to pack with ice and keep your catch when out on the water, many kayakers have turned them into personal coolers.

These coolers are triangular and fit snugly on top of the kayak’s bow. Many companies manufacture a catch cooler for their brand of the kayak. Although they are incredibly high quality, they can cost up to and over $200.00! I’d rather spend my money on crankbaits and lures!

But if I were ever to get a catch cooler (I practice catch and release), the Seattle Sports Kayak Insulated Deck Top Catch Cooler would be the one I would purchase. It is far less than half the price of kayak branded catch coolers.

With a few scoops of ice inside, and fitting snugly to your deck, this catch cooler will keep your catch fresh all day long, or your food and drink! It’s easy to clean, insulated, and the inside liner can also double as a dry bag.

If I were looking to keep fish regularly and wanted them to stay fresh all day long, for the small price of this bag compared to others, I’d go with the Seattle Sports Kayak Insulated Deck Top Catch Cooler for Fishing and Food Items. You can check the current price and specs out on Amazon.

Tow-Behind Cooler

Tow-behind coolers have come a long way! When I first kayaked the North Fork of the White River many years ago, just like many other kayakers at the time, I took an inner tube and wrapped it around a Coleman plastic cooler. Inflated it, tied a rope to it, then towed it behind the kayak!

The tow-behind coolers have been taking over quite a bit of the market, and they come in different capacities measured in quarts. One of the more popular coolers to tow behind your kayak comes from CreekKooler.

Their 15-quart cooler will hold 15 12 oz cans along with 10 lbs of ice, and the 30-quart will carry 30 12 oz cans with 20 lbs of ice. Both have a half-inch of insulation which will keep your contents cold for up to 24 hrs.

If you’re interested in a tow-behind cooler you can click and take a quick look at their lineup and check the current pricing on Amazon.

Related Article: How to Outfit a Kayak for Fishing: The Ultimate Guide

In conclusion, the type of cooler you choose for your kayak will be dependent upon the type of fishing you do and where you fish. My favorites are hard-sided coolers because of their durability. But I’m looking actively at the IceMule for its dry bag capability.

Whichever cooler you choose to carry, enjoy yourself and have fun!

Mike Rodman

Mike enjoys fishing all year round, from fly fishing small streams in Wyoming's higher mountains to kayak fishing the lower altitude lakes and reservoirs. Mike also has a passion for ice fishing. When he has spare time, he'll be found at his rod bench building custom fishing rods.

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