How Do You Attach A Cooler To A Kayak

How Do You Attach A Cooler To A Kayak

Here’s the good news:

You can carry a cooler with you. Yes, on your kayak! Now that we’ve established that, we can talk about How Do You Attach A Cooler To A Kayak – and not worry about it going overboard!

So after surfing through the internet and weighing in my own experiences, we’ll talk about:

  • The different kinds of cooler that you can buy;
  • The pros and cons of using each type;
  • How to secure them to your kayak;
  • How to attach rod holders to your cooler.

Because what’s better than a cooler on your kayak?

A cooler with fishing rod holders. Sure you can buy those online. But where’s the fun in that? If you already have a cooler, it’s best to just upgrade it. As a bonus, we have the easiest way here for you!

So sit tight!

Let’s sail along…


When fun meets exhausting, that’s what you call an adventure.

You’ll have to think about how to carry your kayak from your garage to the water. Then you have to paddle for hours. You can do it on saltwater or whitewater, on the lake or the rapids, by yourself or with a partner.

The main activity is paddling. It’ll exhaust your arm and back muscles. But it’s all worth it!

And that’s what kayaking is!

But of course you’d want a nice, cold drink whenever you need it. In which case, you’ll need to carry a cooler with you. You can keep your food, drinks, and ice cool and fresh! 

There are a lot of ways to carry kayak coolers with you on your kayak. They’re mostly easy and designed for when you want the cooler detached after your trip. 

We have everything here for you!

Securing Kayak Coolers

If a large, hard-sided cooler is not the right cooler for your kayak and your trip, then coolers with rod holders might not work for you. 

But don’t worry!

Here’s a list of the best kayak coolers that you can find and how to transport them on your kayak. They’re just as good for your ice!

  • Hard-sided cooler

Hard-sided coolers are commonly larger than their soft-sided counterparts. They’re also better in ice retention because they’re well-insulated. They keep your drinks cold longer so this is usually the first choice.

Some can even last multi-day trips like the YETI Hopper cooler.

As for transport…

They’re a bit bulky because they have a larger carrying capacity than soft-sided coolers. So kayaks only have room for this type on the deck, right behind the seat.

  • Soft-sided cooler

A soft-side cooler tends to be smaller and has a lighter storage capacity. Just like a kayak dry bag, it’s usually sweat-proof. This is recommended for storing cold food rather than a cold drink.

What’s best about it:

It’s compact and is the most portable of all coolers. They usually have straps for easy transport. However, you’ll have to bring more ice packs with it because the insulation is not the best.

This type isn’t known for durability. But the Polar Bear soft-sided bag is as sturdy as hard coolers so this is one of the kayakers’ obvious choices.

Since it’s easy to compress…

Your kayak has a lot of places for soft-sided coolers. It can be for storing inside your kayak’s dry hatches, behind your backrest using their straps, or you can just squeeze them under your seat. Trust me, they won’t break.

  • Catch cooler bag

This type of cooler is usually what you bring when you go kayak fishing. The catch cooler is specifically styled to keep your catch at a cool temperature. Its shape’s even meant to accommodate different sizes of fish.

Because of its fish-tail design, it’s best placed on either the stern or the deck of your kayak. Then you’ll just have to secure it with ropes.

Personally, I prefer it on the stern rather than the deck. I just like all my stuff behind my seat. The space in front of me should be clear enough. But of course, you do you.

The only disadvantage…

… is that its soft side can’t hold rod holders with base plates. They’re meant to lie flat on your boat instead of standing tall.

  • Tow-behind kayak cooler/Floating cooler

The tow-behind or floating cooler makes use of bungee cords. It has a variety of designs to choose from. One looks like a dry bag, another looks like a submarine. I even have one like a lifesaver with cup holders.

The only common thing about all of them is how you’re supposed to tie them to your kayak’s tail so you can carry them along. They’re actually space savers.

The important thing is…

They all keep their contents cold. The floating cooler type has better insulation than other coolers. And since you don’t put them on your kayak, you don’t have to worry about space.

These coolers come in sizes that can store items twice the number that you can store in the other types of cooler. The ice remains cold for a long time too.

I recommend this…

When you go fishing. You will need a cooler for your catch and another one for your drink. I suggest you take a floating cooler with you.

Don’t risk bringing two coolers on your kayak at the same time. Especially if your kayak is small. You won’t have that much space for larger sizes of catch. You can’t carry two coolers at the back of your seat too, or in the cockpit with you.

Attach the Rod Holders to a Kayak Cooler Bag

And now… 

Since you may be going out fishing, let’s attach rod holders to your cooler. 

You might say… Many kayaks already have rod holders with them. If your boat has these, then good. But older kayaks, especially those not specifically made for fishing, may need this upgrade. This is where I come in.

What’s the advantage?

There’s stability and easy carrying. You can rest assured because you know that it has less chance of going overboard. It’s more recommendable when you’re bringing larger coolers with you on your kayak trip.

Moreover, you can do this whether you have a sit-on-top or sit-in kayak. Or your favorite boat for kayak fishing. Plus, it will help keep your boat organized. You’ll have both your gear and catch in one place.

The important thing is that you keep your ice frozen and your rod in place without them toppling over to the water. This way does the job.

So, what are the cons?

This method works only for hard-sided coolers.

The soft-side cooler, as the name suggests, has soft sides so they won’t keep the holders in place. For the same reason, you can’t do this to a catch cooler. As for the tow behind, well, you have to tow it behind your kayak so it’s best not to put the rod holders there.

But so what? 

You have your hard-sided and your rod holder already. Now all you need are a few other tools and materials, and the step-by-step guide to putting them together. So let’s get going!

  • What you need:

  • Rod holders with base plates
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Screws 
  • Backing nuts (usually comes with the base plate)
  • Waterproof glue (optional)
How Do You Attach A Cooler To A Kayak
  • What to do:

  1. Place one base plate on each side of the cooler and mark out the holes where the screws should be.
  2. Drill out those holes on each side. Drill only up to the plastic layer of the outer shell. Make sure you don’t damage the insulation of your cooler.
  3. Place the backing nuts on the inner side of the base plate holes.
  4. Using your screwdriver, carefully drill in the screws through the base plate holes, the backing nuts, and then the outer shell of your cooler. Be careful not to reach the insulation. Note: You must do each base plate hole one by one. It’s best to start with the two top holes, and then the other two at the bottom. Or whatever works for you.
  5. Optional: Secure each screw with waterproof glue.
  6. Line the grooves of the rod holder with the grooves on the base plate. When you get the right alignment, mount the rod holders. Note: There are rod holders that have two base plates on each side – a top and a bottom one. In which case, do the top plates first for each side of the cooler, mount the rod holders (while attached to the bottom plates), then mark out the holes of the bottom plates. Then you can drill and repeat the rest of the steps.
  7. Now, you can bring your cooler with rod holders with you on your kayak!


How Do You Attach A Cooler To A Kayak

How Do You Attach A Cooler To A Kayak

I’m sure you’ll agree…

There’s no doubt you should carry coolers with you when you go paddling. And, if you’re going fishing, it’s way better if your cooler has rod holders, right?

Your gear, food, drinks, and catch will all be in one pack.

There you have it!

I hope this article helped you upgrade your kayaking experience! Since we’re done…

I’ll see you in the outdoors!

Related: Best Kayak Cooler – (2024)

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