Whether it’s just to keep a sunset beer cold for after that last cast, ensure your lunch and drinks are refreshing on the flats and offshore, or for a weekend of camping and wade fishing for trout – you’ll need a fishing cooler on every fishing trip.
Coolers come in all shapes and sizes; some are much better quality than others and are the ones we need for fishing. Fishing is brutal on equipment and takes place in some of the most remote places on the planet, so all of us fishermen need a durable option that stays cold as long as possible.
I have run fishing lodges and guided around the world, and I can’t tell you how important a good cooler is – knowing your water is cold, your beer is icy, and your lunch keeps fresh while fishing for the day is not to be underestimated.
Choosing The Right Fishing Cooler Box
There are three main criteria to consider when choosing a cooler box for your next fishing trip.
Insulation and Ice Retention: In warmer climates, it’s crucial to have a cooler with excellent insulation and ice retention capabilities. Hard coolers provide better insulation and can keep ice frozen for several days, which is ideal for extended trips, while high-quality soft coolers can also provide sufficient cooling for day trips.
Durability and Waterproofing: The cooler should be durable enough to withstand the harsh marine environment. Hard coolers are typically more rugged and can endure being banged around on boats. Soft coolers should have waterproof zippers and lining to prevent leaks.
Size and Portability: Consider the size of the cooler based on the length of your fishing trips and the storage you need. Hard coolers offer more space but are heavier, while soft coolers are more compact and easier to carry, making them suitable for shorter trips. Some soft coolers can be carried as a backpack, ideal for moving to different fishing spots.
Here Are My Best Fishing Coolers Picks!
Yeti Tundra Cooler – My Best Overall
OtterBox Venture Cooler – My Best Budget Cooler!
Yeti Hopper Flip – My Best Cooler For Short Trips
Join me as we look at the best fishing coolers I have ever used so you can pick the right one to take on all your future fishing trips.
YETI Tundra Cooler – My Best Overall Fishing Cooler Pick!
If you haven’t heard of Yeti by now, you must have lived under a rock or in the jungle with no comms. Yeti is the cooler manufacturer used by every guide operation on the planet. I used them in the Bahamas and as a guide in the Seychelles islands.
The Yeti Tundra Cooler was the cooler sent to sea daily and returned looking just as good! These fishing coolers are built to be “bear safe,” meaning a bear can not break them; therefore, they are extremely tough and durable.
They use a Rotomolded Construction with thick walls to create a pretty indestructible cooler.
The Tundra coolers feature PermaFrost Insulation and a sealing gasket, the same as a fridge would use. When packed with 50% ice and 50% food and drinks, these coolers stay cold and maintain the ice for at least a minimum of five days!
This means everything you have with you on a day trip will always be cold, but it also opens the doors to long-term expeditions, like spending a week on an island you have always wanted to explore.
These awesome cool boxes close with rubber latches securely, and when closed, they double up as a pretty great seat. We had cushions installed on them when I fished in the Seychelles, and it was the seat for the guests. The latches can fail after heavy use due to salt and humidity, but they are easily replaceable.
Overall, in my eyes, these are the best fishing coolers on the planet, but they aren’t cheap – you are getting a fishing cooler for life, after all. After having used them daily for years, my one complaint is that they are heavy to carry.
They come in a range of sizes from the smallest, the Tundra 35, to the largest, the Tundra 350. The 350 is an excellent choice if you’re going commercial for a day, while the best day coolers are the Tundra 45 and the Tundra 60.
If you are looking for something to ease transportation, you can also consider the portable Tundra Hual, which comes in 13 colors and has two large wheels at the rear, with a handle for pulling it behind you.
An exceptionally durable cooler that can handle all environments
Holds ice for ages, up to a week
It comes in a huge range of 9 colors and 12 sizes
Bear safe, so you won’t find it destroyed
The latches are replaceable
It comes with a 5-year warranty
Rotomolded and bear-safe
It’s an expensive option but well worth the quality
The latches can have some issues after a year of saltwater abuse
They are quite heavy
Capacity: 45 quarts
Ice Retention: 5-7 days
Warranty: 5 years
Dimensions: 26 x 16 x 16.75 inches
Weight: 27.5 lbs
Sizes: 35 – 350 liters
OtterBox Venture Cooler – My Best Budget Cooler!
If you’re looking for an awesome fishing cooler similar to the Yeti Tundra but a bit more affordable, the OtterBox Venture Cooler might be your best choice.
The Otterbox fishing cooler is made using the same roto-molded construction as Yeti’s and is, therefore, super durable. You’ll be able to bang this fishing cooler around in the back of your truck, on the deck of your boat, and take it into the wilderness without concern.
It’s not “bear safe,” though, like the Yeti, and would be useless unless you buy the locking kit accessory. Speaking of accessories, this cooler has quite a few cool add-ons, including cup holders, side tables, and a separator for dry and wet storage.
The insulation on Otterboxes is fantastic and as good, if not better, than the Yeti, as it will hold ice for 10 days or more. This means day fishing trips and long expeditions with cold beers and food are very much a reality.
The latch locking mechanism is simple and easy to use; plus, it is made of plastic and doesn’t wear out or wear away. The handles on either end of the cooler are designed to make it easy to carry, but in practice, they can be uncomfortable, especially when the cooler is full.
As with all more affordable products, this one also comes with some weaknesses, and the main one is the hinge – it tends to break after a year or so of intense use, and this cooler only comes with a one-year warranty.
While the Otterbox is excellent and more affordable, it’s not worth saving money if it’s going to break and be out of warranty. If you don’t use a fishing cooler often, this is the best option for you, but if you’re going fishing all the time with your cooler, stick with the Yeti Tundra.
You can add on useful accessories such as a table
Includes anti-slide rubber feet
Affordable for the quality
User-friendly latches that don’t break
Excellent capacity for up to two days of fishing
Two colors – Hudson (White/Blue) and Rideline (Tan/Green)
Awesome insulation keeping ice for up to 10 days
Super durable and long-lasting
It is simple to use and works as a seat
You have to buy an additional locking kit for it to be bear safe
The hinges are not very durable
The handles aren’t very comfy
Capacity: 60 quarts or 75 lbs of ice
Keeps Ice: Up to 10 days
Dimensions: 40.01 x 18.83 x 18.76 inches
Weight: 32 lbs
Sizes: 25 – 65 liters
YETI Hopper Flip – Best Cooler For Short Trips!
The Yeti Hopper Flip is the best fishing cooler around when it comes to short fishing trips or when you’re going fishing for the day on your own. This is not a fishing cooler to own; instead of the other two, it’s one to have in addition.
The Hopper Flip is a soft fishing cooler, making it very light, easy to travel, and comfortable to carry. It’s made from a nylon dry hide shell that is 100% waterproof, puncture-resistant, and easily handles abrasion. Seriously, these coolers will probably last forever if you look after them.
This soft cooler is designed with ColdCell Insulation, meaning it uses closed-cell foam to ensure much better insulation than any other soft coolers on the market. The results are fantastic; these coolers will happily maintain ice for 3 to 4 days.
They come with a 100% leak-proof HydroLok zipper, meaning any melted water stays inside the cooler, and no rainwater can get inside either. The zipper locks to ensure a waterproof seal, but this does make opening it a little difficult sometimes.
For the Flip 12 model, you can fit 12 beer bottles, ice packs, and water in these coolers. This is an ideal size for sunsets with small groups, a day trip on the river with food for two, and when you go for an evening cast but want a few beers to take with you. The Flip 12 is my personal size choice in the range of Yeti soft coolers due to its versatility.
The largest in the range is the Yeti Hopper M30 soft cooler, which is designed for larger groups and can even store your catch to take back home. It can hold 26 cans.
The smallest version in the range is the Flip 8 soft cooler, which is great for an individual on a short half-day fishing trip and holds up to 6 cans or bottles. It’s a super portable fishing cooler!
The one downside to these fishing coolers is that they are expensive but come with a solid warranty, and chances are they will last forever.
Built with super high-quality materials
Very durable and long-lasting
Uses closed-cell insulation
Keeps ice and things cold for age
Lightweight and very portable
It comes in five different size options with 2 to 4 color options
Easy to travel with
Waterproof & UV resistant Dryhide shell protects the contents
They become platforms, seats, and anything else we might need them to be in a pinch. Ensuring your cooler is tough as nails are critical to its longevity. Choosing a cheap and poorly constructed option means it will be replaced frequently!
Choose a cooler like the Yeti Tundra that is bear-safe and almost indestructible so that you have one to last for the rest of your life.
Size & Portability
Think about the kind of fishing trips you go on and match the size of the fishing cooler you need to meet those you do most.
Are you going on 5-day camping missions with four friends? Do you go out on boats all day long in the extreme heat? Or are you planning solo sessions on your local trout river each weekend?
I advise choosing a cooler size with enough space to cover as many situations as possible.
Size also equals portability, and smaller soft coolers are much more portable for day trips and easier to travel with than a 45-liter molded cooler.
It’s always worth considering to have both cooler types in my eyes so you’re always ready for any upcoming trip.
The longer your fishing cooler can keep things cold, the more options you have for fishing trips. With coolers like the Otterbox and Yeti Tundra, the insulation means you can go on week-long expeditions into the wilderness without any worries, knowing your food and drinks will stay cold and fresh throughout your trip.
Warranties are an important consideration, as coolers are an investment, and your investment should be protected somehow. Yeti stands by their 3 to 5-year warranties, and even if your cooler is out of the warranty, they’ll try to find a repair for it.
Thanks very much for reading my article. I hope you enjoyed it and have found the ideal fishing cooler. If you are still thinking about it or in a bit of a muddle, trust me when I say these are the best fishing cooler choices on the market today, these are the coolers I own and love.
I recommend getting both a Yeti Tundra and a Yeti Hopper Flip. Having both will give you flexibility for every fishing scenario for the rest of your life. Whether you’re going on a short day trip, a long camping exploration, or just a sunset beer, these coolers will have your back.
Growing up fly fishing on trout streams in Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fly fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles, there aren't many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand.