The 10 Best Floating Coolers
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in July of 2015. When you're relaxing in the water on a hot summer day, the last thing you want to do is get out in order to refresh your drink. And if you're drifting down a river, you can't, even if you wanted to. With one of these floating coolers, you'll be able to keep all your beverages and snacks chilled and close at hand, whether you're at the beach, on a lake, or in your backyard pool. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 05, 2021:
The ability to keep cool beverages and snacks on hand whilst enjoying the great outdoors is a luxury that everyone can appreciate. These floating coolers come in a range of designs and sizes, including compact models for individual use, large multi-compartment options that can hold a 48-quart cooler, and rigid watertight vessels that can be used in fast-flowing or rough waters.
When choosing a suitable cooler, the first consideration is size. Those looking for an option to use in a home swimming pool or hot tub will likely be satisfied with a smaller model such as the Bestway CoolerZ, which can hold up to six cans or bottles, or the newly added Diveblast Portable Serving Bar, which has a number of different compartments for holding snacks, drinks, wine bottles, and even a phone or tablet. Larger options are more suited to days at the beach or river as they can accommodate more drinks and don't need to be replenished so often. The Intex Mega Chill II and the Ozark Trail Texas can both be filled directly with ice and beverages, or are sturdy enough to hold a large cooler box, whereas the Airhead Aqua Oasis includes an insulated nylon cooler that can be separated from its inflatable base, making restocking an easy task. If you want a watertight option for use in rough water, then the CreekKooler Outdoor is a well-insulated, rigid option with a large screw-top lid that keeps the contents dry even if flipped over. Similarly, the TRC Recreation Super Soft also has a rigid construction with a waterproof neoprene coating, making it a good choice for use around sharp rocks. However, since neither of these options are inflatable, storing them is a little more difficult, and their durability is somewhat reflected in the price.
January 11, 2020:
Though floating coolers generally aren't products that see a lot of technological innovation, we did decide to remove a few items we previously recommended and replace them with what we believe are better options for various reasons. One example is the Beistle Inflatable Pirate Ship, which, while it can float, isn't really designed for such a purpose. Rather, it is intended for dry-land use in themed parties. We also eliminated the TRC Recreation Super Soft, but for a very different reason. It floats well enough with no issues, however, we just can't justify its lofty price tag when there are many equally effective options that cost a fraction of the price, such as the SwimWays Kelsyus, which holds ice for a long time and is very durable. The Airhead Aqua Oasis is another model that holds ice longer than your average floating cooler, thanks to its well-insulated nylon ice chest.
If you are looking for something to tow behind your kayak or paddleboard, there are few better options than the hard-sided CreekKooler Outdoor CK00234R. With two inches of insulation and a blow-molded shell, it can keep ice all day long and stand up to impacts with the unexpected underwater obstructions. Plus, its lid features an O-ring to completely seal out water and air, so it could even be used as dry storage if desired.
For those who need something with a large capacity, we recommend the Intex Mega Chill II. It comes with a 48-quart, inflatable cooler that can hold about 72 cans. Conveniently, it is also removable from the main raft, so you can stick a traditional cooler in it instead if you wanted something that can hold ice for longer. The Sevylor Inflatable is another option perfect for use with a hard-sided cooler you already own. In fact, it doesn't even come with its own inflatable cooler. Instead, it is simply a budget-friendly float can accommodate ice chests up to 28 quarts.
My Floating Bar Designed for the Coleman party stacker 25 or 33-quart cooler, these rigid panels have special connectors that allow them to be joined together. They are also available with a range of accessories for adding legs, umbrellas, and canopies, making them highly versatile for use on and off the water. myfloatingbar.com
Cooler Z This extra-large inflatable lounger allows two adults to float in comfort side by side. It has multiple drinks holders and built-in pillows, and comes with a cooler bag that slots into the middle. It is made from sturdy, pre-tested vinyl with interlocking quick-release valves. walmart.com
On Making The Most Of Summertime Fun
Make sure you bring along everything you're likely to need throughout the day so you minimize the need for trips back to the car, the hotel room, or to a store.
When the summer heat hits those top temperatures, there are essentially two options at your disposal: you can hide out inside with the AC and fans running and squander your precious free time, or you can jump into the pool, lake, or the ocean and keep cool while enjoying outdoor activities. Ever since the proliferation of private swimming pools began in the middle of the 20th Century, many Americans have enjoyed the opportunity for recreation and relief from the heat right in their own backyards. Public pools also offer respite from the heat of the summer, as does a trip to the beach, the river bank, or the lake.
To enjoy your visit to the local swimming spot (even if it is on your own property) it's important to plan things properly. Make sure you bring along everything you're likely to need throughout the day so you minimize the need for trips back to the car, the hotel room, or to a store. That means bringing plenty of sunblock and ideally a way to create shade, such as with an umbrella or a pop up sun shelter. You should bring one towel to use on your beach chair or on the sand, and another for use to dry off after each dip in the water. As for recreational activities, your "kit" might contain everything from a book to a football to a surfboard -- that part of the equation is entirely individual.
One thing any successful day at the beach or the pool needs, though, is great snacks and beverages. Liquids in particular are important to have when you are spending long amounts of time outside on sunny, warm days. It's important to keep yourself properly hydrated, so pack plenty of water and/or hydrating beverages along with you. And if you like to enjoy a beer or cocktail while poolside or on the beach, go ahead and indulge, but make sure to increase your intake of water even more so when consuming alcohol -- the sun and the booze don't mix well without proper hydration.
When spending time outside, best place to store your food and drink is in a reliable cooler. And the place for your cooler to be is floating right next to you in the water.
Choosing A Floating Cooler For The Pool
If you're going to be spending a day at the pool, then almost any floating cooler is an acceptable choice. Many coolers with open tops are not acceptable for use in rivers, lakes, or the ocean where the current or waves could spill water into the cooler and out of which cans, bottles, or foodstuffs could easily spill, thus leading to pollution. The calm waters of a pool present much less chance of a spill, and even if something does fall into the pool, it's easy enough to retrieve it.
More important is simply considering the capacity you want out of your cooler.
There are many novelty floating coolers available that can make a playful atmosphere even more fun, or that can work with the theme of a party. Many of these coolers are inflatable, allowing for easy storage when not in use and easy portability, too. The drawbacks come from the chance for a puncture that will render them unfit for use in the water, and from the fact that they don't tend to insulate as well as some of the more sturdy, substantial floating coolers available.
For use in the busy pool filled with active people, consider a floating cooler with a cover to protect your food and drinks from splashes. In general, you shouldn't need a cooler with built in cupholders when at the pool, thanks to the plentiful places to rest a drink. But you can always consider these options for added convenience and less reason to get out of the water. More important is simply considering the capacity you want out of your cooler. There are floating coolers that can store just a few bottles and cans and that take up minimal room, making them good for smaller pools. And then there are floating coolers that can hold up to 72 cans, making the great for the large group ready for a long day of beverages.
Choosing A Floating Cooler For The River, Lake, Or Open Water
If you are bringing a floating cooler out into a river during a tubing or canoe trip, into the lake while you swim, or out into the surf of the ocean or sea, you need to make sure your cooler can stand up to the waves and the current. That means choosing a floating cooler with a top that closes reliably enough to keep water out in the event of splashing or larger waves, and that won't spill its contents into the water even if it is jostled or tipped. It's important that you keep your foods and drinks clean and safe and that you avoid spilling things into the water at the same time.
Once the water is too deep for standing, you'll be glad to have a float nearby so you don't have to constantly tread water.
When you're choosing a cooler to use in a river or in open water, you want to make sure its use will be as convenient as possible, as you can't just hop out of the water as is possible in a pool. Choose options that have cupholders to make it easier for you to put a beverage down between sips, and consider a floating cooler larger enough to even offer some floatation you can take advantage of. Once the water is too deep for standing, you'll be glad to have a float nearby so you don't have to constantly tread water. (And so much the better when that float is filled with beer.)
If you are bringing your cooler along for a trip down a river, chances are good that it will encounter rocks, branches, and other obstacles. Consider a cooler with hard sides and that floats low in the water to offer your chilled goods the best chance to avoid damage and to avert capsizing when the cooler bumps off of submerged hazards.