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6 of The Best Floating Coolers For Rivers, Kayaking and Pools

Floating coolers are a great way to store drinks and foods, keeping them nice and cool while you’re out on the water. Ordinary coolers simply don’t quite cut it while you’re in the middle of a lake, ocean, or river.

But what makes a floating cooler good? After all, it has to be very reliable, offers enough space, and withstand potential damage from its environment. To help you figure it out, here’s our buying guide for choosing the best floating coolers for rivers, as well as our picks for the top 6 best floating coolers for rivers.

How Do Floating Coolers for Rivers Work?

Floating coolers are fairly simple as a concept – they are coolers that can float, typically on rivers or other bodies of water. Most of these coolers make use of a special mechanism that helps them stay floating easily, even when full of heavy items.

But how is that possible? Well, just a small amount of air – 1 square inch, to be exact – actually has the ability to lift weight up to 14.7 pounds. This means that just a little smart engineering can lead to an easy way to keep a cooler packed with items afloat.

Some coolers will make use of an inflatable base in order to maintain its buoyancy. Others may have an inflated ring around the sides. A few may be designed to be half-floating, half-submerged. There are a few that are not inflatable, either, and these are typically hardier but also less reliable.

Whatever the case, it is important that floating coolers for rivers are able to keep its contents dry and above water.

Features To Consider For Floating Coolers For Rivers

1. Water Conditions

The type of floating cooler you need should be suitable for the type of water conditions you will encounter. For example, if you’re just getting a cooler for a pool party or a relaxing hangout, you can typically purchase simple coolers without much of an issue.

But if you need a cooler that you tow behind you through rougher waters, then you’ll need a more reliable and durable cooler that is capable of withstanding run-ins with rocks, rapids, and more. Inflatable types of floating coolers need to be puncture resistant to stand up to all that rough handling.

2. Accessibility

How easily do you want to be able to get the items inside your cooler? Do you want to be able to just lift a simple lid or a velcro lid, and deal with the potential leaks? Do you prefer a zipper or twist closure that will be more time-consuming to open but keep the contents dryer? Do you need cup holders or item storage pockets outside the cooler so you can easily grab your drinks? Consider these preferences when purchasing.

3. Size

Floating coolers are usually much smaller than standard coolers. Depending on how many drinks you’d like to bring along, you’ll have to make sure you’re purchasing a cooler that fits your requirements. Remember that you’ll need space for ice on top of the drinks or food you’re bringing,

4. Mobility

Most floating coolers are lightweight, but once they’re filled with cans or bottles, you’ll still need a way to carry them. If you won’t have any help when bringing your cooler, you’ll want something that is truly very light, has a couple of easy-to-use carrying handles, and isn’t excessively bulky. Very large coolers may require a friend’s assistance to bring from point A to point B!

5. Timespan and Ice Life

How long will you be out on the water? Most floating coolers aren’t highly insulated, so most of them won’t be able to stomach a full day of heat without all the ice inside melting. If you need a floating cooler that will provide a longer ice life, you’ll probably have to invest in a more expensive one with better features.

6. Resistances

A floating cooler for use in water needs to be waterproof so that no leaks occur – that goes without saying. But you may want to look for coolers that boast other sorts of resistance features, such as UV resistance, puncture and tear resistance, dirt and dust resistance, or other similar features that will add to its durability.

7. Cleaning

Mold can grow easily in wet conditions. You need a cooler that you can easily clean once you’re done with it. Nooks and crannies that collect moisture will be an easy breeding ground for all sorts of microorganisms, which could endanger your health at worst and cause bad damage to the cooler at best.

8. Inflatable or Not?

Most floating coolers are inflatable. They’re simply easier to make float in that condition. But a few don’t use this mechanism. Inflatable coolers tend to be more prone to damage and tipping over but are more reliable when staying afloat, while non-inflatable ones tend to be heavier but sturdier.

Pros and Cons of Floating Coolers For Rivers

Do you really need a floating cooler? It’s a good question to ask, especially since you also have the option of using a regular cooler, a carrying cooler, or a wheeled cooler. The answer depends on your needs and preferences. To help you make sense of them, here are some pros and cons of floating coolers.

Pros

1. Portability

Floating coolers are easily portable. They’re light, they can follow behind you on water, and you can easily fit them into any vehicle. The fact that you can deflate a floating cooler to bring it home once it is empty adds even further to its convenience.

2. Cost

Most floating coolers are much more inexpensive than normal coolers, even by up to 20 times! This makes them great options for those on a tight budget, and they’re also cheap enough to warrant buying for their functionality in water even when you already have a cooler at home.

3. Weight

Floating coolers are lightweight. You can pack them with cans and bottles and not worry about it being too heavy to carry. This also makes them easy to transport back and forth. They are arguably much more portable than any standard cooler, even those with wheels or straps, due to how light they are.

4. Floating Ability

There’s no denying that the idea of a cooler floating and practically serving you your drinks is cool. But it’s also pretty convenient. Floating coolers can come down to the water with you, so you can lounge and just reach over to effortlessly grab something to sip on.

5. Space

If you bring a normal cooler onto a boat, it’s going to add to the weight in your watercraft and potentially take away precious space. A floating cooler can be towed behind your watercraft, giving you maximum boat space without giving up your supplies.

Cons

1. Less Durable

Floating coolers have to be light, and most are made from an inflatable plastic or vinyl material. While they can be strong and sturdy, there’s no denying that they don’t stand up to hardier, more solid materials commonly used in ordinary coolers.

That’s why floating coolers may not be the best option if you’re going on very rough outings involving intense, rushing waters. It’s better to stick to something that causes a little extra hassle but comes with a lot of extra security!

2. Most Require Preparation

Most floating coolers are inflatable. This means you have to fill them with air and then deflate them afterwards. It can be a fast process if quick valves are included in the cooler’s construction, but if not, it could take you an hour just to set it up, to begin with, especially if it’s a large one!

3. Balance

Floating coolers require buoyancy to stay afloat. This means that they don’t have the best ability to stay balanced. Incorrect loading or uneven content arrangement can cause the cooler to tip over easily, potentially spilling your cargo.

4. Smaller in Size

There simply aren’t any very large floating coolers in the market. That’s just a fact. So if you’re planning a gigantic party that needs 60 bottles of drink, you likely won’t find what you need in a floating cooler – and if you do, balance issues will be a bit of a problem.

5. Lower Insulation

Most floating coolers don’t exactly have fantastic insulation. In order to maintain their lightweight nature, they won’t be nearly as thick as normal coolers. This means that keeping them truly cold will be a challenge. You will need to make sure you prepare the cooler in advance in order to be as cool as it can be – and it will still likely pale in comparison to normal coolers no matter what you do.

Top 6 Floating Coolers For River

1. CreekKooler Outdoor Insulated Floating Cooler

Pros

  • Extremely stable and will not tip over easily, even in rougher waters or when bumping into rocks
  • Very well insulated to prevent spilling and leaking
  • Water tight lid keeps interior dry
  • Can be towed behind a watercraft in order to avoid taking up space
  • Comes with drink holders and a towing rope
  • Very heavy duty

Cons

  • Heavy weight can slow you down and make it hard to bring the cooler around
  • It can be difficult to clean the cooler’s interior
  • Quality control issues can lead to durability problems
  • There is no drain hole within the cooler
  • Towing rope has to be attached to the handle instead of a dedicated hole.
  • Much higher price than other coolers

The CreekKooler Outdoor Insulated Floating Cooler is a product designed to be towed behind any small watercraft. This means it does not take up unnecessary space within a boat. It can also be dragged behind you on dry ground without suffering damage. This towing happens with a special rope that comes with the cooler, which you can attach to one of its handles.

Built blow-molded with dual-wall construction, this cooler has a patented and durable design. Its insulation is made from thick foam. The cooler provides secure storage through a watertight o-ring design lid that is ⅛ turn threaded, and it can lock in place to prevent contents from spilling out and to prevent water and dirt from spilling in. That’s something that I find to be very important when I’m bringing a cooler along – all sorts of debris can slip in!

This floating cooler has a 30-quart capacity, allowing it to hold 30 12-ounce cans accompanied by 20 lbs of ice, and it has four handy drink holders on its deck. There is no drain inside the cooler, which could make cleaning difficult, but this is primarily meant to prevent leaking of any kind.

In total, the cooler measures 39.5″ (length) x 21″ (width) x 12″ (height), and it is available in five colors. It could be a good option for you if you have a big budget, need a truly heavy duty, very large cooler for rough expeditions, and have the extra time to spare to clean it out.

2. Intex Mega Chill II Inflatable Floating Cooler

Pros

  • Tough construction that is highly durable
  • With 6 cup holders
  • With 4 handles to easily grab onto
  • Has 3 air chambers and a removable ice chest
  • Can be hooked up to other Intex items for increased functionality
  • One of the larger sized floating coolers available in the market

Cons

  • Lid is not of great quality, causing it to be loose or difficult to use
  • Can be difficult to inflate and deflate due to a lack of quick valve
  • Cannot handle heavy weights unless it is floating
  • May not work well in very rough waters
  • Is not designed to be used without an additional cooler bad

The Intex Mega Chill II Inflatable Floating Cooler is a 48-quart product designed to hold up to a whopping 72 cans with some ice inside its cooler portion. This portion, known as an ice chest, is removable and can be interchanged with other cooler types. It is also equipped with six cup holders for easy drink access.

Made from 16-gauge vinyl, this cooler is tough and durable. In order to stay afloat, it uses three air chambers, which helps it to stay balanced. I personally tend to have issues with balance with floating coolers, so this feature would have been great when I was in wavy water. The cooler comes with a repair patch as well, which allows you to fix up minor tears.

To allow you to easily pull the cooler towards you, four grab handles are present around the product. They can also presumably be used to carry the cooler more easily, too, allowing it to be mobile and portable both within and outside of the water.

It is worth noting that this cooler doesn’t have impressive insulation and actually recommends using a separate cooler or cooler bag instead of its standard ice box. This does add to its versatility, though. Overall, if you’re looking for an inexpensive floating cooler and already have a cooler of the right size at home, and if you need strong durability and a large container, this could be a good option for you.

3. CoolerZ Floating Inflatable Cooler

Pros

  • Highly inexpensive for all your budget needs
  • Fully waterproof to keep contents safe from the elements
  • Easy to transport with two handles
  • Extremely lightweight to add further to its mobility
  • With six cup holders
  • Floats very easily

Cons

  • Will not be sufficiently insulted to be used on its own without the aid of an insulated bag
  • Requires good counterbalance to prevent tipping
  • Is not weighted and therefore relies on its contents to maintain weight
  • Lid may not stay on easily, especially in rougher situations

The CoolerZ Floating Inflatable Cooler is a budget-friendly cooler product measuring 27.5″ in diameter and 18.5″ in height. It is primarily designed for pool parties and other low-intensity events.

This extremely lightweight cooler is very easy to inflate, and it can be transported even more easily with its two heavy duty handles on either side. Portability is really important to me when I bring coolers along, so this very light structure that is even easier to carry would have worked really well for me on some expeditions where I had my hands full!

Fitted with 6 cup holders that encircle the main cooler, this product helps to keep drinks cold. It does not have its own insulation and therefore requires preparation beforehand and will not work well for your longer expeditions. If you’re looking for a very cheap floating cooler that you can easily refill with ice, such as for a pool party or other casual event, this could be a good choice for you!

4. AIRHEAD AQUA OASIS Beverage Cooler

Pros

  • Floats easily
  • Keeps ice and drinks colder for longer than most other highly similar cooler products
  • Top zipper prevents leaks and keeps contents safe
  • Comes with 6 numbered cup holders and extra storage space
  • Cooler and base are detachable

Cons

  • May not be sufficiently insulated for long expeditions
  • Cup holders may be too small for some cup and bottle sizes
  • Cooler does not stay in place very easily depending on contents and environment
  • May not be easy to tow behind a watercraft, as it may tip
  • It is not a popular choice when it comes to good style

The AIRHEAD AQUA OASIS Beverage Cooler is designed to store 24 cans at once with some ice, providing cool drinks for long periods of time. It is designed to be tied to a watercraft, dock, or similar sturdy item via a plastic rope connection that is molded on the side of the cooler.

Six numbered drink holders encircle the main square cooler area, and an additional “sundry slot” next to these drink holders serves as a convenient place to store some belongings. I know I would love numbered drink holders; they help groups of people remember which drinks are theirs as the cooler turns around in the water!

Made from leak-proof nylon, this heavy gauge K80 PVC cooler rests on a base made from inflatable vinyl, and the cooler itself can be separated from the base if desired. Its seems are RF welded to add to overall durability. A top zipper closure helps to keep everything nice and packed in.

Do note that this cooler’s insulation is only passable and therefore requires preparation beforehand and will not work well for your longer expeditions. If you don’t mind the bright colors and you need a simple cooler for non-intense events like parties or relaxing trips with friends, this cooler can provide you with the features you need.

5. WOW World of Watersports Inflatable Heavy Duty Cooler

Pros

  • Sturdy and does not flip over easily
  • Keeps ice and drinks colder for longer than most other highly similar cooler products
  • Comes with 4 drink holders and one extra pocketed section
  • Has a quick valve for inflation and deflation
  • Technical features have a one-year warranty
  • Zipper closure keeps contents safe
  • Heavy-duty construction for added durability

Cons

  • May not be sufficiently insulated for long expeditions
  • Some durability issues could cause damaged components in rough situations
  • Slightly bulky to bring along

The WOW World of Watersports Inflatable Heavy Duty Cooler has a 30-can capacity with 4 molded beverage holders and a WOW-SOUND speaker holder that you can use to keep your belongings. Though designed to be used with the speaker in question, you can easily use the location for anything else!

Made with heavy-duty PVC for extra durability, this floating cooler boasts a double-layered bottom with padding and impressively thick sidewalls to help keep cold items cool. Easily access the contents through an EZ Zippered lid that prevents leaks while allowing you a quick and simple way to get what you need.

This floating cooler has a quick speed valve that provides fast deflation and inflation processes, which is something I personally appreciate in inflatable coolers of all kinds – it cuts out lots of the hassle. This function is also protected by a one-year warranty.

Designed to be taken to virtually any kind of waterway, this floating cooler is made by a brand that has slowly become known for its high-quality products within the inflatable product industry. You can get this one in blue and red. If you’re in need of a sturdy cooler with lots of space for a short outing, this could be a good choice for you.

6. COOL FLOAT Plastic Floating Cooler

Pros

  • Made from high-density, puncture-proof plastic
  • Has 6 numbered cup holders
  • Lid can be closed with a special ¼ turn
  • Can be easily tied to any watercraft with its side hook
  • Made in the US

Cons

  • May not be sufficiently insulated for long expeditions
  • Lid is not lockable and could cause items to fall out
  • Cooler sinks through water when towed
  • Material may be slightly brittle and lacks some durability
  • May not be entirely leak proof and could take in water

The COOL FLOAT Plastic Floating Cooler is made from high density plastic that is designed to be puncture resistant and extremely tough. It has mild insulation and has a lid that can seal tightly with a quarter turn, allowing its contents to stay colder for longer periods of time. It is mostly designed to be towed behind a watercraft through a designated hook.

This cooler has a 23-inch diameter and a 14-inch height, allowing it to hold approximately 18 cans including ice at once. Though not entirely lightweight, the empty cooler only weighs around 10 lbs, so it can still be brought along and carried without too much trouble. Personally, lighter coolers are useful for me so I can bring them around easily without extra assistance.

The plastic floating cooler comes in a blue and white color scheme, and it has 6 cup holders that are numbered so you and those you’re with can easily your drink even after the cooler spins around the water. If you prefer hardy plastic for floating coolers and don’t want a lot of bells and whistles, this cooler may work well for you.

Conclusion

Floating coolers for rivers are still a bit of a novelty for most, so there isn’t a lot of information out there about what works best for them. Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand the necessary considerations for purchasing a cooler like this one!

Personally, our favorite of these picks is the WOW World of Watersports Inflatable Heavy Duty Cooler. It’s big enough to store more drinks than the average floating cooler, it’s sturdy and well-balanced, and it has a quick inflation valve which comes with a warranty. It also boasts a slightly longer ice life than most similar coolers, which could make it a good option for better versatility.

Still, only you know what will really work best for your needs. Shop around a little and find our what fits your requirements!

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